Recipe: Gluten-Free “Dirt & Worms” – Better than the original!

Welcome back to School and with all the fun school treats! Dirt and Worms was one of my favorite fun, “I can do it myself” almost treats of my school days. Of course, being gluten-free, my children haven’t experienced dirt and worms. The ingredients have been available for a while, but we never seem to have all the ingredients at once. However, this morning my husband and I were doing some photography for upcoming blog posts and reviews when I realized I have all the ingredients for “Dirt and Worms.”

I list this recipe with the brands I used because the brands are Gluten-Free, artificial dye free, and often Casein free, which I know is crucial for many readers. And, I like them…but mentioning anything else would be “Spoilers.”

So, we quickly put it together and here you go: Gluten-Free Dirt & Worms

Ingredients:

Gluten-free Ingredients for childhood treat favorite "Dirt and Worms"

1/2 cup Kozy Shack Chocolate Pudding (or a Dairy Free brand of your choice if you need a CF version)
3 Surf Sweets gummy worms (also a CF candy!)
2 crushed up Kinnikinnick Foods KToos Sandwich cookies (these are Casein free!)
optional a couple of Annie’s Gummy Bunnies and a few Surf Sweets Gummy Swirls to make it look like a little garden.

Directions
Put your worms in the bottom of a cup
Cover with pudding (I used the individual size from Kozy Shack)
Crush your GFCF Ktoos in a Ziploc or plastic bag and cover the pudding with the crushed cookies

Dirt & Worms Step by Step

To finish: Put some Surf Sweets Swirls on top to look like flowers and place some Annie’s Bunnies in if you want to have fun.
Place spoon in confection, get a big scoop, don a Fez, put spoon in mouth, and smile!

Welcome back to the simple, fun things in life! You have yummy treat and you’re now cool!

GlutenFree dirt & worms with best tasting pudding, sandwich cookies, & gummies around!

Thanks as always for reading and stay tuned for product reviews. Several product reviews coming soon!

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1in133: Why It’s Such a “Big Deal” to me

The 1in133 team is “knee deep in cake” building the “World’s Largest Cake” for the First Gluten Free Labeling Summit to be held in Washington D.C, tomorrow May 4th, 2011. This is a grass-roots movement of people who care about others. One of the things that I quickly learned about the gluten-free and celiac community is that they take care of their own. The FDA has failed us for years, but people who have something in common have bonded together and created an incredible worldwide community that keeps itself safe.

Websites & bloggers such as Gluten Freeville, Adventures of A Gluten Free Mom, GlutenFree Goddess and Gluten Free Girl and the Chef are just a few people who have immersed themselves into helping others find answers that even doctors have been unable to answer.

However, there is a huge obstacle that stands in many people’s way of getting better improperly labeled food. Stores, companies, etc. mistakenly believe there are “strict standards” for a “Gluten Free label.” There are strict standards if a company is Certified GlutenFree, but not by the FDA. So, what that means to us is that unless we see that little Certified symbol, any other product claiming Gluten Free might not be. Jules Shepard, one of the bakers for this event, blogged in February posted story about Post’s Gluten Free “claim” for Fruity Pebbles. You can see the article here. They claim “certified” gluten-free, but it’s their own inside certification with no written, public standards.

Walmart has started labeling some foods: “A Naturally Gluten Free Food.” Yes, the beans in the can were at some point naturally gluten-free, but what about the modified cornstarch and other things that have been added. Other companies claim “Gluten FREE!~” right on the front of the box, but then you get home, read the fine print as you are taking the item out to cook and find out the product was manufactured on equipment that shares wheat. There is NO guarantee that product is “gluten-free.” One of the biggest “gluten-free” terms lately is “No gluten Ingredients Used.” The companies are trying to get our attention by putting that, but how are we any more sure that product is safe than a product that doesn’t label that, but still doesn’t contain wheat, barley, rye, etc.

Companies are coming up with new ways to try to entice a “gluten-free” buyer. One of my favorites for a body care line (which the FDA rule would sadly not cover), or should I say one of the most insidious I’ve seen is “This original formulation does not contain gluten ingredients.” Okay, so if you read that carefully, the original recipe doesn’t contain gluten, but the end product might. In fact, the end product might even contain gluten sources if they couldn’t source the proper non-gluten ingredient. Hugo Naturals, another body care, is also claiming Gluten Free on hair & body products that contain OAT. While Oat doesn’t contain gluten, it’s guilty by association, and even the certified gluten-free oats can cause severe cross-reactivity in some ultra sensitive people. I have seen “Oat” listed in “GlutenFree” claimed foods as well, and they are not listed as certified Gluten Free oats, nor does the product show a certification.

Although I don’t believe the government solves problems well, and I think they often create more than they solve, I do think it’s time they create a standard. Companies are finding all sorts of ways to claim gluten-free, or have the appearance of GlutenFree, without going to the trouble, cost, or even effort to ensure the product is truly gluten-free. They slap the label on, or use fancy wording to try to convince customers their product is safe. The FDA comes down hard on vitamin and supplement companies who claim any sort of “cure” or “treatment.” Yet, they allow companies to get away with claiming “gluten-free” when a product is not and it hurts and makes people sick.

I hope the 1in133 team is successful for several reasons: companies are beginning to tread the line between a false claim and outright fraud; it needs to be stopped. Consumers need a standard from which to base their decisions on. It’s tiresome to read though all the ingredients to try to also find “modified food starch” or barely, rye, malt, etc. wheat is listed in allergen statements, but I’m tired of the headaches I get from trying to figure out if a food has the other ingredients. Finally, they are fighting for everyone in the celiac and gluten-free community. Most of us tweet, blog, etc to share our experiences with others. We fight for each other, we look out for each other. The other day, I tweeted about a mis-labeling at a store. The product contained wheat; I mentioned the store b/c they follow me and I wanted them to be aware, I took a picture. I tweeted it. Why, because I don’t want anyone else to pick up that package take it home, make it, and feed it to their celiac husband or child.

It’s time the FDA took action because the hidden gluten in food is poison to those with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. My only hope is the standard will be a true standard. The standard for “trans-fat free” is a joke as the FDA allows a signifcant amount of transfats in a product to still be claimed “trans-fat free.” Furthermore, they allow for any serving size. Some companies claim something like 5 potato chips for a serving size so that they can use that “transfat free” claim. Who eats 5 potato chips? Maybe someone who’s very good at Weight Watchers, but more people eat a lot more. The FDA needs to have a clean, realistc standard for this regulation.

1in133 has set out to bring awareness to the FDA that gluten is poison to at least 1 out of 133 people. Please support them, continue to sign the petition, and make sure to include there shouldn’t be any loopholes allowed as the FDA has allowed for in the past. Keep an eye on 1in133 site tomorrow and follow them on Facebook.They will post pictures of the action! Continue to support the effort as well, and have a fantastic day. Good luck 1in133 at the Summit, and thank you for what you’ve done.

The Valentine’s Marathon Event-last minute tips

Welcome to the Semi-Annual event of “Men Shopping the grocery store.” This event occurs semi-annually at Thanksgiving and Valentines Day. Although the events are similar, men of all ages, sizes, looks, and education wandering around the grocery store almost completely lost, the events are completely different.

The Thanksgiving Day event is scavenger hunt based. On this day, these wonderful men only have about a three to six hour window to endure shopping at the grocery store. They are armed with a list of obscure items their wives forgot to pick-up, but are essential to the success of dinner and the added pressure of finding the correct thing and having guests to get it right for. They often wander around the store completely lost, murmuring under the breath, or you find them staring blankly around for the store directory. The grocery store on Thanksgiving Day offers a perfect volunteer opportunity for people to go to the store just to help these poor gentlemen find these strange and obscure items.

Valentine’s Day however, is a marathon event which usually starts around 5pm on Feb 13th. While the Thanksgiving Day scavenger hunt is much more obscure, most men are armed with a specific list. On Valentine’s day the stores have several aisles pointing men in the direction they need to go. They are not as lost in the store, and there are other specific RED stop points along the way. They enter a store and have a red aisle to grab the Chocolate. Figuring out the correct chocolate and other gifts, that’s the challenge for this event. Nuts, no nuts, does she like Dark chocolate. Did she like this brand last year, or is this the brand that she can’t stand? They are bombarded with all these choices and more…and then the flowers. “Why do I have to buy flowers that are just gonna die? Now, is she allergic to these or was that something else. Oh no, the red ones are gone, now WHAT!?”

Our local grocery even made it super easy as they have cards, chocolates, and cute things all in the same aisles. The flowers will be somewhere else in the store, though there might be a little stand of wilting roses in the Valentines’ aisles, and those are also demarcated in the store with RED.

This year, 2011, the event will be extra exciting as the hours for this marathon are shortened. Usually, these wonderful gentlemen in our lives are reminded to stop at the store on the way home by their female co-workers or secretaries the night BEFORE. They stop, grab their goodies, and they have gifts for their loved ones to gift in the morning by 6 or 7pm. Sadly, this year the 13th was a Sunday, so many sweet, well meaning guys will be buying extra items: the “oops, I’m so sorry you didn’t get a gift this morning,” makeup give and the real romantic gift. I predict sales to be up this year.

I don’t know why, but I enjoy these semi-annual days. They are just sort of, well, cute, funny and sometimes give me a chance to be nice and help someone. I admit, it’s much easier to help on Thanksgiving than Valentines Day though. I mean, I like Dark chocolate, but other women like milk. I can point someone to the condensed mushroom soup and cornstarch so much easier.

Of course, if you have a loved one who is celiac, you have an extra challenge. So, for those sweet gentlemen who still need go get your wives, girlfriends, etc. chocolates or a gift in the next few hours, here are some quick tips to keep them safe:

-Gluten Free chocolates are your best bet
-Look for any labels that say “PROCESSED ON EQUIPMENT THAT shares WHEAT” DO NOT BUY,
even if it says Gluten Free- unless it carries the “Certified Gluten Free Label”
-Avoid the ingredient “modified food starch” – unless it actually says Gluten FREE on the label
Reeses peanut butter cups are tricky. Many of their “shapes” and specialities contain wheat to help them keep their shape. I suggest stay away from Reeses. I always get sick.
-Overall, I’ve been told by several manufacturers that the speciality chocolates will often contain wheat that may not be present in other “regular brands.” The best course is usually to stay away from things like the hearts or speciality shapes. Grab some red foil to wrap it, and you’ll be fine.
Russell Stover has been another where I’ve personally gotten ill.  They usually share equipment
-Many Godiva contain wheat or barley. That’s not a brand, sadly, that I don’t trust
-More and more of the Lindt chocolates are now containing barley, malt, and barley extract. Make sure to look for those on any of the chocolates.
-For those who don’t know, Whoppers are OUT; they contain malt.
Sees Candies, if you are lucky enough to have one close, they claim almost all their regular products are gluten-free. The staff is usually knowledgable and helpful. I have been warned against buying the “speciality boxes,” however.  Sees is by far my favorite AND I do great on them!!!

-I personally have not had problems with DOVE, Three Musketeers, or York Peppermint Patties, but please check the ingredients etc before you purchase.

-I personally would rather have a package not say gluten-free, but have a statement that says where the products are processed. However, that is not acceptable for many, so you might have to check with her.

If in doubt, go purchase a gift certificate for a spa, or something else.
You can also dress up some Kozy Shack Pudding. They are dye free and Gluten Free. The chocolate is divine.

Here are some links to allergen statements for you too:
Mars Candies Includes, Dove, snickers, M&Ms
Hershey’s this includes “Kisses,” “Mounds”, “York Peppermint patties”

There are of course plenty of brands out there, and a google search can help you find the brand you might need. Remember to stay away from “products processed on equipment that shares wheat,” products containing wheat, barley, Malt, barley extract, and Modified food (or corn) starch
unless the product specifically states certified gluten-free.

Enjoy shopping for your ladies, and relax at the store. You’re not alone. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s day and enjoy your evening. And don’t worry, for Mother’s day, you have these chocolate tips and your kids to help you navigate through the store and tell you what she likes.

Disclaimer: these are not official statements from any company. Most of the chocolates I recommended or did not recommend are based upon personal experience. I’ve included a few allergen statements, but please always double check the packaging or talk with the person you are buying for. Some of us have various sensitivities. There are sometimes other ingredients such as soy that might cause problems. So please, this article is just tips, not the bible on gluten-free valentines chocolate. It’s a place to get started. Please remember everyone is different. I am also in no way trying to insult any man who does the shopping. So, if you do the shopping, please don’t take offense. 😀

A Christmas KISS

One of the best gifts my husband gave me this Christmas was a KISS. He suggested we keep Christmas simple.

This past Christmas and Thanksgiving marked my third year of gluten-free for the holidays. That first Christmas, I’d only been gluten-free for a month or two, so I barely knew what I could eat. My extended family was less than understanding and I was served dry, over-cooked turkey, dried-out reheated rice, and rubbery canned corn.

Last year, I’d learned how to navigate gluten-free, we stayed home for the holidays so there would be no fuss with family and I cooked quite an elaborate menu with a lovely ultimate potato casserole, cinnamon muffins, squash, fancy green beans, etc. Although it was tasty, I spent the entire holiday in the kitchen. My three memories from Christmas of 2009 were somehow persuading our children (one and one-half and almost four at the time) to pose for portraits before opening gifts, looking at my family from the kitchen as I prepped the potato casserole and later looking at my husband sleeping on the couch as my daughter piled him with the dolls she’d gotten.

This year, with more experience under my belt and a lot to be thankful for, including improving health and a restored marriage, we wanted to share our celebration with my family. Things quickly went from a joyful celebration to sour as my grandmother who not only doesn’t understand gluten-intolerance and Celiac disease, but vehemently denies both it’s existence and necessity. She comes from a line of “food pushers” and depression era thinking. Food simply cannot harm, (although she often restrains from certain foods because they upset her stomach), end of story. Don’t you dare decline something I offer you.

The situation became tough even before our arrival to town my grandmother set the rules for the holiday– she would cook all her normal stuff and we would bring anything we wanted. They bought the Honeysuckle turkey I requested, but it was up to us to prep our own side dishes and she would take care of theirs because they made it very clear that they would eat their gluten. My mother was helpful in attempting to find gluten-free breads, but the tension with my grandmother made things tough.

The tension remained during the meal and sadly, Thanksgiving became only about the food, only about getting the turkey cooked (another point of contention b/c DH cooks it a bit differently), trying to compose myself when my grandmother balked at me asking to keep our gluten-free dishes on one side of the kitchen and theirs on another to prevent cross contamination of utensils, and managing my children who wanted to try all the food.

When we finally served the food, none of us even sat together. We simply grabbed our amazing meal and ate alone. Everyone was too busy with the tv, their own agenda, busy children, and I don’t know what else to enjoy the time together. I had so much to be thankful for and joy to share, but no one share it with as even my children sat at a separate table. It was disheartening.

The blow came at dessert. A few hours after dinner, my brothers and their wives showed up for dessert. Earlier in the week, my grandmother told me to bring a pumpkin pie, but she ended up serving chocolate cake. My two and five year-old were devastated. Great-grandma was serving everyone a delicious chocolate cake and they got a not so great pumpkin pie. (Of all the times for my pie to not turn out!) To make matters worse, she made a big deal over the cake and everyone ranted and raved about it. There was much crying and gnashing of teeth at that moment.

While I desperately searched though my mother’s cupboards to try to find SOMETHING that would soothe my children’s hurt feelings, my grandmother said very coldly to me, “Well, they might as well get used to it; this is the way it will be for the rest of their lives.”

Yeah, that is the way it is, but you don’t rub it in. They ARE used to it. My daughter asks if everything, including her water are gluten-free. However, they also know I always have something for them when we go somewhere with gluten and they look forward to their own special treats. I’ve spent countless hours making sure my children have SOMETHING and they love their special treats. And even the times I’ve blown it and forgotten or didn’t know, they’ve handled it very well, but this time, we just had yucky pumpkin pie and 10 + people they love, trust and adore gobbling up delicious looking cake. It was just too much.

A few weeks later, with devastation still heavy in my heart and my ears still ringing from my children’s hurt, we decided to stay home for Christmas. As I planned our Christmas dinner, I found myself attempting to makeup for the crazy Thanksgiving we’d had. I still needed to CELEBRATE!

Finally, as Christmas approached and I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and cross-eyed from all the craziness that I’d done with food over the past 20 days (making homemade chocolates for friends, gluten-free baking, and other foods for my daughter’s and son’s school celebrations) my husband suggested we keep Christmas dinner simple. “They don’t eat a lot anyway, so let’s roast some potatoes, put our ham out and maybe have a salad. KISS it. Remember, ‘Keep it Simple Stupid.'”

It took me several days to mull this over. I know, most wives are probably thinking I’m nuts, but I’ve tried to make up for this gluten-free life for so long that I’ve lost focus. We need to eat to live, not live to eat. After baking so much that week, it suddenly hit me that I had missed out on Thanksgiving b/c I was too focused on Thanksgiving meal and trying to keep up with the glutenous eaters. (Gotta love that gluten becomes glutenous!) I never had the chance to give thanks and I was missing out on the magic of Christmas for the same reason.

However, there is something wrong with that KISS formula. It has taken me so long in my life to not feel stupid, that I’ve always ignored that advice. The word Stupid hurts. When my husband mentioned KISSing Christmas a few days later, it hit me what was going on. So I said, “Ok, let’s have a simple Christmas, but let’s change KISS to Keep it Simple Sweetie.” He brightened up and smiled: “We can do that!”

So, 2010 Christmas dinner consisted of a Honey Baked Ham, roasted potatoes that took me five minutes to prep and then pop in the oven, Chebe gluten-free rolls, and a cheese and cracker platter to snack on. Our Christmas day consisted of lots of play time with our two and one-half year-old and almost five year-old, hugs, snuggles, tickles, simple romance, and a last-minute decision to go see Tangled.

My Christmas KISS helped us build beautiful memories that we’ll be able to hold dear and it gave me the key to my New Year goals. Now that I’ve redefined KISS as Keep It Simple SWEETIE, my main goal is to get back to the basics and simplify our lives. I’m struggling a bit, but it’s becoming more clear: I need to KISS the budget, KISS my home, KISS my meal planning, and KISS my routine. I even need to remember to keep gluten-free simple. The best food for our bodies are whole, real foods and minimally processed foods. Those are what will feed, nourish and heal our bodies and the damage gluten has done to them. Moreover, I don’t need 10 flours in my cupboard! My life has been unsustainable for a long time and it’s led to decline in my health, relationships everything. The difference between Thanksgiving, where we didn’t even get the chance to bask giving thanks and counting our blessings, and Christmas which held the meanings, depth, healing, and romanticism that the Christmas movies portray, gave me this understanding.

The Christmas KISS my husband gave me of a day off, is a gift to our family that will hopefully be long-lasting as I learn to gift my family and myself with the same KISS.

Taking back Control

One of the frustrations with being Gluten Free, or really with any sort of food allergy or intolerance, is that we are subject to what the market is willing to offer. When I tried to go wheat free in 1999, it was impossible. There wasn’t enough information easily available, nor were there decent products out there. After 6 months of frustration and feeling hungry all the time, I gave up. At that point, it wasn’t a medical necessity….well, I didn’t think that it was anyway. It probably would have saved me some serious issues as I look back.

The point is, sometimes it feels impossible, even now. We are definitely reliant upon the market and what manufacturers are willing to offer. After my two-month search and quest for new body care, I’ve made a break through. Last year, I made it to the point that I felt more empowered and comfortable making my own baked goods. I discovered baking with Almond and coconut flours and it changed my outlook. I suddenly could make cupcakes, cookies, crackers and other baked good we’d missed for over a year.

Then I took the next step of figuring out how to grind my own Almond Flour, so that I wouldn’t be victim to the manufacturers who inflate the costs of GF food and charge $7 per pound for the flour. I was taking control and decreasing the cost of my flour to $4 a pound instead of $7. (For those of you who aren’t actually GF, realize that’s not per bag, it’s per lb. So your 5lb of flour might cost between $2.50 and $5. My 5lbs of Almond Flour was costing $35 for that same amount! Even grinding it myself, it costs me $20 for the same amount that you pay a max of $5. Finally, I started adapting the Almond Flour recipes to incorporate coconut flour as well to further reduce the cost.

Yesterday, I took the next step in gaining independence from a niche market and attended a wonderful body lotion making class offered by our local Parks and Recreation Department. Liz of Natura, Colorado taught us how to make lip balm, body butter, several types of lotions, a sugar scrub, and a body cream. At the end of four hours, I had 5 new body products that I knew exactly what was in it AND a head of ideas for friends and family members who need certain products!

In addition, when I got home I had a new confidence in my ability to continue to take care of the specific needs of myself and my children. I have a body cream idea for my son’s skin condition. It’s easy to make and costs much less than the Gluten Free body care in the stores that is marked up by $2-$10 just because it’s gluten-free. When I got home, I burst in the door with the same feelings of accomplishment, excitement, and “proud of myself because I’ve just done something awesome,” that I felt have after winning a forensics meet when I was in high school and college.

I’m on the road to walking away from price-gouging and deceptive manufactures and taking care of my children at a new level! There are things I can’t control, and things I can. So often, life feels out of control. This is one thing I’m taking back.

I can’t wait to take the liquid soap making class next spring where I will learn how to make body wash and shampoo and gain further control and empowerment over this situation. Sometimes this gluten-free life is pesky. Others, it’s overwhelming and exhausting. This class I took yesterday gave me another tool to deal with and enjoy this Gluten Free life!