Gluten-Free Cooking Tips for the Holidays from Carol Fenster

For the millions of Americans with gluten-intolerance, some parts of the holiday meal---especially gravy, pie, stuffing, and rolls---spell trouble because they’re made with wheat, the primary source of gluten. Carol Fenster offers gluten-free cooking tips to make the holidays special for everyone.

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Gluten-Free Pecan Pie

Holiday foods should be about joy and celebration, not deprivation

Littleton, CO (Vocus) November 10, 2010

Holiday time means turkey dinners with all the trimmings. For the millions of Americans with gluten-intolerance, some of those trimmings---especially gravy, pie, stuffing, and rolls---spell trouble because they’re made with wheat, the primary source of gluten.

“Holiday foods should be about joy and celebration, not deprivation,“ says Carol Fenster, a gluten-free cooking expert and author of Gluten-Free 101, a cookbook for beginners. Gluten is a protein in wheat and also in rye, barley, and spelt. “Although gluten-grains are healthy choices for most people,” says Fenster, “gluten is toxic for those with celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance.”

There is no cure for gluten-intolerance; the only treatment is a gluten-free diet. To maintain holiday joy for everyone, here are her gluten-free solutions:

Gravy: Smooth, creamy gravy is a staple with a turkey dinner, but gravy is usually thickened with wheat flour. What to do? For every tablespoon of wheat flour Fenster uses 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, which makes clear, somewhat transparent gravy. For a more “gravy-like” consistency, Fenster prefers sweet rice flour (available at health food stores or online) in the same amount as wheat flour. Regardless of which thickener you use, use a fat separator to remove fat from the turkey drippings for healthier gravy.

Pie Crust: Everyone wants pie during the holidays—especially pumpkin or pecan--- but making a gluten-free crust is enough to shake the most confident cook. Use your favorite recipe and follow Fenster’s easy pie crust tutorial. If rolling the dough seems daunting, simply press the crust into the pie pan with your fingers. Still too hard? Forget the crust, bake the pumpkin or pecan filling in individual ramekins and serve as custard or pudding.

Stuffing: Use your favorite stuffing recipe, substituting store-bought or homemade gluten-free white bread or gluten-free cornbread in the same amount. Some families serve stuffing made from long-grain and wild-rice, avoiding the gluten issue entirely. Some cooks are surprised to learn that the store-bought chicken broth they use in stuffing could contain wheat (as a thickener) so read labels carefully to find a safe brand or make your own broth.

Bread: Rather than rolls, Fenster makes French bread because the long, narrow loaves bake more quickly than full-size loaves of bread. It also eliminates the tedious shaping of individual rolls by hand. French bread bakes in 30 minutes while the turkey rests, meaning the bread is ready just as the turkey is carved and ready for serving.

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