Back in the days before she was diagnosed, I regularly went into battle with My Little Coeliac to try to get her to eat something, anything, nutritious. She was a white food kid – rice, cheese, yoghurt – and that was that. Now I think about it, it makes sense. Her favourite white foods were gluten-free and so they didn’t make her feel sick.
Weighed by the burden of mother guilt over such a poor diet, I came across Feeding Fussy Kids by Julie Maree Wood with Antonia Kidman. It’s a magnificent cookbook and full of brilliant ideas to sneak a few nutrients into a fussy eater’s diet. It was in this book that I discovered the simple idea that changing the way the food is presented can really have an impact on the reception it gets from the child. If your fussy eater doesn’t eat fruit, check out the fruit Rocket Sticks recipe on page 187. When I first started making these sticks, a couple of extra minutes in the morning had my Little Coeliac proudly showing off her rocket sticks to her kindergarten mates, before she polished them off in a jiffy. Now I serve them up at birthday parties and there are never any leftovers.
The lunch sticks above are inspired by the Rocket Sticks recipe, as well as the concept of changing the presentation of the food so that it has a novelty about it. You can use any combination of ingredients. It would be easier to use skewers, but I used pop sticks for safety. Because complex carbohydrates are really important for sustained energy levels, I serve the lunch sticks with the little parmesan polenta bites. They’re dense, quick to make and versatile enough to serve with a range of foods (possibly even as a gluten-free Yorkshire pudding).
It will take a little extra time in the morning to make these sticks for the lunchbox, but if your gluten-free child is a fussy eater, the effort may pay the huge dividend of an empty lunchbox, a full tummy and mother guilt banished!
Update: Check out the blog Deglutenous – they’ve road-tested the lunch sticks on a group of keen kiddies and sized them up just perfectly for the school lunchbox!
2 cherry tomatoes
1 babybel cheese
1 slice of cucumber, about 1 centimetre thick
2 pieces of cooked chicken breast, about 1.5 x 1.5 centimetres each
2 slices of red capsicum, about 1.5 x 1.5 centimetres each
Cut cheese and cucumber into half-circles. Using a sharp knife, cut small slits lengthways down the centre of each ingredient.
Carefully thread one piece of each ingredient onto each stick in the following order: capsicum, cheese, tomato, chicken, cucumber. Keep cool until ready to serve.
Makes two lunch sticks.
Parmesan polenta bites
100 grams uncooked polenta
30 grams tapioca flour
40 grams brown rice flour
30 grams sorghum flour
20 grams Pixie Dust (or 1 teaspoon xanthan gum)
60 grams shredded parmesan cheese
generous pinch of salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200 grams Greek-style yoghurt
125 millilitres oil
125 millilitres milk
Preheat oven to 180° Celsius (conventional) or 160° Celsius (fan forced). Grease and line 24 cavities in a mini muffin tin (25 millilitre capacity).
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and parmesan cheese. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, yoghurt, oil and milk. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
Spoon mixture into muffin tin until each cavity is full.
Bake for 25 minutes.