It can be a major challenge to keep up holiday food traditions if you have dietary restrictions. Most of those nostalgic family recipes include bread, dairy, eggs, flour, sugar, and all sorts of other ingredients that likely fall on some ‘no-no’ lists among us.
A major ingredient this time of year for savory dishes is breadcrumbs. For some reason, the holidays call for casseroles — maybe because we’re feeding the masses — and breadcrumbs just come with the territory. They act as a food extender and ingredient binder, and they create that warm, full, holiday feeling we all crave when the weather cools off.
In my Sicilian-American family, the two major breadcrumb-stuffed-dishes I’ve come to expect every holiday season are green bean casserole and stuffed artichokes. While I wouldn’t go anywhere near a stuffed artichoke as a kid, that green bean casserole had my name written all over it. My mom has been making the same green bean casserole my entire life, and as a very picky eater, this was one of the few dishes that included anything green whatsoever that I would eat — and I LOVED it. It just doesn’t feel like the holidays without it, even though I’ll eat other green foods now. 🙂
My mom’s green beans are not your typical french cut canned beans smothered in cream of mushroom and a can of fried onions. No ma’am. This is a southern Italian twist on a standard middle-of-America dish. It includes Italian breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and Romano cheese, seasoned salt, garlic and onion powder, and olive oil. That’s it. Layer cooked or canned whole green beans and everything I just mentioned in a baking dish and bake on 350F for 20-25 minutes. It’s a super simple and always delicious recipe, but it doesn’t quite fit into my gluten-free lifestyle anymore.
There’s just no way to make this dish happen without good Italian breadcrumbs.
I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving away from home for almost 10 years now, but that has simply meant that I have been making these green beans myself for about that long. Of course, going home at Christmas means getting to eat them straight from the source, but since transitioning to a gluten-free diet 6 years ago, the whole “mom’s green beans” topic has been a dicey one. I’ve tried gluten-free store-bought breadcrumbs; I’ve tried grinding up gluten-free croutons; I’ve tried making my own with various types of bread and varying levels of success.
Perfection + Bonus Nutrition
This year, I not only perfected my gluten-free breadcrumbs recipe, I added in some bonus nutrition by using sprouted-seed bread.The gluten-free products you see in most grocery stores are typically made with high-glycemic, low-nutrient flours like potato starch, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, and corn starch. These ingredients are typically highly processed, bleached white, and very finely ground into something completely devoid of nutritional value. They are not the stuff of health by any stretch, and most people attempting or maintaining a gluten-free diet are in fact doing it for their health. So why not start with nice, healthy breadcrumbs to top those holiday dishes we’ve all grown to love?
Grindstone Bakery created the wonderful bread I use in this recipe out of sprouted seeds. Quinoa and millet are considered “pseudo-grains” because they’re technically in the seed family. They are sprouted and coarsely ground before being made into this nourishing bread. The act of sprouting seeds, grains, and beans is the act of changing a seed into a small plant.
This is significant for a couple of reasons:
- Antinutrients like phytic acid, which prevent the breakdown and absorption of proteins are neutralized
- Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are made more bioavailable to our bodies by sprouting
- Sprouted seeds, grains, and seeds are alkalizing to the body while their inert counterparts are acid-forming
- Sprouting creates a more easily digested protein source by breaking down the proteins into simple amino acids
- Enzymes are produced during the sprouting process that aid in overall digestive function
The end result is an actively healthy ingredient to add to your holiday casserole dishes — an ingredient you can feel good about eating, sharing, and enjoying. It might even make for a nice holiday gift if you tie a pretty ribbon around the top of the jar! (For more info on sprouting, check out this post from The Nourishing Gourmet.)
- Half a loaf of sprouted grain bread, sliced and then cut in half
- 3 tbs fresh rosemary
- 2 tbs fresh thyme
- 3 tbs fresh oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Toast the bread in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes on each side
- Let cool completely on a cooling wrack
- In a food processor, process cooled toasted bread, the fresh herbs, and the salt
- Store in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge or freezer for up to 3 months
- I used fresh herbs from my garden and pulled off 5 or 6 stalks of each for this recipe. The tbs measurements are estimates, but err on the side of more, not less.