Spice Boys

For quite a while now my 5yo has been a big fan of curry. I remember making a curry for him when he was about 12m old. It was an experiment and when he first tasted it, his eyes widened, his attention quickened and he wanted MORE!

When I say curry, I am talking about a mild, sweetish Indian style curry. Though I have to say that my boy has graduated to enjoying some spicy & fiery foods. So long as they meet his criteria – soft, wet and all mixed together – he’s willing to give it a go. He once insisted on eating the Thai green curry that I had made for myself – took the bowl and spoon right out of my hands.

It makes a big difference to introduce a good range of foods as early as possible. I enjoy cooking so I’m always keen to give my kids tasty, healthy food. Having a child on the spectrum though can mean certain (or a LOT) of restrictions. Their willingness to try new foods is not entirely down to your parenting or cooking (or non-cooking) preferences.

A speech therapist once told me that you need to present a new food to a child at least 20 times. There are many foods that I have presented more than 20 times and there’s just no way my boy is going near it. These days I’m fairly happy with the range of food L will eat. I’m aways trying new recipes and hoping that he might give something new a try. In the end though, the tried and true favourites are good to have as the backbone of your menu for the week, and curry is one of those for my crew.

When I recently mentioned how much all my boys (5y/asd, 2y & 14m) enjoyed curry, Neil from Pucks & Puzzle Pieces asked for some pointers. So…for Neil and anyone else who is interested, here is my first attempt at a food blog post.

Rose’s Kids Curry

Chop the chicken (I use either thigh or breast) into bite size pieces and dust with flour. Shake off all the excess flour. Warm some peanut oil in the pan and cook the chicken in batches until they are just starting to colour. Once cooked, set the chicken aside in a bowl.

dusted chicken

don’t crowd the pan!

Finely chop a small/medium brown onion. Add a pinch of salt and slowly saute the onion in a fry pan till soft. Don’t rush it, take your time & the onions will be sweet.

do not rush this bit!

Add the curry powder and allow it to cook for at least one minute, stirring it into the onions. You may prefer to grind up your own curry powder, or use another brand. I used 2-3 heaped teaspoons in this version, but you should match this to your/your child’s taste. You can also supplement the curry powder with various spices – coriander seeds, star anise, cardamom – whatever inspires you.

the curry powder I use

Once you can start to smell the aroma of the spices being released, add in the vegetables you have chopped into small, bite size pieces. I use whatever vegetables I happen to have in the fridge, but always include pumpkin. Today I had carrots, corn, sweet potato, peas, zucchini, potato and pumpkin – but any combination will work.

what’s in the fridge?

Stir the vegetables so that they are completed coasted with the curry and onion mixture. Continue to cook and stir for a few minutes, then add some chicken or vegetable stock. I used 1 litre – it should look like this:

hard work now done

Once you’ve given it a good stir, bring it to a slow boil then reduce the heat, add the chicken and simmer for around 30 minutes.

At this point, get your rice on. I use jasmine rice, but you could use basmati or long grain. I use the absorption method which is super easy and makes perfect rice every time.

Keep checking on the curry every 5 – 10 minutes and give it a stir. The stirring is important as it helps to create the sauce. The pumpkin breaks down and becomes a part of the sauce and gives it a sweet flavour that the kids love – but…no added sugar.

ready to serve

You are done!

all served up

Here are the boys bowls, all lined up and ready to go. And…here’s how they went tonight!

L – ate all the curry, not so much rice

N had a couple of extra servings which he didn’t quite get through

J – ate it all except for a few grains of rice

I would love to hear from you if you do try this recipe out.

Also…here’s how my stove looks these days. The knobs are all off because L was obsessing over turning them on ALL. THE. TIME! He doesn’t any more!

Sensational

Day 18: Autism Awareness Blogathon

Today I am co-blogging with That Cynking Feeling. We got to chatting last week and found that we are both doing a blogging marathon for autism this month. Se we decided to choose a topic and both of us are writing about it from our different perspectives. Here is hers (and you’ve got to love a title like this): Smells Like Toddler Spirit and here is mine:

‘Time for dinner! Come and sit at the table’.  I am ignored.

I walk over to L who is sitting playing with his ribbon and occasionally giving a sideways glance at the television. I turn the tv off.  I get down to his level, eye to eye, make sure I have his attention and say ‘dinner time, tv is finished, come and sit at the table now please’.

L looks at me and smiles but makes no move towards the table. I go over to the kitchen, get his bowl of dinner and take it to him. I put the bowl under his nose. He glances at it momentarily, but gives the food a good hearty sniff. Suddenly, he is alert. I whisk the bowl back to the table and repeat ‘time for dinner L, come and sit at the table’. He looks at me and smiles, looks at where the bowl is and walks over to his place at the table. He sits down, picks up his spoon and starts to eat his meal. With every spoonful he becomes more enthusiastic, more aware that he is hungry. He eats the entire bowl of food.

‘More dinner or finished?’ ‘More dinner’ another bowl of curry and rice goes the way of the first. ‘More dinner or finished?’ ‘Finished Mum’, ‘OK, bowl in the sink please’. He checks if he might be able to get away with not putting his bowl in the sink, but realising that I am 100% attending to his every move, he picks up his bowl and drops it into the sink.

‘Thank you darling’ He goes back to the ribbon which stayed in his hand through the entire meal.

It’s a routine we have worked on for a couple of years now. He eats about 80% of the meals I make for him. This time last year it was about 50%. He is not what I would call a picky eater like some people on the spectrum are, but he certainly has a distinctive set of preferences.

For my boy, his food must be soft and wet – not hard and crunchy. No biting or heavy chewing. He won’t eat bread, biscuits, crackers, pies, pastry etc. He WILL eat, a ragingly hot curry, casseroles, sausages, breakfast cereal, baked beans, pancakes, rice pudding & cake. He is what is called a sensory seeker. He seeks sensation. His ribbon and various other stimming activities give him the sensory feedback that help him to be calm and happy.

In my many years B.C. (before children) I had never heard about sensory processing. I thought there were 5 senses – everybody said so and I believed them. Turns out there are 7 and I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few more years, they decided there were more.

In case you were wondering, the two mystery senses are the proprioceptive and the vestibular. Proprioception is all about knowing/feeling what our body parts, muscles and joints are doing and where they are. The vestibular sense is all about where our bodies are in space, about gravity, balance and movement.

 

 

feeling the vestibular system kick in

Sensory processing is all about how the brain processes the information we receive from our environment. You might remember me describing L’s Cortical Vision Impairment in the I Knew Better post. So I knew he had visual processing issues, but it turns out that all of his sensory processing is impacted.

image credit: Family Circle 1959

L needs to smell his meal before he is able to decide if he will eat it or not, or if he is even hungry. The ‘we eat with our eyes’ saying does not apply to him.  Most of the time he does not even realise that he is hungry or thirsty. Luckily he will usually eat a good breakfast, but for a while last year he would then go all day without eating or drinking anything except some bathwater. Great!

I was able to get some support from the Feeding Clinic at our local children’s hospital. There you get to meet with a Speechie, an OT and a Dietician and they help you to put a plan together to widen the menu, expand the sensory diet and help you with putting some rules in around food and eating.

The rules are pretty simple:

  • only serve one meal – don’t go making the old favorites if the meal you have served is refused
  • keep offering new foods, but only one at a time – you need to present food at least 20 times
  • stay upbeat about food/dinner/eating – try not to get emotional, desperate or angry
  • be as creative as you can by moving incrementally towards a new food – if they like chicken curry, try beef curry or indian or thai

For any one who is interested, the book ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge is a remarkable adventure into the world neuroplasticity and the now very famous ‘Out of Sync Child Has Fun’ by Carol Stock Kranowitz is an incredible resource for parents.