Easy Chocolate Hearts

IMG_1516Here’s a fun thing for your g-free kids to help make this Valentine’s Day season, which for us, lasts throughout the month of February…

All you need are cookie cutters, chocolate chips or chocolate disks to melt, and toppings. This time we chose to use healthier options such as dried fruit, nuts and coconut, but you can also use sprinkles, M&M’s, etc.

IMG_1479Start with a tray that will fit into your freezer, lined with wax paper. Just place your cookie cutters onto the wax paper, melt the chocolate and (while holding the cookie cutter down with one hand) spoon it into each shape, pushing it around a little to fill the entire cookie cutter. Make the chocolate as thick as you want, then drop your toppings onto it, creating patterns if your g-free kid feels like it… After it hardens in the freezer, just pop each heart out of its cookie cutter and enjoy. These also make sweet gifts for grandparents, teachers and other family and friends.

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Valentines for g-free kids

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Here are 4 little Valentine’s Day cards that I drew a few years ago — made especially for all the g-free kids out there. You can download the PDF here: 4VcardsHR, then print out copies for your child. He or she can color the cards, glue them onto colored construction paper and give out for Valentines — or just hang them in their room or on the fridge, or use them as bookmarks. (*Please note: the below preview won’t print out large enough — click on the blue link four lines above this for the printable PDF).

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Feel free to post a picture of your g-free kid with his or her completed cards on my Facebook page. Keep coming back for more ideas for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the
photo album and kids’ stuff page!

Book review and giveaway: Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party

IMG_1396Kids love books. Kids who are into dinosaurs or fairies or animals or trucks should have lots of books about those subjects on their bookshelf at home, right? So, alongside other topics of interest, our g-free kids should have children’s books about being gluten-free, too, don’t ya think? The photo above shows about half of a wall of books in my daughters’ room, with 4 of these books in front. Books can be enjoyed over and over, are easily lent to friends & relatives, or brought into school to share with teachers and classmates. What better way for g-free kids to spread awareness and help others understand why they need to be on a special diet than to share their books?

Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party by Michelle L. King is one of an increasingly large number of books that will help children come to terms with the fact that they can still be happy even though they’re on a special diet, work through their feelings on the subject, and help them feel less alone when it comes to watching what they eat…

IMG_1403My 10 year old daughters and I all read this book separately before discussing it together, so here is an honest review of the book from our perspectives…

What this book is like:
Size-wise, this 28-page softcover book is a little under 6″ x 9″ and the computer illustrations are cute and colorful. The story is about a first grader with “celiac sprue” who faces feeling insecure, jealous and angry when friends at school start to question such things as why he had a birthday pie instead of a birthday cake and eats a muffin for lunch instead of a sandwich. When a classmate brings in mouthwatering cupcakes that he can’t have, it upsets him so much that he refuses to go to school the next day. Of course he ends up going, and is happy to meet a confident new friend with a milk allergy. Other kids chime in to say they have asthma, a sister with diabetes, etc. and he realizes being different isn’t so bad. He and his classmates make dairy-free ice cream in class together and by the end he starts to feel less alone, more proud of how he eats, and begins to understand that Celiac is part of what makes him special.

Bonuses:
After the story ends, recipes for Homemade Vanilla-Coconut Ice Cream and Banana Muffins are provided, and a free audio book digital download is also included!

IMG_1406A few minor things:
Overall, my daughters and I liked this book and enjoyed the story. Our biggest qualm is that the back cover reads, “…Barrett learns he has celiac sprue, which means he can’t eat cake and bread or even drink milk.”  Right away my celiac daughter asked why he can’t have milk because he has celiac. I double-checked with the author on this, and the book was supposed to say that he had other food sensitivities besides celiac. Unfortunately her publisher did some last-minute editing that slipped by and they had the final say, so she wasn’t able to make it more clear.  I just felt I should make note of it here because I don’t want newbies to be confused, thinking that milk, eggs and soy (also mentioned once each) aren’t allowed on the gluten-free diet. Please note: These minor issues should not deter anyone with “just” gluten-free kids from buying this book, as there is still a positive message for all kids on special diets, and parents can always clarify. The mention of additional foods might also prove helpful for some kids reading this book…

Our family has always been super positive about being gluten-free, so my girls couldn’t personally relate to the negative emotions the boy showed in the beginning. But, understandably, there are many kids out there who do battle with feelings of jealousy, feeling excluded and just plain mad about not being able to eat like everyone else. I have heard many accounts of this from parents who have gotten in touch with me through this website. If your child has ever felt like this or currently struggles with these emotions, this book will surely be helpful, since it shows how Barrett gets past his negativity and moves on to more productive, healthy feelings about himself and his diet.

To read 13 more reviews on this book from different perspectives, please take a moment to look up Barrett’s Unusual Ice Cream Party on Amazon. Currently it is $8.99 and if you have Amazon Prime, shipping is free!

Now for the giveaway:
The author has generously offered to give away two copies for a giveaway. To win one of these books, please comment below saying why you think your g-free kid would enjoy this book or why it’s important for kids to have books about being gluten-free in their library…

Giveaway ends at midnight on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. If any winners don’t respond within 24 hours, new winners will be picked to replace them. Good luck!  -Katie

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[ Disclaimer: The author sent me a free copy of this book and the opinions I expressed are my own, honest feelings about the book, as well as my daughters’.  ]

Keep coming back for more things for g-free kids, and don’t forget to check out the photo album and kids’ stuff page!

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Peppermint Stick Ice Cream Sandwiches

IMG_1101If you have followed my Facebook page and this blog the past month, you already know I have a thing for candy canes. I’ve posted countless recipes using them and have visions of candy canes dancing in my head when I consider all the possibilities…

One of the few things I really miss as a Celiac is a good ice cream sandwich. Sure, we’ve all squished some ice cream between two round, gluten-free cookies, but I miss that rectangular shape and flat, soft, thin pieces of cookie bars that come on the originals….

Pillsbury-Gluten-Free-Dough-Cookie-DoughSo when I finally picked up a tub of Pillsbury Gluten Free Cookie Dough,
I knew just what to make with it… a Christmassy version of an ice cream sandwich, perfect for this most wonderful time of the year.

Before I get into the recipe and how easy (albeit a bit messy) these were to make, let me just say that this product is perfect to share with supporters of your g-free kid, because now they can make GF cookies with much less risk of cross contamination than they would using dry mixes. This comes ready to use right out of the tub — just scoop it out, plop it down and bake. Supporters can just make a few cookies on tin foil and keep the rest in the tub for another time. Keep this in mind for grandma’s house, church coffee hour, or other get-together where it would be nice (and super thoughtful) to have a few sweet things on hand for the resident g-free kids…

Now, how to make them:
The directions on the tub only tell you how to make regular cookies, but this dough is apparently much more versatile than the package gives it credit for. Thankfully, Pillsbury has this comprehensive collection of recipes using their gluten-free doughs which proved to me that it can be used in many ways.

When I first started scooping out the dough in small pieces and dropping & flattening them down into a (greased) 9″ x 13″ metal baking dish, I wasn’t sure it would cover the whole bottom. It made a pretty thin layer which puffed back up nicely as it baked. I made it at night and covered it loosely with tin foil before I went to bed, and in the morning I easily got it out of the pan and cut it into pieces.

Of course I had to sample some, and all I have to say is, “Wow.” I was taken back to my pre-GF days of old and that classic chocolate chip cookie taste of a soft baked cookie. My husband could NOT believe these are gluten-free. Luckily we stopped eating them and managed to save some to make the recipe with…

So, anyhow, after you flatten the dough onto a greased baking dish, you just bake it for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, take it out and let it cool completely.

IMG_0836Then you cut it into whatever size and shape pieces you want (square, rectangle or use a cookie cutter), making pairs of the same shape and size as you go. I went with a variety of rectangles for old times’ sake.

IMG_0837Then I pressed them together a bit and put them into the freezer on wax paper to stiffen up enough to put the ice cream on.

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While the bars are stiffening up in the freezer, start melting your ice cream (any flavor, really, if you’re not a peppermint fan)…

IMG_1058Just mush the ice cream  between 2 matching pieces…

IMG_1064Pop ’em back into the freezer onto wax paper, as soon as each one is put together…

IMG_1079Let the ice cream harden up a bit, then clean off & straighten the edges with a knife…

IMG_1090Dip edges into a plate of crushed peppermint or sprinkles and refreeze…

IMG_1094When you feel like surprising your g-free kids with a special treat, get ready to watch their eyes light up as they bite easily into the soft Pillsbury GF cookie ice cream sandwich and realize they will want you to make these again, in whatever flavor you can get them to agree on…  😉

IMG_1114See what else you can make with all of these gluten-free doughs at the Pillsbury Pinterest board.

Are any of these gluten-free doughs available near you? Find out with the product locator.

Disclaimer: Pillsbury sent me a free product coupon for this dough and is sponsoring this post, but as always, I only post positive reviews like this when my g-free girls and I actually love a product. And we did.

Christmas Corn Thins

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Try and find these somewhere else on Pinterest — I dare you!  It’s just not gonna happen….so you had better pin it here…  😉

It’s a cute, cheap, quick, fun, easy idea we just thought of that you can use for any holiday, really. All you need are Real Food corn thins, melted chocolate, sprinkles and/or crushed candy canes, cookie cutters and a new paintbrush. You can make any amount you need — for a quick snack for your g-free kid, or enough for a school party. It tastes like chocolate covered popcorn but in a nice compact, portable form…

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It’s simple. All you do is find cookie cutters that fit on these Real Food corn thins (these are thinner and much less bumpy than traditional corn cakes and rice cakes so it’s easier to make shapes on them)…

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Melt some chocolate, hold the cookie cutter down firmly (no, I’m not a hand model) and brush the chocolate on around the edges…

IMG_0995Add sprinkles or crushed candy canes, put on wax paper in the freezer to set, and voila…IMG_0990A g-free kid-friendly treat that can’t be beat…especially if you love chocolate and popcorn. My kids love these — and yours will too!

Want to know if these are in a store nearby? Check this store locator.

Come back tomorrow for another special treat idea…

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For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Lazy Mom’s lasagna rollup recipe (gluten-free, of course)

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Gluten-free lasagna is one of our favorite meals, and it just keeps getting easier. When making a regular tray of lasagna, I always thought it was tricky to spread the cheese layer across 3 cooked lasagna noodles, which slide all over the place. But once I tried lasagna rollups I found it’s much less daunting to make, and easy enough for kids to help with. Here’s what you do:

Step one — Get your ingredients together:
• 1 box Tinkyada lasagna noodles (you’ll use 12 of the 13 noodles in the box)
• 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
• 1 (16 oz) container of ricotta cheese
• 1 lb. of ground beef, cooked & crumbled (or other fillings- see comment at bottom)
• 1 egg
• parmesan cheese
• 1.5 jars of pasta sauce
• Italian spices of your choice, to taste

Step two — Add all noodles into boiling water and cook for about 8 minutes. You want them soft but not falling apart. While the noodles are cooking, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella & egg.

Step three — Remove cooked noodles and lay in a single layer on a sheet of tin foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step four — Spread cheese mixture divided evenly onto 12 noodles, sprinkle ground beef and a few blobs of pasta sauce & spices onto each flat noodle. Roll up all noodles.

Step five — Spray a 9″x13″ baking dish with Pam and spread a thin layer of pasta sauce onto the bottom. Place rolled noodles in pan in 4 rows of 3 and cover with rest of pasta sauce and parmesan cheese. Cover pan with foil and cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

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And that’s that.  You can add whatever you want to the rollups, like spinach or chopped artichokes, or top them with things like toasted pine nuts and crumbled feta cheese, like in the above photo.  Just use this basic recipe and adjust as you’d like.  I also like to make this the day before and let it set in the fridge for a half day or so, after it’s cooled. Like many Italian dishes, this tastes even better the next day.

And lastly:  these freeze REALLY well, and are perfect to pull out of the freezer for that last minute meal where you have no idea what to make.  Just heat and serve — almost every food group is covered!  🙂  Enjoy!  ~Katie

Supporting the Center for Celiac Research through “Making Tracks for Celiacs”

About this time last year, my family and I participated in “Making Tracks for Celiacs” along with extended family and friends, most of whom join us every year for this event which means so much to us. We have been doing this twice a year for 5 years now — forming a team for the Buffalo walk and going just as a family to the Rochester walk.

2013 is the 12th year for “Making Tracks for Celiacs,” which is an annual fundraising event, organized and managed by the Center for Celiac Research at Mass General. These events around the country have raised almost $2,000,000 to date. The money is used to increase awareness and support research (75% of funds) as well as national and local celiac projects (25% of funds).

This year there are events held in these states: AL, MD, MI, MN, NY and VA, and are usually planned by a local gluten-free diet support group such as the one I belong to.  Check out the main website for “Making Tracks for Celiacs” to learn which cities hold events, which locations are walks versus run/walks, and how you can get involved! Some will be happening soon but others aren’t held until Autumn, which leaves you plenty of time to put a team together — or just enter yourself and/or your own family.

We choose to get a local team together because it is a really great way to show support and love to g-free kids, and it’s important for them to see the “regulars” who attend and donate year after year.  It’s cool to show them how the numbers don’t dwindle off, either — last year we collected the most money we ever have, and had more walkers than any other year, including many who join us annually. My girls know they are not forgotten and that they are backed by many friends and loved ones on their gluten-free journey. It’s something they look forward to every year.

Our team last year was called “Team G-Free Kid” and together we raised $545 to donate to the Center for Celiac Research, along with entry fees paid by over 20 team members. Even though that seems like a lot to us, other “go-getters” have already collected thousands of dollars each for their teams! If you’d like to collect donations (it’s not mandatory) you can easily start your own personal donation page or team page through CeliacWalk.org, and email your friends and family about it. Registration is simple as well. Everything you need to know is in the green column on the lefthand side of that site.

For the first few years, Morgan was the star of our team, but now Lindsey shares the spotlight, too, since she’s been gluten-free for over a year now. We also had a newly gluten-free and casein-free friend (below) and his family join our team for the walk last year, plus dozens of other kids in attendance.

At both of the walks we attend, there is always a ton of stuff for kids to do….clowns, balloon artists, face painting, fake tattoos, stickers, bounce houses, games, local mascots in attendance, special kid goodie bags, story time and all kinds of things. Obviously, different locations will have different activities, but from what I hear, most, if not all, are very kid-friendly.

At this year’s walk, the organizers were also selling these awareness bracelets which support the Center for Celiac Research. For more details on these, please read this post.

There are also a good number of local and national gluten-free food vendors at these events as well, giving out free product samples, coupons and learning material… Many thanks to the generous companies who donate goods towards these walks!

And if the other events are anything like the two we attend, rest assured that you will bring home a crazy amount of gluten-free samples, bars and full-sized product packages. And, if your friends and family are anything like ours, much of their food (from their own goodie bags) will be passed back for your family to enjoy.

All in all, we get a lot out of these walks. When you are among so many other gluten-free folks, there is a huge sense of camaraderie, and you know you are supporting a great cause: celiac disease (and non-celiac gluten sensitivity) research and awareness. Our daughters feel special — especially at the walk where we form a team, and they are always excited about all of the samples they get to try and take home, knowing everything is gluten-free and there’s no need (for once) to question anything. The walk itself is good, healthy family time that you can really soak in and enjoy, knowing that you’re making a difference and that your kids are swelling with pride.

If you are nowhere near any of these walks, you still have three options…
#1: Get some people together and start one (see “How to start your own walk” on CeliacWalk.org) in a new location; #2: Donate online towards the cause; or #3: Try something different: Join Team Gluten Free for any race around the country. How does it work? Read more about one family’s experience here.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and let everyone else take action…

As we like to say, “Celiac disease isn’t contagious, but awareness is.
Please help spread it!”