Crackers

ImageYou know things in life we take for granted? Oh come on you know what I am talking about…simple things like family, home and yeah food. There are things we have all eaten or had that we cherish or just do not enjoy, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for example. We have all had a PBJ on white bread with the crusts cut off and most people think of it as a fond childhood memory..me not so much since I am not a fan of peanut butter, never have been probably never will be..but I have downed my fair share of PBJ, with grape jelly or better yet with Fluff. Well if I happened to have a peanut allergy that PBJ would be something I never experienced…well same thing goes for kids who are Gluten Free. My younger daughter has never really experienced a diet with gluten since she was diagnosed very young.  There are a lot of things my daughter has missed out on as a result of her celiac disease…things I have taken for granted as part of my diet (many in limited quantities) from my earliest memories..things like Oreos and Pepperidge Farms Goldfish. I am a huge fan of goldfish, those little crackers can make me happy in small quantities , are an easy snack to toss in the lunch box..ok let’s face it they are just yummy in any flavor. My daughter, she has never had them and until recently it never occurred to me that maybe some soul out there created a recipe for someone like me.

I scoped out the gluten free blogs and found a few new ones. There is one called gluten free on a shoestring that really looked promising. In order to get the recipe for the author’s gluten free version of goldfish crackers I got suckered into buying her cookbook. That is $9.99 I really did not want to waste…so I got the recipe, and with my food processor and silicone baking mat set out to make goldfish..or something small enough to be a cheese cracker. Let me just say that using velveeta and salt in a recipe together is not something I recommend..WAY too salty. Going to admit the first batch was nothing shy of nasty..I even used the flour blend the site author uses and the result was not great…so back tot he drawing board I went..I found a recipe for homemade goldfish crackers that uses traditional flour and decided to combine the gluten free recipe and this one. This time I used real shredded cheddar cheese and butter vs shortening and velveeta  as well as Cup4CUp flour, and the first batch tasted way better..but they were not exactly crispy in the middle. This was actually the same issue I had with the first batch. So what to do to remedy this?

Real cheese and butter helped to improve the taste, I am not 100% positive that the true CUP4CUP flour was a factor, but I am not sure it hurt the recipe either. The key was to refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes and to roll it out as thinly as possible before cutting the shapes out. as soon as I get the recipe absolutely perfect I will post it here. I do not have a little goldfish cookie cutter so I used little stars that are actually fondant cutters and baked until nice and crisp about 14 minutes.

I have a way to go with my recipe, every batch is getting better and my daughter and her friends are willing victims..i mean taste testers..

So Now What?

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Going home from the doctor’s appointment after my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease I simply felt overwhelmed. All I could think was now what? On one hand I was feeling blessed that the “only” thing wrong with this little lady was celiac and it could be controlled with diet.On The other had I had no freaking clue what this all meant and I was frustrated and feeling guilty that I could do not more fast enough to make M all better.

Finding information online was a bit challenging at the time (this was 1998) and I was forced to rely upon people at the health food store and a few pamphlets from the doctor before our appointment with the nutritionist at Boston Children’s Hospital a few weeks out from that time. The doctor also informed me at the end of our appointment that my daughter would need to temporarily follow a dairy free diet to allow her gut to heal for at least 6 months. So for 6 months my 18 lb 15 month old child was gluten and dairy free and miserable that she could not have a cookie like her siblings or chicken nuggets. The other kids were frustrated because they were forced to eat their snacks or nuggets in stealth mode, and I was frustrated because this whole gluten free thing was so much harder than I imagined.

The simple question was …what do I feed this child? I tried all the baking mixes available in the store and most were terrible. The muffins tasted like sand, the bread was terribly complicated to make (I was a newbie) and my daughter did not want to eat any of it. There were some gems…Foods by George had pre made frozen pizza and brownies that tasted pretty good, Gorilla Munch cereal was a great replacement and the good news was the other children in the family were willing to eat it as well. We had a start, and then I realized that there was plenty of foods we eat that are naturally gluten free including popcorn and hence M’s love affair with popcorn began. We were starting to navigate the waters of eating GF and while it was still tough it was definitely getting easier.

Getting involved with the Celiac Support Group at Children’s Hospital in Boston definitely was a step int he right direction for us as a family. We learned about mail order specialty food companies that sold better foods than the ones available at retail and there were people who tried the products and gave advice.

Today theer are more options since gluten free eating seems to be a much more mainstream issue. The number of available foods has exploded and there is loads of information available on the internet. However nothing really replaces that moment when someone says I have been there and let me help you out.

Today I have to admit all of my hard work paid off. I have learned to adapt recipes using GF ingredients and really wish my darling daughter would be a bit more adventurous but I get it…there comes a point when you realize you are a master at reading food labels, you think constantly about how you can make that recipe gluten free. I have a great idea of foods that kids will eat and not eat, what brand of GF pretzels are the best, how to make breadcrumb toppings from potato chips, GF pretzels and stale GF bread. I can make a darn good pizza and even use those pizza crusts to make cinnamon sticks (like the ones advertised by big food chains) or garlic bread sticks…I can make crust out of crushed cookies and make a great pie.

By the way the picture at the top of the post is a box of French Macarons that we bought at Lauderee` patisserie inside Harrods in London earlier this year. It was AMAZING to be able to get a GF treat like this. M loved these so much that we went back to Harrods before we left for Heathrow and our flight to Dublin with little time to spare. I will post about our adventures in London another day…but in the meantime I am on the hunt to get a great macaron recipe so I can repeat that great experience…

Until next time…Happy eating