Making your own gourmet nut butter – it’s easy!

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Home-made Tree nut butter

Ingredients

  • Raw unsalted nuts.
    • I used a 150g blend that was cashew nuts (51%), almonds (26%), brazil nuts (11%), hazel nuts (6%), macadamia nuts (6%).
  • Oil (I use Rice Bran oil).
  • Salt

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, gluten free, egg free, peanut free.

I posted recently about how easy it is to make peanut butter and wanted to try my hand with tree nuts.

Making your own nut butter can be great if you have a food allergy in your family. It’s handy because you can customize it and experiment with different nuts. It can also be a cost effective way of making nut butter. Often tree nut butters are really expensive but if you’re able to pick up the nuts cheaply then it’s quick to make your own!

Directions

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  1. Roasting gives the nut butter more flavour. You can choose whether you want to buy roasted nuts or roast them yourself (if purchasing pre-roasted, check the type of oil that has been used if you have a soy allergy). Roasting gives the peanut butter more flavour and helps to loosen the oils inside the nuts to blend into a smoother butter.
    • Heat the oven to 180’C / 350’F and toast the nuts till they are golden and glossy with oil. This will take about 10 mins.
  2. Put nuts, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of oil into a food processor.
  3. Blend on 10-20 second bursts and scrape down the sides with a plastic spatula as needed. You’ll find it starts off looking a bit like crumbly breadcrumbs – this is normal!
    • I found the tree nuts were a lot tougher than the peanuts and took longer to blend. You don’t want to overheat the motor on your food processor so be kind to it and aim for short bursts on/off!
  4. Continue blending  until shiny and smooth.
    • Add a teaspoon of oil at a time if you’re finding it dry.
  5. Add salt to taste.

The Complicated World of Food Allergies: Allergy (immediate) v.s. Allergy (delayed) v.s. Intolerance

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Identifying why your baby or toddler is miserable, screaming, unable to sleep, refluxy, colicky, vomiting, prone to rashes etc. is often a daunting task that bears with it a heavy burden of responsibility. It can feel like a frustrating, maddening, isolating process whether you’re raising a child alone or within a marriage. You are your child’s best advocate. You are the one spending the nights pacing them through the house so that you don’t feel so horrifyingly impotent and because it seems to marginally comfort them. You are the one weeping because they are clearly so unhappy. You are the one that sees them day in and day out (and often through the night). You are the one with a niggling fear that something is wrong, even if they are your first and only, because they are nothing like the fat, happy, peacefully sleeping babies you see with other mothers.

There can be a number of medical reasons for the circumstances above and a food allergy or intolerance is one of those (it may also be coupled with another condition such as Gastric Reflux Disease [GERDS] and be a compounding factor for the other condition). Many allergens can pass across in breast milk and even minute traces can be enough to trigger a reaction. For some, the allergy or intolerance may not be apparent until they begin eating solids, or until they’re a toddler, or until they’re almost starting school. I still have vivid memories of sitting in the car as a three or four year old wishing desperately that I could trade bodies with someone to see if they also had a sore stomach all the time; it was so constant and such a naturalized part of my young world that I never told my parents. It wasn’t until a major vomiting incident at a birthday party, triggered by a small ice-cream, that an investigative process started that identified I was intolerant to dairy.

Terms like allergy and intolerance can be bandied around interchangeably in the media, and sometimes by medical professionals, but they have quite different meanings. There are also two different types of food allergies, immediate and delayed, with the former getting more press. I found it maddening trying to research my daughter’s condition while we slowly, so slowly, wound our way through the public health system, until I was able to find information about delayed food allergies (later confirmed by her dietician).

Food Allergy: Immediate: IgE mediated

A food allergy is an inappropriate immune response to a particular food protein. An immediate type allergy happens very quickly after the food is eaten (or sometimes after minute traces of the food touch the skin or membranes). Reactions are caused by a particular part of the immune system causing the body to release histamine and other chemicals, leading to hives, swelling, and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening reaction). A skin prick or blood-specific IgE testing can be useful for diagnosis.

Oral Allergy Syndrome

A sub-set of this is Oral Allergy Sydrome which usually develops later in childhood or in adulthood. It happens after a person develops an allergy to a pollen. As well as getting seasonal hay fever, their immune system starts identifying foods that contain proteins with a similar structure to the pollen. The immune system then mistakenly identifies this food as being pollen when it is consumed and causes a mild allergic reaction in the mouth (such as itching or swelling). This can happen even with food that has previously been regularly eaten without issue. So for example, an allergy to birch tree pollen can cause a reaction when eating apple, peach, plum, cherry, potato, carrot, hazelnut, pumpkin seed and aubergine. A ragweed pollen allergy can cause a reaction to melon and banana; mugwort pollen can cause a reaction to celery and tomato; grass-pollen can cause a reaction to tomato, melon, and peach.

The process of cooking often destroys the pollen-like protein so someone may react to raw apple but have no reaction, or milder symptoms, when eating apple pie.

Food Allergy: Delayed: non-IgE mediated

The reaction can occur hours (or sometimes days) after the food is eaten, making them very difficult to diagnose. The reaction is caused by a different part of the immune system to IgE mediated reactions; one of the biggest problems is diagnosis as allergy tests are unhelpful for delayed allergy. In truth, delayed allergy is a spectrum of disease, in terms of severity and where the problems show themselves such as in the gut or skin. The most common causes are cow’s milk and soya, and less so wheat and egg. Typical symptoms may include persistent non-responsive eczema, rash, refluc, colic, diarrhoea, poor weight gain, difficulty feeding, and, less commonly, constipation. Breathing symptoms are rarer and do not occur in isolation, i.e. they may have noisy breathing or a wheezy cough in conjunction with reflux.

Diagnosing often involves detailed daily diaries (covering everything from food, sleep, bowel motions, and mood), food inclusion-exclusion challenges, and working through skin prick and/or blood-specific IgE testing. This should be done under the qualified care of a dietician and peadiatrician. It can be a long, difficult journey but it is important to keep detailed, accurate notes and to persevere.

Food intolerance

“More common than a food allergy, food intolerance is a reaction to food that does not involve the immune system. Although symptoms can mimic an allergy, the causes are different and on-set of symptoms is often slower and longer lasting. Symptoms of food intolerance can include almost anything but most commonly fatigue and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea and vomiting, bloating (often as part of irritable bowel syndrome) are described.”

Atopic disease

You may hear doctors talk about a family as having a family history of being atopic. “This refers to a group of illnesses, including eczema, hay fever, food allergy, and asthma that are characterised by the presence of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.”

Atopic illness in a parent(s) makes it more likely that children will also present with these – although they may be to something different. For instance, I had a childhood allergy to eggs; an intolerance to dairy; asthma; and eczema as a baby; (I grew out of everything bar the asthma and that’s now mild). My daughter has a severe allergy (delayed) to soy. In another family, the father might have a mild oral allergy (immediate) to raw apples, the mother has hay fever, and their son is severely allergic (immediate) to dairy, gluten, and peanuts.

Resources

It is important to seek professional medical advice if an allergy is suspected.

There is of course a wide range of information on the web (some more reliable than others). The source that I have drawn on for this post, often quoting directly, is my favourite of the six allergy books that I’ve read in the past two months and the most relevant to my daughter’s condition: The Allergy-Free Baby & Toddler Book by Charlotte Muquit & Dr Adam Fox. I also found it the most approachable in terms of language and found it comforting that it included anecdotes from a number of other families.

My other recommendation is that if you have access to a free public library system then make use of it. Just like finding the right pair of shoes, look at a range of books until you find the one most relatable to your circumstances. If you find one that you really like, and would want to re-read, then buy just that one book. I definitely found it helpful having an understanding of what tests and diagnostic process to expect and I actually took my copy of Charlotte Muquit’s book into some appointments with me.

 

The Good Vitamin Co


I was really excited to have an opportunity to test The Good Vitamin Co‘s Kids Good Omega 3; Omega 3 (commonly found in fish oil) is great for brain development and has a number of other health benefits too.

We got a big bottle of the Omega 3 and samples of the others (which is appreciated!). Miss 2 asked for some as soon as she saw the bottle and after trying them said “please more!” (lol, kiddo, tomorrow!) They’re really cute to look at; I thought they were tiny penguins but I’m guessing they’re actually the standing King Salmon character. They looked tempting enough that I had some too. Really nice flavour and much preferable to the big adult fish oil capsules I’ve taken in the past! Awesome that they’re allergy-friendly and New Zealand formulated  🙂

 

Can magnesium help my toddler sleep?

My toddler does not sleep well. She has always found sleep to be a troublesome thing because of her health and it’s the first thing out the door when she’s feeling upset about a change (in environment, in development, in routine) or isn’t feeling well. This also means that not only do I not get sleep but I also have to stay the sane, loving, cheerful household executive while taking care of a stompy grumpy dinosaur and being exhausted myself.

Recently my mother suggested trying magnesium, on the same weekend that a friend had posted on social media that she was trialing a magnesium tonic with her young ones. It’s funny, I’ve taken multi-vitamins on and off over the years, I’ve heard about the importance of fish oil (with its Omega 3 and Omega 6) but I’ve never heard about magnesium being an important health thing. Apparently it’s a thing.

I went looking and there are a ton of articles online from paleo blogs, to doctors, to newspaper articles, to online stores, to people sharing their experiences in forums.

So magnesium is an oft overlooked mineral that is responsible for helping calming neurotransmitters in our brain (like GABA ), helping us switch off adrenaline, helping muscle relaxation, hydration, and over 300 enzyme reactions. It can help with cramp, growth spurts, anxiety, and sleep. Taking magnesium isn’t a guarantee that you’ll sleep better but apparently it’s pretty damn hard to sleep well if you have a deficiency.

Are you likely to be deficient in magnesium? That probably depends a lot of what you eat; possibly if you’re mainly eating peanut butter, bread or white rice, and iceberg lettuce. Apparently the following are high in magnesium:

Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic.

Our magnesium levels can also apparently be decreased by chronic stress, excess alcohol, salt, coffee, phosphoric acid in colas, profuse sweating, chronic diarrhea, excessive menstruation, diuretics (water pills), antibiotics and other drugs, and some intestinal parasites. Another point of concern will be that the concentrations of magnesium in the plants listed will also be affected by the level of magnesium in the soil they were grown in (which can be quite variable).

There then becomes the question of how to kick start your magnesium. Internet articles suggested avoiding  magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide as they are poorly absorbed (and the cheapest and most common forms found in supplements). Apparently magnesium citrate is good (but too much will have you running to the toilet) and magnesium glycinate.  There are a number of options for adults when it comes to magnesium pills and powders but these are often not suitable for a toddler.

The option that I settled on for our trial is Floradix Magnesium Tonic. It can be used safely with toddlers (over 12 months) just be careful to read the instructions about dosages as they are on a smaller dose than adults. It contains some herbal extracts (like chamomile) which one can only hope will help with sleep and the fruit juice means that it tastes pleasant. I haven’t even referred to it as medicine to my toddler, I just told her that it’s special fruit juice and since she only gets water or milk then she thinks it’s a treat!

floradix

It’s too early after one day to tell if it’s having any impact. I gave it to her at lunchtime and she did settle for her day nap much easier today; I can only hope that the effects carry forward and that she sleeps better tonight because of it as well (and that I do too!).

Note: The Floradix is worth shopping around for. I found it listed online for an incredibly variable price of $17-35; the cheapest place I found to buy it was Countdown supermarket.

 

Feeding with Love and Good Sense

One of the parenting books that has had the greatest positive impact for me when it comes to toddlers & food is Ellyn Satter’s “Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense (Revised and Updated Edition)“. I stumbled across mention of her ‘Division of Responsibility in Feeding‘ in a parenting blog and was intrigued enough to track down her book through my local library.

I read it when my daughter was still under 2 years old and I had already found myself starting down the road of short-order cook in a desperate attempt to convince her to eat at dinner time.  She has various health concerns which mean that for the first 12 months of her life her weight was of vital concern (plummeting at one point as low as 1% on the growth charts before climbing up to 40% by her birthday) and periodically her reaction to pain and inflammation is to simply refuse to eat for a week.

At one point, a few weeks after one of her hunger strikes,  I was exhausted from regularly making her a second meal because she’d refused what I’d offered her for dinner. I realized that my fears about her not eating were largely rooted in a traumatic past rather than in the present. Her weight had stabilized along a healthy growth line and I didn’t want to set myself up for a lifetime of cooking stress by creating a fussy child with too much power in the kitchen – something that wouldn’t be comfortable for either of us! So I looked around for more information published by parents, nutritionists, and dietitians, discussed these with our GP and settled on Ellyn Satter’s method.

Essentially, her division of responsibility boils down to: the parent is responsible for the WHAT, WHEN and WHERE of feeding. Your child is responsible for the HOW MUCH and WHETHER of eating.

Her book goes into much more depth, has a ton of nutritional information, and is broken down into age-related sections (i.e. differentiating between a baby and a toddler). She also discusses the importance of providing nutritionally balanced meals; the child feeling safe & secure that these meals/snacks are regularly provided as part of a routine; trusting that your toddler has an innate ability to self-regulate their food intake over the course of a week; and to include treats/dessert in moderation and as part of meals (and not as rewards).  For me it’s been a huge relief as I no longer worry when my 2 year old decides one dinner that the only thing she is going to eat on her plate is the protein and the next day she only eats the vegetables. I’ve also observed that if I sometimes give her a cookie with dinner then sometimes she’ll eat it first but other times she won’t bother with it at all.

Our power struggles around dinner time are pretty manageable (they could certainly be much worse!). Her choices are to eat what’s been provided for dinner, or to have bread & butter, or to leave the kitchen and go play with her toys. I always ask her if she’s “All done” (and it was one of the Baby Signs that we regularly used); if she chooses to play then I’ll leave dinner out for 20-45 mins depending on how much she’s eaten and then check with her one final time before clearing it away. I’m not saying that there are no dinner time tantrums but it does kinda take the wind out of her sails that my response is to simply tell her that she can choose to go play if she wants to. I do find as well that I need to be really consistently firm that I’m not going to give her anything else for dinner and that ‘Yes, muesli bars are yummy and she can have one at snack time tomorrow but that’s not a dinner food’. It’s still frustrating though when I’ve spent ages cooking dinner and she decides that she’d rather wait for breakfast than try any!