Christmas time is here . . . . I’m SO excited! Christmas really is the best time of year! Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year; the temperature is more runner-friendly (even if not absolutely runner-perfect); trees, businesses, homes, and yards are lighted, glittery, and colorful; radio stations play Christmas carols; and rich, delicious Christmas cookies, cakes, and candies are abundant in supply (as well as abundantly appreciated). Most people can share the joy of most aspects of the holiday equally; however, those of us who have to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet have a little more difficulty sharing the food-related joys of Christmas. For people who don’t follow a gluten-free diet, but who have loved ones or relatives who do, the holiday can be really trying. Planning ahead, knowing what gluten-free products are available and where to find them, and knowing how to identify truly gluten-free foods removes some of the stress for hosts and hostesses who want to be considerate of their gluten-free friends and relatives during the Christmas season. Thankfully, more gluten-free options are available now than ever, and finding them is getting easier as well. (My blog is not monetized, so I recommend the products on this page on the basis of my own approval of them; I receive no renumeration for endorsing them in this post.)
For those of you relatively unfamiliar with gluten-free cooking and unused to looking at food labels to identify obvious and hidden gluten, these apps are just the thing to use while grocery shopping (some are free, others have a minimal cost): gluten-free scanner (scan the bar code of over 500,000 products and find out immediately if they are gluten-free); Is that gluten-free? (contains a database of over 1600 brands and 35,000 guaranteed gluten-free products); Shopwell (contains a database with allergy information for over 350,000 products). Using one of these apps when you shop for groceries takes the guess work out of knowing which food ingredients and products are safe to serve to your gluten-free guess or loved one.
If dinner out is included in your plans for the holidays, using one of these apps will help you choose a restaurant that works for everyone, so that your gluten-free companion doesn’t get stuck ordering a dry salad with no croutons as the only gluten-free option on the menu: Allergy Eats, Dine Gluten-Free, Find Me Gluten-Free, I Can Eat Fast Food, and I Eat Out Allergy Gluten and Allergy Free.
Gluten-Free Products for Easy to Make Gluten-Free Dinners and Desserts
Aleias Gluten Free
Aleias gluten-free stuffing mixes (savory, plain)
Aleias gluten-free bread crumbs (Italian, plain, panko, coat and crunch crispy spicy, and coat and crunch extra crispy)
Gluten-Free Fried Onions (with multiple brands, a category all its own)
Live G Free fried onions (Find in an Aldi’s near you)
Sprouts Gluten-Free fried onions (Find in a Sprouts near you.)
Top Taste gluten-free fried onions (Find in an HEB near you.)
I use either Top Taste or Sprouts brand gluten-free fried onions in my green bean casserole with home-made gluten-free cream of mushroom soup.
Mi-Del Gluten-Free Baking Products
Mi-Del gluten-free no-bake cookie crumb pie crusts (graham style, ginger snap, and chocolate snap flavors)
Mi-Del seasonal gluten-free cookies (maple cremes, candy cane cremes, gingerbread men)
As an aside, I love using Mi-Del candy cane cremes in this Christmas cheesecake.
Gluten-Free Condensed Soups (chicken and mushroom)
Progresso also makes a gluten-free cream of mushroom soup.
Wholly Wholesome Gluten-Free Baking Products
Wholly Wholesome gluten-free ready to bake frozen pie crust
Gluten-Free Baking Mixes and All-Purpose Flours (For easy gluten-free baking without great investment in gluten-free ingredients)
I personally don’t use baking mixes, but my very busy, Celiac daughter (a talented cook / baker) uses them; she swears by King Arthur gluten-free mixes and all purpose flours. I don’t see a place on the KA website for locating the company’s products in stores, but the local HEBs in San Antonio / Austin carry many of the KA gluten-free products.
Back in the early days of my Celiac diagnosis, while I was adjusting to my new gluten-free lifestyle, I used Namaste gluten-free all purpose flour mix (Namaste Perfect Flour Blend). Of all the all purpose blends I used at the time, it was the one I preferred. (Find Namaste Perfect Flour Blend in a store near you.)
Check out the kosher sections in your local grocery stores for gluten-free products you might not find other places; many kosher products are also gluten-free. As the writer of this article in Jewish Week points out, “Not all that is kosher for Passover is gluten-free and vice versa. Nonetheless, because gluten is found in wheat and other grains that are considered chametz [any food made from wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt that has come into contact with water and been allowed to ferment], there is a huge overlap between the two diets.” Our local HEB grocery stores often have kosher gluten-free baked desserts, not usually carried by the stores, on tables near the bakery at Christmas time. The HEB at Alon Center in San Antonio (near the temple) carries kosher gluten-free products not available in other places all year long.
Fruit and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. Offering fruit and vegetables trays at meals and parties is an easy way to offer your gluten-free loved one, friend, or guests something safe to eat. Check ingredients of dips and sauces for hidden glutens, though (see helpful apps for this purpose at the beginning of this blog post).
If you’re buying packaged candy, read the ingredients on even different varieties of the same candy made by the same company. Some companies manufacture candy in more than one location (including more than one country) and the ingredients vary accordingly. Some candy made in one factory may be gluten-free, while the same flavor candy, the same brand, made in a different location may contain gluten. Also, different sizes of the same candy vary in gluten-content. Reese peanut butter cups, for example, are gluten-free; however, the Reeses unwrapped minis and seasonal shapes contain gluten.