As we gather around the holiday table to enjoy this season of giving, my gift is empowering you with tools to learn the art of gluten-free living.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats.

Physicians often recommend those with digestive issues, autoimmune conditions, including arthritis, inflammatory problems and women's conditions such as infertility, PMS and endometriosis to eliminate foods with gluten.

Some neurologists also recommend eliminating gluten as part of a strategy to improve brain health, prevent diabetes and assist those who have autism.

Living gluten-free is crucial for those with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten damages the small intestine.

Today's gluten-free trend is much more than a fashionable diet. A gluten-free lifestyle is free of worry, limits, toxins, aches and having an upset digestive system. Going gluten-free doesn't need to be complicated or expensive and it's not about going without.

Think of this season of candlelight, mistletoe and silver bells as a golden opportunity to love yourself and others. Conscientious eating is not about going against the grain of tradition, society or culture. It's a matter of respect. What better way to thank your body than by being kind to it?

To get started, here are practical suggestions and recipes adapted from my book, "The Art of Gluten-Free Living."

Outside there may a chill in the air, but inside the kitchen your new culinary creations will warm the hearts of those you love.

 

Pork-Potato Stuffing

Stuffing arguably is the hallmark of Thanksgiving. My husband, Jack, makes his generations-old family French recipe every year. It is naturally grain-free.

 

Ingredients:

2 pounds of ground pork (or ground chicken or turkey)

5 pounds of potato, peeled, diced

1 medium-sized onion, chopped

olive oil

poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste

 

In a pan, lightly saut← the onion in the olive oil. Add the ground pork. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until the water evaporates and the pork is cooked (about 45 minutes). Boil the potatoes in a separate pot until they are soft. Drain and mash. Add the cooked pork mixture to the potatoes; stir. Season with salt, pepper and a generous amount of poultry seasoning, to taste. Serves 10, with leftovers, which freeze nicely.

 

Roasted Vegetables

Vegetables are inherently gluten-free. I love to roast my favorite squashes and potatoes in the oven on 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. The simplicity of a little olive oil and sea salt brings understated elegance to the table.

 

Patricia Wilson is author of "The Art of Gluten-Free Living" available online at Barnes and Noble (barnesandnoble.com) and on Amazon. She is a registered interior designer and award-winning artist and has been gluten-free since the late 1990s. Join her online community, Live Beautifully, at PatriciaCWilson.com.

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