Katie Chalmers, the author of the children’s book Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? Joins me today with her tips and some recipes for feeding a busy gluten-free family.
Mixing It Up in the Gluten-Free Kitchen by Katie Chalmers
Our family is very familiar with the gluten-free diet, as my 7 year old twin daughter and I were both diagnosed with celiac over 3 years ago. My other twin daughter also just started the diet a few weeks ago, as we await her diagnosis of either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, following over two months of testing. Thankfully she is transitioning well so far and seems to be feeling better already. I'd like to think that our family's positive attitude towards the gluten-free diet has been helpful and has rubbed off on her as she's watched her sister and me enjoying our gluten-free lifestyle without complaint.
Back when we first started eating gluten-free, I was all about finding convenience foods that were ready to eat — anything to make it easier on me, I'll admit — and to some extent, those products are lifesavers. Nowadays we are always trying new foods and have gradually started moving away from pre-packaged goods and more towards natural, whole, homemade foods whenever possible. Lately we just enjoy experimenting in the kitchen...we like to call it "mixing things up"...basically mixing a bunch of things together and enjoying our unique, healthy concoctions. Our mixes are always nutritious — filled with protein-packed beans, veggies and sometimes grains. At the beginning of every week, we make a big "mix" and we eat some every day — as either a side dish, or a meal in itself, depending on our schedules. Personally, I like to have something ready to go in the fridge for myself to eat at lunch. I just spoon some into a bowl and enjoy a quick, nutritious lunch every day. If you don't have four hungry family members like we do, just divide the recipes down to make them smaller.
What's great about "mixes" is that there really is no one way to do things. When we add grains, we sometimes use basmati or brown rice, but we usually use quinoa for more fiber and protein. With the recipes below, please feel free to improvise — change up the cheeses you use (or don't use any), experiment with dried and fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro, mix a few grains together, or try different dressings. The combinations are endless and I'm happy to say that I have never made a mix that I didn't like. In my family's pantry, we always have cans of (low-sodium) beans, G-F grains, vegetables, oil and vinegar, so we never need to go shopping for any "extras". Recipes using kitchen basics are my favorite, which may be a reason we almost always have a "mix" in the fridge, ready to enjoy.
There are so many ways to let your children get involved with mixes: tell them what kinds of beans to find and let them hunt down the right cans...teach them how to use the can opener....let them empty the cans of beans into a big strainer in the sink & rinse them clean with the sprayer....show them how to shake the strainer to get excess water out....if they're old enough, teach them how to chop up the veggies....let them hold the measuring cups while you pour in the oil and vinegar...show them how to separate the leaves from the stems if you're using fresh herbs....teach them how to measure the dry herbs and sprinkle them in. Best of all, kids love mixing everything together once all the ingredients are added. Whenever I let my children help with things like this, they really have fun, they take pride in the fact that we made it together, and they are excited to tell my husband what jobs they did. Plus, the fact that they helped seems to make everything taste just that much better to them!
Here are some recipes to get you started:
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"Quinoa, veggie & feta mix"
(Note: allow enough time for the quinoa to cool before adding everything else)
• 2 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup dried, cooked as directed)
• 1/2 cup feta cheese
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 cup corn
• 1/4 cup fresh parsley OR cilantro, chopped
• 1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
• 1/2–1 cup cup red, orange or yellow pepper
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used a little more) • 1/4 teaspoon salt
-OR- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar + 1/4 cup (light tasting) olive oil (add equal parts of each to make more if necessary)
Cook quinoa according to package directions. Let cool. Top quinoa with vegetables, olives and parsley. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese generously over vegetables. Whisk all salad dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour dressing onto mix. Tastes great eaten immediately as well as after being chilled.
*(We also add a few cans of beans to the above recipe and just add a little more dressing to taste).
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"Confetti bean mix"
• 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
• 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can of corn, drained and rinsed
• 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley (or dried herbs to taste)
• 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
• 1/2 cup chopped green pepper (or orange, yellow, etc.)
• 1/4 cup chopped onion
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
• 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
• 1 tsp chili powder
• 1/2 tsp sugar
In large bowl, combine first 9 ingredients. In another bowl, whisk vinegar, oil, chili powder & sugar and mix well. Pour over bean mixture, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve w/ slotted spoon.
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Basically this is Mexican ingredients all mixed up together and eaten with tortilla chips. There’s no right amount to put in of anything—just keep adding stuff and mixing til it tastes right. Reheats well too.
Basic Bean Bowl Ingredients:
• 2 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
• 1 can corn
• 1 can black beans, if desired, drained & rinsed
• salsa to taste
• extra diced, fresh tomatoes if desired
• sour cream to taste
• shredded mexican cheese to taste
• lime juice to taste, if desired
• chopped fresh cilantro, if desired
• chopped avocados, if desired
To make a “Chicken Bowl”, add grilled, diced chicken to basic ingredients (with or without G-F taco seasoning)
To make a “Beef Bowl”, add cooked, ground beef mixed with G-F taco seasoning
Mix together all ingredients and heat up in microwave. Put into individual bowls and scoop up the mixture with tortilla chips.
For other family-friendly, gluten-free ideas, download a free PDF of printable recipes at http://www.katiechalmers.com/events.html
Katie Chalmers is the author and illustrator of Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? She is a freelance graphic designer who dedicated over two years to creating this book, which she hopes will impact awareness and increased understanding of this condition.
Katie created this valuable resource to help children — along with all of the other people in their lives — to truly understand celiac disease, how it affects the body and why a gluten-free diet, family support and positive attitudes are all essential. The need for awareness and for children’s resources, along with her daughter’s diagnosis, is what led to the idea for this book. For more information about Katie Chalmers and her children's book about celiac disease visit her website .