Thanksgiving Gluten-free Tips

Nov 25, 2013

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Are you or a loved one avoiding gluten this year? Are you puzzled or irritated or terrified about what to cook for Thanksgiving? Read on for some recipe ideas.

I’ve been asked if the gluten-free thing is just a new “fad diet” – it’s not. But no, not everyone needs to avoid gluten. It is, however, an enlightening experiment (perhaps in solidarity with your GF friends) to take gluten off your plate for a week or two. You’ll learn to read labels, diversify your diet, and make truly conscious food choices. AND you might see improvements in energy, mood, digestion, and chronic conditions. Highly recommend. (A good New Years project, perhaps?)


A Tale Of Gluten Revisited

As you might recall, I was gluten-free for 12 years. Eating gluten (and a number of other foods) caused me to swell up in unsightly ways. I changed my diet, healed up my gut, and reduced stress and inflammation and two summers ago I was able to add all my “forbidden foods” back onto my plate. Exciting!

I’ve been very careful about whole wheat, since I noticed that it makes me feel bloated, but it was such an amazing gift to be able to eat anything, anytime, anywhere – no more cooking and carrying food for the whole day! No more asking endless questions in restaurants! This delightfulness got a bit out of hand. It’s a slippery slope, a bagel here, a cracker there, some birthday cake, a croissant…

This fall I had a lot of low back pain. I thought it was a result of my reduced yoga practice due to a shoulder injury. I felt really creaky and ancient. After going on a vacation filled with a ridiculous amount of pasta and Scottish shortbread cookies, I decided to stop messing around and focus on my health. A simple plan, to insure success: I committed to 42 days of drinking at least 8oz of water, doing yoga first thing in the morning, and cutting out the gluten and the refined sugar.

After a day and a half, my back pain was gone.


The real question is, why didn’t I figure this out sooner?

My mother has joint pain when she eats gluten. I know it’s a genetic sensitivity. But I was lured in by the lack of overt, traceable symptoms. Sneaky, conveniently accessible gluten! Ah well. It’s still a blessing to be free from crazy swellings; I can choose a sandwich over starvation in cases of extreme need. And there may be some holiday cheating. But these are informed choices, rather than mindless wheat-eating.

On the up-side, it’s easier and easier to eat gluten-free; two restaurants in my little neighborhood offer GF pizza (and we only have 6 restaurants!).

Below are some resources for more information.

Celiac Disease Foundation

Gluten-free Support

Gluten Summit – conference proceedings of a recent week-long series of lectures on all aspects of gluten (physiology, history, shopping, cooking…)

Top 14: Gluten Sources To Avoid (Unless They’re Labeled “Gluten-Free”)

  1. Wheat (bread, flour, crackers, muffins, pasta, tortillas, cous-cous, bran)
    2. Rye
    3. Barley (barley malt, malt vinegar, malted milk)
    4. Triticale
    5. Kamut
    6. Oats
    7. Beer
    8. Soy sauce & shoyu
    9. Breaded foods
    10. Fried foods (cross-contamination from breaded foods)
    11. Soups & sauces thickened with flour
    12. MSG
    13. Miso & bouillion cubes
    14. Anything vague like “plant protein”, “vegetable protein”, “vegetable starch”, “dextrose”, “caramel color”

Reicpe: GF Gravy

Gravy is generally thickened with wheat flour. Instead, you can use an alternative grain flour such as rice flour, or the mix below – I had success with chestnut flour last year.

I’ve also used xanthan gum in the past to thicken gravies and sauces. Use about ¼ the amount of xanthan gum in place of the flour. For example, if the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of flour, use only ½ tablespoon of xanthan gum. Stir constantly over low heat til the gravy thickens. Be patient and resist the urge to add more xanthan gum.

Here are some more detailed instructions and ideas for GF gravy.
Recipe: Gluten-Free Flour Mix

From Living Without Magazine 
Makes about 3 cups: this is a good base for many gluten-free baking projects.

2 cups brown rice flour or chickpea flour, or a mix of the two

2/3 cups potato starch

½ cup tapioca starch

Mix all together and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Recipe: Yummy GF Biscuits

I found this recipe online several years ago. I make a double-batch so there are some left for the actual dinner after I’ve, er, tasted a few…

DRY ingredients:

1 ½ cup gluten-free flour mix

1 ¼ tsp xanthan gum

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 ¼ tsp dry yeast

WET ingredients:

¾ cup water

1 egg + 1 yolk

3 Tbs sugar

3 Tbs butter

½ tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Combine wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl: beat until blended.

Add half the dry ingredients. Beat until thick, 1 to 1 ½ minutes

With a wooden spoon, stir in remaining ingredients until well mixed.

Drop 12 rounds of dough on a greased cookie sheet. Let rise to double size.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Recipe: GF Pie Crust From Living Without Magazine

This has gotten rave reviews from my friends for many years, whether they are GF or not.

1 cup Gluten-free Flour Mix

2 Tbs sweet rice flour, or sugar, or a dash of stevia powder

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbs cold unsalted butter

1 egg

1 Tbs cider vinegar or lemon juice

Mix together the gluten-free flour, the sweet rice flour or sugar, and the salt.

Cut the butter into chunks and, using your fingertips, work the butter into the dry ingredients to form a coarse meal.

Make a well. Break the egg into the well. Add the vinegar or lemon juice.

Use a fork to stir from the center, working the flour into the egg to form a soft dough.

Shape into a flat cake. Cover and refrigerate if too soft to roll out.

To roll out: dust a large sheet of waxed paper with rice flour.

Put the dough ball down on this, and dust with more flour. Cover with more waxed paper, and roll the dough out between the sheets.