October 2010 Issue

Thanksgiving, Gluten Free and Satisfying — Safe and Healthful Foods for Clients
By Lenora Dannelke
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 12 No. 10 P. 8

The clan is gathered at the table passing the stuffing and gravy plus countless other typically gluten-containing dishes on which individuals with celiac disease must pass. A surprisingly modest amount of tweaking, however, can enable people with this autoimmune disorder to enjoy every bite of the feast.

“Thanksgiving is one of the easiest meals for people with celiac disease, as long as you’re doing everything fresh,” says Frank Baldassare, a gluten-free/allergy-friendly lifestyle authority and host of the online cooking show The Missing Ingredient (www.themissingingredienttv.com), who has firsthand experience living without gluten. And for clients with celiac disease, a worry-free meal provides a great reason to be thankful.

Let’s Talk Turkey
The inherently gluten-free nature of dinner’s focal point supplies an advantageous foundation. After all, as Elaine Monarch, founder and executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, notes, “Turkey is turkey.” Unfortunately, problematic ingredients may be added between farm and fork.

“Some conventional turkeys are pre-basted and there can be gluten in that basting, so I recommend buying a free-range or organic turkey,” says Baldassare. “Some of the kosher turkeys will state on the label that there’s no gluten. At the very least, check the ingredient list on a commercial turkey. A lot of the major brands that people may grab, thinking celiacs can have meat so this should be fine, might contain those ‘hidden’ glutens.”

Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, an award-winning RD and author with a nutrition counseling practice in Newport Beach, Calif., is familiar with unexpected problems that can arise. “My son, who’s a teenager, was diagnosed with celiac when he was a toddler. I live it as well as work with it,” she says. “I’ll never forget that first Thanksgiving. I thought I had everything nailed down until my sister-in-law was pulling out the turkey, and I discovered she’d used a baking bag. And you dust those with 2 tablespoons of flour. So my son could not eat the turkey, and we scrambled to find a frozen chicken breast!”

Tribole recommends planning as an essential ingredient of a successful holiday meal. “It can be very easy and very doable if you go over everything ahead of time. Hidden sources are an issue,” she says, citing wheat-based soy sauce used in a marinade or glaze as an example. “Another issue—a big one—is cross-contamination.”

To illustrate how easily this occurs, Tribole says simply placing a dinner roll on a plate and removing it may result in cross-contamination. Even miniscule amounts of ingredients with gluten on a kitchen prep surface, cutting board, or a cook’s hand can also contaminate other foods. “The FDA’s legal definition of gluten free is 20 parts per million. To give you a visual, that’s one tiny speck of crumb in a bread,” Tribole says.

The Right Stuff(ing)
Although a traditional wheat bread stuffing is off the menu, alternatives are deliciously varied. “The easiest way to make gluten-free stuffing—and to stretch food dollars in a bad economy—is to hold onto the heels of your gluten-free bread and put them in a bag in the freezer,” says Baldassare. “When Thanksgiving rolls around, toast the bread directly on an oven rack until [its] brown and dry, break into small cubes, and season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.” These croutons are then ready to go into your favorite bread-stuffing recipe. Baldassare offers a reminder to check the gluten-free status of any sausage included in the stuffing. “Many companies use gluten fillers in their sausages,” he says.

Going with the grain is another option, if explored carefully. “Some of the grains can be problematic,” Baldassare says, listing barley as a source of gluten. To ensure oats are safe, stick with designated gluten-free products such as those made by Bob’s Red Mill. “Kasha, a kind of buckwheat that a lot of kosher people eat, is gluten free and prepared in a gluten-free environment, so you could use that. Quinoa, a great grain with a nutty flavor and a texture like couscous, is a perfect substitute for stuffing. You can doctor it with dates and nuts and seasonal flavors,” Baldassare explains. Prerinsed quinoa eliminates the step of washing a naturally occurring film from the grain.

Rice, too, may be swapped for bread in stuffing. Manufacturing processes may create contamination, though, so encourage clients to check labels or choose a reliable brand. The wide spectrum of colors, tastes, textures, and blends offered by Lundberg—all certified gluten free—elevates rice stuffing to gourmet fare.

For optimal safety, guests with celiac disease should ask the host to bake the stuffing outside the bird. “Don’t be embarrassed,” says Baldassare. “And offer to bring something. That way you can turn them onto a dish they’ve never tried, like quinoa, which is a perfect amino-acid grain. It packs a powerful nutritional punch and people love it! And you can’t screw it up, even if you’re not a great cook.”

Get on the Good Side of Sides
Freshly prepared side dishes afford the most control of ingredients. “I always talk to people about making things from scratch, especially cranberry sauce, which is so easy: Buy some cranberries, boil them in water, add a little tangerine or orange juice and honey, and you’ve got homemade cranberry sauce,” says Baldassare. “Canned cranberry sauce in itself could be fine, but you have to be careful about where it’s manufactured.” If the plant processes wheat products, cross-contamination can occur.

Traditional green bean casseroles contain less-than-obvious glutens. “Those crunchy onions on top are made with flour. And if canned soup is used, that has flour, too,” says Tribole. A homemade version, prepared with heavy cream and topped with crisped shallots, supplies a sophisticated substitute.

Gravy and sauces usually thickened with flour may be prepared with cornstarch or rice flour, or look for gluten-free mixes made by Road’s End Organics and Maxwell’s Kitchen. “There are so many more choices in gluten-free processed foods than there were 30 years ago,” says Monarch. “It was not a $2 billion business then.” Whole Foods Market carries an extensive selection of gluten-free products, and a recently debuted gluten-free version of Bisquick will put biscuits on the Thanksgiving table.

Just Desserts
There’s no need to skip iconic pumpkin pie—clients can just make it with a frozen gluten-free crust or mix, prepare the crust with almond flour, or watch the kosher episode of The Missing Ingredient for a fabulous quinoa tart crust recipe.

Guests with celiac disease can also ask their host to pour a serving of pumpkin filling into a custard cup. “Those can be baked together in the oven as long as they don’t touch,” says Tribole.

Eating only the filling from a wheat crust is a risky endeavor for people following a gluten-free diet. “When the knife cuts through the crust and is pulled up through the filling, the pie is contaminated,” says Tribole.

Baldassare prefers to surprise people with clafoutis, a French dessert. “Granted, it’s not traditional, but it’s adaptable to seasonal fruits such as pears or apples,” he says. “Clafoutis is very easy to make, and you always look like a rock star when you make it.”
And that’s a pretty sweet way to end a celiac-friendly Thanksgiving meal.

— Lenora Dannelke, a freelance writer based in Allentown, Pa., covers food and travel for numerous publications.


Wild Rice Stuffing With Pine Nuts, Dried Cranberries, and Fresh Herbs

Courtesy of Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD
Yields 10 servings

This is the very first gluten-free Thanksgiving stuffing Tribole created after her son was diagnosed with celiac disease, and she notes, “It’s quite tasty!”

2 cups wild rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 T olive oil, divided
2 large ribs celery, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 T minced fresh sage
1/2 cup minced parsley
Freshly ground pepper

Combine rice and stock in a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender, about 40 minutes. (Not all of the liquid will be absorbed.)

Meanwhile, place a small, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add pine nuts. Toast until nicely browned, stirring constantly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer them to a plate and set aside to cool.

Add 1 T of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Swirl to coat the pan and cook the celery, carrots, and onion until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, sage, and parsley and cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat.

Heat the oven to 350˚F.

When rice is tender, add cooked vegetable mixture to rice. Add reserved pine nuts and cranberries and stir to combine. Add a few grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Use remaining 1 T of oil to grease a 2 1/2-qt oven-to-table casserole dish. Spoon in rice stuffing and cover. Bake until heated through, 20 minutes. (The stuffing can be prepared up to one day in advance. Refrigerate, covered, and bring to room temperature 1 hour before baking. Increase baking time to 40 minutes to ensure it’s heated through.)

Nutrient Analysis per serving (using vegetable stock)
Calories: 218
Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 177 mg
Carbohydrate: 37 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sugar: 9 g
Protein: 6 g