Cupcake templates: a mini giveaway for your gluten-free kid, plus a fun awareness idea!

A few months ago I picked up a handful of “baking templates” which I had found at a local Michael’s store. Since most of us are making gluten-free cupcakes for our g-free kids, I figured we could all use something new to decorate them with…

Does your g-free kid love cupcakes? Are you looking for a way to help spread awareness? Then here is the perfect answer: host a cupcake party!  The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) and Pamela’s Products have collaborated on this idea, so find out more, be inspired and get out there and make a difference!

Decorating cupcakes with these templates is something your g-free kid can definitely help with. She can begin by holding the template flat while you show her how to sprinkle in the sugar (or nonpariels) evenly to fill up the template. Then, once she understands how it works, you can hold the template while she does the sprinkling. Wait until you see her pride and excitement when you take the template off and show her the final shape!

Tips: these templates work best on flat frosted surfaces, so if your cupcake it too rounded on top, slice off some of the cake part to make it flatter. Then put your frosting on as flat as you can, with more around the edges to build a more even surface. Also,
try these on frosted brownies, cookie cakes or regular cakes.

7 lucky winners will receive (for their g-free kids) a set of 3 different cupcake templates as shown in the first photo above, along with a personalized note from a children’s book author and illustrator. (me)  🙂

I like to keep my giveaways simple by just requiring a comment below (instead of making you “like” me on Facebook and twitter for extra entries). However, I would appreciate more followers on social media (this will only help this site get bigger and better) and for you to help me spread the word about gfreekid.com. So, if you like what you see here, please tell people about it. Thanks!  🙂

That being said, this giveaway is still simple:  All you have to do is comment below, answering these questions: What does your family do to help spread awareness, and which cupcake or cake mix/brand/recipe is your favorite?

Giveaway will end Monday, March 19th at midnight. Winners will be randomly chosen and emailed with notification. If I don’t hear back within 48 hours, other winners will be chosen to replace them. GOOD LUCK!  🙂   -Katie

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Snyder’s Gluten-Free Mini Pretzels: Review, Ideas and Giveaway!

Way back before I went gluten-free almost 5 years ago, my husband and I used to be huge Snyder’s of Hanover (regular) pretzel fans. I remember eating Snyder’s pretzels when we started dating in 1989! Our favorite snacks were their sourdough hard pretzels, pretzel rods and sourdough nibblers. Once I went gluten-free I thought I would never enjoy another Snyder’s pretzel again — that is, until the day I discovered their Gluten-Free Pretzel Sticks back in 2010.

Ever since, our family has been their #1 group of fans — I’m the kind of #1 fan (in my own mind) of their pretzels that I feel like I’m almost a stalker or something. 😉 I honestly think that we’ve gone through one bag almost every week since we first found them at our local Wegman’s store. Even my dog begs for them and my non-gluten-free husband loves them! We bring them everywhere as snacks, and just really appreciate and enjoy their taste, texture and lack of weird after-taste (that you get with other brands of gluten-free pretzels).

So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that my favorite pretzel company just came out with a new shape…Snyder’s Gluten Free Mini Pretzels. My daughters and I couldn’t open our first bag fast enough. We almost ate the whole thing that same afternoon, eating them both plain and dipped into hummus.

They taste just like our beloved GF pretzel sticks — buttery “regular pretzel” taste with the perfect amount of salt — but we are really enjoying this new shape and texture. It’s funny how Snyder’s can make another product using the same ingredients (click here for ingredient list) but how they seem “new” to us all over again. Their texture is a little different, but in a very good way… These mini pretzels are thinner and a bit crispier than the sticks. Something about the shape, size and taste of them makes me feel like I’m eating just plain regular pretzels, taking me back in time to the days when I could have any pretzel in the world. I can honestly say that I would keep eating these pretzels even if I could ever go back to eating gluten-free. They really are that good. (And, like the sticks, the minis are also dairy-free, casein-free, egg-free, and low-fat, by the way.)

With St. Patrick’s Day and Springtime coming soon, we came up with a few simple ways to make the following cute, little salty-sweet treats, using both minis and sticks…

Sweet & salty shamrocks:

Sweet & salty dragonflies:

Simple flowers:

and M&M buttons & nonpariel buttons:

For all of the above, we preheated the oven to 400 degrees, arranged pretzels and placed colored melting disks or chocolate disks with nonpariels (round sprinkles) on top. Melt them in oven for 30-60 seconds and place in freezer to harden. The buttons only take about 30 seconds but the others take around 60 seconds to melt enough. Because ovens differ, I would suggest you do a little trial and error until you’re able to get them to melt enough to stick onto the pretzels so they don’t fall apart. I brought a big tray of these to my grandma’s 90th birthday party yesterday and they all disappeared without anyone realizing they were g-free!

Here are some other sweet ideas I found in case you’re interested:

I ask you:  Who better than Snyder’s to make our favorite g-free pretzels?  (Now in 2 different shapes!) Which other company makes gluten-free pretzels right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A?  None that I know of — other brands are imported. The fact that they are Certified Gluten Free (with that sight-for-sore-eyes logo printed right on the bags) is a huge plus, too, and I commend them on making the effort. Also Certified Gluten-Free are their Multigrain Tortilla Chips in their EatSmart Naturals line. And they also offer 100 Calorie Pretzel Stick Packs now, too. Next I am pulling for them to make gluten-free pretzel rods!

By the way, please be sure to tell your child’s supporters how readily available and inexpensive ($2.99 for an 8 oz. bag at my Wegmans) Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels are. I don’t know how many times my kids have been to parties that have regular pretzels sitting out as a snack, when (had the host known about Snyder’s GF) maybe they would have been willing to just put GF ones out instead. It’s a simple way to make g-free kids feel “thought of” and included.  🙂

Now for the giveaway: Snyder’s of Hanover has generously agreed to give away 1 full-size (8 oz.) bag of their new Gluten-Free Mini Pretzels to 10 lucky, randomly-drawn winners. All you have to do is comment below, saying what you and your g-free kid are looking forward to doing with Snyder’s new pretzels: Making a special treat with them? (If possible, include link to online recipe);  Eating them plain?  Dipping them in something? (If so, what?) Let’s share some ideas and inspiration…and if you’re already a Snyder’s fan, feel free to add reasons why you prefer their pretzels over others. Giveaway ends at midnight on Monday, March 12th. If winners don’t respond by Wed. March 14th, new winners will be picked to replace them. Good luck!  -Katie

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

[ Disclaimer: Snyder’s sent me free samples of their mini pretzels, as I could not find them available in stores at the time. The opinions I expressed are my own, honest feelings about their products and I was not coerced into writing a positive review.  🙂 ]

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School holiday parties: will your gluten-free kid feel like one of the gang?

 

Be honest: does the thought of an upcoming school holiday party conjure up images of your g-free kid having Charlie Brown’s typical luck: being left out of all the fun and feeling like the odd man out? With a little planning and a pre-party attitude check, this certainly doesn’t have to be the case — in fact, it can be quite the opposite…

Most preschool and elementary school classes in the U.S. will be having a Valentine’s Day party next Tuesday (like it or not) complete with snacks, drinks and valentine card/candy exchanges. How you view your child’s party will probably reflect the way your child sees it, so it’s a good idea to think about how you’re going to approach it beforehand…

Pre-party list check
To kids, Valentine’s Day is mostly about the candy. The list of gluten-free candy is as long as that zigzag thing around Charlie Brown’s waist….it just keeps going and going. Sure, there is definitely candy that your child needs [to know] to avoid — like licorice or anything containing cookie pieces or “crisps” — to name the obvious. But with so many great lists of gluten-free candy out there, you really can’t go wrong, as long as you teach your child the differences between them.

My favorite, go-to list is from Celiac Family — I love how it’s organized by color and level of safety. It starts with candy (listed in green) that is safe, no question. The middle portion of this list (the type in orange) indicates label warnings about production lines, etc. Personally, I will buy candy in packages that read “manufactured in a facility that produces wheat…” but I will not buy candy that reads “may contain wheat” even if the ingredients appear g-free. But that’s just me. If that’s not strict enough for your family, then stick with the list at the top in green type. As far as the red list at the bottom goes, (if your child is old enough) bring him to the grocery store with you, (or look online) show him what all of those candies look like and explain why he can’t eat them. Then, of course, be sure to remind him that there is plenty of candy he can still enjoy.

Here are a few ways you can handle holiday parties, depending on the level of your desired involvement and your child’s personality:

“Sally”:  Some parents will print off a list to notify parents and teachers of the huge assortment of GF candy they can buy to accommodate all students, as well as a list of gluten-free party treat and snack ideas. They might send along a nice note saying how much they and their child would appreciate everyone making sure food is safe for the entire class. If parents really want to get involved with the party planning, they’ll call the teacher or room parents to coordinate what will be served. This might be a good option if you have a very young child who doesn’t yet understand what he can or cannot eat, needs a lot of direction, or has difficulty speaking for himself. This will also help to ease a new-at-gluten-free parent’s fears of the unknown, until they settle into the new routine.

“Peppermint Patty”:  At the other end of the spectrum are parents who just want to know when the party is so they can send their own food in. These parents choose to just prep their g-free kid to not eat anything he’s not absolutely sure about, and will send him in with any type of treat and a few pieces of candy. This way he has his own stuff to enjoy, regardless of whether or not there is anything served that is safe for him to eat. This will work fine for more independent kids, and those who are very comfortable eating their own food and don’t care that what they have might be different.This also works well for parents who don’t want to feel like they are rocking the boat but still want their kids to be safe.

“Lucy”:  A middle-of-the-road option is parents who check to see when a party is and ask what’s being sent in for it — making it clear that they are not trying to control anything, but that they just want to send in something comparable for their child. Other parents/teachers who are involved will be reminded of a child’s needs, but not feel like this parent is trying to dictate the plans. This works well for parents who are used to parties like this, knowing that there may or may not be some things their child can eat. It works for kids who are confident enough to know they can only eat certain things but who also don’t want to feel like they stick out with what they are eating, or feel left out with what they’re not. (Hence, sending in a comparable treat.)

*With any of these options, parents can also volunteer to send in a sweet, g-free treat for the whole class, like fruit skewers or chocolate-dipped marshmallows with sprinkles.

Pre-party reality check
Clearly, what works for your family may be a combination of these, or something entirely different. And you may find yourself moving from one extreme to the other as your child’s needs change. There’s no right or wrong. Every family must find their most comfortable way of handling things like this, and sometimes it takes a certain amount of adaptation to see what works best.

While we can’t expect the world to conform to our kids’ needs, you may find that, in time, as you and your child help spread awareness about gluten-free foods, that you might gain some new supporters. I personally believe that a lot of it depends on your family’s attitude and how demanding you are that other people accommodate your child’s diet. From my experience, politeness and sincerity go a long way to work in your favor, as well as gratitude for even the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness that is shown along the way.

Pre-party attitude check
As a parent, however you decide to handle school holiday parties, please remember to put on a happy face when discussing it with your child. G-free kids of all ages may already be a bit uneasy, especially if they are new at the diet. Show them that you are excited that they get to go to a party, remind them about what’s okay for them to eat, and let them know what they’ll be bringing in for it. Tell them you hope they have fun and that you can’t wait to hear all about it. Remind them that holiday parties are about a lot more than just food — and to just relax and enjoy their friendships, the decorations, music, games, Valentine cards and loot. Kids are much more resilient, adaptable and flexible than some people might think.

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Do you have any more thoughts on the topic that might help other parents?
Feel free to comment below with any additional advice. Thanks!

5 ways to make your gluten-free kid feel like a superstar

When children are first diagnosed with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, their lives will change. So will yours as a parent. That is inevitable. Food is such a huge part of our lives, and being on a g-free diet means that you can no longer just go to any restaurant or party or social occasion without first planning ahead. Spontaneity may take a back seat for a while, but just until you learn the ropes and gain confidence.

The great part, though, is that how you view those changes is entirely up to you. You can either act like you feel sorry for your child and talk incessantly to anyone who will listen about how hard the diet is and how expensive the food is — or, you can make your child feel lucky and blessed to have been diagnosed, and show gratitude for all of the awesome choices of g-free foods that are now available. The #1 thing you can do for your child, right from the beginning, is to introduce them to their new best friend: a positive attitude. It is absolutely essential. If you haven’t shown one yourself, forgive yourself and just move on to helping boost your child’s morale and feelings about being g-free.

Here are some great ways to help your g-free kid feel like a superstar:

Start a “#1 Supporter” contest. Enlist all of your child’s supporters to help. Have them read about how vital they are to your child and start a contest to see who can win the #1 Supporter prize (whatever you deem the prize to be: a hand-painted t-shirt, a certificate, blue ribbon
or whatever). This gives supporters the chance — and extra incentive — to show how much they care by the positive words that they use around your child, and by
the actions that they take, like: writing the child a letter of encouragement, buying them a g-free treat, taking them out to dinner at a restaurant with a gluten-free menu, making them a gluten-free dish (with your assistance)
and other ideas listed in this article. Through this contest your child will feel so loved and cherished. Set a time limit on the contest (a month maybe?) and then encourage everyone to keep the support coming even after it’s over!

Try to find gluten-free replacements for all of their old favorite foods and celebrate each new discovery. I honestly can’t think of one type of food that we haven’t yet found a g-free version of. (Here are some examples: To replace Cheezits, try Wellaby’s Mini Cheddar Crackers; to replace fish crackers, try Schar’s Cheese Bites; to replace chicken nuggets, try Ian’s brand or Wegmans’ version if you are in the NE; to replace pizza crusts & breadsticks, try Chebe mixes; to recreate old favorite baked goods, substitute regular flour with a GF all-purpose flour like Jules.) With each success, celebrate with your child by giving a loud “woo-hoo!” and high fives (or however you want to express yourselves) and make sure you include the rest of the family in the celebration, too.
It feels so good for kids to know that their whole family cares about them and is happy for their successes — plus, their acceptance of the diet
will grow, knowing there are great-tasting GF alternatives to old favorites.

Let them be included in the g-free kids online photo album. Many kids feel like they’re the only ones in the world on the g-free diet — so let them know they’re not!  They will take pride in seeing their own face in the album, knowing that they are part of an ever-growing group of g-free kids from around the world. Imagine their face lighting up as they look around at all of the other happy faces, see where everyone is from and read about what they enjoy doing. They will begin to feel a sense of camaraderie and kinship with other kids who eat the same way they do and will feel included in something special.

Arrange to have your child be “star of the day” at school. Make plans with your child’s teacher for a special day of learning in his or her classroom. If your child is very young, bring in a children’s book to read to the class. If your child would rather do it solo, send a book in for your teacher (or your child if they are able) to read aloud. If you can be present, allow time for Q&A afterwards, emphasizing how lucky your child is to be diagnosed, how it isn’t contagious, how it differs from an allergy (if applicable), and that
his or her foods taste great, too. If your child is older (and comfortable with the idea) let him field the questions himself — as long as you know he is relatively prepared. Then let the class enjoy whatever delicious GF treat (giant cookie cake, cupcakes, brownies, etc.) you made and sent in, so that they can see how good your child’s food tastes, too. Your child will enjoy being the center of attention that day, and will feel good knowing that his peers now better understand and accept his diet.

Put your g-free kid front and center in a photo frame. Here is a printable frame that I designed for your g-free kid. You can download, print it and tape your child’s 4×6″ photo from behind. Buy one of those inexpensive clear, plastic magnetic document holders for your fridge and put your child’s photo in the middle. Every time he sees it, the words on the frame — “gluten-free is good for me” … “I’m a g-free kid” … “proud to be gluten-free” — will start to stick with him and grow his sense of pride. Plus it’ll remind everyone to be careful to avoid cross-contamination as well. Hope you and your child enjoy it!

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Before I close, let me just say that, as a parent, I am not one to spoil my children or let them act as if they are the center of the universe. But, if your child is struggling with being gluten-free or is newly diagnosed, I think it’s a fine time to boost up their self-esteem and do whatever you can to help them feel better about themselves. These 5 ideas should go a long way in helping your g-free kid gain confidence and begin to embrace the gluten-free diet and the changes that come along with it.

Have you tried any of these ideas already?  What effect did they have on your child?
Feel free to comment below about any of these ideas and add more of your own for other families as well. Thanks!

Welcome

Welcome to g-free kid!

I am the author/illustrator of the children’s book, Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?
My twin daughters and I are gluten-free for life because of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. I am excited to have this vehicle to share my thoughts and ideas to make your child’s gluten-free journey happy and healthy. Up until now there have been way too many things floating around in my mind with no real place to share them.

As this blog grows and evolves, you will find plenty of helpful topics here, all intended to help your gluten-free child thrive — not just survive. I will be posting all things related to bringing up a g-free kid and will try to divulge everything my family has learned in the past five years, along with easy recipes, book & food reviews (complete with kids’ opinions, too, of course), giveaways and other surprise features along the way.
I’ll also be sharing craft and play ideas, too, as I believe gluten-free kids just need to feel and act normal instead of being overly-focused on their diet and condition.

What you won’t find on this site (at least from me) is: whining, complaining, feeling sorry for ourselves, wishing things were different, swearing, blaming and bad attitudes.  Please join me by helping — with your comments — to keep the tone of this blog as positive as we should all be for our g-free kids. Thanks, and enjoy!

Sincerely,
Katie Chalmers