Welcome to Gluten Free and the Australian Teenager
The pages and posts on this site is a resource guide for all those who have coeliac disease.
It is more specifically a resource for families looking for gluten free recipes and products approved and accepted by teenagers who must eat gluten free.
Browse our pages for kitchen set up, lunch box suggestions, gluten free shopping hints and recipe and eating out resources.
Read about some of the ups and downs for a teenager with coeliac disease and gain an insight into some of factors associated with the transition to gluten free.
Additionally, Help! My Teenager has Coeliac Disease … is for mothers supporting their teenager to provide teen specific information.
Written by a mother of a teenager diagnosed with coeliac disease, this site is full of practicalities and honesty.
Gluten Free and the Australian Teenager is about the new ‘normal’ and all that comes with a gluten free lifestyle.
The Past.The Present.The Future
In the not so distant past, I knew nothing about blogging and we were just a normal family eating ‘normal’ food. It was 11 July 2012 when my youngest son KJ was officially given a diagnosis of coeliac disease and his lifestyle and dietary patterns changed with those words, “You have coeliac disease and you must eat gluten free for the rest of your life”.
This blog has been my ‘present’ to my son and to mothers of children, especially teenagers, who are diagnosed with coeliac disease. I have referred to it as my ‘Box Full of…” all things gluten free: thoughts, emotions, recipes, products, coping, adjusting, likes and lots more. I have kept true to my original intentions and feel a sense of pride in this achievement. It has also been a gift for me because not only have I taught myself a little about blogging and upskilled my computer competencies, my blog has also been my way of coping with the trials and tribulations of a gluten free lifestyle, accepting change, guiding my son along his journey and then learning to let go as KJ continues on his gluten free journey. If this was a book or a publication, I would have put the finishing touches on it a long time ago. I am not a patient person, I like to have a project and then allow it to come to a conclusion. But a blog is not a book and I have had to learn patience and learn to pace myself.
I am not sure about the average life expectancy of a blog, but unless your blog is earning you an income and you take it on professionally, one can end up losing impetus, blogging top 5 or top 10 lists, posting irregularly and losing direction.
Today my KJ turns 20 and therefore he is no longer a teenager. The life expectancy of this blog “Gluten Free and the Australian Teenager” has been 3 1/2 years and what a wonderful 3 1/2 years I have had.
On the gluten free front, I will never be bored, I look forward to making 10 different versions of Hummus, Fig Cake, Flourless Olive Oil Caprese Cake, a number of recipes using polenta and working through and/or culling my pile of recipes in my file. I will continue to dabble in gluten free because gluten free is our new ‘normal’. With the exception of sweets and desserts and biscuits and cakes, gluten free has taken us back to products which are naturally gluten free: fruit, vegetables, meats, seafood, salads, nuts, pulses. I have revived some of my mum’s old fashioned family favourites and will commit to paper a number of these recipes before they are lost.
My blog is my ‘pay it forward’ gesture because it will continue to be a resource for families with newly diagnosed children. So in a way, it is like a book: it has had a beginning, a middle and an end. It has currency and relevancy.
The Future also promises treatment options for coeliac disease sufferers. With a number of trial treatments underway, the future will deliver for my son alternatives to his strict gluten free diet. And in the not so distant future, fingers crossed.
Many thanks to those who have shared this blog journey with me and I do look forward to your future blog posts. Many thanks to those of you who have given me feedback or made comments which gave me encouragement to continue the blog.
And so my final words are “Happy Birthday Kieran”.
Recipes have a story and this is my family’s story
This is our cigron recipe or my mum Ines’s variation of my Nana’s recipe. We think the vinegar is definitely Mum’s Italian influence and we love its taste. When I visit my granddaughter in Brisbane, Mia always asks – Are you going to make cigrons Avia? It is one of our special family meals or special occasion meals. It connects my family to our Catalan heritage in a special way and I feel honoured that I have passed a love of cigrons on to the next two generation. Should they visit Catalonia, they will be disappointed with the traditional recipe served there. I have ex flatmates from over 30 years ago who still reminisce about my cigrons. I have a Namco Pressure Cooker which I bought in 1983 and it has chuff chuffed its way through a few decades and quite a few kilos of chickpeas.
375 to 500 g dried chickpeas
2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil
4 – 6 rashes of bacon, diced
3 – 6 cloves garlic, diced finely
¼ to ½ cup vinegar
Salt and pepper
Rinse the dried chickpeas and then soak them in a bowl of water for at least 8 hours.
Drain chickpeas and place in a pressure cooker with boiled water. Add a large pinch of salt.
Bring the pot to the boil and scoop off any froth and bubble from the top of the water.
Seal lid and bring up to pressure. Reduce heat until gentle simmer (about 1/3 heats on my hotplates or a gentle chuff chuff chuff can be heard). Cook for 30 – 40 minutes.
Remove from heat, release pressure (safely). If there is too much liquid, reserve excess liquid (freeze to add to soups or pasta sauce or to add back into cigrons).
Meanwhile in a frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add bacon and fry until cooked.
Add garlic and fry until soft. Do not allow garlic to brown.
Just before garlic goes brown, add the vinegar. Simmer the sauce to evaporate off some of the vinegar and/or until sauce is slightly syrupy.
Taste test. If you need more zing in the sauce, add more vinegar and reduce sauce down again.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour sauce over the chickpeas. If a little dry, add back some of the reserved chickpea water. Stir to combine and serve.
“But gluten free is EASY“, so says your kind and caring friend or family member. “There are LOTS more products in the supermarkets and EVERY cafe and restaurant has HEAPS of gluten free menu items”.
These types of comments are enough for me to begin my epistle about what it really means to eat gluten free as a medical necessity as opposed to eating gluten free because it is a dietary fad. I can sound like the ‘gluten free’ police: hard line and precise.
BUT here is the thing: eating gluten free is just one aspect of having coeliac disease. For the mature minded adult who chooses to eat gluten free SOME of the time, then gluten free can appear to be easy and simple.
The other aspect to coeliac disease is your adjustment for a commitment to a life long dietary regime without margins for error.
And I think that while your gastroenterologist, the dietitian and your doctor are focussed on your physical health and healing, what is often forgotten is the emotional and psychology healing that also needs attention.
Yes, having coeliac disease is manageable through diet. There is no drug regime. But there is no cure and the journey is for the ‘REST OF YOUR LIFE‘. Plus you are AT RISK or on watch for numerous other auto-immune diseases. AND shopping becomes TEDIOUS and eating out ONEROUS.
While those with coeliac disease become RESILIENT and ORGANISED it is important to acknowledge that gluten free can be at times OVERWHELMING. There is a degree of HYPER-VIGILANCE as there is no room for COMPLACENCY.
If you have coeliac disease, you most definitely do not want to be defined by you health condition. You want no fuss made and you definitely do not want to hear flippant comments about how easy and simple gluten free is. And you don’t want your mother making a scene every time you are going to eat away from home.
My son has made adjustments, he is informed and makes good decisions about his food. He is not COMPLACENT nor does his take RISKS. But this mother, at times has been too focussed and too well meaning when we are eating out with family be it someone’s home or a cafe/restaurant. I have contributed to his angst and stress by asking those embarrassing questions and informing hosts about his dietary requirements. I have been too focussed on his physical dietary needs that I have forgotten about his feelings.
So I put my hand up and own up to being that HELICOPTER MUM hovering and being a HINDRANCE rather than a HELP. And I have said this before, that while I have been his companion and guide on his gluten free journey, especially in the early stages of diagnosis, I have had to learn to let go and believe I have helped empower him with my guidance about gluten free and coeliac disease.
My advice to other mothers is to know: when it is time to let go; when it is time to become involved; when it is time to suggest a correction; when your child understands, when your child’s emotional well being has priority.
Our children are wiser than we think. Our children are braver than we are. Our children need us to give them respect and latitude.
And just like that first day of preschool or kindy when we had to let go of their hand and allow them to enter a ‘new world’ without us, mothers of children with coeliac disease have to find the time to let go of ‘their hand’ and allow them to enter their ‘world of gluten free’ without us.
Maybe someone should have guided me earlier to be a Hummingbird Parent rather than a Helicopter Parent. Thankfully though, I have transitioned.
Oops is an understatement
A member of our local Coeliac Queensland group, emailed through the details of a new product on the shelves: Kellogg’s Gluten Free Breakfast Biscuits.
I had checked my Coles supermarket, but they weren’t on the shelves but I did find them at Woolworths.
I quickly lined up the three different flavours, took a photo and then my husband and I deliberated over which packet we would buy for KJ for taste testing. We couldn’t decide so threw into the trolley the Cranberries… and the Apricot…..
KJ found the Breakfast Biscuits and brought the red packet to me with the questions “Are these gluten free?” I replied, “Yes, I thought we would give them a try”.
LUCKILY my KJ is gluten free savvy, and replied but “These ones (Cranberries…) have gluten in them!”
“No, they are gluten free, see here on the front of the packet…. “
How easily confused I was. I had taken the photo at the supermarket, just after I lined up the ‘three’ varieties on the shelf.
I did not see it then, I did not see it when I unpacked the boxes, I did not see it when I put the packets in prominent place in the kitchen.
How easily I thought that all the Kellogg’s Breakfast Biscuits on the same shelf were all gluten free.
How easily it is to ‘miss’ that the product contained gluten.
How easily it is to unknowingly consume gluten.
I thought I was gluten free savvy, but KJ taught me a few lessons today.
Check and recheck.
Don’t assume if one variety is gluten free that all varieties are gluten free.
Don’t trust your mother, because she isn’t the one who would suffer the consequences.
Always do your own due diligence.
ALWAYS be vigilant.
There is no room for error in KJ’s gluten free diet and thankfully, my error was noticed.
It is at times like this one could feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of eating gluten free, with no room for error.
I had let my guard down, I was excited that I have found this new product and didn’t see what was painfully obvious.
It used to be that I taught KJ about his gluten free needs. The roles are reversed now and he is teaching me.
What can I say. Maybe a humble few words to my son:
“KJ I promise I won’t nag and question and make a fuss anymore about where and what you are eating and whether foods are gluten free. You have more than proved your point that you can deal with your gluten free life.”
Some months ago Deliciously Nell from I Need a Feed nominated my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award for which I am truly honoured. My readership is small but I thank Deliciously Nell for thinking of me as one deserving of this award.
Have a look at I Need a Feed as Nell’s blog as it is honest and sincere and her photography captures the beauty in food. I am particularly taken by her baking. Thank you Nell for your blog and inspiration.
There are a few rules attached with an award and this reinforces why blogging is great: the sharing, the referrals and opening our minds to new things. So here are the rules!
- Thank the person that nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
- List seven facts about yourself.
- Nominate (up to) 15 bloggers for this award and comment on one of their posts to let them know you have nominated them.
And now for the nominees! Thank you for your recipes and inspirations AND for your love of food.
And something about myself!
I enjoy the sleuthing and puzzling that comes with Family History Research and my family can attest to my obsessive compulsive nature.
I am lucky to have three sisters who are also my best friends.
I have undertaken six dinosaur digs out Winton way with Australian Age of Dinosaurs and yes Australia does have dinosaurs and lots of new to science ones such as Australovenator wintonensis and Diamantinasaurus matildae.
I have inherited my love of food and cooking from my mum who is such a great standard to be influenced and cook by.
I am currently researching the history of Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland Australia 1943 to 1946. Interestingly, Italians captured in theatres of war in north and east Africa during World War 2 were transported to Australian for the duration of the war with many working for and being billeted with farmers.
I belong to an Italian Folk Dancing group in Townsville
Most days I wear many different hats: blogger, gluten free baker, daughter, sister, friend, business owner but most importantly….
“Always a Mum”
I think the gluten free savvy learn to scan restaurant and cafe reviews for those precious words :GLUTEN FREE but what is more exciting about Detour in Woolloongabba Brisbane is that the kitchen will be entirely gluten free.
While the restaurant won’t be opened until 2nd January 2017, I am sure that it will be well supported by all those who must eat gluten free.
Back in the day, when Christmas wasn’t quite so commercialised, one would receive a Christmas Stocking and one other gift.
Life was simple and uncomplicated and many of my peers have memories of this Christmas Stocking : cardboard backing with material netting and containing a comic, a packet of lollies and a few bits and bobs such as whistles, yo-yos, toy car, tin clickers.
With too much time on my hands, I decided that a gluten free Christmas Stocking could be easily (if not roughly) made.
A cookbook, lollies, caramels, chocolates and there it is, my version of a gluten free Christmas Stocking.
So if you are still looking for inspiration: gluten free or otherwise, then put together a few items, sew together cardboard and a scrap of curtain material and personalise a Christmas Stocking gift.