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Three Gluten-Free Dinner Meal Ideas

CJ cook dinnerNote: Dinner. Dinner. Dinner. Dinner ad infinitem.  And when we have special diets - fuggedabouit! Cathy has shared a fun post today with 3 GF recipes.  Mangia!

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By Cathy Jameson

It’s that time of year when things are starting to get really busy – school schedules, sports schedules, after-school activity schedules – those will be full again soon.  As we gear up for those new routines, I thought back to what helped our nights run better and remembered this post I’d shared with friends and family.  I’ve added a few things to the post, including some links to brands we now use. 

During past school years, when my kids were in grade school, I could get away with last-minute meal prep for my family.  Those times, I would get so busy (or distracted) when 5:30 rolled around, and I'd find myself panicking.  It would be around the same time that my kids' tummies would begin to rumble.  That's also when my typical son, who could happily eat 24 hours a day would yell out, "Hey, Mom!  What's for dinner?"

Dinner?  

He can't be serious, I'd think.  The kid just ate snack...  

I'd slowly glance at the clock and realize...TWO hours ago.  

Oh, no!  Dinner!

Dang it.  

I did it again, I’d mutter to myself.

You'd think that I'd have this making dinner thing down.  I'd been making and serving dinner for our family of seven for a long time at that point.  But, I'd get caught up in something else or lose track of time.  Those nights, it would be a race against the clock to thaw some meat, to figure out what to do with it, and to begin the prep work for whatever sides I thought could go with the meal. 

Happily, none of the food I'd end up throwing together last minute tasted terrible.  Quite the opposite!  They were some of the best dinners I'd ever made and garnered lots of compliments--even from my pickiest eater!  But who wants the pressure of racing against the clock to get a meal on the table with five hungry, hungry hippos underfoot? 

Not this mama. 

I knew that I needed to make some changes.  First, was to plan my day better.  Next, was to actually plan a dinner menu each week instead of going by the imaginary one I ignored in my head daily.  Third, was to follow through. 

As I tippy toed into making some positive changes, I could see that things were going to be better.  

Our evening schedule was eventually smoother, and I wasn't feeling so rushed.  Dinners were plated sooner than usual, and they tasted even yummier than before.  In fact, I was able to add some new dishes to the mix!  Now, before you think I added more work for myself and spent too many hours thinking about what to make, I promise that I didn't flip through tons of cookbooks or scan through hundreds of online recipes to find new meal ideas.  Since I am a work in progress and admittedly, somewhat lazy in the kitchen, I just threw what I already had in the fridge and freezer into a casserole dish.  

Casseroles?  How have I forgotten how easy those were?!

Casseroles...yes!  

Here are three of those casserole dishes--all gluten-free, that we rotate (sometimes twice because they taste so YUM) during our busy week:

Chicken Chicken

Measurements are for my family of 7; adjust recipe according to your family's needs

Ingredients: 

6 organic chicken breasts

1 jar mild organic salsa (we are wimps, the milder the better)

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

 

Directions:

Preheat oven 350°

Cut the chicken into cubes and place them in a casserole dish

Toss salsa onto chicken cubes

Sprinkle cheddar cheese over the chicken and salsa

Mix ingredients so that chicken is covered with salsa and cheese

Bake at 350° for 50 minutes 

Serve:  

To make it a full meal, we serve Chicken Chicken with a side of organic rice, a garden salad, tortilla chips (we love this brand), and organic sweet corn.

Optional:  

After it’s plated, add a dollop (or three!) of organic sour cream on the Chicken Chicken.

I’ve also served the meal in hard taco shells (I really like this brand).

***

Super Noodles

Measurements are for my family of 7; adjust recipe according to your family's needs

Ingredients: 

2 pounds organic ground beef

salt

pepper

garlic

basil

oregano

Italian seasoning

2 jars of organic marinara/red sauce (or your own homemade red sauce)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 package gluten-free noodles (we like this brand)  

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° 

Boil noodles

When cooked, drain and pour noodles into the casserole dish

While noodles are boiling, mix spices with ground beef (I don't measure these, I've always just eyeballed how much is just the right amount. If you are the measuring type, I would guess a 1/8-1/4 tsp of salt and pepper and 1/2 tsp each of garlic, basil and oregano)

Brown meat in a medium saucepan

Once browned, drain the fat

Pour red sauce on the meat and mix

Place meat in a casserole dish on top of the noodles

Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the meat and noodles; stir ingredients

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes  

Serve:  

To make it a full meal, we serve Super Noodles with a side dish, like a garden salad or with fresh organic green beans or broccoli.  One more side makes it an even better meal when we add oven-warmed gluten-free bread that the kids dip in organic olive oil.

***

The meals were named by Ronan’s younger brother and are as organic as we can make them.  With a regular taco night, an Italian night (or two) like spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna, plus a barbeque night (or two), plus a pizza night (gluten-free for Ronan) - we now have a solid week's worth of healthy and yummy meals for us.  

These dishes may not be that exquisite or be culinary magazine worthy, but they required more discipline on my part (something I welcomed).  And they continued to receive great reviews from each of my children the more I served them. 

Extra praise is always nice, and the planning ahead has been good for all of us.  

Note:  I originally shared these recipes with family and friends in 2015.  During the quarantine of 2020, we not only continued to rotate these meal ideas, Ronan’s siblings learned how to make the meals (plus the side dishes) and rotated making dinner one night a week for us.  They were successful in creating a life skill and continued to inspire new meal ideas, including Meat Cake.  That became another gluten-free meal we all liked.  (Sometimes just changing the name of a classic meal…changing Meatloaf to Meat Cake…made all the difference in the world.)  Also worth noting, as the typical kids have aged, their diet restrictions have lessened.  Depending on the meal—and the preference, we don’t have to use the gluten-free ingredient (like the noodles, for instance). 

Planning ahead is loads better than running around like a crazy woman in the kitchen.  Being a crazy woman can be fun every now and then.  But it's never fun when the kids are hungry, when a tired husband who's worked all day is on his way home, and when something as simple as starting dinner thirty minutes earlier could make for a better transition to our evenings.  

Life can still get in the way, though.  

So on days that I do get dinner started later than usual, or when our after-school schedule gets full, I'm not afraid to toss in Cj dinner zombiethe (kitchen) towel and turn making dinner into a game.  My kids love to eat, and they love games, too.  

Inspired by my sister, we discovered that breakfast for dinner nights are just the best!  We use this brand to make the most amazing waffles and pancakes that get happily gobbled up for all of us.

Those kinds of nights don't happen very often, but when I tell the kids to hunt for their food while I get a quick breakfast for dinner made, well, those nights are never boring.  They are actually a lot of fun.

Here's to fun.  

Here's to happy.

And here's to making more yummy dinners!

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism. 

Got a favorite meal for kids with dietary restrictions?  Please share it in the comments below!

Comments

Anonymous

A super sweet, hidden-veggie, pink smoothie that is wonderful for ASD people: https://www.stonyfield.com/recipes/cotton-candy-smoothie

For blue lovers: https://www.today.com/recipes/bright-blue-smoothie-recipe-t171692

Anonymous

Grow rice in case the supply chain falls apart: https://annapolisseeds.com/collections/grains/products/hayayuki-rice

https://annapolisseeds.com/collections/grains/products/zerawchanica-rice

Sticky Japanese (Cold Hardy Hokkaido) millet: https://annapolisseeds.com/collections/grains/products/mochi-awan-millet

Antioxidant rich Black Sesame: https://annapolisseeds.com/collections/grains/products/black-sesame

Edible, food-safe mushrooms to grow:
https://annapolisseeds.com/collections/mushrooms

And... "popcorn" sorghum!

https://annapolisseeds.com/collections/grains/products/allu-jola-popping-sorghum

Anonymous

Traditional Japanese cuisine (stick to gluten free ingredients and beware of hidden wheat/gluten in many ingredients) is one of the best cuisines to benefit people with autism. Just One Cookbook https://www.justonecookbook.com/ might be the best website for this.

https://www.justonecookbook.com/tags/gluten-free/

This recipe improves motor skills and sensory tolerance (the sense of touch): https://www.justonecookbook.com/onigiri-rice-balls/

Benedetta

I raise, can, dehydrate, or lacto ferment cabbage.

A quick meal is cabbage with hamburger and tomatoes, or sausage or hotdogs, or chicken. .
That is my quick meal.

And Corn bread
I heat up the oven, put in a large cast iron skillet and coconut oil to melt. -

As it heats, I mix 1 cup of gluten free flour, 1 cup of corn meal,, an egg, salt, 1/4 tallow; stir in kefir till it is the consistency of a thick soup. Okay so I some times add sugar.
Pour into hot skillet and bake 25 minutes.

All done in half an hour .

Emmaphiladelphia

Call me the Freezer Queen!

One way to jumpstart meals is to have a stash of precooked/chopped ingredients waiting in the freezer.
I buy 6 lbs. of hamburger at Costco and bulk cook it (in 350 oven or 2lbs at a time in frying pan). After draining grease and cooling, wrap in one lb. plastic wrap packs. Place in labeled zip-lock bags and store in freezer until needed. Wrapping items separately, I can reuse the more expensive ziplock bag. I buy plastic wrap in bulk at Costco. I also bulk cook rice and do the same. Items can be defrosted in the microwave (remove plastic wrap first) or thawed overnight.

One of my go-to's is Hamburger Rice. This basic dish can be endlessly added to or kept plain for super picky eaters. In a large skillet over medium heat add 1/2-1 Tbs of olive oil ( or your choice). Add 1 pack defrosted rice and stir fry adding in 1 pack defrosted hamburger. I usually add about 1/2 tsp salt or to taste. This is the basic dish for super picky.

To jazz it up, you can first add 1/2 cup chopped onions (I keep purchased frozen ones in the freezer) and stir fry until pale, then add 1-2 cloves of garlic (I use refrigerated minced garlic). Add rice and stir fry, then add ground beef. If you are adventurous, you can add 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans. Other add ins can be frozen corn and chopped bell peppers. This dish can be eaten with salad or an easy side like broccoli along with buttered toasted buns. Leftover Hamburger Rice can be reheated in the microwave. I top it with a sprinkling of taco seasoning (I buy bulk at Costco), a few dollops of salsa and top with shredded cheddar cheese ( I buy bulk at Costco and freeze). Microwave until hot. It can be topped with Greek yogurt (I buy in bulk at Costco) and mashed avocado (I buy bulk pack of individual servings at Costco and freeze. Pull out number of servings desired and thaw overnight in fridge). Serve with tortilla chips. Another use for leftovers is to add it to a can of seasoned chicken or beef broth for a quick soup. I have many more easy freezer prep ideas I will post later.

Jerry Martinez

Not sure if other readers will post their recipes. This is one of Sam's favorites:
Ingredients: Unrefined organic Coconut oil for cooking, cinnamon powder, almond milk, organic raw sugar and a banana(for egg substitute). And one almond tortilla.

Cut uncooked almond tortilla in four triangles.

in a small bowel: half cup of almond milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, cinnamon to taste, and smashed half banana. Mix them all together in bowl. Then put your almond tortilla in bowl, let it soak for a few seconds.

Heat coconut oil in frying pan
on medium heat once hot enough
dip your 4 pieces of tortilla -let cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. let cool a minute or two- serve-our son really likes this treat.
you can add more or less sugar depending how your little one reacts to sugar, or use regular milk if no allergies.
Thanks.

Jerry Martinez

Thanks for the recipes. They sound like they would hit the spot! I will modify the cheese part since our special 15 year old can not have cheese. So true this time of year can be overwhelming! Summer spoils you. Blessing to all here on the AoA for a great and safe 2022-2023 school year!
G. Martinez

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