Simple Mills Review and Giveaway

As a graphic designer, I appreciate good packaging on a gluten-free product. Especially considering all of the ugly, dated, looks-like-it’s-been-sitting-on-the-shelf-for-twenty-years badly designed boxes and bags in the gluten-free aisle, good design really stands out to me. It’s like a little voice (in this case a big voice) is calling out from the shelf, saying: “Buy me!”SMplustypeThis is what I was pondering at Wegmans a few months ago, as a newly redesigned product line really jumped out at me in a good way: a row of Simple Mills brand mixes.  After reading the boxes and seeing the banner on top: “Inside you’ll find 7 hand-selected, unprocessed ingredients you’ll fall in love with!” the banana muffin and pumpkin muffin mixes practically jumped into my shopping cart.

Simple Mills mixes are paleo-friendly, grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free and low carb, made in a dedicated gluten-free facility and are certified gluten-free. Simple Mills “believes that when you eat better, you feel better….We are passionate about providing whole food baking mixes that are good for you, easy to make and taste absolutely amazing.”

To this we can attest. Click this link to find out more about their quality ingredients.

IMG_1053The ingredients on the banana muffins (shown above) are: almonds, banana, organic coconut sugar, arrowroot powder, organic coconut flour, baking soda and sea salt.  You just need to add 3 eggs, water and oil. We also added a sprinkle of diced walnuts.

Compare that to the crazy long ingredient lists on so many other GF products. The more processed foods are, the more ingredients they have. Once prepared, Simple Mills banana muffins have only 7 g. of sugar, 3 g. of protein and 2 g. fiber per serving!  I add 1-2 T of flax seed for extra fiber on top of that and no one in my family even notices.  🙂  They just love the taste of these muffins all by themselves. No need for butter or anything else. They are perfect for breakfast or as a mid-morning school snack for my girls.

IMG_1562The 8 ingredients on the pumpkin muffins (above) are similar: almonds, banana, organic coconut sugar, pumpkin, arrowroot powder, organic coconut flour, organic spice mix, baking soda and sea salt.  Again, just add eggs, water and oil. These bad boys only have 5 g. of sugar, 4 g. protein and 3 g. of fiber per serving!  Again, I add flax for even more fiber, as that is a big issue in my household. These muffins are just as good on their own, but add a dollop of whipped cream and you may just think you are eating pumpkin pie.

After realizing how amazing these first two products were, I contacted Simple Mills and they sent us a box of their pancake & waffle mix and pizza crust mix to try as well.

IMG_1299First off, the pancakes were amazing. The above photo shows how many one box makes. I ate many of them without using maple syrup and whipped topping, which is unheard of for me. These tasted heartier and more “gourmet” than your run of the mill GF pancakes. Again: 8 ingredients. Just add eggs, milk (we use coconut milk) and oil. Two pancakes provide 2 g. fiber, 3 g. protein and other good stuff. As with any pancake mix, my family added mini chocolate chips and diced walnuts and my daughters really loved these with a little syrup and Cocowhip. Another thing I love about Simple Mills pancakes is how long they keep you satisfied for, so you don’t feel hungry an hour later like you do after eating regular pancakes.

IMG_1991Last by not least is Simple Mills pizza dough mix. And once again: 8 ingredients. Prepare it by following the directions on the box (you’ll need apple cider vinegar, oil and water). They provide a good tip on the box about putting oil on your hands when you are spreading out the dough. That really helped…

IMG_1998

We made an amazing dairy-free pizza with it by following this recipe: http://thewholetara.com/best-healthy-vegan-pizza/ and I’m so glad we did. Don’t expect a light, fluffy, airy pizza. This pizza crust is hearty, gourmet-tasting and crispy.  I also spread it extra thin and cooked it a little longer, because I like pizza thin and crispy. It was the perfect crust for the toppings in that recipe. I have made it twice since then and my girls & I love it. I honestly don’t think it would work as well with any other pizza crust.

For more recipes  using Simple Mills products, visit their recipe page. Lots of good stuff there…

In conclusion, I am a huge fan of this brand. I have made many batches of muffins since I found these mixes, as well as a few pizzas. I look forward to trying their other mixes once they are available in my area or I find a good deal online. We still need to try these other Simple Mills mixes: vanilla cake mix, chocolate muffin & cake mix, artisan bread mix, and chocolate chip cookie mix.  The average price of these mixes is $7.50 each from what I have found. To me, it’s worth the money in that Simple Mills products taste great, they have minimal, quality ingredients and are easy to make. I’ll pay an extra few bucks for all of those qualities in a GF food anytime. Life’s too short to eat bad GF food!

Now, for the giveaway:

Simple Mills is offering a free box of their banana muffin mix and a free box of pancake & waffle mix to TWO winners. So each winner will get 2 free products mailed to them!

Entry is simple, as always:  Comment below, letting me know what entices you most about these mixes and why you think your family would like to try them.

This giveaway ends Friday, January 29, 2016, at midnight. I’ll pick two winners randomly and will notify them by email. They will have 24 hours to get back to me with their addresses; otherwise I’ll pick new winners. U.S. residents only please. Good luck!

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Banza Pasta Review and Giveaway!

IMG_1311I’ll tell you right off the bat — my family loves this pasta. Every single one of us. We bought it for the first time about 2 months ago and it is the only kind of pasta we have bought since then. I have given away my other boxes of GF pasta because they just seem so un-nutritious (is that a word?) to us now — compared to Banza pasta. I don’t want to use the word “unhealthy” because, obviously, regular GF pastas aren’t junk food, but they are definitely nowhere near as healthy as Banza pasta is… Take a look at this comparison on the box:

IMG_1317

When I first saw boxes of Banza in Wegmans, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the great graphic design on the packaging and then the fact that it is made from chickpeas, which my daughters and I love!  Once I got home and had more time to read the box, I realized what a jackpot I had discovered…

IMG_1314

Banza vs. Gluten-Free Barilla
In comparing a 2 oz. serving of Banza with a 2 oz. serving of Barilla GF (what we ate before), Banza has 8 g. fiber while Barilla has 1.  Banza has 14 g. protein while Barilla has 4. Banza has 32 g. carbs while Barilla has 44. Banza has 4% calcium while Barilla has none. Banza has 30% iron while Barilla has none. Banza is non-GMO while Barilla is not. Calories are pretty even: Banza is 190 and Barilla is 200. Banza is made in the USA (yes!) and Barilla is made in Italy.

There are a few places where Barilla wins out: Barilla has 1 g. total fat and Banza has 3.5, and Barilla has no sodium while Banza has 60mg, if those comparisons are important to you. Barilla boxes are 12 oz. and Banza boxes are 8 oz. Lastly, Barilla is probably about $1 cheaper a box than Banza.

That being said, Banza still wins hands-down in our book, and we hope we never have to go without it. Banza has everything my family needs. We all struggle to get enough fiber (and Banza really helps), one of my daughters has low iron, and we all need more protein, which is why we eat this almost every night now. If it’s not the main course, it’s a side dish…

IMG_1309We make it according to the directions and then usually saute it with steamed vegetables, olive oil, garlic and a few spices…

Our new favorite way to use Banza is sauteing artichokes in olive oil, with garlic, garlic salt and oregano, then mixing in the cooked pasta, which tastes absolutely gourmet!

IMG_1304My daughters and I all love chickpeas so we knew we would like the taste of this pasta. We didn’t expect it to taste exactly like your typical GF pasta (usually made from corn, rice & soy) since Banza is made mainly with chickpeas, but we enjoyed the taste immediately. Even my husband (who doesn’t eat plain chickpeas) loves Banza and said, “This is all we are buying from now on,” because of the nutritional content of this pasta, mainly the fiber, protein and iron, which has been a game changer for our family.

IMG_1245Another way we enjoy Banza is topped with bruschetta and pesto…but it is also good with butter and parmesan cheese, or topped with spaghetti sauce.

IMG_1239We often have it as our main course, mixed with chicken, chopped artichoke hearts and a side of GF garlic bread — a meal I could eat every day.  🙂

Because regular GF pasta doesn’t have fiber, we hardly ever ate it, but now we eat Banza all the time because of the fiber….and protein….and iron, not to mention great texture and taste. It holds its shape like no other GF pasta I can think of. No more crumbly, tiny broken apart pieces of pasta. Just whole pieces from now on. We are never going back!

Check out Banza on Facebook and twitter to learn more.

And now for the giveaway, which I wish my own family could win!  😉
Banza has generously offered to donate one free variety case (6 boxes, mixed shapes) to one lucky winner!  All you need to do to enter is comment here and let us know WHY you are so excited to try Banza. Contest runs through December 1st at midnight. Then I’ll randomly pick a winner and email that person. If I don’t hear back within 24 hours I’ll pick someone else. U.S. residents only please. Thanks and good luck!


Disclaimer: Nobody put me up to this review and I bought all the Banza myself. I’m just sharing products that we love and I was not compensated in any way. Opinions are my family’s and my own.
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Rx for a Sick G-Free Kid

sickieAh, cold and
flu season….
You’d think that
the lack of global warming keeping us in this deep freeze this winter would kill off some germs, wouldn’t you?

Well, alas, our g-free kids might still catch some viruses before springtime rolls around…

Just in case, here are some tips collected from parents like us on what we can do to help a sick kid feel better, even when
he or she is on a gluten-free diet.

I recently posted the question “What do you do for your g-free kid when they are sick?” on Facebook and here are the top responses. These tips apply to kids with stomach bugs, as well as kids whose appetites just aren’t up to par due to other mild wintertime illnesses.

Tips from fellow parents:

  • If still in vomiting stage, just give them tiny ice chips & sips of water
  • Ginger Ale (flat, so there aren’t any bubbles) helps settle the stomach
  • Homemade chicken broth (some say just the broth)
  • Steamed, plain rice
  • Chicken soup with rice or just broth with rice
  • Rice cooked in chicken stock with ground chicken
  • Bone broth
  • Chicken pho with rice noodles
  • Homemade chicken noodle soup: GF broth, GF spaghetti noodles (cut up) and shredded chicken, maybe w/ some soft cooked veggies, too
  • The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, GF toast)
  • GF Rice Krispies (dry)
  • Plain, dry cereal or toast
  • Glutino and Schar both have plain table crackers that are similar to soda crackers
  • One mom swears by this: apple cinnamon rice cakes & Mountain Dew
  • Gluten-free pretzels or plain tortilla chips to nibble on
  • GF canned soups by: Amy’s, Gluten Free Cafe, Progresso, Dr. McDougall’s
  • ice pops
  • Pedialyte liters and Pedialyte freezer pops
  • Set your child up with a hot water bottle on his or her tummy
  • Tummy rubs and head rubs
  • TLC (tender loving care — a g-free kid is still a regular kid who needs love, after all)  🙂

*Please note:  This is not professional medical advice. These tips are from parents just like us who have shared their personal advice for how to help sick g-free kids feel better…. Please seek real medical advice from your own family’s doctor for anything out of the ordinary.

If anyone wants to add other tips or advice to this list, please comment below. Thanks!

24 Gluten Free Summer Camps for 2014

I rounded up this list of 24 summer camps (the last 4 are new to this list) which give gluten-free campers the chance to enjoy traditional camp activities without having to worry about what they will eat. It’s the perfect summertime escape from feeling left out or different because they can’t eat what everyone else is having. At these camp sessions, kids’ meals are gluten-free and carefully prepared so that there will be no need for them to ask or to wonder, “Is this safe for me to eat?”

In researching the below list of camps it was interesting to see the various approaches to gluten-free campers. Some camp philosophies celebrate that the kids are gluten-free, while others focus on treating all campers the same except for which meals they receive. Some camps intermingle gluten-free and non-gluten-free kids while other camps have only gluten-free campers and gluten-free food for that particular session. A few camps only allow diagnosed-Celiac kids, so make sure you double check that they also allow kids with wheat allergy and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well. Learn more at the camp links below…

Regardless of how these camps are set up, they all seem like excellent environments for gluten-free kids. The directors and food staff seem very knowledgeable about food preparation safety, and some can even accommodate other special diets such as nut-free, casein-free, etc. They all seem to understand the importance of making kids feel “normal” and making sure their campers enjoy themselves without having to think about their diet.

I remember going to summer camp a few times as a child, and a lot of my memories revolved around foods that we ate there. If I would have known then that I was a Celiac,
I most likely wouldn’t have been able to attend. Now, with these 24 summer camps providing the opportunities that they do, hundreds of
gluten-free children are now
able to enjoy camp activitie
s — horseback riding, canoeing, archery, swimming and countless other activities — free from worrying about their diet. It is exciting to know that the number of camps like these continues to grow, which means even more choices when the time comes for my own daughters to attend one.

So, why not check out the below links and treat your child to an unforgettable adventure this summer!? Registration has already begun for some of these camps, so sign your child up before it’s too late!  Age, cost and registration requirements will vary. Scholarship opportunities and waiting lists are available at some camps.

U.S. gluten-free summer camps  (in no particular order)

 

#1 & #2:  New Jersey Y Camps:
(Nah Jee Wah, Cedar Lake, Teen Camp, and Round Lake)
When:  Gluten Free Family Weekend May 30 – June 1, 2014
Where:  Milford, PA (about 2 hrs from NYC)
For more info:  click here
*These mainstream neighboring camps share a dedicated gluten-free kitchen,
and can accommodate campers on gluten-free diets at any of their mainstream sessions.
These camps have partnered with Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

#3:  Camp Fire USA Gluten-Free camp session
When:  July 13 –18, 2014
Where:  Camp Waluhili on scenic Fort Gibson Lake, 45 min. from Tulsa, OK
For more info:  click here and here

#4:  “Free To Be” Camp at Camp Westminster
When:  June 15 – 21, 2014
Where:  Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake in Roscommon, MI
For more info: click here
*Can accommodate the avoidance of other food allergens
such as casein, soy, egg and nuts
.

#5:  Summer Camp Weekaneatit
When:  July 13-18, 2014
Where:  Camp Twin Lakes- Camp Dream in Warm Springs, GA
For more info:  click here

#6:  Gluten-Free Camp
When:  June 29 – July 3, 2014
Where:  Camp Manitou-Lin on Ol’ Lake Barlow in Middleville, MI
For more info: click here and here and here

#7:  The Great Gluten Escape at Camp Gilmont
When:  June 15 – 20, 2014
Where:  Camp Gilmont in Gilmer, TX
For more info:  click here

#8:  Gluten Detective Day Camp
When: July 22 – 24, 2014  •  9am – 3pm daily
Where: Bloomington, MN
For more info: click here
Celiac and all gluten-intolerant kids welcome, as well as their siblings

#9:  Camp Celiac at Camp Arroyo
When: July 21 – 24; July 24 – 27, 2014
Where: Camp Arroyo, Livermore, CA
For more info: click here

#10: GIG Kids Camp West (at Camp Sealth)
When: August 4 – 9, 2014
Where:  Camp Sealth, Vashon Island, WA
For more info: click here and here
*Can accommodate children with both gluten intolerance & diabetes.
*Camp Sealth is peanut-free

#11: GIG Kids Camp East (at Camp Kanata)
When:  July 27 – August 2, 2014
Where:  Camp Kanata, Wake Forest, NC
For more info: click here and here and here

#12: Camp Celiac
When:  August 10 – 15, 2014
Where:  Camp Aldersgate, North Scituate, RI
For more info: click here

#13: Gluten-Free Fun Camp
When:  July 20 – 25, 2014
Where:  Camp Courage in Annandale, MN
For more info: click here

#14: Camp Eagle Hill
Where: Elizaville, NY
For more info: click here and here
Dedicated GF kitchen. Meals are GF versions of other campers’ meals

#15: International Sports Training Camp
Where: Stroudsburg, PA
For more info: Call 570-620-2267 or click here and here
Executive Chef is Celiac and completed Great Kitchens Camps program through NFCA

#16 and #17: Camp Danbee & Camp Taconic
Where: Hinsdale, MA
These two mainstream camps cater to celiac/gluten-intolerant kids during any session.
For more info:  Camp Danbee (girls) or Camp Taconic (boys)

#18: Appel Farm Arts Camp
Where: Elmer, NJ
For more info:  Call 856-358-2472 or click here
Camp chef is certified in gluten-free meal-planning, and gluten-free food is available.

#19: Camp Emerson
Where: Hinsdale, MA
For more info:
  Call 800-782-3395 or click here and here.
Accommodates food-allergic/intolerant and Celiac kids during any session. Separate GF Kitchen Area. Registered Dietician on staff to review menu with each family. Professional Chefs trained in food allergy management and gluten-free meal planning.

#20: Hidden Valley 4-H Camp
Where: Watkins Glen, NY
For more info: http://hiddenvalley4hcamp.org or 607-535-7161
This camp caters to food allergies and other dietary restrictions.

#21: Celiac Strong Camp
When: August 1 – 3, 2014
Where: Comstock Camp, Ithaca, NY
For more info: Email sabrina40154@yahoo.com or click here 
Worry-free weekend for boys & girls ages 8-15. Accommodates both gluten-free and lactose-free diets.

#22: Emma Kaufmann Camp
Where: Morgantown, WV
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

#23: Camp Schodack
Where: Nassau, NY
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

#24: Camp Wekeela
Where: Hartford, Maine
For more info: click here
Gluten-free meals available at all sessions

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A special “thank you” goes out to all of the people who work so hard to offer these amazing camping opportunities to kids like ours!

Click here to read how gluten-free camps help improve a Celiac child’s well-being, self-perception and emotional outlook:
(Study Shows Special Camp Improves Self-Perception of Children on Restricted Diets)

Click here to read a great article on camps from Living Without (April/May 2011): Postcards from Allergy-Friendly Camp

(Bloggers: please note: this took quite a while to compile. Please be considerate and link back to my site if you’d like to post this resource, instead of copying & pasting this info. Thank you!)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Has your child attended any of these gluten-free camps before?  Please feel free to comment below about their experience. Thanks!

22 Gluten Free Summer Camps for 2013

I rounded up this list of 22 summer camps which give gluten-free campers the chance to enjoy traditional camp activities without having to worry about what they will eat. It’s the perfect summertime escape from feeling left out or different because they can’t eat what everyone else is having. At these camp sessions, kids’ meals are gluten-free and carefully prepared so that there will be no need for them to ask or to wonder, “Is this safe for me to eat?”

In researching the below list of camps it was interesting to see the various approaches to gluten-free campers. Some camp philosophies celebrate that the kids are gluten-free, while others focus on treating everyone the same except for which meals they receive. Some camps intermingle gluten-free and non-gluten-free kids while other camps have only gluten-free campers and gluten-free food for that particular session. I have heard that a few camps only allow diagnosed-Celiac kids, so make sure you double check that they also allow kids with gluten allergy and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well. (I can’t imagine telling my one daughter she couldn’t attend because her gluten-free condition was not deemed as worthy as her sister’s!)  Learn more at the camp links below…

Regardless of how these camps are set up, they all seem like excellent environments for gluten-free kids. The directors and food staff seem very knowledgeable about food preparation safety, and some can even accommodate other special diets such as nut-free, casein-free, etc. They all seem to understand the importance of making kids feel “normal” and making sure their campers enjoy themselves without having to think about their diet.

I remember going to summer camp a few times, and a lot of my memories revolved around foods that we ate there. If I would have known I was a Celiac when I was a child, I most likely wouldn’t have been able to attend. Now, with these 21 summer camps providing the opportunities that they do, hundreds of gluten-free children are now able to enjoy camp activities — horseback riding, canoeing, archery, swimming and countless other activities — free from worrying about their diet. It is exciting to know that the number of camps like these continues to grow, which means even more choices when the time comes for my own daughters to attend one.

So, why not check out the below links and treat your child to an unforgettable adventure this summer!? Registration has already begun for some of these camps, so sign your child up before it’s too late!  Age, cost and registration requirements will vary. Scholarship opportunities and waiting lists are available at some camps.

U.S. Celiac summer camps  (in no particular order)

#1 & #2:  New Jersey Y Camps: Nah Jee Wah & Cedar Lake
When:  Gluten Free Family Weekend May 31 – June 2, 2013
Where:  Milford, PA (about 2 hrs from NYC)
For more info:  click here
*These mainstream neighboring camps share a dedicated gluten-free kitchen,
and can accommodate campers on gluten-free diets at any of their mainstream sessions.
These camps have partnered with Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

#3:  Camp Fire USA Gluten-Free camp session
When:  July 21 – 27, 2013
Where:  Camp Waluhili on scenic Fort Gibson Lake, 45 min. from Tulsa, OK
For more info:  click here

#4:  “Free To Be” Camp at Camp Westminster
When:  June 16 – 22 , 2013
Where:  Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake in Roscommon, MI
For more info: click here
*Can accommodate the avoidance of other food allergens
such as casein, soy, egg and nuts
.

#5:  Summer Camp Weekaneatit
When:  June 23 – 28, 2013
Where:  Camp Twin Lakes Will-A-Way in Winder, GA
For more info:  click here

#6:  Camp Gluten Freedom
When: June 25 – 28, 2013
Where: Camp Jameson, Indianapolis, IN
For more info: click here

#7:  Gluten-Free Camp
When:  June 30 – July 5, 2013
Where:  Camp Manitou-Lin on Ol’ Lake Barlow in Middleville, MI
For more info: click here

#8:  The Great Gluten Escape at Camp Gilmont
When:  June 16 – 21, 2013
Where:  Camp Gilmont in Gilmer, TX
For more info:  click here

#9:  Gluten Detective Day Camp
When: July 23 – 25, 2013  •  9am – 3pm daily
Where: Bloomington, MN
For more info: click here
Celiac and all gluten-intolerant kids welcome, as well as their siblings

#10:  Camp Celiac at Camp Arroyo
When: July 23 – 27; July 27 – 31, 2013
Where: Camp Arroyo, Livermore, CA
For more info: click here

#11:  Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF) Camp Gluten Free
When: July 15 – 19, 2013
Where: Camp Nawakwa, CA
For more info: click here

#12: GIG Kids Camp West
When: July 31 – Aug. 5 ; Aug. 6 – 9; July 31 – Aug. 9, 2013
Where:  Camp Sealth, Vashon Island, WA
For more info: click here and here
*Can accommodate children with both gluten intolerance & diabetes.
*Camp Sealth is peanut-free

#13: Gluten-free week at Camp Kanata (GIG Kids Camp East)
When:  August 4 – 10, 2013
Where:  Camp Kanata, Wake Forest, NC
For more info: click here and here

#14: Camp Celiac
When:  August 11 – 16, 2013
Where:  Camp Aldersgate, North Scituate, RI
For more info: click here

#15: Gluten-Free Fun Camp
When:  July 14 – 19, 2013
Where:  Camp New Hope in McGregor, MN
For more info: click here

#16: Camp Eagle Hill
Where: Elizaville, NY
For more info: click here and here
New for 2012: dedicated GF kitchen. Meals are GF versions of other campers’ meals

#17: International Sports Training Camp
Where: Stroudsburg, PA
For more info: Call 570-620-2267 or click here
Executive Chef is Celiac and completed Great Kitchens Camps program through NFCA

#18 and #19: Camp Danbee & Camp Taconic
Where: Hinsdale, MA
These two mainstream camps cater to celiac/gluten-intolerant kids during any session.
For more info:  Camp Danbee (girls) or Camp Taconic (boys)

#20: Appel Farm Arts Camp
Where: Elmer, NJ
For more info:  Call 856-358-2472 or click here
Camp chef is certified in gluten-free meal-planning, and gluten-free food is available.

#21: Camp Emerson
Where: Hinsdale, MA
For more info:
  Call 800-782-3395 or click here and here.
Accommodates food-allergic/intolerant and Celiac kids during any session. Separate GF Kitchen Area. Registered Dietician on staff to review menu with each family. Professional Chefs trained in food allergy management and gluten-free meal planning.

#22: Hidden Valley 4-H Camp
Where: Watkins Glen, NY
For more info: http://hiddenvalley4hcamp.org or 607-535-7161
This camp caters to food allergies and other dietary restrictions.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A special “thank you” goes out to all of the people who work so hard to offer these amazing camping opportunities to kids like ours!

Click here to read how gluten-free camps help improve a Celiac child’s well-being, self-perception and emotional outlook:
(Study Shows Special Camp Improves Self-Perception of Children on Restricted Diets)

Click here to read a great article on camps from Living Without (April/May 2011): Postcards from Allergy-Friendly Camp

(Bloggers: please note: this took quite a while to compile. Please be considerate and link back to my site if you’d like to post this resource, instead of copying & pasting this info. Thank you!)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Has your child attended any of these gluten-free camps before?  Please feel free to comment below about their experience. Thanks!

Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park: Gluten-Free for Cheapskates

flowersIt’s been almost a year since our trip to Disney Magic Kingdom in Orlando, and realizing many families are about to venture there for spring break,
I thought I’d finally take the time to finally tell you about our experience…

My husband and I were basically talked into taking our girls to Disney… Our ideal vacation spot is OBX in the off-season, where you can have an entire beach to yourself — not standing in line at a crowded theme park. Yet even so, we succumbed to the pressure of family and friends advising us to take our girls “at least once”….and actually ended up having a great time — and thanking them for the push!  🙂

First of all, we knew we would have to keep it on the cheap side. Thankfully we had friends who were renting a condo about half an hour away from Disney, so we stayed there to avoid hotel fees. Obviously we lucked out with that part. Secondly, we actually drove the 1,200 miles it took us to get there to avoid air fare!  Third, we decided to just spend one day at the Magic Kingdom, and be there from the minute it opened until closing time at night to get our money’s worth. We got recommendations ahead of time from friends who have been there multiple times, asking which attractions were “musts” for 8 year old girls and what they liked about them. We found a map and planned to go to the most highly recommended rides first before the lines got long, then ad lib the rest of the day after we did our “must-sees”.

Another thing I did beforehand was ask people for gluten-free tips on my Facebook page. Thanks to the awesome group of parents on there, I received a bunch of advice and recommendations as to where to eat g-free, which was a huge help…

IMG_5798I’m pretty sure we covered the entire park that day — enjoyed a few GF meals, the evening parade, fireworks and everything else on our list. We knew it would be our only chance to cover it all, so that kept us energized and refusing to quit early. Obviously that’s not going to work for families with various aged kids, but our girls were almost 9 at the time and we were all physically well and able to make it through such a full day.

As far as gluten-free food goes, we did bring some of our own energy bars to snack on in the morning, but we also ate at two restaurants within the Magic Kingdom that day and bought a few other GF treats here and there. (FYI, you are allowed to bring your own cooler and food if you’d like to save even more money that way.)

IMG_0397For lunch we ate at “Cosmic Ray’s” in Tomorrow Land. My girls both had a hotdog with a gluten-free bun (quite possibly the only GF hotdog bun they’ve ever had — we usually just eat them plain) and I had a big angus burger with a gluten-free bun. This picture at left shows my burger…

The bun looked like it was going to be rock-hard when it first came out, but it was totally soft and delicious, as were the girls’ hotdog buns, also shown below… I don’t remember exact prices at this point, but I believe each meal was somewhere around $10 for hotdog, fries and a drink.

IMG_0401For dinner we ate at the “Pinocchio Village Haus” restaurant, which is in Fantasy Land.
We were drenched from an unexpected thunderstorm (I highly advise bringing ponchos!) so we came in to warm up inside and enjoy some food. We split two g-free pizzas (priced the same — $9.95 each — as the regular personal sized pizzas that were only half the size!) which were very tasty and filling, along with some oven-baked fries.

IMG_5802At both places a “Coordinator” took our order, gave us a check with “ALLERGY” stamped on it in red, a buzzer for when it was ready, and that same person followed the order all the way through, even handing it to us himself when it was ready. No confusion, no attitude, no problems….

IMG_0452They really went above and beyond to make us feel confident about our meals and the prices weren’t any higher than regular food. Both restaurants were a great experience. Disney recommends advance notification for sit-down restaurants, but the quick service places (like we went to) are ready to roll with set GF options. It couldn’t be easier! Just tell them you need your meal gluten-free and they take care of everything.

We also cooled off by enjoying their rainbow pops and splurged on (just a few) Mickey Mouse ice cream bars and fruit slushies over the course of the day!  🙂

IMG_0418legosAs we were leaving the park that night, someone told us about “Downtown Disney” which is close to the Magic Kingdom — with free admission and free parking! Of course we just had to check it out the next day!  After tooling around the Lego Store and checking out the huge Lego sculptures all around us, we ventured over to Babycakes, which is in the same building as Pollo Campero and Fresh-A-Peel. Their little bakery was in one corner and it felt so good to be able to tell my girls that they could get whatever they wanted

IMG_5821Morgan chose a lemon cupcake, Lindsey picked a brownie cupcake with mint frosting, and I enjoyed a cookie sandwich, all of which were heavenly.

IMG_5824There was also another window (not shown) that had all kinds of other baked goods in it: doughnuts, banana bread, and much more. We boxed our desserts up and had them after lunch…(after sampling each one first, of course…)

trexextOne of the attractions within Downtown Disney was T-Rex Restaurant, our family’s favorite dining experience of all time, recommended by a fellow Mom, Angel, who is a big supporter of the g-free kid Facebook page

We had THE most fabulous lunch there. It is the most incredible place — huge, realistic-looking & sounding, moving dinosaurs, giant fish tanks, fossils on the walls, volcanoes, color-changing ice cave, meteor showers every 20 minutes — you name it. Besides an amazing atmosphere, the food was outstanding…

trex3Our waitress sent out the Chef, who was super nice. He went through both the kid’s menu and the adult menu with us, telling us exactly how he could make things GF for us. The girls had pasta with white cheddar sauce plus cinnamon apples as a side, and also rotisserie chicken and chips. We split both meals between them so they could both try double the amount of GF foods. I ordered an amazing salad with rotisserie chicken and lots of other stuff on it.
The Chef said he would make
everything himself to assure no cross-contamination, and he also came back out once we started eating to make sure that everything was to our satisfaction, which it totally was.

icecaveI didn’t take any pictures of our food at T-Rex, only because we were just soaking everything in and didn’t want to take anything away from that by worrying about pictures, as I’m sure you can understand. Trust me, though…it was excellent!

beachThe rest of our days in Florida were spent beachcombing, body surfing and just relaxing in the pool…keeping it as cheap as possible. Our indulgences at Downtown Disney may seem like a splurge for cheapskates, but it was so worth it to have such delicious GF food without having to worry about anything. Our girls still talk about it and I know it was an experience we’ll all remember for a very long time….and I truly hope yours is as well. Hopefully this information (and much more at the links below) will give you that “push” you may need to give your g-free kid a memorable experience that you’ll never forget — at Disney… where gluten-free dreams come true… 🙂

To help you plan your trip to Disney, here are fifteen valuable links:

Obviously, in my post, I only touched on a few ways to show your g-free kids a great time in Disney. Please comment below with your own personal experiences at Disney and share more tips and recommendations for other families — thanks!

Snikiddy Review and Giveaway

This post is long overdue…  Snikiddy has been a favorite brand name in our house for the past few years when we first picked up a bag. What kid doesn’t love super-crunchy snacks they can both eat and play with?  We’ve tried a few Snikiddy varieties, but my daughters’ favorite is their grilled cheese puffs, which are little, cheddar-cheese flavored, crunchy balls of gluten-free goodness. They never get sick of them, and if we are buying a bag of Snikiddy, that is the kind they always choose.

IMG_5381Here are the ingredients for the cheese puffs: CORNMEAL, RICE FLOUR, SUNFLOWER AND/OR SAFFLOWER OIL, CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED PASTEURIZED MILK, SALT, ENZYMES), NONFAT MILK, WHEY, SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR.

You won’t see chemicals or artificial colors in these babies. Snikiddy products contain no corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no trans fat, no preservatives, are low in saturated fat and are wheat and gluten free.  It’s a healthier alternative to so many other similar snacks.

We have also tried (and enjoyed) Snikiddy mac n’ cheese puffs, and sea salt and bbq baked fries, but the grilled cheese puffs remain #1 in my girls’ eyes — and in mine. Something about that combination of flavor, texture, size and shape just do it for us I guess… We have yet to try their “Eat Your Vegetables” varieties, but I am hearing good things so far…

Just for fun: My one daughter enjoyed making this origami basketball hoop (below) to toss her cheese balls into. Even if you don’t like your kids to play with their food, this is still something they could easily learn to make. Of course my daughter had to make a whole park to go along with hers!  🙂  Instructions for a simple hoop are on this video.

IMG_5430For more information about Snikiddy, please take a moment to visit their website:  You can find out more about the company & its people at: http://snikiddy.com/about and you can read more about their products here: http://snikiddy.com/products.

So — I’ve got a simple giveaway for you… Snikiddy was kind enough to send me some free product coupons which is what I’ll be giving away.  There will be 3 random winners, each receiving a “free full size product” coupon and a $1 off coupon, which they can redeem themselves at a local retailer.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below, letting me know which Snikiddy snack your child would most like to try if you were to win these coupons.

Giveaway ends at midnight on Thursday, December 6, 2012. Then the 3 winners will be notified, and will have 24 hours to get back to me, otherwise new names will be chosen. U.S. and Canadian residents only please. Thanks for your understanding…

Disclaimer: Snikiddy sent me free product coupons for this giveaway.  I only promised an honest review and was not compensated in any other way. Opinions are my daughters’ and my own.

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