What to Know About Being Gluten Free During the Holidays
As wonderful as the holidays are, they can also be quite stressful – especially for those who are gluten free. From family dinners and parties with friends to potlucks at work, you’ll get plenty of practice checking and double-checking recipes and food labels.
To make sure you make it through the holidays without an incident, we’ve assembled a collection of gluten free tips for holiday cooking, recommendations for holiday travel, and a handful of quick and easy holiday treats to share with friends and family.
Gluten Free Tips for Holiday Cooking
If you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, you’re already familiar with gluten free cooking. You know what ingredients to avoid, and you’re well-versed in the dangers of cross-contamination. During the holidays, however, you may find yourself facing some additional challenges such as preparing an entire meal for both gluten free and gluten-consuming guests.
To help you make it through the holiday season, here are some simple tips for holiday cooking:
- If you’re cooking multiple dishes at the same time, you’re likely to be a bit frazzled – instead of trusting yourself to remember which dishes are gluten free, try using some oven-safe tags to make things easy.
- For holiday potlucks and cookie swaps, ask everyone in attendance to send their recipes along with the list of what they’re bringing so you can double-check to make sure it is safe.
- To make a smooth, lump-free gravy to serve with your holiday turkey or roast, use sweet rice flour in the same quantity you would normally use wheat flour.
- If you’re converting a traditional recipe to gluten free, use a premade gluten free flour blend instead of trying to make direct substitutions – not all gluten free flours bake up the same way.
- If turkey is on the menu, fill it with gluten free stuffing or leave the stuffing out entirely – you can easily substitute veggies and herbs to ensure a flavorful bird.
When you’re attending a holiday party or potluck dinner, you need to be extra careful about sniffing out the gluten free dishes. You can’t assume that everyone in attendance knows about your dietary restrictions or, if they do, that they understand them enough to ensure that the dish they’ve prepared is actually gluten free.
When in doubt, it is best to do without – even if it means bringing a couple gluten free dishes of your own to share. If you don’t have the ability to bring your own food, here are some questions you can ask your host to determine whether the food they’ve prepared is safe for you to eat:
- Did you prepare the food using a cutting board also used for gluten-containing foods?
- Did you strain the gluten free pasta using a colander also used for wheat pasta?
- Did the turkey (or chicken) contain gluten-containing stuffing during cooking?
- Did you use a wooden rolling pin to make the cookies?
- Did you use a fresh stick of butter when adding butter to the mashed potatoes?
- Did you use cornstarch or gluten free flour to make the gravy?
- Did you wash your knives and utensils before preparing gluten free food items?
In addition to asking these questions, you may want to check the ingredients labels for things like seasoning mixes, mixed nuts, and other items that could contain gluten. It is always better to be safe than sorry, so don’t worry about coming across as rude by asking these questions.
If all else fails, remember that there are a variety of meal delivery services that specialize in preparing gluten free meals for their customers. Do some research and find out which one works best for you.
Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Travel
If you’re traveling to see family this holiday season, it is important to plan ahead to make sure you don’t have any incidents. Start by talking to the family you plan to visit to see what their plans are for the duration of your stay. You’ll want to know whether all of the meals are being prepared at home or if you’ll be going out to a restaurant.
Once you have a sense for what the trip is going to look like, you can start planning ahead. Here are some tips for stress-free holiday travel:
- Prepare or purchase plenty of gluten free snacks. Not only will you want them for the trip, but you should pack enough snacks to last through the duration of your visit.
- Do some research about local restaurants that offer gluten free options – if you end up going out to eat, you’ll be able to make some suggestions.
- Bring some of your favorite gluten free recipes so you can offer them to your host for holiday meals or prepare them yourself to share.
- If you’re traveling by plane and have limited space to bring gluten free food with you, you can always ship some of it to your destination, so it will be there when you arrive.
- Consider buying dining cards that explain your dietary needs in detail – not only can you use them when dining out, but it might be helpful to give one to your host, so they can better understand your dietary needs.
When it comes to staying gluten free during the holidays, particularly while traveling, you need to make your health a priority. The last thing you want is to spend the holidays in bed (or on the toilet) due to accidental gluten ingestion.
Quick and Easy Holiday Treats
Whether you need a batch of cookies to bring to the holiday potluck at work or you’re looking for a simple recipe to share with your family, these quick and easy holiday treats are sure to hit the spot. These recipes are super simple and you probably already have most of the ingredients in your gluten free pantry. So, give them a try!
Coconut No-Bake Cookies
These simple no-bake cookies can be made in thirty minutes or less, and they require just four ingredients. A tasty combination of chocolate, nuts, and coconut, they are sure to be a hit.
- 4 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate
- ½ cup chopped almonds (or other nuts)
- ½ cup shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons crushed Schär Gluten Free Honeygrams
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or waxed paper).
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler then remove from heat and stir smooth.
- Stir in the almonds, coconut, and graham cracker crumbs.
- Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet in small mounds, flattening them slightly.
- Chill until the cookies are firm, about 20 minutes.
Chocolate Silk Pie
Creamy and decadent, this chocolate silk pie is guaranteed to impress. What your guests will really be impressed with, though, is the shortbread cookie crust.
- 1 cup raw pecans
- 5 ounces Schär Shortbread Cookies
- 6 tablespoons butter, chopped
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 6 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the shortbread cookies and pecans in a food processor and pulse until fine and crumbled.
- Add the butter and pulse until it comes together then press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until browned then set aside to cool.
- Whisk together the heavy cream, chopped chocolate, and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan.
- Cook over medium-low heat until the chocolate melts.
- Combine the cornstarch and the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl then whisk in the egg yolks.
- Bring the chocolate mixture to a simmer then whisk 2 tablespoons into the egg mixture.
- While whisking constantly, drizzle the egg mixture into the saucepan and cook for about 2 minutes until thickened.
- Remove from heat then whisk in the butter.
- Pour the filling into the prepared crust and top with plastic wrap.
- Chill for at least 4 hours until set then top with whipped cream to serve.
- For a little holiday flair, sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies or holiday-themed sprinkles.
Cranberry Pear Turnovers
The holidays are the perfect time to enjoy cranberries and there is no better recipe than these cranberry pear turnovers. Best of all, you can make them gluten free with Schär Puff Pastry Dough.
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries
- 1 medium pear, cored and diced
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- 2 sheets frozen, thawed
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons heavy cream
- Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Cook until the sugar dissolves then stir in the cranberries, pears, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer on medium-low for 10 minutes.
- When the cranberries are softened, remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Cut the puff pastry into quarters then brush the edges of each square with milk.
- Spoon a teaspoon of the cranberry pear mixture in the middle of each square.
- Fold the pastry in half diagonally to form a triangle and place on the baking sheet.
- Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and filling.
- Whisk together the egg and cream then brush the tops of each turnover.
- Bake for 16 to 18 minutes until golden brown then serve warm.
The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with friends and family, but they are also a great opportunity for you to share your favorite gluten free recipes. It may take a little extra effort on your part, but it will be worth it when your gluten-consuming friends see just how delicious gluten free food can really be. Happy holidays!