Don’t be Tricked by Halloween Treats

With Halloween only a few days away, I’ve been asked by many friends, “How do you handle trick-or-treating on a special diet?”  The first thing I found out when we started this diet is that Skittles are gluten free.  Hooray!…right?  Well yes, they are gfcfsf.  And that’s where it ends.  They are also full of artificial dyes and colors and tons of sugar.  So what’s a ghoul to do?

Safe Treats

It is important to me that my son be able to enjoy a safe version of anything other kids get to eat.  I like to make sure that he gets to have at least one or two pieces of candy that he can actually eat.  This year, I went to and ordered two Enjoy Life chocolate bars and some Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops.  You can drop them in your kid’s bag or plan with a couple of neighbors and let them give them when you child rings their doorbell.

The Teal Pumpkin Project

If you haven’t heard about it yet, the Teal Pumpkin Project was started in 2014 by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).  This campaign raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters by encouraging people to paint a pumpkin teal and place it on their doorstep with a sign saying that they have non-food treats.  What kid doesn’t love a spider ring, stickers, fake mustache or the like?

Other Halloween Fun

There is so much more to Halloween than just candy.  Our family is theatrical, to say the least.  We usually start planning our costumes on October 1st and have lots of fun creating our family-themed disguises.  We also do other fun Autumnal things like decorate the house and explore local pumpkin patches.  And nothing takes me back to my childhood faster than whipping out some newspaper and getting ready to carve a pumpkin.  Don’t forget to save those pumpkin seeds.  Roast them for some delicious seasonal treats – plus they are high in magnesium and so good for you.  Then turn on a Halloween movie and hop on the couch for some serious family fun!

Enter the Great Pumpkin

Ever a child of the 70’s, I turned to Linus from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and conjured up my very own version of the tremendous squash himself.

On Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of his pumpkin patch and flies through the air with his bag of toys for all the children!

So every year at Halloween, my son dresses up in great anticipation and goes trick-or-treating with his friends.  He loves every minute of it.  Sometimes he asks those handing out the goodies if they have anything gluten free.  And he always grabs the bags of Skittles (even though I don’t let him eat them any more).  But it gives him some power, and that suits me just fine.  Then when we are back home, we dump the bag of sugar-coated treasure out on the floor and carefully search for anything resembling a natural gfcfsf treat or cool trinket.  The remainder goes to the Great Pumpkin, who oh so generously brings a very cool toy to my sincere little fellow.  (And my husband enjoys the spoils!)

There is only one problem…

The Lucys of the World

All the other kids know that there is no such thing as the Great Pumpkin.  And my son…he’s a believer.  Looking back, I wish I had gone with the more traditional Switch Witch name over the GP.  In my defense, it seemed like a great idea when he was four.  Oh well, live and learn!  Now I tell him that some people call this giver of toys the Switch Witch and some call him the Great Pumpkin.  Then I remind him that the Great Pumpkin only visits good little children with food allergies.

Welcome to unlabeled living!

Before I say anything about me and our journey, let me say this – Autism is Treatable!  It’s true.  And here is how I came to realize this.

I’m Rae Dawn.  I am the mother of a nine year old little boy who has Autism.  He was diagnosed at age 2 and we were hit with a thunderbolt.  For about a year we were flung into a year of questions, denial, doubt and being overwhelmed with therapies.

Then when our son was 3 1/2, we went to a birthday party for a friend’s daughter.  Another parent at the party saw our son toe walking and brazenly asked, “Does he have a diagnosis?”  “Yes!” Finally, I met another mother (who would soon become my friend) who had a kid on the spectrum.  We invited her and her husband over for dinner and it was then that they introduced us to the wonderful world of biomedical treatment for Autism. We started with your traditional speech, OT, and PT.

The first thing our new friends told us about was TACA.  TACA or Talk About Curing Autism is a family support group.  TACA is “families with Autism helping families with Autism.”  I went to my first TACA meeting, a Coffee Talk and suddenly I was surrounded by a group of people who were healing their kids.  Some of them were even considered “recovered” – and no long qualified for an Autism diagnosis.

We immediately started the gluten, dairy, and soy free diet and made an appointment with a Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs or MAPS doctor.  This was the beginning of his healing.  And we are still on our journey.  But I’ve come a long way…

I grew up in the 1970’s in an area of West Virginia unfortunately nicknamed “Chemical Valley.”  And that’s kind of what the world was like for most American families at that time (and still is) – a sea of chemicals.  Mine was a world of Cocoa Pebbles, Fruit Loops, and Kool-Aid.  Fried bologna sandwiches and grape soda.  And in my opinion, your house wasn’t really clean until it smelled like a head-spinning combination of Dow Scrubbing Bubbles and Lysol.

Since we started on this path with our son, we have had our eyes opened to the invisible chemicals in our food and daily lives. Now we eat clean food – organic, real food.  I cook from scratch and even make my own cleaning products, the way my grandmothers did.  This has become my obsession.  And in learning to help my son get better, I have learned a healthier way for our whole family to live.

I’m glad that our paths have crossed and am excited to go on this journey with you!

GFCFSF Diet – Best Brands and Substitutions

Nothing drives me crazier than opening up a GFCFSF cookbook that lists ingredients like “barbeque sauce” or “breadcrumbs” and it doesn’t tell you what brands are GFCFSF safe (and delicious). So when you are making the transition to this diet, here are some substitutes I recommend to help get you started.

Bread, Bagels, Muffins and Pizza Crust

Udi is, in my opinion, the best GFCFSF bread on the market. It doesn’t even have to be toasted, like many GF breads. We love all of the Udi breads, muffins and bagels, though the Mighty Bagel is our hands-down favorite. All Udi products can be stored in the freezer. Good to know for when they are on sale or you buy a case with a discount. Most stores do a 10-20% discount for a case. Whole Foods will even give you a case discount on top of a sale price. Also, when I’m in a pinch, I’ll pull a Udi muffin out of the freezer and take it to a birthday party as Henry’s special cupcake. Note: the muffins have some serious sugar in them.

However do NOT eat Udi Cookies or Pizza. They are NOT dairy free.



Daiya is THE vegan cheese for these two reasons. 1) It melts! And 2) It’s delicious! My son eats the shreds right out of the bag.

Daiya makes awesome “cheese” (available in shreds, chunks and slices), yogurt, cream cheese, frozen mac & cheese, and frozen pizza.

Note that Daiya doesn’t taste exactly the same as regular cheese. You might want to take a break from cheese when starting the diet and then introduce Daiya after your child has been cheese free for a while.



Earth’s Balance Buttery Spread – Soy Free is a fantastic butter substitute. This is the Earth’s Balance in the red container. It comes in a tub or sticks for baking. Earth’s Balance is my go-to butter substitute. It is creamy, easy to spread, excellent in baking and delicious on a toasted bagel. Another great option for butter flavor and cooking is ghee. Ghee is clarified butter. In the clarification process, the casein protein is removed and you are left with safe butter fat. I buy Organic Valley Ghee.

Earth’s Balance also makes yummy popcorn in butter and cheese flavors.

I substitute Earth’s Balance 1 to 1 for butter in most of my recipes.

Earth’s Balance

Organic Valley Ghee

Chicken Nuggets

IAN’S GF Chicken Nuggets – Make them in a toaster oven or regular oven and skip the microwave. They aren’t organic and they are processed. But if you’ve got to get the kid off of traditional nuggets, these are the way to go. I also like Applegate Farms GF nuggets, but alas my child did not.

Ian’s GF Chicken Nuggets

French Fries

IAN’s GF ALPHATOTS – When you’ve got to have French fries and don’t have the time to make them from scratch these are fun (and safe) for the whole family.

Ian’s Alphatots


Pacific Gluten Free Crispy Battered Haddock is something the whole family will love.

Pacific Classic Crispy Battered Haddock


King Arthur Gluten Free Pancake Mix is the best pancake mix in the world! Well, that is the opinion of all of my friends and family. I mix it with Earth’s Balance and coconut milk. I don’t like regular pancakes, but I love these. Here’s my secret – add ½ teaspoon of organic cinnamon and organic nutmeg to the pancake mix. So good!

King Arthur Gluten Free Pancake Mix


We love Nature’s Path Whole O’s and Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal. They are great options if you are trying to get off of Cheerios or Rice Krispies.

Nature’s Path Whole O’s

Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal

Sauces – Pasta, Pizza and Barbecue

I can’t say enough good things about Organicville products. I use Organicville for spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and barbeque sauce – Original BBQ is my fav. I even use it in my meatloaf recipe.

Organicville Products


I’m kind of obsessed with Banza chickpea pasta. It’s got 25 grams of protein in a 3.5 oz serving. But I also like Ancient Grains quinoa pasta. They don’t get as mushy as rice pastas can. Another easy option is to pressure cook or roast a spaghetti squash and use it for your noodles.


Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta

Chocolate and Marshmallows

Enjoy Life chocolate bars and chocolate chips and chunks are my son’s personal favorite. Okay, mine too. For cocoa powder, I like Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa. (Here’s a link for a Healthier Hot Chocolate recipe from the Detoxinista. Because everybody deserves to be able to sip on some nice hot chocolate.) Oh, and if you have hot chocolate, you might need some marshmallows. Try Elyon Mini Marshmallows.  If you have left over marshmallows, whip up some marshmallow treats substituting Earth’s Balance and Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal.

Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Enjoy Life Chocolate Bars

Equal Exchange Cocoa Powder

Elyon Marshmallows


I like Hain Pure Foods Safflower Mayonnaise.

Hain Mayonnaise

Bacon and Pepperoni

First, always go uncured and nitrate/nitrite free.  My favorite brand of bacon is Applegate Farms Uncured Sunday Bacon. I like the regular better than the organic. This is the only time you will hear me say that I prefer a non-organic food item. Please don’t tell anyone. For bacon bits, try Wellshire Farms Bacon Bits. I also recommend Wellshire Farms Pork sliced pepperoni.

Applegate Farm Sunday Bacon

Wellshire Farms Products

Pork – Sausage

Every other day, we have sausage for breakfast. A great choice for humanely raised pork products is Niman Ranch. We all love Niman Ranch Uncured Breakfast Sausage – Apple Cinnamon. I use their ground pork in my pizza casserole whenever I can find it.

Niman Ranch

Lunch Meat and Hot Dogs

My favorite (and hard to find) lunchmeat is Organic Prairie. With only three ingredients – organic turkey or chicken, water and salt, it’s hard to find a cleaner or tastier product. In a pinch, I like Applegate Farms Organic Roast Turkey. For hotdogs, we choose Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs. (Udi also makes GFCFSF hotdog buns.)

Organic Prairie

Applegate Farms Organic Roast Turkey Lunch Meat

Applegate Farm Organic Uncured Beef Hotdogs

Juice Boxes

While the best option is to limit juice, switch to water or bring a thermos, sometimes you’ve just gotta have a juice box. I like The Honest Company’s Honest Kids Super Fruit Punch.

Honest Kids Juice Pouches

Snacks and Treats

It can be challenging to find a GFCF and especially soy free pretzel. I like EnerG’s Wheat Free Gluten Free Original Pretzels. In fact, I like them more than regular pretzels.

EnerG Pretzels

For potato chips, I think that it is important that they are also non-GMO. One great brand is Kettle Brand.  Here’s a tip, my Costco carries a double size bag for the price of a single from most grocery stores. The Costco one is non-GMO, but not organic.

Kettle Brand Krinkle Cut Sea Salt Potato Chips

One GFCFSF cookie I really like are Pamela’s Simple Bites Mini Cookies Extreme Chocolate. I also like the Ginger Snap flavor.  Note that not all of Pamela’s products are casein free, but these two are.

Pamela’s Mini Cookies

And remember that fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally GFCFSF!

All Purpose Flour and Cookbook Recommendation

The best recipe I’ve found for an all-purpose gf flour blend (with Bob’s Red Mill products) is from Silvana Nardone’s Cooking for Isaiah cookbook. Though I don’t like every recipe in this cookbook, her desserts are fantastic. We especially like the Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies (use Spectrum Shortening), the Nut Butter-and-Jelly Cookie Cups, Chocolate Birthday Cake with Whipped Chocolate Frosting, and Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting (Don’t use the red food coloring, you don’t need it. And use Spectrum Shortening in the frosting too.) FYI, the strawberry cupcakes do NOT freeze well. But they are so good, they probably won’t last long enough to make it in the freezer. I also like her Double Corn Cornbread and Bacon-Apple Cornbread Stuffing.

Cooking for Isaiah

Silvana’s All-Purpose GF Flour Blend Recipe


I like Ian’s GF Original Panko Breadcrumbs or EnerG GF breadcrumbs. Make sure you get the Ian’s Original and not the Italian Flavor. The Italian Flavor has soy.

Ian’s GF Original Panko Bread Crumbs

EnerG Breadcrumbs

Ice Cream

Really, this should have been first on my list because ice cream is a gift from the gods. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joes near by, go grab some of their TJ brand strawberry or chocolate coconut ice cream. Pick up some organic olive oil while you are there, too. I also like So Delicious Coconut Ice Cream and Tempt Hemp Ice Cream. Just make sure that you get flavors that are free of cookie bits and the like that might have gluten. The container should say Gluten Free. And to make the perfect ice cream cone, grab some of Edward & Son’s Let’s Do…Gluten Free Ice Cream Cones. Edward & Sons also makes GFCFSF bullion cubes that are pretty darn good.

So Delicious Ice Cream and Whipped Topping

Edward & Sons Ice Cream Cones and Sprinkles

Edward & Son’s Bouillon


So, your skin is your bodies biggest organ and absorbs gluten and casein too. For shampoo, I started out with Weleda Baby Calendula Shampoo and Body Wash. But now I use Alaffia Every Day Shea Shampoo & Body Wash (safe for babies and up).


Every Day Shea Baby Shampoo and Body Wash


This is a great opportunity to ditch the fluoride. You don’t need it. My son loves Kiss My Face Obsessively Natural Kids Toothpaste in Berry Smart – get the fluoride free version. Or just brush the pearly whites with coconut oil. Or click here for my homemade toothpaste recipe. But warning, my son hates my toothpaste recipe. I, on the other hand, love it.

Kiss My Face Berry Smart Toothpaste – Fluoride Free

Now if I have forgotten something, please let me know in the comments section below, and I’ll recommend a brand for you. Also, Whole Foods will usually let you sample any product while you are in the store and you can return for the glorious reason of “I didn’t like it.” Sprouts won’t always give you a taste, but they will take a returned product if you..or your child didn’t like it.  And for the very best prices, I recommend and

I hope this information saves you some time and money and makes the GFCFSF transition a little less complicated.  Good luck!





Goodbye Teflon. Hello Cast Iron!

Once you start feeling like you’re getting a handle on the GFCFSF diet, it’s time to take a closer look at your pots and pans. If you are like me, you might find a plethora of non-stick Teflon pans.  I mean, they are the wonder pan, right?  Maybe not.

Have you ever wondered, “What the heck is Teflon?” It wasn’t until I really started to think about what I was putting in my son’s body that this ever popped into my mind. Well, Teflon is a trademarked name owned by the chemical giant DuPont (they actually have a plant in my hometown – more on that later…). It is Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). I’ll include some links to why Teflon is not a safe choice at the end of this article. But know that potential dangers from Teflon include flu-like symptoms (when you breathe air that has been polluted from using the pans at high heat) and the chemicals in the PTFE family have been associated with elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid levels, weakened immune systems and liver inflammation, to name a few. And the last thing we need is anything to further compromise our kids’ immune systems.

So ditch your Teflon and aluminum (which happened to be a toxin) pans and switch to cast iron or stainless steel. I have to tell you that I am obsessed with my cast iron pans. I bought two frying pans from Lodge. I love lodge because they are the only cast iron pans on the market that are made in America. You can buy enameled pans (I have their glazed dutch oven) or pre-seasoned (although be warned that it is seasoned with vegetable oil, which is really soy oil). But you can give it a good cleaning and then oil it or re-season it. Here are the big no-no’s for cast iron:

  • don’t wash with soap or the seasoning will come off,
  • don’t cook acidic foods like tomato sauce in cast iron (unless it is enamel coated), as it messes with the seasoning, and
  • don’t leave it soaking in water or it will rust

You can clean them with hot water and a good scrap brush.  If anything is burt on, you can add water and boil until it releases or give it a good scrub with kosher salt.  Make sure to give it a good coating of oil after it’s clean and dry.

Cast iron browns food beautifully, it goes safely from stove top to oven, you actually get an extra dose of iron in your food from cooking on cast iron, and you may get toned arms from lifting your pans!

Click her for the Lodge Cast Iron Website.

(You can buy Lodge at Target, Cost Plus World Market, and TJ Maxx, and Marshalls usually have a few pans at great prices.  You can even find them at local sporting goods stores in the camping section.

Click here for Environmental Working Group’s articles on Teflon dangers.