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updated: 11/14/2012 6:17 AM

Thankful for a gluten-free feast

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  • Smart shopping and a host of new products make a gluten-free feast everyone can be thankful for.

    Smart shopping and a host of new products make a gluten-free feast everyone can be thankful for.
    Courtesy of Lia P Gluten Free

By Deborah Pankey
Daily Herald Food Editor

When the family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner, you don't want to preface the passing of the platters with "oh, sorry, that casserole has flour in it" or "I perked up the gravy with soy sauce, in case you need to know."

A wisely prepared meal can satisfy everyone at the table, even cousin Joy whose gluten intolerance kept her from enjoying the better part of the last family meal.

"It's my feeling that there shouldn't be a difference between (the meal) for the gluten-free guests and the non-gluten-free guests," says Diane Eenigenburg, founder of Lia P Gluten Free, a Westmont-based manufacturer of gluten-free breads and pastries. She also operates Le Petit Bakery, a gluten-free bakeshop in Westmont.

"Everyone should be going 'yum.'"

The good news at Thanksgiving is that the main attraction, the turkey, is naturally gluten free, as are potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries and vegetables. Gluten is a combination of proteins found in wheat, rye and barley that gives bread its elasticity, and cakes a delicate crumb. For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, consuming gluten can wreak havoc on their digestive systems.

But gluten also turns up in foods like soy sauce, condensed soups, seasoning mixes and fat-free salad dressings, so it's incumbent upon the cook to read labels and shop wisely to ensure a comfortable meal for all. Most large grocery stores have shelves dedicated to gluten-free products to make it easier on holiday cooks.

Eenigenburg says even products containing modified food starch are safe 99 percent of the time because they're made with corn, not wheat. Head to the product's website to double check, she adds.

Gluten-free bread can be the base for a traditional dressing/stuffing. She's also a fan of Bob's Red Mill cornbread mix if your family prefers that style of dressing.

When it comes to the gravy, Eenigenburg says her g-free version thickened with cornstarch instead of flour is a crowd-pleaser.

"We've been making g-free gravy for years. It's more delicate and I just think it tastes better." she said. "A little bit of butter at the end gives it sheen and richness."

When it comes to the pumpkin pie, it's the crust that's the culprit. Eenigenburg suggests replacing the wheat-containing flours with a mixture of soy and rice flours.

"The trick is finding the right balance of flours, I use two parts rice flour and one part soy flour for a perfect, flaky gluten-free pie crust," she said.

In addition, gluten-free bakeshops carry holiday pies, cookies and cake rolls that can be ordered for family gatherings.

"The whole family can enjoy the meal and not worry about it," Eenigenburg said. "Living gluten-free shouldn't mean having to make a sacrifice."

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