Christmas dinner brings with it a vast array of meals that families do not see at any other time of year. For people like my youngest son, partaking of the many delicacies of the season can lead to extreme illness. My son has celiac sprue, a condition that makes it impossible for his body to process and properly digest the amino acids gluten and gliadin. Due to his condition, we have had to radically adjust our holiday feast, creating recipes for a celiac Christmas dinner that does not cost the earth to make and can be enjoyed by everyone at the table.
Gluten and gliadin are found in any product that has wheat or wheat-based products in it. As a result, my son has not purposely eaten anything with wheat in it since he was five years old. Every Christmas since he was diagnosed, we have had to get creative with our sides and deserts, making many from scratch. This is more time-intensive but it has proven to be a lot of fun. Our recipes are a mix of basic food knowledge and courage with a dash of, “I wonder how this will taste?”
The centerpiece of our Christmas dinner is of course the turkey, dressing and gravy. We create a marinade for the turkey and let it sit overnight before we stick him in the roaster on Christmas Eve.
1/2 C Apple cider vinegar
Use a turkey baster to periodically spread the marinade all over the turkey. Lift the skin to get it to the meat underneath. When ready to roast, do not throw away the marinade. Pour it over the turkey and under the skin. Rub butter all over the skin so it browns well while cooking.
In addition to the marinade, we stuff our turkey with a cored Granny Smith apple. We replace the core with garlic and ginger. We also use a peeled orange, also stuffed with garlic and ginger. This leads to a very tender and juicy turkey with great flavor.
For the dressing, we make gluten-free cornbread from scratch. Once done, we add homemade chicken broth and a variety of vegetables.
Gluten Free Cornbread
2 C Maseca (corn-based flour)
2 C Cornmeal
1 Tbsp. Baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 ½ C Milk
1/2 C Butter/Margarine
Combine the dry ingredients. Combine eggs with milk and half the butter and beat until well mixed. Using a hand or stand mixer, combine the wet and dry ingredients until fully mixed. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and warm your baking dish. Once warm, use the rest of the butter to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour in the batter and make sure it spreads evenly in the pan. It should be thick but pour easily. Bake for 15-25 minutes.
Once the cornbread is done, we let it cool a bit. While it’s cooking we make the chicken broth and chop up our vegetables.
1-2 Pieces of chicken
6 C water
Bring water to a boil with all ingredients. Season the broth to taste. Once the water looks oily, remove the boiled chicken and put it aside (we usually give ours to the dog).
Once the cornbread is cooled enough to touch, break it up into crumbles. It should be coarse once ready. We add chopped celery, sage and boiled eggs to the broken up cornbread. Mix all this together then add enough chicken broth to moisten the cornbread. Mix it all together by hand. It should stick together but not be doughy. Coat the same pan used for the cornbread and pour the dressing in. To make sure it browns, melt a little butter and brush it across the top of the dressing. Cook at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.
Our gravy also has to be homemade. We use the packaged innards of the turkey (neck and heart, usually; these go to the dog too) to make a broth. We season the broth much the same way we do the chicken broth. To thicken it, we use a mixture of Maseca and cornstarch. We also add a dash of either apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.
One other celiac Christmas treat we cannot do without is a ham. We do not use the enclosed glaze packet because, more often than not, it contains some form of wheat. Instead, we make our own.
1/4 C honey
Apple cider or red wine vinegar
Peel the orange and puree it to a fine pulp. You may want to get out the seeds as they might get in the way later on. Once the orange is a good pulp/juice combination, add all the other ingredients in the blender or chopper and combine. Warm the ham in the oven for 30 minutes. Pour the glaze over the warm ham and let it bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.
Having a food allergy or a condition like celiac that creates a daily issue with food can be challenging, especially around Christmas. Ingredients in every item bought at the grocery store must be reviewed, even if the item has previously been cleared. Manufacturers change ingredients and can do so without notifying the public.
Being creative with your recipes can make a celiac Christmas dinner as delicious as a wheat-filled meal. These recipes have given my family a chance to explore different techniques. Cooking together bring us closer and makes dinner a family project from the kitchen to the table.
Commentary by Brandi Tasby