…And Then It Exploded

In recent posts, I have hinted at the major changes we are beginning to make with Nolan’s diet. A month ago, we began treating him with methyl-B12 nasal spray, and have had many positive comments from his teachers and therapists about increased alertness and attentiveness. The next step, around the start of February, was to remove all casein from Nolan’s diet. Since he hasn’t been a big milk drinker for a while, the biggest changes revolved around removing cheese from his snack rotation, and dairy products from his baked goods. I took it a step further and have also removed casein from the bulk of our family meals, so that he will always be able to eat what we are eating if he so chooses; only those items he has no interest in—like yogurt smoothies, ice cream, pudding, and feta or gorgonzola on salad—still contain (preferably raw) dairy for the rest of us.

The one dairy product I still use in cooking for Nolan is clarified butter, which, if properly filtered, contains only butterfat with no residual whey or casein. Allowing the milk solids to brown (but not burn!) before straining produces ghee, a nuttier flavored clarified butter that is commonly used in Indian cuisine. Since both ghee and clarified butter are so expensive to buy directly at the grocery store, making a big batch of clarified butter was my first project for this new adventure. It didn’t go as well the first time around as I had hoped, to say the least.

The real problem was that I didn’t give myself quite enough time before we left to see a movie (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a sad, sweet movie featuring a little boy whose character may or may not have Aspberger’s tendencies). The butter I used was frozen, and considering the amount I needed to melt, I should have realized that it would take a while to liquify and spit out all the water and milk solids. When I ran out of time, I just removed it from the heat, covered it with a lid to keep dust out, and left it that way for about 3 hours, not thinking it would be any trouble to pick up where I left off. Turns out that is not a great idea… the butter was still liquid when I returned, and I removed the lid and set it over low heat on the back burner while getting some things out to make dinner. A few minutes later, I ran down the basement steps to grab an onion and heard a pop: the butter had exploded all over the kitchen, floor to ceiling. My best guess is that there was a little water trapped underneath the cooler butterfat trying to boil and create steam. I was mortified—albeit very fortunate not to have been standing in front of the stove at the time—and let’s just say that it was good that it happened in advance of starting the actual casein-free diet because the kitchen was in no state for cooking that night and we ended up having pizza as a last hurrah.

The next day, in a sparkling clean kitchen, I very tentatively started over again with 3 pounds of newly purchased butter. Much better! No fat explosions, I strained it through cheesecloth twice to remove every trace of solids, and ended up with about 8 sticks of clarified butter that has a high smoke point, can stand at room temperature longer than standard butter without spoiling, and adds real butter flavor to baked goods. No hydrogenated margarine for us!

Clarified butter is certainly not the only cooking fat we will be using, of course. The pantry is well-stocked with organic extra virgin olive oil and expeller-pressed grapeseed oil, green as grass; and I may soon take to buying coconut oil by the gallon from Tropical Traditions, since it figures prominently not only in the kitchen but in my personal care routine, in everything from lotion to soap to first aid to toothpaste.

Next up: Milk substitutes—a first pass!

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