A Gluten-Free Holiday

Hosting a holiday dinner is like a culinary track and field event—a marathon with a bunch of high hurdles thrown in near the finish line. So the last thing you want to hear on the home stretch is that, oh by the way, Aunt Sophie can’t eat anything containing gluten, right?

You tick through the menu in your head: the stuffing, the gravy, the dinner rolls, THE PIE! It’s a veritable minefield of wheat-y wonders.

Fear not! With a handful of new pantry ingredients and a bit of ingenuity, you can whip up a holiday feast—including a hit parade of faves—that all of your guests will savor. No need to even announce to your assemblage of family and friends that the meal they’re about to fall upon and devour in mere minutes (despite your days of careful planning and preparation) is gluten-free at all.  Your guests will enjoy every last morsel, and you can fall into a satisfied post-dinner stupor, having discovered that ditching the gluten was as easy as, well, pie!

Helpful Hints

Size up your turkey carefully.  Turkey, the star of the day, would seem to be a no-brainer for the gluten-free table, but it can be a trickster. Steer clear of pre-stuffed turkeys, or those injected with basting solutions (um, yuck?) to help keep the bird juicy. The basting solution and the gravy packet that often accompany such turkeys can contain gluten. When in doubt, scan the label carefully for additives that may lurk in the fine print.

The best way to ensure that your turkey is free of gluten is to choose one that’s unstuffed, free-range, and organic.  And, frankly, that’s also the best way to ensure that your turkey is as delicious as can be.

Change up your sides. For many of us, turkey is beside the point anyway. It’s all about the side dishes—especially the stuffing! It’s a snap to replicate or replace traditional stuffing that’s baked inside or beside the bird. Gluten-free bread such as that produced by Udi’s or Rudi’s Organic Bakery is widely available and can be substituted in any recipe calling for cubes of bread. Just dry the cubes out before you incorporate them. Better yet, serve Wild Rice Stuffing filled with seasonal fruits and nuts, or make stuffing with Skillet Cornbread for a southern-inspired accompaniment.

Want something for the bread dish? Go with gluten-free Skillet Cornbread muffins to serve with the meal. Tuck the muffins into a napkin-lined basket along with miniature Bacon-Cheddar Scones and nobody will give a second thought to dinner rolls (ho-hum).

Mountains of mashed potatoes can be served with giblet gravy thickened with gluten-free flour or cornstarch. But you might consider serving a less traditional— but no less delicious—Potato-Gruyere Gratin instead, and drizzling the sliced turkey with a flavorful pan reduction sauce.

Sweet endings. You’d think that dessert would be the most daunting part of producing a gluten-free meal, but this is where you can really dazzle! This trio of delectable gluten-free desserts—Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, Ginger-Apple Crisp, and Pumpkin Eggnog Cupcakes—provides the perfect punctuation mark to your holiday feast.

One final footnote. While many food ingredients are naturally free of gluten, some are processed in facilities that also handle products that contain gluten. For people with celiac disease, even slight exposure to gluten has serious health implications. When preparing food for people who are extremely sensitive, be sure to read packaging carefully to ensure that all ingredients are certified gluten-free.

For more about celiac disease and gluten-free living, visit  celiac.org.

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