“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

A Gluten Free Holiday Menu
By Nathan Mandigo– Amma Therapist, Pulse Staff
This year the team at Pulse challenged me to come up with a gluten free menu for the holidays. Thinking through the dinners that I experienced when growing up, there were 3 main dishes that classically use flour: dressing/stuffing, gravy, and pies. But why stop at eliminating gluten and see if we can reduce or eliminate other things that are often irritants for people avoiding gluten like nightshades (potatoes, peppers, etc.) and sugar. What emerged was a list of recipes that, though maybe not “traditional”, embody the flavors and foods of the season.

For some of the home recipes below I should point out that I am a very free form cook and don’t always pay attention to how long things take or how much I put in. I have tried to give approximations where possible but encourage any tentative cooks to follow their taste buds, nose, and eyes when determining flavors and doneness.

The first up on our list is that holiday favorite, mashed potatoes. Kids love them because they are filling and fun to sculpt and play with, adults love them because they can be kids again and play with their food. Potatoes are very nutritious, but for those with weaker digestion, acid reflux or arthritis they can be hard on the system. This year how about trying squash or sweet potatoes for the main starch? Both are easy to digest and fabulously high in nutrients.

Mashed Butternut Squash

  • 1 Butternut Sqaush
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • Cinnamon and salt to taste
  • milk (optional)

There are two ways to go about mashing your squash. The first is to cut the squash in half and roast it in the oven until it falls apart. Cut the flesh out the skin, breaking up the strings, and mix with a little butter, cinnamon, and salt to taste. The second is to peel and cube the squash and to cook it on the stove top like potatoes.
Once tender, drain the squash, mash with butter, a little milk, cinnamon, and salt to taste.

Baked Sweet Potatoes or Yams
Most of us have frightening memories of Sweet Potatoes and Yams baked with mini marshmallows. This simple recipe yields a naturally sweet, flavorful dish with wonderful earthy tones. Despite common misperception sweet potatoes and yams are members of the morning glory family and not part of the night shade family, they are an ideal substitute for potatoes as they have similar starch content but are easier to digest.

  • 1 to 2 lbs sweet potatoes or yams peeled, washed, and diced
  • 3-4 tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 300º. Grease a baking dish and place the diced sweet potatoes or yams in the dish. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with spices. Bake uncovered until pieces are easily pierced with a sharp knife and top is a lovely golden brown approx 90 minutes. Note: Figure about 1/3 lb of sweet potatoes or yams per person, increasing the amount of veggies doesn’t necessarily require an increase in any of the other ingredients but feel free to keep the proportions as you like.

Traditional cranberry relishes are a mix of equal portions cranberries and sugar with enough water to allow the cranberries to cook. This recipe, which comes from one of my favorite cooking magazines, works to make over the classic cranberry goo into a bright, complex relish that is the perfect accompaniment for any meat.

Cranberry Chutney with Apple and Crystallized Ginger –
Cooks Illustrated Nov/Dec 2011 Issue

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 ounces (3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries, If using frozen cranberries, thaw them before cooking.
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ inch pieces

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add shallot, fresh ginger, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until shallot has softened, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add water, vinegar, and sugar. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add 1 ½ cups cranberries and apple; return to simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have almost completely broken down and mixture has thickened, about 15 minutes.

Add remaining 1 ½ cup cranberries and crystallized ginger, continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to burst, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl and cool for at least 1 hour before serving. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

The following recipe for a gluten free stuffing recipe comes from a fun site, The Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, that I came across while looking for recipe ideas. Any gluten free bread will work, though avoiding one that is heavy on seeds and whole grains is preferable.

Stuffing – From Gluten free Girl and the Chef website

  • 2 loaves gluten-free bread, diced into one-inch cubes, toasted and cooled
  • 2 large ribs celery, medium diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, medium diced
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

http://glutenfreegirl.com/this-is-the-gluten-free-stuffing-we-will-be-eating/Sautee the onion and celery in olive oil on medium-low heat until they are translucent. You will be able to smell the onions cooking at this point. (Take a deep whiff. That’s a beautiful smell.) Add the garlic, as well as the rosemary, sage, and thyme. Stir these in and cook until you can smell the herbs, about one to two minutes. Remove from heat.

Bring the chicken stock to boil on high heat. Place the egg yolk in a medium-sized bowl and carefully ladle two to three ounces of the chicken stock to the egg yolk, slowly, while whisking the mixture. Add the rest of the chicken stock to the egg mixture at this point. (Ladling a small portion of the stock into the egg first, and blending it, will prevent you from having scrambled eggs.)

Add the cooled celery, onion, and herbs mixture into the stock and egg mixture. Toss the bread cubes into this mixture and stir it all around with your hands (or a spoon), to coat the bread. Add the salt and pepper and toss the bread again. Place all of this into a greased casserole dish (big enough to hold three quarts) and cover it with aluminum foil.
Bake for twenty minutes at 425°, then remove the foil and bake for another ten minutes. Take a toothpick and stick it into the stuffing. If it comes out clean, the stuffing is done. If not, bake until the toothpick comes out clean.
Serves six to eight people, depending on their appetite for stuffing.

Many traditional gravy recipes start from butter and flour with drippings from the meat added to provide liquid. This alternative removes both the butter and flour but still has the rich silkiness of the traditional method.

This simple gravy is what my Mother-in-Law uses when the turkey is stingy with its drippings. This recipe uses cornstarch but arrow-root powder can be substituted 1 for 1. Also, the amount of thickener can be increased or decreased depending on how thick you like your gravy.

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth or enough to add to the drippings to make 2 cups
  • 2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix cornstarch with cold water and set aside. Reduce chicken broth over medium heat till you have about 1 ½ cups of liquid. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the cornstarch/water mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Return to heat and continue to cook until boiling, gravy will thicken as it cools.

No holiday meal would be complete with a couple of festive salads to balance out the heavier foods. The Beet and Pineapple salad is my alternative to the classic Jell-O fruit fluff that seems to turn up on many holiday tables, while the Rubbed Kale and Spinach is a wonderful take on a classic green salad.

Beet and Pineapple Salad
World Vegetarian Classics, Celia Brooks Brown, Published 2005 by Pavillion Books

Notes: The recipe suggests boiling the beets to cook them; I prefer to roast them in the oven to bring out their full sweetness. This is easily done by scrubbing the beats and trimming the leaves and roots down to no more than an inch. Place a beet in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, pour a small amount of olive oil over the beet to keep the foil from sticking, wrap and cook in a low oven (250) for 2-3 hours or until a skewer poked into a beet meets little resistance. Allow the beets to cool and slip off the skins and trim the ends for slicing. Roasted beets can be stored in the foil in the fridge for 3 to 4 days before using.

The original proportions of the recipe are to serve 4. It is possible to increase the beets and pineapple significantly without increasing the other ingredients and still have a wonderfully balanced dish. If the flavors become too sweet, increase the white wine vinegar a ½ tbsp at a time and salt to taste until flavors balance.

If using raw beet (and not roasting them), bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Scrub the beets and boil until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Drain, cool and slip off the stems, roots, and skins.

  • 9 oz cooked beet
  • ½ large fresh pineapple (I use canned in water when fresh is not available in my area)
  • 1 small onion, sliced into thin rings (purple onion works very well here)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar

Slice the cooked beet thinly. Cut the pineapple into 1 inch thick round slices, then cut the skin away. Cut the tender flesh away from the core and into bite sized pieces. In a (preferably) ceramic or glass bowl, combine the beets, pineapple and onion rings. Mix the vinegar, salt and sugar together, then toss through the salad. Leave to stand for 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld, stirring occasionally.

Rubbed Kale or Chard and Spinach Salad
This salad and its many potential variations is a perennial favorite amongst the practitioners at Pulse. This version utilizes some of the best of fall flavors to create a bright and colorful dish.

  • 1 bunch kale or chard
  • 1 bunch spinach washed and drained
  • 1 green apple, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup roasted walnuts or pecans
  • ½ cup blue cheese (optional)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Wash and trim kale or chard in a sink of warm water. Gently rip, tear or cut the leaves into small pieces. Remove any heavy stems. Shake off excess water and then roll kale or chard in a clean towel to dry. Place in a bowl with olive oil and salt. Gently massage or rub the oil and salt into the kale or chard until it begins to soften and break down and become limp—10-15 minutes. Mix kale with the rest of ingredients and toss with vinegar to coat.

Since many people have their preference for turkey or roast and how to cook those, I am skipping the meat dish and going straight to dessert. The following for Gluten Free Pie Crust is again borrowed from The Gluten Free Girl and the Chef website. Feel free to fill the pie with your family favorites, though I have worked to keep sugar to a minimum in other places, dessert should be a guilt free affair.

Gluten-Free Pie Crust

  • 1 1/4 cup (5 ounces) almond flour (this is not the same as almond meal)
  • 2/3 cup (2 ounces) gluten-free oat flour
  • 2/3 cup (2 ounces) tapioca flour
  • 1½ cup (2 ounces) teff flour
  • ½ cup (3 ounces) potato starch
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) sweet rice flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp guar gum
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 5 tbsp butter, cold (or non-dairy butter sticks)
  • 4 tbsp leaf lard, cold (see website for notes)
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 to 8 tbsp ice-cold water

Finishing the dough. Combine the egg with 3 tablespoons of the water and whisk them together.Here’s where you can go two ways. If you want to do everything by hand, then do so. Add the eggy water to the dough. Work the dough together with your hands, or a rubber spatula, or whatever feels right. When the dough feels coherent, stop.
Or, you can do what I have reluctantly realized makes gluten-free pie dough even better than making it by hand: finish it in the food processor. Move the sandy dough to the food processor and turn it on. As the dough is running around and around, drizzle in the eggy water. Stop to feel the dough. If it still feels dry and not quite there, then drizzle in a bit more water. If you go too far, and the dough begins to feel sticky or wet, sprinkle in a bit of potato starch to dry it out. Again, after you make pies for awhile, you’ll know this by feel alone.

Making the crust. Wrap the pie dough in plastic wrap (or in a bowl) and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so. Take it out and roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper. This means you won’t work any extra flour into the dough. Roll it out as thin as you can. Thinner. Thinner. Come on, you can do it — thinner still. Carefully, lift the top piece of parchment paper and turn the dough upside down on the top of a pie plate. Rearrange until it is flat.

If the dough breaks, don’t despair. Simply lift pieces of the dough off the counter and meld it with the rest of the dough. Remember, there’s no gluten, so you can’t overwork the dough. Play with it, like you’re a kid again. Place the pie dough in the pie plate and crimp.

When you have a pie dough fully built, you are ready to make pie.
Put the pie pan in the refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 325° and make the filling.

Pumpkin Custard or Pie Filling
This is an old family favorite recipe of April’s. Use as a simple custard for breakfast or dessert or pour into your favorite type of pie shell.

  • 3 cups pumpkin or squash puree
  • (drain off excess water if necessary as some squash are watery)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cups maple syrup
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp clove
  • pinch of salt

Heat oven to 425º. Mix together all ingredients. Pour into oven safe baking dish. Bake at 425º for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 325º for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.


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