Tag Archives: King Arthur Flour gluten-free mixes

Meet Celia: A Gluten-Free American Girl

Last week, we took a look inside the lunch box of a modern American Girl doll. There were sandwich skewers. The times, they are a’changin’—why, the only accessory my Samantha doll had was a comb.

The accessories aren’t all that have kept pace with our modern era. The books have, too. They used to focus on the historical American Girls and followed a great six-book formula: we meet the protagonist, she learns new things about herself and the world, she overcomes obstacles, she comes out of it a changed and better person. All between the ages of nine and eleven.

American Girl TodayThese days, they publish under the series American Girl Today. There are fewer books for each girl, and they have modern names like Nicki and McKenna. They pose against technicolor backgrounds doing modern-girl things like gymnastics.

I don’t mean to knock the new books—I haven’t even read them. But they did have a good thing going with the old series. In honor of the beloved classic formula, I hereby introduce to you a new American Girl. Like more and more girls (and boys) today, our heroine must eat gluten-free. I’ve dubbed her, for obvious reasons, Celia.

This is her story.

Meet Celia: An American Girl

Celia awakens on a hospital cart, still groggy from the sedative, and is told, “We think you have it.” A week later, it’s confirmed: she has celiac disease. Her life will irrevocably change. It is a sad beginning.

Celia Learns a Lesson: A School Story

The moral of this one is: never trust the hot lunch. Celia is glutened again and again until she finally agrees to start brown-bagging it.

Celia’s Surprise: A Christmas Story

At her first gluten-free Christmas, Celia is shocked by the beany aftertaste in the sugar cookies her mother has prepared, but pleasantly surprised to learn that most candy canes are gluten-free.

Happy Birthday, Celia!: A Springtime Story

In which Celia learns that she probably only has this stupid disease in the first place because she was born in the springtime. However, her King Arthur Flour GF birthday cake (like mine!) is pretty tasty.

Celia Saves The Day: A Summer Story

Celia can’t eat what the other girls are having in the camp mess hall, and when they make pasta necklaces she feels understandably left out. Still, it turns out to be worth it when, uninflamed and energized, she joins her tentmates for the end-of-summer relay race. At the finish line, she raises the baton in victory.

Changes for Celia: A Winter Story

Despite the chilly weather, Celia begins to feel awfully thirsty all the time, even while consuming jugs and jugs of water. She also seems to be peeing it all out every twenty-five minutes. After dropping an unneeded fifteen pounds, Celia visits the doctor and learns there will be changes indeed: like 5 to 10 percent of her celiac peers, she has type I diabetes. She’ll need to not only avoid gluten but also learn the ups and downs of managing her blood sugar. She’s a positive little thing, though, with a pioneering American spirit, so to her it’s all just another exciting challenge.

Do you admire Celia’s unremitting pluck, or do you sorta hate her for it?

I’m on the fence. I don’t think I have diabetes, per se, but after reading Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic (which claims that the likelihood of having an associated autoimmune disease rises to 30 percent for those diagnosed after the age of 20…gulp), I’ve begun my fretting in earnest. If I do turn out to have something else on top of celiac disease, I won’t be taking the news cheerfully.

American Girl logo (with Molly)

You’ll note I didn’t place Celia in a particular historical moment like her peers, colonial Felicity or Victorian Samantha. Those historical dolls are now being laid to rest, one by one, along with their accessories, in the “archives” (though the books, fortunately, will remain in print). Samantha, my favorite (and many of yours), was “retired” in 2008, and it was recently announced that Molly will be next.

We must accept that the past is past, unsaleable to the girls of today. We must look forward to new American Girls who better resemble the girls of today and tomorrow.

Celia lives at a time when celiac disease is better understood and more researched, but still diagnosed late, with attending complications, and incurable except by means of a lifelong diet whose cred is being rapidly eroded by claims about “fads.” In short, she lives today. We can only hope that one day, with celiac and other autoimmune diseases vaccinated into oblivion, Celia too will be rendered a historical figure, hopelessly out of date, a relic fit only for the archive.

What are your summer, spring, and winter celiac stories? What changes and surprises have you encountered (birthday or otherwise)? Do you have other autoimmune diseases and were you diagnosed before or after learning you had celiac? Have you come across any great new celiac-disease-themed kids’ books recently?

P.S. There’s still time to enter my giveaway (it runs through Tuesday) by taking the celiac disease personality quiz and reporting your score. Check it out this weekend, if you aren’t spending it at the GFAF Expo. If you are, see you there!

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A tale of two cakes

Recently I attended a party. You might imagine from the post’s title that it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, etc…but actually, it was a pretty darned good gluten-free time all around, heavy on the wisdom and light on the foolishness.

The party in question was in celebration of my sister’s graduation and, secondarily, my twenty-fourth birthday. At such occasions where just one gluten-free eater is present, said eater might count him or herself lucky to have a quarantined corner of gluten-free snacks, or to be allowed to bring his or her own food. At this occasion, though, the hosts—my parents—went all out creating an entirely gluten-free spread, complete with TWO cakes.

Cutting the Cakes

No, not one gluten-y graduation cake for Althea and a separate gluten-free birthday cake for me, but two gluten-free layer cakes made from King Arthur Flour gluten-free yellow cake mixes (and KAF cake enhancer). Since we didn’t do a taste test of one cake with the enhancer and one without, I don’t know how critical this ingredient was, but I can tell you that both cakes tasted and felt just like they should: like cake.

They were both vanilla, one with buttercream and M&Ms, and one with a cornstarch-based pudding filling and a dark chocolate ganache: a classic Boston Cream Pie gone oh-so-gluten-free. Just what I wanted! (My cake looks like it’s about to tip over in the photo, but I assure you that I cut the entire thing without the top sliding off—a feat that I undertook in grave doubt at my ability to achieve.)

We also tried the King Arthur Flour gluten-free cookie mix. Although we added lots and lots of chocolate chips, the consensus was these weren’t quite as impressive as the cakes. They were best right out of the oven, which is when I tried them, but I’ve been informed that as they cooled they became a bit crumbly and that they had an odd aftertaste. I’ve noticed an aftertaste in many gluten-free desserts I’ve tried and, after struggling to pinpoint its origin, I now blame the tapioca starch, which a gluten-free cookbook author I work with told me can have a metallic taste, depending on its source. Have you noticed a metallic aftertaste in your GF goodies? Do you blame the tapioca?

KAF Cookies

I started with dessert because it’s always the most important thing, but let’s pause for a moment to discuss the second most important thing: avoiding cross-contamination. My parents don’t have a gluten-free kitchen, but they did go to great lengths to make food that was safe for their invalid offspring:

  • They wiped down every surface and took all of the silverware out of the cutlery drawer and washed everything, tray included.
  • They bought new mixing and serving bowls, spoons, spatulas, knives and cutting boards, measuring cups, and more.
  • They used disposable foil cake pans and killed thousands of parchment-paper trees covering everything else (the cakes were served on the usual cake stands, but with a layer of parchment paper, just in case).
  • Everything on the buffet was gluten-free, from the appetizers to the main course to the desserts, and they asked guests not to bring food. This meant I could pick at the buffet like a normal person, rather than worrying about contaminated serving spoons or crumby hands.
  • They explained cross-contamination concerns to many of my family members who weren’t yet aware I had celiac, which was a load off my shoulders. Once in a while, believe it or not, I don’t want to talk about gluten.

My mom has been insisting that when I write this post, I be absolutely ruthless in laying bare all of the things they didn’t do right, but to be honest, I don’t have much to complain about. To appease her, though, here is the run-down:

  • Beer was served, but there’s not a high risk of cross-contamination with that, since it tends to go straight from bottle to gullet.
  • A couple of guests did bring food, but nothing that used gluten ingredients (though I still avoided it in case of cross-contamination).
  • We realized we’d forgotten to get new cooling racks when it came time to take out the cookies, but we made do by setting them on parchment paper over the racks (maybe this contributed to the cookies’ crumbliness).
  • Mom suggested I make a plate of food for myself in advance, just in case, so I’d feel extra comfortable, even though everything would be gluten-free. I didn’t, because I wanted to feel normal. But I probably would have felt even more comfortable if I’d taken her advice. Turns out, Mom does know best.
  • Mom feels guilty for having eaten Twizzlers after the party. But as much as I’ve never cared for Twizzlers myself and never shall now, I know what they mean to her and would never want to take them away from her.

All in all, the party planning gets an A from me.

Along with dessert, we had an array of intriguing gluten-free chips and crackers (Boulder Canyon hummus & sesame chips, Eat Your Vegetables sea salt chips, Wild Riceworks crisps, and tortilla chips), dips and cheese, and a beautiful spread of gluten-free salads, including one brown rice and wild rice salad which was, I think, the first wild rice–based salad I’ve ever really liked.

It was a tasty springtime spread full of great fruits & veggies, nuts, beans, and grains, and many of the guests were surprised to learn such a varied menu could be entirely gluten-free. Mom’s qualms aside, it was a fun, delicious, and—dare I say it—educational gluten-free party.

As for which cake was best? M&Ms are fine, but obviously it was my favorite, the Boston Cream.

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