Chocolate Fudge Mug Cake
This recipe may shock some of you, but I don't always eat junk! I know, you can't believe it! Well, it's true, and this recipe is one I will go to when during the week (when I try to eat better) I just need a little something that really feels like a treat.
This thing is gluten free, paleo friendly, and really good! The banana taste is not too overpowering (in case you're not into banana), and the texture of this mug cake is a moist and fudgy (p.s., fudgy is not a real word!) : ) .
Chocolate Fudge Mug Cake
I just want to say that I thought March only had 30 days for some reason, so I thought today was April 1st (April Fools Day). So when I looked at my calendar and saw today was March 31st, well....my own brain played an early April Fool's joke on me. Sheesh. Happy NOT April Fools Day! :)
A good friend recently told me she thinks I have an addiction to marshmallows. I will quite opening admit to that being true! This recipe was just going to be some sort of Dulce Du Leche brownie, but marshmallows seemed essential here. Essential! :)
Dulce De Leche & Marshmallow Brownies
*This is the exact same recipe I use for my gluten-free brownies, but I made them not gluten free this time. It works beautifully either way.
For real, does anyone not like marshmallows? I'm not saying can't eat marshmallows, but who really doesn't like them? I have yet to meet anyone with this malfunction! :)
Have a great weekend everyone!
Autism & Careers
I know my son with autism, Caleb, is only 9 years old and he doesn't need to find his life's calling anytime soon, but as a parent (in general) you hope that your kids can grow up and find work, and even more, work that is fulfilling. But for a child with autism (or any special need), the question of "what will he be when he grows up" is a little more looming. The statistics on adults with autism being un-employed is higher than the regular disabled un-employment rate.
I honestly believe that anyone (typical or special needs) can find a job that they might be well suited for by examining what that person naturally goes to. This isn't always the case obviously, but for a child with special needs, it could be a good indication of what they might be good at because they are already interested in it. The trick (I think) is to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, and base a potential job on these facts.
For Caleb, some jobs we have joked about that he could have, based on what he currently is into/good at are:
Obviously we haven't found anything that really suits Caleb that could lead to a proper career. I would honestly be happy with any job he had, as long as it was something that was using his gifts, and he found satisfying.
As he gets older we will continue to prepare him for working by helping him learn to work as a team, follow instructions, having a good attitude, being honest, being organized, using his communication skills (be it verbal, written, typed, etc.), and being flexible. We will teach him the value of hard work, and of being willing to work. Autism could keep Caleb from getting a job, but I really don't think it needs to. He is a sweet, bright, and eager kid, and if he maintains those traits, I think any employer would be happy to have him!
(Winter Won't End!) Chili
Chili is sort of a personal thing, everyone makes it different, and everyone has different opinions about how it should be made.
Well, this version is my own, the way we like it 'round here. : ) You can add a bit of brown sugar if you like a sweet touch, or make it hotter with a dash of Tobasco sauce, whatever floats your boat!
This winter has been a doozie, and a doozie of a winter deserves a warm and comforting chili! So, enjoy this, the Van Londersele's version of chili!
Chili (Van Londersele Style)
*Feeds 8 adults (approximately)
You can eat the chilli at this point, but it tastes much better once it has had a chance to sit and simmer. I generally will make this in the morning, and leave it simmering until dinner. If you have a large enough crock pot, you can brown the meat (with the spices) in a frying pan, then throw it, and everything else into the crock pot until you get home from work (or wherever), and have a lovely dinner waiting!
So, how does the chili you make/are used to differ from this? Is there anything you like to add to yours that you would love to share with me!?!
And how are you feeling about this winter.....?
Life Hack: Plug I.D. Tags
Good day to you!
At our house for some reason the internet will suddenly stop working. It's not our computer (we've finally got a good one), and our internet provider is actually pretty good too. But, something happens and the way to fix it is to simply unplug the internet, and plug it back in. This was once a job of horror (for realz), not knowing which plug belonged to which device!!! Horror! : )
Then on Pinterest I saw something brilliant: milk or bread tags as plug tags!
To make the tags, you simply use a permanent marker to write what each plug belongs to. It honestly takes just a few minutes to do, but it will save you a lot of time after!
Now, when I need to unplug my internet, I just go and unplug the one I need, and I'm done. Woot woot, time saved!
So, just a nice short post today about keeping life a little more organized!
Easy Peasy Peanut Butter Cookies
These peanut butter cookies are as easy as it gets when it comes to cookies (and they're gluten-free! Double bonus!) It is a recipe from the back of the Kraft Peanut Butter jar, and has only 3 ingredients. I added a fourth ingredient though (no, not chocolate or marshmallows, sheesh)....although....? No, seriously, I added some corn starch to give the cookies some "staying power" as it were. These usually get too flat for my personal cookie liking, so some corn starch does the trick!
Peanut Butter Cookies
Gluten Free, and easily doubled
These cookies finish up nice and soft on the inside, and they are just plain ol' peanut-buttery delicious!
Bowling Themed Birthday Party Cake
I got the chance recently to make a cake for a friends daughter. I was very excited, but also a little nervous about it turning out (making a cake for someone else is very different than making it for yourself or your own kids!).
The cake was for an 11 year old girl who was having her party at a bowling alley. The request: vanilla cake, bowling theme, purple & green. Okey doke!
I started with a simple vanilla cake recipe, and doubled it (I made 3 layers, but decided it would be too much cake, so I wrapped up one layer and put it into my freezer). After letting the cakes cool, I used the poured fondant menthol to coat the top layer, and I only covered a portion of the bottom layer because I knew I would be putting buttercream between the 2 layers.
For the fondant for decorating, I used a simple Rolled Buttercream Fondant (it actually tastes good). I often use a marshmallow fondant, but that fondant can sometimes become dry, and I was making this cake for a party that was a few days away, and I wanted to be sure nothing cracked! I divided the fondant into 5 (the 5th section being tiny) groups, and made purple, pink, teal, purple marbled, and a tiny bit of black. The pink, and teal colours were rolled out, and (using cookie cutters) made into stars, circles, and the purple (using a knife) was cut into strips. I left a small portion of each colour un-rolled and wrapped in plastic wrap in case I needed it for extra details. I used a tiny glass bottle I have to make 3 little circles for the "holes" on the bowling ball.
The bowling ball was made using a very small batch of Rice Krispie Squares, and rolling it into a ball (instead of pressing it into a pan). I wrapped the ball in plastic wrap, and put it into the fridge until it set, and I was ready for it.
To wrap the bowling ball, I just decided where the bottom would be (for a possible seam), and I gently worked the purple marbled fondant around the ball, and smoothed it out as I went. I wasn't sure it was going to work, but I just plugged away at it, snipped a few pieces of excess as I went, and it came together (it was easier than I thought it would be). I added some fondant stars to it, just for fun, painted on the stars with a gel food colouring, and added the three black fondant "holes".
Getting the cakes onto their tray was tricky, but I just made sure I was taking my time, and was oh so careful. Once I had the bottom on, I added some flavoured buttercream (using the cake pan from the top layer to give me an idea of how far out I needed to go), and the shapes I wanted on the bottom. I wanted to add the shapes to the bottom at this stage so that they would tuck in under the top layer.
To put the top on, I placed a piece of parchment on top of the cake, and flipped it over to get it off the cooling rack where I had poured the fondant on. I then tucked in the icing that was hanging/dripping (it's how it looks because the icing was poured on while it sat on a cooling rack). Once I had it all tucked in, I gently placed the top layer on top of the bottom layer.
To get the top to smooth out, I left the parchment on it and gently (using a rolling pin), rolled the top. Then I removed the parchment.
To make the bowling pins I put a piece of parchment over a photo from the internet of bowling pins, and traced over it with melted purple moulding chocolates. Then I filled in the tracing with pink melted moulding chocolate. I added some pink sprinkles too. Photos of this same chocolate tracing technique are here, when I made a Princess Celestia for a cake topper. To make sure the bowling pins would stand up in top of the cake, I place a skewer on the photo before I began tracing with the melted chocolate. With the extra melted chocolate I drew squiggles, stars, and other random shapes that I thought I might be able to use as extra decorations for the cake (or that I could feed to my children who kept asking what they could eat from what I was making!).
I also gently pushed a skewer into the bottom of the bowling ball to help secure it to the cake.
To the top I added some stripes and shapes, and I also added some purple fondant, rolled and shaped to fill in the gap between the two layers. And I piped some buttercream around the bottom to clean it up.
For a finishing touch I piped some buttercream onto the cake in random spots, and gently pushed some of the chocolate squiggles I had made.
The only mis-hap was that one of the bowling pin tops broke on it's journey from our house to the birthday girls' house! Oh my gosh! Luckily my friend is clever, and just melted the piece still on the cake, and re-attached the broken piece. Smarty pants.
Well, I feel bad for how long this post is (especially after the doozie from yesterday!), but I wanted to try to break down the making of this cake as much as a could (in case anyone cared to know!)!
I was told that the kids loved the cake, and the party went well, so I was very happy!
Well, it's Friday people! I hope everyone has a great weekend!
Autism and the Gut
The title of this post may seem strange, but gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are one of the most common medical conditions accompanying autism.
The GI issues can range from chronic diarrhea, or constipation, to bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. The studies done are largely with children, but GI troubles and autism can be linked at any age.
Children with autism are six to eight times more likely to suffer gastrointestinal problems than typically developing children, according to new research from the University of California-Davis’ MIND Institute. 50% of all children with autism suffer from food allergies, and maldigestion or malabsorption issues. Other researchers have found a strong link between GI symptoms and autism severity. Just a few years ago doctors dismissed the idea that food allergies and intolerances might have an effect on autism and it's symptoms at all.
When Caleb was around 3 he still had little to no (spontaneous) speech, he was having many times a day, 7 days a week melt-downs, was running away a lot, had no sense of danger, and we had noticed that his bowel movements went between diarrhea and what we called "the baseball" (a rock hard poop so round and big that we literally didn't know how he could pass it).
I had read a lot about a link between autism and food allergies, the most common being a gluten intolerance, and a casein intolerance. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, but it is made up of 2 different proteins (and some of these 2 proteins are also found in rye, barley, and some crossbreeds, which is why people avoiding gluten avoid those grains also). And casein is the main protein found in milk.
When we started talking to people about possibly trying Caleb on a gluten free/casein free (gf/cf) diet, we had a lot of "nay-sayers": "it's too expensive", "there's not a big variety of food", "he won't like it", "nothing will cure his autism". We were never looking to "cure his autism", it was about trying things for Caleb that would relieve him of some of the triggers that brought on his very negative autism symptoms (as mentioned above).
We started Caleb on the gf/cf diet in October 2003, a few moths after he had turned 3 (just as a side note, a child on a restricted diet needs to be on a supplement to be sure they are getting enough essential nutrients). I would describe the first 3 weeks as torture....Caleb's meltdowns seemed more frequent, he seemed more un-manageable in public (running away, taking off clothing, having meltdowns), and we started to wonder if this was a good idea. I had (luckily) read about kids going through "wheat withdrawal" when taken off wheat, and I'm not sure if taking away milk and milk products made that worse, but it was bad. But I knew from my reading, that in order to see if it would be beneficial, a good 3-4 weeks was needed.
Then I remember, clear as day, standing at my kitchen sink and doing the dishes. Up to this point with Caleb and his speech, we had to prompt every word. He was capable of saying words, but was still considered "non-verbal" as he could not/would not sporadically say them on his own. For instance, for a drink, we would first sign (sign language) "Mom", and he would say, "Mom....", then I would say, "may I please...", and he would repeat, then I would finish, "have a drink", and he would repeat. Sentence said...sort of. It was working (ish) for him, we were glad he could make words. But we just really hoped that his brain would understand that the words he was saying had real meaning, and that he could use them on his own. Anyway, back to the kitchen sink after a few weeks of the diet: Caleb walks in, and I turned to look at him, just wondering what he was doing. He stops at me and says, "Mom.....Caleb.....to have.....please....a movie".
He did it!!! All by himself, he walked in and asked me a question! I picked him up and was so excited, and crying, and I remember telling him he could watch moves all day if he was using such good words!
We saw fairly slow, but steady improvements in his behaviour after that. He still had melt-downs, we still had to do a lot of promoting for words (that choppy sentence was one of the only things he could say independently), he was still struggling to become potty trained, but his bowel movements became more consistent, and even his skin looked healthier, and the dark circles under his eyes went away.
Once, about a year later, we left Caleb at a babysitters house. The family he was going to stay with for a few hours had called to tell us they would making hotdogs for dinner if we wanted to bring along a gf/cf hotdog and bun for Caleb so that he would be eating the same as them. So, I brought a hotdog and bun along. However, when the mother of the family set the food out, she failed to tell her children which one was Caleb's, and she didn't realize one of her daughters had sat at Caleb's plate, and Caleb had sat down at a regular hotdog.
A few hours later, when we went to pick him up, we walked in and found him laying in the front room of the house, with the lights off, and holding a light up toy right to his face. The Mom greeted us, then told us that Caleb had eaten a regular hot dog and bun, and shortly after dinner he went into this front room, and has been laying down with this light-up toy in his face. As soon as Caleb realized we were standing there, he just started bawling. It wasn't a "I miss my parents" cry, it was a strange, really sad, can't say what hurts or why, kind of cry. His eating one hotdog was making him shut-down.
So, what's the connection between the gut, and the brain?
Do certain situations make you feel nauseous, or like you have to use the bathroom. Do you ever have "butterflies" in your stomach, how about a "gut wrenching" experience? There is a reason why we use these terms, and it's because our GI tract is very sensitive to emotion. Any emotion can trigger a response (and symptoms) from our gut.
The brain and the gut are so closely connected. The thought of eating can cause the stomach to produce digestive juices before you've even taken a bite, and the problematic intestine can send signals to the brain. So, it's fascinating to think that "tummy troubles" could be the cause of or the by-product of depression, anxiety, stress, etc.
The role this plays in autism is becoming more clear. A child with autism is feeling constantly bombarded with stressors (because of their sensory confusion), and often reacts by acting out because they lack the verbal skills to talk about how overwhelmed they feel (some studies have shown that if a child or adult has the verbal/communication skills to talk about what stresses them out, their GI issues go away). Then, because of the stress (and how it can effect bowl movements, cause inflammation, create malabsorption issues-which make you feel sick and more susceptible to illness) it starts a reaction in their gut, and that causes their behaviours to become even worse as they are now receiving signals to their brain from their gut that things are not right.
Research has also shown that some people with GI disorders feel the pain in their gut more severely than others because their brains do not properly regulate pain signals from the GI tract. Stress can make the existing pain worse, and the pain increases stress, and round and round that cycle goes.
The gf/cf free diet is not for everyone though, and will not work for everyone. The main idea behind it working for children with autism is that if their gut is causing their brain extra stress, eliminating common allergens can decrease the stress they feel, and help them cope better with everyday life. But, if a child with autism isn't receiving stress signals from their gut because of an actual allergy (and only from stress), then the diet might not help. My advice is to follow your gut (aka-your brain) :) If your child has poor skin tone, dark bags under the eyes, inconsistent bowel movements, or other "not right" symptoms, why not give a gf/cf diet a try. The food options now are way (waaaaay!) better than when Caleb first started on the diet (though, try to do the gut an extra favour and up the naturally gluten free foods such as meat, nuts, fruits and veggies), and can make a gluten free life for a child more enjoyable.
The bottom line is, if it could help, why not try it? When Caleb was about 6 we let him start eating regular yogurt and cheese again (I have strong feelings about soy products, and that was what the milk-free options were made of). We monitored his reaction to the food carefully, and decided that drinking milk was still difficult for him, so he still drinks almond milk. It's not about trying every new fad that people come up with for "curing autism", it's about wanting to create the best possible scenario for your child so that they feel their best, and can become their best.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
I think most people had brussel sprouts that were over cooked growing up. I personally don't even remember eating them until I was older, and then I had to eat them overly cooked. Yuck! Anywho, all that to say they weren't always my favourite, but I have a thing about trying new veggies (or old veggies that I didn't quite like), and giving them a second chance. After all, it's not that I didn't like the veg, it was the way it was prepared.
Well, this recipe will change the way you see squishy old brussel sprouts, trust me!
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
with Bacon (side dish for 2-3 people)
This is such a yummy, yummy dish, I ate it for lunch (all of it to myself!-insert evil laugh here!!). I hope you give it a real, grown-up try!
Fast Food: Part II
I shared about what I do with my veggies when I get home from the grocery store, but I do a few other things too in order to streamline some aspects of my life, and also to eliminate wasting groceries.
So, I've been doing this for a while, but it's one of my favourite life hacks. I prep my cheese! I take half the brick and grate it. We use grated cheese on things like broccoli and cauliflower, but also in our grilled cheese, and of course, to put on nachos!
I slice the other half into "sandwich" sized strips, and once I've cut it down into a smaller piece, I cut that into "snacking" sized pieces.
For our meat, I quarter our 2 lbs of ground meat, wrap each quarter in plastic wrap, then put them all into a freezer bag and into the freezer. With packs of chicken (like the thighs in the first picture), I would divide that into 2 meals, placing each half into 2 separate bags and into the freezer (you could divide it more if you're on your own, or have a smaller family, etc.)
My bananas take a beating if I don't do this trick! I simply lay the bushel on it's side, and (using a serrated bread knife) cut the top off, so the bananas are separate from each other. This does two things: One-if the kids want a banana, they just grab one, instead of man-handling the whole bunch! (causing all the bananas to get beat up), and Two-bananas ripen more quickly when they are together because they emit ethylene gas (a plant hormone that is produced as they ripen). So, if they are exposed to more of it, they ripen faster. On that note, if you need your bananas to ripen faster, put them all into a paper bag, or wrap them in newspaper so the gas they emit works overtime by not being able to get away! Small note: If you cut too low, it can be a bit tricky to open the bananas though, so don't cut down too close.
My last hack to share today is with our yogurt. When we get it home, first thing is we take it out of that cardboard sleeve it's in. That thing is useless in a household-it's great for shipping and at the grocery store, but not at home. Then, I take them apart by two's, so they are even more accessible in the fridge. Then I stack them up high, so they use more 'up' room, and less actual shelf space.
I hope you're enjoyed my random tips for today! If you have any tips you'd like to share with me, I would love to hear them!
Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
3 amazing kids!
Here you'll find things from recipes (gluten-free, paleo, and strait up junk food!), DIY ideas, thoughts on raising a son with autism, and whatever else pops into my brain! : )
Read more about me by clicking here!
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