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Canadian Celiac Association is on ECHOage!


My baby turned 6 last week.

My non-celiac girl turned 6.


One of my proudest moments as a mother happened a few weeks ago as Franny and I were planning her 6th birthday soirée.

After going over her guest list, I talked to her about having an ECHOage party. Truth is, she’s been having ECHOage parties ever since her 1st birthday, but this year I felt she was old enough to really understand what it means and get involved.

ECHOage is an online birthday party service where kids get the gifts they want AND give to a charity. It was created by two brilliant Toronto moms who wanted to make birthday parties more rewarding for the kids and less work for the parents. Who can argue with that?

Here’s how ECHOage works: Instead of your average paperless invite, after customizing their invitation the birthday child chooses a charity. Guests are then invited to make a contribution. Half of the funds raised go to the charity of the child’s choice and the other half goes toward birthday gifts that the child wants—combining the good feelings of giving with the good feelings of receiving. But that’s not all…

ECHOage is also convenient and environmentally friendly! Everything you need—RSVPs, contributions, birthday messages, thank you notes—is included in the online guest tracker. There’s also a feature that allows parents to indicate any food allergies their child has, which I appreciate as the mom of a gluten-free girl. No paper invites, no piles of discarded wrapping paper, no running around returning unwanted or duplicate gifts. But, by far, the best part about ECHOage is the feeling your child will have from helping others; getting an awesome gift definitely sweetens the deal!

So Franny and I went on the charity page of the ECHOage website. We scrolled through the 200-plus (!) local and national charities that have partnered with ECHOage. There is a charity for every imaginable cause, from health to animals to the environment. We read the names and looked at the logos and we talked about what the various charities do. Then we came upon a familiar logo—the Canadian Celiac Association—and without a moment of hesitation, Franny said, “That’s the charity I want because Lily has celiac!” There it was, my proudest moment as a mother.

CCA logo

With her charity chosen and her invitations emailed, we planned the party. Franny wanted to have a “mock-over”—a mock sleepover, that is—with 10 friends and cousins coming dressed in their pajamas. They would do a craft (inspired by the Children’s Art Studio), then we’d order pizza, have cake, watch a movie and eat popcorn. And then their parents would pick them up. Franny requested her favourite appetizer, picked out the flick (Epic) and got the loot for her bags.

Franny ended up raising $152.50 for the Canadian Celiac Association and she got $152.50 for her birthday present—an underwater camera. But I think the best gift of all is the ECHOage award proudly taped to the wall in her room…and her big sister’s gratitude.

ECHOage awardThe next time you’re planning your child’s birthday party, go ahead and ECHOage it! 

Q&A with: Fiesta Farms’ Eddie Orso

Running out to my local grocery store to pick up a few things. Look who’s here!


Rebecca Feigelsohn interviews Fiesta Farms’ Organics Manager Eddie Orso.


GFG: For those not in the know about Fiesta Farms, can you tell us a bit about it?
Fiesta is a unique grocery store. First of all, it’s independent; it’s a family-owned grocery store whose main focus is local, organic, natural products. We have, in my opinion, one of the highest-quality produce selections in Toronto. Our buyer goes to the Ontario Food Terminal every morning to get the freshest produce. The thing about Fiesta Farms is that it’s not just a grocery store, it also integrates a health food store aspect. It’s kind of an all-in-one store—instead of going to a grocery store and a health food store, you can do both here. We carry a lot of superfoods!

When did Fiesta begin carrying gluten-free products?
Officially, as soon as the trend starting picking up. I’d say in the last five years it started trickling in. It’s been a combination of customer feedback and the buyers knowing what’s hot in the market. Our buyers are really on top of the trends and what’s happening in the industry. But with gluten-free products, there’s definitely been a lot of customer feedback because there has been a wave of people needing or wanting it, especially in the last five years.

It’s interesting that instead of having a dedicated gluten-free section, your gluten-free products can be found throughout the store.
When we first brought in organic products years ago, we decided to integrate the products throughout the store rather than have a section for it, to give customers a choice they may not have been aware of. This was successful, so we decided to do the same with gluten-free products.


When Lily tasted Wow’s chocolate chip cookies, she said: “These should be called Whoa!”

What are some of your most popular gluten-free products?
We have a wide range of gluten-free products, such as lasagna, muffins, prepared foods and over 100 grocery items. Some of our finer products come from local small businesses, such as Live and JK Gourmet. Mary’s Gone Crackers are a huge hit.


Antipastos Kitchen’s new line of frozen Italian GF pastas!


A basket full of Live Kale Chips made with organic Ontario kale. Which flavour to choose?


Fiesta Farms will be showcasing some of its gluten-free products at the Gluten Free Garage, offering samples of apple cider and giving away coupons for 10% off any GF product at the store! 

Check out Fiesta Farms’ cheeky blog post about the Gluten Free Garage here!

keen on quinoa

We love quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”). This superfood contains a perfect balance of all 8 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It also packs a nutritional punch of dietary fibre and calcium. Plus it’s gluten free and easy to digest! For this salad, first you make your quinoa. I made this salad for a dinner party so I doubled the recipe and used 2 cups. Follow the instructions on the package. If you have a rice cooker, make your quinoa in it!


Add edamame (about 2 cups, cooked) and chopped celery (about 2 cups).


Add 1/2 cup chopped green onion and 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds for a pop of colour and a burst of flavour.


Mix it all together with the dressing (see recipe below) for a pretty, festive quinoa salad. Eat copious amounts!


For the dressing:

1/2 cup canola oil
5 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp gluten-free tamari
3 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp celery salt

Taste and adjust as needed. I usually play around with the amounts of tamari, salt and celery salt because I don’t want it to be too salty.

Check it out! Quinoa is very versatile; it can be the basis for either savoury or sweet dishes. For some really creative quinoa recipes, from appetizers to desserts, check out the Queen of Quinoa.