Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top Ten Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Tips~

It's almost Thanksgiving Day - the day of giving thanks for all of our blessings in life and most importantly...overeating delicious, lovingly-prepared dishes that warm the heart and soul.

If you are a Celiac or eat gluten-free, you also know just how challenging this particular holiday can be when it comes to ensuring that NO and I mean NO trace of gluten/wheat flour is allowed to contaminate your food and ruin a day of blessings.

I put together my quick Top-Ten List of Thanksgiving Gluten-Free Tips that will help you through the entire process, from the kitchen to the dining room table. I have learned throughout the past ten years, just how important these tips are in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable meal to be thankful for.

Top-Ten Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Tips:

1. Make sure that your kitchen is sterile and clean, erasing any trace of gluten/flour, keeping a safe cooking environment. This is especially important if you are cooking in tandem at someone else’s home who may not have a gluten-free kitchen.

2. Sterilize ALL cooking utensils and cook ware that you will use to prepare the meal, from start to finish. Again, especially important if you are eating or cooking at someone's home who is not a gluten-free eater. I can't overemphasize how important this is and how easy it is to pick up a spoon that was just dipped in gluten gravy and then use it to stir gluten-free ingredients. Whammo - contamination!

3. Turkey! Though everyone agrees that a good 'ole turkey bird is naturally gluten-free, you would be amazed at what happens to the poor bird by the time it arrives in your grocer's freezer. I have had to search for hours to find a gluten-free bird that has not been injected, basted, seasoned and saturated in gluten. There are so many preservatives used on your average turkey that are filled with gluten. I recommend buying an organic bird from Whole Foods or your local butcher that is guaranteed to be free of all gluten. It may take a little searching, but you will find a turkey that is safe. If all else fails, in the past I have simply purchased a small turkey breast for myself, basted it with butter and herbs and Viola - a safe Thanksgiving turkey.

4. Broth can be another tricky and dangerous area when cooking a Thanksgiving meal. All mainstream chicken, beef or veggie broths are loaded with modified food starch and other gluten products and can really ruin a good meal for a Celiac. Thankfully, there are loads of gluten-free broths now available that are also organic that must be used in your holiday cooking in order to avoid contamination. My favorite broth is Pacific Natural Foods free range chicken broth. Trader Joe's also has a fairly comprehensive list of GF products now and GF broth.

5. Bullion cubes have danger flashing all around them - did you know that? I found this out the hard way in years past. So if you are dining at a family or friends house this Thanksgiving, it is imperative that you make sure they are not utilizing any type of Bullion cube in their seasoning or homemade broth. Do your homework on this one and suggest your gluten-free chicken broth instead!

6. Whipping cream is harmless, right? NOT. Thanks to my sister-in-law, she just recently showed me a container of Knudsen whipping cream that's sold in the dairy section. As she was reading the ingredients, she noticed that this dairy product contained modified food starch, most-likely utilized as a "binder" to help thicken the product as it's whipped. This came as a shock to me and was really concerning. Make sure that if you are using a dollop of fresh whipping cream on anything you did not make yourself, you check with the host to verify that the product they used was gluten-free.

7. Vanilla, salt and spices are all wonderful ingredients for your holiday baking, but be careful to use only gluten-free products. Most people don't realize that even iodized salt can contain gluten. Though it's more expensive, I have been using fresh sea salts for several years now and feeling much better about the product. I really love the course Sel de Mer!

GF Vanilla extract is much easier to find now in even mainstream grocery stores, as well as spices that are safe. The key is to use the products that you have researched and know are safe. If you are eating away from home this holiday, just pack a bag with all of your GF products to bring to the host to use in whatever foods will be prepared and served to you. Anyone who knows and loves you will be more than happy to accommodate and keep you safe.

8. Gravy! - a staple of the Thanksgiving meal, yet as a Celiac, you must make sure to avoid ALL gravies containing roux/flour in the mix. It's actually easy to make a gluten-free gravy that is hearty and delicious - so you won't feel like you are missing out on a thing! Check out my blogger friend, Gluten Free Girl's site for her very easy and delicious GF gravy recipe!

9. The good stuff - Alcohol and Desserts - now what would Thanksgiving be without these tasty staples? Depending upon what you and your guests will be drinking during the holiday, here's a reminder of the "safe alcohol" that Celiacs and those avoiding gluten are able to drink.

Desserts are just a part of the traditional Thanksgiving feast, but for a Celiac, things need to be modified. But don't confuse "modified" with "boring!" There are a million GF dessert recipes on line, in hundreds of GF cookbooks (that actually taste good) and perhaps, in your own repertoire of homemade recipes. I love Pumpkin Pie, and am pretty sure you do too! There are ample sweets and aperitifs to choose from so you won't feel like you have missed out on a thing this Thanksgiving.

10. Be Thankful~ In these challenging times, no matter what disease we might suffer from, or loss we have experienced...there is ALWAYS something special in each of our lives to remember and give thanks for, to love and honor, and a way for us to share our hearts with the world.

A Very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to you all ~

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