Staying gluten-free with Home-made Chicken Fajitas

Dear readers: big apologies for having gone AWOL over the past few weeks! It wasn’t intentional. Firstly, life got a little crazy. Now that school is over for my boys, I can get back to my normal routine.

But it wasn’t only the kids’ demanding schedule. I also have to put some blame on ¬†kitchen mishaps. You see, I had such great feedback from the muffins in the last post that I thought I should develop some more gluten-free recipes to replace the wheat we’re all eliminating from our diets. It was a good lesson.

Many people like to indulge in weekend breakfasts so I decided it was time to play in the kitchen with some gluten-free pancakes. I tried about 5 recipes and while they all tasted pretty good, they were of such a soft texture that the “cake” was really a “blob”. Didn’t pass the “Fitbody” recipe standards so I finally gave up.

I then decided to try more healthy cookie recipes. That generated a few laughs in my household. Fact is, it’s not so easy to adapt sugary, wheat-laden ingredient lists into something that not only tastes good but also looks good. The ones that passed the taste tests also morphed into a blob in my cookie sheet. Couldn’t bring myself to blog about those either. That’s not to say that there aren’t great gluten-free recipes out there. I just haven’t found them yet.

Truth is, I don’t eat gluten-free pancakes or cookies and that was the lesson I learned. Why, then, would I recommend doing so to my readers and friends? When I cut wheat from my diet I didn’t just replace it with similar alternatives. I fundamentally changed how I ate. And that is what I’d really like to share with you.

It’s amazing how often people stare at me and wonder “What on earth do I eat if I cut out wheat?” Doesn’t that just tell you how much we rely on this single food item? Bagels, muffins, cereals, breads, pancakes, waffles, pizza, crackers, pasta, wraps, pretzels, cookies, pita, croutons, couscous, cakes, doughnuts, croissants, pies and Twinkies. And don’t forget the hidden sources of wheat: soy sauce, beer, ice cream cones, processed deli meats, meatballs, salad dressing, just to name a few. You get the message. How many of us didn’t have at least one or two of those items yesterday?

I recently finished reading “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis, M.D. It contains far too much information for me to review today but suffice it to say that he looks at years of clinical research and draws on his own clinical experiences as a cardiologist to conclude that the hybridization of wheat, designed primarily to increase yields, was carried out with no consideration given to the potential effects on human health. Genetic alterations to this crop mean that the wheat we ingest today is not that of our forefathers. Result: excessive consumption of today’s wheat can be linked to a number of chronic conditions including arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis and premature aging (due to chronically elevated blood glucose levels). AGE’s (advanced glycation end products) result from high blood sugar and, over time, can affect any and all organ functions in our bodies. AGE’s can be responsible for prematurely aging skin, cataracts, athersclerosis and a host of other age-related conditions. ¬†Bottom line – too much wheat is never a good thing.

Back to my lesson. If you choose to eliminate or at least minimize your intake of wheat, my best advice is to replace it with natural foods, not artificial substitutes. In this post I offer a few breakfast suggestions. Today, I’d like to share a dinner recipe the whole family will love.

If we’re going to eliminate wheat products, ideally we are going to shift to more natural whole foods. Lunch doesn’t have to be a sandwich or slice of pizza. Dinner doesn’t have to be pasta and “snack crackers” should be banned forever. I can’t think of a more nutritionally depleted supposedly “healthy” product. Plant-based foods, whether you choose to follow a vegetarian way of life or not, should be at the epicentre of your diet. Snacks should include some protein and/or fibre to keep you full and allow for a slow release of sugars into your bloodstream. You all know my favourites are fruit, nuts, seeds, greek yogurt, protein smoothies, raw veggies, hummus, guacamole. Ditch the cheese and crackers along with the Oreo’s and Twinkies.

Now who doesn’t love a fajita? In my household we often replace the tortilla wraps with romaine lettuce. Not only does it taste better, but you’ve instantly boosted the nutrient content of dinner. Essentially this recipe is lean protein with lots of veggies and if you can make this shift to obtain most of your carbs from high veggie and bean consumption, you have gone a long way towards reducing inflammation in your body and you won’t miss the bread for one beat. You can roast a whole chicken in advance, or slice up chicken breasts and quickly stir fry before continuing with the recipe. If you’re time-crunched (and we usually are), grab a pre-roasted whole chicken from your grocery deli and dinner will be ready in a snap.

Gluten-Free Roasted Chicken Fajitas

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil

1 large onion, sliced into strips

1 red pepper, sliced

2-3 minced garlic cloves

3 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups roasted chicken pieces

1 large head romaine lettuce, leaves separated

Fixings: diced avocado and tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, hummus or black bean spread, fresh coriander

1. Heat the butter or oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Slowly saute the onions, peppers and garlic. After 2-3 minutes, sprinkle with herbs and seasonings; stir frequently and continue to cook until soft and fragrant.

2. Add chicken and stir well. Continue to cook until chicken is heated through.

3. Spoon the chicken mixture out onto a large platter. Set out the lettuce leaves and all the condiments. Everyone can choose their own toppings build their own fajita.

That’s what I call a yummy one-dish meal. Enjoy!

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