Delicious Gluten-Free Living

vegetarian week tiki tikiEditor’s Note:  This is the fifth in the series, ¿Vege-Que? — A Week of Healthy Eating, ongoing from April 11 to 18 on the Tiki Tiki. Please visit the first essay to learn more about the series and enter for the chance to win some awesome prizes.

Giving Up Something isn’t Always Bad

yvonne condes on tiki tikiBy Yvonne Condes

Shredded beef tacos, albondigas, chicken enchiladas, chorizo; these are the foods I grew up on. Occasionally we would have calabacitas, but they were almost always covered in cheese and served with a meat dish.

Basing a meal around anything other than meat or cheese never occurred to me until my older sister moved to San Francisco and became a vegetarian many years ago. She said she became vegetarian for health reasons. My family thought it was because she had lost her mind.

I started experimenting a little with food and found that I could occasionally cook without meat and it was perfectly fine. And then I met my husband and a whole new world of food opened up to me.

Gluten-free Living

My husband has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack gluten and, in the process, damages the lining of the small intestines. This can result in stomach pain, anemia, and colon cancer. There’s no cure, but sufferers can reverse the effects by eliminating gluten – wheat, barley or rye – from their diets. That means no bread, no cake, no pizza, no beer.

It’s a drastic diet, but like becoming a vegetarian, it’s manageable and the food can be fantastic.

Now when I cook, I start with a vegetable or a grain and work around that. I love to come up with recipes and one of my favorites is Quinoa with garlic, spinach, and sweet dark cherries. Quinoa has protein, spinach has iron, and the sweet cherries have antioxidants. And the garlic and olive oil make it taste good.

That’s the most important thing I’ve learned from alternative cooking. Even things you’ve never heard of, or never would have thought to try, can be cooked up into something amazing.

Delicious and Healthy Recipes

And the things that you had loved before can still be made to taste good like my gluten-free vegan chocolate cake. I’ll never forget the face my mom made when I sliced her up a piece of the vegan chocolate cake I made for my brother’s birthday. I thought her eyes were going to roll all the way into the back of her head at the thought of eating vegan food. But she admitted that she liked it and had a second piece. The cake was good because there’s still good stuff in it like good quality chocolate, sugar, vegan butter, and canola oil.

And good, many times, doesn’t mean traditional. The great thing about Mexican food is that there is a lot of corn, which is gluten-free. Therefore, I make a lot of Mexican food. But I doctor the recipes to make them a little healthier.

Instead of frying tortillas for chilaquiles, I spray them with a light coating of olive oil and bake them in the oven (OK, sometimes I just use a bag of chips, but that’s only when I’m in a hurry).

There are some dishes where doctoring the recipe only makes it better. Like, in my opinion, my Mexican green chile tamales made with butter and Earth Balance Vegan Butter. They’re light and buttery and delicious.

They are time consuming to make, so my advice is that if you’re going to attempt it; get a bottle of wine, invite some friends over, and make a day of it.

Vegetarian Gluten-Free Tamales

Vegetarian, Gluten-free Tamales

Yvonne’s Vegetarian Green Chile Tamales



Soak the corn husks in hot water for about 2 hours. Combine the masa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and vegan butter until fluffy. Alternate adding ¼ of the masa mixture and ¼ of the water until combined. Beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.

To test if the masa is done, drop a dollop of dough into a glass of water. If it floats, the dough is ready. It should be light and fluffy, not damp. If dough is too thick, beat in small amounts of water until it’s spreadable.

When dough is ready set up an assembly line in this order: Corn husks, masa, green chiles, corn, cheese, and salsa. Lay corn husk flat on a plate. Spread about 2 tablespoons of masa on the husk leaving in inch on both sides and three inches or so on the end.

Spread about a teaspoon of green chile and a teaspoon of corn onto the masa. Sprinkle cheese and salsa over the corn and chile. Fold the husks so the masa covers the filling. Fold the end over until it’s covered. If the tamales are not staying together, you can shred one of the soaked corn husks into long strips and gently tie the tamales shut to keep them together.

Place tamales in a steamer and cook for about 1 hour. Don’t let the water run out or the bottom of the steamer will burn. Serve tamales with remaining tomatillo salsa. You can refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze them. Reheat in the steamer.


What about You?

Do you have a dietary restriction that forces you to find great substitutes? Are you surprised to find something is gluten-free and still good?

Check out the Giveaways

Please be sure to read the ¿Vege-Que? Giveaways post to enter for some great prizes, including cookware from IMUSA, copies of Viva Vegan, the e-book Healthy Snacks to Go; Latin Heat spices from Urban Accents and new EatStrong trail mix and bars.

***You must comment in the giveaways post and in one essay, such as this one, this week to be entered to win.

Yvonne is a journalist by trade and a blogger by night. At YvonneInLA she writes about life in Los Angeles with her two adorable boys, food and restaurants, a little bit of politics, and Latino issues. She loves creating gluten-free recipes, running marathons, and traveling. She also is the co-founder of, and also writes for Yahoo! Motherboard, CBS Local Los Angeles, and

Share, por favor!

By Contributor on April 15, 2011 · Posted in food

9 Comments | Post Comment

Tracy says:

Now gluten free vegan – that takes all kinds of creativity! I’m so impressed with what you’re able to come up with! How nice that your husband doesn’t have to miss a thing.
Tracy´s last [fabulousness] ..Latino food here- Hispanic food over there

Posted on April 15th, 2011

Melanie (ModernMami) says:

How wonderful that you were able to keep such a traditional dish gluten-free! Love it.
Melanie (ModernMami)´s last [fabulousness] ..On Being Told to Go Back

Posted on April 15th, 2011

Marcela says:

I love the Trader Joes tomatillo salsa! The tamales sound yummy but all that work sounds scary! The wine and friends is such a good idea.

I admire you for all the hard work you put in to help take care of your husbands diet. The bread would be so hard to give up yet I had no idea you can still do tortillas.

Posted on April 15th, 2011

Tara Castillo says:

Great post! We eat a lot of Gluten Free foods at our house as well after a scare with Celiac disease and a family member. We’ve stuck with eating gluten free because we feel so much better although we do not have to…..
These vegan tamales sound soooo good! I hope to try them soon!
Thanks for writing this article and mentioning Celiac Disease. There are a lot of people who are unaware of it and what it is…..just like me a year ago.
Now I try and think twice, asking if my son’s friends have any food allergies before I send in cupcakes for his birthday.
It is a lot of work, but worth it! For someone who has celiac disease, they have no choice. Sounds like your husband is a lucky guy to have such a wonderful woman helping him with such tasty recetas!
Tara Castillo´s last [fabulousness] ..Spanish Friday Soy-Rizo

Posted on April 16th, 2011

Cee says:

I am just now going gluten-free after abdominal surgery earlier this year. I cannot wait to try this tamales recipe. I’m curious about using the Earth Balance in the recipe, and I LOVE TJ’s tomatillo salsa.

Posted on April 16th, 2011

Sue Valencia says:

Great recipe! I think I´m gonna try it for sure!
Sue Valencia´s last [fabulousness] ..Luna Llena en Libra- operar y co-operar

Posted on April 17th, 2011

Silvia says:

Yvonne thanks for sharing this part of you with us. My husband is lactose intolerant, not as bad as Celiac, but still challenging.

The recipe sounds wonderful, I need to try to make it, good excuse for a GNO!!
Silvia´s last [fabulousness] ..Felíz Cumpleaños

Posted on April 18th, 2011

5 Gluten-Free Party Stopping Recipes | Moms LA says:

[...] Tamales – A lot of Mexican dishes are naturally gluten-free. Corn tortillas are a popular ingredient in tacos, enchiladas, and chilaquiles. But around Christmas, tamales are a favorite party dish. Serve a plate of authentic tamales at a party and you will be sure to have happy guests. Authentic tamales are most often made with lard, which makes the them amazing, but if you’re look…. [...]

Posted on December 16th, 2011

To Tamale or not to Tamale | YvonneinLA says:

[...] minutes for our family to scarf them down.  A couple of years ago, I started a tradition of making tamales for New Year’s Eve. A few of us got together and worked in an assembly line so it [...]

Posted on January 26th, 2012