In the Kitchen with Katie Chalmers' Tips for Gluten-Free Families

Reader Contribution by Wendy Gregory Kaho
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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:

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

“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

Dressing:

• 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)

Directions:

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).

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

“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

Dressing:

• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar

• 1/4 cup olive or canola oil

• 1 tsp chili powder

• 1/2 tsp sugar

Directions:

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.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Mexican mix

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)

-OR-

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 .