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Tips for a gluten-free Thanksgiving

While for our money it’s actually Christmas that is the most gluttonous holiday – a big celebratory meal plus a week of casual grazing on either side – Thanksgiving has the reputation for filling you up to the brim and beyond.If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you know that the roving October Sunday beats Christmas as the most glutenous holiday, what with the bounty of bread-based stuffing and who-knows-what-filled meat and vegetable glazes adorning tables across the country.

Fear not – if you can set your grandma up with a Gmail account, you can get her to respect your dietary needs and preferences, too. (Celiac sufferers should check out this page from the Canadian Celiac Association before heading to the grocery store.)

Here are some hot tips that hold the gluten.

Turkey time

No freshly, um, prepared-for-purchase turkey has an ounce of gluten on it, so the biggest part of the meal should be all good.

If you prefer a smoked bird, do it yourself – anything you buy pre-smoked/glazed/buttered could be soaking in gluten. Prepare everything yourself, from scratch, to avoid any upset stomachs.

Stuffing barely takes any additional work either: prepare it the same traditional way of old, by leaving gluten-free bread on the counter overnight to get stale. However, never assume that your spices and nuts are gluten-free; always check the labels first for things like “wheat protein” and “wheat starch.”

Once you know that your ingredients are truly free of gluten, add the same spices, nuts and vegetables as you would for a white-bread stuffing. (For fun, here’s a gluten-free cornbread stuffing recipe.)

Veggie tales

Like our turkey friend, no vegetable comes out of the ground needing to be rinsed of its wheat protein. It depends on how they’re prepared – luckily for everyone, butter is gluten-free (as are most margarines and oils), as is milk and cream.

A surprise gluten hiding place is in seasoning. When you skip fresh or dried herbs in favour of a salt mix or combo bottle called Harvest Hootenanny or some such name, there could be a gluten-laden filler in it, so read the label carefully. Tread carefully with stock, too, which may contain wheat as a thickening agent.

As gluten-aware humans already know, most flour resides in the danger zone. If there’s any breading or tossing going on, pony up for the gluten-free flour. Most vinegars – save for malt and barley – are fine.

Now for dessert

Like needing to eat gluten-free in the first place, baking gluten-free has a more intricate difficulty scale than does a gluten-ful life. You can make it easy – take the top off a pint of gluten-free labelled sorbet, gelato or single-flavour ice cream (ah vanilla, you never let us down) for instant family gratification.

If you want to get fancy, you’ll need to invest in gluten-free flour, and there are a bunch, with bases including corn, chickpea, oat, quinoa and amaranth. Once you’ve got that in hand, you’ll be able to adapt any treat. Here are some sweet recipes to get you started.

And hey: once you’ve put the meal on the table, don’t forget to actually give thanks for what you’ve got (and its varied and adaptable qualities).

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