Pass the gluten-free rolls and pumpkin pie this holiday season, even if you’re new to eating gluten-free. With planning and a few tips and tricks, a delicious, gluten-free meal is possible. After several years of learning to cook for my daughter with celiac disease, I’ve mastered the keys to serving safe, delicious gluten-free meals. Read on to learn my secrets and take away your worries.

Good News: Most of your Menu is Naturally Gluten Free 

As long as it’s not pre-seasoned, glazed, or in sauce, these items on your menu are all naturally gluten free: meat and seafood, vegetables and fruits, including most cranberry sauce, potatoes, and rice.  Our family’s holiday meals usually include a roast served with roasted potatoes and vegetables, gluten-free stuffing, and for dessert, a crumble instead of pie.

Local Bakeries Worth the Trip 

The trickiest part to enjoying gluten-free foods at the holidays can be desserts. You’ll want a gluten-free replacement for baked goods. If you have a reliable gluten-free baker in town, support their local business if you can. Pre-order to get your favorite flavors.

Grocery Store Grab & Go Items:

Sometimes when you’re busy, you just need to skip the lines, the traffic, or the cooking. These delicious gluten-free options were recently spotted at grocers and will do the trick when the holiday rush kicks in. Always carefully read and look for the gluten-free label. Many items made by the same brand contain wheat.

With planning and a few tips and tricks, a delicious, gluten-free holiday meal is possible.

Aldi – 

Cheddar biscuits. Mix in shredded cheese to make this no-fail seasonal item even better.

Sprouts – 

Do you love traditional green bean casserole? You’ll find Sprout’s own brand gluten-free french fried onions and Pacific Foods’ cream of mushroom soup. They also carry ready-to-use Imagine Foods gravy.

Trader Joe’s – 

Pumpkin muffin mix. My daughter says it makes the best gluten-free muffins hands down. I’m happy to find TJ’s turkey gravy clearly labeled gluten-free this year. Gluten-free pie crust in the frozen section is only available this time of year. You’ll find stuffing at TJs. It’s easy, but skip it. It cooks up salty and mushy. Make your own from cornbread. Trader Joe’s gluten-free cornbread mix is an easy find.

Various Chain Grocers –

Daiya Pumpkin Cheesecake – Need dessert for just one or two? Dress up this yummy dairy-free dessert with a stencil and powdered sugar.

Sneaky Places where Gluten Hides

It seems gluten is found everywhere, in so many products, even those you don’t suspect. While preparing your meal, rely on these brands and tips.* 

  • Broth: Sprouts and Trader Joe’s brands, Pacific Foods, Imagine Foods.
  • Seasonings: McCormick’s. 
  • Salad dressing: Look online for a recipe and whip up your own easy vinaigrette with ingredients you have on hand like olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and spices. 
  • Beer: Serve wine or cider instead.
  • Sprinkles: Betty Crocker’s are mostly gluten free and are all labeled clearly.
  • Seasoned packaged chips: Popchips, Kettle Brand chips, and Tostitos and Mission brand tortilla chips are all gluten free. 

*Things change. Always read labels to be sure a brand’s formula or method of preparation is safe.

All About Gravy – You got this!

“Regular” holiday gravy can easily be made gluten free by using cornstarch (most brands are gluten-free) or potato starch. Use half the amount the recipe calls for. Whisk the starch-water mixture in with the hot broth continuously until thickened, taking care not to boil if you’re using potato starch. My favorite way to thicken gravy is to whisk in spoonfuls of mashed potatoes until it reaches the desired consistency.

Gluten-Free Baking Tips

  • Think small. Make muffins or cupcakes which retain moisture better than a full-sized cake or loaf.
  • Let your batter rest for 20 minutes before baking to allow dry ingredients to absorb moisture.
  • Easy as pie is not so easy when baking gluten free. If you can tolerate oats, try a crumble instead. Use what you have on hand as a filling. My favorite fillings are apple mixed with frozen berries or peach. Be sure to make the topping using gluten-free oats. I make a 9-inch crumble topping by mixing together this easy-to-remember ratio: 1/2 cup of each – gluten-free oats, gluten-free flour, brown sugar, and 1 stick melted butter. You’ll find Bob’s Red Mill brand at most grocers, and Trader Joe’s carries their own brand. 
  • Try a good mix: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Muffin mix makes some of the best muffins from a mix ever. Sticky Fingers gluten-free scones bake up just as delicious as their original blends.
  • No time to bake? Gluten-free Oreos taste just like the original. Melt some white chocolate and add colorful sprinkles. 

Play it Safe: A Word about Cross-Contact

Parties and gatherings are tricky for those with wheat allergies or celiac disease. Set up your party for success by keeping gluten-free items separate. Here’s how I keep my kiddo safe from cross-contact when preparing food and eating with a group.

When cooking: 

If guests help in the kitchen, remind them to follow these guidelines, too. I like to work side-by-side with family to show them how to keep things safe. 

  • Wipe down countertops, and rinse utensils, pans, and baking dishes before getting started.
  • Prepare gluten-free dishes first.
  • Set aside one counter or tabletop that is only for gluten-free foods. 

When serving: 

  • Serve those who must eat gluten-free first to avoid cross contact.
  • If serving buffet-style, designate one counter for gluten-free only foods.
  • Provide a designated serving spoon for each dish. 
  • Prepackaged, individual sized chips won’t get contaminated by everyone dipping their hands in. Or, set aside a bag of chips just for gluten-free family members. 

Enjoy your meal!  With proper planning and knowledge, you can break bread with all your guests and feel at ease.

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