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Spectrum Café’s 12 Days of Christmas: Jennifer’s Rustic Gluten-free Pasta


Christmas after Christmas went by and Jennifer McClellan did not know what was wrong. She felt sick, exhausted, and foggy. When she went to the doctor, they were unable to diagnose her symptoms. As time passed, her doctor began to question whether Jennifer was sick at all. After nearly ten years of illness, she received the blessing she had had been praying for: a diagnosis. She had tested positive for celiac disease.

While most people might be discouraged by the news that they are allergic to gluten, a product that is present is nearly all processed foods, Jennifer was grateful. Finally she had an explanation for her headaches, weight gain, and lethargy. Now that she had an answer, she could re-order her life for the better.

“Before, it was constant stomach pains, and I was tired all of the time,” Jennifer said. “I couldn’t think clearly, and I could take three hour naps and still be tired.”

At the time, it was nearly impossible to find gluten-free foods. Jennifer had to cook everything she ate at home–eating out and accidentally consuming gluten was a risk she couldn’t take, not after learning what it felt like to feel good after years of misery. Becoming gluten-free was a complete lifestyle change. There were no cheats–no skip days–but it was all worth it.

Today, there are countless options for those who need to eat gluten-free. There is a substitute for practically every “regular” food on the market. The best advice Jennifer received when she went gluten-free was to find replacement items for the foods she was used to eating. For instance, if her recipe called for French bread, she tried to find a gluten-free French bread. Even if it did not taste the same, it made the transition much easier.

Although eating gluten-free can be challenging, Jennifer does not let it slow her down, especially around the holidays! In her family, each person brings a dish for a potluck-style dinner. Jennifer brings her own gluten-free entrees and sometimes even dessert.

As Christmas approaches, Jennifer is looking forward to an evening spent with family. The youngest of five children, Christmas in her family is always a loud occasion, full of laughter, food, and shared memories. This year, Jennifer especially excited, because it is her second daughter’s very first Christmas. Baby Lucy will be joining her 16-year-old sister Holly beside the Christmas tree this year, and Jennifer couldn’t be any happier.

From Jennifer’s kitchen to yours, have a happy, healthy Christmas!

Rustic Pasta, adapted from “The Kind Diet” by Alicia Silverstone

Serves: 4 to 8

Active Prep Time:

Ingredients: approximately forty minutes

1. 1⁄4 lb pasta, long or short

2. 2 T olive oil

3. 2 large onions, thinly sliced

4. 1 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced

5. 2 celery stalks, diced or thinly sliced on a diagonal

6. 1⁄4 cup shoyu

7. 1⁄2 t fine sea salt

8. 1.2 t garlic powder

9. 5-6 T marinara sauce


1. Boil a large pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sauté onions for 7 minutes, until softened. Then, add garlic and cook an additional 3 minutes until onions begin to turn golden.

3. Add celery to the skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, stir in shoyu, salt, and garlic powder. After, add cabbage and sauté for 4 minutes. Then, reduce heat to a simmer for five more minutes.

4. Add pasta to the skillet with the marinara sauce and toss. Continue to cook pasta over medium heat for a minute or two, and then serve.

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