A Sweet Gluten-Free Giveaway

IMG_1628I was diagnosed with celiac in 2007 so it’s been a while since I’ve had real licorice.  It’s been almost as long for my daughters, so we were all excited to try the gluten-free varieties from Candy Tree with their adorable packaging…

Screen shot 2014-02-04 at 8.27.24 AMIn addition to making their gluten-free licorice taste good, Candy Tree has also managed to make it organic, vegan, kosher and dye-free. Their licorice is available in four delicious flavors (traditional black, strawberry, cherry and raspberry) in 4 different forms: bites, twists, lariats and laces.

My girls were not huge fans of the black licorice (I liked it, but I think it’s an acquired taste for some kids) but they did love the red flavors, especially cherry and strawberry. This licorice is chewier than Twizzlers but the taste is very close. We all preferred the texture of the twists and bites the most, but if your g-free kid loves to create in the kitchen, he or she will be thrilled to once again be able to make recipes like these with licorice laces:

Candy Tree also makes wonderful organic lollipops, which my girls may have enjoyed even more than the licorice. They said these lollipops tasted just like real lemonade, real oranges and real strawberries. They’re naturally flavored and dye-free, so my daughters’ mouths, tongues and lips were still the original color when they were all finished —
imagine that!  😉

You can order Candy Tree candies for your g-free kid from these websites
(in no particular order) :

Now for our giveaway:  The candies in the photo below (click to enlarge) will be equally split between two winners, so 2 people will each get 3 bags of red licorice, 2 bags of black and 1 bag of lollipops…

IMG_1577IMG_1592And to further sweeten the deal, I am throwing in 2 copies of Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? so both winners will receive a copy of this special children’s book as well.

To enter, please leave a comment saying why your child would love to win these prizes. Giveaway ends on Sunday, February 9th at midnight. Randomly chosen winners will be notified and given 24 hours to get back to me with their address. Sorry this isn’t a very long-running contest, but I want the winners to receive their prizes by Valentine’s Day. This giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only. Good luck!

Disclaimer: Candy Tree sent me free products to review and more for the giveaway, but as always, I only post positive reviews like this when my g-free girls and I actually like a product. And we did.

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.

Artichoke Lover’s Lasagna (gluten-free, of course!)

Here’s to a lack of ingredients and creative thinking!  A new recipe was created because of this combination… Hope you like it as much as we do…

IMG_1532Ingredients:

  • 12 GF lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cans (13 oz) artichoke hearts, rinsed, fully drained and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic (1 tsp crushed garlic)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp italian seasoning (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 4 cups (2 jars) pasta sauce

Directions:

  • Boil noodles for 10 minutes, carefully rinse and drain noodles
  • Set noodles side by side on tin foil or parchment paper to cool
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix together all above ingredients except pasta sauce to make filling mixture
  • Spray pan with Pam cooking spray
  • Divide filling mixture roughly into thirds
  • Pour half a jar of pasta sauce onto the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish
  • Put 3 noodles on top of sauce for your bottom layer
  • Spoon 1st third of mixture onto noodles and spread around evenly, followed by 1/4 jar of sauce on top
  • Put a second layer of 3 noodles on top of that and spread the 2nd third of the filling mixture evenly on top, followed by 1/4 jar of sauce on top (that will use up your first jar of sauce)
  • Put third layer of noodles on top of that and spread the 3rd third of the mixture evenly on top, followed by 1/2 jar of sauce on top
  • Put fourth layer of noodles on top, cover them & all noodle edges up with remaining 1/2 jar of pasta sauce, plus sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top
  • Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, then uncover and bake another 5 minutes
  • Allow time for it to cool and firm up before cutting
  • Even better if you can make it the day ahead…the flavors of any lasagna seem to mesh even better when you put it in the fridge for a day. Leftovers are awesome, too, and can easily be frozen and re-thawed for a busy night.  Enjoy!

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!

Restaurant-Style Mexican Meals, Made Right at Home

Here are two simple, gluten-free meals that your g-free kids are sure to love, right at home:

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Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to eat out…  Maybe I don’t feel like explaining our dietary needs to the waitress, or asking to speak with the manager while everyone around us listens in…  Or maybe I don’t feel like wondering if the kitchen workers are wearing clean gloves or preparing our food free without cross contamination… or maybe it’s just too darn cold to go anywhere…

Whatever the reason for staying home, our kids really enjoy when we make a restaurant-style meal. We most recently made these “taco boats” which everyone loved, using Yellow Corn Ortega Fiesta Flats (Flat Bottom Taco Shells)

IMG_1314Just heat the Fiesta Flats up in the oven for a few minutes, then fill with your favorite taco ingredients. To season our taco meat, we use Simply Organic Southwest Taco seasoning, then we just added shredded lettuce, mexican cheese, green onions and tomatoes.

A regular go-to meal of ours is quesadillas. We usually add grilled chicken to ours and sometimes just serve them plain alongside mac & cheese and veggies.  But, the simplest way to make quesadillas seem “restaurant-style” is by just arranging them in a design and adding condiments like homemade guacamole and (our favorite) Green Mountain Gringo mild salsa!  We use Chi-Chi’s, Mission or Wegmans brand soft corn tortillas.
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Here is my recipe for guacamole, which can also be found here with our other favorite recipes.

Screen shot 2014-01-09 at 10.28.19 AM

Note:  I often make guacamole the same way as above, but without cilantro & tomatoes. And if I only have 1 or 2 avocados on hand, I just add a little minced garlic, onions, salt and a dash of lime juice to taste. Just wing it.  I’ve never made a bad guacamole…

Also note:  We do eat out regularly and usually successfully. It’s just that once in a while we parents don’t feel like it, so we fake it with meals like these.  🙂

Disclaimer: Nothing to disclose. I bought these products myself, none of these companies even knows I’m writing about their products, and honest opinions are from my family & me.

Gluten-Free Cheese Ball

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If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know we are big fans of Snyder’s of Hanover’s Gluten-Free pretzels. Well, we discovered a new way to use them that really adds some zing to an already tried & true cheese ball recipe. It’s the same recipe that my Mom has made for every family party (ever) and it’s an appetizer that is always devoured straight away…

IMG_0567For years she coated her cheese balls with crushed peanuts, but once we discovered a peanut allergy in the family, that part of it was quickly (and understandably!) abolished…

Well, we finally figured out a way to put some crunch back into it, and with more flavor than ever — coating the cheese balls with crushed Snyder’s Gluten-Free Honey Mustard & Onion pretzels!  We tried this for Christmas and it was a big hit which will be repeated very soon. Here’s the recipe:

• 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
• 2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
• 1 – 2 T milk (or coconut milk, rice milk, etc.)
• 1 T. onion, minced or diced
Directions:  Mix all ingredients together, form a ball, wrap in wax paper to chill for a few hours, then roll in crushed Snyder’s Honey-Mustard & Onion pretzel sticks.

Try it with your favorite gluten-free crackers. If you want to add more spice to your cheese ball, try Snyder’s Hot Buffalo Wing flavor instead!

Enjoy — and Happy New Year!

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!

Candy Cane Fudge (a new gluten-free favorite!)

fudgeI can safely say — by how quickly it’s disappearing — that this new concoction will be added to our list of favorite holiday treats. I saw it in one of my Country magazines — a recipe for Candy Cane Fudge. We made it last evening, let it harden overnight and I couldn’t resist trying it at about 7am this morning (and a few other times during the day just to make sure it was as amazing as it was earlier).  😉

Just wanted to share it with you….the recipe was quite easy and it is definitely a keeper!
Everything you need to know is at the second link above… Enjoy!
~Katie