Holiday Baking: GF Safety for You Non-Celiacs

This post is a brush up for folks who have gf relatives coming by over the holidays. Or if you have someone new in your social circle and you want to know how to cook a gf meal for them.  Let’s start with the basics. Did you know that once a person with celiac disease stops eating wheat it becomes even worse when they do accidentally consume a food containing gluten?  After I quit wheat I thought that I could cheat once in a while and not really suffer any consequences.  Not so. It is like your body becomes incredibly sensitive to all gluten substances and even a tiny bit is too much. So your caution is so important for the health of your guest.

A few examples of how to get glutened if you are a celiac: if I splash beer on my hands while serving it at a friend’s house it is so easy to forget and touch your face/lips. Glutened! And I hate to be in anyone’s kitchen as they bake with regular flour; super easy to get sick from that exposure.  There are multiple ways to be contaminated by homemade food that should be safe: salad dressing may not be gluten free due to trace amounts of flour in it. If the cook sprinkles seasoned salt or spice mixes on my rice or potatoes, it is likely uneatable for a celiac.  The reason is that manufacturers often put all purpose flour in seasoning mixes to facilitate flow and to create a smooth mixture of spices.  This is why many things that appear safe are not; “seasoning mixes” are the culprit that makes rice pilafs and many other boxed mixes often uneatable by celiacs. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is turkey.jpeg

Thanksgiving is in two days.  Beware, many turkeys have brine that contains some gluten; I got sick that way  my second gf holiday season. Butterball turkeys fresh or frozen are gluten free.  Plus, a turkey stuffed with regular bread stuffing is unsafe for someone with celiac to eat even if they don’t touch the stuffing.  Really. You need to buy or make a gluten free stuffing; either based in rice, gf cornbread or just buy a bag of gluten free bread to make your stuffing. Aldi’s has gluten free stuffing for both chickens and turkeys.

Even GF pasta can be contaminated if it is drained in a colander that is used for wheat pasta.  The gluten in pasta is extra sticky and it is nearly impossible to get all of it off a colander.  So, many times pasta that should be safe gets contaminated when the cook drains it in a colander that has tiny particles of wheat gluten sticking around the strainer holes. Restaurants that advertise GF menus need to have dedicated equipment like strainers, colanders, pots and utensils. I often ask about the pasta pot and colander when I attempt to safely eat pasta at a restaurant. So cooking pasta for your gf guest can be quite problematic.

A few people seem to feel celiacs are exaggerating or being over cautious.  When in reality all that caution is necessary to eat safely and avoid gluten.  It only takes a tiny amount of gluten to contaminate food or drink.

So if you are cooking for someone with gluten intolerance, be sure to take extra caution and your meal will be a success for everyone enjoying it! When shopping for the meal  ingredients you have to read the label even if it says gf, regardless just to be sure as occasionally food is labeled GF and the ingredients say wheat in the list. Do read the labels, it is best to cook from scratch, and remember that all wheat varieties including spelt are unsafe as are all purpose flour, barley and rye flour/berries. Don’t use your old wooden cutting board or wooden spoons with ruts and gashes that may harbor gluten and any pans you use must be super clean. In fact, if you bake a cake I urge you to use either new pans or buy throwaway ones as tiny bits of the last cake are likely clinging to that lovely pan of yours. Gravy can made using white rice flour, cornstarch, brown rice flour or even sweet rice flour. If you add broth to the turkey pan be sure it says gf on the package. You can get gf stuffing in a box at Aldi’s. there are redi-made gf crusts and gf graham cracker crumb crusts available to make lovely desserts. Or box/packaged crust mixes you can use for your gf pie. Even a teaspoon of regular flour is way too much; get the gf flour out. The tiniest amount is enough to make your celiac friend feel so ill their meal enjoyment will be spoiled. 

If you want an easy stuffing; try this one!
Bob’s Red Mill makes many gf flours of high quality that you can use for gravies.
A yummy gf crust to make your special dessert with.

And if you eat out in a restaurant over the holidays don’t roll your eyes when the person at  your or the next table starts to ask pointed questions on ingredients and method of preparation with respect to gluten.  They are just trying to eat a safe meal out.  Sometimes this experience is kinda a roll of the dice for us celiacs so be patient and polite if you come into contact with this situation when you are dining out.

In summary; now you can see how important it is to have products that are labeled gluten free and why your friend with celiac has a zillion questions when you invite them for a holiday get together! Be understanding and extra careful. They just want to enjoy a meal with you without feeling terribly sick afterwards.

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