Monday, January 31, 2011

2011 Resolutions Update

I've decided to write a monthly update on how my 2011 goals are coming along, mainly because I think it will keep me motivated.  I would dread having nothing to update! 

My main goal this month, particularly concerning the blog was to post every day.  I signed up to the bloggymoms blog dare to post every day in 2011 to keep me motivated.  So far, so good.  I wasn't immediately inspired every day, but it did help me organize somewhat of a posting schedule.  Menu Plan Mondays (today is an exception) and Wordless Wednesdays have worked out well for me so far.  I'm looking forward to perhaps participating in a regular blog hop or having a specific weekly recipe posting day. 

On the home front, I finally put up a mirror that's been sitting in my closet for over a year and bought an area rug for my family room, which were priorities.  My husband and I got a night out, and I made time to see a few friends on my own as well.  That was a big one for me, because I often get so caught up in my responsibilities that I forget to make time for fun!  We've started going out as a family on Saturday mornings, and since our local library has a play area for kids and a huge selection of book and videos, I think we'll be spending many Saturday mornings there.  We even managed to reschedule our family photo session that we had planned way back in November.  I can't wait to get the pictures!

Looking forward toward February, I have a few priorities.  I'd like to get the first draft of my thesis done and sent off to my supervisor.  My husband and I have some big expenses this year, including a trip to visit my husband's family, our 5th wedding anniversary, and a wedding.  Potentially two.  So... budgeting and cutting back will be the theme for February, despite my son's 2nd birthday, and Valentine's Day, and my husband's brother flying in for a visit...  I'm sure other things will arise as the month goes on, but money is priority number one.  I'll let you know how it goes when I check back in at the end of February!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Getting Ready for Superbowl Part 1

I must confess, I love football.  I know. I'm Canadian. But for those of you who don't know, we happen to be HUGE football fans in this country.  So huge, in fact, that not only do we cheer for the NFL, but we also have our own league, the CFL.  Just because we like hockey doesn't mean we don't like a bit of off ice sports as well.

This year is the first time I'll have to worry about preparing for the big game gluten free styles, so I thought I would organize a couple of posts about offering gluten free goodies that everyone can enjoy. This post is about snacks, and I'll follow it up in a few days with some simple meal and drink ideas.

When I think of a Super Bowl Sunday, I think chips, wings, beer and chili, and that's all possible to offer gluten free.  If I'm hosting, I don't see the need to prepare separate options for those who are gluten free and those who aren't.  It's extra work, and trying to ensure that no cross-contamination happens over the course of several hours when finger foods are involved is just too much of a headache for me.  Instead, I'm planning a Gluten (and dairy) Free Super Bowl party.  And no one will be the wiser.

Snack Ideas:

Potato Chips: Many regular potato chip brands are gluten free if you buy salted or plain.  Add a gluten free dip and everyone's happy.

Pretzels: I love pretzels, and recently discovered that Glutino makes awesome pretzels.  I like to eat them dipped in mustard.  Others like melted cheese.

Party Mix: Chex makes a gluten free party mix, or make your own.

Marshmallows: Bowls of multi-coloured mini-marshmallows can be strategically chosen to match team colours.

Vegetable Tray/Fruit Tray:  Healthier options to provide some variety.

Nachos or Tortilla Chips: Tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, or a bean dip is always a crowd pleaser.

Chicken Wings: Store-bought chicken wings can be tricky, because often the sauce is not gluten free.  Making them yourself with a homemade sauce or a store-bought gluten free sauce is a safer option.  Look for some options when I post the meal recipes later this week.

Jalapeño Poppers: Made with gluten free breadcrumbs of course!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs: Make 'em mini and they're a great snack food

Deviled Eggs: Don't laugh.  Everyone makes fun of them, but I've yet to be at a party where there were any left over at the end of the night.

Assorted Olives/Appetizer Platter: olives, pickles, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, etc.

Shrimp Ring: Defrost, add seafood sauce, serve. 

Coming up in the next Super Bowl post, quick and easy meal ideas for your Super Bowl bash, even if it's just a quiet gathering for two!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Welcome to the weekend

For some reason I feel as though this has been a VERY long week, so I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home with my family.  I've got a few recipes to try out and hopefully some of them will be yummy enough to post to the blog.  I've also got some party planning to get to, as the Super Bowl is coming up, and then Valentine's Day, and my son's 2nd birthday.....on second thought, this weekend has wiped me out before it's even begun! 

Oh, and considering my 100 books in 2011 challenge, a trip to the library should probably be on the list!  I have so many books I want to read, I now have an excuse to make them a priority.  There may be some academic books on there since I've still got some reading to do for my masters, so don't be confused if you click on the book list page and see some pretty heavy stuff.  I hope I'll be able to get to 100 without them, but I'm not ruling them out!  If anyone has any recommendations for a great read, I'd love to hear them.  I'm hoping to expand my normal interests over the course of the challenge.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

10 Gluten Free Breakfast Ideas

Trying to find something different to feed my son every morning can be difficult, so here's a simple go-to list of breakfast basic that are delicious for the whole family. 

***Updated September 2013



1- Eggs: scrambled, fried, boiled.  Add some bacon or sausage, fruit or GF toast. Need some recipes? Try one of these 5 Egg Breakfast Ideas. 






2- Smoothies: a little water or milk, fresh or frozen fruit and some honey. Try a Strawberry-Banana Breakfast Smoothie, or one of these Three Smoothie Recipes









3- Rice Cereal, Quinoa Cereal, or Oatmeal (if you can have oats): I add some raisins, brown sugar and soy milk.  If oats are an option, a gluten free granola can be made in advance and eaten all week. Try my recipe for Gluten Free Cranberry Walnut Granola.
  







4- Gluten Free Pancakes or Waffles: Frozen, from a mix, or from scratch, with some fresh fruit. Pancakes can be made in advance, frozen, and popped in the toaster for a quick morning meal. My recipe for Homemade Pancakes is simple.





5- Fruit salad: with GF granola or a boiled egg


6- GF cereal bar: for those mornings on the run and some fruit or a smoothie


7- GF Cereal: with dairy-free milk. Chex, Rice Krispies, and other popular brands are now available gluten free.

8- Yogurt parfait: Layer yogurt, fruit, nuts, seeds or grains and drizzle with some honey or agave for a touch of sweetness.

9- GF toast: with sun butter, peanut butter, etc., as a side or on its own. My son likes toasted corn tortillas, which are cheaper and have fewer ingredients. Tortillas are easy to make at home, freeze well, and can be popped in the toaster. Try my simple Recipe for Corn Tortillas.




10- Breakfast burrito or Eggs with Beans: Scramble some eggs with whatever veggies you like and wrap it all up in a tortilla. Or, try a typical Latin American breakfast with eggs, beans, avocado, cheese, and thicker, soft corn tortillas.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

100 Books in a year reading challenge

Because I love to read, and well, because I don't already have enough on my plate, I couldn't resist joining the 100 Books in 2011 Challenge on Book Chick City's site.  I may add a page or something to chronicle my reads, and occasionally I might do a book review if something really catches my attention. 

I can't promise that all the books will be great works of literature (ok, I'm guessing that most of them won't be), so don't judge!  The goal is 100 books this year.

Here I go.....

Wordless Wednesday

Since the snow condition hasn't changed here, I will post yet another couple of inspirational, warm weather photos!

  
Siwa, Western Desert, Egypt

Hurghada, Red Sea, Egypt

Siwa, Western Desert, Egypt

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

White Bean, Spinach and Chicken Meatball Soup

 

This is a soup I make often because it really is simple to make and everyone loves it. It's gluten and dairy free, but still filling enough to serve as a complete meal.

For a thicker consistency, blend some of the soup before putting in the meatballs. It's a great way to get your kids to eat their beans and greens!


Ingredients 
Soup                                                                                      
2 tbsp. olive oil                                                                                                
1 sweet onion, diced                                                                                        
3 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                     
4 cups gluten free chicken broth or vegetable broth                                
1 (28 oz.) can tomatoes, pureed (Optional.  If you don't like tomatoes, add more broth)                                                           
1 (15oz.) can white beans, rinsed
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed

Meatballs
1 lb. ground chicken
1 egg
1/2 cup GF bread crumbs
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary (optional)

Directions

1- Prepare meatballs:  Mix chicken, egg, bread crumbs, salt & pepper and rosemary in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Form into small meatballs and place on a non-stick baking pan (approx. 30-40 mini meatballs.) Bake meatballs at 350F until cooked through, approx. 15 min.

2- While meatballs are cooking, in a large pot, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until soft, approx. 5 min. Add chicken broth, tomatoes if using, and spinach.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.

3- Remove meatballs from oven and set aside.

4- Add beans to soup.  If you want a thicker soup, puree a bit with an immersion blender until desired thickness is achieved.  Add meatballs after blending. 

Serve with some grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. 

When cooked, add beans and meatballs to soup and heat through.  Adjust seasoning.  Serve with some grated parmesan if desired.

*** I like to make a meal out of it by cooking up some macaroni or small shell noodles in a separate pot and adding them to the soup when serving.  Rice would also work nicely.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Menu Plan

Daycare Lunch Menu

Monday: Sheppard's Pie
Tuesday: Chicken burger with rice
Wednesday: Sweet and sour Meatballs with rice and vegetables
Thursday: Pasta with peas
Friday: Soup and quesadillas (vegetarian nachos)

Dinner Menu

Monday: Rice noodles and steamed vegetables with sweet and sour sauce, leftover oven roasted chicken
Tuesday: White bean, spinach, and chicken meatball soup and leftover rice noodles and vegetables
Wednesday: Pasta with sun dried tomatoes and spinach in a garlic and oil sauce and salad
Thursday: Vegetarian Nachos with kidney beans, salsa and homemade guacamole
Friday: Leftover soup, stuffed zucchini and Spanish- style rice

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sometimes things happen for a reason

On Friday, I whined a little about not being able to leave on our trip to visit friends in Gatineau, Quebec, just outside of Ottawa.  Click here for a refresher.  Today I realize that sometimes things happen for a reason.

This morning, Ottawa woke up to a balmy -25C, -39C with the windchill.  For those of you who go by Fahrenheit, that's -13F with a windchill of -38.2F.  Not that it was much warmer here; we enjoyed a lovely -32C or -25.6F with the wind factored in, but at least we could just hunker down and keep out of the cold.  I spent the time watching football and cooking up a storm for the week ahead.  My menu plan will be posted tomorrow. 

Tonight I'm going to try baking some bread from the Bob's Red Mill bread mix.  I've had some trouble finding a GF bread that I like enough to just eat on its own, and I'm still a little wary of trying to bake one from scratch, so this seems like a good compromise.  I'll post the results.  Tonight I'm looking forward to curling up on the couch, flipping between tennis and football, with a slice of warm homemade bread and perhaps a nice glass of wine..... Enjoy your Sunday night!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Infinitea Tea Room and Gluten Free Bakery

Today I had the chance to stop by a new gluten free bakery and tea room just around the corner from my house. The tea room, Infinitea, is part of a larger natural health store and clinical practice, all under the banner Body and Mind.  I stopped in today because I received a flyer in the mail about the gluten free items available in the tea room.

The store is located near the back of a strip mall, making it a little difficult to see from the street, but the tea room is spacious and clean and is attached to a small health food store, stocked almost entirely with gluten free foods.   

Tea Room:  The tea room offers loose leaf tea for purchase, as well as an assortment of tea pots, portable cups, and other accessories.  The baker is in during the week only, and bakes fresh gluten free muffins, cookies, scones and other treats.  The bakery also offers gluten free meal options, such as a GF chicken sandwich with goat cheese.  They only serve lunch, so I'll have to return on a week day to try it out.

Store:  The store was packed with many of the most popular gluten free brands, at competitive prices.  The selection of Bob's Red Mill had mixes that I haven't been able to find at any other store.  The frozen section had a great selection of frozen breads and baked goods, as well as frozen GF entrées at reasonable prices.

The tea room and store are not open most evenings, which can be a bit of an inconvenience, but I'm hoping that as they get established they will increase their hours.  The clerk was knowledgeable and polite, and the selection was quite good.  The website focuses mostly on the medical practice and health products available for order online, but does provide some information about the tea room.  A link to a separate website for the tea room is under construction.

Definitely a place I will go back to, especially if I want to take my son somewhere close by to have a quick lunch or a fresh baked treat!

Friday, January 21, 2011

All that work....

So...we were supposed to leave on our road trip to la belle province this afternoon.  All the items on my checklist had been checked:
-clothing packed
-vitamins, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. packed
-toys and activities for the car
-gluten free snacks and a spill proof cup
-towels, blankets, pillows, you know, just in case
-the list goes on.  

What did I not have?  A healthy toddler.  Sigh.  The daycare called this morning to tell me that my little one had already experienced 3, count 'em 3 bouts of diarrhea.  By 10:30 a.m.

We picked him up early, and by 5:00 p.m. that count had gone to 6.  So, with all of our road trip items piled by the front door we called our friends and apologized for having to cancel. 

I don't think we've fully given up on the idea though, because we refuse to move the bags from the front door, hoping that he'll feel good enough to set out in the morning.  Wishful thinking, I know.  But it's all we've got right now.  The more reasonable option will probably be to reschedule for next weekend, although I was looking forward to visiting that wonderful sounding bakery I posted here.  I guess another week won't kill me.  And the brownies I baked once I realized we wouldn't be leaving tonight will have to do as a substitute for the french pastries I was looking forward to sampling.  All in the name of research for this blog, of course.  Oh well, as they say, c'est la vie!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vietnamese Style Fresh Spring Rolls

I have recently started making fresh rolls using rice paper, and I love making them as appetizers or as a healthy lunch option with some soup or a side salad.  I've experimented with different ingredients, but this is the basic one I go back to most often.

Ingredients

10 rice papers
100 grams thin rice noodles (in a package with 4 bundles, use 1 bundle)
2 carrots, cut in matchsticks
1 cucumber, in matchsticks
1 mango, sliced in thin strips
1 yellow bell paper, in thin strips
1 handful lettuce, shredded
1 handful chopped parsley or cilantro
1 tbsp. sesame oil (optional)
1 tsp. rice vinegar (optional)
1/4 tsp. sugar (optional)

Directions
1- Cook rice noodles as directed.  Drain.  Mix sesame oil, rice vinegar and sugar if using and toss with noodles.
2- In a large bowl, fill halfway with very warm water.  Work with one sheet of rice paper at a time, finishing entire process before beginning the next roll.  Dip rice paper in water until soft.  Check instructions on package for soaking time.  On a clean surface, lay rice paper flat and place some lettuce in the middle.
3- Place some carrot, pepper, mango, cucumbers, herbs and rice noodles on the lettuce.
4- Fold one edge of rice paper over the middle and tuck under.  Fold in the ends and roll over once more to close. 
5- Slice each roll in half.
Serve with dipping sauce of choice.  I prefer a ginger chili sauce.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Where I would like to be today....
Eze, the south of France


Nice, the South of France





Where I am today...
Ontario, Canada

Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A city mourns

Today in Toronto is the funeral for a police officer who lost his life in the line of duty.  I normally don't blog about news items, but I'm making an exception.  Sgt. Ryan Russell was the first police officer to die in the line of duty in Toronto in almost a decade.  At 35 years old, his death leaves behind his wife and his two year old son.  As the mother of a 23 month old, I feel for the woman who is left to raise her son alone, and for the son who will grow up without his father. 

Watching the funeral on television, I'm heartened but not surprised to see the enormous outpouring of support.  The convention centre downtown will be packed with mourners and supporters from across Canada.  The procession of officers and fire service workers from every part of the nation has shut down streets in the downtown core and the sight of so many marching in acknowledgment of the ultimate sacrifice is quite moving.  The funeral home where the viewing took place over the weekend saw people lining up for hours in the freezing cold for the chance to pay their respects.   

Hopefully in the years to come, Sgt. Russell's wife and son will be able to draw strength from the knowledge that his sacrifice was appreciated and mourned not just across this city, but throughout the nation.  We often take for granted the work of those on the front lines everyday, particularly in a city that loses so few of them.  Today is a day to remember, to mourn and to say thank you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Menu Plan

Daycare Lunch Menu
(This is the menu the daycare has for this week's rotation.  I supply a comparable GF meal for my son)
Monday: Chicken in Mushroom Cream Sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Corn
Tuesday: Sloppy Joe with mixed vegetables (turkey chili in this case)
Wednesday: Stir fry with mixed vegetables
Thursday: Pasta with meat and tomato sauce
Friday: Soup and Pizza Squares


Dinner Menu

Monday: Turkey chili over rice
Tuesday: Sweet and sour chicken with pineapple and red peppers and mashed potatoes
Wednesday: Black bean soup, tortilla chip nachos with leftover turkey chili, salsa and a side salad
Thursday: French onion soup with GF bread and mozzarella cheese (no cheese for the little one), fritatta
Friday: Curry chicken thighs with rice, mushrooms and mixed vegetables

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gluten Free in Ottawa, ON & Gatineau, QC

We're going on a road trip!  Next weekend, if the weather cooperates, we're heading to the Gatineau area of Quebec, just across the border from Ottawa, Ontario to visit some friends.  I'm excited about going on a little mini-break and practicing my French again (it's been a while).  I'm also excited to check out their gluten free offerings!  Below is a short list of some of the places I hope to find time to visit:

Zen Kitchen 634 Somerset St. W, Ottawa ON.  The menu states whether an item is gluten free, and most are.  Some even state that they can be prepared gluten free.

The Table Restaurant  1230 Wellington St., Ottawa, ON.  A buffet style vegetarian restaurant that offers gluten-free mains and desserts.

La Dolce Vita 180 Preston St., Ottawa, ON.  A restaurant with a separate gluten free menu including pizza and pasta.  Also offers take-out and delivery.

Patisserie Fine Fidélice 625 de la Gappe Blvd., Gatineau, QC, with another location in Hull.  Offers a range of gluten free baked goods and cakes.  Attached is the English pdf menu.

Casa Nicastro  304 Preston St., Ottawa, ON.  An Italian fine food shop with an entire section dedicated to gluten free foods.

La Boîte à Grains 581 St-Joseph Blvd., Hull, QC. A grocery retailer offering gluten free foods.  English website not as well developed as the French.

Molto Ristorante  131 Promenade du Portage, Gatineau, QC.  Many gluten free menu items, and any pasta dish can be prepared using gluten free pasta.

Just a small sampling of what I've been able to find, but my goal is to visit one grocer, one restaurant, and definitely one bakery.  Quebec has its own brand of gluten free beer as well.  Beer's not my drink of choice, but I am curious to try one and see how it stacks up against a traditional lager.  I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The accidental (almost) gluten free book club

Last night I went to my friend's place for our book club gathering.  I love book club for a few reasons.  I love to read, so getting together with other people who love to read for the sole purpose of discussing books is a little slice of heaven for me.  I also love that due to our diverse tastes, I find that often the choice of book is not one that I would otherwise have picked up on my own; this has helped me expand my interests and as a result I've discovered some new authors that I now love.  I get to see former colleagues that I otherwise probably wouldn't have kept in regular touch with.  The book club has been going strong for ten years, with members coming and going, but the club has never disbanded and never taken a hiatus, something that I find amazing.  We've been together through marriages, babies, moves (two members are currently out of country and one spent a year abroad but jumped right back in upon his return), retirement, family triumphs and tragedies, and much, much more.  We share good food, good wine, good books (usually), and good conversation. 

And last night, we shared an unintentionally gluten free main course.  My friend Linda created an almost entirely gluten free meal without even trying.  Besides the pita bread and the coffee cake (which I brought), here's the GF menu:

Veggie sticks and hummus
Shrimp and vegetable paella
Strawberry salad on a bed of mixed greens and almonds (the dressing was even GF, I checked)
Baked asparagus
Wine, Water and coffee

A few months ago, I wouldn't have even noticed.  And that's what makes me the happiest about the whole evening; that someone put together a GF meal without it being an obvious Gf meal to those who are not gluten-free.  So often the mention of my son being gluten free elicits such sympathetic reactions that its as though he can't eat anything but mush for the rest of his life.  Thoughts automatically go to what he can't eat, rather than the huge assortment of everyday, regular foods that he can.  And last night's meal was just another example of how gluten free food can be healthy, delicious, and a first choice go to, not a second place substitute. 

Yet another reason why I love my book club friends.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I think I need to loosen up....

So I'm new at this whole blogging thing, and I really started blogging as a way to connect with other people. I love browsing for ideas on all sorts of things, and reading about how others handle the ups and downs of their lives, both personally and professionally.  I took the plunge into blogging to look fo support from others coping with gluten issues and their lives, and to offer any advice that I could as I got more experienced with the topic.  I also wanted to blog about my work, my experiences, my life.... but for some reason I kept limiting myself as to what I would post.  I felt as though my posts should all be related to gluten/celiac, and as a result kept refusing to write about things that I felt like writing about. 

I've decided that I need to loosen up. 

The bulk of this blog will definitely be dedicated to gluten free living because that's what I always intended it to be, but I'm going to give myself a break and lose the rigidity that I've been trying to maintain for some unknown reason.  I'm toying with the idea of beginning another blog to discuss my writing, my research, and my other adventures, but I'm not ready for that yet.  Right now I'm just excited to be blogging at all, to be meeting new and interesting people, and to be learning the ins and outs of the blogging world.  Like how to make my links open up in new windows, for example.  But that's a post for another day. 

I know why this has been challenging for me.  It's the rule loving teacher in me who's afraid to let my creativity loose.  It's the fear that I may not actually have as much creativity to let loose as I think I do.  Whatever.  My favourite blogs to read are the ones where I learn about the person behind the blog, behind the information that I'm seeking or the resource that they're offering.  So I will put myself out there and share my life, gluten issues or no gluten issues, the way that I want to.

I'm grateful that I signed up to the blog dare, so that I've been compelled to write every day, because without it, I think I would have been content to limit myself to only posting occasionally and to keeping an overly narrow focus to the blog.  I love a challenge though, and posting every day has already been much more challenging that I would have ever expected.  But with my new open approach to blogging, the rest of January at least should be a breeze! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gluten Free Dining

Below you will find links to fast food eateries and chain restaurants that have gluten free menu information on their websites.  Please ensure that the information on the website is accurate and up-to-date should you choose to eat at a particular location.  This list is for information purposes only.  The list will be updated regularly, so check back often!

Arby's
Baskin Robbins
Chili's
Dairy Queen
Jack Astor's
Kelsey's
Montana's Cookhouse
Outback Steakhouse
Taco del Mar
Wendy's

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest Post: The Gluten-free Diet in Social Settings

I want to thank Wendy Rose from www.CandyHeartsBlog.com for this guest post.  She agreed to share some tips on how her family manages to go gluten-free in social situations without missing out on all the fun!  Please check out her fabulous blog for more great posts on everything gluten-free!

Wendy Rose has been a Registered Nurse for 16 years.  After spending most of her career at the bedside in the Emergency Room, the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, and Labor & Delivery, she currently works from home as a Pediatric Telephone Triage Nurse.

Wendy’s oldest daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2005, at the age of 24 months and Celiac Disease in 2008, at the age of 5 years.  Wendy herself was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2009.  Balancing the demands of her daughter’s blood sugar management while maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle; on top of her role as wife and mother; in addition to maintaining her nursing career can be a challenge at times.  She documents her family’s journey at www.CandyHeartsBlog.com.

Wendy and her husband, Jason, have been married for 10 years.  They have three daughters, ages 7, 5, and 3.  Wendy also has a 13 year old step-daughter who does not live in their area, but visits once a year.  The family resides in the Sonoran Desert with their rescue dog, Ivy.

Managing a gluten-free diet in social settings can be intimidating.  With a little time and preparation, however, it doesn't have to be.
When my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac in 2008, I was pretty sure we were doomed.  We were already dealing with her diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes a few years earlier, and I just didn't have the confidence that I would be able to rise to the (gluten-free) occasion.  Fortunately, I was able to connect with some gluten-free veterans right away, and they were incredibly instrumental in helping to get us on track.  I, myself, was diagnosed with Celiac in 9/09.  By then, however, I had tackled the gluten-free challenge and was ready to win at this game.
 
Below you'll find a list of common social situations, along with tips for managing them.  Keep in mind that this is how we do things.  My daughter had a repeat endoscopy 6 months after eating completely gluten-free, and the biopsy result revealed "No Evidence of Celiac."  For both of us, repeated labwork continues to confirm that we have been able to maintain normalcy since returning to acceptable levels.  These accommodations obviously work for us, but you will have to use your own discretion before implementing them into your routine.  So, there's your disclaimer...now on with the show!
  
Classroom and Birthday Parties: I make a batch of gluten free cupcakes using the modified GF Betty Crocker recipe found in THIS blog post.  After they've cooled completely, I frost, decorate, and freeze them overnight in a single layer before putting them into freezer bags the next day.  Then I keep half in the freezer at home and send the other half to be stored in a freezer at school.  Whenever you need a cupcake, you just pull one out and it'll be thawed in about 15 minutes!
 
 
Whenever it's our turn to provide a class snack, I tend to send something in the Fruit Roll Up category.  Not only are these snacks easy for the teacher to pass out, but they come nicely prepackaged with the carbohydrate amount listed (necessary for the management of her blood sugar), AND they're gluten free (BONUS!) 
For birthdays at pizza joints, I bring along our own pizza.  At one of the most popular places in our area, I actually bring an uncooked pizza on a cookie sheet lined with foil, they run it through the oven, and then I slice it using our very own handy dandy pizza cutter.  It works.  And it's always fun!
 
 
Potlucks:  I generally bring the same kid-friendly dishes whenever we participate in a potluck...baked macaroni and cheese using THIS recipe (minus the breadcrumbs and usingJules Gluten Free instead of regular flour) along with a pan of Coconut Chocolate Nirvana Bars(HELLO DELICIOUS!!).  Our family's favorite pastas include Schar and Quinoa, but I'm sure any gluten-free pasta would work well.  By bringing both a main dish and a dessert, I am able to relax knowing that my daughter will enjoy the party with some of her favorite foods!  On a side note, I NEVER have leftovers to bring home.  Everyone raves over these dishes...it's a win-win!  Who needs gluten?
I also try to arrive a little early for potluck-style gatherings, and bring along some GF corn chipsand/or a box of GF crackers or Nut Thins.  I tend to start perusing the various dips and whatnot before the line forms and, unashamedly, scoop out some of the the dips I deem to be GF so I can set them aside before the rest of the party begins contaminating them with gluten containing crackers and such.
 
 
Sleepovers:  We don't have much experience with sleepovers away from home.  The bottom line is that sending Type 1 Diabetes to a sleepover is hard!  There's all that carb counting and insulin dosing...not to mention at least 1 (though usually 2 - 3) finger pricks during the night, plus it's imperative that someone understand how to respond to each blood glucose reading.  Type 1 Diabetes just makes it so complicated.  For this reason, we're usually the ones hosting a sleepover.  


Anything I offer at the party will be gluten free.  Whether it's popcorn with a movie, gluten-free sugar cookies to decorate, or gluten-free waffles for breakfast.  No one ever complains, and there's never any awkwardness because this IS our normal.  
 

Speaking of those sugar cookies, I also wanted to mention that I keep some of that dough on hand in the freezer. You never know when you'll need a sugar cookie, especially around holidays.  It seems that cookie decorating is a popular holiday activity.  I bought a big tub of cookie cutters for every occasion...need a heart shape for Valentine's day?  DONE!  Pumpkin?  Christmas tree?  Kissing Hand, perhaps?  Done, done, and done!  Just pull off a chunk from the freezer, cut out the shape you need, bake and move on.
 
 
Anyway, my daughter has participated in 2 sleepovers away from home.  The first was at a neighbor's house, and the second was with a friend who is also raising a daughter with both Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.  For obvious reasons, I didn't worry much about the latter, but I did spend a little time strategically planning for the first one.  Fortunately, our neighbor is incredibly accommodating and understanding of the special dietary issues we face.  I sent over a few gluten-free snacks (though she was already prepared with some of her own!) along with a frozen gluten-free waffle AND our gluten-free toaster for breakfast.  What?  Doesn't everyone bring their own toaster to a sleepover?
No matter what social situation you're headed to, gluten shouldn't stop you.  By creatively preparing ahead of time, you're sure to make some awesome memories while enjoying your favorite foods!  Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Menu Plan

Daycare Lunch Plan

Monday: Macaroni
Tuesday: Fish fillet with green beans 
Wednesday: Tacos with corn and salad
Thursday: Baked Pasta with green beans
Friday: Soup with quiche (leftover egg drop soup and frittata)

Dinner Plan

Monday: Chicken drumsticks with mashed potatoes and broccoli 
Tuesday: Egg drop soup with mushrooms and green onions, rice paper rolls
Wednesday: Beans and rice with leftover chicken drumsticks
Thursday: Fritatta with pork sausage and vegetables
Friday: Pizza with side salad

Keeping things simple: I always keep the daycare stocked with frozen fish, hamburger and chicken fingers from home.  The sausages are homemade, my dad makes a batch each year and we freeze them.  For the pizza, I prefer the Kinnikinik single serve crusts; I can make as much or as little as I want, and keep the rest frozen).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Homemade Corn Tortillas with all the fixings

Last night my husband and I went over to a friend's place to participate in an experiment:  make corn tortillas from scratch.  Soaking and grinding the corn, making the dough, pressing and cooking the tortillas.  Very labor intensive stuff, but a lot of fun.  After a few mishaps (note to self:  corn must be DRY before putting through the grinder), we figured it out and pumped out at least a hundred tortillas to serve the guests that were due to arrive at seven.

The meal was not intended to be gluten free; our son was being babysat by my parents, and we were free to eat what we wanted.  I realized later however, that it was indeed a gluten free feast!

Corn tortillas
Refried beans
Ground pork and seasonings
Grilled fish
Guacamole
Tomato, onion and cilantro salad
Shredded lettuce
Bean salad with grilled corn and green onion

The food was filling and delicious, and no one even missed the gluten.  We couldn't have had a better gluten free party if we'd tried!  I think next time though, I'll make the tortillas from pre-ground corn.  Although I have to say it was quite fun to work from scratch.  Definitely something everyone should try at least once. 

Of course we forgot to take photos, or I'd post them here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

*Updated June 2013

I love this recipe because it's so easy to tweak the recipe to just a little to completely alter the flavours of the dish.  This is the basic recipe, the one that I started with.  Perfect for a cold night, keeps well, travels well and tastes delicious!  I've based the number of peppers on a four person serving of 1 pepper per person.  There will be leftover stuffing, so you could definitely add another pepper or two.

Ingredients

4 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow)
1 cup rice
1 lb. extra lean ground beef (chicken or turkey work well too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen vegetables (mix of peas, carrots and corn)
1 cup shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese (optional)
1 jar tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 400F

Directions

1- Cut tops off peppers.  Trim bottoms so that peppers stand alone, but avoid making large holes in the bottom. Place peppers in a casserole dish.
2- Cook rice according to package instructions.  For more flavour, cook in a gluten free vegetable of beef broth instead of plain water.  Remove from heat and put aside.
3- In a large frying pan, cook ground meat over medium-high heat until cooked through.  Add minced garlic and frozen vegetables and cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off heat and stir in rice.  Mix to combine.
4- Fill peppers with rice mixture.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20-25 until peppers begin to wrinkle and look cooked through. Put aside extra stuffing for another meal or stuff extra peppers to freeze.
5- Remove foil and ladle tomato sauce over peppers.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Return to oven uncovered until cheese bubbles.
6- Serve peppers with side vegetables or a salad.

Tips
- To freeze peppers for later, freeze stuffed, but before baking in the oven.  Cook from frozen.
- To use as a side dish, cut peppers in half and lie them on their sides in the baking dish.  Fill halves and serve as a side dish.
-For BBQ peppers, stir in BBQ sauce while cooking meat and omit tomato sauce.
-Vegetarian: omit meat and use lentils instead.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yogurt mishap

So last night I was all smug and excited.  I had been told by various medical professionals that for some people who have celiac or gluten intolerance that the ability to digest dairy products can sometimes return after being on a gluten free diet for long enough to heal their damaged intestines.  A difficulty digesting dairy is very common for those who also can't process gluten, but apparently just a temporary problem for a lucky few. 

I am lactose intolerant, so I know all about the side effects of consuming too many dairy products.  I am able to tolerate some dairy, however, and I was encouraged to be told from the pediatric allergist that we went to see for my son that some dairy products are better tolerated by lactose intolerant people than others, such as yogurt and hard cheeses.  She suggested that since my son has been on a gluten free diet for a few months now that we might be able to introduce some goats' milk or some regular yogurt and see how it goes. 

So I did, two nights ago.  Organic, toddler yogurt, sweetened with fruit juice.  No gluten.  And yesterday, he was fine.  So I gave him another one last night, thinking that perhaps yogurt could be reintroduced into his diet.  Especially since he has recently decided that he no longer likes the soy yogurt I used to buy him.

I was wrong.

This morning was....unpleasant.  Let me just say that his unhappy bowels sent me a message, loud and clear, that yogurt was not going to be tolerated by my little one.  I feel like a horrible mommy, but he didn't seem too concerned except to point and say "That's ewwww".  Eww indeed.

Lesson learned.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Finding out I was pregnant

I wasn't going to use this prompt, but since the whole purpose of this blog came about due to my son, it actually seems like an appropriate topic.  I found out I was pregnant in the month of June, kind of in stages.  My husband had been working for the government in Ottawa for a few months, and we were making weekend trips back and forth to see each other.  The plan was for me to eventually move there with him on a leave of absence from my teaching job to see if I liked it enough to stay. 

One weekend, we went for a walk along a nature trail just minutes from the apartment my husband was renting.  It was warm outside, not really hot, but for some reason I was sweating and tired and kept making him stop to rest.  We cut the walk short after about an hour of me complaining about how hot and tired I was.  When we finally got back to the apartment, I crashed on the bed for the rest of the afternoon.  Weird.  I thought for sure that I was coming down with something. 

The next week at work, I started realizing that something was definitely up.  I teach on the third floor of the school, and I could run up and down those stairs all day by the end of the school year.  Except that I started noticing that the tops of my feet were breaking out into rashes every time I did.  My colleague, who was very pregnant at the time, looked at them and said "Oh dear.  I think you're pregnant!"  It wasn't a total surprise, because my husband and I were letting nature take its course at that point, but I didn't want to confirm it without him there, so I waited until he came home for the weekend. 

After all that waiting, I took the test and it was positive.  Just as I was about to walk out of the bathroom to tell him, a neighbour knocked on our door and my husband invited him in to hang out.  Stashing the test in the bathroom medicine cabinet, I went into the living room to spend the next couple of hours biting my tongue and dying to let the cat out of the bag.  Finally our friend left, and I told my husband the good news!  His response?

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, why?"

"Because these things aren't 100%.  I don't want to get excited and then find out that you're not really pregnant"

"........"

"Hello?"

"Uh.....do you want me to take another test?"

"Would you?"

My economist by trade, mathematical, statistics loving husband was calculating the probability of the test results being incorrect, while all I could think about was the fact that there was a new person growing inside of me.

I almost threw the first test at his head.

But I agreed to take the second if he agreed that he wouldn't question the results.

So I did.  And he believed it.  And then he actually got very excited and emotional, and it was difficult for him to leave to go back to Ottawa when the weekend was over.  We decided that since my family is in Toronto and his is mostly out ofthe country, that we would stay here to have the baby.  By the end of the 4th month of my pregnancy he had found a new job with the province, leased out the apartment and moved back to Toronto. 

Our son was born in 2009. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nut'n Gluten

I live just north of Toronto, so going into the city to find gluten free stuff is an option, but not something that I want to worry about every week.  When I first started looking for gluten free items for my son, I realized that there was a one-stop shop not 5 minutes from my house.  I am not personal friends with the owners and they are not even aware that I am writing this personal post.  The purpose is not to provide a review of the store, but to begin providing some resources for people in my area who are looking for gluten free products.

Nut'n Gluten is a small but fully stocked shop located in Vaughan that carries a wide range of gluten free products.  They are family owned, and after asking the clerk why his family decided to open up such a specialty shop, he told me that one of the owners is celiac, so it's personal to them.  All the staff is friendly and knowledgeable and I didn't feel uncomfortable asking them questions when I was just starting to figure this out.  I loved that I didn't have to worry about what I was picking up off the shelf because it was all gluten free!  Another thing that I found very comforting was the range of products free from other allergens as well, such as dairy and nuts.  The dairy was important to me personally as my son reacts badly to it, and the nut-free requirement was essential for any product that would be going to daycare with my son.

Some grocery/ shelf stable product offerings:
-cereals, cereal bars, granola, muffins
-mixes: pizza dough, waffle and pancake, cookies, brownies, etc.
-chips and cookies
-pastas and noodles, canned soups and boxed meals
-sauces and condiments
All of this is offered in a variety of brands, so I wasn't limited to the one or two choice usually found in a regular grocery store.

Their freezer section contains cupcakes and cakes, waffles, muffins, frozen meals, meats, hamburgers, fish, popsicles and ice cream, and GF bread.

The store also gets fresh bread delivered daily, including GF baguettes, and makes in-house breadcrumbs that I use for everything.  I noticed the last time that I was there that they also had gift baskets.

Their prices are comparable to the local grocery store that I also shop at.  Some products a bit more expensive, some a bit less, but the selection is much better.  And that's saying something, because my local grocery store has a pretty good selection.  I might cover it in a future post.  The store doesn't sell produce or fresh meat, so I can't do all of my shopping in one place, but I'm ok with that.  The kicker for me is simply the convenience.  Everything is in one spot, I don't have to search for a specialty aisle, or read every label I see to know that what I'm buying is gluten free. The peace of mind alone is worth a few extra cents in my book. 

What would I like to see improved?  The website is still very sparse.  Hopefully over time it will expand to allow for better comparison shopping or for online ordering. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Menu Plan

Although my son still eats some of what the daycare provides when it's gluten free, I pretty much supply the bulk of his meals.  I've decided in January to try out preparing the meals for the week on Sunday, and trying to rearrange our dinner menu around some of the ingredients to make life simpler for myself.  Here's how I tried to work it out for this week!

Daycare Lunch Menu (Each day the lunch is accompanied by vegetables and fruit.  He eats what the daycare provides as I've ensured that they are prepared carefully and without any forbidden ingredients.  The following is what I prepare at home to avoid cross- contamination.  The lunch plan is the daycare's menu for the week.)
Monday: Hamburger and Fries
Tuesday: Chicken fingers and roast potatoes (I'm using turkey breast instead because I have it on hand)
Wednesday: Chicken (turkey) souvlaki with rice
Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs
Friday: Soup with bagel and cheese.  I'm making quinoa and vegetable soup and adding rice cakes and hummus instead of the bagel and cheese.

I love that I can use the same large turkey breast for both meals and that the same package of ground beef works for two lunches and one dinner as well.  Here's how our dinner menu will break down as a result:

 Dinner Menu
Monday: leftover lentil soup from New Year's eve with oven baked turkey breast and salad
Tuesday: Stir fried rice and vegetables, with any leftover turkey chopped and added in.
Wednesday: Hot hamburger sandwiches on toasted gluten free bread and mixed vegetables
Thursday: Quinoa and vegetable soup
Friday: Spaghetti and salad

The Basics:
1 large package of ground beef, or 2 1lb. packages
1-2 turkey breasts (they were on sale post-Christmas.  I buy and then freeze them wrapped individually)
3 potatoes
1 package of spaghetti and 1 jar of sauce
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 box vegetable broth
1 package frozen vegetables
2 cups rice
1 lettuce, 1 cucumber and 1 tomato, with oil and vinegar dressing
1 loaf gluten free bread (we always have some frozen, sliced)
1 can GF gravy
Obviously some additional ingredients are necessary, but these constitute the majority of the ingredients.  A much smaller list than I'm used to seeing when I meal plan.  Maybe this coordination thing is worth my time!

**The ingredients from the leftover soup are not included, but the recipe can be found here

Sunday, January 2, 2011

10 Naturally Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Portable Snacks for Kids

The snacks at my son's daycare are generally not gluten free, so I've been scrambling to put together some alternatives without having to buy specialty products every time. 

Here are a few quick snacks that he loves that are (mostly) healthy and are naturally gluten free!  Remember to always check labels to make sure that the brand you're buying is gluten free, as product ingredients change.

Updated August 2013.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope that everyone had a safe and happy new year, and I wish you all the best for 2011!  I just started this blog in December, but I'm grateful for those of you who are following it and I hope to make many more connections in the year to come.

I have accepted the Bloggymoms dare and plan to post an entry every day in 2011.   Am trying not to think too much about what that means, and just focus on things that are meaningful and useful to myself and hopefully to others. If you are clicking here from that site after Jan. 1st please click on the header at the top of the page to get my most recent posts.  I'm new to this, and I posted the link to this first post rather than to the site in general.  Stuff happens.  I will also be completing the bloggymoms challenge each Tuesday and hope to participate in some recipe link-ups with other GF sites.  The part I've enjoyed the most about blogging so far is meeting (virtually) other people who have so many interesting stories to share.  I have even been moved to tears by a few posts!  This is a whole new world for me, and one I can't wait to get more comfortable with in the year to come.

So, being the first day of the new year, and an unseasonably warm one where I live, I'll keep this post short.  I'm off to enjoy a wonderful fresh (GF) pasta dinner with my parents, sister and niece.  I hope that you're able take some time to relax and enjoy the possibilities that a fresh start offers, before the day-to-day business of life creeps back in and tries to veer us off track.  Here's to new goals, new dreams and a brand new year!

Best Wishes!