Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

 
While I was thinking about doing a retrospective of sorts of 2012, I couldn't help but realize what an eventful year it's been for me.  I had a baby, travelled to Europe and El Salvador, hosted my mother-in-law (twice), wrote 50 000 words of a novel in one month, and the list goes on.  I thought it would be fun to repost 12 entries that either highlighted something important that happened in my life this year, or something that I thought was interesting or significant in the world of gluten free living.  A few are simply posts of products or recipes that I really enjoyed or that were popular on the blog that you might have missed.  Click on the title of each entry to read the whole post.  These are posted in no particular order, in case you're wondering why gelato is posted before my new baby :)

As we move into 2013, I wish you and yours Health and Happiness in the year to come. 

And some pretty fine gluten free food too.





1- Gluten Free Gelato in Florence, Italy 
Italy is full of gluten free options, and I was happy to find that one of the country's best tasting desserts is no exception.







2- Welcome, Little One! 
I had another baby!







3- Food Label Changes in Effect 
This one was a huge deal in Canada.  Food labels have been changed for the better. 








4- Blissdom Canada 2012 Recap 
My first blogger  conference, and it was great.  I even got to meet Jian Ghomeshi.  Not too shabby!










5- I Get to be a Master of Something!  
This was seriously one of the proudest moments of my life.











6- Recipe: Gluten Free Meat Lasagne 
This has become a staple in our house.  It's easy to make, freezes well, and everyone loves it.  It's a popular recipe on the blog too, so in case you missed it, here it is again.








7- European Memories 
I took a group of 20 students to Europe in March, lugging my pregnant self around France, Spain and Italy.  The sights were incredible.  These are a few of my favourite shots.







8- Holiday Treat Extravaganza
This was a series of 12 holiday dessert recipes, all posted in one place for your convenience.  Although they were on my Christmas baking list this year, many of these treats would be great any time of the year, like the butter tarts or the cake pops.  There's something for everyone here.









9- Family Trip to El Salvador
We took a trip to celebrate a 90th birthday, a wedding, and Christmas.  And it was great.





10-NaNoWriMo    (I was too busy writing for photos)                                                         
Write 50 000 words in one month?  Sure, why not? 
By the way, I did it!



11- Summertime Fun Round-Up of Posts  
At the beginning of the summer, I did a round-up of warm weather recipes, products and places.  Although it's winter in Canada right now, it's not cold where all my readers live.  If you're someplace warm, perhaps some of these posts will give you some inspiration.  And yes, I'm jealous that you're basking in the sun while I'm looking out at a yard full of snow.






12-Two Years of Blogging! 
A big, fat, thank you to everyone who reads this blog. 
Really, THANK YOU!


Gluten Free Dinner for a Crowd

Last night we celebrated a late Christmas dinner at my parents' house.  My sister cooked, and EVERYTHING was gluten free.  It isn't impossible to make a great meal without gluten, as last night proved. 

The lady behind the meal & the man who cooked the fish.


 Here's a visual rundown of what we ate.



APPETIZERS



Mexican-style dip with tortilla chips 











Rice crackers with tuna salad








Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits with Maple Cream Cheese and Grapes 






DINNER




Almond Crusted Chicken 











Baked Fish in a Sweet Sauce 













Lamb Kebabs 













Fresh Cheese and Tomato Salad, Peas and Mushrooms & Glazed Carrots









Corn Fritters













Baked Potatoes with Mashed White Beans & Cheese










Roasted Red Peppers







This is what round one of my dinner plate looked like:



DESSERT

I was stuffed and lazy by the time dessert rolled around, and didn't take many photos. 

We had lemon squares, sweet potato pies, cake pops and fruit kebabs.



So the next time somebody says that you can't make a great gluten free dinner for a crowd, tell them b*tch please, and send them on over here to take a look.
 
Don't tell me it can't be done, because my family does it for my son ALL THE TIME.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

This is the last menu plan for 2012, taking us into the new year!  I'm looking forward to a brand new year of new gluten free meal ideas to keep you inspired and eating simple, delicious and (mostly) nutritious gluten free food.  We'll be eating our traditional lentil soup for lunch on New Year's Eve. 



Monday: Chicken and Rice Soup and Greek Salad
(I cook the rice separately and add to the soup when serving, so it doesn't expand and suck up all the water.)




Tuesday: Fish Tostadas with Sweet Potato Wedges (These I'll make Tuesday, or they won't keep)




Wednesday: Turkey Scaloppini in a Mushroom Cream Sauce with Garlic and Almond Green Beans





















Thursday: Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry on Steamed Rice






Friday: Chicken and Green Chili Enchiladas and Black Bean Salad (The ingredients are ready, but this will be put together the day of, or it will go soggy.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Kid Asked Why He Can't Have Fishy Crackers Too

My son is starting to understand his food limitations.  He asks if something is gluten free before he eats it, although sometimes he still confuses whether it's gluten free that's good for him or gluten free that's bad for him.  These things are confusing when you're three.  Sometimes he gets upset if there's something he wants in the moment and can't have, such as French fries, but is usually placated with a substitute or a promise that we'll get him a gluten free version soon. 

He gets a gluten free meal provided to him at daycare from the catering company that provides all the lunches for the children, and most of the time the meal looks the same.  They do a great job of making his dish as similar as possible to all the other meals.

But the other day, out of the blue, he asked me why he can't have the fishy crackers too. 

It took me a minute to understand what he was talking about.  I didn't buy Goldfish crackers before he was taken off gluten, and since he has been gluten free since before he was two, they're not something that he came across before going gluten free. 

Then I realized that he was seeing them at daycare.  We provide his crackers, cereal, etc. for his snacks, since they aren't provided by the catering company.  I guess the other kids are getting Goldfish crackers and my son is getting his regular crackers.  Only fishy crackers are obviously much more appealing to a three year old than the regular round ones that I pack. 

And unlike most other times, I can't pack a gluten free version of Goldfish crackers because there aren't any.  There aren't even any imitation ones that I've been able to find locally, and I'm not ordering $10 crackers off the internet.  So when he asked me if we could buy the crackers to bring to daycare, I had to say no. 

It may seem silly to someone who doesn't deal with this every day, but it made me incredibly sad to have to say no, and then try to explain why.

Most of the time I don't have to say no.  I may have to say not now, or next time, or when we go to this or that store, but rarely a flat out no, this product doesn't exist for you.  I'm sure that this will happen more and more often in the future, as he gets older and becomes more aware of products that he has yet to be introduced to, and I'll have to find a way to cope.

But I don't think I'll ever really get over it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Five List: Christmas Week Edition

This past week has been a whirlwind of activity. 

My family joined my husband, the kids and myself in El Salvador to spend Christmas with his family.  It was a busy, crazy week that left little time for sightseeing, but getting everyone together over the holidays is something that may not happen again for a long time to come.  In addition to my husband's siblings, all the cousins flew in this year as well.  For a family spread out over many countries, including Canada, the United States, Colombia, Mexico and Bolivia, getting everyone together in one place is no small feat.  My husband hasn't spent Christmas with all of his family since 1996, so this was a big deal. 

There will be a few posts over the next little while, but for tonight, five memorable moments will suffice.

1- Abuelo's 90th Birthday Party:  The night we arrived was the birthday party for my husband's grandfather (Abuelo, in Spanish).  Family and friends gathered at his Aunt's house for the party, and it was the first opportunity for our youngest son, 4 months, to meet his great-grandfather.  To say that it was a special moment would be an understatement. 
My husband, our youngest son, and his great-grandfather


2- The Wedding:  My brother-in-law, Jaime, got married the next day.  Weddings tend to be in the evening in El Salvador, and we went straight from the church to the reception being held at the hotel where we were staying.  My husband and I carried the rings, and our oldest son walked down the aisle with us.  It was an honour to be a part of his special day, especially since "Tio Jaime" is my son's favourite person in the world. 

The happy couple and our son


3- Christmas:  My husband's grandmother invited everyone over to her house for Christmas Eve celebrations.  More than 30 people descended upon her house for an evening of fireworks, food and the opening of gifts.  Setting off fireworks is a tradition there, and they go off all through the night, with everyone lighting their own.  It was nice to have my parents and my in-laws spend Christmas together.  Great-grandma put together a lovely speech before dinner, commemorating 4 generations celebrating together under one roof.

My husband's grandmother, reading  her Christmas speech

4- Family Vacation: The last time we took a family vacation with my parents and my sister, aside from the cottage, was in 2006, when my husband and I got married.  It was also great to be able to show my family where my husband is from and to let them get to know his country of birth a little bit.  He's been in Canada for a long time, and sometimes it's easy to forget that he wasn't born here.  This gave my family a chance to get to know his extended family and his culture a bit better.

On top of San Salvador volcano.  Yes, it's active.  And apparently overdue for an eruption.



5- Fun in the Sun and Introducing the Next Generation: Getting away when the weather is cold is always nice, and it was fun watching the kids play at the beach.  We spent Christmas day at a relative's beach house.  We realised when we got back to Canada that the baby saw the ocean before he saw snow.  I didn't see the ocean until I was 18 years old, but who's keeping track?
Along with frolicking on the beach, we got to introduce our baby, Xavier, and our nephew, Santiago, to each other.  They're only 6 weeks apart.  You can tell the Canadian one, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt without socks on, and the Salvadoran one, in long sleeves, a blanket and a hat, on a "cold" evening!

I never get tired of this view

Cousins!  One looks ready for the beach, the other looks prepped for winter!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Coming Home

I'm writing this before we check out of the hotel in El Salvador, so it will be short.  After spending a week with my husband's family celebrating birthdays, weddings and Christmas, we're on our way home.

Great Grandfather, 90, with his great grandson, 3


 I'm going to miss the people and the weather, but I'm also looking forward to going home and having another small celebration when we get back.  Santa must have left presents under the tree while we were gone! 

Regular blogging will resume tomorrow.  I'll definitely be including a recap of our time here, including a hotel review and some suggestions for eating gluten free.  Menu plan posting will resume as normal on Sunday, and then with the new year I'll be rolling out some of the new features, such as the monthly cookbook review. 

I hope you and your family are enjoying a wonderful holiday season, and are looking forward to the New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

An Oldie But A Goodie: Preparing to Travel with a Toddler

My oldest son (almost 4) has travelled by plane twice, the last time shortly after his second birthday.  Today we'll be boarding a plane again, on our way to visit family in El Salvador.  Luckily for us, our neighbours have out of town family visiting for the holidays, and they'll be house sitting for us while we're gone.  The last time I prepared to travel with a toddler I wrote a post about how I hoped to make the trip a smooth one.  I revisited it again while preparing for this trip and found that most of it is still pretty relevant almost two years later.  There are some differences of course, most notably that this time we're also travelling with a 4 month old, so there are more things to consider. 

I'm re-posting that original post here with some photos thrown in, and at the end I'll make note of some of the changes I've made to accommodate an older child, and how we plan on handling a baby on a plane as well.  I hope there are some ideas in here to help make your travel go smoother as well!

Preparing to Travel with a Toddler


 
As I've already mentioned, we're leaving on a family vacation to visit my in-laws early next week.  This means long waits at the airport, a 5+ hour flight, line-ups at customs and a 45 minute car ride to the in-laws' place with a 2 year old in tow.  We need to be at the airport at 4am.  Oh yeah, and since the airline can't accommodate his food restrictions, it also means breakfast, snacks and lunch need to be prepared in advance.  I know I'm not the only one encountering a similar situation, so I thought I'd share some of the ways I hope to keep my son occupied, fed and happy on our trip!

General Travel Preparations

1- We bought him his own plane seat.  Since he's over two, it was mandatory, but when we took him on a plane as a baby, it wasn't and we didn't.  We got lucky on the way home that there were extra seats, but the way to our destination was cramped, uncomfortable and tiring.  It's more expensive to buy an extra seat for a baby, but I would recommend it.  Besides it being safer for the child, it gives everyone more room to spread out and makes activities such as eating on the plane much simpler.

2- We're bringing his car seat on the plane.  Again, not mandatory, but safer than a lap belt alone.  I'm hoping that the familiarity of the car seat will help to put him at ease, and that he'll be willing to sit still for longer periods of time.  I'll let you know how this goes. 
 


3- Stroller:  I wish we had bought one of those frames that you can attach the car seat to for the airport, but we procrastinated and didn't get around to it.  So we'll be taking the next best thing, our umbrella stroller.  I'm not thrilled about having to check it at the plane door because it takes longer when getting off, but the convenience of it is worth it to me.  This one is similar to mine.

4- Backpack/Tether:  I thought long and hard about this before I bought it, but safety won out over all other considerations.  My son isn't going to sit in his stroller the whole time, and he can bolt across a room so fast that strangers have often commented in amazement at the speed of such a little kid.  We bought a Tigger harness that looks like a backpack, and the tail is a little leash that will keep him from being able to run off unattended.  He LOVES the backpack.  We'll see how much he loves being unable to run away!

5- Thomas Mini Suitcase:  He loves anything to do with that little blue train, and the suitcase is small enough to be carry on luggage.  We filled it with activities for him to do on the plane.  Ours has a different design, but it essentially looks like this.


Activities

I read somewhere that it's always a good idea to bring activities or toys that your child hasn't seen before, and I thought this was a great idea.  Since I didn't want to buy ALL new toys, I started making some things "disappear" about a month ago, and they will magically "reappear" on the plane!  Here are some types of activities I think work for his age group:

1- Toy Cell Phone:  He loves to talk on his phone, and we can pretend to call just about anybody from up in the air.

2- Travel Activity Tray: It attaches to the car seat.  This way I can attach it once we're in the air, and I don't have to worry about the seat tray not reaching or being at the wrong height.  He can use it to play or eat on.

3- Toy cars/trains: Small enough that I could pack a few and rotate them as necessary.  Cheap enough that I don't care if one gets lost under the seat or gets forgotten at the airport.

4- Magnetic Drawing Board with Water Marker Board on Reverse: He can colour, erase, colour, erase, colour... you get the picture.  This one isn't the same, but it gives the general idea.

5- Story/Activity Books: A few stories he loves, and a few new ones.  He loves to lift flaps, press buttons, feel different textures.

6- Sticker Books:  I don't know what it is about stickers, but they can entertain him for ridiculous amounts of time.  I bought a book with 300 stickers for less than $5.

7- Teddy Bear: He loves talking his bear through situations.  He practices the bed time routine and reassures him that he'll be back soon, he rubs his back, etc.  Hopefully this attachment will help keep him calm and occupy some time while he makes sure his bear is comfortable.

8- Paper and crayons: Speaks for itself I think.  He can draw his Grandma a picture to give as a gift!


Meals and Snacks
This part is the most critical.  He'll have to eat breakfast, lunch and snacks from home.  Here's what I plan to bring.

1- Fruit: blueberries because he eats them one at a time, and it takes forever.  Sliced strawberries and whole bananas.

2- Packaged dried fruit snacks:  He thinks they're candy, but they contain nothing but fruit.  The packages are the perfect snack size.

3- Frittata: This dish tastes great cold, and can be sliced and eaten almost like a piece of pizza.  This will be breakfast along with the fruit.


4- Gluten Free Crackers: He eats these slowly, and if I can get my hands on those little packets of jam they'll taste even better.

5- Fish Sticks and Baked Fries with mixed vegetables:  Not the most practical meal perhaps, but fish sticks are his FAVOURITE right now, and I know he'll eat them without a fuss.  We have a thermal lunch bag, so I'm counting on it to keep them in good shape.  I'm hoping they'll reheat them on the plane, but honestly, he'll eat them cold. 
 
2012 Update:
 
He's old enough now to sit through almost a whole movie, so we caved and bought a portable DVD player and some kid friendly earphones.  I let him pick out a few videos that he likes and then threw in a few that are new to hopefully keep him interested for longer.  He also has one of those pen reader things that read a book for you as you tap it on the page.  His is called a Poingo, and it also comes with earphones, so  he can enjoy "reading" his book without bothering everyone else on the plane.
 
He no longer likes Thomas, but Lightning McQueen makes him happy, so I got him his own rolling backpack that he's already packed with his favourite toys. 
 
And the 4 month old, you ask? 
 
This time we're not bringing a stroller because one of my husband's relatives there has one that we can borrow while we're gone.  Instead, I'm going to carry the baby in a carrier through the airport to keep my hands free.  We have two suitcases, two car seats, a baby bag, my son's carry on and another carry-on.  For a girl who moved to Paris for a year with only two suitcases in tow, this feels like we're bringing the whole house, but such is life with two kids!
 
We're bringing soothers and bottles on the plane to help with relieving the pressure in his ears, and we've packed a few little toys to entertain the little guy with.  He picked today to get sick, so I'm crossing my fingers that it's better and not worse in the morning.  He'll be dressed in layers, and I've brought cream for his skin, because it can get dry in an airplane, and that can make babies uncomfortable. 
 
This trip is a special one for us.  My husband's grandfather is turning 90, my brother-in-law is getting married, and this will be the first time my husband will be celebrating Christmas with his entire family since 1996.  We're also meeting our nephew, who is six weeks younger than our baby, for the first time.  I'm looking forward to celebrating and enjoying the warm weather!
 
I'll be posting while I'm there, so please check for updates.  Happy travels!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Treat #12: Chocolate Covered Cranberries

This recipe is part of this year's Holiday Treat Extravaganza!  To see all the recipes, click on the page tab of the same name located at the top of the blog.  To submit a recipe or a request, send a message to celiacbaby@hotmail.com.

Sometimes during the holidays it's nice to have something a little bit different but still festive.  Dipped fruit is easy to do, but dipped strawberries to me are a summertime treat.  Up the sophistication level and the holiday factor by substituting cranberries or even clementine slices for a holiday treat with familiar holiday flavours.  Dark or milk chocolate work fine, but I like the way white chocolate looks against the red of the cranberries.  For a more adult treat, mix a bit of your favourite liqueur into the chocolate. 


Ingredients

1 bag fresh cranberries, at room temperature and wiped dry
Same amount of chocolate (ex. 12 oz. bag of cranberries, 12 oz. chocolate)
Dash of liqueur (optional)




Directions

1- Line a baking sheet with wax paper.  In a glass bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave.  Melt in 1 minute intervals, stirring each time.

2- Using a toothpick for dipping, dip individual cranberries in the melted chocolate.  Allow excess to drip and lay on waxed paper to dry.  Repeat.  Place in refrigerator to harden completely, and then store in the fridge until ready to eat.

It is very important that the cranberries be both room temperature and dry.  Cold cranberries will cause the chocolate to harden too quickly, making it difficult to finish a batch.  Wet cranberries will make the chocolate slide right off. 

The sweetness of the chocolate takes the edge off the tartness of the cranberry.  These are addictive, but really very pretty to serve and would make a great cake topping. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Treat #11: Gluten Free Cake Pop Snowballs

This recipe is part of this year's Holiday Treat Extravaganza!  To see all the recipes, click on the page tab of the same name located at the top of the blog.  To submit a recipe or a request, send a message to celiacbaby@hotmail.com.

When I made my first batch of cake pops, I didn't realize how many pops one box of cake batter would make.  The cake pop maker only came with 12 sticks, and it hadn't occurred to me that I might need more than that.  It turned out that I could make several dozen cake pops with one batter of cake mix.  What to do with all those cake pops I didn't have sticks for? 

Turn them into snowballs! 

Cake Pop Snowballs

Ingredients
(Cupcake liners, for presentation)

1 Gluten Free Cake Mix (I made these with Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake Mix.)
Eggs as called for in mix, plus 1 extra egg
Substitute milk (or substitute) for the amount of water called for in recipe
1 Pudding Dry Mix
1 jar white icing, for decorating
1 bag shredded coconut, for decorating

**Most cake pop recipes call for using half the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, but I found that with gluten free mixes, the pops come out too dry if I cut the liquid in half.  I keep the original proportions.

Directions
Oven 350F


1- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and beat according to cake mix instructions. 







2- Spoon batter into bottom half of cake pop pans, not quite to the fill line.  Put on lid and attach fastening clips.  Bake in a 350F oven for approx. 15 minutes.  Check that they're done by poking a toothpick through the hole at the top.  When it comes out clean, they're done. 







3- Allow pans to cool before removing lid.  Don't worry about any batter that has puffed through the holes at the top.  Loosen pops around the edges with a plastic knife. 






4- Spread icing all over cake pop.  You can insert toothpicks into the ends to make it easier to get icing everywhere, but I just hold them between thumb and forefinger, and fill in any gaps when they're in the cupcake holders.  Roll iced balls in coconut and place in cupcake liner.  Touch up any spaces that aren't evenly covered. 





These are really pretty to serve, and look lovely when they're bitten into and the chocolate cake is revealed, contrasting with the white icing and coconut. 





Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Treat #10: Frankie's Sticky Toffee Pudding

This recipe is part of this year's Holiday Treat Extravaganza!  To see all the recipes, click on the page tab of the same name located at the top of the blog.  To submit a recipe or a request, send a message to celiacbaby@hotmail.com.

In October, I took my family to a 100% gluten free restaurant in Uxbridge called Frankie's Ristorante.  The owners of the restaurant also run a bakery where they sell freshly baked gluten free goods and also mixes so that customers can make their own products at home.  After our delicious lunch, my husband and I had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert, and it was so incredible that I then bought the mix at the bakery to try at home.  I made it this weekend as my contribution to a holiday dinner I attended. 


The bakery ships mixes and flours, and I think it's definitely worth looking into if actually getting to Uxbridge, Ontario is inconvenient for you. 

Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding
(Frankie's Gluten Free Mix)

Directions




1- Place the dates from the package in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. 
Allow to soak while preparing the rest of the mix. 




2- Mix the flour and additional ingredients indicated on the package in a large bowl.  Add dates and water and blend until smooth. 








3- Bake in a 9 inch baking dish or individual ramekins in a 350F oven for the time indicated on package.  I baked it in a large dish, but I think I would do ramekins next time. 








4- Prepare sticky toffee sauce by combining 5 tablespoons brown sugar with 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until bubbly, and then stirring in 2 tablespoons whipping cream (I substituted milk and it worked fine) 






4- Pour over baked cake and serve.  (I, of course, forgot to take a photo of the final step because we weren't at home and I was busy serving the dessert, but I have included a photo of the sticky toffee pudding from Frankie's, made with the same recipe.) 





I would recommend making double the amount of sauce.  Pour half over the cake and allow it to be absorbed, and then serve the rest as extra sauce if anyone wants it.  This dessert is delicious, and fancy enough for a formal dinner.  Presentation is everything!