Holiday hints: Dec ’07

December seems to be filled with fabulous food and opportunities to eat at every turn. With a little time and planning, you can enjoy all sorts of great food, even with food restrictions.

We’re lucky that there are more and more recipes out there that taste just like the real thing. But for most people, it s easier to make some treats that happen to be gluten free, rather than gluten free adaptations of “normal” foods. Foods that are naturally gluten free avoid the expense of specialty flours. Also, it can take a few tries to find a GF flour mix that you and your family likes. I know I’ve had my share of “learning experiences” along the way. (My chief guinea pig, aka my husband, used to call them my incredible inedibles.) It also avoids the complaints of friends or family who aren’t willing to try GF foods just because they’ve decided they won’t like it. There are a lot of treats which just happen to be GF, or mostly GF. You can find recipes in normal cookbooks, or maybe you have family recipes and didn’t realize they were safe! Here’s a list of treats from which I put together with the help of many folks at my classes. I’ve marked the desserts that are dairy free (DF), egg free (EF) and soy free (SF), because many people are dealing with several issues. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the number of things you can still have! Remember, these foods are only GF if you use GF ingredients.

Got GF children?

R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Celiac Kids) is a wonderful resource. It’s a free and there are groups all over the country. If there’s not one near you, you can start one! R.O.C.K.’s purpose is to create a safe and fun environment for children on a gluten free diet. In the NOVA/DC/MD area, our fearless and fabulous leader is Linda Hickman.

Come to the R.O.C.K. GF Cookie Exchange on Saturday, December 15th from 2:00-5:00PM in Alexandria, VA. We’ll even have a holiday Piñata! You need to email me a recipe for your cookie or treat, and bring a detailed list of ingredients, because different people have different allergies, sensitivities and such. I’ll post the recipes after the party, too, so we can all enjoy. Here are the details. If you’re new to the GF diet and have questions, please contact me and I’d be glad to help you plan something safe to bring.

Holiday meals:

The good news is that many holiday meals are roasts, which are often naturally GF. I’ve updated my turkey list to include some updated information and some hams and other typical holiday main meals. You may also want to see the Thanksgiving tips from last month for additional suggestions.

Holiday baking: If you or your family members are used to sneaking a taste of the batter, be careful! Many GF flours contain beans. Not only do the bean flours taste awful when they are raw, but they can cause a lot of stomach distress. And, of course, you never want to have raw eggs anyway because of the risk of salmonella.

On the lighter side:

The month of December tends to be one of overindulgence. Some days, it seems like our main form of exercise is usually moving the fork from the plate to our mouths. Here are some tips for a healthier holiday season:

Balance: if you’re going to a holiday party in the evening, make sure to eat well a few days before! An extra piece of chocolate cake a day doesn’t make or break a diet. A piece of cake every day for a week…well, that’s a different story.

Move the goodies out of sight: Remember when people talked about being on a see-food diet (as in, I see it, I eat it?) That’s not far from the truth. Studies show that if we keep food out of sight, we’re less likely to eat it. Put the candy dish in a cupboard and move the cookies where you can’t see them. Put the fruits on the counter where they are easy to grab. Fruits available in the winter include Clementines, oranges, pineapples, grapefruits, grapes, pomegranate, persimmons, mangos, and more!

Fill your table with fruit and veggie dishes: Have your holiday meals feature sweet potatoes, collards or other greens, soups, roasted veggies, sauteed green beans, and much more. Make roasted chestnuts as a snack. Have a fruit inspired dessert. There are several suggestions below.

Soups: as long as they’re not cream based, most soups are a healthy snack or part of a filling meal. Chicken and turkey soup with brown or wild rice are always great. Lentil and other bean soups are a tasty source of fiber, too. Check out this recipe for Collard Greens and White Bean soup from Fat Free Vegan for a seasonal soup. I know collards are pretty much the only thing that’s still growing in my garden! Or, for variety, scroll down for a recipe for butternut squash soup.

Also, next month, we’ll be having a healthy recipe contest, so you can start your imaginations now.


I have two classes coming up in January and February.

Gluten Free and Healthy!
Thursday, January 17th, 2008
6:30-8:00 pm

The Art of Living Gluten Free
Saturday, February 9th, 2008

For more info or to register, click here.

On the prowl for recipes…

As a nutritionist, I try to find desserts that at least have some redeeming nutritional quality. So even though they’re not “diet foods”, they’ve got something healthy in them, like fiber, fruit, etc. So I was delighted when I came across these gems!

  • Oh my, Santa came early. David Lebovitz has a great blog with his recipes. Many are GF, and most are over-the-top decadent. I was  delighted to find his Friendship bars, that are GF, dairy free AND reasonably healthy, too! Just remember to use dates that are not dusted with oat flour, and use any gf flour instead of wheat flour (rice, sorghum, cornstarch, whatever you have around).
  • I saw this recipe for a Clementine cake months ago, and I couldn’t wait until they were in season. The smell is heavenly! It’s naturally gluten and dairy free. I usually use less sugar and a touch of honey. For variety, you can add splash of vanilla or rosewater, too. I haven’t tried it yet using hazelnut flour, but I bet that would work, too.
  • Gluten Free Bay recently posted a drool-worthy recipe for Ginger and Cardamom poached pears. Now there’s a new post for Hanukkah gelt (aka chocolate covered apricots) which will make a great change from those chocolate coins.
  • Roasted chestnuts are a great snack. Just don’t cut yourself!
  • Calling all foodies! Food and Wine Magazine has a slide show on healthy desserts. While some are healthier than others, there’s quite a variety and many feature fresh fruit. They have 32 recipes, and 24 of them happen to be GF.

My “Recpies” page also has a collection of GF and allergen friendly recipes. Simply Recipes has a nice collection of vegetable and sides recipes, many of which are on the healthier side.


Chocolate bark (GF, DF*, SF*, EF):
Simple, yummy, and totally adaptable to almost any food restrictions. If you can’t have nuts, just add more fruit. It’s quick and easy, and is good for gift giving. You can let the children help, too. They can use plastic knives to cut up the dried fruit.

18 oz chocolate: dark, semi sweet, milk, or a mix (this is about 3 cups of chips)
1/2 cup chopped dried fruits, like apricots, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, etc.
3/4 cup chopped nuts: almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews, etc.
optional: 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger or espresso beans

Cookie sheet covered with parchment paper

Chop the dried fruit and nuts into small pieces.

Melt chocolate the chocolate. Put in a microwave safe bowl and heat, stirring every 30 seconds until melted, or you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler if you prefer. Add in chopped fruits and nuts, stir well and spread out over the prepared cookie sheet.

Break into pieces, and do your best to share.

*Dairy and soy free if you use dairy and soy free chocolate)

Butternut Squash Bisque: GF, DF*, SF, EF

If you’ve never had butternut squash soup, you’re in for a treat. It’s got a natural sweetness, and is perfect for a chilly day. It’s easier to make than ever, since so many stores sell pre-cut butternut squash. Or, if you’d prefer, just pierce a whole squash and bake at 375° for about an hour, remove the seeds and scoop out the insides.

2 Tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, iced
1 pinch of salt
2 large carrots, diced
1 large tart apple, peeled and diced (Granny Smith is great)
4 cups of butternut squash, cubed
3 cups chicken or veggie stock
Pinch of nutmeg
Cayenne pepper, to taste (I use about 1/8 teaspoon)
Splash of orange juice (optional)
Plain yogurt, coconut milk, almond or cashew cream, or half and half (optional)

Sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat, add salt. Cook until the onion is soft, about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots, apple, and squash and sauté another minute. Add broth and seasonings, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. (If using pre-cooked squash, add 5 minutes before the end) Add orange juice, purée in batches and return to the pot. Adjust spices to your taste.

Serve, topped with a spoonful of plain yogurt, coconut milk, almond or cashew cream, or half and half. Enjoy!

One final thought:

Most people spend time with family and friends during the holidays. Keep in mind that Celiac Disease is linked to our genes. First degree relatives (parents, children, siblings) have a 1 in 22 chance of developing Celiac, and 2nd degree relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) have a chance 1 in 39 chance. This is a great time to remind the people you love to get tested.

Harris Whole Health offers individual sessions, family sessions and group classes to help people eat healthier and feel better! Whether you are dealing with Celiac Disease, food allergies, picky eaters, children on the Autistic spectrum, chronic illness, or if you just want to feel and look better, Cheryl can help you achieve your goals. For an appointment with Cheryl Harris, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, please click here or call 571-271-8742.