The Food Philosopher: Gluten-Free Recipes, Health and Nutrition, Diet and Weight Loss





Holiday Sides

thinking about the festive dinners and parties to come and all the favorite foods they will get to eat. If you are planning to cook over the holidays for friends and family, you might have already begun to search for new ideas and recipes to serve along with those treasured favorites and old reliables. We would like to share some of our own favorites with you, as well as a few timing insights. These are recipes that we love to make and, even better, love to eat. You can mix and match them with any holiday roast—beef, lamb, pork, turkey, or Cornish hen. The Green Beans and Shiitake Mushrooms are a snap to make and an exotic alternative to the popular green bean casserole featured on many holiday tables. Our Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole is fabulous alongside a roast pork or turkey. The Pearl Onions with Tarragon Cream Sauce is a lightened version of an old favorite. And we've included our recipe for a delicious savory gluten-free herbed bread stuffing in case you want or need to make one for a family member, friend, or even yourself. Be sure to try the Ginger Pear Cranberry Sauce; it's a scrumptious rendition of the classic and sure to become a new favorite in your household.

Green Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms
Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole
Pearl Onions with Tarragon Cream Sauce
Butternut Squash Gratin
Gluten-Free Herb Bread Stuffing
Ginger Pear Cranberry Sauce


Holiday meals are often more complicated than dinner parties. For many, there are more "required" dishes and more people around the table. Try to simplify your efforts by remembering these few simple timing steps:

  • Try to make some dishes ahead and freeze them. Breads, bread dough (those with wheat), and certain desserts, particularly ones that contain fat, can often be frozen without compromising taste and texture. It is also possible to freeze many soups and sauces.
  • Organize your menu on paper. Then make a shopping list, prep list, and cook list. Follow your prep and cook list in the days leading up to the actual holiday. Make as much as possible so that you only have to make what needs to be cooked or reheated at the last minute on the day of the big meal.
  • Start with the most time–consuming dish first, and work on the other dishes while it's cooking.
  • Clean as you go. It may seem like more effort at first, but it saves time in the long run. Utensils, bowls, pots, and pans will be where you need them. But more important, your last impression of the holiday won't be one of you cleaning up a giant mess after all your cooking. Never underestimate making it all seem like "no big deal." If you don't have a giant mess, you won't remember a giant mess.
  • Set the table ahead of time. When you expect a lot of people for big holidays, try to do it the night before so you won't have to be bothered the next day. Make it festive and more special than you would for an everyday meal. Use plates you don't see during the week. Decorate with flowers, artfully arranged fruit, or other event-oriented centerpieces. Set aside the serving platters, bowls, and serving utensils so you won't have to hunt them down later. Pick out the candles and secure them in the candlesticks. Make sure you have matches.
  • Take care of the little details before everyone arrives. Fill the sugar bowl, the little pitcher of cream for coffee, and the salt and pepper shakers. Pick the music you want to play and organize the CDs or playlist on your iPod so that they are ready to play.
  • Prior to the arrival of your guests, adjust the lighting and turn on the music. Last, but not least, fill the air with a delicious aroma. Play on as many senses as possible all at once: sight, sound, and smell. We often try to cook something just before people are expected, the scent of which will linger and welcome them (mulled cider at Thanksgiving and Christmas always brings a smile to people walking through the door).


Serves 8

2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces fresh Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds slender green beans, trimmed
2/3 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Shiitake mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and aside.
  2. Melt remaining butter in same skillet. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add green beans and toss to coat with butter. Pour broth over green beans. Cover and simmer until liquid evaporates and green beans are tender but crisp, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in Shiitake mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm.

Prep notes: trim the green beans the day before or use frozen whole green beans. Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go while the turkey is roasting. Cook this dish after the turkey comes out of the oven.

© 2002 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


6-8 Servings

3 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams) peeled, cut into ¼ inch-thick rounds, divided
3 large Granny Smith apples (about 1½ pounds), peeled, cored, cut into ¼ inch-thick slices, divided
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice, divided
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar, divided
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a 15x10x2-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Mix the dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the orange juice and melted butter.
  2. In baking dish, alternate slices of sweet potatoes and apples in rows. Sprinkle sugar mixture and then drizzle the orange juice and butter evenly over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover dish with foil. Bake until potatoes and apples are tender, about 30-40 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 500°F. Remove foil. Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Keep warm until served.

Prep notes: this dish can be made a day ahead and reheated, covered with foil until warm in a 350°F oven.

© 2006 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


Serves 6 as a side dish

3 cups pearl onions, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced shallots
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. In a medium saucepan, boil onions in salted water until tender for 5-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan. Add shallots and tarragon; sauté over medium heat until shallots are tender. Reduce heat to low.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and potato starch until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the milk mixture to the saucepan and beat with wire whisk until smooth. Return to medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup thick sauce.
  6. Add onions to sauce and toss. Serve warm.

Prep notes: the sauce can be made up to two days ahead. Refrigerate until needed. Warm sauce over medium heat and then toss with warm, boiled onions. Keep warm until ready to serve.

© 2002 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


Serves 6 as a side dish

2½ pounds butternut squash (uncooked)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
4 ounces shredded Italian Fontina cheese (¾ cup packed)
2 ounces grated Parmesan (1/3 cup packed)
2 ounces mild goat cheese (¼ cup) 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Baking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Bake cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes or until soft. Cool slightly.
  2. While squash is roasting, heat butter and olive oil in a small fry pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and golden, about 20 minutes.
  3. Lightly grease a 2-quart gratin dish (or an approximately 8 x10 x 2-inch ceramic baking pan).
  4. Scoop out squash into large bowl of food processor. Add onion, egg, milk, goat cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper and purée until well-blended. Stir in Fontina and Parmesan cheese. Pour into prepared pan; gratin should be 1 to 1½ inches thick. Place in center of oven and bake for about 40 minutes until set.

Cook's Note: Gratin can be made the day ahead and reheated in the oven at 350°F or the microwave (bring to room temperature before reheating).

Recipe can be doubled; use larger gratin dish and bake until center is set. Baking time may have to be adjusted if gratin is thicker than 1½ inches.

© 2006 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts

Food Philosopher’s® Gluten–Free


Serves 8

6 cups good quality gluten-free sandwich bread*
¾ cup chopped celery
¾ cup chopped onions
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
¾ teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1 teaspoon demi glace (optional)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste
1 cup low sodium chicken broth (add another ¼ cup for moister stuffing)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine cut into thin slices (for top of stuffing)

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Position rack in center of oven. Remove crusts from bread and cut into ¾ inch squares. Spread bread cubes on a large baking sheet and bake until cubes are dried out and golden. Allow to cool thoroughly. Bread crumbs can be prepared two days in advance. Store in a tightly sealed container or plastic zip-lock bag in refrigerator.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery, sage, thyme, and marjoram; mix well and sautée until tender. Stir in demi glace (if using) and mix to combine. Vegetable/herb mix can be prepared two days in advance. Store in a tightly sealed container in refrigerator.
  4. Put bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in onion and celery mixture. Add broth and mix in gently. Allow to sit until all moisture is absorbed (about 5 minutes).
  5. Spoon stuffing mixture into greased 8 x 8-inch baking pan and cover with foil. Bake covered for 15 minutes. Remove foil, dot with thin slices of butter across top of stuffing and bake an additional 20-30 minutes until top is golden brown and little crisp. Store any leftovers tightly covered in refrigerator. Can be rewarmed in microwave or conventional oven.

* You can make the sandwich bread from Gluten-Free Baking Classics, (using Bread Flour Mix A, Bread Flour Mix B ), or you can use a fresh, top-quality rice bread that is not purchased frozen. (However, Whole Foods makes a frozen Sandwich Bread that works well for this, and I recommend it). The small, hard, frozen rice breads will not make a good stuffing.

Cook's Note: for variation add sausage, chestnuts, dry fruit, other spices and herbs.

© 2006 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts


Makes 1½ cups

1 firm, ripe pear, such as a Comice
Juice of ½ lemon
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
¼ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  1. Peel, quarter and core the pear, then chop into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with the lemon juice and stir well to keep pear from turning dark.
  2. Sort the cranberries, discarding and soft ones. Add to the pear along with the sugar, water, ginger and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover partially.
  3. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, the pear is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.

Prep notes: this sauce can be made several days in advance. Keep refrigerated.

© 2002 by Claudia Pillow and Annalise Roberts