A delicious gluten-free holiday dinner is possible.

A delicious gluten-free holiday dinner is possible. From grass-fed meat to holiday-inspired sides and desserts, here's what should go on your dinner table this season.

When my husband was first diagnosed with Celiac, I honestly did not have a clear understanding of what "gluten-free" really meant. Because his condition was serious, I wasted no time gathering recipes and learning about gluten.

For those who are still learning about this, let me break it down. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley and rye that can be hard to digest and cause inflammatory responses, especially for those who have Celiac. (The cause of this is controversial, but that is another post for another time.) It seems simple - just stop eating bread and pasta, right? But many products, and even some spices, use glutenous anti-caking agents or additives under names other than "wheat." Eliminating gluten can seem overwhelming!

In the beginning, we bought a lot of gluten-free prepackaged foods: pasta, salty snacks, waffles, etc. But then I read "The Paleo Solution" by Robb Wolff and gained a better understanding of inflammatory foods. I soon realized a lot of those foods labeled gluten-free were not nutritious and definitely were not helping heal my husband's gut.

Now, we do not follow a 100% paleo diet. Actually, not even 80% paleo - we still love cheese and cream, in moderation. But we do limit grains, dairy and sugar and stick to a strictly whole foods diet. No packages, no preservatives, just good, fresh food as often as we can help it.

Navigating holiday parties and dinners can be a bit more complicated. My best strategy has been to contribute to the meal list with things I know are safe and that everyone can enjoy. I am no chef, so I like to keep recipes really simple. Here are a few of my favorite, trustworthy foods and recipes.

Meat

As I mentioned above, sometimes pre-seasoned meats are not actually gluten-free and often have sugar, MSG and other additives. But some companies go the extra mile to make sure meats are cleaner.

If you're looking for a delicious ham, check out Zaycon Fresh. They are a meat delivery service, so they organize a pickup location for all buyers in the same area. My sister ordered one of these for Christmas last year and not only was it tender and delicious, it was gluten-free. Products may vary in different areas so contact them for questions.

If you're looking for gluten-free, nitrate-free and even sugar-free sausage or bacon, check out Pedersen's Natural Farms. We buy this bacon and wrap it around chicken bites or sweet potatoes or crumble it for toppings. We also often slice their sausage and throw it on a tray with squash, potatoes, broccoli, onions, bell peppers and bake them all together for a quick, yummy dinner.

Or if you want to try something unique, check out The Honest Bison for grass-fed bison meat that is humanely raised. I haven't tried this yet, but I follow them on Instagram and want to!

Sides

Instead of green bean casserole, try just fresh green beans with crumbled bacon and diced onion. Saute the onion and some fresh garlic in your fat of choice (butter, ghee, animal fat or coconut oil.) Chop the ends off fresh green beans then boil them for about 10 minutes. Toss the onions, garlic and some crumbled bacon with drizzled fat over the green beans, salt and pepper them, cover and bake on 250°F for 30 minutes or so to let all the flavors marinade. (Amounts are not strict, just adjust to taste.)

Another easy side is a delicious quinoa salad. Dice multi-colored bell peppers, yellow or green onion, fresh garlic and some cilantro if you want a fresh flavor. Throw all of this into a pot, then add rinsed, raw quinoa, salt, pepper, powdered garlic and the suggested amount of liquid. I like to use chicken broth instead of water for added flavor. Cook as directed on the package. You can add diced black olives, cheese and Greek yogurt after it's cooked, then bake for a creamier dish. (Again, choose the measurements that suit your crowd except for the quinoa to liquid ratio.)

A few more recipes for gluten-free, holiday-inspired sides:
  • This grain-free homestyle stuffing was recommended to me recently but I haven't tried it yet. It is gluten-free and paleo friendly.
  • Have you tried mashed cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes? This is definitely not dairy-free but is delicious.
  • There are lot of options for grain-free rolls and breads, but if you're only concerned about gluten, you might try Better Batter. A Celiac friend tells me hands down, it's the best baking flour.
Desserts

One really simple base for a lot of dessert is homemade granola. I like to buy a variety of nuts (pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) and give them a rough chop in the food processor. In a large mixing bowl, add cinnamon, vanilla, sea salt, ground flaxseed, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut, gluten-free oats or any variety of the above. Mix all together with some melted coconut oil and maple syrup or honey until wet. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. You can then use this as the base and topping for berry or apple cobbler. Mix the fruit with almond flour, lemon juice and a dash of sea salt, then top with granola. Drizzle with butter or coconut oil and honey or maple syrup. Yum!

I made these grain-free chocolate chip cookies last year and they were so good. They turn out thin and crispy and delicious!

My new favorite desserts are date balls. In a food processor, add a package of pitted dates, vanilla, melted coconut oil and sea salt. Add chopped walnuts and process, then roll into balls and refrigerate. These can be rolled in melted chocolate for an extra decadent treat. Or if you're craving pecan pie, chop toasted pecans then add them to the base ingredients with a touch of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Roll into balls and refrigerate - these taste just like pecan pie!

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Happy and healthy holidays!

Photo credit: Elena Shashkina/Bigstock