Gluten-Free Holiday Cooking Tips

Thanksgiving Painting

While originally written for Thanksgiving, this cooking guide works for any holiday or gathering – Christmas, New Year’s parties, Easter – where you are hosting a bunch of people!

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in spring of 2006.  Fall 2007 was my first Thanksgiving, and I was scared.  Feeling sorry for me, my dad bought me an early Christmas present – my navy blue KitchenAid mixer.  I still use it today.  I also took a cooking class by Claudia Pillow, co-author of this book, which was incredibly helpful.  The next years have been an exercise in trial and error.  There have been successes and failures.  Lessons have been learned along the way.

Because so many Thanksgiving standards contain gluten, I would bring my versions to our family’s big Thanksgiving celebration.  That’s a lot of food to bring – stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, desserts.  Over the years, I learned what I was willing to do on Thanksgiving – the modified standards that were a must-have – and those I could do without.

My family got the hang of it too.  My grandmother now makes her candied sweet potatoes with gluten-free flour and thickens her gravy with corn starch.

While I don’t have the grocery budget or the time to cook Thanksgiving standards for all of you (sorry), I still wanted to give you tips for having a successful gluten-free Thanksgiving, especially if this is your first gluten-free holiday, or if you’re having a gluten-free guest over to your house this year.

General tips:

  • Are you brand new to the gluten-free world?  Here’s my gluten-free starter guide.
  • Read all the labels.  Here are just a few foods you’d never guess have (or might have) gluten: canned chicken broth, ice cream, soup mixes, salad dressings, marshmallows, chewy candy like Twizzlers.  Information on deciphering labels is on my starter guide.
  • Whether you are the gluten-free guest for a large Thanksgiving gathering or you are cooking for a gluten-free guest on Thanksgiving, do not expect to have every dish gluten-free. The meat, a few sides and at least one dessert will be sufficient.  If you’re hosting and cooking the food, then it’s easy to make everything gluten-free.
  • Be thoughtful to make small changes that will easily make a dish gluten-free.  Use tapioca starch in gravy or gluten-free marshmallows in candied yams, for example.  If you’re cooking a turkey with a browning bag, use gluten-free flour in the bag – any gluten-free flour without xanthan or guar gum will do.  I usually use brown rice flour.
  • Hosts: never ever think “Oh, it’s just a little flour.”  Just 1/8th of a teaspoon is enough for me and many of my fellow celiacs to have a full-scale reaction.
  • Buy gluten-free rolls.  Udi’s and Schar both make great rolls.  Against the Grain makes a great baguette.
  • Let the gluten-free guest serve him or herself first.  Give them their own butter dish that is not contaminated by bread crumbs.  Remind your guests to keep each serving utensil with its appropriate dish.
  • Feeling crunched for time or intimidated about your first gluten-free attempt being on Thanksgiving?  There is no shame in utilizing mixes and other shortcuts!  My favorite gluten-free mixes these days are King Arthur flour, which are now carried at Target.  You can read my reviews of King Arthur gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix and yellow cake mix here.  Also, dress up gluten free store-bought cookies, like I did here.
  • Speaking of shortcuts – gluten-free pie crusts are available at most health food stores.  I love Whole Food’s gluten-free pie crust.

Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe

Nothing says Thanksgiving like stuffing.  Unfortunately, nothing says gluten like stuffing.  Have no fear, you can modify your favorite homemade stuffing recipe into your new gluten-free standard.  There are a few simple tips:

  1. Make a flourless cornbread recipe.  You’ll find about a thousand variations online.  They just use corn meal.  Make two batches a day before you prepare the stuffing.  Make sure your corn meal says gluten-free on the box, and don’t use white corn meal.  (White corn has a small amount of natural gluten and some people including yours truly react to it).
  2. One of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving is Grandmommy drying cubed bread for her stuffing.  She dries it overnight so it is dry and crisp and ready to be included in the stuffing.  You do the same with gluten-free bread, but it takes substantially longer to dry out.  Dry it out for a day, turning occasionally, but still be prepared to stick it in a hot oven while the bread crumbs truly dry out.
  3. A key to making great stuffing is starting out with a moist stuffing mixture.  To get the gluten-free mix to the proper moistness, prepare to use two or three or four times more liquid than normal.  This means keeping a very close eye on the level of saltiness.  I usually dilute low-sodium chicken broth.  Be prepared to use a lot more broth!

Here is my stuffing recipe.  It’s really good, but you can also use the tips above to modify your favorite stuffing recipe!

Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe
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Ingredients
  1. 1 batch gluten-free corn bread, two round nine-inch pans, baked, crumbled and dried out
  2. 1 loaf gluten-free bread (12 ounces), cut into cubes. I use Udi's White Bread
  3. 1 pound pork sausage, crumbled and pan fried - you can use sage, normal pork breakfast sausage, spicy Italian...really whatever kind of sausage you want.
  4. 4 tbs butter
  5. 1 large onion, diced
  6. 1 pint sliced mushrooms
  7. 2 c. sliced celery
  8. ½ tsp. salt
  9. ½ tsp rubbed sage
  10. 1 tsp thyme
  11. 1 c. pecans or hazelnuts
  12. 1 c. Craisins
  13. 4 - 6 c. low sodium, gluten-free chicken broth – enough to get it VERY moist
  14. * adjust the extra veggies, dried cranberries and nuts as you wish. I think I always end up putting more of everything. I like my toppings.
Instructions
  1. Cube bread and dry in a 350-400 degree oven until they're dry and toasted, about 30 minutes, flipping occasionally. Crumble cornbread, let dry overnight.
  2. The day of: Cook sausage and crumble. Set aside. Use a tablespoon or so of the sausage drippings and butter to sweat (sautee, but so they're still crunchy) the onions, mushrooms and celery, adding in the spices and salt. Quickly toast the nuts in a dry frying pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the crumbled corn bread, bread cubes, sausage, sautéed veggies, nuts and craisins. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until it is thoroughly moistened. Think soggy. If you don't add enough broth, the stuffing will be dry and mealy. Be careful with chicken broth. Canned chicken broth many times has gluten. Check the label.
  4. Cover with foil and bake at 400 for 1 hour. This is a wonderful recipe. My favorite part are the Craisins! They add a sweetness and color.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

Autumn Salad

Make a big naturally gluten-free salad!  My fall salad with pomegranate hazelnut vinaigrette, lettuce, pomegranate seeds, green onions, pumpkin seeds and Parmesan cheese will have no one missing the gluten!

Gluten-Free Gravy

Make a roux just like you normally would, but use tapioca starch flour or sweet white rice flour.

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole, oh how I miss you.  I usually skip this side because it is a lot of work.  I made it the first Thanksgiving after my sister was diagnosed with gluten intolerance because I wanted that Thanksgiving to be full of good memories for her.  (Best big sister award, or what?!)

Here’s the recipe I use.  It’s pretty good.  It takes forever.

This dish is something that over the years I decided wasn’t a priority for me.  I now prefer a simpler green bean dish with steamed beans and bacon.  Because what’s better than bacon?

Candied Yams

Candied yams or candied sweet potatoes are a classic, and easily modified to be gluten free.

Namaste Spice Cake Mix

Quick Pumpkin Bread

Make this quick pumpkin bread!

One pack of gluten-free spice cake mix – I use Namaste
1 egg
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin
Up to 1.5 cups of pecans and golden raisins, your preference.

Bake per the cake’s instructions.

Pecan Pie

Gluten Free Baking Classics by Analise Robers contains the world’s greatest pecan pie recipe ever.  Buy it.  Bake it.  Love it.

Banana Bread

Make my gluten-free banana bread.  It’s a perfect breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.  And it makes a great on-the-go breakfast for Black Friday, too!

Do you have any more questions, suggestions or advice?  Put them in the comments section.

King Arthur Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix Review

gluten free king arthur cupcakes

A month ago, I wrote a review of King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix.  (Spoiler alert – it’s really good).

The nice people at King Arthur read my review (because I’m famous like that), and sent me some boxes of their other yummy gluten-free mixes.  I have been excited to try them so I can give you the scoop.

Even though King Arthur sent me the flours free of charge, which was very nice of them, I promise that my reviews are unbiased.  When I told this to the nice lady at King Arthur, she assured me that King Arthur wanted my review to be authentic, good or bad, so they can know how to improve their product.  I’m glad that’s their philosophy.

I decided to try the King Arthur Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix to make cupcakes for a girl’s night a few of us threw in honor of our friend who had a baby over the summer.  It was a busy summer, and a baby shower slipped by us, and so we figured that since she was no longer pregnant, wine should be involved.  Wine means girl’s night.  Girl’s night means cupcakes.  And cupcakes mean this great gluten-free cake mix by King Arthur!

First off, this mix makes a full batch – a full 9×13″ pan, two cake rounds, or about two dozen cupcakes.  It’s about $6.50, which is a bit pricy for a gluten-free mix.  However, many mixes are $4.50 – $5.00, but only make half a batch.  In the end, this price works.

All gluten-free mixes are going to be more expensive than baking a gluten-free cake from scratch IF you are already gluten-free and are willing to invest in the $30 or $40 of flour it takes to get a baking stash going.  If you’re new to being gluten-free or if you’re not gluten-free and baking for someone who is, grab a mix.

flour mix

The thing that I love about King Arthur mixes is they have specific instructions.  Follow them.  King Arthur’s instructions allow for a light and fluffy cupcake.  You mix in the butter and oil and half the flour mix.  Then eggs.  Then milk.  Then the rest of the mix.  I go into the reasons for this in more detail in my cookie mix review, so check it out if you want more info.  It’s all very sciencey.

My friend Gabby helped throw this girl’s night celebration.  She’s gluten-free/casein-free.  She can’t have wheat or dairy.  I wanted the cupcakes to be safe for her, so I used DariFree potato milk and Earth Balance margarine.  The substitution worked perfectly.

cupcakes

After everything is mixed, you have the most beautiful and smooth batter.  It’s dark yellow from all those egg yolks!

I used the squishy measuring cup from my aunt Brenda to pour the batter into each pan.  It was my least messy cupcake pouring experience.  That little dot of batter on the pan was my only spill.  So naturally I took a picture of it.  Just keeping it real.

cupcakesThe cupcakes were soft and barely sweet – perfect when paired with sugary frosting.

cupcakeI used my Cuisipro cupcake corer from Williams-Sonoma to cut out the inside of the cupcake.  I actually made a new frosting recipe,  but it failed.  Big time.  Luckily I had a container of Betty Crocker chocolate icing for my gluten-free, dairy free friend.  So I used that.

cupcake

Fill the cupcake.  Just use a spoon.  Don’t worry about it being perfect.  No one will know whether or not you filled your cupcake with an icing bag, what with all the icing slathered on the top.

sprinkles

And then dredge it in sprinkles.  Always check to make sure your sprinkles are gluten-free.  They’re one of those unsuspecting but common gluten-containing foods.

And voila – a super fancy cupcake made from a mix and store-bought icing.

This is a really great mix.  The cake is sweet, but not too sweet.  It holds up to frosting, but is still delicate.  I also like that on the King Arthur website, they give a few variations to make yummy bundt cakes.  You could make beautiful cupcakes or a cake for any occasion – a kid’s birthday party and holiday parties and showers.  And girl’s nights.

Speaking of girl’s night…

girls night

We had an awesome girl’s night.  It had all the best things: friends, edemame, baked brie with raspberry chipotle sauce, cupcakes, and wine.  Do you like my new wine charms?  I got them on clearance at Pier 1!

I give King Arthur Yellow Cake Mix two icing-covered thumbs up!

King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Cookie Mix Review

Do you remember in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Julia Roberts is explaining to Cameron Diaz that she’s crème brûlée, not Jell-O?  Well in most things I’m crème brûlée.  I inadvertently pick out the most expensive thing in the store every time.  My favorite china is $500 a place setting.  As I explained to my friend Emily one day about my decorating style – I don’t like shabby chic.  I like chic!  But when it comes to dessert, I’m Jell-O, metaphorically speaking.  My favorite dessert – most absolute favorite – is a perfect chocolate chip cookie.  There is no gold-leaf studded chocolate mousse that can come close to a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

I have a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve mastered, but every once in a while I need a mix.  Mixes are quick and easy and not messy.  They usually only make half a batch, which let’s face it, many times is a good thing.  Gluten-free baking mixes are more expensive than baking from scratch, so I use them sparingly.  This one was about $6.  However, if you’re new to the gluten-free world, or if you’re not gluten-free but wanting to bake something for a friend (in which case I’d like to say thank you for your intentionality on behalf of all celiacs!!!), grab a mix.

When I learned that King Arthur was venturing into the gluten-free world, I was thrilled.  Pre gluten-free diagnosis seven years ago, I used King Arthur products and loved them.  They’re the gold standard of flour.  True to their reputation, the nice people at King Arthur did not disappoint.  Of all the gluten-free cookie mixes out there, the King Arthur Gluten-Free Cookie Mix has to be my favorite.

There’s a few things I like.  First, the cookies bake well and taste amazing.  The flour mix is not gritty.  There is no aftertaste, no saying “this is good for gluten-free.”  No, these are just plain good.

Second, the dough tastes good.  Bad tasting cookie dough usually means the flour mix contains a bean flour.  Bean flours have beautiful consistency, but they taste like, well, beans.  The bean flavor cooks off after the dough is completely baked.  I, however, like chewy cookies, and chewy cookies are not cooked long enough to cook out the bean taste.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had bean-flavored chocolate chip cookies.  I have, and it’s not pretty.

Third, there are no chocolate chips in the mix.  My first reaction to this was something like – What? I have to buy chocolate chips, too?  Then I thought about the freedom inherent in this mix philosophy.  I can use semi sweet or dark chocolate.  If I’m making cookies for one of my gluten-free, casein-free friends, I can use casein-free chocolate chips.  I can add nuts and adjust my chocolate chip measurement so that my cookies don’t have too many mix-ins.  The flour mix has a brown sugar base, so I can use this for any brown sugar-centric cookie recipe, adding anything from M&Ms to peanut butter chips.  Yes, this is a very flexible gluten-free cookie mix!

The box has very specific instructions, which I recommend you follow.  It starts with creaming together half the flour mix and the stick of butter.  I learned about this baking strategy at the Gluten Free Allergy Expo.  The idea is to get every grain of the dry ingredients coated with butter so that the butter acts as a buffer between the grains of flour.  This method prevents the cookies from becoming dense.  Next add an egg and some water.  I forgot to take a picture of this part, but I promised it happened.  Mix that in.  Then stir in the rest of the flour mix.

Next is where you get to use your imagination.  The box says to use one to two cups of add-ins.  I ended up using a little more than that – probably two and three-quarters total of semi-sweet chocolate chunks and pecan pieces.

Next, the recipe says to smush the cookies down so they’re not mounds.  Bake in a 350 degree oven 10 – 12 minutes.

And, tada!!!!  I kept them in for about 10 minutes and then let them sit on the hot pan outside the oven for another minute or so.  This makes the cookie crunchy on the bottom and chewy in the middle – also known as perfect.

Look at this!  The cookies actually look like the picture on the box.  I’ve made these several times.  They are consistently wonderful.

It’s good to be Jell-O when it comes to dessert because there is nothing better than a perfect chocolate chip cookie.  King Arthur – thanks for making such a great mix!  You get two thumbs up from The Accidental Okie!