Common Gluten Free Pitfalls: Holiday Menu Planning

With the Easter holiday approaching us, I thought I’d take a few moments to go over some of the largest holiday pitfalls when trying to avoid gluten.

MAIN DISH REMINDERS

Most people have ham for their Easter meals, but some do turkey, roast beef, or other meats.  For the most part, meat is naturally gluten free.  Sometimes in the processing of meats like ham, etc…. there may be gluten ingredients involved, so please make sure you are reading labels and are avoiding anything that includes WHEAT, BARLEY, RYE, KAMUT, & SPELT.

One of the largest offenders here can be an ingredient simply labeled as “MALT”. Most malt in the US is barley based and it’s a no go for those of us trying to be gluten free, so please read your labels. If in doubt, always call the company with the toll free number on the package.  They will be able to tell you right there in the grocery store if it’s gluten free or not – hey, I’ve done it!

SIDE DISH REMINDERS

The main culprit in side dishes is anything made with a cream based soup. Almost all of the common brands on today’s shelves include gluten in the form of wheat and they are clearly labeled.

I have found great cream soup alternatives in the gluten free isle but they don’t taste the greatest (sorry guys).  If you are not up to making your own, the best canned cream based soup is Progresso’s Cream of Mushroom soup.  It is clearly labeled as gluten free and it’s pretty good.  The only thing to keep in mind is that this is already reconstituted so it is not a ‘condensed’ cream soup like you’d normally see. You’ll need to alter your recipes slightly for the extra moisture but typically I find this is not a problem at all.

If you want to get fancy and make your own cream based soups, then I need to send you over to gluten free on a shoestring’s blog.  Nicole did a great job remaking all the cream soups you’d ever need in a gluten free form.  Follow this link for creamy soup goodness!

Otherwise all vegetables and fruit in their natural form are naturally gluten free.  If you need to add a sauce or something like that please sub in gluten free flour in your favorite recipes or simply use butter or olive oil.  The good news is that dairy products like butter, sour cream, etc.. are also naturally gluten free and so is olive oil.

The best bet for side dishes is to just keep it simple and you’ll be ok.  But again, read labels and call those toll free numbers if you need to!

ROLL/BREAD REMINDERS

So this is obvious – almost all rolls & bread items off the shelf contain wheat. This was a huge loss for me. I love bread. Literally love that stuff. I mourned the loss of bread for a very long time.

Then I found some gluten free brands that were actually GOOD! Alleluia! There are two brands that I feel confident recommending to you.  The first one is from Udi’s who is a major powerhouse in gluten free bread. Udi’s classic French bread rolls, are really, really good. They can be pricey but in a pinch they are great. The other good news is that Udi’s products are widely available in most grocery stores and they have coupons online!

I also really enjoy Against the Grain bread products. We have tried the original rolls and the baguettes. My kids go bonkers for them, they are that good. I have only had luck finding these products at Whole Foods and again, they are pricey.

Another route is to make your own. Again, I will send you over to gluten free on a shoestring’s blog in her bread recipe section. I plan on making Nicole’s paleo rolls for our Easter dinner. I have never made them before but the comments are great and I feel confident following her recipes.

I also have had super luck with Sarah’s dinner rolls from the Sarah bakes gluten free treats blog. They are really easy and I prefer using butter rather than the coconut oil. The only thing to remember with these recipes is that Sarah uses her own flour blend. This doesn’t bother me and  I can throw it together quickly because I have all the ingredients on hand. Pysillum Husk can also be difficult to find. Originally I found it at my local co-op and most recently I found a large container at Trader Joe’s. In the end, these are so wonderful.  The last time I served these at a birthday party, my friend’s son, who is a gluten eater, had several because they were soooo good! Success!

DESSERT REMINDERS

Again it should be obvious that desserts will be another no-no when it comes to gluten.  All cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, cupcakes, bars, etc.. will be made with wheat flour. It can be pretty discouraging but don’t give up there are options out there!!!

One dessert that is easy to pull off the shelf is ice cream. Just make sure to stick with the basics as many mix-ins have gluten. I would also make sure to read the labels on toppings and stay away from the malt powder.

Another easy dessert is plain fruit. All naturally gluten free! Try adding some whipped cream for extra flair.

But let’s face it, you’ll want to have something extra super yummy. It’s a holiday for cripes sake! I’m not a big fan of premade gluten free treats. I can recommend the flourless chocolate cake and the gluten free cupcakes from Trader Joe’s but beyond that, I have to suggest you make your own. You can find a lot of great recipes online. The following blogs will have tried and true recipes that you can count on: Gluten free on a shoestring, Sarah bakes gluten free treats, Maebells, and Beard & Bonnet.  All of these blog links can be found on my links page.

I’m in charge of dessert for our celebration. I plan on making and bringing a cookie/bar tray.  It will include: iced oatmeal cookies, lemon bars, and nutella hazelnut brownies (recipe to come soon on this blog!).

Happy gluten free holiday menu planning!

P.S. All  opinions are my own. I’m not getting paid for a thing!

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