Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Two-Week Cheesecake Diversion. Also, The Donut Incident

Sebastian's little sister, Alexandra, just turned One.  In anticipation of some low-key, high-sugar festivities, Vanessa and I set about creating a cheesecake for Sebastian to enjoy while the rest of us were eating our way into a collective, cupcake-induced, sugar coma.

During my little mini-break from blogging, we've been busy recipe testing super-fattening, albeit sugar-free cheesecakes, just about every day.  We only have time to make one experiment per day, because Vanessa and I have had to run five or six extra miles in the afternoons to balance out the 28g of fat we've been consuming with each cheesecake attempt.  Alright, we haven't actually been doing the running, but we did discuss at length what a good idea it would be.  Thankfully, we found a recipe that worked; we can now go back to eating fruit.

My obsession with creating special occasion-appropriate recipes for Sebastian began while he was in pre-preschool at the very wonderful UCLA Early Intervention program.  It was Sebastian's first experience in a classroom: overwhelming at times, but generally great.  This is kind of an unfortunate story, for which I absolutely don't hold his totally lovely teachers accountable, but nonetheless, it was a lesson for me (and probably them too).

On occasion, the teachers would take the class of pre-preschoolers (aged 18 months-3 years) on mini "field trips" around Westwood Village, in the eight-seater wagon painted to look like a school bus.  Insanely cute.  One day, the teachers planned to take the class to the new Trader Joe's on Glendon, but must have run short on time.  They got about as far as Stan's Donuts, a beloved Westwood Village fixture, which is several blocks closer to school.  Stan's was so nice about the impromptu visit; each of the kids got a delicious donut.

Except for Sebastian.

His teachers hadn't planned for the stop at Stan's, much less a group snack.  Sebastian was so little then, just over two years old, and probably didn't fully grasp what happened.  To him, everyone on their little wagon-bus got something to eat--something they really liked--but he didn't.  I was pregnant with Alex at the time, so that might account for my reaction, but when his teacher explained what happened (with the most heartrending apology) I instantly broke into tears.  Poor Sebastian.  He had no idea what had happened, except that everyone else was given something to eat that made them happy.  My heart broke with what I imagined to be his first confused awareness of food deprivation.  Sebastian had started the diet so young, he was really too little to miss foods he had only just started to enjoy.  Until then.

Steven and I refer to this as The Donut Incident.  His teachers were incredibly apologetic that they didn't properly prepare by bringing something for Sebastian to eat.  At the time,  Sebastian was (as he still is), functionally non-verbal.  To be fair, I would never have known, had his teachers not told me what happened, with their sincere apologies.  We don't blame them for their honest mistake, but rather, use this as an important lesson: we have to think ahead and prepare (as well as possible) for the situations Sebastian will experience in school and in life.  I've spent days trying to make sugar-free, blue jello in anticipation of a particular food/sensory lesson around the fourth of July.   Same for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Christmas.  It takes a ton of planning to make sure that Sebastian has something comparable to whatever is happening in class.

This brings us back home, to Alexandra's first birthday.  We had a quiet celebration, worthy of a one-year old.  Both kids got birthday "cake."  For Alex, a cupcake was dessert.  For Sebastian, the cheesecake with fresh strawberries was his entire dinner.  Still, Sebastian was able to participate in the celebration.  That's what matters.


Vanessa made at least eight variations of (single-portion) cheesecakes over the last week and a half.  What a trooper.  Every person who came through this house (except Sebastian) was forced to try the cheesecakes and review.  Too buttery? What about the texture? Too creamy?  How is the flavor?  Too much vanilla?  Maybe we try chocolate?  

We've been slightly obsessed.  We don't want to give Sebastian anything we wouldn't eat (if we could afford to consume 28g of fat per meal and still be able to clear a standard doorway).  While we were originally looking for a cake that Sebastian could eat when Alex had her birthday cake, it became a mission to find a self-contained (no cream drink) meal he would love AND we could be sure he would finish at school.  Managing the diet when you aren't present for the consumption of meals is an entirely separate post, along with links to anti-anxiety strategies.  In the meantime...

Here is the final product, which we now send to school as breakfast, after Sebastian tried and liked it on Alex's birthday.  He gets 30g of fresh strawberries on top.  How fantastic.

The tricky thing about ketogenic recipes is that everyone has different fat, protein and carb numbers, even if the ratio is the same.  So when you use keto recipes, you always have to adapt them to your child's specifically-calibrated numbers.  Unlike your most reliable, conventional recipes, there's no guarantee that a ketogenic recipe will taste good once you try to fit it into your child's nutritional parameters.  That part comes with trial and error; there's no way around it.

In the last two years, Sebastian has been on every ratio between 4:1 and 2:1.  To provide some perspective, at his current 2.5:1 ratio, he still only gets 4.34 grams of carbs per meal (a total of 15g of carbohydrates per day, including snacks).  But there was a time (and a ratio) when he only got half that much.  Back in the days of 4:1, Sebastian's meals were impossibly small, even for a two year old.

I have a lot of shelved recipes that don't work anymore, and many I've been able to adapt to his current ratio.  When he was on a higher ratio, I used more casserole-type dishes, because I tried to "bake the fat" into the tiny, tiny portions of food.  Now that Sebastian is on a lower ratio, he gets a decent amount of fresh vegetables and fruit, which we cut in ways to both accommodate and challenge his feeding issues.

But I digress.

The non-sugar sweetener was a key component of the cheesecake.  I love liquid Stevia flavorings.  I usually pick them up at Whole Foods, but you can find them on the internet.  I prefer the Sweet Leaf brand, because I can use just two or three drops in Sebastian's cream drinks and they aren't too thick. Though they are $14.99 each, the bottles do last for months.  Sebastian gets most of his meds in his cream drinks; a few drops of Stevia flavoring effectively masks any medicinal taste.

Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberries (2.5:1)

73g Whole Foods 365 Brand cream cheese
12g Egg (raw, mixed well)
4g 36% heavy cream
2g butter
2g canola oil
3 drops Vanilla Stevia
2 drops Chocolate Stevia
30g fresh strawberries (diced)

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until sufficiently brown on top.  Cool.  Add strawberries just before serving.


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