Friday, November 30, 2012

Gluten Free Holiday Treats

Welcome to Celiac Baby's 1st Holiday Treat Extravaganza!


Holiday baking is a tradition that has been in my family for as long as I can remember.  Every year, my mom would choose a weekend to bake up all the Christmas cookies that we would have on hand all season for whenever people stopped by or when we were invited to a party or gathering.  Since my son has gone gluten free, I've had to rethink recipes that I had been using for years in order to make them safe for him.  As a result, I've changed my approach to holiday baking.  I still make many things from scratch using recipes that I've modified to make safe for my son, but I've added some mixes to my repertoire  when it comes to things like cupcakes.  I've also started preparing more no bake treats, which tend to be easy for my three old to help me prepare. 


Decorating sugar cookies


Beginning on December 1st (tomorrow!), I'll be sharing a recipe or a an idea for a holiday dessert on the blog each day except Sundays (when the menu plan goes up).  I am looking forward to sharing some of what my family will be enjoying this December.  I will also be sharing a few that come from family, friends, and readers, so please send me your recipes and ideas, and I'll try and feature them on the blog over the next month.

Who said gluten free food had to be boring? 

I find new and inspiring food ideas all the time that taste great and are safe for my son to eat.  The holidays are a great time to share what I know to be true about the potential for gluten free food to be delicious with those around me, and what better way than with desserts prepared with love? 


Snowball with Grated Coconut



Have a recipe you'd like to share and see featured on the blog?  Send me an email at celiacbaby@hotmail.com or a message @CeliacBaby on  Twitter and tell me what you'd like to share or a recipe you would like to see featured.


Here's to a delicious holiday season ahead!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gluten Free Rice Noodle Stir Fry in a Peanut Sauce

I love this stir fry recipe because it has big flavour with relatively few ingredients.  When I have time I make my own peanut sauce, but more often than not I just use a good bottled Thai peanut sauce and modify it to taste the way I like.  Thai Kitchen (Simply Thai in the United States) and San-J have gluten free peanut sauces that taste great, although please remember to always check labels, as recipes change.  I like the peanut flavour to be the dominant flavour so I add a few tablespoons of peanut butter to the mixture. 

Ingredients:
Serves 4

400 g (or 1 package) thick rice noodles (think fettuccine, not spaghetti)
2 tbsp. oil (sesame or olive)
2 chicken breasts, cubed into bite sized pieces
1 cup peas
1 cup grated or sliced carrots
1 cup peanut sauce
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 cup water (reserved from noodle cooking water)
S & P to taste
crushed peanuts for serving (optional)


Directions:

1- Prepare noodles according to package directions.  Prepare the rest of the stir fry in the meantime.

2- Heat oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat, and add chicken.  When cooked through, add peanut sauce, peas & carrots.  Reduce heat to min. to simmer.

3- When noodles are finished cooking, reserve a cup of liquid before draining.  Drain but don't rinse noodles.  Add noodles directly to pan with stir fry ingredients and stir to incorporate.

4- Add peanut butter and starchy water and stir.  Let sauce thicken, approx. 5 minutes.  Taste, and add any seasonings (salt and pepper).  Serve immediately.

For garnish, top with ground peanuts or freshly picked parsley or Thai basil leaves.

A quick dinner that is perfect for nights when you don't feel like cooking

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan


How was your weekend?

For me, this weekend was crazy!  We attended a family party and a Santa Claus Parade, put up the Christmas tree, watched the 100th Grey Cup and the Giants football game, cooked for the week, and I did some writing for NaNoWriMo, although I'm now behind because I didn't write yesterday.  So.  Menu plan is a day late, my apologies.  But I made a few awesome recipes this week, so look out for a recipe or two on the blog later this week. 



 Monday: Homemade Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese  








 
 Tuesday: Hearty Beef & Vegetable Stew








Wednesday:  Chicken, Rice & Vegetables with Tzatziki
                                                                                                                 


Thursday: Chicken & rice Noodle Stir Fry in a Gluten Free Peanut Sauce 







Friday: Leek & Potato Soup  (RECIPE)

 
 
 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Five List: Kicking Off the Holiday Season

On this Black Friday, I won't be out hitting the malls for the best deals.  Aside from a new microwave (which we need after an unfortunate accident in which the rotator plate shattered into a million pieces on my kitchen floor), and groceries, I won't be spending any money today.  Instead, I'm spending the day at home with my two boys, getting ready for tomorrow's family Christmas party. 

Yes, I said Christmas. 

My dad's side of the family is big, and almost all the "children" are married adults, some of us with our own children, so getting everyone together on Christmas day is no longer a simple feat.  Everyone has multiple obligations and extended family to see on Christmas day.  So we moved it up.  Between December birthdays, Christmas parties and parades, December gets busy, so this year my Aunt picked the end of November.  This actually works out well for everyone, and is a great way to officially kick off the holiday season. 

Last year's party


We eat a lot of food (which will all be gluten free this year, due to both my Uncle and my son eating gluten free), exchange Secret Santa gifts, and catch up on each other's lives.  This year there are two new babies, my son and my niece, who are only five weeks apart, so it will be great to welcome them into the tradition.

Here is my list of Five ways I'm kicking off the holiday season:

1- Putting up the Christmas tree:  We generally put up our tree the day of the Toronto Santa Claus parade, but this year we had other things come up, so we're going to put it up this Sunday instead, before the Vaughan Santa Claus parade and the Grey Cup game.  I love watching my little one help with the decorations, and this year we have a new personalized ornament to add for our newest member, Xavier.



A somewhat blurry shot of last year's tree



2- Christmas Cards:  When I was teaching, I always tried to get my cards out by December 1st, because after that things got crazy at school.  Although I'm on maternity leave, old habits die hard, so I'll be trying to get them written and mailed next weekend. 

3- Christmas Baking:  I've already done some of my baking because of our party tomorrow, and I'm spending today decorating Christmas cookies with my son.  I'm going to be doing a week of holiday treat posts in early December, with recipes and how-to photos for some of our go to holiday treats, all gluten free, of course!

My son decorating his sugar cookies


4- Christmas Music and Shows:  I like the old school Christmas specials so much that my husband bought me a DVD set of some of the classics, like the original Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph.  I always looked forward to watching them as a kid, and now I can introduce my kids to them as well.  I also love holiday music.  There's a finite window in which you can listen to Christmas music without being looked at like you're a nut job, and I enjoy every minute of that window while it lasts.

5- Decorating and Gift Wrapping:  I don't have a crazy amount of decorations, but I do have a few that I like to put up around the house and outdoors.  I especially enjoy putting up the decorations that my son has made at daycare or that we've done together.  I also enjoy the gift wrapping process, although I'm not particularly good at it.  We don't go crazy with gifts, but I like giving the people I care about something that I think they will enjoy for Christmas, and the process of wrapping them and writing out a card makes me happy. 

What will you be doing to get into the holiday spirit this year?  Leave a comment or send me an email at celiacbaby@hotmail.com to share your traditions!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy American Thanksgiving!

I have many friends and family living south of the border, from Washington D.C. to Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, New York, and elsewhere, and I know that they are giving thanks for their many blessings today.

To them, and to all my readers in the United States, who help keep this blog going through your comments, emails, questions, suggestions, and interest in my family and our story, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours.  Enjoy your holiday, and may your gluten free feast be the best you've ever had. 


Me, my husband and sons, my parents, my sister, niece, and my mother-in-law on our Thanksgiving Day

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chuck E. Cheese Offers Gluten Free Pizza & Cupcakes

Great news for gluten free kids!  Chuck E. Cheese is rolling out gluten free pizzas nationwide in the United States and Canada.  This is fantastic for kids like my son.  We have never taken him to Chuck E. Cheese or considered it for a birthday party location because of a lack of gluten free items to choose from. 

If you have a gluten free kid, you know how stressful things like birthday parties can be, where their differences become even more obvious to everyone around them.  I even declined to have him attend a baking party once because I knew that he couldn't even touch, never mind eat, what the other kids would be baking.  So anytime a kid-friendly place makes their menu that much more accessible to children with food restrictions, I'm happy. 

Here are the details.  The pizzas are produced in a dedicated gluten free facility and shipped to the restaurant locations in a sealed bag.  They are then cooked, still in the bag, and delivered to the table in the bag as well, to avoid cross-contamination.  This makes me feel much more comfortable than ordering pizza in locations where the pies are made in close proximity to ones that use regular flour. 

The other great addition to the menu is the chocolate cupcake!  Being left out from eating sweet treats is a horrible experience for a kid at a party, and although I generally bring my own, it's not the same experience as being able to order one like everyone else.  I like that the chain added a gluten free dessert in addition to the pizza.  It allows kids to have a full meal. 

Click on the Chuck E. Cheese website for more information.  They even have an allergen finder, where you can search for your location and download a PDF file with every menu item, their ingredients, and the potential allergens listed in a clear and easy to read manner.  The restaurant acknowledges that there are other allergens that that are still present in their menu items, and that they are working toward including a wider variety of items addressing those issues.  This is even better news for all kids who have ever felt left out because of what they couldn't eat.

I'm looking forward to calling my local restaurant in Vaughan and confirming that they have the pizzas and cupcakes available.  If they do, I think a certain 3 year old may be experiencing his first visit to Chuck E. Cheese very soon!

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update #2: Random House Write-In

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about the writing challenge I've signed up to tackle this month.  Click HERE to read the post.  Basically, the challenge is to write 50 000 words of a novel in 30 days, or 1667 words a day during the month of November. 

I've managed to keep pretty much on track, some days being better than others.  By midnight tonight I should have 31 673 words written to be on pace to finish on time.  As of this writing, I'm sitting at 30 257.  I'm tempted to just copy and paste this blog post in there to help boost the word count, but I won't.  But no promises if I'm a few words short on November 30th. 

I'm still enjoying the writing process, and I've found myself longing to write when I can't.  I'm still staying up late some nights to catch up on my word count when I've fallen behind.  And I'm enjoying interacting with people online and hearing about how the process is going for them.

One of the highlights for me so far this month was being a part of Random House Canada's first NaNoWriMo write-in at the downtown Toronto office.  On Sunday, November 18th, I made my downtown for a four hour write-in.  There were more than 20 other writers from the GTA in attendance, and we were met by editors and other staff of Random House who generously donated their time for the event.   Walking into the offices, visitors are greeted by a wall of portraits of various authors.


We were then escorted into the boardroom which is lined with shelves of books.




We were fed breakfast and lunch, and kept energized by an endless supply of coffee.   We were treated to a message of encouragement from Salman Rushdie and given writing tips from a few Random House editors.  To top it off, we were treated to free books!  Boxes and boxes of free boxes.  I came home with an embarrassing number of books.  My mom was over babysitting the kids, and she borrowed one before I even got a chance to take them all out of the bag!

The highlight of the day though was the opportunity to be in such a creative space with so many others who love books and writing as much as I do.  There is an energy that is undeniable when people come together to create, and as difficult as it is to describe, those who are there understand.  There was a bit of talking, but for the most part everyone just had their laptops out and were writing.  During breaks we swapped stories, talked about why we had signed up for NaNoWriMo, and gave each other motivation to keep going. 

It was four hours of work that felt nothing like work.   For that I give a big thank you to the staff who gave up their Sunday for those of us in attendance.

I'm happy that I got to be a part of it, and even more determined to hit the 50 000 word count by the end of the month. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

This week's menu plan has meat in every recipe.  This is what  happens when I send my husband out to get groceries without having planned out my meals in advance.  He came home with chicken thighs, sausages, ribs, and two packages of ground turkey.  Le Sigh.  A meat lover's dream this week.




Monday:  Sloppy Joe Sandwiches and Side Salad 
(ignore the bright yellow plate.  My son had one for dinner)











Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner! Egg and Sausage Strata with Zucchini, Peppers and Cheese 









Wednesday: Sesame Teryaki Chicken with Bok Choy and Korean Pancakes (made with Rice Flour)









Thursday: Ribs, Corn and Bean Salad, Mashed Potatoes









Friday: White Chili with Turkey, Salsa Verde & White Beans 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tips and Recipes for a Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone, but for my friends and relatives in the United States, it's right around the corner.  So, in the spirit of giving, I thought I would repost my Thanksgiving menu plans from the last two years, including links to some recipes. 

This year I have a lot to be thankful for, including a new baby, a new niece and nephew and another nephew on the way.  I hope you have a lot to be thankful for too, and that you get to spend this family surrounded by those you love. 

Thanksgiving Menu 2012

Here's what we ate this year.  Click on the highlighted items for recipes.

Turkey Breast Roast: This is similar to a pork or beef roast, in that it's boneless and tied up and ready to go. It only takes about an hour and a half to cook, and is all white meat. I wanted turkey, but without all the work of cooking a whole turkey. This served 6 adults and 2 children, and there were leftovers.


The Roast, before being sliced


 
After being sliced (I actually got 2 platters of meat, this was just 1/2 the roast


Gravy (I use Imagine Organic Gravy- gluten and dairy free)



Gravy, in my fancy-schmancy gravy boat that comes out once a year


Cranberry Sauce (click HERE for recipe),   Applesauce (click HERE for recipe), Roasted Red Peppers and Sweet Onion Sauce




Mashed Potatoes



Cubed Butternut Squash with Butter and Sage (this was a Martha Stewart Recipe, super easy)


Spinach and Goat Cheese Salad

 


Zucchini Muffins


Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Topping  (no one thought to take a picture)

Gluten Free Cupcakes (I use Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mix )



Gluten Free Cupcakes


Last year, we had a slightly different menu. 

Thanksgiving Menu 2011

Carrot Spice Soup (you could also go with a butternut squash soup.  click HERE for recipe)


Carrot Spice Soup
Turkey Pie with a Gluten Free Pie Crust (This is a Jamie Oliver Recipe that I adapted to be gluten free)






Cranberry and Applesauce


Homemade cranberry sauce

Gluten Free Cornbread Muffins (made from Bob's Red Mill Cornbread Mix)

Cornbread Muffins


Deep Fried Stuffed Olives with Goat Cheese Filling and a GF Breadcrumb Crust. My photo-taking ability doesn't do these babies justice. My sister modified a recipe to make them suitable for my son, and they were delicious. Good enough to just eat on their own with a glass of wine...



Deep Fried Olives

We also had mashed potatoes, quinoa pilaf, cauliflower and a green salad on the side. I was too distracted by the olives to remember to take pictures of them.
Apple Crumble  (Recipe HERE)




Whipped Topping


Whipped Topping. YUM!!!!


Vanilla Cupcake with Pumpkin Icing (We used Bob's Red Mill Vanilla Cake Mix.)  For the icing, my mom just added a few spoonfuls of pumpkin puree to regular icing.



Cupcakes with Pumpkin Icing


I hope this gives you some ideas for your own Thanksgiving, especially if you're looking for alternatives to the traditional turkey.  Aside from the main dish and the salad, I generally prepare most of my meal ahead of time, so that I can actually enjoy the day with my family. 

I hope you get to enjoy yours too!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Creamy Gluten Free Pasta with Campbell's Stock First Cream Stock

This gluten free pasta recipe is simple to prepare because the time consuming part of making a cream sauce is already done.  When I was given a sample of Campbell's Stock First Cream Stock at the Blissdom Canada blogger's conference last month, I did the first thing I always do when confronted with a new product: I checked to see if it was gluten free.  And guess what?  It is!  Campbell's has made a point of specifically stating which of its products are gluten free by stating it in a small box directly on the package, and this product is no exception. 



I immediately started thinking up recipes, and decided on creating a delicious, creamy pasta that would be simple to prepare but taste like it took much, much more work.  I think I succeeded!

Creamy Sundried Tomato and Mushroom Gluten Free Pasta
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
 450grams gluten free pasta (a short pasta works better
 than a long one for this recipe)
1 tbsp. olive oil, or more if necessary
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
250g mushrooms, sliced
1 jar sundried tomatoes, drained (reserve oil)
1 box Campbell's Cream Stock
1 cup liquid (milk, white wine, or a combination)
1 handful basil, torn or chopped, or 1 tbsp. dried basil
Salt & Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago for serving






Directions

1- Cook pasta according to package directions.

2- While pasta is cooking, heat garlic, onions, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until mushrooms and onions have released their liquids and are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  If desired, use some of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes, or more olive oil if mixture begins to dry out. 

3- Add liquid by pouring in Cream Stock and either wine or milk to mixture.   Stir to combine with dry ingredients.  Cook over medium heat until mixture is heated through and just begins to bubble, and then reduce to a simmer.   Add basil, S & P and red pepper flakes, if using. 

4- When pasta is cooked, drain and toss with sauce.  Garnish with freshly grated cheese and serve immediately. 



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Today's menu plan only has photos for 3 of the 5 recipes.  The spaghetti squash (Thursday) needs to be made close to when it will be eaten, and the cabbage rolls (Friday) are going to be made with my dad later in the week.  I've got a few recipes coming up this week, and you can click on Monday's meal to get the recipe for yummy chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries.  Happy Gluten Free Eating my friends!






Monday: Chicken Nuggets & Sweet Potato Fries  (Recipe)



Tuesday: GF Pasta in a White Wine Cream Sauce 



Wednesday: Pea Soup & Arugula Salad







Thursday:  Spaghetti Squash Carbonara 



Friday:  Cabbage Rolls (These I'll be making with my dad on Tuesday.  We do a huge batch and freeze them.  I'll post the recipe, and the process along with serving suggesstions once their cooked.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

South St. Burger & Co. Gluten Free Burgers

Finding fast  food restaurants that offer gluten free items is not an easy task.  Most have gluten in everything from the patties, to the buns and fries.  For someone like my son, who cannot consume gluten, stopping somewhere on short notice for a quick bite to eat is often a difficult task.

This is why I was happy to learn that South Street Burger & Co. had taken steps to make their restaurants welcoming and safe for gluten free consumers.




  In addition to using hormone and antibiotic free beef in their patties, they are also gluten free.  So are the grilled chicken breasts, pulled pork topping, mayonnaise, guacamole, and most of their burger toppings.

 The best part?

 All Canadian locations now have O'Dough's certified gluten free buns available.  O'Dough's products are not only gluten free, but they also don't use genetically modified ingredients. 

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, the South Street Burger & Co. locations in Canada have added separate toasters, knives and cutting boards for gluten free items, and require staff to change gloves when handling gluten free orders.  Click here for the company's statement regarding this matter.

In addition, the fries served are New York Fries, which are also gluten and preservative free.  However, it is still important to ask about how the fries are cooked to avoid cross-contamination. 




At the restaurant  that we went to, the server confirmed that there was in fact a separate fryer for the french fries, and one just for the onion rings.  Upon further questioning, (because I've learned my lesson in the past), he did inform us that if the restaurant was not busy in the evening, staff would shut down one of the fryers.  Therefore, there was the possibility that fries could be cooked in the same oil as the onion rings.  Since there's no way of knowing if the oil has been contaminated, we didn't allow our son to have any fries.  For me, it was too risky.  Just a small amount of gluten can make my son sick.  Having separate fryers is a good thing, and if I was at a location where they could promise that no onion rings had ever been cooked in the same fryer, I would order the fries for my son.

We ordered a family meal, since fries aren't off limits for my husband or myself.  Two regular burgers, two small burgers, two large sides and four drinks for $29.99. 

What I like about their burgers, aside from knowing that the beef is free of hormones and antibiotics, is that there are a variety of fresh toppings to choose from, so your burger is customized the way you want it.  That's why there are cucumber slices in my son's burger.  To each his own, I guess.

My son's kid-size hamburger, on a gluten free bun.

The food was great.  The burger was a good size and one burger was satisfying enough for my husband.  The gluten free bun tasted like a real bun, with a soft texture, not the spongy, cardboard like buns I've had in the past.  My three year old son was so excited to be able to eat a hamburger at a restaurant that he actually ate both of the small burgers.  Yes, TWO hamburgers.  He put the second one down for a few minutes and my husband made the mistake of trying to clear it away.  My little one said, quite loudly, "I'm not finished.  I'm just taking a break!"  He ate every last bite.  It was the first time he wasn't stuck just eating the patty at a burger joint, and he wasn't leaving anything behind!

Polishing off burger number two
We enjoyed our visit, and left happy and full.  I did have my eye on a milkshake, but decided to postpone it for our next visit.  We will definitely be back!


We visited the following location:

South St. Burger & Co.
2215 Steeles Ave. W.
(416) 514-1412

Visit the website for additional locations: www.southstburger.com

South St. Burger & Co. provided me with vouchers to try their gluten free offerings.  No other compensation was received, and they did not influence my review in any way.  The opinions in this review are mine, and are based upon our visit to the restaurant location mentioned above.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update #1

This year I've signed up for my first NaNoWriMo ever. 

What is that ridiculous and unpronounceable word, you ask?  It's an acronym for National Novel Writing Month.

The challenge?  Write a 50 000 word novel in 30 days, over the month of November.  That's 1667 words per day. 

The rules are pretty simple.  Mainly, your novel must be started on or after November 1st.  How do they know if you started early?  They don't.  It relies on the honour system. 

Crazy, but fun. 

The purpose is to encourage people to get those ideas rattling around inside their brains OUT, and down on paper (real or electronic).  To get a writing practice started, and to end up with a first draft of something substantial. 

What do you get for finishing?  An online Winner badge.  To some that may not sound like much considering the hours it takes to write a novel. But oh, yeah, did I mention, you also walk away with the first draft of a 50 000 word novel.  Even if you don't make the ultimate word goal, you've still got however many more words written at the end of the month than you did at the beginning. 

I've wanted to sign up for this ever since I first heard about it a few years ago, but I always found a reason not to.  In retrospect, it probably could have helped me get my thesis finished more quickly, but whatever.  I'm not sure what happened this year to make me take the plunge, but here I am, 6 days into the challenge and just over 10 000 words into my novel. 

And I'm loving every minute of it. 

What surprised me the most about the whole challenge is the sense of community the organizers have managed to impart upon over 300 000 participants from around the world.  I joined the local chapter online and have the option of joining other local writers at fun events and write-ins across the city.  I've been paired up with online mentors and have writing buddies that I can turn to for support, not to mention the forums where I can post a question and receive suggestions from a pool of thousands. 

I'm building relationships with other writers and learning from them every day. 

Want to join me?  It's not too late!  Sign up at www.nanowrimo.org and add me to your list of writing buddies.  My username is KSperd. 

Now, it's back to writing!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan




Monday:  Roasted Red Pepper Soup (Recipe) & Tuna Sandwiches on Gluten Free Bread from Frankie's Bakery in Uxbridge 









Tuesday: Lemon Beef with Cilantro and Savoury Quinoa Pilaf 









Wednesday:  Ceviche (Recipe) on Rice, or Wrapped up in Corn Tortillas 










Thursday: Broccoli Cheddar Soup 












Friday: Vegetable Soup and Meatloaf Muffins (Recipe) with Leftover Rice or Quinoa Pilaf