Gluten-Free Goodies: Surviving the Holidays on a Gluten-Free Diet
From “No, no, no!” to “Ho, ho, ho!”
Whether dieting to lose weight or working to improve my overall health, I have learned that focusing on “yes” is easier than listing all the “nos.” When a gluten intolerance was added to the bushel of food allergies in my family, the same rule applied.
This is our first Christmas as gluten-free dieters, and my first inclination was to simply adapt all the family cookie and cake recipes to fit our new lifestyle. I began wringing my hands over how gluten-free flour mix would work in my heirloom sugar cookies. I worried over whether or not to bake the traditional pound cake, and whether my budget could bear the costs of gluten-free alternatives. But then an idea came to me from the back of a cereal box.
It turns out that both corn and rice Chex® cereals have always been gluten-free. Newer flavors such as chocolate and cinnamon Chex® are also gluten-free. As I pondered how my family’s new dietary needs would shape our annual holiday treat-making, I absentmindedly scanned the list of recipes on a Chex® box sitting in front of me. Gluten-free delights like Chex® Lemon Buddies and Mayan Chocolate Chex® Mix caught my eye. A single shopping trip later, my whole family was happily mixing toothsome goodies together in the kitchen--goodies that required no substitutions or omissions for everyone to enjoy them.
As we began to count down the days to Christmas and plan New Year’s Eve celebrations, I found more and more gluten-free options peeking at me from supermarket shelves, waving at me from displays in shop windows, or even whispering to me from the corners of my memories from some Christmas past.
Store-bought goodies such as gluten-free candy can help reduce the stress of gluten-free holiday baking. Some favorites include:
* Candy canes
* Cordial cherries
* Gluten-free chocolate
Straight from the Grocer’s Shelves
Some of the nicest forms of “yes” when you are on a diet of any variety are those that come ready to eat. The gluten-sensitive individuals in my family do not have celiac disease, so we are able to consume wheat-free products that may have been prepared in the same factory as items containing wheat.* M&M’s® are extremely popular in my household, and the holiday varieties of mint, plain and peanut M&M’s are no exception. Candy canes that grace our tree (for a little while) every December can still be pilfered, nibbled, licked, and dipped into steaming cups of hot cocoa. Even our traditional box of Queen Anne® cordial cherries can be enjoyed without fear.
The Homemade Tradition
I am a homemaker at heart. Despite the wonderful prepackaged options available to us, I still searched for gluten-free holiday goodies that I prepare myself. The first idea came as a recommendation from my spouse and my sister on the same day: “Aren’t no-bake cookies gluten-free?” It depends on the type of cookie, but the peanut-butter-and-chocolate variety we traditionally enjoy certainly can be, if we are careful to use certified gluten-free oats. (Again, since my family only suffers from a gluten intolerance rather than celiac disease, we have more flexibility on the use of oats than some GF households.)
Here is the family recipe:
No-Bake Chocolate Cookies
2 c. sugar
¹/₃ c. cocoa
½ c. milk
½ c. butter
½ c. peanut butter
1 teas. vanilla
3 c. certified gluten-free rolled oats
Mix sugar, cocoa and milk in a sauce pan. Add butter. Place over low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a full boil. Boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat. Quickly stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Fold in oats. Drop mixture by the spoonful onto wax paper. Leave until dry; then store in an air-tight container.
As the days of December wore on, I became increasingly comfortable that we had plenty of goodies to share with family and friends during our celebrations. Then a personal loss came calling. My 84-year-old grandmother passed away.
As extended family gathered to grieve and reminisce, another gluten-free goody came to mind--monster cookies! These were a staple at Grandma's house every holiday season. When someone first asked if they were gluten-free, I didn't know. Fortunately, the recipe was easy to locate, and I quickly discovered that as long as the oats are certified gluten-free, the monster cookies will be as well.
Grandma’s Monster Cookies
1 ½ c. brown sugar, packed
1 c. white sugar
1 teas. vanilla
1 teas. light corn syrup
2 teas. baking powder
½ c. butter
1 ½ c. peanut butter
4 ½ c. certified gluten-free rolled oats
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. plain M&M’s ® or other gluten-free candy-coated chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large bowl beat the eggs.
3. Add remaining ingredients in order, mixing well.
4. Using a large soup spoon or ice cream scoop, plop 2-inch balls of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
These are MONSTER cookies. The recipe makes them BIG and makes a LOT of them. Enjoy!
A Cup of Cheer
It may seem obvious that most non-alcoholic holiday beverages are gluten-free, but since the focus here is on saying “yes” to delectable goodies, I’ll mention a of family favorites:
Many varieties of hot cocoa are safe to the gluten-intolerant crowd. As always, be sure to check labels just in case. Eggnog is generally safe as well, but be sure to check the label on it also.
Our family tradition of wassail is delightfully free from anything remotely representing gluten, a fact that makes me sing even more loudly when our choir practices “Joy to the World.” We were initially introduced to this hot punch by our pastor’s wife when I was still in junior high, and it has been a family favorite ever since. Here is her non-alcoholic version of my all-time favorite Christmas treat:
Wassail (as made by Thelma Sunberg)
2 quarts apple juice
2 c. cranberry juice cocktail
1 large orange
1 ½ teas. whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbls. whole all-spice
1 c. sugar
In a large crock pot, add apple juice, cranberry juice cocktail, and sugar. Stud the orange with cloves and add to the crock pot. Add the rest of the spices. Set on low heat for at least 8 hours. Enjoy.
For Auld Lang Syne
Some holiday food traditions are more easily dropped than adapted to fit the gluten-free diet. Others can be easily adapted, as other writers here on HubPages have aptly described. But for me, the merriest treats of the season are those that can be enjoyed as they are. Whatever your traditions, may this holiday season find you healthy, happy, and ready to enjoy all the adventures the New Year will bring your way.
© 2011 Marie Gail Stratford