It’s my turn to have Christmas Eve this year. We have many people in the family who need to have a gluten free Christmas for different reasons. Some have celiac disease, some are intolerant and some have autism. We also have a few people who are dairy free. Since Christmas is a holiday for everyone, I try to have food for everyone while minimizing the chance of cross-contamination.
Whenever possible, I only offer a gluten free version of something. Occasionally, I offer a gluten version of something. However, I only offer it if the gluten free version is so different from the gluten version that people won’t like it or if someone brings a gluten dish. You never turn down someone’s contribution at Christmastime.
Keep these simple and all gluten free. I find this is the course where there is the most opportunity for cross-contamination, with all the dips and cracker toppings.
I put out cheese and crackers but I use only gluten free crackers, usually Glutino and Crunchmaster. This is because the people who eat gluten have liked these crackers as much as the gluten free people.
I also put out tortilla chips and salsa, shrimp cocktail (seafood, as a nod to my husband’s Italian heritage) and a veggie tray with gluten free dip. I often use Simply Organic onion dip mix with sour cream to make the dip.
Sometimes someone will bring a taco or chili layered dip (including cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and chili). They almost always make sure it’s gluten free and everyone loves it.
Although I make a lot of the dishes for Christmas Eve, I do cheat on one thing. My mother in law’s neighbor is an excellent caterer and makes a lemon chicken that my whole family loves. If I give her the gluten free flour she makes the chicken gluten free for us and is very careful about cross-contamination. I used to make my own but it was such a pain to make that I find it well worth it to pay her to make it.
Pasta is one dish that I will have both a gluten and gluten free version. People not used to gluten free pasta can definitely tell the difference. I use Barilla gluten free pasta whenever possible. It tastes very good for the gluten free version, but it still doesn’t replace regular gluten pasta.
Since my house is completely gluten free, I always try to have someone bring the gluten pasta, but if I have to make it, I use a separate colander and pot used only for gluten stuff. I also keep it easy by making something like penne a la vodka.
I make the pasta a day early and pour it into an aluminum half tray with a jar of vodka sauce. The day of the party I put the pasta in the oven to heat up. Then once it’s hot, I pour another jar of sauce on top, mix it in and it’s ready to serve. I make the gluten free penne a la vodka the same way but obviously with separate pots, pans, and serving utensils.
Meatballs are easy. I make them all gluten free. No one can tell the difference. I add garlic powder, parsley, eggs, parmigiana cheese, and gluten free breadcrumbs. I especially like Gillian Gluten Free Dairy Free Bread Crumbs. The meatballs are not dairy free because of the cheese but I will usually make a few meatballs without the cheese and simmer them in a small separate pot with marinara sauce for those of us with dairy allergies.
Linguini in clam sauce
My husband’s aunt likes to make linguini and clam sauce as another seafood item. I don’t ask her to make it gluten free because many of the people who like it don’t have to eat gluten free anyway. Plus, it’s so easy to just reheat it in the microwave right before, so there is very little chance of cross contamination if I make sure it has its own serving utensils.
Sautéed vegetables with garlic and olive oil are always easy and delicious. I’m going with string beans this year just because we had broccoli for Thanksgiving.
This year this is harder than usual. I usually serve a simple salad (minus the croutons) for those of us who are trying to eat healthier. Unfortunately, right now there is a recall on romaine lettuce and the stores seem to have cleared ALL the lettuce off the shelves. If they clear up everything before Christmas then I’ll serve salad. If not, I’ll figure out some other vegetable to serve.
Since we usually have so many main dishes I don’t worry about too many sides. If someone offers to bring another vegetable I’ll take them up on it.
The last course of the meal is always the best in our family. This year I’m serving gluten free fudge, brownies and cupcakes. My mother in law might make a crustless Italian cheesecake that is also gluten free.
Everyone always brings something to contribute to the meal and dessert often has the most contributions, so this is the course where we are most likely to have both gluten and gluten free items….and crumbs. There are a couple of things I do at every course to try to minimize cross-contamination, which seems to be most important for dessert. The counter I put the buffet on has a desk at the end which is at a different height than the rest of the counter. I try to always split up the gluten and gluten free foods between the two counters so that crumbs stay separate too. I do this at every step of the meal but especially at dessert. Even if you don’t have separate counters you can make a little space between gluten and gluten free foods by putting a centerpiece in between. Also, always make sure every dish has its own serving utensil so that there is no temptation for someone to grab the spatula for the gluten napoleons to cut the gluten free apple pie.
The Full Menu
Cheese and crackers (only gluten free)
Tortilla chips and salsa
Veggie tray with gluten free dip
Lemon chicken (gluten free)
Meatballs (gluten free)
Penne a la vodka (both gluten and gluten free)
Sautéed string beans
Salad (if lettuce is back in the stores)
The Most Important Things to Simplify Your Day and Prevent Cross Contamination for a Successful Gluten Free Christmas
I love to make family gatherings as easy as possible. One of the most important things is to simplify the menu as much as possible by making everything you can gluten free. I’m having 25 to 28 people at my house this year. It’s impossible to have a completely gluten free Christmas, but eliminating as much gluten as possible will help get you through the day. Try to keep the appetizers all gluten free. Don’t forget to keep gluten and gluten free dishes separated on the countertop and make sure every dish has its own serving utensil. All of these tips will help you get through your gluten free Christmas with flying colors.