A Crazy Experiment for My 36th Birthday

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The week of my birthday this year, Ty and I decided to try going gluten-free.

Just for fun, to see how our bodies would react. We know how to have a good time.

We tried to replace gluten-y foods with real, whole foods like fruits and veggies and lean protein sources, instead of just swapping out the breads and grains for highly processed gluten-free versions. In other words: BORING.

My observations after five days into our experiment:

  • I went through withdrawal. Walking through the bread section of the grocery store with all the free samples was pure TORTURE. The cookies and the cupcakes and the doughy, doughy bread. I thought I might choke on my own drool.
  • Even though Bailey is teething and waking up every two hours during the night, I didn’t feel as tired.
  • I was eating more food. Like, a LOT more. Typically, I feel full halfway into a meal but keep going anyway. But without gluten in the mix, I could keep eating and eating without feeling like Chunk from The Goonies.
  • However, contrary to what I expected from eating more than usual, I actually lost two pounds of pesky pregnancy weight.

Because we both felt better off the gluten teat, we decided to keep up with the experiment except on special occasions like birthdays…for now. But if you bring me a donut tomorrow morning, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

A Crazy Experiment for My 36th BirthdayPhoto by Omer Wazir

A Selfless Act of Motherhood

Also happening during our gluten-free experiment: Abby turned six.

At Abby’s school, the kids have a tradition of bringing in treats on their birthdays.

When I met Abby for our Friday lunch date before her birthday, I asked what she wanted us to bring.

“Cupcakes,” she said.

Want. Now.

“What kind?” I asked.

“Strawberry muffins with chocolate frosting,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

Now, I’m a fan of just about every baked good on the planet. I will eat breakfast breads, cupcakes, pies, cookies, cheesecake, crisps, cobblers, and custards. Anything. If it’s got sugar, HAND IT OVER.

Except for one particular brand of dessert.

I can’t stand anything with fruit and chocolate flavors mixed together. Gag-tacular.

So when Abby asked for a fruit and chocolate cupcake, my gluten-deprived spirit broke.

I wouldn’t be able to eat the extras.

But I didn’t even try to convince her out of it.

I’m pretty much the best mom ever.


A New Experience at the Grocery Store

Still, I made the most of the situation and researched gluten-free cupcake recipes. If we felt better off gluten, why not help our kids’ tummies too?

I found a gluten-free strawberry cupcake recipe on a popular blog, and the commenters raved about the cupcakes. The recipe even came from a cookbook comprised of nothing but gluten-free cupcake recipes. Definitely legit.

Aside from the usuals like baking soda and eggs and vanilla, the recipe also called for:

  • Coconut flour
  • Arrowroot powder
  • Celtic sea salt

I hate when you have to buy a special ingredient for one recipe, and you know you’ll never use it again. But we’re committed to this gluten-free thing, so I thought of it as an investment.

We went to our local natural foods store and headed for the baking aisle.

Coconut flour. We saw the spot on the shelf where it should be, but they were all out. Damn.

Next up: Arrowroot powder. We went to the spice section. Nope, not there.

Maybe the bulk section?


Okay, let’s try Celtic sea salt. We had sea salt at home already, but this Celtic sea salt must be a special version that’s necessary to keep the non-glutenness together, we thought.

The Celtic sea salt was near the regular sea salt! Jackpot!

Then we saw the price tag: $11.59.

It can’t be that special.

We decided to risk it with regular sea salt.

Back to the flour section. The coconut flour had not magically restocked itself in the middle of a busy weekend day. Ty went off in search of arrowroot powder again.

I whipped out my phone and searched for how to make coconut flour from coconut flakes, which they did have.

Three steps into the instructions, my shoulders slumped. These cupcakes were turning out to be a total pain in the ass, and we hadn’t even started making them yet.

Ty reappeared in front of me, Bailey strapped to his chest in the baby carrier, with a small bag in his hand.

Arrowroot powder!

“How did you find that?”

He smiled and shrugged.

I handed him my phone, still on the instructions for making coconut flour.

“It doesn’t sound that bad,” he said.

I raised one eyebrow. He dropped the arrowroot powder in the cart and walked further down the aisle.

I stared at the empty coconut flour spot on the shelf.

The next closest natural foods store was a 30-minute drive away. My last gluten-free snack was long gone, and the free bread samples were taunting me.

Maybe we should just do regular cupcakes, I thought.

Then Ty showed up in front of me.

A bag in his hand.

Coconut flour!

“How…?” I asked.

He smiled.

Definitely a keeper, that one.

Now For the Good Part

When we got home, I methodically lined up all the ingredients on the kitchen counter.

And salivated.

Up until that point, we’d been less than impressed with the gluten-free baked goods from the grocery store. And I’d just gotten back from the store, where I had to walk on by king cake samples and cookie pieces and that weird seed bread that I don’t even like but on that day smelled so damn good because BREAD.

But this recipe was tried and true. The blog readers had glowing feedback. And I was TOTALLY going to steal a strawberry cupcake before it was ruined with chocolate frosting.

We followed the recipe, chopping strawberries and sifting together our new specialty ingredients.

The cupcakes went in the oven, and I could barely stand waiting.

I pictured myself popping a hot strawberry cupcake out of the muffin pan and biting into it, the strawberry juices exploding in my mouth.

And finally, finally the oven dinged.

Ty pulled the pans out. They definitely looked a little different. Not the spongy rounded cupcakes I’m used to. More dense and…spiky. These cupcakes were aggressive.

We set the timer for 5 minutes.

At 4 minutes, I snuck over to the oven and popped one out.

Half of it stuck in the pan.

I raised the warm, doughy goodness to my mouth, took a bite, and…


It tasted like butt.

Open up your child’s diaper and dig in, and that’s what these cupcakes tasted like.

But Who’s Keeping Track?

Our grocery bill for the cupcake ingredients: $21.89.

And they all ended up in the…

Bye-Bye, Gluten-Free CupcakesPhoto by lovinkat

I had planned to post mouth-watering photos of our creation here, along with a magically gluten-free AND delicious recipe. But after ditching the whole batch I decided it would be best not to mention it at all.

The next day, I was explaining the Cupcake Monstrosity to a friend of mine. And after she stopped laughing at my expense, she said:

“Post about it! Failure is funny.”

If I can’t celebrate my own mistakes, how can I expect my kids to celebrate theirs?

So I give you: The Saddest Cupcake in the World.

The Saddest Cupcake in the World

I made them, and they were horrible.

At least Abby and her class didn’t have to suffer through gluten-free cupcakes.

I called our local cupcake shop Cupprimo, ordered two dozen assorted mini cupcakes, and delivered them to her class that afternoon.

Me: 0
Gluten: 1

Want More?

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Your Turn

Do you know of any amazing recipes that call for coconut flour or arrowroot powder? Leave a comment to share!

  • Christine Bacas Tutor

    Major kudos to you for trying, Kelly! :-) Have you checked out some gluten-free bakeries around town (such as http://www.beeskneesbakeshop.com/default.aspx)? When I went gluten-free, grain-fee (aka Paleo), my autoimmune disease, which the doc said had no cure, went into remission. Also, my son controls his ADHD symptoms the same way, without medication. It’s always a challenge to make a lifestyle change. Thank you for sharing yours!

    • http://idealistmom.com/ Kelly @ IdealistMom.com

      I haven’t tried Bee’s Knees! But we will be adding it to our Saturday list. Thank you!

      So very cool that diet changes have kept you in remission and your son off meds. LOVE that. A friend of Ty’s said he caught a PBS special recently about how gluten seems to have some ties to Alzheimer’s. I never thought about it much before, but it’s crazy how much gluten I had been consuming before.

      Thank you for sharing your experience…AND for the bakery recommendation. :-)

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