Friday, February 20, 2015

My G-Free Party Ideas

Can you believe it’s almost March already? That means my birthday is coming up, and I discovered something cool the other day: Did you know the holiday period is the “off season” for birthday popularity? I didn't, but apparently as the calendar turns to spring, summer and then early fall, more and more people have birthdays, culminating with the most popular birthday of all: September 16.

That means we’re all likely to have our share of gifts to give and parties to attend as 2015 rolls along – a lot of them probably for kids. But, what about those youngsters we know who are gluten free? Picking a birthday gift or throwing a party that’s appropriate for them can be tough!

But, fear not. Turns out there are a bunch of resources out there to help us all handle kiddos’ gluten-free birthdays with grace and ease. For starters, what good is a birthday party without a cake?! There are plenty of gluten-free cake recipes out there to help us clear that first, crucial hurdle – and lots of ways to whip up gluten-free frosting, too. If you are going for easy, Betty Crocker makes a variety of gluten-free cake mixes, perfect for all kinds of birthday snacks. If you are going for EASIER (my preferred route), find a bakery near you that sells gluten-free treats. Here in Chicagoland, my go-to is Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery – their delicious cakes and cookies make a sweet addition to any party!

Have you ever been to a child’s birthday party that didn't involve pizza in some way? I can’t remember many. A good way to fill kids’ bellies and get them involved with the g-free lifestyle is to have a gluten-free pizza-making station at your party – and you’ll thank yourself for making that decision later, when your hands are free to tend to other things while the group prepares its own meal!

If food still looms as too large a barrier to a smooth, fun party, I've had good luck focusing on themes and goodie bags, instead of edibles. Cool decorations and fun favors can go a long way in replacing yummy treats that may be hard to make, or not suit everyone.

These ideas just barely scratch the surface of all the ways we can celebrate birthdays, the gluten-free way. Let’s get prepared to wow our birthday boys and girls with party experience they’ll really enjoy!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sneaky, Sneaky Gluten

Boy, I thought I knew it all.

We gluten-free folks, we’re used to doing our homework. We know which aisles to focus in on at our local supermarkets, and which ones to steer clear from. We know the menus of a handful of restaurants in our towns like the backs of our hands. And some of us are pretty handy around the kitchen too, whipping up yummy gluten-free goodies alongside normal foods without a trace of cross contamination. For quite a long time, I’d been doing just those kinds of things too, and hadn’t had any issues accidentally ingesting gluten. Until last week!

Blame it on winter, I guess. But it was cold and windy and my poor lips were chapped and I just had to have some lip balm and…. Ahhh. That felt better. A little while later, though, it didn’t feel better at all! That life-saving (okay, lip-saving) stick I applied to my red, burning lips had gluten in it! And I was miserable.

I found out the hard way: Gluten can hide in the darndest places. I’m fine now, but I’m extra cautious these days to avoid a repeat. That means I look more closely at medications, beauty products, vitamins and supplements, you name it! I even found out the other day that things labeled “wheat free” and some pickles have gluten in them! Wheat free, but not gluten free?! I love pickles! Oh, the humanity.

But, I digress. I thought I knew it all. Don’t be like me… Check out these links below to learn more sneaky places gluten can hide!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Valentine’s Day, the Gluten-free Way

Valentine’s Day is known for its sweet treats, fine dining and memorable gifts. Being a gluten-free soul, however, can make February 14 more frustrating than fun. You know what I’m talking about! Too often, “Oh, these chocolates look delicious!” can quickly turn into “Wait, what’s in these chocolates?” Or, “I made reservations at that fancy place we’ve been wanting to try!” turns into “Oh no – do they have gluten-free things on the menu?!”

But, let’s take a collective breath. Our Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be compromised by gluten-free living! Quite the opposite. It turns out there are plenty of ways folks like us can make a gluten-free Valentine’s Day a seamless and fun time. Did you know that almost all Dove chocolate is gluten-free? So are Junior Mints (the heart-shaped ones, of course!), Hershey’s Kisses and Sweethearts Conversation Hearts (you’ve seen these: “Kiss Me”; “Be Mine”). That certainly opens up some possibilities for us!

But that’s not it. Common sense tells us to call ahead before we dive into those dinner reservations, of course, but what about just foregoing the whole production of going out, in favor of making a romantic meal at home? You’ll be the fool-proof chef charge of making sure everything is to your specifications. And gluten-free appetizer, main course and dessert recipes are also so easy to come by these days – plus we’ll be able to slip into your sweat pants much more quickly afterwards!

When it comes to gifts, the usual methods apply: label watching and thinking outside the box, to be sure. But what matters most is the thought put into it! With a little effort and research, our gluten-free Valentines will be smiling until next February.

Okay, so the candy worked out; dinner was a romantic breeze; and the gift-giving was seamless. Time to seal it all up with a kiss or two, right? Wrong! If you’re gluten intolerant and you lock lips with someone who just ate a gluten dish, drank a beer or is wearing cosmetics with gluten in them, your night could end on a bad note! So, remember to floss and brush (or have your Valentine brush) with gluten-free toothpaste before planting one on him or her.

Want to learn more about making your gluten-free Valentine’s Day memorable for something other than hassle? Check out these links. More ideas for gluten-free candy, meals, gifts and smooching await!