Grandma Oka’s Stuffing- Changed to Gluten Free!

For years, I have enjoyed traditional foods during the holidays. I love stuffing, yams with all sorts of toppings, ham, turkey, angel food cake, and more! All of them carry great memories with them. I would almost ask for angel food cake for my birthday around Christmas. My husband's father makes the best stuffing ever! For me, family time often revolved around food to celebrate the holidays, and I love it!

So many of my memories around the holidays involve favorite foods connected to family. I think of my dad almost every time I eat angel food cake because it is one of his favorites as well. My mom taught me how to prepare and roast a turkey. My older brother loves to bake brownies. Baking food has always been connected to family memories for me.

Then, I figured out I needed to eat gluten free. Being gluten free has changed my life in many ways. Before I figured this out, I had little energy, felt terrible so much of the time, and just was not enjoying life. Changing my diet changed so many things in my life. My energy levels are so much better. My body runs more efficiently, I think more clearly, and just feel better in general. It was such a great thing for me to change in my life.

Unfortunately, being gluten free means giving up many 'normal' foods, especially during the holidays. There goes the stuffing! No more cakes! I even have to be careful when selection the ham and the turkey. Sometimes, I feel neglected because I can't eat all those foods that hold the special memories for me. When everyone else is enjoying themselves, I tend to dwell on what I can't have.

So, I decided to adapt some recipes so I can enjoy them as well! The resources available for gluten free diets are amazing. So many options are available now that did not exist even 10 years ago. Gluten free pasta and bread are available at most grocery stores.

After trying a few other things, I wanted stuffing! I love the taste and smell of it, especially the sage. Because my husband and I loved his father's stuffing, we talked to my father-in-law to get his recipe. He had learned it from his mother, Grandma Oka, and didn't have it written down! No one in the entire family knew the recipe except for him! Everyone asks for his stuffing at holiday parties, and no one else had the recipe. Fortunately, we persuaded him to share the family secret with us and spread it to the other family members.

Once we had that recipe down, I had to adapt it for my specialty diet. Obviously, the bread had to change, but I also have to be careful with chicken broths- many have ingredients that would make me sick because of my allergy to gluten. Finding a bread with a texture that worked well for the stuffing took a couple tries. Many types of gluten free bread have a very different texture than regular white bread you normally have. My favorite for the stuffing was a multi-grain bread from Trader Joe's, but I think I will experiment a little more this holiday season!

When I had that first bite of stuff that I knew would not make me sick, I was in heaven! Once again, I could enjoy the holidays! I could be 'normal' again! It gave me hope that I could still enjoy all the foods and memories that mean so much to me. By adapting this recipe, I was able to love holiday parties again!

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    Brenda Lower
    Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2015
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