Category Archives: People

Gluten Free Bean Burgers

Posted on by .

GF Chickpea Burgers

Gluten Free Chickpea Burgers, Photo by Kate Chan

The beauty of maternity leave, as I am discovering, is being able to spend time with my girls as our own pace.  On the weekends, rather than running every errand imaginable, we can have little adventures with the girls as a family.  (Although, I do reserve plenty of errand running to be down with My Love’s help as an active toddler and a newborn can make “quick trips” into afternoon outings.)

This weekend, we were lucky enough to meet with a family who is also in the adoption process – waiting for their child to be ready to travel.  We drove up to Seattle to a public park where we visited as best anyone can with a toddler itching to ride down the slide MORE MORE MORE or swing MORE MORE MORE.  Poor little thing thought that the random soccer balls or bicycles were part of the “community playground” as well as she was quite disappointed to learn that they weren’t.  Her disappointment was brief, however.  As soon as she had turned her head away from the longed-for-object, she spotted yet another delight that made her squeal and off she went with one of us close on her heels.  (And yes, the Peanut/baby was with us… just snuggled up and completely asleep.  She’s very accommodating like that.  My life is going to be much more challenging as soon as the little one is mobile, that’s for sure!)


Z's first ferry ride

We decided to continue our adventure and bring Z on her first ferry ride, too.  She was delighted to have Daddy “drive the car on the boat, Momma!” (repeat statement 1,000 times for full toddler-loving-joy effect).  Even more exciting to her was learning that we could all get out of the car and go upstairs for the brief ride across to the island. Oh, she was in heaven.  And I was trying to balance a camera along with a loosely wrapped baby in order to get some pictures to document her joy.  Only…. the Chicklet didn’t want to do anything but rush to the side to see the water and life passing by.

"Oh, Daddy! FUN!"
(And no, he isn’t scowling. Between the wind and the Chicklet leaning, I think he thought she might just go over. LOL)

We were lucky enough to head over to The Hardware Store where Daniel Ahern (aka “The Chef” of “Gluten Free Girl and the Chef“) works.  I knew he would be cooking that night so the chances of my getting a delectable gluten free meal were spot-on.   And I was SO RIGHT.  The food was great!  I dreamt of that fabulous gluten-free buckle all the way home and wondered why I hadn’t bothered to just buy some more for the drive home!  OMG.  SO freakin’ delicious.  (Even better, Shauna has the recipe on her blog. So now I can make it any time I want and not have to pay the ferry fee!  Who knew!  I always thought a “buckle” was something related to Texas and belts!  LOL)

Another thing I didn’t know (among many), is that we would also be lucky enough to have Shauna (Gluten Free Girl) and her little Lu join us as well.  It was great as I hadn’t really planned anything, but as soon as I knew we were heading to Vashon Island, I might as well try to see if she was available to meet up.  LUCKY US!  And really – lucky Zoe!

Zoe and Lucy are a few months apart in age.  It was fun to watch the girls twirling about and toasting each other with apple slices.  (Seriously, each spontaneously hold up their apple slice and tapping the other’s while saying “Cheers” quietly.  I hope I remember that cuteness for quite a long time!)  Zoe apparently has a little Mother Hen in her (I am avoiding the control freaky term I really want to use).  When Lucy will skidoodle off to greet and play with a restaurant patron or employee that she knew (obviously, Dad works there…), Zoe would rush to her and say “Lucy-ah!  Oh, no!” and then put her arm around her to herd her back toward her Momma.  (Ay ay ay…) But hang on, it gets even more 2-year-old.  Lucy is getting her molars (poor babe), so just as Zoe did, she is eating ice.  Unlike Zoe, however, Lucy can reach in to a water glass to get her ice cubes without having a conniption that her hands or clothing are wet…. requiring (in Z’s mind) a wardrobe change. Since Zoe loathes wet clothing, we just instilled the rule “No hands” if it was going to lead to a mess.  So as soon as Z saw Little Lu reaching in for her ice cubes, the tattle-tale came out full force “Oh, oh, oh!  No hands, Lucy-ah! No hands”.  She was fixated.  And we talked briefly about different strokes/rules for different folks.  Thankfully, the apple slices appeared then and the two-year-olds did their thing:  off dancing and twirling and saying cheers…. and dreaming of Buzz and Elmo.  Cuties.  I hope they can play together again some day.  It was hard for Zoe to leave her new found friend.

Shauna and I got a chance to talk about food.  We both thought about the good things that our kiddos are eating.  And how they eat things just because we do.  I know this is true from a cultural standpoint as well.  Zoe will eat things that I never even knew existed when I was growing up:  tofu? chicken feet?  sushi? roe?  Yeah… these items were not on your standard Minnesota menu in the 1970s, that’s for sure.  I actually think that learning about food because of my diagnosis in 2000, made me more aware of the huge variety of foods.  Living in a city (Chicago) made access to all of those things SO much easier too.  It was an easier transition from gluten to gluten-free than it could have been considering in 2000 there were not the plethora of blogs or internet resources that exist today… let alone the variety of foods in the grocery stores that are clearly targeting the gluten-free group.

More importantly, I was able to put those middle school cooking classes to work for more than just soups and cookies.  I could easily follow instructions to make new things and I wasn’t afraid to try something different (although it did take me another year or two before I would try to recreate any of my childhood favorites).  Mostly, I wanted to keep learning about fresh food and keep trying new things to eat healthier.  Now that there are kids in the house, this is more important than ever.

It blows my mind when I learned via Jamie Oliver/Food Revolution that this generation of Americans has a lower life-expectancy than do we due to their poor health. And poor nutrition is certainly a major contributor to that.  And while my Love and I are not the fit-King/Queen that we want to be, we have vowed to work to get there for our kids and to continue to eat whole, healthy foods as a family.

It’s not gourmet.  It’s natural, whole foods.  And cheaper too.

On the ride home, I was thinking about the different things we had discussed and laughed about together.  Mostly, I was thinking about her upcoming book tour (NY in just a few days, people!  Go see her!) as well.  I was wishing that more people could meet her and see that she really knows how to grab the bull by the horns well, okay…. I think she could probably grab a little lower… and call it like she sees it.  The food that is in her latest book Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef is GORGEOUS and will make you do two things (1) go buy a kitchen scale, if you haven’t done so already) and (2) make you dream of licking the photos like I was doing the first night I got the book home.  When you read it, you will see that she isn’t cooking to be pretentious.  She is cooking what they love.  What they “play with”.  What makes them “dance” in the kitchen.  She writes short vignettes of life that make reading the book a delight.  (Especially for those of us with little ones around!)  I can’t wait to cook my way through the recipes…let alone read the snippets too.

Making it for yourself.

Today, I was craving buckle (again) but the Chicklet asked for Chickpea burgers for lunch.  It surprised me a bit because she really likes these when I make them with mung beans or black beans.  I thought about her request in relation to Jamie Oliver and Shauna.  How many other kids are asking their parents to make bean burgers for lunch? I know quite a few, actually. And I’m hoping with books like Shauna’s, programs like his, and efforts like all of us gluten-free folks to make whole, natural foods for our families is taking hold.  Maybe we can reverse that prediction for our kids.  Now wouldn’t that be worth it?  (PS. Shauna!  Good luck with the book!)

Try it.  Try out these easy-to-adapt bean burgers.  In lieu of chickpeas, use black beans or pinto beans or mung beans (cooked, of course).  Use the flavors and seasonings/herbs that make your tongue and tummy happy.  You can’t go wrong.

Gluten Free Chickpea Burgers
Makes 4 large burgers or 16 “sliders”

1 can (16 ounces) chickpeas (or other bean) (if not using canned, than 16 ounces cooked beans), drained/rinsed
1 cup leftover or cooked brown rice
1 egg
1/2 cup grated (or shredded, if you prefer) carrot
1/2 cup finely diced apple
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 Tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) chili powder
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro (or basil or dill or other fresh herb)
3 green onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
salt/pepper for seasoning


  1. In a small processor (or with a fork), mash the chickpeas into a medium bowl. (I prefer to use a mini-food processor when using chickpeas)
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix very well.
  3. Form into 4 large patties or sixteen small patties.  Set aside.  (Some people cover and refrigerate their patties for 1 – 2 hours at this stage to help them stick together and bind better.  I don’t mind if my burgers aren’t completely patty-set when I cook/eat them, so I skip this step for convenience too.)
  4. There are two ways to prepare the burgers:  with or without oil for frying.  Either way, heat your pan up over medium-heat for a couple minutes. If using oil, add a swirl of olive oil (not the sesame oil – that should be in the bean burger mixture) to the pan.  When the oil (or just the pan, if not using oil) is hot, add the patty (or patties).  Cook on each side 3 – 4 minutes or until browned.  Flip gently with a spatula.
  5. Serve with gluten free buns or lavash bread or without.  Serve with tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, feta cheese, tomato relish, salsa, greek yogurt, cucumber raita or tzatziki or whatever you enjoy.  (Z always votes for barbeque sauce!)



Gluten Free Chicken Fajitas: Meal Planning for ease

Posted on by .

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!

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Posted on by .

Where does one start with a topic as big as our daily food. For me, the real food choices began when I thought I didn’t have any choices left that I could make. But that takes a while to get to. Forgive me. I’m going to ramble a bit.

Growing up, my mom cooked great food for us. We weren’t the house on the block with the “candy cupboard” (and yes, there was a neighbor who had a pantry stocked completely with candy and chips for their kids). My mom also had veggies, fruits, bran muffins, meats, milk, juice, etc. in the house for us. And, we had our beloved peanut butter and Kraft Mac-N-Cheese (we were a brand loyal bunch on our mac-n-cheese as a group). My mom cooked healthy meals – all with veggies, milks, meats, etc. We were treated to fabulous fresh corn on the cob, watermelon, cherries, strawberries, etc in the summer and other seasonal items.

I don’t know if my mom thought about the fact that she was choosing the foundations of our healthy eating for life. At least not like there is pressure to do so today. I *do* know that my mom chose wisely. We didn’t have Hostess cakes and soda endlessly on hand (although we begged for soda… that didn’t come until I was a teenager…LOL). We ate family meals – TOGETHER – not apart and not in front of a television. She packed healthy lunches (when we brought them from home…) and support our food choices in other ways.

What she didn’t control – nor could she -were the food choices that we made outside of the home. Like what we ate when we ate the “hot lunch” at school. Although I must admit, in elementary school my memory of our school lunches is sketchy at best. Beyond the day when we were somehow treated to marlin or the ever present turkey-chunks-in-gravy-on-mashed-potatoes, I don’t remember much. I do know that I wasn’t a chocolate milk drinker (still don’t) nor did I eat chocolate cake (still don’t). I enjoyed the canned fruit “salads” that were served… but now when I read the ingredients, I wonder about what I really ate. Some of the canned fruit items are decent… others are dubious.

In middle school, the school favorite food was a vending machine. And NOT a junk food vending machine either. It was filled with huge, crunchy red apples and sunflower seeds. Students would rush to the machine during lunches and after school for our snacks. It was honestly a highlight. The lunches didn’t improve (more turkey-chunks-in-gravy) but the snack options were new to middle school.

It was in high school that student choice really mattered. Our high school had (has?) an award-winning lunch program. They had a fresh salad bar, an “ethnic” food line (changing everyday of the week to a new cuisine type), the regular “hot lunch” offering… and a veritable school-run mini-burger joint (read: french fries, hamburgers, fried chicken patty sandwiches, “nuggets” of some sort, etc). Here’s the deal though: the school MAY have had the other fabulous offerings, but my friends and I ate 99% of our meals from the mini-burger options. In fact, I’m sure I could blame much of my booty on the daily cheeseburger I chose for myself.

The thing about food and me in high school is that I never connected the dots. I never saw my food choices as being the things that are driving my long-term health or that they would eventually lead to serious health issues in my future (or my major continuing booty issues that are now thigh and tummy issues too…LOL). I guess I figured that I “could” change or “would” change and that the change would be easy, quick, life-altering and have immediate impact on my health. As though eating an apple could cure me of any illness or any crappy food I had ingested within the last month or lifetime. Oh yeah, I was an optimist (or naive).

Food choices are something that changed when I thought I didn’t have a choice any more. Upon being diagnosed with Celiac Sprue, I was informed (as I have said before) that it would “easy”. “You just can’t eat bread, pasta, pizza, cakes, cookies, etc anymore,” the doctor said before hanging up the phone. I immediately went over to the computer and tried to figure out how to spell “Celiac” based on his pronunciation on the phone. When I found the only and only cookbook (Thank you, Bette Hagman) that existed within 25 miles of my house (and I lived in Chicago, people!) that address my “new” needs, I realized that “easy” was not the term I would be using for a while to explain my new diet.

Within a few days, my Love and I cleaned out our pantry of all things gluten-filled and fill many a grocery bag for donation to food banks, a few more bags of things to bring to friends (flour, etc) and sadly, a few more garbage bags for the dumpster out back of open containers of things that we wouldn’t be using any more.

Then my food choices got REAL. We realized that seasonings and bases of items that are naturally gluten-free were NOT gluten free. That my Love’s fabulous egg rolls and stir fries would need to be adjusted so that we could enjoy them together again. We began shopping at different markets that had more natural food offerings because that was the easiest place to start. I still employ the skills I learned in those first few months of gluten free shopping when I go to our local grocer. And while organic is great when we can afford it or are willing to buy it (like for dairy products for the Chicklet), I know how to cook better. I’m willing to pick up new items, take them home and try them. I shop where I know I will find the “safe” food to eat and I go at it. 😀

My  Chicklet is well primed to cook and bake too.  She is always in the kitchen when we are baking and cooking.  She rushes in when she hears the mixer or the food processor kick in to gear.  She loves “dips” (like hummus, etc) on her plate and is fearless about what she is willing to dip in to it too!  (Garlic hummus on your orange slices, anyone?  What about with your blueberries?  A little barbeque sauce?).  She relishes  fresh fruits and veggies. (So far, she has only declined to eat broccoli, but we’re working on it.)  She think juicy meats are to die for and there is no better treat than a lovely slice of orange, apple, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc after school.  I love this kid.  And my husband and I are committed to helping her maintain her love of good food as she grows up too.  We fill her lunch bag with the goodness she enjoys and a few new treats to try as well (today it was a mini-box of raisins).  Someday that lunch bag will have broccoli in it, I promise, too!

This month (May), my niece and nephew turn a year older and the Chicklet turns two.  My nephew enjoys cooking and baking.  He likes the challenge of trying a new ingredient or finding a new recipe to try.  His parents (my sister and her husband) are completely supportive of their boys exploring foods and the kitchen.

My niece, on the other hand, has a mom who loves to eat… but doesn’t cook.  At.  All.  Really.  My sister (the other one, I have two) taught my niece how to make mac-n-cheese (from a box) and “Hamburger Helper” (from a box) so she wouldn’t have to live off the microwave-ready meals that her sweet mom makes for them both.

Since birthdays are around the corner, I am delighted to be giving both of these kids something they will LOVE:  Jamie’s Food Revolution Cookbook.

Jamie Oliver, a reknown chef from the UK, has worked for years to change the eating habits of children in the UK by changing their school lunch programs.  He has a culinary school that seeks to give skills to at-risk teenagers and young adults, and then employs them in his restaurant “15“.  He has several professional accomplishments, cookbooks, acknowledgements, etc.  but he CHOOSES to use his time and money to help change the way we – and people in the UK – view, consume and manage our food choices.  And he is starting with our kids.  There is a lot to review a learn about the “Food Revolution” that you may find of interest to you and your family as well.  Jamie is hoping to arrive in Washington DC with 1,000,000 signature on a petition (over 500,000 have already signed, including yours truly and my Love) to help get change moving through our school lunch programs.  Things have to change in order for our kids to have better.

Remember the day when ketchup was considered a vegetable serving for kids in schools?

Well, things like that are still happening.

I’ve seen it.  Teaching certainly brings the food and beverages that kids are being served and eating right in to my daily life.

Our school lunch program guidelines have run amok and afoul of our knowledge of food and nutrition and our kids are paying the price.  This is the first generation of young people who have a predicted shorter life span than their parents.   That blows my mind.  Our hard-work to create conveniences is killing us slowing essentially.  There are many families (like my nieces) who sustain themselves on what is available, what is convenient, etc.  I get it, I do!  Trust me!  I have a toddler at home and am almost 7 months pregnant.  There are days when I wish for more convenience too – but then I realize that it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes for me to get a healthy meal on the table for my family (fajitas last night… mmmm YUMMY!) and the price is cheaper than if we went out to eat.  (Not to mention, since I made them, I know everything is gluten-free and there is no danger of cross-contact or outright gluten-filled goodies hitting my plate.)

So I guess I’m posting this to see if you are willing to sign the petition to support this change for our kids… AND US.  What a great gift it would be to know that sending our kids off to school (where MANY MANY MANY kids eat their only meals of the day) also meant that we were caring for their bodies and health and not just their minds.

So if you can, if you have the time, here are a few things to check out.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Site

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Petition

Jamie Oliver’s Platform for Change

About the Food Revolution

(info after the last episode of the TV show highlight the change in Huntington, WV)

And a quote from Jamie to finish (and yes, he is straight to his point):

Oliver said: “Parents can be the most positive, powerful force in a country or they can be disgusting, backstabbing traitors. When little Johnny comes home and says, ‘I didn’t get my nugget today,’ it’s wrong to say ‘Oh, all right, darling,’ and give him some [expletive] horrible Lunchable and a pack of potato chips and a luminous drink.”

In the end, Oliver said, he will do whatever is necessary: “One thing you have to learn about me is that I do not think I am a superman. I do not think I’m special. I’m in a position that I’m using. I believe in people. I believe in local ambassadors of change. I genuinely think there is an energy right now. It’s the time to put some common-sense things in place.”

Please sign the petition today.

Happy gluten free & healthy eating to all!

PS.  I’ll be back in the next couple days with our fajita recipe.  It was so easy!  Really!  You’re going to love it too!

Latest video from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution just came in my mailbox…thought I’d update the post with it: