My reason why

Hi & welcome to Gluten Free Little Cook,  

I’m Nicky, 50 (how did I get there!), mum to two delightfully vibrant (occasionally stroppy) teen and pre-teen daughters Liv & Grace, who are my world.  I’m the IT, Finance & Creative Director of GFLC as well as being chief of everyday life in the house including kitchen, laundry & taxi services! 

I’ve spent my life so far organising me & others, in business, children & chairing the school PTA.  Having been made redundant in 2019, and with everything else going on in our lives, maybe it was time for something different.  It took a little more time to learn, craft & create what GFLC has become since launching in July 2021. But it’s totally different when you choose to create & run your own business as I’m learning very quickly…  

Our lives changed forever in February 2018 when my youngest child was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease just after her 9th birthday.  I was expecting her to be diagnosed with diabetes – it tied in with so many more of her symptoms.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

How did I not know?

She’d been under the weather for some time, even years, but you couldn’t put your finger on it as to what causing the sore tummies, eye and ear infections, general lethargy and by the end of 2017, a thirst that was unquenchable not to mention the horrible yellowy grey colour she developed over the Christmas holidays.  Enough was enough.  We’d had more than our fair share of trips to the GP’s over the years but for the first time the GP suggested a blood test.  Three days later the call was in & our lives changed forever.  

She is my ‘why’ and the reason behind starting this business creating fabulous baking boxes for children just like her who miss out on so much.  They just want to be normal like their peers.

I vaguely knew about the disease but until you live in the bubble of having a coeliac child you don’t understand the intricacies of it all

Managing a child with coeliac disease

Most people assume you can just remove the gluten/wheat from your diet that cause the problem i.e. pasta & bread; that you can still grab chips from the chip shop, eat out easily as a restaurant has GF offerings.  But, it’s not as easy as that.  It’s more complicated.  As any parent of a newly diagnosed child will find out. I wanted to help those who have a shock diagnosis, as you are often left to flounder.  I didn’t know anyone who was impacted by this disease & as ever, I just wanted to help those who would get diagnosed after us.  So do go look at the blogs for handy hints & tips for when you are starting out or already on your journey.

I felt as if the world had ended.  Why her?  I thought about all the things she couldn’t take forgranted any longer, all the things that she couldn’t do from now on, sharing food, drinks, snacks, trying items at food markets, making travelling that bit harder.  But wallowing in self pity doesn’t get you anywhere.  Once the tears had flowed from me, not her, I knew I had to make fast changes and get her back to optimum health.  It is the one disease that can be cured by diet alone were the words ringing in my ears from the consultant.

My research began, I Googled, read blogs, books and spoke with our dietitian, joined Facebook groups.  I decided that as I was so totally capable, I would do my utter best so that she’d never miss out. 

Changing everything

All the food items in the house that she might eat were changed for gluten free versions including breakfast cereals & crisps, she had her own cupboard for safe snacks.  We learnt to tip not dip, have separate items for her e.g. butter/jams/Nutella (trust me, no one wants to share her Nutella jar anyway!).

I could already read labels well, I hate additives at the best of times, so I taught her what she had to look for too. 

Our home was now safe, especially for cross contamination as I set a designated area in the kitchen for any gluten prep as Liv still liked to have her toast and any GF items were then prepared on the other side of the kitchen, minimising any cross contamination issues. 

But it wasn’t enough as I didn’t ever want my child to be excluded & left out.  You can’t just go to a restaurant any more, you have to research & plan to ensure that they cater for a coeliac diet.

Not missing out

Grace was excluded just once. 

And her tears that night broke my heart. She literally sobbed herself to sleep. I vowed she’d never miss out again nor would any other child with this disease.

In various Facebook groups you see so many parents say their children are missing out as the general market caters to adult tastes.  I could do something about this with my background & creative spirit.  In the first instance, I taught myself to bake totally gluten free – so all our normal family baking was now inclusive for her.  I didn’t have to worry about what I was putting on the table.  From gluten free birthday cakes, pasta & GF sourdough bread, anything is possible.  But let’s not mention the very first GF pizzas!  They went into the bin with the tins!! Surely it couldn’t be that hard.  I’m pretty capable but really??  Back to the drawing board.

Cakes and beginning Gluten Free Little Cook

Crazy as it seems, I started a gluten free cake business in March 2020, Nic’s GF Bakes.  Four weeks before a pandemic. But I didn’t shout about it.  Far too full of imposter syndrome on every level, what do I know about cake, what do I know about anything?  Well, I do know how to make a great cake that you wouldn’t know was gluten free.  If I can make my mother think its a regular cake, I can convince anyone.  I just converted regular recipes and most worked.

But it wasn’t what I envisioned it could or should be.  Baking takes so long, having two sets of kitchen equipment in one takes up too much space.  It wasn’t helping the children with the disease but the adults.  A rethink was required.  The cakes are on hold for now but I’ll see in the future.  If it’s the end, well I went out with a bang with the most amazing wedding cake, all gluten & dairy free with one also being vegan as pictured above in August 2021.

Children have always been key in my world.  I trained as a nanny many a year ago so it was back to the drawing board.  I only have to sit in a park & end up engaging with the kids there.  They migrate to me!    And that is how I created Gluten Free Little Cook.  It is designed specifically for children to learn to bake normal tasty treats at home with you, the parent, that are gluten free, fun & safe.  It should enhance their learning too.  Too many children don’t know where food comes from, where it grows, or how it gets to the table.  I was super lucky to have parents who grew their own vegetables – my dad still grows the best ever runner beans & tomatoes!  So in each box there are top facts on a seasonal fruit or vegetable, along with a colouring & naming sheet to embed their learning.

The Baking Kits

The baking kits are evolving at present until I am happy with them.  It is all work in progress, but with each one, I’m finding what works, what doesn’t and what the look and feel of them should be for you and your child.

There are now two options – an all singing & dancing version, and a what you really need version.  The Ultimate Baking Kit and the Simple Baking Kit.  With the Ultimate Kit you get everything you need including cupcake cases, moulds, a cookie cutter dependant on the recipe.  With the Simple Kit, you get what you need to create the bakes but you supply your own cupcake cases or cookie cutters that you’ve at home.  Everyone gets a recipe card with instructions & follow along pictures.  Videos are work in progress & coming next…. Gotta walk before I can run.

How you decorate them is importantly up to you.  I’ll supply you with an idea in the box, but really, they are your bakes, you decorate them however you want.  They don’t need to look like the pictures.  Add your own twist to them.

Baking is about experimenting, gaining in confidence, finding what works for you.  You choose how you want to make them look. Then it’s totally worth spending an hour having fun together, getting a little messy, having a little fun & even doing the washing up.  It’s about doing it together and making memories.  Especially when you get to lick the spoon and bowl too!

Let’s Get Baking!!