Back to School. Those iconic words ring loud and clear throughout this country from coast to coast. As a youngster I remember that phrase signaling the end of summer. A collective school-age sigh would be followed by a dutiful call to get back to work. Now, when mid-August comes around, a parental chorus of “Finally!” can be heard. Let’s get these kids back to work! Back to the structure! Back to the routine! We can only do so much during the summer months… and give yourself a lot of credit, you deserve it. You deserve credit for normalizing your summer as much as you can. Give yourself credit for trying to keep up the routine as best you can. For attempting ABA. For making sure you read out loud as much as you can. For cooking meals over the hot stove in July. You’re doing it and only you can!
We all benefit from the structure and routine that the new school year brings, caregiver and child alike. And I find that carrying that structure and order over into meal preparation is very helpful. A few years back I discovered a product called Laptop Lunches, a Bento Box-style approach to lunch boxes. What I like best is that everything has its place. The box is divided up into four quadrants. Each box offers an opportunity for an individual tactile delight not to mention, built-in portion control. And when Aiden comes home from school I can clearly see what went over well and how much was eaten from each choice.
The day-to-day lunchbox planning goes much smoother when I’m able to get out in front a little bit and prepare a few items in bulk. Ever since Aiden took those first magical bites from lettuce leaves, a salad has been a mainstay in his lunch. A salad spinner and a bowl of cold water will set you up with a weeks worth of salads from 1 large head of lettuce. Sprinkled with some dulse flakes and packed with a dressing of apple cider vinegar and sesame oil our salad has just become a vehicle for anti-inflammatory goodness. Pineapple, another powerful anti-inflammatory food is something I like to peel, dice up and store in a glass container in the fridge for a week’s worth of a refreshing snack. I always try to dedicate one of the bento boxes for some sort of protein. Hummus (recipe follows) is a reliable standby for us as long as I accompany it with something crunchy to dip with, usually rice cakes but carrot sticks work well, too. And since rice cakes are usually always in the house, I started grinding them up in the Cuisinart and use them as a GF breadcrumb to make super crispy chicken fingers with (recipe follows). They reheat really well in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes for a warm after-school snack and they make a great little nugget for the lunchbox. I’ll usually pack a little fresh apple sauce with the nuggets for a sweet balance to the savory chicken for dipping. Definitely give the applesauce a try — it’s nothing more than some chopped-up apple in a small saucepan covered with a lid and brought up slowly over medium low heat. You’ll begin to hear the juice releasing from the apples which is exactly what you want! Let the apples stew in their own juices until soft and mushy, about 8-10 minutes. Then it’s your choice — mash them with a fork, move them to a blender (a hand-held immersion blender works great) or leave them as is — at this point it’s purely a textural preference. Lately, Aiden has been fond of the classic childhood favorite celery and peanut butter (I tried the raisins but he always picks them off!) so that’s been working its way into the mix from time to time and I feel pretty good about the protein count that a couple of tablespoons of nut butter offers. And once again, our protein source is smooth in texture being delivered by something crispy, similar to the hummus and rice cake.
Being attentive to our children’s textural preferences seems to be critical in creating a meaningful menu for them. And a healthy serving of ABA helps too when introducing new food choices. It’s just as important that our paras and caretakers at school are following through on their end that lunch is being delivered in a thoughtful way. Even though an initial reaction of disgust might be evident with the introduction to a new food, a taste followed by a powerful edible reinforcer might just do the trick for something as wonderful a food like sauerkraut. So keep trying new foods, keep being creative, and keep making a difference!
Good luck this school year both scholastically and nutritionally! Remember to feed the mind & body meaningful foods that keep us moving in a positive direction. No doubt, being active in the kitchen will help accomplish this!
GFCF, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free, Nut-Free
4 cups of garbanzo beans, or cooked chickpeas
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
½ teaspoons of garlic powder, granulated
3 Tablespoons of sesame tahini
½ cup of olive oil
½ cup of bean broth or water
pinch of salt and pepper
Add the cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic powder and bean broth to your food processor.
Start the machine and thoroughly work the bean mixture. You may need to stop and scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula. With the machine running drizzle in the olive oil, then the tahini.
Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper while the machine is running.
**Try to use freshly cooked beans whenever possible but if using canned beans you can expect about 1+1/2 cups of cooked beans from a 15-ounce can.
**Chickpeas are one of the most nutritious of all the legumes, high in calcium, phosphorus and potassium with an exceptionally high iron and vitamin C content.
**If the beans are still a little warm from the pot, the hummus will seem looser than if it’s actually in the food processor. So add a little more bean broth than you think, as it will firm up as it cools.
**Try some rice cakes and hummus, very popular in my house!
**Hummus gives a good disguise for supplements or other hard to administer nutrients.
Nutrition Information: Amount per serving (Serving Size 55g)
Saturated Fat 1.1g
About Chef Jimi
In 2003, Jimi Taylor was beginning an exciting career in the culinary arts as a professional chef after his completing training at the New York restaurant school in SoHo, New York when his son Aiden was born. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at 26 months, Aiden and his family began practicing a gluten and casein free diet designed and cooked by Chef Jimi. Since the week of Aiden’s diagnosis Chef Jimi has cooked every day for his family and the results have been astronomical. The challenge of daily adherence to this diet inspired Chef Jimi to create the iOS app Cooking with a Cause. This easy-functioning app will show affected parents where to begin, what works, tips for success, and alternatives with a solid base using basic techniques that will help families along the way to coping and treating autism.