School Presentations Help Teach Classmates About Celiac Disease

When a new school year rolls around, how do you make things as easy as possible for your g-free kid? How do you make peers and a new teacher understand why your child has to be on a special diet?  It is helpful for a child if people are understanding and sympathetic (in a positive way) of why he or she is on a restricted diet and not able to eat certain birthday treats that are sent in, etc.  One option is to write and send everyone letters and lists and hope that they read and understand everything you’re alerting them to. A better option is to get right in there yourself — with a simple classroom presentation — and teach them what Celiac and the gluten-free diet are all about. That is what Erin A. did for her daughter, Eilea, and we both hope that her positive experience provides inspiration for more parents to follow suit.

Erin is one of those stand-out Moms I have met online — through g-free kid’s website, Facebook page and by email. Erin first got in touch with me when she sent in her daughter’s photo for the g-free kids’ online photo album, and one of the things she mentioned was a classroom presentation she was putting together. I could already tell she was an amazing advocate for her gluten-free kid, so I asked her to let me know how it went. I hope you enjoy her summary and photos below. She writes:

“My daughter and I were first inspired by the “Super Celiac costume that you created for your daughter, Morgan, last Halloween. I made a similar costume for my daughter, Eilea, who enjoyed choosing her favorite colors of material and gemstones to decorate the costume with. She also wore one of the Tribandz awareness bracelets to complete her ensemble.

I then took it a step further and decided to make a presentation to my daughter’s first grade class, to let them know a little about Celiac and being gluten free. As I was thinking about what to do, I realized that most of the information that Eilea and I wanted to share with the kids was included in the children’s book, “Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?” so I decided to make it the focus of our presentation.

I first got in touch with my daughter’s teacher to arrange the presentation date and time. (A presentation like this might take all of 15 minutes, give or take, so it should be easy enough to fit it in).  When it came time to make the presentation, Eilea was excused from class for a few minutes so I could help her put her costume on over her school uniform.  Eilea then waited in the hall until I gave her the signal to come in.

I went back into the classroom and helped the teacher gather the kids around for the presentation.  I pretended to wonder where Eilea was, then decided to start without her, welcoming the kids and thanking them for letting us share this information.  Eilea came in the room then and I said, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s SUPER CELIAC GIRL!!”

Eilea came to sit next to me and we proceeded to read, “Mommy, What is Celiac Disease?” together to the class.  (The book is written with a dialogue so that a parent can read their lines and a child can read theirs, too, if you wish to read it aloud together.)

When we finished the book, we answered any questions the kids had and helped explain some of the things in the book.  Everyone particularly liked the part where the grass being flattened down is like the villi in her intestines.

Super Celiac Girl then served some gluten-free snacks to her classmates and teacher.  Everyone was able to enjoy a small Dixie cup full of Snyder’s GF Pretzels, Annie’s GF Snickerdoodle Bunny Snacks and Annie’s GF Chocolate and Vanilla Bunny Snacks.  The snacks got rave reviews, especially the Snyder’s pretzels.

I also created a handout for the kids to read over and bring home to share with their parents about Celiac disease and being gluten free, which Eilea proudly handed out to her classmates.

The presentation was a hit, Eilea felt so special being the center of attention, and her peers and teacher learned a lot about Celiac and the gluten-free diet through the book, our Q&A session and the handout. It was totally worthwhile.

We hope that we’ve been able to help spread awareness about Celiac and the gluten-free diet. This year I also plan to give all of her teachers a letter explaining her diet and the need for diligence in keeping her snacks safe.  She’s very good about not eating something questionable but we can use all the help we can get.  I’m planning on leaving a box of non-refrigerated GF snacks that can be left in the classroom for those unexpected treat days.  I also plan to communicate with the teacher in order to get a list of birthdays and planned celebrations so that we can be ready with treats when they’re needed.”

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Many thanks to Erin for sharing her experience. Please comment below if you have done something similar for/with your g-free kid — or if this gives you just the push you needed to get out there for the first time and do it yourself!  🙂  You can do it, and your child will thank you for it!

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

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Please note:  As a mom of a daughter with Celiac and another daughter with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) I also believe that helping spread awareness of the latter condition is equally as important as Celiac. Just because your g-free kid is GF for reasons other than Celiac doesn’t mean you couldn’t hold a presentation like the one above. There are a number of other children’s books (that don’t focus on Celiac disease) that you could use instead. The most important thing is that you are helping those around your g-free kid to better understand why he or she is on a special diet. I will continue to try to fill this website with helpful resources that will allow you to do just that. Thanks for the support.

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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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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Psssst:  Have you seen the photo album of g-free kids and g-free kids’ stuff page yet? For much more in between posts, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet & salty shamrocks:

Sweet & salty dragonflies:

Simple flowers:

and M&M buttons & nonpariel buttons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Simple ideas for your special, little gluten-free Valentine

Valentine’s Day brings plenty of opportunities to make your g-free kid feel extra loved — as well as show love to others — around the clock. A little creativity, some thoughtfulness, a cookie cutter and a few other supplies can go a long way in making your g-free kid feel like a very special Valentine by the end of next week…

Here are some quick ways we make things seem “Valentinesy” (as we say) for the weeks surrounding the big day:

FOR THEM:  One of our “go-to” treats — for any occasion — is chocolate dipped marshmallow pops. These couldn’t be easier and I’ve never met a kid who didn’t love them. We make and send them in to almost every class party and my girls always say they were a hit. All you have to do is stick a skewer into each marshmallow, dip them in melted chocolate, add sprinkles, put on wax paper and set in the freezer. Just change up the sprinkles depending on the holiday and they are a festive addition to any occasion.

With your handy-dandy cookie cutter, make heart shaped pizzas. For these we just rolled out part of the dough and cut them out, then topped them individually. Or even easier — just make regular pizzas and use a cookie cutter after it’s cooled. Moms like me are always happy to eat the leftover scraps!  🙂

FOR OTHERS:  Make simple peanut clusters. Just fill cookie cutters up partway (depending on how thick you want them) with melted chocolate mixed with peanuts, decorate with sprinkles if you’d like, then let them set in the freezer for a while before you pop them right out.

Or let your kids make free-form peanut clusters, too!

FOR FUN:  Remember and repeat — life is not all about food. When each upcoming holiday nears, I let my daughters become designers extraordinaire… Decorations come up from the basement and I let them decorate this shelf in our living room however they want.

This is Lindsey’s most recent creation (she was sick that day and Morgan was somewhere else, so she was even more excited to do this one solo). Putting a bunch of decorations in one spot has a lot more impact than sprinkling them around the house, and my kids are free to revisit and rearrange as they see fit.

So many ideas, so little time… What are some simple things you let your g-free kid do for Valentines Day?  Do tell!  🙂

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*Also, please stay tuned for 2 special things just for kids:  4 Valentines Day cards for g-free kids to color (as soon as I finish drawing them!) and a mini kids-size giveaway. Should be up in a day or two… thanks!