It's very easy to get hung up on food.
This is especially true for those of us with special diets, or cooking for someone on one. A simple meal, snack or treat must be analyzed and scrutinized before determining if it is safe to pop into our mouths. The simple act of eating is anything but. So yes, it is always forefront on our minds. I often sigh in exasperation at the thought of planning a meal, and it is an all-family commitment to keep on track so our little one stays healthy and at his best.
As Thanksgiving, the biggest "food" holiday of the year, approaches, all my hangups are front and center. To ease these fears, I am cooking a large chunk of the feast myself. I'm going to cook some food ahead, make a lot of veggies and stuff the bird with gluten-free stuffing. I am finding it not to be the feast of burden I made it out to be. Some family members are bringing dessert, "regular" dressing and sides that fit their desires. But the bulk of the feast will be allergen free.
With the main courses and sides free of gluten, I can make sure my picky eater can experience the meal and be part of a tradition that is as much about health and working together than it is about food. Just as the pilgrims had to learn a new way of life to keep themselves fed and nourished, we once were like those first settlers who came to a strange land. Today, I am happy to say that I no longer feel like a stranger in a New World, but rather like an everyday Squanto. I feel I am kneeling in the dirt teaching others my ways of cooking food and searching for meals that nourish everyone. I am happy to share what I have learned over the years both here and in my kitchen. And I'm finally confident enough to share the bounty.
I hope as we feast this year we will give thanks to those who came before us, overcame obstacles and sickness and put all their efforts onto a table shared by all.
Truth be told, I would rather not handle the turkey. And fortunately for me, my parents will be taking on the bird. I will be making the stuffing, however, and have prepared a batch of Bob's Red Mill cornbread for the staple. I plan to make a simple stuffing with onions, celery, dried cherries, sage and cornbread. I am hoping to also include sausage but am having a heck of a time finding gluten free and msg
gives me migraines) sausage. I know Hormel's Little Sizzlers
sausage is free of both, but didn't see it at either Meijer
or Kroger near my home.
If I was making the turkey myself, I think I would do a brine. Martha Stewart's turkey looks the best. Here is her recipe.Corn Bread Stuffing
1 package corn bread mix, premade
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground sausage (see above), optional
1 onion, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup dried cherries
Dried salt, pepper, sage, thyme to taste
1 cup chicken stock (such as Kitchen Basics)
Cut cornbread into 1-inch cubes a day ahead and set out so they are dry.
To make stuffing: Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium low heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not brown. Add sausage (if using) and cook until sausage is fully cooked through. Stir in thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Add sausage mixture to cornbread and toss to blend. Slowly pour in stock and toss to moisten. Use to stuff bird or cook on the side.
Here are some safety guidelines from the USDA on preparing a stuffed turkey.
On the side: Spread stuffing in a buttered or oiled 9x15-inch baking dish. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until top is crisp and golden.The veggies
I know a lot of people like green bean casserole on Turkey Day, but we actually skip it. After all, the Native Americans and Pilgrims didn't have cream of mushroom soup in 1621! Green beans are delicious steeped in boiling water for 5 minutes, then tossed into a pan with olive oil, sliced garlic and diced tomatoes. Saute for 5-10 minutes and they are good to go. Or, serve up a bowl of plain steamed beans with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a pat of buttery spread. Top with slivered almonds for a little something extra. You'd be surprised how many people enjoy pure, steamed veggies. My grandmother always made a heaping bowl of steamed carrots cut on the angle. I didn't tell my mom, but they were always my favorite!
I am planning corn, steamed carrots and string beans on the menu, and also this squash recipe from The Associated Press (use buttery spread in place of the butter if making dairy-free):
ACORN SQUASH WITH BROWNED BUTTER AND FRIED SAGE LEAVES
5 1/2 pounds acorn squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
5 tablespoons butter
16 large fresh sage leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the squash and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then return the squash to the pot, cover and set aside.
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the butter begins to bubble, add the sage leaves.
As the butter browns, fry the sage leaves on both sides (turning them as needed) until crispy, skimming any solids off the butter as needed, 3 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the sage leaves to a paper towel to drain. Set aside.
Coarsely chop half of the sage leaves and add, along with the browned butter, to the reserved squash. Stir over medium heat until the squash is well coated with butter and heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the squash garnished with the reserved whole fried sage leaves.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 191 calories; 67 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 19 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 5 g fiber; 130 mg sodium.Potatoes
Mashed potatoes are easily gluten free. Just boil and blend with either butter and milk or buttery spread and milk substitute. Salt and pepper to taste. For extra flavor, try boiling the potatoes in broth.
For my feast, I'm also serving my son's favorite: whipped sweet potatoes.Whipped Sweet Potatoes3-4 large sweet potatoes, baked in the oven until soft About 1 tablespoon butter 1 cup applesauce Salt, pepper to taste
Remove skins from hot potatoes (handle with care, they can burn your hands) and put in large food processor with other ingredients. Whip until smooth. Serve immediately, or place in a casserole dish and warm for feast time.Cranberry sauce
Don't by the can, make it fresh. "It's so easy," my mom says. And it is. Just dissolve about a teaspoon (or more if you desire) of sugar into about a cup of orange juice in a medium saucepan. Add a bag of fresh cranberries and simmer until berries pop. Pour into serving bowl. Done.Dessert
For pumpkin pie, I enjoy the Basic Pastry for Single- or Double-Crust Pie recipe. It comes from Carol Fenster's
"Gluten Free Quick & Easy" cookbook. I modified it because it calls for a mix of ingredients I never seem to have on hand. I find using a flour blend from the store (like Bob's Red Mill) with a mix of starches and flours works well. Make sure tapioca flour is included in the blend.Crust1 2/3 cup gluten-free flour blend1/2 cup rice flour1 teaspoon xanthan gum1 teaspoon guar gum (may be included in mix, too)1/2 teaspoon table salt1/4 teaspoon baking soda 3 tablespoons cane sugar, divided1/2 cup shortening, Crisco or buttery spread1/2 cup milk (soy or rice work fine)1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Mix dry ingredients in food processor, 2 tablespoons sugar and shortening. Mix well and then add milk and vinegar. Blend until ball forms and remove dough from processor. Flatten into 1-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Remove the dough from refrigerator and knead until warm and pliable. Roll half the dough to 10-inch circle between two pieces of plastic wrap dusted with rice flour. Remove and place place on bottom of pie plate. Fill with filling and bake 25-30 minutes in 375 F oven.Filling:1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree 3/4 cup brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger, allspice 1/3 cup sugar or 3 tablespoons honey 3 beaten eggs 1 cup lite coconut milk
But this year went even more simple. I bought a box of 123 Gluten Free Sweet Goodness Pan Bars
at Kroger. I added a can of pumpkin puree and voila, pumpkin bars. It was pricey but fills a full 8-by-12 pan with bars. I made it ahead of time (photo at right) and topped it with powdered sugar frosting (recipe on sugar package: just melt butter or buttery spread in sauce pan, add a teaspoon of vanilla, and 2-3 cups of powdered sugar. Melt and add just enough milk or milk substitute for desired consistency. Will harden a little when cool).Did you know? In 1621, the pilgrims shared a feast with the Wampanoag that was gluten and casein free. The supply of flour was long diminished before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, so there was no bread or pastries (including pumpkin pie) of any kind at the first Thanksgiving. It is reported that they did eat boiled pumpkin and created a type of fried bread from corn. Also, there was no dairy because there were no domestic cattle at the early settlement. The feast is likely to not have even included turkey (and definitely not stuffing) and likely was made up of fish, berries, lobster, dried fruit, clams, venison and plums.