Category Archives: Daily GF Living

Take Me Out to the Ball Game


The Celiac Pack loves baseball and we are true devoted Chicago Cubs fans.  We have been born and raised to love the Cubbies.  I have fond memories of watching the Cubs games on WGN with my grandpa and appreciate all the games he took my family to at Wrigley Field.

This summer we traveled to watch our dear Cubbies at three parks, the Milwaukee Brewers’  Miller Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park, and of course, Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.  Although I do love Miller Park, there were such little gluten-free offerings (a hot dog- no bun…who eats that at a ball game), that I am not going to review their GF items.

In the spirit of tomorrow’s National League Wild Card game, I will review the two parks of the wonderful contenders.

PNC Park has a concession stand where they sell gluten-free hot dogs and nachos.  The girls were excited to have the opportunity to eat a hot dog at the ball park while watching the Pittsburgh Pirates host our Cubbies.

PNC menu 1   PNC menu 2

judy and katie pnc

At Wrigley Field, you can enjoy a gluten-free hot dog or hamburger at the Decade Diner located by right field inside the park.  There is no official menu posted, but this is the only place in the park they can accommodate with gluten free hot dogs, burgers, and buns.  Judy and I both ordered a hot dog and it came with a side of chips and a pickle.  I was told there was a smaller concession stand closer to home plate with gluten-free snacks, but we never found it as Judy was content after her hot dog and chips.

diner wrigley  wrigley 4

judy wrigley  wrigley 3

I think both parks have equal gluten-free offerings, they are just presented differently.  I like that at PNC you can easily eat your hot dog in the stands; but the flip side is at Wrigley there is more of a restaurant/ diner feel.

I enjoyed our time at PNC.  The Pirates are an excellent team and they have devoted fans.  We were welcome with open arms.  I have to say I am hoping and praying this is OUR year.  Of course I am rooting for the Cubbies all the way.  Good luck to the Pirates! Cubbies, let’s Fly the W! Go Cubs Go!

katie and mary PNC  judy wrigley 2

Fabulous Funfetti!



I love Funfetti cakes and cupcakes.  I was really sad when I could not eat them anymore.  My mom bought gluten-free Funfetti mix at the store.  I was so happy.  She made the cupcakes last  Saturday and they tasted great!  She added the vanilla frosting and sprinkles on top.  Thank you Pillsbury for making Funfetti gluten-free!

funfetti cupcakes

Mini Pretzel Crisps

Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps


My mom found Snack Factory Gluten Free Minis Pretzel Crisps at the store.  They are tiny and great for snacking. They come in a variety of flavors including original, dark chocolate, vanilla yogurt, and salted caramel.  My favorite minis are the dark chocolate covered ones.  They are delicious.

pretzel crisps

My mom likes the original brand.  She found mini bags of the original flavor at Target.  It is nice to have on-the-go.

pretzel crisps packages

National Celiac Awareness Day

National Celiac Awareness Day


I remember it like yesterday.  My daughter was in kindergarten, my twin sons were only two years old, and my mom was in chemo treatment battling stage 4 breast cancer.  Balancing my teaching job, with a sick mom and three small children was quite a challenging time.  Just when I thought things were a little taxing, Judy started having stomach aches.  She would cry and not want to get out of bed.  Over time her stomach aches and pains would come and go and it was inconsistent.  The doctor said to keep an eye on it and maybe she had a tummy bug or just some kindergarten anxiety.  From Halloween to Thanksgiving she was on a down-ward spiral.  Not only did she have constant stomach aches, she was sad, she had extreme mood swings, her legs ached and she did not want to do gymnastics or dance class anymore.  She was skinny.  I mean so thin her ribs stuck out.  She was not short, but she did not have an ounce of fat on her body.  She was not my “happy Judy” anymore.  Her sparkly personality wasn’t always there anymore.  Her teacher would call me and say how her personality is changing.  She had a terrible rash on her head and back and she would scratch and scratch; I was told she had eczema. She started having extreme thirst so I brought her back to the doctor in December. I went to “Dr. Google” and researched these symptoms.  I was convinced she had diabetes but also learned that the symptoms for Celiac disease were similar being an autoimmune disorder.  Judy has a cousin with both diseases so I wanted her tested for both.  I knew in my heart there was something seriously wrong with my daughter, something causing the anxiety, depression, mood issues, leg pains, stomach aches, weight loss, and rashes.

The blood results came in and she was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  My heart sank.  My baby has an autoimmune disorder?  There is no cure?  It can trigger other autoimmune disorders?  WHAT…GLUTEN-FREE FOREVER?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  She was referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist right away and he scheduled an endoscopy within a week.  I couldn’t believe my child had to have this procedure, my little peanut, but the endoscopy would confirm the Celiac diagnosis.  When we went over the results with her amazing gastroenterologist he promised me that ALL of those symptoms would go away with a gluten free diet.  Even her rash was not eczema; it was Dermatitis Herpetiformis, a skin condition caused by Celiac disease.  He looked at me and said Celiac disease is not allowing your daughter to receive any nutrition, not only keeping her super-skinny but there is no way to regulate emotions without nutrition.  He promised me with a gluten free diet my little girl would come back to us.

Within two months of gluten-free diet Judy’s effervescent and sparkly personality was back.  She began gaining weight.  Her stomach pains became a thing of the past.  Her rash and leg cramps were gone.  It was amazing.  🙂

Don’t get me wrong, it is never smooth-sailing when you have Celiac disease.  Judy will always have blood work, she will always be monitored by a gastroenterologist, she tends to get sicker quicker and it takes longer to get better than her peers because her immune system is compromised, and she will never be able to walk into any restaurant or bakery and order anything she wants.  She will always have to monitor her diet.  She will always have to be aware of cross-contamination.  It will always be a daily challenge.

Celiac disease does not define my daughter.  She is a ten-year-old child that loves gymnastics and golf.  She loves to be with her family and friends.  She loves fashion.  She glitters inside and out.  I am truly blessed to call Judy my daughter.

Today, on National Celiac Awareness Day, I am grateful to modern technology, wonderful doctors and nurses, and researchers who devote their time and energy to find a cure for this terrible disease.  I pray every day they will be able to find a cure.  Thank you to the companies for the gluten-free products that keep coming onto the market and to our stores.  I am eternally grateful.

Judy’s Saturday Lunch Favorite


Noodles and Company sign

Every Saturday my mom and I run errands and go shopping. We like to stop to get some lunch so it’s usually Noodles and Company. I don’t really like different types of pasta sauces; I really just prefer butter.  I am so happy they can accommodate my needs and tastes. When we are there I always get gluten-free fusilli noodles with shrimp, butter, Parmesan cheese, and seasoning. It’s so delicious!

noodles and company gf fusilli buttered noodles


Delicious Da Luciano


We had a wonderful birthday celebration for Jennie at one of the best restaurants that cater to the gluten-free world. Da Luciano, an Italian restaurant located in River Grove, Illinois, has an extensive gluten-free menu. It has a lovely atmosphere and the food is delicious. It is very rare that we can find decent-tasting Italian food, but Da Luciano has mastered the art of cooking Italian specialties gluten-free.

We ordered a variety of appetizers: fried calamari, pizza bread, and fried mozzarella wedges. I personally do not like calamari and therefore did not try it, however all the calamari-eaters at the table loved it. Judy and I enjoyed the pizza bread and the fried mozzarella wedges. You would never have known you were eating gluten-free appetizers; they were cooked to perfection and tasted amazing.

dalucianos3  dalucianos2

There were nine of us at the table and five of us ordered  off of the gluten-free menu for our main entrees. We first ate salads. I enjoyed the gluten-free creamy garlic dressing, it was quite tasty. My sister and Mary G. ordered eggplant parmigiana, Judy ordered pepperoni pizza, Katie ordered spaghetti with meat sauce and I ordered veal parmigiana. I tasted some of Jennie’s eggplant parmigiana and I have to say that both the eggplant and the veal were incredible. They were served with gluten-free rotini noodles on the side with marinara sauce. The server brought the girls gluten-free garlic bread to eat with their meals and they were so happy. The dinner was outstanding.
dalucianos en 4  dalucianos en 5

dalucianos en 2  dalucianos en 3

For dessert, I tried the Italian spumoni, Jennie had a birthday homemade cannoli, Judy and Katie both ordered cream puffs, and Mary G. sampled the tiramisu. It was a quiet dessert time as everyone thoroughly enjoyed these delicious desserts. The smiles on the faces of Mary G., Judy, and Katie were truly priceless as soon as the server brought them their gluten-free desserts. They were in “gluten-free heaven”.
dalucuciano des 4    daluciano des2

daluciano des 3    daluciano des1

I highly suggest dining at Da Luciano. You will not be disappointed; you will leave wondering when the next time you will return. Thank you Da Luciano…thank you for the amazing gluten-free birthday celebration that all could enjoy.

Happy birthday Jennie! 🙂

Birthday Memories

Mom and Dad


Today is my birthday. I have never been one to hide my age or worry about getting older. My parents both died way too young, so my family celebrates every year!

Birthdays are a time of reflection.  I remember the wonderful birthdays I had as a kid.  Mom always made our favorite meal for dinner.  My favorite – both then and now – is pizza. Mary and I were born in rural Georgia, and at the time it was not easy to find good pizza.  My parents took my request on as a challenge.  Over the years, they perfected homemade pizza.  They made the dough and let it rise perfectly and cooked delicious sauce all day (pork sausage in the sauce is the key!).  Dad topped the pizzas with vegetables he grew all summer in his garden.

I appreciate the pizza they made me more now as a parent myself than I ever did as a kid. To think they simmered, stirred, kneaded, and baked all day in the hot early September kitchen amazes me.  It was an act of pure love.

Since my parents are sadly gone, I have tried to follow their recipe.  I laugh every time I get to the part my Mom wrote down that says, “This is a big mess, but well worth the trouble.”  I have to admit, it is tough.  They were pros.  Now that my children have Celiac Disease, making the dough gluten-free is challenging, but one of these days I will get it! Until then, my children enjoy their grandparent’s delicious sauce made from scratch and store bought gluten-free dough.

Each and every time I make homemade pizzas I fondly remember my childhood birthdays.

What are your birthday traditions?

Back to School!

Jennie and Mary

Welcome to The Celiac Pack! This is our very first blog entry. 🙂

It is the first day of school for many children across the country. This can be a hard time for many children and many parents, especially those children with dietary restrictions and in our case, Celiac Disease. In addition to purchasing school supplies, clothes and shoes, we are also shopping for kid-friendly, gluten- free lunch box items. We stroll the grocery store and pass the cookie aisle, pass the bread aisle, and pass the snack-sized cracker aisle (Goldfish and Cheez-Its) and there is an immediate sadness that we feel when we know our children cannot eat all those fun things. It is funny the things they miss. Mary would do anything to eat Twizzlers, even though they were never her favorite before she was diagnosed. Katie loved Cheez-It crackers and still drools as we pass the cracker aisle. And oh Judy just loved those chocolate-chip mini muffins!

It is a definitely a challenge, however, thankfully over the last several years more gluten-free (GF) products have come out and the lunch-making process is easier. We have to really plan out our children’s lunches to make sure all the right GF products are available in the pantry. Our children do eat quite healthy with plenty of fruits and veggies, but it is a daily goal to make these lunches fun. We are constantly on a mission for kid-friendly GF food! We always incorporate a small piece of chocolate or candy, because we know they are looking across the lunchroom and see their friends eating their old favorites. It’s amazing what a couple of Hersey kisses in their own lunch boxes will do…

We are so blessed with these beautiful girls. We are lucky they were diagnosed when they were younger and live healthy lives. They are all very active with sports, school, and in their communities. As moms, we constantly think about what could have happened had they had not been diagnosed. Undiagnosed Celiac Disease can have harmful long-term complications. We accept our lunch-box woes as a challenge knowing that gluten-free foods are the “medicine” our children need.

Happy Back to School everyone! Enjoy your year! 🙂