Now Dasher, Now Dancer, Now Gluten-Free Prancer and Dairy-Free Vixen?
If your child has celiac disease or a milk allergy, leaving Santa and his crew the usual milk and cookies on Christmas Eve may be out of the question. How can you best handle these food allergies and stick to your family’s traditions on Christmas Eve?
Eat Like a Reindeer
In the wild, reindeer rely on leafy greens as their main source of food. They enjoy birch and willow leaves as well as grass, moss, fern, and herbs. During the winter, they even dig below the snow using their hooves in search of a bushy plant called lichen, otherwise known as “reindeer moss!” For those with food allergies, leafy greens are gluten and dairy-free, not to mention packed with vitamins A, C, E, and K (essential for growing teeth and bones, a strong immune system, and healthy eyes and skin). Notably, leafy greens are also rich in iron, magnesium, and calcium, significant to those with celiac disease, as levels in some individuals may be low.
Why not include some reindeer food as a side for Christmas Eve dinner and save some for Rudolph to enjoy later? Make your own salad dressing to limit allergens and to encourage your family to experiment with different flavor combinations. For reindeer fare inspiration, check out CHOPCHOP’s Red Radish Salad or put your little elves to work at designing their own gluten-free, dairy-free fodder:
Jobs for Santa’s Helpers
|Wash and dry lettuce using a salad spinner||Tear leaves and herbs into small pieces|
|Peel cucumbers||Grate carrots|
|Toss ingredients together||Measure olive oil|
|Squeeze lemons||Shake salad dressing to combine in a jar with a lid|
Mix and Match Recipe: Reindeer Food
Decorate reindeer food with your choice of greenery and ornaments, then top with your favorite trimmings!
|Greenery||Red and Green Ornaments||The Trimmings|
|Baby spinach or Bok Choy||Apples||2 parts olive oil plus . . .|
|Kale||Dried Cranberries or Cherries||1 part balsamic vinegar OR|
|Arugula||Pomegranate seeds||1 part Red wine vinegar OR|
|Boston Lettuce||Grapes||1 part Lemon juice plus . . .|
|Bell Peppers||Pinch of salt|
|Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)|
Plan a Cookie Swap
Now that you have the reindeer taken care of, what is there to cook up for Santa? Gluten-free, dairy-free baking does differ from baking with wheat flour, milk, and butter. However, in our experience, these baked goods taste just as delicious as the real thing!
Gluten-free baked goods turn out the best if you make your own gluten-free all-purpose flour mixture from a few different types of flours. By including both whole grain and starchy flours, you’ll ensure that the end result more closely mimics wheat flour. For a more detailed explanation, as well as suggestions for a variety of flours to use, check out The Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. If you’re short on time or would rather purchase a gluten-free all-purpose flour mixture, there are many ready-made products available. We have tried both flour routes, and both led to yummy results!
You can use coconut, soy, and almond milk as substitutes for cow’s milk in most recipes, however, since each has a unique flavor, you may want to experiment a bit depending on what you’re baking. Additionally, if a recipe calls for warmed up milk (like hot chocolate), note that soy milk may curdle if heated too quickly or at too high of a temperature. Stick to low and slow! Many recipes for cookies and other sweets call for butter, but if you’re dairy-free, there are some very butter-like alternatives available.
On the night before Christmas, try this favorite gluten-free, dairy-free cookie recipe, or use gluten-free all-purpose flour in your own cookie recipes. To drink, leave Santa a cup of Hot Honey Vanilla Milk (substitute coconut, soy, or almond milk for cow’s milk), or go with a cold glass of a cow’s milk alternative. Now grab your apron, put on some festive music, and show Santa how gluten-free, dairy-free baking is done right!
Jobs for Santa’s Helpers
|Measure ingredients||Crack eggs|
|Mix batter||Roll cookies in cinnamon-sugar mixture|
Recipe: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Makes: 3 dozen
315 gm. Gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
1/2 cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. Cream of tartar
1 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Gluten-free, dairy-free butter substitute
1 3/4 cups Sugar, divided
2 large Eggs
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ancho Chile powder (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375° F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt
3. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat the butter substitute and 1 ½ cups of sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes
4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat to combine
5. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated
6. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with cinnamon and chile powder
7. Using a small ice cream scoop, or heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture
8. Place about 3 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets
9. Bake until cookies are set in the center and beginning to crack, about 12 minutes
10. Let cookies cool, and store in an airtight container for up to a week (these cookies also freeze well)
To learn more about nutrition and gluten-free foods, join us in the kitchen and get cooking! Through a partnership with the Natural Gourmet Institute, the Sylvia Center and NYU Langone Medical Center’s S.Q.U.A.S.H. and Pediatric Celiac Disease and Gluten Related Disorders Programs, kids learn to make fun, healthy, gluten-free recipes with professional chefs. Class is free and open to the public for kids ages 7 to 12. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-754-2233.
NOTE: Foods and ingredients listed are considered to be gluten-free and dairy-free as of the date of this blog post, but we always recommend reviewing food labels to confirm, as manufacturing practices may change. Call food companies if you are ever not sure!
Jackie Ballou Erdos, MS, RD, CDN, Pediatric Nutrition Coordinator and Director of the S.Q.U.A.S.H. Program (Smart choices, Quality ingredients, Unique, Appetizing, Simple & Healthy) at NYU Langone Medical Center.
At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we understand that caring for infants, children, and teenagers is a special privilege. That’s why we partner with our young patients and their families to offer expert medical and surgical care. Our specialists treat children with conditions ranging from minor illnesses to complex, more serious issues at locations throughout the New York metropolitan area.