Friday, December 26, 2008

Yeast free what?

Oh boy, it's been a while, huh? And around this time of year, I guess it's to be expected. I mean, when I'm dealing with the holiday craziness a la Mexican-style (and with all the bilingual craziness that comes with it) I'm happy to come out on the other side of Christmas still standing.

At least I was thinking sort of about The Celiac Kid while I was away on my little crazy-land vacation from blogging. And maybe because of the constant running around lately and my hurried grilled cheese sandwiches or gluten-free mac and cheese lunches for Buttercup as of late, I decided to be a good Celiac Mommy and actually make he a real dinner last week.

I know. I should be up for a Mother of the Year award.

So, I cracked open my Cooking Light: 5 Ingredient, 15 Minute Cookbook and got to work on a gluten-free version of this deep-dish casserole pizza.

The ingredients called for:

*1 pound of ground round
* 1 (15-ounce) can chunky Italian-style tomato sauce
* Cooking spray
* 1 (10-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
* 6 (1-ounce) slices part skim mozzarella cheese (divided)

According to the directions:

*Cook the meat in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, stirring until it crumbles. Drain, if necessary, and return to skillet. Add tomato sauce and cook until hot.
*While meat cooks, coat a 13X9X2-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Unroll pizza dough and pres into bottom and halfway up sides of baking dish. Line bottom of pizza dough crust with 3 slices mozzarella cheese. top with meat mixture.
*Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 3 cheese slices, and bake 5 additional minutes or until crust is browned and cheese melts. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Now, I've made this recipe before and I LOVED it. (And it helps that the carb count is below 30 grams per serving.) But that was in our pre-Celiac days, and I haven't had the chance to make it since The Celiac Dad was diagnosed. I ran to Kroger with my shopping list in hand and came home with French Bread & Pizza Mix from The Gluten Free Pantry and got to work on the dough while the organic ground sirloin I substituted for the ground round was cooking on the stove.

If you decide to try this one for yourself, don't forget to check the ingredients on your cooking spray, as many contain gluten. To save myself the hassle of reading yet another label, I just substitute olive oil in a Misto sprayer.

Sure, making the dough itself basically took all 15 of the minutes this recipe was supposed to take me to complete before popping it into the oven, but what's a little extra effort every now and then?

The dough was downright paste-like, but I eventually got it all together and out of the oven.

And while I was letting this slice cool so I could cut off a little chunk for Buttercup's dinner...

...I noticed the packet of yeast I left behind my mixing bowl while I prepared the dough.
Yeah, I rolled my eyes, too. Buttercup, however, has no complaints. She loves it and is happy whenever I take an individually frozen piece out to thaw for her meal, which makes me happy my time, effort, and money wasn't wasted.
And that brings me to the money. Usually, it's much cheaper to cook at home than to get take-out. For the $25 you spend on pizza, pop, bread sticks, and salad, you most likely could have fed your family a few meals you prepared yourself.
Not so with Celiac Disease. The pizza mix from The Gluten Free Pantry was about $6 alone, and then I added to the cost by going organic with my meat choice. So that rang up at $5 for 1 pound of ground sirloin. By the time I was done with the cheese and the tomato sauce, I was looking at about $20 for one family dinner cooked at home.
Yeah, I know. Welcome to Glutenfreeville.
And I get to do it all over again when we run our of our freezer stash. And hopefully remembering to add the yeast will make it a meal we both enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What do we do now? (Or: The joy of reading labels)

I remember the moment the doctor called with The Celiac Dad's diagnosis. We were standing in the kitchen and while he was on the phone repeating the doctor's orders for what to avoid, I was reaching into our refridgerator and pantry throwing each and every offending box of macaroni and cheese, cracker, and pasta box in a garbage bag that I delivered to my mother's house that night.

That was five years ago. And even though I thought we were in the clear once I emptied the "poison" from our home, we have since learned that with Celiac Disease, the learning never ends.
I thought it was tough with my husband, but compared to the egg-shell walk I negotiate daily in trying to feed Buttercup a balanced and gluten-free diet, dealing with The Celiac Dad was a piece of cake.

He, at least, understands what he can and cannot have. He is also literate and very motivated to stay on course and avoid the effects of eating gluten-containing foods. Buttercup, on the other hand, is far too innocent to understand why I'm always saying things like, "No, baby, you can't eat that. Why not try this instead!"

For clarification, Buttercup has not been diagnosed as having Celiac disease. But we know that there is a possibility that she may one day test positive. And on the advice of some very respected doctors, we have decided to keep her gluten-free until she is at least three to four years old. At that point we will test, and based on the results, possibly introduce gluten into her diet.

So what do we do until then? The same thing you should be doing if your child was just diagnosed.

Learn what foods are safe, what foods must be avoided, and read every single label on every single food item before allowing them to eat it. Assuming is a dangeous game when it comes to Celiac Disease, so please don't take anything for granted.

We learned the hard way that many cooking sprays contain gluten when the Celiac Dad kept getting sick even though we were both sure that we had checked everything again and again. And when we finally realized what the offending ingredient was, we immediately bought an olive oil mister, and have banned cooking sprays from the house.

Another time, The Celiac Dad was offered peanuts at work. Thankfully, label reading is now second nature to him, and he saved himself from a very bad afternoon. Turns out that the package listed "wheat flour" as a main ingredient.

But again, he's an adult. He gets it. My little Celiac Kid doesn't, and it's my job to make sure she stays safe.

And if that means playing the part of "that mom" who drives the rest of the world crazy with her
"let-me-just-take-a-look-at-that's," well then so be it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A must read for parents of Celiac Kids

I want this blog to be a place for parents to be able to not only relate, but to find tangible pieces of information they can also use.

One bit of information I'd like to share is this great article entitled "Celiac Disease in Children."

It's a bit outdated, but aside from a few facts to glaze over (*like introducing solid foods at "nearly five months"), the information is still valid.

If you don't have time to read it now, bookmark it and make a promise to sit down and go through it later. For those with experience dealing with Celiac, most is just a refresher. But for those who have just received a diagnosis, or are perhaps trying to determine what is wrong with their child, it's a great place to start.

***Experts now recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, if possible, and gradual introduction of solids from that point on. It's also recommended to wait until 12 months of age (or when recommended by your health provider) before introducing gluten to your child's diet, regardless of family history. Please refer here and here for current information on the subject.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lesson learned: Food isn't the only enemy

You'd think after dealing with The Celiac Dad and his food limitations for the past five years or so, I'd be pretty seasoned by now when it comes to what to avoid.

And when it comes to food items, I do feel pretty confident that I can make gluten-free choices for Buttercup no matter where I'm at.

Of course, feeling confident is the first step to having the carpet yanked out from under your feet, and I just landed on my butt.

Buttercup and I were playing in her room last night when she came across the one-ounce Play-Doh container she was given by a friend. I had stored it on the top of her book shelf, forgetting that Buttercup is growing like a weed and now tall enough to reach.

When she handed me the closed container with a hopeful little look in her eye, I decided I was going to ignore the recommended age range and have some fun with Buttercup. (The container says for 2+.) And as I turned the little container in my hand to open it, my eyes just happened to come across these words: "NOTICE TO PARENTS: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS WHEAT".

Um, what? Why? Whatever...

And in that instant, I realized that I'm in for a world of learning when it comes to raising a child on a gluten-free diet. Not only do I have to worry about food; it seems that the world of play and toys and fun is now one in which we also need to tread carefully.

And in the interest of those dealing with similar issues, I hunted up a wheat-free, gluten-free homemade recipe to make for the kids.

PLAYDOH (recipe from

*1 c. flour
*1 c. boiling water
*2 tbsp. cream of tartar
*1/2 c. salt1 tbsp. oil
*Food coloring
*Mix and knead together.
*This playdoh is not sticky and does not dry out.

I haven't tried the recipe out for myself yet, but plan to as soon as the holiday craziness has passed.

Until then, I'm hiding that tin of the poison-doh, I mean Play-doh, and living happily in my little Celiac Kid induced gluten-free world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shape your holiday with gluten-free options

It's been on crazy day, but I thought posting my latest review blog would make sense here, considering I used a gluten-free product to get my results. Let me know what you think!

(And feel free to point and laugh at my finished product-it tasted better than it looked!)

If you liked the vlog review and are interested in entering a contest to win your own Holiday Shape-its set, please stop by my Berrie Sweet Picks blog for your chance! Hurry up, though! It only runs through December 12!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Yogurt is good for the skin, isn't it?

The dogs are dreaming right now, and Buttercup is out like a light. I may have just enough time to squeeze in a blog post here before she wakes up, just like she always does, around 2 a.m. in need of some mommy-and-me snuggle time.

With the Celiac Dad away right now, I really don't mind it. It gives me a chance to snuggle, cuddle, and of course, helps me since I hate sleeping alone.

Since my time is limited, I thought I'd post a picture of my little Celiac Kid just digging into the Yoplait yogurt she managed to grab away from me (and she finished it all up!)

I'm currently working in a list of gluten-free items to keep stocked in your pantry to save time on last-minute dashes to the grocery store...which reminds me that I need to create a list of places to shop for Celiac-Safe items...but for now I can recommend yogurt as a great snack for Celiac Kids.

Buttercup would live on this stuff alone, if I allowed it, and since it's a healthy option I have no problem with sharing!
And in case you were wondering, this post really was just an excuse to post a picture I am sure she's going to hate when she is old enough to realize what a social life is.
As for those lists I am working on, please feel free to email me at berriesweet (dot) info (at) gmail (dot) com with any information you think may be helpful! I'd certainly appreciate it!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A big bad world

Why exactly are we looking at a picture of a half-eaten cookie in my hand? Because this little gluten-containing cookie, dear friends, is serving as a wake-up call to living with a Celiac Kid.

If you ask any of my relatives, they will probably gladly share with you what pain I have been with the constant reminders of what to feed and what not to feed Buttercup since she stared on solid foods. I even made my own baby food so that she could enjoy options like Chicken Noodle puree and ensure no accidental gluten-ingestion ever occurred.

And we've done pretty well so far. We've learned where we can shop, what we can buy, and what to avoid (through unfortunate trial and error) over the last five years since The Celiac Dad was diagnosed. But he's out of town right now and well, I got stupid and left a cherry chip cookie within reach...right before walking out of the room.

Yes, I know. Bad Celiac Mom...BAD!

And as Buttercup gleefully ran into the bedroom with the cookie in her outstretched hand, seemingly with the sole intention of giving Mommy back her cookie, I suddenly realized that I may have to revise how I handle gluten things in my home.

See, up till this morning, I believed I was doing all I could to keep Buttercup safe from any potential pain brought on by a celiac reaction until she is old enough to be tested. And that thinking pretty much meant that I made her food and mine separate, snacks included. It did not, however, mean that I stopped eating gluten-containing foods in front of her.

That mindset may have worked when dealing with The Celiac Dad, who was smart enough not to stand between me and my gluten, but with a 17-month-old toddler ready to take on the world?

Yeah....about that.

When Buttercup handed me the cookie, I immediately checked her lips for crumbs (There were none.) I pried her mouth open for any visible proof of cookie residue on her little tongue (clear!). And then I went all "CSI" on myself and placed the bite mark in the cookie against my own teeth (it matched!), instantly realizing that Buttercup is a genius who jut thought Mommy might want another bite of the cookie she herself is not allowed to eat.

And as if to prove that she was okay with her lot in life, Buttercup promptly sat down and grabbed up her little snack-trap cup, filled with gluten-free dried cereal, and began munching away. So the story does have a happy ending, quite literally, and yet I am still sitting here feeling like the worst mother in the world.

Why? Because after all the harping on my family, I almost poisoned my own daughter. It's not exactly knowledge that sits well with me. But no matter how badly I feel for what almost happened, I don't feel bad enough to ban gluten from my home. It's a big, bad, gluten-containing world out there, and I need to be the one to help Buttercup distinguish between what is safe for her to eat and what is not and...wait!

Maybe I already did that.

There, now I don't feel so bad after all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The guessing game

It's basically a roll of the dice whenever Buttercup gets sick: Is it the flu or is she having a reaction from possible gluten ingestion?

This weekend would be a prime example. She was fine on Thursday and all day Friday. Then at midnight, she woke up and threw up the entire night, and her diapers weren't any prettier. It lasted all through Saturday, and finally here in the wee hours of Monday night, she is now just dealing with the remnants of the nasty diapers.

When I called The Celiac Dad to share with him the news of his little one's sickly state (he's out of town on business) his first reaction was: "Sounds like a gluten-reaction."

And yes, I had considered this, too. But after exhausting all possibilities on how she might have inadvertently been given any gluten-containing products, I had already come up dry. My mother made her mac and cheese with clean dishes and used the butter marked "G-Free" that they keep in a plastic bag in their fridge. All of her snacks I provided myself. And when she was in the same room as her 3-yr old cousin who liked to try to feed her, we took turns blinking. I swear to God.

I can understand how Celiac Dad might jump to "It's the Evil Gluten!" whenever his little baby gets sick. I probably would, too, if I was dealing with it first-hand, myself. I already know that I am more aware than those not dealing with this, more paranoid, and more worried in general about little things like goldfish crackers or cheese-its at birthday parties that most parents don't even think twice about.

But being paranoid doesn't turn a frantic run to a 24-hour Rite-aid for some Pedialyte into a Celiac reaction.

Fact is, this little Celiac kid had the flu this weekend. And if there was any doubt in my mind, it all went away when Buttercup passed it on to Mommy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Thanksgiving "gluten-free-for-all"

Our Thanksgiving dinner went off without a hitch with plenty of gluten-free dishes for everyone to enjoy. Not only did my in-laws prepare a separate turkey with gluten-free stuffing, we also had mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, a few appetizers, and the bread pudding and cheesecake I prepared.

In an effort to be a good Celiac Mommy, I left the few gluten-containing items off of my plate so I could share with Buttercup.

I did mention in a previous post that I would update on how the desserts turned out and the bread pudding was a success. It's sweet enough to put someone in a sugar coma, but a few bites are heaven! The Japanese Cheesecake, though, was a bit dry and not at all moist and creamy like one would expect cheesecake to taste. It wasn't bad, per say, just not as good as I had hoped.

My plan is to tweak the recipe and see if maybe a bit of extra cream cheese and/or buttermilk will help, but Celiac Dad and I were thinking that maybe this recipe is just meant to come out like this. If so, and my tweaking attempts fail, I probably won't use this one again and instead just doctor a traditional cheesecake recipe with a gluten-free crust.

We still have one more Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate on Thursday, and for that I'll be making gluten-free stuffing for the whole family to enjoy. Aside from the turkey, it will likely be the only "safe" food for Buttercup, so I'll definitely be on the lookout for any relatives who have "forgotten" about my daughter's diet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

In the name of The Celiac Kid (and sidekick: The Celiac Husband)

It's 1:17 a.m. and I am waiting for french bread to rise while I whip up the Japanese Cheesecakes.


I am so in the running for mother-of-the-year. (And for those of you who are wondering, the wife-of-the-year trophy is already sitting in my china cabinet.)

And I haven't even made the bread pudding yet.

Thanksgiving: Celiac style

I love baking for fun. And if this makes me a bad mom and wife, then so be it...but I hate baking because I have to.

It's one of the reasons the holidays become a little more stressful for me (and for you, I am sure!) No matter whose house the festivities are being held at, we have to make sure that dishes are gluten-free for my husband and daughter. Usually, we make stuffing, gravy, and desserts that can be enjoyed by all. There might be a dish or two that are off-limits, but we are thankfully made aware of what to stay away from.

This year, my husband has to leave on Thanksgiving morning on a business trip, so we are celebrating on Sunday with the in-laws. And thanks to some great timing, we are also celebrating my mother's 50th birthday early on Saturday. That leaves me with basically no time at all to prepare a gluten free cheesecake and an altered gluten-free whiskey bread pudding.

Remember, I am not a chef so most recipes I post will be attributed to the proper source.

For the cheesecake, I will be using a Japanese Cheesecake recipe from Recipezaar. It's our first time trying it, so I will let you all know how it turns out.

The Whisky Bread Pudding recipe presents a bigger challenge, since in order to make it safe, I first need to prepare a gluten-free french bread recipe before I can make the actual dish.(And no, Buttercup isn't going to be eating any of this tasty little dish.)

Since time is crunched this year, I am taking the easy way out and preparing an all-purpise baking mix in the breadmaker and then making the pudding. It's cheating, I know, but I deserve a break here and there.

I'll post later on how the cheesecake turns out.

So does she or doesn't she?

I get asked this a lot about Buttercup and whether or not she actually has Celiac Disease. and I am always reply with a "We don't know yet."

And that, quite frankly, results in a few raised eyebrows from family and strangers alike.

I know what they are thinking and I am sure the words "crazy" and overprotective" come to mind for many. And if I had never seen my big, strong, capable husband curled up in the fetal position trying to wish away the pain as his body fought to rid itself of unintentionally digested gluten-containing foods, I'd probably think anyone else was crazy for keeping their kid on a special diet with no "proof" it was actually necessary.

But I have. So here I am with my Celiac Kid.

When I was pregnant, we did all the research we could to make sure that even the simplest things like formula were safe for Buttercup. I even asked an attending physician I was seeing if I needed to watch what I ate when breastfeeding to make sure gluten wasn't accidentally ingested by my daughter. His reponse (that Celiac disease was an aquired condition and I had nothing to worry about) made me realize how much misinformation is still out there, and reminded me that we were going to have to be our own advocates.

I should have known. After all, it took ten years for my husband to get a proper diagnosis after popping acid reflux meds like tic tacs for ten years with no benefit or relief. Not until I dragged him to my own doctor were the proper steps taken, correct tests ordered, and Celiac Disease issued as a diagnosis.

We have hemmed and hawed over when to test Buttercup, what test to go with when the time comes, and bucked the "It's no big deals" coming from well-meaning loved ones hoping to share a nice, cheap, and tasty snack (that didn't require six different kinds of flour and four baking attempts for it to come out right)with our daughter. And since she was born it has moved from 12 months to 18 months and now to four years old. Perhaps even four.

Based on our research and commens from well-versed doctors, the longer we wait to test the better. We'll get more accurate results that way, and at the very least I'll rest better knowing that any gluten introfuced solely for testing purposes won't hurt my baby's tummy without her being able to tell me.

Eyes rolled when we announced our plans for our extended gluten-free diet. But in all reality, it's no more work or expense since Buttercup's daddy is on the same diet. I know he feels better knowing that we are giving our daughter the extra time needed for accurate test results, and I do, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Celiac Kid

I must be crazy to start a new blog with two already going, and yet hear I am.
Now, I know that there are tons of blogs a sites out there devoted to Celiac Sprue (or Celiac Disease, as it is also known), but I wanted to see if I could create a place for moms like me. I'm not a chef and won't be coming up with any crazy original recipe ideas. I haven't written an cookbooks. And I don't have a medical degee.

What I do have is a husband who was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue five years ago, and 17-month-old daughter (whom I call Buttercup) who will be on a gluten-free diet until she is at least three years old (more on that later.) And of course, because it always works this way, I also have too many kiddie parties, family dinners, and other situations where I have had to make like Superman and jump tall buildings in a single leap in order to smack a cookie on it's way into my daughter's mouth out of a well-meaning relative's hand.

If you found your way here, I am sure you can relate.

And since I'm the family shopper and cook, it only makes sense that I'd be pretty versed in what works and what doesn't. In my frantic efforts to help my husband and daughter have relatively normal eating experiences both in and out of the home, I've come across some great gluten-free products in some unexpected places and I've also had my fair sharen of "oopses".

I'm in the process of gathering a panel of contributing experts to share tips, recipes, and other relate insight on how to raise a Celiac Kid. I'll be surfing the net for resouces we all can benefit from, and sharing my own adventures along the way.So stop on by as I get the new Celiac Kid community on its feet.