Monday, December 19, 2011

Something for Everyone Cookie Exchange: Gluten Free and Full of Gluten

“Firsts” are happening a lot in our house these days, but more often with August. His first real oatmeal, first night in his crib, first time having his picture taken with Santa. I love “first” experiences, especially the monumental “firsts.” Yesterday we had somewhat of a monumental “first,” but this time for Charlie and I. She was invited to a cookie exchange. Cookie exchanges are a ton of fun, especially for cookie/sugar hungry kids and it is a great way to see and taste something new. But Charlie was the only G-free kid there, and I was the only mom baking and bringing G-free cookies, or so I thought. It turns out that our host, who has three kids under three and a half years old, made a huge effort to include Charlie and made two batches of G-free cookies in addition to making the rest of the food for the party. I don't think she slept the night before. And another mom made macaroons, with Charlie in mind, which are naturally gluten free.

It was a wonderful surprise and felt great to know that the moms of Charlie's little pre-school friends wanted to make the effort to ensure that she felt included. I was pretty sure that we weren't going to be able to participate in the "exchange" portion of the party, so it was a thoughtful surprise. I will admit, though, that I am still not quite sure how to navigate the situations when someone, who usually uses wheat flour, makes something gluten free. The cross contamination potential is there, but how much is too much? How sensitive is she really? I know what a crouton will do to her, but not what a batch of G-free cookies mixed in a clean mixer that is also used for wheat flour will do to her. We are living and learning.

As Charlie gets older and is becoming more involved in the world outside of our house, she is also being exposed to and put in situations where she is the odd girl out. While she can do anything she wants, she can’t eat anything that she wants. For example, at school she gets special snacks, such as G-free pretzels, while the rest of the class has Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies. That can be difficult for a kid, even for adults. But I do believe that one positive aspect about being diagnosed with Celiac so young is that she will ultimately learn, much more quickly than she would have otherwise, that she can’t have everything that she wants, that other people can eat/do things that she can’t, and that sometimes life isn’t fair. Those aren’t fun lessons to learn, but they are essential to understand if she wants a fun, happy and somewhat contented life.

Now that I’m an adult, I can look back and see that learning, sooner rather than later, that not everything needs or can be equal all the time and that sometimes life isn’t fair, is in fact a great thing. But try explaining that to three and a half year old. My goal, in guiding her through this process, is that she will understand that it is o.k. that someone else has something that she doesn't or can’t have. I want her to be able to focus more on and celebrate the things that she has and can do. Even though she couldn't eat most of the cookies at the cookie exchange, she was there, having fun with her friends. Ultimately, that is the point of the cookie exchange in the first place, right? To bring together great friends, share and have a ton of fun running, squealing and laughing. She had to say, “No thank you” when someone offered her one of the gluten filled cookies but she handled it well, and was then able to proudly say, “have one of our cookies, they're good.”

That is where I came in. Until she can bake her own stellar cookies, I need to bake the stellar cookies for her. So, for this “first” cookie exchange, I baked two kinds of cookies. I haven’t worked on and figured out my own snickerdoodle recipe, but I wanted to bring them. So I used a recipe from another G-free baker/blogger, "Irvin Lin's snickerdoodle recipe." These are great. Justin, who is very particular about snickerdoodles loved them.

The second cookie is my version of the Whoopie pie, but bite size. I used my Chocolate Banana Cupcake recipe (I will post that recipe in a separate post) and a vanilla cream cheese filling. Each little Whoopie pie has an M&M on top. M&M's are G-free, as are some of the other best candies out there--Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, anyone?

The cookie exchange was a huge success. Charlie had a great time with her friends and I was able to have coffee and chat with a few great women/moms. Not only did we come home with some tasty little treats, but Charlie was allowed to borrow her friend Emmett's Halloween costume. She wore it for the rest of the day, even during her nap and to a quick visit to my parent's house.


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