When I was young, we had a tradition each Thanksgiving that I’m sure is shared table to table throughout our country. Before the meal is served, we would all announce whatever it was we were thankful for. In years past, my own kids have been thankful for their pets, their parents, and even their video games, but sometimes not in that order, I’m afraid.
This year, I’m thankful for all the typical things, chief among them that I get to sit around a table of people I love this holiday season. But to make all of that come together, I have definite strategies. The fact that we are a large family of every conceivable political persuasion makes a full bar, shrewdly placed at one end of our dining room an absolute necessity. My other strategies are a bit less drastic.
I used to be the kind of person who resisted asking for help because I never wanted to impose on anyone. But when kids came into our lives with all the typical challenges, along with additional health issues, I suddenly found asking for help to be very empowering. Especially at the holidays, resentment, exhaustion and feeling completely overwhelmed are no longer options for me. So my best strategy is a potluck, particularly when you are a family of restricted eaters.
If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your home this year, you can exert an element of control on your ingredients. You can prepare the bird, and let guests bring the items that are no-no’s for your child, but Thanksgiving mainstays for everyone else, like stuffing and mashed potatoes. Then, you can prepare a few items for your child or family. When you are a guest, you have a different set of challenges. I find that if a host knows of your food limitations, they are more than happy to tweak a recipe if they can. A phone call is necessary to determine ingredients, and if they offer to adjust their recipes, then count that as one of your Thanksgiving blessings. And if they are amenable, guide them to your favorite GFCFSF websites where they can find tips on adjusting their recipes.
So whether you are hosting Thanksgiving or are a guest, here are a few options for both scenarios, dish by dish.
For the past decade, I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving at our house for crowds that range from 18-30 people, and each year, people call me to make sure I’m making my Holiday Roast Turkey and Gravy. And the best news of all is that it is naturally gluten, casein and soy-free. This is a great option if you are hosting dinner. If you are guests at someone else’s home and are unsure about your host’s turkey and gravy, try roasting your own bird the day before and bringing the portions you need. This will give you plenty of leftovers which is a true silver lining. If you want something smaller, you can do a Roasted Breast and Gravy the day before, or even purchase a roasted breast. I found a good one at Costco for about $11.00 ($3.89/pound) - gluten-free, no preservatives, Kirkland brand.
Because we are a household of varied eating abilities and habits, I think it’s really important to find that one dish for each family member that says “Thanksgiving”. For many people, it’s mashed potatoes and gravy. And honestly, mashed potatoes aren’t the same without butter and milk. A baked potato slathered with ghee or Earth Balance, however, is still a treat. Either way, I always prepare that quintessential Thanksgiving dish, Sweet Potato Casserole, complete with masses of brown sugar, cinnamon, walnuts and marshmallows and serve that to my daughter, as well as to everyone else. And because I can make it a day ahead of time, I can pop it in the oven when I pull my turkey out. This can also be the potluck dish you bring to your host’s home.
Gluten-free bread is expensive. If you’re cooking for a crowd, make your allergy eater a small serving of the gluten-free stuff and have someone else bring a casserole of traditional. But a word to the wise, last year, my husband couldn’t tell the difference between the gluten-free Holiday Bread Stuffing and the traditional stuffing - just be prepared to fork the dollars over if you use gluten-free bread. If you are hosting or a guest, a wonderful alternative to traditional stuffing is Holiday Rice Pilaf, which is wonderful with gravy slathered on top.
Give this biscuit recipe from Elana’s Pantry a try, as well as these Dinner Rolls from the Gluten-Free Goddess. Again, I would make these only for my own family and traditional for the rest. These can be made ahead of time and warmed for dinner at your host’s home.
For anyone requiring a gluten and casein free dessert, a fabulous alternative to the traditional apple pie is this delicious Apple Crisp, delivering the same flavors with a slightly different texture which I actually prefer. To capture the tradition of a pumpkin pie, check out the Gluten-Free Goddess’ Pumpkin Pie with Praline and Coconut Pecan Crust. Two make-ahead treats to bring to a hosts home are Pumpkin Bon Bons as well as Pumpkin Ice Cream from Elana’s Pantry.
The holidays are a mixed blessing, if you ask me. There are so many expectations and obligations. If you can shift your thinking and plan accordingly, I think you can have a relaxing holiday, even if you’ve got a bunch of cooking to do. Melissa, a reader and contributor to my blog, (check out her Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups), gave a group of women and me a great piece of advice during a Generation Rescue meeting. She told us how she has structured her dinner prep time each night to be exclusively her own time. She pours herself a glass of wine and relaxes while she takes time to be creative and alone in her kitchen. Shifting her perception of meal making now takes on a totally different expectation. Drudgery is replaced by relaxing, quiet deliberation. Brilliant.
So get organized and make your shopping and cooking lists. And when it’s time to get down to business in the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of wine, and take it easy on yourself. Ask for plenty of help, and if your family is coming to your house, think about investing in a fully stocked bar. I swear by it.
Roasted Turkey Breast and Gravy
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
1 2 1/2 lb. split single turkey breast (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s)
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 T chopped fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 T chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 T chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 T olive oil
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T room temperature butter (or Earth Balance)
2 T rice flour
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place the turkey, breast side up in a roasting pan. (Set it on a roasting rack within the pan, if you have one - I like an adjustable one because it can also lay flat).
3. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice to make a paste.
4. Gently loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers and smear half the paste on the meat pulling the skin back over to cover the breast. Spread the remaining paste evenly over the skin.
5. Roast the turkey for about 1 1/4 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast. Depending on the size of your breast, start to check the breast after 45 minutes.
6. When turkey is done, remove from pan and cover with foil to rest at least 15 minutes.
1. Make a roux by mixing room temperature butter (or Earth Balance) and rice flour together in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Cook for a few seconds until combined and starting to brown. Add chicken stock. With a metal spatula, scrape all the fond (brown, baked on bits) and all the juices from the roasting pan into the sauce pan. Whisk until smooth.
2. Bring to a boil and gravy will thicken. Strain gravy through a fine mesh sieve and pour into a small pitcher for serving.
3. To slice turkey, cut breast meat off of bone, slicing as close to the breast bone as possible. You should be left with an intact breast, which you can slice and serve with gravy.