Less than a week into our daughter’s celiac diagnosis, my husband and I were at our wit’s end with food.
Since receiving her blood test results we had spent a ridiculous amount of money on gluten free groceries, mainly on our good-intentioned but ultimately disastrous attempts at recreating our daughter’s favorite meal – mac & cheese, also known as the holy grail of toddler food. Turns out quinoa and corn pasta doesn’t fly with our kid, nor did the different kinds of powdered cheese we tried, especially the lactose free kind.
Day two we discovered a lovely vegan cafe that served a most delicious chocolate chip banana bread that our daughter ate ravenously and with a zeal we hadn’t seen since before she started feeling sick. Delighted, we visited the cafe twice a day for three days until we exhausted ourselves and our budget. After our sixth traffic-filled drive from our apartment to the cafe, when our daughter finished the banana bread and requested more before we even got home, we realized something had to change.
We had to cook our own food.
That’s when my husband stepped up into chef position.
Forget mac & cheese for now, he said, flinging the opened bags of rejected pasta into the garbage. I’m going to make her chicken fingers.
Chicken fingers? I must admit I was doubtful. Making homemade batches of gluten free breaded chicken for a kid we used to lovingly call a fruit-a-tarian, who barely glanced at vegetables, let alone meat, seemed like a chancy proposition. But hey, we were running out of options and our kid was hungry. Ravenous. Turns out newly diagnosed celiacs actually are starving to some extent since all their vitamins and nutrients have been flooded (one way or another) out of their bodies. So my husband made his first batch with a package of Schar breadcrumbs and a tray of free range chicken breasts.
Magic. She LOVED them. Inhaled them. Woke up at 5am and ate them in the dark. Sure, she doused them in frightening amounts of ketchup, but she ate up to ten a day. Sometimes more.
Fast-forward a month later and the girl had gained close to five pounds. By then she had slowed down considerably on the fingers, and thankfully the ketchup, but they had done the trick.
Now we only make them occasionally, but I will always feel a special fondness for the fingers. After all, it was the food that returned the bloom to our daughter’s cheeks, and was thankfully more affordable and healthier than overpriced vegan cafe banana bread.
Besides, I found my own recipe for that.