Gluten-free celebration

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina MS, RD

Portrait of Vesanto Melina
• With 1% of the population having celiac disease, 0.1% having a true wheat allergy and an estimated 0.5 to 30% – depending on the estimator – having gluten sensitivity, holiday meals can pose a challenge. The hearty, flavourful entree below will be welcomed by the vegetarians on your guest list as well as everyone else. Both recipes are from Food Allergy Survival Guide (Melina, Stepaniak and Aronson).

Sensational Stuffed Squash

(Makes 5-6 servings)

The shape and colour of buttercup squash make an impressive showpiece for special occasions. Serve with gravy (below) and perhaps cranberry sauce. Double for a larger group.

3-pound buttercup squash

1 cup water

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup white rice

1/4 cup quinoa

1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds or chopped nuts

1/4 cup chopped, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

2 tbsp. chopped, fresh parsley

1 1/2 tsp. olive oil 1/2 tsp. basil 1/4 tsp. oregano 1/4 tsp. crushed garlic Salt and pepper to taste

squashPreheat oven to 350°F. Pierce the top of the squash with a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle. Pushing the knife blade away, rotate the blade around the top of the squash and remove the cone-shaped top. Slice off fibrous material from the cone and set top aside. With large spoon, scoop out seeds and fibrous pulp from cavity of squash; discard. Place squash and top on a baking sheet; bake for 30 minutes then remove from oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

While squash bakes, place water, onion, rice and quinoa in large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork; add remaining ingredients.

Spoon stuffing into squash until almost full. Set squash top in place and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted easily into the side of the squash. Place any leftover stuffing in a small pan, sprinkle with 2 to 3 tbsp. water, cover and heat through for the last 20 minutes of the squash cooking time. Remove squash from the oven; place on a warm platter. Slice into wedges to serve.

Savory Chickpea Gravy

(Makes about 3 1/2 cups)

This tasty gravy is great on potatoes, rice, vegetables, beans and stuffed squash. The ingredients and preparation are a little unusual, but it comes together well. Chickpea flour tastes terrible raw, but tastes fine as soon as it is cooked.

3-4 tbsp. olive oil

2 onions, small, diced

1 cup chickpea flour

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. each of thyme and rosemary, crumbled

1/4 tsp. pepper

3 1/2 cups hot water

2-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt (to taste)

Place oil and onion in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook until the onion starts to brown. Stir in flour, sage, thyme, rosemary and pepper, stirring constantly to form a smooth, thick paste. Cook over medium heat until lightly toasted, about 5 to 10 minutes or until flour no longer tastes raw. Remove from heat. With a whisk or fork, gradually stir in the hot water, mixing carefully to avoid lumps. Add the vinegars and salt to taste. Warm over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until hot and bubbly. Add more water, if needed, to achieve the desired consistency.


• Replace some or all of the salt with chickpea miso, thinned with a little water, to taste.

• Replace 1 tbsp. of the balsamic vinegar with umeboshi plum vinegar.

Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian and author. Her books and/or consult make excellent gifts for those on your list. Her newest book Becoming Vegan: Express Edition has been given a star rating as “the go-to-book” on vegan nutrition by the American Library Association.,, 604-882-6782

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