As our fall calendars fill up with back-to-school extracurriculars, playdates and holiday gatherings, creating filling, nutritious dinners that everyone will eat can sound like a daunting task—especially if you have vegetarian or gluten-free members in your family. Peggy Curry, or Pegs as she’s better known, understands and embraces this challenge with her business partner and daughter, Megan. The mother-daughter duo created Curry Girls Kitchen, a health and wellness platform that includes health coaching services, cooking classes, recipes and more, to share their passion for food and health. We asked Peggy to talk about her gluten-free journey, what it’s like working with her daughter and one of her favorite recipes, Taco Pie, that can be adapted with gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan or paleo options.
Tell us a little bit about your journey to going gluten-free. What are some misconceptions people have about the descriptor “gluten free?”
Starting at just three months old, my daughter Megan, began really struggling with her health. At first it was chronic ear infections and by high school she was dealing with fevers, hair falling out, and repeated infections. We went to western doctors, functional medicine doctors, you name it. But nothing we tried ever got to the root of the problem.
As a holistic health coach, I happened to be working with a group of Celiac parents at the time. When they heard of Meg’s symptoms, they suggested I get her tested for gluten intolerance. I had my own personal health problems, as did my husband, Tim, so I said “okay let’s give this a shot.” All three of us got tested, and sure enough, we all had the gluten intolerance gene. To confirm, we got our other daughters tested, and yep, they all tested positive, too. So, during our family meeting that week I shared the results and said “hey wouldn’t it be great if none of us had any of these symptoms anymore?” That’s when we made a pact to go gluten-free for a year and see if we felt any improvements. Six weeks in… three months in… we’re all like, “Okay… something is clearly working.” By the six-month mark, all of our symptoms were gone and we were feeling great. That’s when we fully adopted the gluten free lifestyle and never looked back.
Honestly, the biggest misconception about “going gluten-free” is that it’s a bummer. When I found out the solution to my health issues was as simple as a diet change… I was so relieved! What a gift it was to reclaim my health. Back in those days, there were very few gluten-free resources, so it took a fair amount of trial-and-error to recreate my carby favorites. But in the two-ish decades since we all got diagnosed, advancements in gluten-free food manufacturing and recipe development have come SO FAR! At least for the modern Angeleno, it is totally possible to go g-free without giving up on any of your favorite foods. All the yum without the symptoms? Yes please!
Talk about being mother/daughter team. How did that come about? Most people assume that would be tricky…how do you make it work?
It IS tricky. It’s hard. That’s the truth. Megan and I started Curry Girls Kitchen in 2012. In fact, for the first give years of our business relationship we did couples’ therapy and continue to as needed. We both started working together because we each share such a passion for food and helping others heal, but we also have such different personalities. Sometimes when you get two very different and strong personalities together, they can clash—especially under pressure. So, in our years of counseling, we really work to focus on nurturing our mother/daughter relationship and establishing boundaries between our work lives and our family lives. That separation was such a learning curve for me. I am always “on” and in constant create mode. I’ve had to learn to give Megan her space, and focus when we’re together to just be her mom. Ultimately, our differences have become our greatest asset. We are constantly teaching each other new ways of being and exposing ourselves to fresh perspectives. This made Curry Girls Kitchen super adaptable and versatile. For example, before the pandemic lockdowns, we were able to pivot to an entirely digital business model with e-books, online courses, and virtual coaching that highlighted our functional medicine backgrounds. Then, when I was writing and releasing my cookbook, Megan took over the business to give me time to publish “Damn Good Gluten Free” while she maintained all our social platforms. Now we’re in a new era. These days, I’m managing our multiple social platforms to give HER the space to spread her wings as a coach, private chef, and recipe developer. We’re always working to give space for what we need to grow and develop our unique gifts and talents. We support each other’s interests and allow one another to take the reins when it’s our turn to shine.
Talk about your “Damn Good Gluten Free” cookbook — what should people know? What’s your personal favorite recipe (or two)?
Damn Good Gluten Free is THE roadmap for anyone diagnosed with autoimmune conditions. That said, most doctors will suggest a gluten free diet. Unfortunately, so many of us when we get diagnosed are left to fend for ourselves in the middle of a major lifestyle shift. I set out to make the guiding resource I never received. It’s comprehensive for foodies like me, who want to get into the nutrition nitty gritty. It’s easy to use for the busy parents, who just want a meal plan to follow and pantry guide to help them shop. And its inclusive for all kinds of eaters, because healthy eating is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. That’s why I formulated almost every recipe to include paleo, diary-free, vegetarian, and vegan variations. I wanted to make sure that everyone can eat healthfully and deliciously together based on their needs.
Actually, the Taco Pie Recipe is a great example of that. It’s easy, modifiable, scalable, and you can whip it all up in one pot. So simple! So yummy! It’s definitely one of my all-time favorite recipes. And it’s the one gift I will make and share with friends and family who recently had a baby, or a family is in need. It is such a favorite meal for all ages. I will admit, Tim is currently making this for dinner. So, the smells wafting from the kitchen may be influencing my decision.
Angelinos tend to be relatively health-minded, active people. Do you find that locals are receptive to your goals as a chef and mentor, in terms of cooking cleaner/healthier food?
Yes and no. I think for a lot of Angelinos, their intention is to eat healthier and cleaner. But I have observed that on a foundational level, many people do not know what true health is. Yes, food is an important component, as is mental health, emotional health and social health. To me, the critical key for true health is knowing which foods work best in your body. Then true health integrates and balances all of those factors. When we zone in on food specifically, there are two main culprits that have kept many of my clients from fulfilling their wellness goals.
One, is simply lack of body awareness. Every BODY is different. We each have different needs and respond to specific foods differently. However, many of us go through life without acknowledging our bio-individuality and incorporating it into our health protocols. So, first things first: know your body’s cues. Actually listening to our body when it communicates to you, and respond accordingly. Typical chronic symptoms include headaches, sinus congestion, IBS, bloating after meals, psoriasis and digestive issues. Know which foods are your personal super foods helps you feel energized and vibrant. We use our Curry Girls Cleansing with Food Reset to help our clients discover which foods help them eliminate chronic symptoms and put autoimmune into remission. Taking action is a person’s first step in health prevention and not getting complacent if things feel “off.” All too often people are just willing to accept fixable chronic symptoms because it’s “always been that way” or “it’s not that big of a deal.” I can tell you firsthand how impactful it is to honor your body’s needs.
The second issue that keeps people from optimal nutrition, is the use of subpar ingredients. When I meet people, who are otherwise “doing everything right,” the missing link is usually the quality of their food. Most people living in Los Angeles understand how toxic our modern agricultural industry is today using chemicals and pesticides to grow our food. We give thanks to the numerous food documentaries that have educated us that not all food is created equal. If you want to get the most bang for your buck nutritionally, the bulk of your ingredients should be fresh, organic, local and in season. We Angelinos are spoiled by our incredible farmers and markets. Our farmers markets are the greatest for finding whole, close to the source ingredients. The farther our food is from its source, the lower the it’s nutritional value. Knowing your farmers and how your food is grown is a gift we have living so close to our food source.
Where did you raise your kids? What do you love about living and working in So Cal?
We were blessed to raise our kids in Manhattan Beach. In fact, our family has been living on the same block for the past 40 years. I can tell you, as a lifelong resident, the best thing about the SoCal beach lifestyle is the sense of community. While our girls were growing up, they were among 36 kids in our 20-house cul-de-sac. It was a total blast! Block party vibes always! The best part was how everyone took care of everyone’s kids. To this day, even though our block has changed, there is still such a feeling of neighborly support. When the kids were all growing up it was like one big family. We all rallied to support each other. And, if heaven forbid anything bad were to happen, our amazing community always shows up to help when needed.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
1 1⁄4 lb. ground dark meat chicken, turkey or beef
½ -3/4 cup organic ketchup
2 teaspoon Mexican seasoning blend
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground chili pepper or pepper flakes (optional)
Organic gluten free coconut, almond, corn or brown rice tortillas
Heat pan on medium heat.
Brown ground meat, and crumble meat with fork, until browned.
Add the seasonings, then the ketchup.
Simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
Keeping the meat nice and moist. Add a little more ketchup if needed.
While meat is cooking, ready the following:
1 pie plate or quiche dish
3 gluten free tortillas, unheated
1 can refried black beans, pinto beans or another exotic flavor of refried beans
1 fresh corn cob husked and shucked off from the cob or 1 can of organic corn
1-2 cups grated cheese blend: jack and cheddar cheeses, feta and or a specialty Mexican cheese blend package.
Layering your taco pie:
Start with one tortilla; spread a heaping spoonful or more of refried beans onto the tortilla.
Make sure you have enough to repeat for two more layers. You can eyeball the can in third.
Spread a third of the meat mixture over the beans.
Next, sprinkle with corn.
And last, top with grated cheese blend.
Repeat two more times.
Sprinkle top with Mexican seasonings and chopped fresh cilantro.
Bake at 350 uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until hot, browned and bubbly.
Topping Ideas: Guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.
Vegetarian: Use vegan crumbles, cooked brown rice, diced zucchini, corn and black beans.
Dairy-free: Use Kite Hill almond crumbles, Daiya or Follow Your Heart brand vegan cheeses.