How to Fit a Fruit or Vegetable in Every Gluten Free Holiday Dish | Rachel Begun, MS, RD

As a scientific/medical advisory board member and Ask the Dietitian expert for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and a staunch advocate of all the organization does for the gluten free community, I am honored to have been invited to participate in the “Gluten Free Holiday How-To” campaign co-hosted by NFCA and Crunchmaster (whose crackers I love!).

Each week, from November 21 through December 16, the NFCA Gluten Free Holiday Central webpage will feature a different holiday challenge with help from a top gluten-free blogger. In addition to the special posts from the gluten free bloggers, NFCA will share their additional tips and recipes in an exclusive email to subscribers only.

As The Gluten Free RD, my blog post (below) is “How to Fit a Fruit or Vegetable in Every Gluten Free Holiday Dish.” My special email will provide tips for “Enjoying the Holiday Party Without Overindulging.”  To receive this special email, click here. Those who sign up to receive the email will be entered to win the Crunchmaster giveaway for the week, $40 worth of free Crunchmaster gluten free crackers, as well as be entered to win the Crunchmaster Grand Prize, $40 worth of Crunchmaster crackers plus $100 cash. To be entered into the drawing, you must subscribe to receive the eblast by Friday, December 9th at 12noon EST.

How to Fit a Fruit or Vegetable in Every Gluten Free Holiday Dish

When NFCA invited me to participate in the Gluten Free Holiday How-To Campaign, I knew right away what my topic would be.  I am a big believer in eating at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable in every meal and snack.  I practice this myself and advise the same for all of my clients.  Why? Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.  What does that mean?  Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber all while being very low in calories.  So, you get maximum nutrition at minimum calories, which is good for maintaining health and a proper weight. 

So, naturally, I believe in maintaining the practice of eating a fruit or vegetable in every dish throughout holiday meals, parties and get togethers. It’s one of the best ways to prevent overeating at holiday meals, as the nutrients and fiber fill you up and keep you more satiated than empty-calorie dishes.  I know many of you are rolling your eyes, thinking that eating fruits and vegetables and indulging in holiday comfort foods are two mutually exclusive events.  From the recipes below, you’ll see how easy AND delicious it can be.  

Good luck with the contest and enjoy your fruit and veggie-filled holiday season! 

Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe will be the belle of the holiday appetizer table for all.  While not brightly-colored like other fruits and vegetables, research is showing that mushrooms are a nutrition powerhouse, with immune, cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits.  The low calorie mushroom is a perfect balance to the richer stuffing it holds.  Crunchmaster’s Mutli-Seed Crackers add a nutty flavor and texture to this gluten free version of an all time favorite.


30 button mushrooms, rinsed and dried
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. herbed-soft or goat cheese, such as Boursin
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. fresh herbs to match herbed cheese, such as parsley, rosemary or chives, chopped
1 cup ground Crunchmaster Mutli-Seed Crackers (grind in a mini food processor)
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional) 


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 1-2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Remove stems from mushrooms and chop stems to fill one cup.  Set cup of mushrooms aside; save the remainder for another recipe.  Brush the mushroom caps with olive oil and place top down on the baking sheet(s). Sauté the mushroom stems, onions and garlic until tender.  Transfer to a bowl.  Stir in the herbed soft cheese.  Add the Parmesan, parsley and cracker crumbs into the mixture until evenly blended.  Stuff each mushroom cap (above level of cap).  If you desire, sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese over the tops of the stuffed mushroom caps.  Bake until warm throughout, about 8-9 minutes.

Millet Polenta with Roasted Butternut Squash

Believe me when I tell you this recipe is every bit as much comfort food as mashed potatoes.  Millet is a gluten free whole grain that cooks up thick and creamy to make a carby comfort food without cream and butter!  What makes this dish better than mashed potatoes is the nutrition it provides.  Together, the millet and butternut squash provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lots of fiber so that you can enjoy this indulgent dish and become full and satisfied on less calories and saturated fat. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Ingredients:

3 cups butternut squash, diced or chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil, for coating

Millet Polenta Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from three sprigs of thyme
1 cup millet, rinsed and drained
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. sea salt


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a bowl, evenly coat diced butternut squash with olive oil.  Spread in a single layer on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle minced garlic on butternut squash, spread back into one layer and bake for 10 more minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.

While baking squash, begin preparing millet polenta.  Heat olive oil in bottom of a pot.  Add onion, garlic thyme and bay leaf and cook until onion and garlic are tender.  Add millet to pot and coat with oil mixture.  Add water, bay leaf and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce to low heat, cover and let simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring vigorously to release the starch in the millet and prevent sticking.  Add roasted butternut squash and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.  Turn off heat, set aside covered for 5 minutes.  Discard bay leaf and serve.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

The two parts of this dish can be enjoyed separately or together.  Together, they make a substantial side dish or can even act in place of the entree for vegetarians or in the event that the main dish contains gluten.  The brown rice and pilaf stuffing is just as hearty and satisfying as your favorite stuffing, but made with fiber-rich whole grains, antioxidant-rich cranberries and heart-healthy pecans. Acorn squash may seem like a starchy vegetable but, actually, it is full of water, so it’s nutrients and calories go far. 

Baked Acorn Squash Ingredients:

6 acorn squash or small dumpling squash, halved
Olive oil, for brushing

Stuffing Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 cup wild rice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Sherry wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans, roasted and chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scoop out the seeds and membranes of the squash. Slice off rounded bottom of each squash half so that it is sturdy. Brush squash flesh with olive oil. Place squash cut side down into a baking pan (not a flat cookie sheet). Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until squash is slightly cooked through. Half-way through baking, add a little water to the pan so the squash doesn’t stick. (Do not cook the squash all the way through, as the remainder of baking will be done after the stuffing has been added to the squash.) Set partially-baked squash aside.

Cook both rices according to their package instructions. While rices are cooking, prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, wine vinegar, thyme and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, mix the vinaigrette with the warm rices and toss to coat. Mix in the cranberries and pecans and evenly distribute.

Using a spoon, fill the squash with the stuffing so that it is neatly piled above the line of the squash. Place the squash back into the baking pan with stuffing side up. Cover with foil and bake for 20 more minutes, or until the squash is tender.

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Options for incorporating fruits into desserts abound, as late fall/early winter produce lends perfectly to sweet sensations.  There’s always pumpkin and sweet potato pie to choose from, but if you want something a little different I’ve provided the following ideas for inspiration. It’s easy to find recipes on the web:

  poached pears with a pomegranate or caramel sauce. This dish is perfect on it’s own as a lighter dessert or layered with pudding and/or whipped cream as a parfait.

  flambéed pears.  Again, this dish can be eaten on its own, but is also delicious when incorporated into a clafoutis made with gluten free flour (in place of cherries).

  candied apples with nut brittle.  Apples simmered in maple syrup, apple cider, cinnamon and other spices, then sprinkled with nut brittle or toasted nuts are extremely versatile.  Serve on it’s own with homemade whipped cream or as a topping to vanilla ice cream or gluten free pound cake.

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12 Responses to How to Fit a Fruit or Vegetable in Every Gluten Free Holiday Dish

  1. Pingback: How to Fit a Fruit or Vegetable in Every Gluten Free Holiday Dish | CookingPlanet

  2. Love all your recipes Rachel! I practice this same fruit or veggie with every meal and snack approach too. I especially want to try your stuffed mushrooms with Crunchmaster crackers. Yum!! Happy holidays :-)

    • Aman says:

      Thank you so much for doing this. I was misdiagnosed by a dcotor who was misinformed about Celiac and went on eating Gluten for a whole year after I had a feeling that it was the problem. After doing tons of my own research and meeting with two other dcotors and having countless other expensive tests, it turns out I was right the first time. Keep up the efforts!

  3. Pingback: How to Fit a Fruit or Vegetable in Every Gluten Free Holiday Dish | Rachel Begun, MS, RD | Living the Gluten-Free Life |

  4. Lynda Dick says:

    The Stuffed Acorn Squash looks amazing! Knowing that it’s best to fit in fruits and vegetables in each meal gives me a goal. At least I can try to hit it most of the time!

  5. Pingback: Free Holiday Tips + Win $100 Cash from Crunchmaster | Gluten Free Hot Products

  6. I love these recipes! One thing I am so thankful for as our family eats gluten free is that vegetables have been pushed to the forefront of our diet.

    Thanks for the great post!

  7. Pingback: Gluten Free Cranberry Brie & Holiday Tips

  8. Pingback: Gluten Free Cranberry Brie & Holiday Tips | Gluten Free Recipes | Diet | Simply Gluten Free

  9. My brother recommended I would possibly like this blog. He was once entirely right. This submit actually made my day. You cann’t consider just how a lot time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  10. Pingback: Fall Recipe Favorites from thePlate Community - Around the Plate

  11. If you haven’t started eating more fruits and vegetables yet, you’re missing out on some major disease-fighting benefits, not to mention one of the best weight-management strategies to come around in years.

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