Cooking Allergen-Free Over The Holidays

When planning a holiday meal for the family, there are some beloved dishes that must be present on the dining table.  Those with food sensitivities won’t feel left out if a few simple substitutions can be made to create a delicious array of traditional foods.  For specific recipes, I suggest checking out my favourite block from Whole Life Nutrition and especially taking note of the desserts, however here are some quick tips.

Mashed potatoes typically contain a lot of dairy with the high amounts of butter and cream or milk used to fluff it up.  Rice milk (unsweetened) works very well instead of milk as does vegetable stock either homemade or store-bought.  I like using a combination of both rice milk and stock as the salt from the stock adds in a delicious flavour.  Instead of using butter, Earth Balance makes a dairy-free spread (look for the soy-free variety if soy is a problem for you) that works very well in mashed potatoes.  A family secret is to add about ¼ cup of very finely diced sweet onions into the potatoes, which gives this dish a subtle, delicious enhancement.

Stuffing can easily be made by using your favourite gluten-free bread for the base of breadcrumbs and ground flax with hot water (1 tablespoon flax to 3 tablespoons hot/boiling water for each egg called for) will easily replace the eggs.  Make sure to add handfuls of fresh herbs to the mixture.  I have used our family’s go-to gluten-free potato-flax bread, which was a hit with all at Thanksgiving this year.  Lastly gravy is made even tastier with rice flour or cornstarch than wheat flour in my opinion.

Traditional potato latkes are a staple around the Chanukah table each year.  For those with gluten or egg sensitivities, this can be a challenge when going to Chanukah parties or making up a batch of those delicious potato pancakes.  To make latkes without gluten or eggs is simple and ingredients can be substituted that are in your cupboard already.  Flour can be replaced with rice flour, potato starch, arrowroot or cornstarch in equal proportions (usually not more than a few tablespoons or ¼ cup is required).  Ground flax seeds mixed with hot water in a separate as described above added to the mix work wonderfully.  And you get the added benefit of having some extra fibre to help digestion with all those potatoes!

If you are going out to dinner and think you may be exposed to an allergen, don’t forget to bring some digestive enzymes to help out.  It may not prevent unwanted symptoms but it will at least help your body to get the nutrients from the food into your system.  Enjoy the holidays and make sure to try out some traditional recipes without allergens.

By Dr. Jennifer Luis

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