Category Archives: Meats & Seafood

Gluten Free Tamale Pie – on the grill

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Gluten Free "Tamale Pie"

It is not nearly as hot here in the Pacific Northwest as it is where my family is (Chicago & Minnesota).  You guys have certainly had the heat wave.    We are still wearing our October gear in the mornings.  However, yesterday it was 85F.  (I know, still not hot comparatively, but come on… that’s a 20 degree jump for us!)

We took full advantage of the day:  playground in the morning, walk after lunch, bubbles/sidewalk chalk, building a fort, soccer outside, etc.  By the time dinner-cooking-hour rolled around, I was hot.  And so was the house.  We don’t have air conditioning and the warmest time of day here is late afternoon.

At 3:30PM, the house was almost 80F.  The thought of heating up the house further to cook (as the temperature was still rising) was NOT appealing to me at all.  I had planned to make a tamale pie with whatever veggies + ground beef that were in the fridge.  I knew this meant browning the beef, sauteing veggies and what not on the stove top and then finishing in the oven.  Oh.  NO.  Wasn’t happening.

So I cracked out the cast iron skillet and headed outside to the grill.  Beyond making the tamale dough topping, the rest of this was prepared on the grill.  I honestly didn’t plan to give a “recipe” today.  I totally winged this – but I think some of you might find the idea functional for you HOT house as well.

Forgive the lack of perfect measurements, I didn’t measure anything – so they are all guesstimates.

Nice, huh?  What a food blogger am I.

Oh well.  Here goes nothing!

Gluten free tamale pie - before "baking" it on the grill


You can see my fancy topping here – precooked.  Lovely, huh?

Tamale Pie on the Grill

NOTE:  Make sure you have enough gas (if using a gas grill) to have your burners on for 30-40 minutes on medium-high (or enough to maintain an internal temperature of 350F +)

TAMALE TOPPING (Prepare inside with you mixer)

1 1/ cups masa harina, rehydrated according to package instructions
1/3 cup of butter, cut into pats
1/2 cup chicken broth (or water + gluten free chicken bouillon) or MORE
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
granulated garlic to taste (1/2-1 1/2 teaspoons)


Put your rehydrated masa dough into the mixer.  Add the chicken broth, baking powder, salt, some granulated garlic and half of your butter pats.  Mix thoroughly on low.  Increase speed to medium after broth has been well incorporated.  Add the remaining pats of butter until well incorporated.  Beat on medium.  The dough texture should be coming up the sides of your mixer and not dense on the bottom or in a ball.  It is not super light – but should be very pliable.  If not, add a bit more broth – tablespoon by tablespoon – until your get rid of the ball stage.  Set aside.

TAMALE PIE – Meat + veggie bottom


1 pound ground meat of choice (I used beef)
1/2 cup minced onion
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 small can green chilis
2 whole tomatoes, diced
2/3 cup (or more??) frozen corn kernels (or fresh, if you’ve got them!)
1 Tablespoon + cumin
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
salt/pepper to season to taste

Directions:  (written for those cooking on a gas grill)

  1. Put your cast iron skillet on your preheated grill.  Heat thoroughly.  Add a tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Dump in diced hard veggies (onions, carrots).  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add diced peppers and tomato.  Cook again another 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic – cook until aromatic (1 – 2 minutes)
  3. Add ground meat.  Brown.
  4. Taste.  Add green chilis, frozen corn, cumin, chili powder and salt/pepper.
  5. Bring to a simmer.  Taste again.  Adjust seasoning to desired.  (NOTE:  If it is mild now, it will be SUPER mild later – so really taste/adjust now.)
  6. Once you’ve reached your flavor, top with the reserved tamale dough.  (I used my fingers to make a flat piece (much like working with play-dough) about 1/3-1/2 inch thick.  Cover the pan to the best of your ability.  I purposefully leave the edges open to allow me to see/check the base and the topping.
  7. Put your cast iron skillet on the “cool side” but still over some heat.  Our grill has 4 burners.  I turned the right two burners to high and the far left one to the off position.  The second one I had on medium.

ONE (off)           TWO (medium)           THREE (high)           FOUR (high)
Position pan over burner #2

8.”Bake” with your grill closed until the tamale pie topping is cooked through (about 30 minutes or more, depending on the temperature of your grill/outside).  You can check the dough by poking it (I know… but hey – I was only cooking for me).  If the center is dry/cakey/tamale like, you are good.  If there are any wet/doughy parts, keep it on the grill longer.

Serve with:  cucumber, avocado, shredded lettuce, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, fresh diced tomatoes, black olives, whatever….

ONE (off)           TWO (medium)           THREE (high)           FOUR (high)
Position pan over burner #2

Gluten Free "Tamale Pie" - made on the grill!


Help Wanted: Eating GF more wisely, cheaply and saving time. Got tips?

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I bet you think I’ve fallen into a large hole around here and have lost internet access, huh?

Well, I have, kind of.

School started.  Just last year I had 135 students a day (5 classes/high school) and this year?  Oh no… this year I see 171 students (same five classes) and it’s A LOT.  Add that to the fact that the baby youngest toddler is a moving, shaking, running, jumping, climbing and the eldest is well…. keeping up and you can see why I’m dead tired by dinner time.

We’re back on the treadmill people.  Up at 5:15, home by 5:00, dinner, play, baths, and bedtime…then school work.  Bedtime comes around 11:40 or later.  Seriously…this is going to be a long winter!

Top that with the fact that our house, just like yours I bet, has been hit by our lovely economic woes.  Thankfully, we are both employed.  However the loss of pay in the form of pay cuts (8% between the two of us) and double to out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance (EEK!) and we are in re-set mode.

We are intentional about the food choices we make.  More than ever now as well.  We have to stretch that dollar farther and we are still choosing to maintain a completely gluten free home.  But as all of you know, that means some serious creativity.

Couple all of that with the fact that time to cook dinner is LIMITED.  Kids (and parents alike) are wickedly hungry come 5:30.  Providing snacks before dinner doesn’t seem like a positive solution at all.  We worry that then we are just giving them outs from dinner – and we want to eat all together as a family.  THAT is important to us.

So.. I guess this post is a conversation starter.  One that I hope will get you all commenting and helping with tips and pointers for ALL of us busy, working gluten-free families.  What are YOU doing to save your brain, your money and your family (health and time together)?

 Home-made GF Quesadillas – add eggs or avocado, etc too

See recipe below signature


I have limited tricks for getting dinner on the table quickly.  This has a lot to do with my brain.  I am NOT the one in my family who can open the cupboard, see what we have on hand and then whip out dinner.  Nope.  Especially not when there are two kids practically pulling my pants off as they try to get my attention after we rush in after work/daycare at 5PM.  And,  I don’t do mania very well at all.  (Can you believe I do mania REALLY well in the classroom – but just not at home?  I don’t get it either – but it is true.)

Sometimes I am organized enough on the weekend to layout a dinner menu for the week.  I get organized after we pick up our box of veggies at the Farmer’s Market on Sundays and start planning.  Each meal we have to include things that are accessible to the kids – as I’m not a short-order cook and we’re going to all eat together.  Sometimes we make miso soup for them (they LOVE tofu) in addition to whatever we are having, but they usually just eat right along with us.  Once I see what we have for the week, I can easily lay out dinner menus on the calendar at home (or the google calendar we share so I can see it on my phone or at work, if needed).  I love those weeks.  I know what I need to do, when, etc.  It’s so helpful when work things pop up last-minute or unplanned after-daycare doctor visits (my pediatrician should have a frequent-flyer coupon card for free coffee after 10 visits or something… I”m just saying…).

Sometimes I’m not so fabulously organized.  And these are the weeks that are (1) most common and (2) the MOST stressful for me.

Like this week.  Unplanned, but at least there is food in the fridge.  These are the days that my husband finds to be the easiest.  Seriously, in 3 minutes flat he can make a meal plan and get it started.  Me?  OMGosh – I have to know what’s in the fridge for the WHOLE day before I can even begin to figure something out.

Take today, for example.  I know there is ground turkey at home.  I can make lettuce wraps or tacos or chili (oh wait… I don’t have any beans on hand) … k then… I could make meatballs with rice (no pasta either), or.  Dang it.  I don’t know.  When my feet hit the kitchen, I will decide then.

More than just meal planning, however, is saving money.  Cheap Gluten Free Eats!  (Yes, they do exist.)

Here’s the list I’ve been working with this last month.  You can see I’m in need of some change-ups, people. One can only eat so many apples with peanut butter before you just don’t want to even look at them again.  So please.  Let’s work together on this.





Cinnamon Chex

peanut butter/apples or celery sticks


lettuce wraps

fresh fruit


hard-boiled egg



cheese & pears

cheese cubes


GF Granola

hard-boiled egg

Trio bar (my spendy snack)

Lundberg risotto + protein and veggies mixed in

Hard cheese & GF tortilla chips

rice noodle soup (so much cheaper!)

Fresh fruit

Cantonese-style family chicken & mushrooms


miso + tofu soup

small salad


yogurt smoothie

meat/cheese or avocado roll

meat/cheese or avocado roll

Chinese Chicken & Corn Chowder

homemade GF torillas with eggs/cheese

nori wraps

nori wrap

Tortilla soup


homemade tortillas/quesadillas


grilled meats/fish and veggies/frui

What are your favorite cheap and convenient GF foods/meals?

Let’s get talking, people!


PS.  Making your own gluten free corn tortillas is SUPER easy (and much tastier, by the way).  Use equal parts corn flour (masa harina or masa harina para tortillas) and warm water.  You can also add a bit of olive oil or spices to your dough, if you’d like. (I added paprika and chili powder in the ones in the photo.)  Mix the corn flour with the warm water slowly until it forms a soft pliable ball.  Pinch off pieces and flatten in your hand to make tortillas (or thicker ones for sopes).  Cook on a hot, non-stick skillet.

Gluten Free Chicken Fajitas: Meal Planning for ease

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Gluten Free Chicken Fajitas, originally uploaded by Kate Chan.

With a toddler  running ’round the house and both of us working full-time, life gets a little hectic around dinner time. Being pregnant doesn’t help, because I have moments where I HAVE-TO-EAT-NOW and then hours of I-can’t-eat-anything. It makes meal planning or cooking unpredictable, to say the least.

However it works, we have a vow to cook and eat together for dinners. Meal planning saves money and time too. A while back (when I was participating in Meal Planning Monday postings), someone asked me how I go about making a meal plan. To be honest, I am not sure how others do it. There are probably a million ways – depending on your budget, your desire, your week’s events, etc. But basically, this is how I plan for our weekly meals:

I check out the cupboards and fridge for what we have on hand and figure out what we can make with those ingredients or by just adding a few more.
We often have some meat in the freezer (thank you, Costco… one Costco run can keep us in meat (not fish) for a LONG time!).
We also keep frozen veggies on hand: corn, peas, green beans, etc.
We try to always have canned garbanzo beans, black beans, etc on hand too. (The Chicklet is a bean-maven.)

So, I take those things into consideration and then figure out the fresh ingredients we will need. We have to pick up milk, fruit, fresh vegetables, salad fixings, fish, cheese, etc at the market weekly if not every 4 days or so. (Especially for the milk!) We spent the GREAT majority of our shopping time getting produce. It makes gluten free shopping easy.

Last week, since I want to give my niece/nephew cookbooks for their birthday, I picked up Jamie’s Food Revolution Cookbook for our house as well. So, for our meal planning, I found recipes within his book that we could make with what we were going to be picking up. I chose four recipes for the week. (I knew we would have leftovers one night and possibly just quick eats (like Chebe sandwiches) with the other things on hand in the fridge for other nights.)  I chose to make Jamie’s Chicken and Leek Stroganoff, Chicken Fajitas (I changed this one, see below), Spanish-style grilled steak, and Cucumber-Apple Salad (delicious!).

The stroganoff in his book calls for rice… but I made some Schar’s pasta instead.  What can I say?  I’m a pasta-with-stroganoff kind of girl.  The recipe is also much different than a US stroganoff recipe.  Typically, we add sour cream to the mix after cooking and removing the stroganoff from the heat.  Jamie’s recipe calls for heavy cream (egads!  My dad’s cardiologist just flipped his lid reading this!).  I followed Jamie’s recipe for this and realized quickly that there are two things that Jamie does that I don’t:  he cooks with high fats A LOT more than do I and that I would have to step-up the seasoning as he has a fabulous light hand with all things (save mint and lemon – which he obviously adores).  My Love enjoyed the stroganoff but commented that he wished I had tasted/seasoned it rather than just followed the recipe guidelines as he would have preferred stronger flavors.

The Chicken Fajitas were a SNAP to make.  In fact, these babies will be making their way in to our regular rotation for goodness.  Since I didn’t follow Jamie’s seasoning measurements (in order to please the Love), I am making some adjustments to the recipe below by a bit of guesstimate, so please forgive me.  What I do want to say about this recipe is this:  YUM!  Not only was this recipe super easy to make (really- on the table in 30 minutes or less) but it is also healthier than the heavy-cream version of stroganoff above.

The other recipe, Spanish-style grilled steak, was good too – but needed more seasoning.  We made it in the grill pan that we used for the fajitas (it’s actually a panini pan… but whatever…same bottom as a grill pan).  We served it along with the Cucumber-Apple Salad which is very nice!  Even my Love, who is not a salad eater, enjoyed this one so much he asked for the leftovers for his lunch the following day!  (Granted… I only gave him HALF of the leftovers… as um… well.. I wanted some too.  LOL)

What recipes are your favorites for weeknight meals?    This one is going to be one I adapt and play with for a very long time.  It’s that easy and delicious.  (Not to mention fairly healthy for you too!)

GF Chicken Fajitas
adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution Cookbook

1 red onion or sweet white onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 poblano pepper (or pasilla)
6 chicken thighs (boneless, skinless) or 2 chicken breasts
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
juice from one lime
salt/black pepper to taste
3/4 teaspoon chile powder (or more to taste, we just wanted slight heat)
olive oil for cooking and seasoning

GF tortillas for serving (or serve over long grain white rice)

Other possible accompaniments:
sour cream or Mexican crema
diced fresh tomato
sliced avocado


  1. Put the grill pan over a high-flame/high heat.  It needs to be piping hot when you add your ingredients.
  2. Core and seed your peppers.  Slice the bell peppers and poblano pepper into thin strips.
  3. Slice the red onion into thin strips.
  4. Slice your chcken into strips.
  5. Toss your ingredients in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the remaining seasonings:  cumin, smoked paprika, salt/pepper, lime juice and chile powder.
  6. Using a pair of tongs, put all of your ingredients into your preheated grill pan.  Cook while moving about the ingredients every so often about 6-9 minutes or until your chicken is cooked through.
  7. Warm your tortillas while you are cooking your meat/veg.
  8. Serve hot with warm tortillas.

Oh… this was so good!  I may just have to make it again this week!  Good thing my Love enjoys fajitas!  And if you are wondering, the Chicklet thought they were divine as well.  (Although she much prefers the poblano peppers to the red bells, just in case you were wondering.)

Happy GF Eating, All!