5 tips to empower g-free kids

As parents, the best thing we can equip our g-free kids with is a positive attitude when it  comes to being gluten-free — right from the start.  As soon as that optimistic attitude is in place, the next thing to help them cultivate is a budding sense of independence. As our children grow, we can help empower them to start taking the lead. Here are 5 tips that have helped my twin daughters (one with celiac and one with non-celiac gluten sensitivity) start to be g-free advocates:

Help them champion their own cause:
Show them some ways in which they can help spread the word and raise money for celiac disease awareness. Help them start a team for an upcoming celiac walk and let them help keep track of donations flowing in and asking friends and family to physically be there to walk together as a team. We have been doing two Celiac walks (“Making Tracks for Celiacs”) a year for the past 4 years — one with friends and extended family, and another one further away from home by ourselves. We take group photos, wear team tags and hang out before and after the walk. We usually win a gift basket for the amount of money we raised and the girls help pick it out. Going home feeling supported by loved ones, with a prize and tons of free gluten-free samples in tow — plus a sense of pride in knowing we helped raise money for a good cause — is always a great boost for self-esteem.

If you don’t have one of these annual walks in your area, learn how you can raise money through Team Gluten Free or NFCA instead.

Nurture their creativity:
Make your g-free kid feel like a champ by helping them design a “Super Celiac” or “Gluten Free Girl” costume. If your child is still young enough to enjoy dressing up and playing pretend, letting him or her play make-believe Superheroes with a cape and power bracelets (see photo) is a fun way to “zap gluten” or whatever they want to play.

If your child is old enough, let them have their own cooking show. Have them don an apron and chef’s hat and talk through a cooking demonstration while you videotape them. This will be good public speaking practice, and it will help them organize their thoughts, follow recipes, read aloud and use good eye contact. Have them practice what they plan to say and do on the video until they are comfortable enough for you to start taping. Post it on YouTube to get them excited that they made a “real” video, which the whole world can watch and learn from.

Do your kids enjoy music more than cooking? Together, come up with some new lyrics to go with a familiar tune — all about being gluten-free. Put it to music, videotape it and send it to friends and family.

Or let them start a pretend bakery where everything is gluten-free. Help them set up a place to play with pretend food, aprons, toy cash register, fake money, paper plates, etc.  Let them make their own signs, menu and decorations. Be their best customer and encourage the rest of the family to stop by with a smile and place an order.

Being gluten-free becomes natural and fun when you bring all of these types of creative play into your g-free kids’ lives.

Teach them to read labels:
For very young kids who don’t know how to read, send along a list of offending ingredients for caregivers, along with a list of naturally GF items such as fruit and raisins. Help little ones learn how to spot the words “gluten free”, the certified gluten-free logo or other prominent labels. When looking at packages, the terms “multigrain” and “whole grains” can often be confusing for little kids (and even for adults!) so be sure to explain to them that just reading those words on a package doesn’t mean it is automatically ruled out. Corn and rice can still be considered multigrain or whole grain, too. Teach them that oats need to be certified gluten-free to be considered safe, and other similar tips.

Start label-reading lessons small, by going to Grandma’s house and showing them offending ingredients on labels. Then go home and have them read labels on their gluten-free products so they can see what is okay. If your child is old enough and has a long attention span, spend some time together in a grocery store (at a slow time of the week) and go through it aisle by aisle, explaining which kinds of food are gluten-free or not. Show them how many yogurts and ice creams are GF except those with cookies, brownies, sugar cone pieces, etc. Show them all the naturally gluten-free foods and the special area where the gluten-free products are. I do this with my daughters every now and then to test them on what they know, and they, in turn, always love to demonstrate their growing knowledge.  If this sounds too overwhelming for a younger child, then just do it in small doses on a regular basis as you do your weekly shopping together.

Let them speak up for themselves:
Kids of all ages can learn to speak up for themselves to varying degrees. Young kids can learn how to ask, “Is this gluten-free?” or “Is this safe for me to eat?”  Let your child order for themselves in a restaurant and have them inform the waitstaff that their food needs to be gluten-free. Even if you plan on discussing details with the waitress, manager or chef yourself (which I would advise in order to avoid cross contamination) it is important for your child to get in the habit of always making sure people know that he or she needs to eat g-free.

If your child is old enough, test them to see if they can correctly name the gluten-free options on menus at restaurants by themselves. Teach them why they can’t eat certain things like french fries, which are deep fried in shared fryers with gluten-containing foods like breaded chicken fingers. Let them ask if there is a dedicated fryer or not. The older a child gets the more they need to have these habits set in place. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will get with the necessary dialogue. Your child will be filled with pride as he learns these life-long social lessons.

Let it become their “normal”:
Find other gluten-free families that live near you. Get together. Let the kids get to know each other and play together on a regular basis, which might also mean snacking together — gluten-free. Get involved in a kids’ support group and the activities that go along with it. If you can’t find one, be your kid’s hero by starting one and making it happen.

If your child is old enough, let him attend a gluten-free summer camp. There are nearly 20 options in the U.S. alone!  How cool would it be for a g-free kid to be able to do all the regular camp activities with other children on the same diet, without anyone needing to ask if the food is safe or not?

Lastly, fill his or her bookcase with children’s books about being gluten-free. If your child loves dinosaurs or princesses, count how many books he or she has about them. On the other hand, how many books does your child have about being gluten-free — something your child is going to be for life? There are a bunch of great books out there now about celiac disease and being gluten-free. You can never have too many!  As they read the books, they will take pride in knowing that they are “just like” the main characters, which will help them feel understood and cherished. And consider all the people your child can share their books with — teachers, classmates, friends, relatives, etc.  What better way to help spread awareness than lending books? For kids, it doesn’t get any easier…

These empowering tips will take our children far by teaching them knowledge and positive social skills that will benefit them for a lifetime. The wonderful thing is that awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance is growing rapidly, which in itself is pretty empowering for all of us!

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This post was originally part of NFCA’s 2012 KISS campaign for Celiac Awareness Month.

5 superfood snacks for g-free kids: healthy ideas from a RD

Here is a real treat for all of you fellow parents of g-free kids:  A guest post from Megan at www.thehappybellyproject.com who is a registered dietitian with a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. I believe all of our children can benefit from her healthy superfood ideas. Enjoy! 

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Creating fun, kid-friendly snacks is a great way to get your little one to try new foods. Check out these ideas that all include superfoods—foods that provide a significant health benefit when you add them to your diet. Often as a dietitian I am telling people what not to eat. I love having the opportunity to encourage people to eat more delicious foods!

“Super-Nutritious Trail Mix”

    • Popcorn
    • Dark chocolate chips
    • Almonds
    • Gluten-free pretzels
    • Dried fruit

Mix all together and serve. Think outside the bowl! For a fun and portable snack pull out those plastic Easter eggs or other fun container.

What they know: Kids feel like they are getting a special treat just by getting to pick out which color egg they want their snack to be in!

What you know: Dark chocolate is full of good nutrients and antioxidants that help your brain, heart, and mood! Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. Almonds contain phytosterols, which promote lower cholesterol levels in addition to providing protein—a plus if your child is not a big meat eater.

“Yogurt Face”

  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Gluten-free pretzel sticks

Create a circle of yogurt on a plate. Use the fruit to create your own silly face, or a cat face, or even to abandon the face idea altogether and simply spell out numbers and letters for your little learner.

What they know: They won’t get in trouble for playing with their food. They get to create a masterpiece and then eat it.

What you know: Superfoods yogurt and blueberries make this a nutritious and delicious snack. Yogurt provides protein, calcium and probiotics, which are important for keeping young (and old) GI tracts healthy. Blueberries have been touted as one of the healthiest foods you could possibly eat; they’re full of antioxidants protective against many cancers.

“Magic Princess Wands”

  • Skewers
  • Mangos or other fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cheese cubes

Skewer the fruit and cheese. Add a strawberry as the topper. (I think Starfruit would also be a great topper; however, you’ll usually need to wait until it’s in season to find it at your local store.) With a 4-year-old daughter and a trip planned to Disney this year, Princesses are everywhere in our house! If you can relate, why not have them on your table, too?

What they know: Anytime little girls get to play “Princess,” it’s a good thing!

What you know: Cantaloupe is full of vitamin C, folate, and caratenoids, antioxidants that give cantaloupe its yellow-orange color and are important for eye health and immunity. All the fruits provide needed fiber, and you can sneak in a little protein with the cheese.

“Through the Forest

  • Broccoli
  • Cheese
  • Celery
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried cranberries or raisins

Create a forest with trees and logs with ants crawling on them! Let your kids get creative. What other animals can they imagine in the forest?

What they know: Their imaginations will run wild creating a story to go with their forest. Once one of the most feared dinnertime vegetables, suddenly eating broccoli that is a “tree” while pretending to be a giraffe sounds like a great idea!

What you know: Broccoli is a fiber-rich vegetable that has high levels of vitamin C (which helps the body absorb iron) and potassium (which helps ensure the nervous system, including the brain, is functioning optimally), and has even been found to inhibit many cancer cells. Protein found in peanut butter is a great way to keep those little tummies full until the next meal!

“Sweet Potato Power Chips”

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and sliced thinly. (The smaller and thinner you slice them the better! Only the small, thin ones really get the “crunch” like chips.)
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar

Coat thinly sliced potatoes with olive oil and season with cinnamon and sugar. (A large plastic kitchen storage bag works great to ensure all pieces get evenly coated.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Broil for 5 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn! Bonus: Baking these makes your house smell wonderful!

What they know: Chips are like junk food, right?

What you know: Sweet potatoes: Like the cantaloupe, the orange color indicates they are full of carotenoids, the precursor to vitamin A in our body. Carotenoids help boost our immunity, are strong antioxidants, and help protect our eyesight. Olive oil is a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, or “healthy fat” that may help protect our hearts and ward off the “bad cholesterol” LDL. It is also a good source of Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K.

Fellow parents: Do you have any other healthy snack ideas? If so, please comment below…thanks!

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Megan is a registered dietitian and mom to a 4-year old daughter with celiac disease. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, daughter and son where she works with patients with kidney disease. She blogs weekly at www.thehappybellyproject.com on all things related to living, loving and learning about the gluten-free diet and celiac disease.

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

This past weekend 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 almost 5 years now — forming a team for the Buffalo walk and going just as a family to the Rochester walk.

This is the 11th year for “Making Tracks for Celiacs,” which is an annual fundraising event, organized and managed by the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland. 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).

Currently there are annual events held in these states: AL, FL, KY, MD, MI, MO, MN, NY, OH 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 — this 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 this 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 this 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!”

Mini Gluten-Free Easter Baskets, Plus a Giveaway!

I just can’t seem to get this song out of my head…. Partly because my girls’ weekly piano lessons are today (and I’m thinking of teaching them a simpler version of this tune) and partly because I am so excited about these cute, little Easter basket treats we created a few days ago!  Gluten-free, of course!

One “replacement food” my family is thankful for is gluten-free ice cream cones, especially around holidays when it’s fun to create kid-friendly goodies with them. A local gourmet food shop owner started a gluten-free section in his store a few years ago, after he heard that my daughter and I were diagnosed with celiac. One of the products he started stocking (to my family’s delight) was Goldbaum’s gluten-free ice cream cones — both sugar cones and cake cones.

We’ve bought many boxes from his store — especially the sugar cones, which have always been our favorite. Besides just using them as normal ice cream cones, we often crush them up and mix them into our ice cream, along with chocolate sauce and nuts to get that “Nutty Buddy” flavor. We even gave two local ice cream shop owners the idea to buy a few boxes of Goldbaum’s cake cones to keep in stock in case of any gluten-free customers. To us, they literally taste just like regular ice cream cones. Goldbaum’s cones are just as tasty, crispy and sturdy as cones I remember eating when I was growing up. We wouldn’t change a thing about them…

Looking at the cake cone box (they call them “cups”) the other day, it just said “Easter baskets” to me. I could picture them in my mind, yet I had doubts about how I would pull off the handle. Thankfully everything came together just perfectly and it was a big success.

To make them, you will need:
– Goldbaum’s gluten-free cups (I call them cake cones)
– sugared gummy worms
– gluten-free frosting (we used Pillsbury)
– regular size marshmallows
– gluten-free jelly beans
– sweetened coconut
– food coloring

And here is how you make them…

The first thing you do (to make the shorter baskets shown above) is to take a sharp knife and cut off the top portion of the cone, so that it looks like the photo below. It doesn’t need to be perfect since the frosting and coconut will cover the edges… Then you pop a regular sized marshmallow inside the cone and tuck a sugared gummy worm in around the edges, as shown below. This gives you a surface to frost on and keeps the “handle” of the basket snugly in place…

After that, you just frost the top with vanilla frosting (plus a drop or two of food coloring) and then add coconut and three jelly beans. We made four different frosting colors and four matching coconut colors (sweetened coconut with a drop or two of food coloring mixed in) so they were coordinated.

We also discovered something fun afterwards, when we mixed the remaining coconut colors together: rainbow-colored coconut!  Here it is on a full-sized basket, without the top cut off, in case you choose to do it that way. (I just think the shorter ones look more proportional, plus you only need one marshmallow inside the cone). As you also may notice, the gummy worm’s pattern makes it look even more like a basket handle when the lined side is facing out like this:

Either way (short or tall) these Easter baskets are sure to be a hit — whether you make just a few for your family, or make a lot for a school party or church brunch. We kept them in an air-tight container and they tasted great even days later.

And now for the giveaway:  Goldbaum’s has generously agreed to send three, lucky, randomly-drawn winners the following prize: 1 box of sugar cones, 1 box of regular cone cups and a few other Goldbaum’s gluten-free products which will remain a mystery!

To enter, please leave a comment below, letting me know how you make Easter special for your g-free kid:  Do you re-make favorite recipes gluten-free? What special things do you put in their Easter baskets? How do you make sure they are included in the big family meal?  Any other ideas you can share?

Giveaway ends at midnight on Thursday, April 5th. Then the 3 winners have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise new names will be chosen. U.S. Residents please. Good luck!

Now get out there and buy yourself some cones so you can make these baskets with your kids in time for Easter!  When you try them (you just have to — they are SO easy!) feel free to post a photo on my Facebook page. And in case you missed our Chocolate Peeps Eggshells and Muddy Bunnies, just click this link or see the post below this one.

Enjoy and Happy Easter everyone!  ~Katie

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and be sure to check out the online photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.

Easter Treat Ideas: Super Simple and Gluten Free!

Ahh….Easter Sunday in the 70’s. Those were the days…Easter bonnets and dresses bought (or made) just for the big day — my whole family dressed in their finest duds. Even before church, my Dad would take home movies of us getting into our Easter baskets and devouring Peep after Peep, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs & jellybeans galore, without my Mom ever saying “That’s enough candy!” (That’s me on the right.) I can’t imagine letting my own kids get so sugared-up before church (for my own sanity) and I give my daughters a fraction of the candy my parents gave me for Easter, yet I still don’t see a problem with letting kids be kids and enjoying sugary treats once in a while. My family eats quite healthy most of the time, we get plenty of exercise, we take care of our teeth and we aren’t couch potatoes. Therefore, we don’t feel the least bit guilty indulging in making and eating these three yummy Easter treats together. And you shouldn’t either!  🙂 We call our first treat idea “Muddy Bunnies“. We’ve all seen chocolate-dipped Peeps, but we thought we’d take it a little further and have them sit in the middle of a pile of springtime mud (peanut clusters). All you do for this is melt chocolate in the microwave, mix in peanuts and drop clusters onto wax paper over a cookie sheet. Arrange the Peeps bunny in the middle and spoon some more chocolate around his bottom to make him part of the peanut cluster. Then add sprinkles and set the cookie sheet in the freezer to harden. We also thought they looked cute sitting in these cupcake liners: Our second idea we wanted to try was “Chocolate Peeps Eggshells“, which turned out to be our favorite. I originally saw the idea for chocolate ice cream shells here but I have no idea why it took me so long to try it. It was so easy! (Feel free to read that article for more details, but I simplified the process a lot, which I will explain below…)

To make these Chocolate Peeps Eggshells, you will need:
•  Melting chocolate
•  Peeps chicks
•  G-free sprinkles or nonpariels
•  Small balloons
•  Waxed paper

The first thing you do is to blow up & tie your balloons, rinse them with water, dry them and set aside. (We used water balloons without any problems, but I have read that a few other people have had issues with these and recommend small, regular balloons instead. It’s up to you.) Next, clear an area in your freezer to fit a small cookie sheet, then cover that cookie sheet with wax paper and set it back on your counter. In a small-to-medium sized microwaveable bowl (depending on how many of these you’re going to make) melt your chocolate. We aren’t big fans of white chocolate so we used milk chocolate melting disks. Clearly, white chocolate would make a more realistic-looking eggshell, if that is what you are after. We were just after taste! 🙂 Either way, you’ll want the melted chocolate to be a few inches deep so that you can cover your balloons up high enough. Once your chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, just dip each balloon in, tilting it around to cover the sides until you like how it looks. Then you just set it upright on the wax paper and toss some sprinkles on it. After they’re all dipped and sprinkled, just pop the cookie sheet into the freezer for a few minutes until they harden all the way. They will look something like this:

Then you can let your kids have fun popping the balloons! Below is Lindsey (with Morgan covering her ears) just before her needle popped the balloon… After it’s popped, you will find the shriveled up balloon in the bottom of the chocolate shell. Carefully peel the balloon away from the chocolate and you’ll be left with shells like this: Then all you do is pop a Peeps chick inside for your finished product. Another idea is to make these into birds’ nests by adding coconut underneath the chick. The third idea is very simple as well. We call these “Bunny Trail Pops” and we just felt like doing something different than our usual sprinkled chocolate marshmallows. We popped a stick into each marshmallow, dipped the bottom of it in chocolate, set it on waxed paper and stuck bunny candies into it, evenly with one of each color. Again, set it in the freezer to harden. These don’t even need sticks, and you can experiment with any type of g-free Easter candies… After they have all hardened in the freezer, all of these treats can be kept in airtight containers in your fridge til they’re gone — which won’t be long!    🙂  Enjoy!

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When gluten-free play (and dreams) become reality

“Welcome to the Chalmers Gluten Free Bakery and Restaurant. How can I help you?” was the most popular quote around our back yard playhouse this past fall. My daughters (both gluten-free) had set up their playhouse to play their pretend game, complete with menus, notebook & pen to take orders, and a whole slew of pretend plastic food and kitchenware.

One day I just had to take a break from my yard work to go play. I came to the “drive-thru” window around back, under the pine trees, and I asked, “Is everything here gluten-free?” and the both exclaimed,
“Of course!” like I was crazy or something for even asking.

In their pretend world, every luscious-looking baked good and “Happy Meal” is gluten-free — “where food always tastes good” as they wrote on their menu.

I love it. They came up with this game all on their own, which makes me love it even more. It’s so cool to see them having fun with gluten-free, and it’s great to see them taking pride in playing games like this. It is a wonderful sound to overhear your children just having fun imagining, creating, decorating, pretending…and dreaming — totally unplugged.

The first time I really remember them playing “gluten-free bakery” was Christmas 2010 when they received a bunch of pretend play food. The next day they had set up their play closet as a bakery (below) with a centerpiece, tables, menus and ice cream, too.

They invited their cousins over. They invited parents, grandparents and anyone else who visited our house. After a few weeks they moved on to something else, and the closet was transformed into some other kind of fort, but they sure enjoyed this game while it lasted.

Last month we were on vacation in the Orlando area and went, one day, to Downtown Disney, upon recommendations from some of the awesome Moms who have come together on my Facebook page. They had told me about BabyCakes being there — an all gluten-free bakery. (In fact, I believe most everything they offered was gluten-free, plus dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free). You can imagine how excited my girls were to see this place. I’ll admit: I had them expecting a little too much (I had said we’d be walking into a big bakery and they’d be able pick out whatever they wanted) but they were still super excited to even see a small all-gluten-free bakery in the corner of a restaurant.

We each picked out a dessert and took it “to go” to eat after our lunch at T-Rex Restaurant next door. It was hard to wait (and our to-go box was opened repeatedly for sniffing noses and sneaky licking fingers) but we thoroughly enjoyed everything. Morgan chose a lemon-frosted cupcake, Lindsey picked a mint-frosted brownie cupcake and I decided on a cookie sandwich (2 large, thin chocolate chip cookies with frosting in between). Besides the goodies shown below, there was another area with banana breads, donuts, and other sweet treats. They had never seen so many gluten-free goodies together in one place before and you could tell that they thought it was a very cool place.

Since that vacation, their gluten-free bakery has been re-established in the playhouse since we’ve been having an unseasonably warm Spring. It’s much the same except for a new sign, menu and decorations. It’s wonderful how some things just never get old!
Has your g-free kid had any gluten-free dreams become reality? Are you lucky enough to live near one of these all-gluten-free bakeries?  As always, feel free to post a picture on my Facebook page and/or comment below. Thanks!

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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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Dublin Dragonflies, County Cork Cake Pops, Lil’ Leprechauns and Emerald Isle Cakes

It’s St. Patrick’s Day week….a busy one for families like mine who have Irish dancers jigging their way through shows well past the upcoming weekend. But as the luck of
the Irish may have it — there’s still time to make some festive green treats with your
g-free kids!

In my previous post, I shared some healthier ideas such as a veggie platter in the shape/colors of the Irish flag, and shamrock-shaped pizzas. Before I get to the naughty treats, let me share one more, which my girls call “Dublin Dragonflies.” They aren’t big raisin fans (think “ants on a log”) so I used Snyder’s gluten-free mini pretzels for wings and peanut m&m’s for eyes. If your celery is too narrow, just use plain m&m’s.

My girls enjoy being able to help make these (I just spread the PB as they aren’t very adept at that yet) and they add the other stuff. Those with nut allergies can just substitute Sunbutter and use chocolate chips for eyes.

Okay, on to the naughty treat ideas…

I attempted to make “County Cork Cake Pops” for the first time last week. (What can I say? Part of the fun of making new things is coming up with fun names for them!)  Here are some finished examples:

Allow me to give you the following tips, as cake pops are not quite as simple as they say…
(1) Don’t make the balls too big. Once you dip them in the candy coating, it makes them heavy. The weight makes the whole ball slide down the stick so that the stick pops right through the top. Go for a small, super-ball size.
(2) Melt a lot of candy coating…don’t skimp or you’ll be melting it again halfway through the dipping process.
(3) Improvise. If all else fails, make something up. After too many sticks poked up through the top, I tried “blocking” the sticks with these mint nonpariel candies I had. My girls
said they looked like hats so we stuck a few other candies on and called them our
“Lil’ Leprechauns”…

(“Lil” as in “too little to grow beards” even though the truth was “mommy didn’t feel like making beards.”) For those of you Moms out there who are willing to take these leprechauns a lot further than I did: go for it — I could see someone adding candy hair, a beard, more detailed features, etc. I, personally, don’t have the patience or motivation. Especially since my girls thought they were cute enough even at this stage.  🙂

In fact, for those extra-motivated Moms: I was about to post this when I saw other “leprechaun pops” come across Facebook: much fancier than mine, from the ultra-creative Jill over at Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons. So, knock yourselves out!

(4) Another idea is to try them without sticks. They’re easier to make and eat that way anyhow! We’re calling them “Emerald Isle Cakes” but it’s another thing you can take further than I did…

Can’t you see them as leprechauns’ pots of gold?  Maybe yellow m&m’s for the gold or rainbow nonpariels for the treasure? And shape the cake a little more so it looks like a pot? See what ideas your child comes up with for these little cuties…

These cake balls also easier for kids to help with than cake pops. After these had hardened, I called my girls back down to hold them so you could see their size here.
(They were playing “rock star” or something at the time so excuse the get-ups.)

For both the cake pops and cake balls, all I did was to mush together what was left of a frosted vanilla cake (about 2/3 of it) from a party the day before. The cake was made with Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake mix and Pillsbury vanilla frosting. I didn’t add anything else. Let your kids mush up the cake, roll into tight little balls, then cover with candy coating. I used Make n’ Mold candy wafers for the coating.

If you would like to follow more detailed instructions & tips, here are a few helpful links, which I didn’t see until after I had already “winged it”:

Last, but not least, I want to share (again) this gluten-free coloring page I created for your g-free kid to enjoy. (Print from the link — not from the preview below.)Have you tried anything from my three St. Patty’s Day posts?  If so, please feel free to upload a picture of your child with his or her finished product on my Facebook wall!
I would love to see it!

In case you missed it, check out these sweet & salty treats for St. Patty’s Day,
and be sure you see the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.
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Simple St. Patrick’s Day ideas and coloring page for gluten-free kids

March is always a busy month for our family — especially since my daughters are Irish dancers. So far they are scheduled for 13 shows this month, on top of everything else life brings. Thankfully we all love it and seeing them do their 2-hand reel never ceases to bring tears to my eyes…

Despite the crazy schedule, we like to scatter little St. Patrick’s Day treats and symbols throughout the month, just like we do for Valentine’s Day in February. There are far too many fun things to do with those holidays, than to limit it all to just one day each month.

With this first idea (which is nothing original, I’m sure) I just arranged green, white and orange veggies in the shape and color order of the Irish flag. I used snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, orange peppers and baby carrots. The subtlety of this idea may be lost on little ones, so a mini Irish flag (we made this one w/ markers, paper and a toothpick) helps make the connection.

Another simple idea just involves cutting already-baked, g-free pizza (we use Chebe for the crust) into shamrock shapes with a cookie cutter… what could be easier?

For the pizza below, I arranged Hormel mini pepperoni in the shapes of shamrocks all over the top of the (Chebe crust) pizza. Just watch that your cheese doesn’t get too over-cooked and dark, or your shamrocks won’t stand out enough.

Next I’ve created a gluten-free coloring page for your g-free kid to enjoy. Please fee free to post a picture of your child with his or her finished coloring page on my Facebook wall!

Here are some other crafty, fun things to do for St. Patrick’s Day:

And to close, here is an Irish blessing — heavily modified, by me, from one found here

“May you have gluten-free bread to do you good,
Gluten-free bread to sweeten your blood,
Gluten-free bread to do you no harm
And gluten-free bread to strengthen your arm.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
More sweet, green ideas coming very soon!

In case you missed it, check out these sweet & salty treats for St. Patty’s Day,
and be sure you see the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page.
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Super simple gluten-free toffee brittle

Before Christmas, my Mom had tried a version of this delicious brittle (made with Saltine crackers) at church coffee hour and was instantly hooked. After she raved about it a number of times, she tracked down the original recipe, I went out and bought some Glutino original gluten-free crackers to replace the Saltines, and we got the other ingredients together. We whipped it up one night and this brittle was a huge hit over the holidays…especially with my daughter Morgan.

What you will need for this recipe (which is a good one to let kids help with):

  • 1 box original flavor Glutino original gluten-free crackers
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 cups of mini chocolate chips
  • toppings of your choice: toffee pieces, m&m’s, sprinkles, diced nuts, crushed peppermints, butterscotch chips, coconut — you name it!

(Please excuse the photos — we did this on a whim and I didn’t have my own camera.)

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STEP 1:  Empty the entire box of crackers onto an ungreased baking sheet, all in one layer. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

STEP 2:  In a medium size pot over the stove, cook one stick of butter and 2 cups of brown sugar together until gooey, then pour over crackers to cover them, and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes until bubbly. (Watch carefully so that nothing burns.)

STEP 3:  Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle 2 cups of chocolate chips over top, let it sit a few minutes to melt the chocolate…

STEP 4:  Then, after the chocolate chips are melted enough, smooth the chocolate layer over with a spatula and top with toppings. Put the tray in the freezer for at least an hour.

STEP 5:  After at least an hour has passed, remove it and break it into irregular pieces with the help of a stiff spatula. Voila!  A sweet treat for any occasion!

Let me know what you think of this recipe — we call it “toffee brittle” because the taste of it reminds us of toffee, even though we didn’t use any as a topping. After you try it (trust me — you will definitely be glad you did) let me know if you can think of a better name for it. Thanks, and enjoy!

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