Monday, July 20, 2009

The Gluten-Free Birthday Party

For kids with Celiac disease, having a carefree birthday party can be tough. Not only are the quintessential “birthday foods” often chock-full of gluten, but kids may also want to avoid feeling different on their special day. Additionally, parents are faced with the challenge of creating a safe party environment for both their own children and their guests. GF Delights has tips to make your child’s birthday a smooth and enjoyable affair.

The Preparation
Eliminate anxiety from the beginning—keep the food plans as simple as you can, and plan the birthday party in a way that keeps the focus on your child, not the food. Centering the party on an event or activity your child is truly excited about will get things going on the right foot.

The Activities
Birthday parties are a great time to get kids active—both physically and mentally. Consider locations such as parks, indoor jungle gyms/mazes, indoor/outdoor climbing walls—even museums with hands-on and interactive exhibits (e.g. “discovery” or “tech” museums). Try activities such as scavenger/treasure hunts, sports games (with teams and brackets), and classics like Capture the Flag. For birthdays in the hot summer months, try a super-soaker-themed party, set up a Slip N’ Slide, or have kids fill up balloons for a water-balloon fight. If you’re keeping things indoors, try setting up arts and crafts stations.

The Food
Perhaps the most worrisome part of ensuring a Happy Birthday is getting the birthday cake just right. Luckily, as awareness about Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity increases, more and more options become available for easy GF baking. Here are some of the mixes you’ll find both in markets and online:

Gluten-Free Cake Mixes
• Bob’s Red Mill: Chocolate
• ‘Cause You’re Special: Moist Yellow, Rich Chcolate, Golden Pound, Chocolate Pound, Moist Lemon
• Cherrybrook Kitchen: Chocolate
• Food-Tek: Minute Chocolate
• Gluten-Free Pantry: Old Fashioned Cake, Spice Cake, Gingerbread, Angel Food, Decadent Chocolate
• Glutino: Vanilla, Chocolate
• Kinnikinnick: Chocolate, White, Sponge, Angel Food
• Pamela’s: Chocolate, Vanilla
• Namaste: Spice/Carrot
• Really Good Food: Golden, Chocolate, Devil’s Food, Lemon Poppy, Orange

And don’t forget about Betty Crocker! The new GF mixes (Yellow and Devil’s Food cake) are on the shelf and getting rave reviews in the GF Blogosphere! (See the great, in-depth review from the writers at
Gluten-free frosting mixes are not nearly as numerous, but they do exist. Like the cake mixes, you’ll be able to find the following both in markets and online:

Gluten-Free Frosting Mixes
• Cherrybrook Kitchen: Vanilla, Chocolate
• Food-Tek: Vanilla, Chocolate
•Miss Roben’s: Milk Chocolate Buttercream, Vanilla Cream
• Namaste Foods: Chocolate Fudge
• Sof-ella: Organic Chocolate Mix (comes with cake mix)

Note: Try to avoid mainstream commercial brands. While some of these brands may be GF, they may not be mandated to list gluten-containing ingredients other than wheat. Double-check with companies directly if you must use these brands.

Luckily, homemade frosting is easy to make!

White Frosting
½ cup shortening (not butter flavored)
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups powdered sugar (around one boxed package)
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla (e.g. Rodelle)

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add salt and half of the powdered sugar. Cream the shortening with the other half of the powdered sugar and vanilla. Combine the two mixes and continue to mix until fluffy. Frost cake with mixture immediately and refrigerate unused portion.

Cream Cheese Frosting (Great for carrot and spice cakes)
¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup cream cheese (Philly is always GF)
¼ cup agave nectar (can be found in health food stores, a truly delicious addition!)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Whip heavy cream until stiff. In a separate larger bowl, whip cream cheese until smooth. Blend agave and vanilla into whipped cream cheese. With rubber spatula, gently blend whip cream into cream cheese mixture.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Icing
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream

This works best with a double broiler. In the top of a double broiler over medium-high heat, melt chocolate chips (you may also use a microwave). Remove from heat and cool until warm. Promptly stir in sour cream and vanilla, and add the heavy cream. To reach desired consistency, stir in additional heavy cream.

The Homemade Cake

Although cakes from mixes can be great, an easy and delicious cake to make yourself is an ice cream cake made with a crust of GF cookies, brownies, or macaroons, filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate shavings/your favorite candy.

To make the cake, line a springform pan with parchment paper. Cover the bottom of the pan (the thickness depends on your preference) with crushed GF cookies or brownies. Then scoop the softened ice cream of your choice into the lined pan, over the “crust” layer. How much you scoop in depends on the depth of the pan and your preference: if you’d like to make two layers of ice cream in the pan, fill the pan halfway with the first ice cream, refreeze, then take out of the freezer, layer with your crust material, and fill the rest of the pan up with the second ice cream. Each time smooth the ice cream out and then put it back into the freezer to harden. You can make a tiered cake by using various sized springform pans, and preparing the cake as detailed above. To combine the tiers/place them on the serving plate, loosen the sides with a knife. Act quickly and freeze as soon as you get the cake pieces on the serving place. Combine the tiers with a layer of frosting. After refreezing again, take the cake out, frost it, and then return it to the freezer until you are read to serve. Sprinkle with melted chocolate, chocolate chips, or your candy of choice. Serve with homemade whipped cream.

Note: When selecting your ice cream, check the label to make sure it is gluten-free! Beware of added ingredients (candy pieces, etc.) in the ice cream that may contain gluten. Dreyer’s, Edy’s, and Blue Bunny all have a large gluten-free selection.

Beyond the Cake: Other Food Ideas

Getting the cake down is great, but what about food for the rest of the party? There are lots of simple, kid-friendly GF snacks that can be used for munching during birthday parties.

-Fruit Plate: Kids love finger foods, so consider putting a fruit plate together with strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
-Snack Foods: Try setting out GF rice cakes, GF corn chips and salsa, GF popcorn, and mixed nuts
-Quesadillas with Corn Tortillas: This is an especially easy option that everyone will enjoy

Planning somewhat of a larger “dinner” for your child and his or her guests? Consider the following ideas…

-Build-Your-Own-Tacos: Get kids busy building their own tacos! Set up a station with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, meat, beans, rice, and of course, taco shells (Mission is GF, among other brands). Many salsa brands of gluten-free, including Pace Picante, Chipotle, Lime & Garlic, and Thick and Chunky; Newman’s Own hot, medium, mild, peach, pineapple, and roasted garlic salsa; all varieties of Southwest salsa.
-Build-Your-Own-Pizzas: Similar to the taco station, try buying GF pizza crusts (try Kinnickinnick’s) for everyone and set up stations with different toppings. Kids will love the chance to get creative, choose what they eat, and get a little messy, too. For easy-baking, have each child build their pizza on a large piece of foil.

Remember that in the end, although food is important, your child’s guests will have come for the fun and festivities—not the food.

Have you thrown a gluten-free birthday party for your child? Have any special tips and ideas? Leave us a comment below!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Betty Crocker, Gluten-Free: What Do You Think?

Now that Betty Crocker's new line of GF brownie, cook, cake, and devil's food mix has hit the shelves, we'd like to hear from all of you: What do you think? How do the mixes measure up against other GF mixes? Do you think its presence in supermarkets will bring more awareness about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance?

Drop us a line by clicking the "Comments" link below, or a Tweet @gfdelights!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Mouth-Watering Fourth!

This 4th of July, be sure to stick to the “ABCD” system for a safe holiday:

AWARENESS: Whether you’re hosting, or joining in at a friend’s 4th of July bash, be aware of cross-contamination risks. To reduce risk, never share utensils or silverware, even if you think you’re in the clear. Be sure utensils meant for GF food stay with those foods! Try wrapping colored masking tape or rubber bands around the GF utensils. If you feel comfortable enough, inform those around you of your needs so everyone else can be mindful, too.

BRING FOOD: If you’re enjoying festivities as a guest and are unsure what your GF options will be, bring the food you just can’t live without! Or try one of our great GF 4th of July recipes below, and bring some to share!

CHECK INGREDIENTS: Sometimes meats (including hotdogs and sausages) and other products that are naturally gluten-free contain added ingredients. If you’re barbequing this year, make sure the meat you select is gluten-free! Also make sure that gluten-free food items and being grilled separately from those that make contain (or potentially become contaminated with) gluten.

DIVE IN: If you’ve been invited over for the 4th, explain your gluten intolerance to the host and offer to help prepare some GF food for the occasion.

Need to Know Tip: BBQ sauce can be a big part of the 4th of July—make sure the kind you’re enjoying is gluten-free! Some BBQ sauces contain gluten from barley in the form of beer or malt, whereas others may contain soy sauce, which contains wheat. Additionally, some sauces may contain Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and ketchup, which may or may not be gluten-free.

BBQ Sauces that are GF include •Daddy Sam’s •Bone Suckin’ Sauce •Sweet Baby Ray’s •Annie’s Naturals

Kraft and Nabisco BBQ products (including Bull's Eye BBQ) will list ingredients that contain gluten on the ingredient label, ingredients such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

Be careful! KC Masterpiece BBQ sauces may be gluten-free, but you need to verify from the ingredient list. Both companies are required by law to list wheat on the label, but the sauces may include other gluten-containing ingredients.


GOOD FOOD, GLUTEN-FREE: Four Fantastic Recipes for the Fourth

GF Potato Salad
The trick to an incredible potato salad is to work while everything is still warm!

2 pounds unpeeled potatoes (around 6 medium)
6 hard-boiled eggs (older eggs will peel easier than new ones)
1 ¼ cups Hellman’s or other GF mayonnaise (some mayonnaise is GF, some is not; check the label!)
¼ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoon spicy mustard (to taste)
½-1 cup (depending upon taste) diced celery
1 teaspoon celery seed
salt and pepper to taste

1. Start by mixing the spicy mustard, celery seed, diced celery, and mayonnaise in a small bowl.

2. In a medium saucepan place unpeeled potatoes (rinsed and cleaned of dirt), ¼ teaspoon of salt, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. Drain well. As soon as you can handle the potatoes (while still warm), peel and cube.

3. Simultaneously hard-boil the eggs: place eggs in a medium saucepan, cover with water by an inch. Bring to a boil, then take off of heat and let the eggs sit in the water, covered, for 30 minutes. Drain the water and remove eggs from saucepan. Peel and coarsely chop.

4. At this point you should have warm, chopped potatoes, and warm, chopped eggs; mix together in large bowl. Immediately add mayonnaise mixture, stir well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

5. Scoop into casserole dish/serving dish, garnish with paprika.

Easy GF Strawberry Pie

1 baked Whole Kitchen (Whole Foods Brand) GF Pie Crust
8 cups medium fresh strawberries
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons GF* cornstarch (cornstarch, by itself, is GF, but be sure to check the label for any added gluten-filled ingredients)
Red food coloring (optional)
Whipped cream (optional)

1. Hull the strawberries; rinse with water. Cut any large strawberries in half lengthwise.

2. For the pie’s glaze, in a blender or food processor combine 1 cup of the strawberries and the water. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Add enough additional water to the mixture to equal 1 ½ cups. In a medium saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in blended strawberry mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. If desired, stir in red food coloring. Remove from heat; cool for 10 minutes without stirring.

3. Spread about ¼ cup of the glaze over bottom and sides of baked pie crust. Arrange half of the remaining strawberries with stem ends down in the pastry shell.

4. Carefully spoon half of the remaining glaze over strawberries, making sure all berries are covered. Arrange remaining glaze over berries, covering them. Chill for 1 to 2 hours. If desired, top with whipped cream.

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook

Easy Skillet GF Cornbread

1 ½ cups plain yellow cornmeal
½ cup GF* cornstarch (cornstarch, by itself, is GF, but be sure to check the label for any additional/added ingredients)
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons cooking oil
½ cups buttermilk (to make, add enough milk to ½ tablespoon of lemon juice to make ½ cup)
1 tablespoon cooking oil (for cast-iron skillet)

1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.

2. Combine and mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix beaten eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients, pour egg mixture in well and mix thoroughly.

3. Place greased cast-iron skillet in heated oven for 5 minutes. Remove hot cast-iron skillet carefully and add cornbread batter. Place back into over and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Test for doneness using a toothpick.

Serve with Bush’s baked beans or your other favorite GF brand!

GF Chicken Kabobs

6 or 8 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1” chunks
6 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup minced red onion
½ cup minced cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper

1. Marinate the chicken for as long as possible (for maximum flavor, up to 24 hours) by combining all ingredients in a large zip-lock bag. Refrigerate while marinating.

2. Around 30 minutes prior to preparing kabobs, soak skewers (if wood) in water.

3. Remove skewers from water. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Thread chicken onto skewers, leaving a small amount of space in between each piece of meat.

4. Grill or broil kabobs until the chicken is golden and the juices run clear.

For variation, slice up bell peppers and onions and layer them between chicken on skewers.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

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