Priscilla Pack Rat has LAUNCHED!

Wooohooo! Priscilla Pack Rat released this week! 

You can find out more on the Magination site... please consider supporting your local bookstore by asking for Priscilla (or Woolfred!) - any bookstore can easily order if they don't have it in stock! 

Alternatively, Amazon also carries both titles ;) 

Please note - Priscilla, unlike Woolfred, is not a book about food intolerance. In fact - no food is even mentioned. As such, the book is completely gluten free ;)


Woolfred out in the World...

It's been a VERY long time since I posted on this blog... I've been knee deep in a new kids book project (more soon!). 

Today, I wanted to share a round up of reviews that Woolfred has received - in part to put a couple of my faves in one place, and in part to boost me up in the week leading up to a new book launch (which can be exhilarating - but also a bit scary!). This has been such a rewarding experience - I've been honoured to touch the lives of many children in the last couple of years with this little story. 

Detail from Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions

Portland Book Review
5 Stars! Childhood Allergies Have a Hero
In recent years, the number of childhood allergies has become an increasing alert for parents, teachers, schools, and anyone working in childcare. Teachers have to be more aware of what is in their classroom, and parents fear what their child could consume when they are out of eyesight. Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions is the perfect book to put  into perspective that everyone has issues with something, whether it’s a food allergy or sensitivity.
This book hits home with an issue not everyone deals with personally, but everyone knows someone who is affected. Claudine Crangle has done a wonderful job of stating a grown up issue in a manner that is easy for a child to understand. A cute story, with simple language and examples of the desire to “throw caution to the wind” and eat whatever you want no matter how it makes you feel, this book belongs in the hands of every parent of a child with an allergy, every doctor’s office, every school nurse, and teacher’s classroom.
Midwest Book Review

"Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions" is a story to help children understand food intolerance, and learning to accept and live with it. The gentle limited palette illustrations in shades of gray, yellow, green, and white, present a young sheep's experience testing the limits of a dandelion intolerance. Because Woolfred loves dandelions so much, at first he cannot accept that whenever he eats them, he gets very sick in his tummy. But after trying several different ways to eat them with the same, tummy-gurgling results, Woolfred learns to accept his dandelion intolerance, and ventures out to enjoy as many other life experiences as he can while honoring this limitation. A handy Note to Parents and Caregivers give additional suggestions for ways to help children cope with food intolerances.

Booklist Review

Here's a slightly disguised episode designed for sharing with children who have food intolerances (as opposed to allergies). All the other sheep eat dandelions. Woolfred can't . . . but they look so good and (as it turns out) taste so good, too. And when Woolfred rebelliously chows down on a clump, his belly inevitably swells with a Gwaaaaglewaaaglewush, down he falls, and out came the dandelions. What if he just eats the flowers? Or just the leaves? Same explosive result. Though Crangle declines to specify or show from which end of Woolfred the plants come out, repeated scenes of hooves dangling in the air on pages bedewed with yellow and green spatters adequately convey the idea. Woolfred at last just shakes himself off and rejoins his flock each member of which, as it turns out, has a similar quirk: Lana sneezes when she's near clover. Bert likes to scratch his bottom on the ground. A closing spread of advice from a psychologist for parents and caregivers adds definitions as well as techniques for support and discussion. 


Woolfred wins a GOLD Moonbeam Children's Book Award!!

The MoonbeamChildren’s Book Awards contest is designed to honor the year's best children’s books, authors and illustrators. When my publisher contacted me to let me know that Woolfred had won a GOLD in the Health category – I was, if you’ll forgive me, over the moon!!

Woolfred has been out in the world for less than 6 weeks now, and finally available on Amazon in more than one country. I’m still waiting to see reader reviews outside of those we received prepress. This award feels like a pretty good start! You can find Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions along with the other lucky winners on the Moonbeam site HERE!


Explaining "Special" Diets and Food Intolerance to Children

In September my new book will finally launch. I say finally, because it was 8 years in the making - beginning as an idea in my friend Alessandra's living room in Rome in 2006. As I drove through the mountains looking at the sheep on the hills I figured that sheep, who do little more than graze all day might make good creatures through which to tell a story about food intolerance and living among the herd. 

I had lots of ideas. Most were fairly lame. When I returned home to Toronto a year later, my dear friend Robin would bring up the story  and we'd talk about where it was going. For a long time, it was going nowhere. I knew that Woolfred, the main character was struggling with his intolerance, and that there were elements of isolation. I knew that Woolfred would have to "overcome" his challenge. Truth is - I had no idea what the message was supposed to be. It's not so bad? Get over it? I played with lots of complicated scenarios where Woolfred could end up being a hero. Nothing really worked. Nothing was credible. There was no happily ever after ending. 

Interestingly, it was through writing this book - more than 40 years into having celiac disease that I came to understand how I really feel about having grown up with a food intolerance.

When I think about my personal childhood experience, I've got some very vivid memories. No one wanted to have me over, or pray, have to feed me. I remember a friend's mother being put in the situation of having to make me dinner one evening when my mother was held up. The rest of the kids were served fish sticks and fries (it was the 70's). For me, she unwrapped an entire brick of cheddar cheese and served it on a plate with a knife and fork, explaining - that at least she knew this wouldn't kill me.

Or, there was the time in 3rd grade where I stole a box of the Girl Guide cookies from the case I was supposed to sell. (That's quite a test for a celiac child - here's a carton filled with boxes of cookies!!) I snuck a box into the washroom, locked myself in a stall and ate both the vanilla and chocolate rows as fast as I could. An hour later, I was outed, when I threw them up in the school lobby and everyone had to walk around the mess on the way out the door. 

My food was always referred to as "special" - don't touch that, it's Claudine's "special" hot dog bun, or cupcake. The term was meant to make me feel better - but it didn't. It made me feel like I was inadequate in some way... and needed "special handling". Today the "special" stuff looks just like regular, and there is often more than one kid in the class with an intolerance. I'm sure that this makes it easier - but the feelings associated with being called out are about human interaction and less about the food itself. We want to be known for what we can do - not for what we can't. 

In the end, the story I wrote is Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions. He is no super hero - just a sheep with a food intolerance. What this means for him, will be revealed in short order. 

You can read more on the publisher's website HERE.


Product Review - Larabar Pie Flavours

Larabar ingredients are simple, pure and delicious
I haven't been an energy bar person to date. In fact, when they first came out years ago I took a hard look, and it wasn't easy to find something that I could be sure was gluten free. Times have changed. 

To be honest, even when I started seeing energy bars enter the market, I was not that drawn. So many seemed to have a great deal of ingredients, and I preferred to carry my little ziplock bag with nuts, seeds and raisins around. In part because of the simplicity, but in part because of the price. 

My stepdaughter, who is going through a very particular phase with food has been on a bit of a Larabar kick these last few months. You've never met a healthier 19 year-old. 

When I was contacted and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing Larabar products - I said yes please. A week before the samples arrived, I bought my first bar. I was already sold before I opened the box of samples they sent this week (pictured).  

I've been on the special carbohydrate diet for 68 days at this point, so on top of needing to be gluten-free, there was little out there that would count as a "treat" in my books, that was also allowed on this scd diet. Dates had become my new favourite food. Low and behold, that is the base for the Larabar. A super healthy, and "legal" treat in every regard. 

I confess that one of the things I pine for most in the gluten world has to be pecan pie. While I haven't indulged in many, many years... one of my last memories of "cheating" on my gf diet was a low moment of scooping the innards out of a pecan pie. I was weak. It was a dumb idea. Today, I had the Pecan Pie Larabar - and I do not embellish when I say - they've nailed it. You will not believe that they managed to replicate pecan pie with only three natural ingredients - and none of them is sugar. 

The Apple Pie Larabar was also delicious (you need to like cinnamon - and I do, because the flavour is strong). The Cherry Pie is bursting with the fresh tart taste of cherries. You have no doubt that the real fruit is what you are tasting. Simple, delicious and nutritious. 

I liked all three of the samples I was sent to try, but Pecan Pie - for my tastebuds, is the winner. Three ingredients never tasted so good. I could eat one every day without guilt for about the same price as a chocolate bar. Add that there isn't the insulin high and low, there is plenty of fibre and protein - gf, vegan and kosher. Excellent road trip fare. 

For the gluten-free diet, these are a real winner. If you have an even MORE restrictive diet... you will be shocked to know that you now have an amazing, healthy and dessert-like treat to enjoy. I might be able to handle this SCD diet a few more weeks now. Thanks Larabar!

Check out the Larabar site HERE for more, including how to order online. 


New Children's Book about Food Intolerance - Coming Soon: Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions

Woolfred Cannot Eat Dandelions; A Tale of Being True to Your Tummy is published by Magination Press - an imprint of the American Psychological Association. The official release date is September 15, 2014. 

While not gluten specific, this is a tale that any kid with ANY kind of dietary limitations might relate to. It's based on my own experience growing up and figuring out how to deal. It doesn't matter that today, there are more options than there were in the 70's, or that food intolerance is more common. This is about approach, feelings and being human (even if told through the eyes of sheep!). 

I'll post more on Woolfred when officially released this fall. You'll find a link to the APA publishing site HERE, Amazon.com HERE and Amazon.ca HERE where it is available for pre-order. 


Serious Salads - Light Summer Meals for Hot Summer Nights

Summer is finally in full swing... after what seemed like the longest, hardest winter in memory. The farmer's markets are expanding from the meagre spring offerings to stalls filled with a wide selection of fruits and veggies, and our salads are improving with each week. 

We eat a lot of fresh veggies at our house... and started moving into fresh over cooked early in the season. After a winter of cooked greens, we started eating our kale raw. We started looking for ways to add crunch and zest to our plates.

A few tricks for keeping hot summer meals easy on week nights is to prep food on the weekend - often fresh from the market. First, I wash all of the greens and keep them covered in a bowl in the fridge. This means picking up a handful and placing it directly on a plate when I need it. I don't bother dressing greens anymore - instead I place a number of (often pre made & pre dressed) heartier salads on top of the undressed base of greens. 

I've tired of sloppy big green leaves and find myself preferring everything chopped small and fine. This makes for denser, crunchier salads. An added bonus is that these types of salads age, store and travel well too. Two important tools have been the mandolin slicer (for super fine slices of fennel or cabbage) and the grater - for carrots and beets.

Some salads store very well for a few days - bean salads (provided not too wet), slaws, and salads made from heartier veggies like fennel. I make a few salads at once, and rotate them over the next couple of days - and take them for lunch too. These dense salads make fantastic simple sides or dinner in and of themselves, particularly when one or more includes a form of protein like beans, nuts or cheese. Here is a sampling of some of our summer standards. I've included the classic caprese which requires little more than slicing a tomato. 

Carrot Beet Salad
Grate peeled organic beets and carrots
Add olive oil, apple cider vinegar and celery seed (optional).

Celeric Slaw (no image) 
Wash and peel celeriac root. Using a mandolin slicer make long thin strips of this crunchy white vegetable. Toss with finely chopped fresh parsley, a small amount of mayonnaise, dijon mustard and freshly ground black pepper. Celeric is available all year and makes an excellent winter side too!

Red Cabbage Slaw
Using a mandolin cut red cabbage on the finest slicer and then use the teeth to make thin crunchy strips of carrot. Toss with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and celery seed. You can use a knife and grater to make a less delicate looking, but just as tasty version of this salad. 

Black Bean & Radish
Rinse black beans until the water runs clear and place in a bowl. Add radishes chopped into little cubes about the same size as the beans and lots of chopped cilantro. Sprinkle a light dusting of cayenne pepper, a dollop of good olive oil and squeeze in the juice of a fresh lime.

Caprese Salad
Finely slice fresh tomatoes and assemble on a platter. Slice bocconcini (fresh baby mozzarella) and place on top. Add chopped fresh basil and dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Finish with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Simple Arugula with Walnuts and Olives
Fresh baby arugula (or larger leaves chopped) with fresh walnuts (toasted or raw) and salt cured olives. Sprinkle good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a light sprinkle of salt. 

Pesto & Corn Potato Salad
mix fresh pesto (read labels on store bought pesto!),corn cut from roasted cobs, chopped fresh basil leaves, salt & pepper
and the tiniest fresh baby potatoes (boiled and cooled). 

For a post on a number of variations on potato salad click HERE.

If you're wondering what the heck this post has to do with "gluten-free"... well, absolutely nothing. In fact - there are so many good foods out there that have nothing to do with gluten... perhaps that is the point :). 

Winter is a season of pasta, and starchier comfort foods, but I've always found summer easier because fresh and lighter foods are more appealing when it's hot. 

May your summer be full of foods so fresh and delicious, that you think about abundance more than lack. Add a glass of chilled vino bianco and celebrate virtuous and easy summer meals!


Grain-free Muffins - Almond & Coconut Flour

I'm on day 38 of the specific carbohydrate diet. Ok - for 3 days I fell off the wagon (my birthday - and the two days following, because Lee baked delicious chocolate cupcakes and left 4 at my house!). I moved through them quickly in order to get back on the wagon :)

I'm not sure how much longer I'll stay on this diet, and I'm not recommending that others try it (unless the gluten-free diet isn't helping you manage all of your symptoms). It hasn't done much for mine, but I will say that my energy is much better, my mind feels clearer and I'm sleeping like a log. That, for now, is keeping me off the grains. The first 30 days, I stuck to the diet verbatim - but now I'm letting a few items like beans slip into my diet (I mean come on!!). 

Today, I baked using the SCD rule book for the first time. As usual, I made up my own ad hoc recipe (after cruising the net to get a sense or ratios using new flours). I came up with a super simple combo that led to delicious muffins that are high in protein and highly satisfying.

In a food processor with the paddle I put the wet ingredients in, pulsed and then the dry: 

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
4 eggs
1 small banana
1 cup ground almonds (with skins on)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup soaked and drained currents
1/8 cup dates chopped fine

Pour into muffin liners. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. This recipe made 8 muffins. 

Sending thanks to my Mum - who sent me home with these two new "flours" to try from her pantry. You can use almond flour (this was whole almonds ground with skins on). When you bake with almonds the whole house is lovely and fragrant.

Coconut flour requires plenty of liquid (eggs, fruit or other) as it absorbs like a sponge. These turned out wonderfully - but I'll likely keep experimenting to keep it fresh. 

I'm kind of stuck on my chickpea flour (forbidden on the SCD diet)...and also a great high protein/fibre alternative. You can read more about my super easy and forgiving muffin making technique HERE. I've also written about muffins with ricotta cheese, which can be found HERE

If there's a drawback to almond flour - it's the price. That said, a muffin is no longer a muffin but an extremely satiating food item that provides hours of energy. Almond flour doesn't have a long shelf life so - buy as needed and keep it in the fridge. Some might consider another drawback the fat content - but I'm a big fan of healthy oils and believe that they do the body good. 

When I start introducing grains back into my diet, almond and coconut flour will certainly add some new flavour, texture and variety to my repertoire!