Monthly Archives: February 2014

No Soup For You!

Image

About a week ago, Cam was sick. Not the full-blown flu but plenty of congestion and a pretty nasty cough. He normally is not one who misses school but this cold was bad enough that we kept him home for a day and needed to stock up with extra boxes of tissues from the store. Fortunately, my schedule allowed for me to be available to stay at home and watch after him as his body tried to recover. I’ll admit, I’m not the best caregiver but in the past I have been able to make sure that the kids had their blankets, a book or a movie to entertain them and I was always quick to refill their cups with juice or water (Need to keep the fluids up!). I felt that I was up to the task…and then lunch happened.

Think about it. What do you feed your kid when they’re sick? Crackers, toast, a nice bowl of soup? Well, with Cam’s Celiac, the need to be creative presented itself. We did have Nut Thin crackers but a quick glance at the labels state that they are manufactured in a location that uses wheat. Great for a gluten-free lifestyle, maybe not the best choice for a newly diagnosed Celiac. (Note: He has had Nut Thins in the past and we don’t think that they caused any issues but cross-contamination has been our biggest challenge this first six months so we’ve tried to be safe). As for toast, I could have done this but we like to conserve the homemade sandwich bread for his lunches and I honestly think that it doesn’t toast as well as other breads.  So, it was down to the nice bowl of soup.

I headed to the pantry, feeling good that the answer to the lunch question was about to be solved. Digging past the six flour mixes on the shelf, I found a can of Campbell’s Chicken n’ Noodles hiding near the back. Six months of gluten-free learning set off bells and whistles in my mind; processed noodles = bad. I picked up the next can; Chicken n’ Stars. Two thoughts came to mind. First was they’ll put chicken with just about anything in a can of soup. Second, the stars are the same as the noodles so Cam couldn’t have this either. We were obviously unprepared for him being sick (like I said, it doesn’t happen often) as these were the only two soups that we had available. The next thought was that I could make him some soup using beef broth (though this is way beyond my area of expertise in the kitchen but my wife was a quick phone call away and I was confident that she could probably walk me through it).  Grabbing the beef bouillon cubes, I quickly discovered that this was not going to be an option either. Did you know that beef broth contains hydrolyzed wheat gluten? Yeah, me neither.

It got me thinking about hidden ingredients and how important it has been for all of us to learn how to properly read the food labels. Cam’s become a champ at doing this. If someone offers him something, like a snack after a basketball game or a drink at a friend’s house, his first move is to find the ingredients and check if it’s something that is safe for him to consume. The FDA mandates that if wheat has been used, there has to be a bold notification stating “Contains Wheat” (same with dairy, nuts, etc.) but it’s not always that easy. Some items, such as malt (another no-no for us), can be included under the header of “flavorings” and hidden in the product. A good example is with cream soda. Look on a can or bottle of this and you won’t find the “Contains Wheat” label but it can turn a Celiac’s stomach right quick. Education is so important for us as a Celiac family. We know what the main triggers are but we are continuing to learn about these hidden things and how to keep them out of our house. We hope that continued regulations and warnings are maintained and researched by the food industry to make it easier for Cam as he gets older and more independent. It’s always his safety first.

Oh, as for the soup, I know that there are many recipes out there that provide gluten free options. They all look delicious and we are sure to try them as we continue on our journey (he has at least six more years under our roof and him getting a cold is bound to happen again). It turns out though that, on this day, Cam wasn’t hungry.

Advertisements

And the Winner Is….

For 20 years, I have benefited from a friendly, not-really-a-competition competition between my wife and her sister. You see, they both have a thing for making homemade chocolate chip cookies. Not scooping a pre-made dough onto a board but a mix the ingredients, add your own personal touches type of chocolate chip cookie. (But some days I do long for the time where I used to eat raw cookie dough straight from the refrigerator..ah, youth.) When her sister, who lives out of town, would come in to visit, it was almost guaranteed that a fresh batch of cookies were made and devoured. Not to be outdone, within a week my wife would make up her own batch of cookies which would be consumed just a quickly. It really was a win-win situation for me. When Cam was diagnosed a Celiac last September, the game changed. No longer was the competition between my wife and her sister, it was a competition solely waged by my wife in a quest to find the best Gluten Free chocolate chip cookie recipe. I think that it was the first thing that she attempted to perfect after finding out about this lifestyle change. There was some trial and error (too grainy, not holding form, etc.) during the process but really, who loses in testing different chocolate chip cookie recipes? After three or four attempts by pulling ideas from other GF bloggers and making her own personal touches, she found the one that worked. The one that you try and say “This is gluten free?” The one that ended my unofficial reign as “GF Chocolate Chip Taste Tester of the Universe”. The one, that most importantly, made Cam happy.

Friends and family who we are not fortunate enough to see us every day/week have asked that we share recipes when we find a good one. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Below is the “Soft Batch” Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that is now a mainstay in our home. Credit for the original recipe goes to “Gluten Free on a Shoestring” with some slight variations being added in by my son’s wonderful, personal chef.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 3/4 cups all purpose Gluten Free Flour (Glutino)
  2. 1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum
  3. 6 tablespoons Corn Starch
  4. 1 teaspoon Salt
  5. 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  6. 2/3 cup Sugar
  7. 1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar
  8. 6 tablespoons Butter (room temperature)
  9. 5 tablespoons Crisco (melted and cooked)
  10. 1 tablespoons Vanilla
  11. 1 Egg & 1 Egg Yolk (room temperature)
  12. 1 cup Chocolate Chips mixed with 1 teaspoon corn starch

Directions:

Mix butter, shortening. Blend in sugars, eggs. Add rest of dry ingredients (blend in bowl) until well mixed. Add chips.

Scoop on to parchment-lined cookie sheets. Chill for at least 3 hours.

Bake at 325°, 12-14 minutes or just until set. Let cool on the cookie sheets.

Yield: 24 cookies

Maintaining Balance

ScaleThe other day I was curious. I wondered how many times we brought up the word “gluten” or “celiac” in conversation during the course of a normal day. If you think about it, eating is an integral part of daily communication in everyone’s home. Over breakfast, you talk about your plans for the day. If you are a parent or work outside the house, lunch is usually the next topic and the decision is made as to what needs to be prepared or packed. Halfway through the day, the thought crosses your mind or a conversation is had with your spouse or loved one that touches on plans for dinner. “Can I have a snack?” is asked when the kids get home and finally, when the entire family is back under one roof, the daily debriefing is conducted over a warm meal at the dining room table. Talking and food go hand-in-hand. So, with the eating lifestyle changes that we have endured over the past months, I just wanted to know how much Cam’s condition had become a part of our every day vernacular. I’m embarrassed to say that I tried to find out and lost count.

On one hand, this is a great thing as it shows that my wife and I have our son’s health first and foremost in our minds. On the other hand though, are we putting too much emphasis on these changes? Has gluten not only taken over my son’s intestines but had it also taken over as our family’s primary topic of small talk? I know that things will change as we become more accustomed to this new diet in the months and years to come but I definitely do not want it dominating the conversation. A balance needs to be achieved. This will not only be good for Cam (de-emphasizing his differences) but it will also be good for his younger sister. Caroline is almost 10 and she’s a non-Celiac. She hasn’t met a food that she doesn’t like and there really isn’t anything out there that she will not try. She’s at that stage where she’s eating something such as an orange or crackers or a yogurt about once an hour. She doesn’t care that the crackers have changed from Wheat Thins to Nut Thins and we’ve heard no complaints about the new chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve never asked her but I’m sure she gets tired of hearing the words “gluten” and “celiac”. To her credit, she has never said anything. She watches her mother cook in the kitchen and seems genuinely interested in the changes made for the benefit of her brother. She’s insightful enough to ask questions about whether or not the rest of us should also be taking vitamins to fulfill our lost, daily intake. She’s been the perfect sister when it comes to her brother’s disease.

But should she be deprived (for lack of a better term) of an expanded palate? When we pass up the artisan bread at the grocery store, while healthy for him is it fair to her? We do take her out when Cam is at an after-school activity or a friend’s place and we “sneak” a piece of NY style pizza or chocolate lava cake. I don’t want it to feel like we’re “cheating” or doing something wrong but, honestly, sometimes it does. And we want to change that. He says that he doesn’t mind if we have certain foods that he can’t so maybe it is time to test that statement. Not for our sake, but for the sake of his sister and understanding that her tastes can be different. It’s a balance that we need to find and achieve, to match the love that we have for them equally.