Tips for a Gluten-Free Holiday Season

It’s time again for tender, juicy roasted turkey and sweet honey ham, mountains of buttery mashed potatoes and stuffing dripping with homemade gravy. Then comes the scrumptious apple pie a’ la mode or the ultimate pumpkin pie dolloped with whipped cream. Hmmm, why not a little of both! But wait… is any of this gluten-free? For most of us, gluten or any food allergen is the last thing on our minds during the feasts of the holiday season unless you or someone you know and love is doing the “Gluten–Free Thing.” Some do it to feel better, some do it because they have a gluten intolerance, but one in 100 does it because they are Celiac and gluten causes life-threatening effects. 

The great news is, yes, most any of your favorite holiday dishes can be made 
gluten–free and in some cases allergen-free, too. No one has to go without at the holiday feast! 

Tips for a Gluten-Free Holiday Season:

RSVP with an Offer to Assist the Host 
Preparing gluten-free & 
allergen-free foods can be intimidating, so offer to take on the job or send a “How to Prepare Safe Foods” check-off list, including the possibility of cross-contamination. 

This is your time to shine! Bring your favorite
gluten–free or allergen-free holiday entrées; they have come a long way from the days of that cardboard taste! And you won’t be missing out. 

Glam Up the Table with Entrée Labels 
Use place cards to list entrée ingredients, including “secret ingredients,” to keep your family recipes under wraps, and add a star to the
gluten–free or allergen-free entrées. 

Eat Before You Go This Holiday Season
Snacking beforehand will help keep your mind off what is or isn’t gluten-free so you can relax and enjoy your friends and family.

Don’t Forget Back Up Gluten-Free Snacks
It’s a good idea to stash some snacks in your purse, car or jacket pocket. Rice crackers, individual packs of SunButter spread, gluten-free trail mix or gluten-free snack bars are my usual go–to’s. 

Order Gluten-Free Food Ahead & Ship Direct 
Especially if you’re traveling, order at and have your holiday items shipped to your door or directly to your holiday destination.

Gluten Free Kitchen Rules and Guidelines:
When you go gluten-free, it's not enough to clean out your kitchen — you'll also need to replace some of your cookware and kitchen utensils.
Anything that is porous or scratched can harbor tiny amounts of gluten in the cracks ... and it takes very little gluten to make you sick.  FDA passed a law -  20 parts per million can be classified as ‘Gluten Free’, However, even 1 part per million will make a person with Celiac Disease ill.
You don't need to spend a lot of money buying new cookware. In fact, it's perfectly possible to get everything at your local dollar store and spend around $40 or less (much less if you don't use a toaster).
However, it is critically important that you do replace these items in your kitchen. If you don't, you risk experiencing continuing symptoms from gluten and slowing your healing process substantially.
Here is what you'll need to get started:
Toaster –
A new toaster at the top of this list for a reason: using an old toaster is one of the most common causes of gluten cross-contamination. Ensure you never allow gluten bread to be toasted in your new gluten-free toaster — keep it only for gluten-free products.
Non-Stick Pans, Bake Sheets, Muffin Pans –
Non-stick pans get scratches that can harbor minute amounts of gluten and would be another cause of cross-contamination.  A separate set designated for gluten-free food must be used instead.  
Stainless steel or solid aluminum pans and lids with no non-stick coating on them do not require replacement, and in fact, can be shared between gluten and gluten-free foods as long as they are sterilized in between uses. Take care to root out any food residue along the seams before you put them into gluten-free service.
Cutting Boards -
By nature, used cutting boards have scratches in them ... And like the scratches in other types of cookware; the scratches in your cutting boards can harbor microscopic deposits of gluten.
Therefore, you'll need to have separate cutting boards and keep them only for gluten-free use. Make sure you add a separate gluten-free cutting board for your meat carving as well, since some marinades contain gluten would be another cause of cross-contamination.
Silicone Spatulas –
These types of spatulas can trap particles of gluten, both in their plastic and wooden handles and in scratches on the surface.  Make sure to mark the new tools with a prominent "Gluten-Free" label or designated color code to make certain no one accidentally uses them to make a gluten-filled entry or dessert.  Metal spatulas or tools do not need replacing.  Simply scrub it well before using it with gluten-free food.
Wooden Tools/Rolling Pins –
Wooden spoons, forks, rolling pins, and turners are another porous material that can trap small amounts of gluten. Therefore, separate new wooden spoons and other tools will need to be designated for gluten-free use only.  Even one use in a pot of regular spaghetti can contaminate them, so label them carefully.
Colander & Flour Sifters –
It's not possible to de-gluten a used colander or flour sifter, even if you soak it and then run it through the dishwasher. The gluten from the pasta drained or flour sifted sticks to the inside of all the holes.  Therefore, a new colander is required and make certain it remains gluten-free.  One in a different color (blue, for example), is a reminder to your staff the blue colander is for gluten-free use only.
Plastic Bowls –
If you use plastic mixing bowls or storage containers in your kitchen, you'll need to have separate designated gluten-free bowls or containers.  Any scratches pose the same old gluten problem.
Again, if you intend to share a kitchen with some gluten-free products, you might want to consider color-coding the bowls and the containers.
Mixers, Ovens, Stoves –
It best to clean and sterilize all cook and mixing surfaces before use with gluten-free foods, and cover cooking or baking food in the oven.
Kitchen Sink, Sponges, Dish Towels –
A separate gluten-free sponge is required. If you take a close look at a used kitchen sponge, you'll see it harbors all sorts of food debris — even if you wash it out carefully, food particles stick to it ... and gluten is one of the stickiest substances known.
You don't want to contaminate your plates, pans, and other utensils as you're trying to clean them, so use your own sponge and keep it someplace separate from the "community" sponge. The same goes for anything else you use to clean dishes — get new ones and keep them separate. It can help to segregate by color — for example, use a blue sponge for gluten-free dishes, and a yellow sponge for gluten dishes.
You'll also need your own dish towels. People frequently wipe their hands on a dish towel (possibly after eating a gluten sandwich?) or use the towel to clean off the counter (think: gluten crumbs). Again, choose a color for your own gluten-free dish towels and educate everyone in the house not to use that color towel.
Food Storage –
Designate the top shelf as entirely gluten-free — no other foods can be placed on that shelf (and since no foods will be above the gluten-free foods, no crumbs can drift down and contaminate.
More importantly, you'll need to mark all of your foods — especially jars and other containers of condiments such as butter, mayonnaise, mustard, and jelly — with a prominent sign indicating that they're gluten-free.

Next, you'll have to educate your staff that they cannot use your condiments as part of a meal that includes gluten. Again, it takes a miniscule amount of gluten to spark a reaction — one unseen crumb in the jam is more than enough to result in contamination that will produce a day's worth (or more) of symptoms for someone with Celiac Disease. Even touching the tip of a squeeze bottle to gluten bread could lead to a reaction.

Love Your Kitchen With These Great Gadgets

January is the best time of year to hit the reset button and embark on new projects to make us happy, healthy people. The countless decisions we all make throughout our days leads to how high we score on the Happy & Healthy Meter. My best decision-making is fueled by eating real food and the amount of vigorous exercise I can squeeze into my week of organized chaos. What do I mean by “real food”? Well, food that isn’t filled with preservatives and manmade ingredients like GMOs. These days real food is easily found in markets like Whole Foods and farm–to–fork style restaurants—but these destinations usually come with a hearty price tag too. If I told my Grandma she could sell what others referred to as her “peasant food,” now marketed as “organic and gourmet food,” for a small fortune, I would get the whoop’n–spoon for telling tales.

There is more profit in mass-produced processed foods than local farm stands with field greens and grass-fed, hormone–free beef, chicken, pork or lamb, which means those poor imitations of real food are more readily available. Too many Americans spend hard–earned money on food that really isn’t food. Many of us recognize the poor quality of our diets but have difficulty changing those ingrained habits. It has taken our whole lives to create the eating habits we have, and it will take some serious work to reset those habits with health as a priority.

Most of us give little thought to where our food comes from or the ingredients it consists of, as long as it tastes good and satisfies our cravings. We simply don’t have time to put a home–cooked meal together—or so we think. If we rewire or reset these few habits—grocery shopping, cooking and eating—we can make great progress.

Choose a grocery store that is health–conscious and requires strict “real food” guidelines, instead of the big chains that sell food made with heavy preservatives and artificial ingredients. Read labels and get to know what your food is made of. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in your area, choose foods in their most natural state with a short ingredient list. Also, beware of packaging tricks like “Natural Flavors” or “Whole Grain”; if they are not listed as one of the top three ingredients, they probably have no real nutritional value.

We recognize that cooking can require a lot of time and effort, so make it worthwhile! When making a meal, prepare extra so you’ll have leftovers to last throughout your week. If you prepare roasted chicken, for example, those leftovers make great sandwiches or salads. Turning cooking into a fun activity, rather than a chore, can also inspire you to eat healthier and more carefully. Turn dinner–making into a fun activity the whole family can enjoy, and you’ll cultivate a whole new appreciation for your food.

Your overall daily meals should have 50% veggies and fruits, 25% protein and 25% grains, along with at least eight cups of water and 20 minutes of vigorous exercise. Making small changes, like one less soda and one more glass of water or partaking in red wine instead of a sugary cocktail, will help you succeed in resetting years of eating habits. Oh yes, and don’t forget to reward yourself when you reach your goals, even the tiny ones.

Happy starts with knowing what inspires and motivates you, but it’s equally as important to know what has the opposite effect. It may sound easy and it can be with the right source of motivation. Real food can be an inspiration, not just for your eating habits, but for your entire lifestyle. So this new year, allow yourself to be inspired and start climbing up that Happy & Healthy Meter! 

 Recipe For A Happy And Healthy 2019

Like music, food inspires me too. Creating a mouth-pleasing meal for my love is just as romantic as a silly love song. We’ve all heard the saying, “The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” but what many men don’t realize is the same goes for women. You might be thinking, “I’m not that skilled in the culinary arts, and it takes all day to make a great meal.” Au contraire. One of my favorite, easy to make dinners is Baked Chicken Parmigiana; baking, rather than frying, provides all the taste with fewer calories, and locally grown organic tomatoes, garlic, and basil makes it exceedingly healthy.

Greet your love with a tasty cocktail and an appetizer, allowing you time for any last minute final preparations. With dinner, my first choice is a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon—robust and fruity on the pallet style, or if you would prefer, a lighter Pinot Noir. A well–crafted Pale Ale or Hefeweizen would satisfy any brew aficionado. Whatever your romantic style may be, Romeo and Juliet, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, or Jack and Diane, this taste bud tantalizing recipe is easy and will take just over an hour to make. You’ll have your Valentine eating out of your hand. 


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups low–fat buttermilk
1 cup Deanna’s Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon Italian seasons
1⁄2 cup shredded Parmesan + 2 tablespoons
1⁄2 cup shredded Mozzarella + 2 tablespoons
2 cups marinara sauce
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
Small bunch of fresh basil
Small bunch of fresh parsley
Extra virgin olive oil 

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper lightly greased with extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.

Wash and pat dry chicken breast. Pour half the buttermilk into a large bowl, add chicken breasts and completely cover with remaining buttermilk. Set aside.

Wash and pat dry 4 or 5 of the largest basil leaves— stack them on one another, biggest on the bottom to smallest on top. Roll them into a cigar shape starting from the stem upwards to the tip, hold firm. With a sharp knife, slice very thin strips. In a small saucepan, combine sliced basil with marinara sauce and chopped garlic. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring intermittently. 

In a separate medium size bowl, add Deanna’s Gluten Free Bread Crumbs, granulated garlic and Italian seasons. Mix well, then add the Parmesan and Mozzarella. Mix thoroughly.

Remove a chicken breast from buttermilk; dip into the bread crumb mix, generously covering both sides. Place coated chicken on prepared bake sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken breast. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

A few minutes before the chicken is ready, prepare two dinner plates with a hefty layer of the simmering marinara sauce in the center on which to rest your Chicken Parmigiana. Top with remaining tablespoons of Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese, garnish with a sprig of parsley. Eat the parsley for fresh breath after your meal! Bon Appetite! 

And for the perfect appetizers to keep your sweetie satiated, whip up these quick starters!


​Deanna's Gluten-Free Flatbread, lightly toasted
3” or 4” Heart Cookie Cutter
Grape Tomatoes, quartered
Chopped garlic
Fresh basil, thinly sliced
EVOO drizzled on top
Splash of balsamic vinaigrette
Salt and pepper to taste

Use the cookie cutter to create heart-shaped flatbread. Set aside. Combine all prepared ingredients in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly. Gently spoon the ingredients onto the flatbread. Include a splash of balsamic vinaigrette on top, along with a drizzle of EVOO. Enjoy!


Cucumbers, thinly sliced
Grape tomatoes, quartered
Red onion, thinly sliced
Fresh basil, thinly sliced
EVOO drizzled on top
Splash of balsamic vinaigrette
Salt and pepper to taste 

Layer vegetables on each individual plate with cucumbers on the bottom, then grape tomatoes, red onion, and fresh basil. Garnish with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette, EVOO drizzled on top and with salt and pepper to taste.

There are striking similarities between wardrobes and kitchen tools. Most stirringly that both have seasons; as sweaters are to soup bowls with root veggies, strapless tops are to sorbet ice cream makers and spring garden berries. The tools we use to prepare our meals fluctuate with the weather.

That's why chefs love kitchen tools and gadgets that make creating a fine seasonal meal fun and easy. Some kitchen essentials may seem like expensive investments, but making the smart purchase early on will save you hundreds over your lifetime. Some of the latest and greatest tools can inspire the makings of a superb dinner or decadent dessert. Investing in kitchen gadgets can become addictive and you may find yourself wanting more, but here’s our list of essential home chef tools:

Pots and Pans: All–Clad is tops, but Calphalon is great quality at a great price. Both brands even include steamers available in most sets. Lodge is a fabulous cast iron line with heavy duty wear, as well as heavy duty weight. Purchasing stainless steel or nonstick pans is a personal preference, but always be sure to toss out any nonstick tools that are chipping or peeling. 

Knives, Vegetable Peelers and Cutting Boards: Wusthof and Santoku are our favorite brands of knives, as well as Kyocera Ceramic knives and veggie peelers. Ceramic is very sharp and lightweight and should only be used on soft foods. Cutting boards come in wood, plastic, recycled materials and our favorite, bamboo, which is harder than wood, absorbs very little moisture and resists scarring from knives. As long as you clean and sanitize your cutting boards, they will last for years. 

Measuring Cups & Spoons and Digital Scales: There are countless styles, colors, and materials to choose from, so this decision comes down to what feels best in your hands and the color scheme of your kitchen. We love stainless steel cups and spoons, as well as the Flex It Silicone measuring cup set, which is best for liquid measuring and pouring. If you’re a stickler for precision, you’ll need a small digital scale that weighs 0.1 ounce increments up to about 10 pounds; be sure to calibrate your scale often with a confirmed ½ or 1 pound weight.

Romantic Italian GF Feast: Staring Baked Chicken Parmigiana