Thanksgiving dinner has become my favorite eating holiday! I love the tradition of menu planning with my sisters, breaking bread with my mom, mashing sweet potatoes with my daughter and baking with my son. And wine. Lots of traditions, all surrounding a simple meal.
This year, our Thanksgiving table will be full. With 9 gluten-free eaters and 7 gluten-lovers, us g-free'ers rule the day. But it really shouldn't matter. You see, gluten doesn't matter on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is the one celebratory meal where gluten is really quite unimportant. Two things all us gluten free folks should consider:
1.) if you need to eat gluten-free, almost everything on the traditional thanksgiving table can be easily made gluten-free.
2.) The preparation & cooking is best when it's a group project, it's not hurried and often - there is wine. This is a great time to bond and an even better opportunity to teach your family and friends a thing or two or twenty two about gf living.
I cringe at the thought of a shared gluten/gluten-free table. It's really not the actual table that irks me, I'm not afraid to sit next to gluten. I afraid of the kitchen the food came from. No matter how hard you try - kitchens are a busy place on Thanksgiving. Making 2 versions of everything is asking for trouble. Spoons will double dip. Foil will re-wrapped on the wrong pan. Someone is bound to sneak a taste with a contaminated fork. Dont do it!
Instead, have a Thanksgiving Sans Gluten Feast (and if you say it with an accent, no one will know what your talking about and just assume you've had too much wine).
Not sure where to start for you Sans Gluten Feast? It's not so hard if you remember these pointers....
* buy a fresh turkey if you can. Be careful, many packaged and frozen turkeys are injected with broth to make it juicy - unless it is labeled gf, assume it is NOT! As for the free one you earn from spending gazillions at the supermarket, you might want to consider donating that one to a local food bank.
*make your own gravy with homemade stock (or buy one if you must - Pacific makes a great gf Turkey Stock), butter and a gf flour/starch mix to thicken. Note that the flour is used to thicken & doesn't affect the flavor at all. Not convinced, toss in some white wine. I find that wine is the secret to Thanksgiving success in countless ways. Moving on
*go farm fresh for your sides. Skip the cans, boxed and frozen packages. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries and vegis like string beans and brussel sprouts are all naturally gluten free and really, really easy to cook. Simple preparation is key, minimize the ingredients and enjoy the natural flavors
* stuffing can be easily made gf. Think about it, regular stuffing is made with dried out bread cubes. The soft, elastic qualities that make a glutinous bread so awesome are completely wasted in a stuffing. Gluten free bread never had such a perfect purpose! Simply cube up some naturally dry gf bread and let it dry out some more, either overnight or in a 200 degree oven and VOILA perfect stuffing stuff. The great flavors in stuffing come from "add ins" like sautéd onions & celery, bacon or sausages or in my house: dried cherries! Did someone say stovetop? No, no, no - no one will miss the stovetop.
I have to admit, there are two places I might compromise with the gluten-lovers (not in my house but I'm not going to be the gluten-police in your house) so I'd bend on:
1. dinner rolls (just keep those soft fluffy bundles of poison far away from your plate) and
2. dessert. I know pie lovers just need that flaky crust, so I would hate to ruin their holiday. Oh, maybe not hate, welcome to my life. The better choice is... homemade gf delicousness. But that's going to take some effort. My sister and I are both making the dessert thing a personal challenge, hoping to nail a few recipes now so that we can complete our gluten-free feast on a high note. She has already mastered a gf pumpkin-chocolate chip bread and now we are on to pies. Practicing ahead is key. And well, quite enjoyable. I've been experimenting making a (mostly dairy free) pumpkin pie with a store bought gf graham cracker crust & Trader Joes organic pumpkin - it was easy. And awesome! So awesome, my husband bought me another pie crust yesterday and suggested I need to make another to be sure. I'll try to remember to take a picture and post it next time with the recipe, for now, here's my not-so-secret ingredients.
Okay, so all this advice might work if you are the host. But what if you are an invited guest and already feeling stressed... why not tell your host ahead that you would love to be involved in the plans and prep. Assuming your host knows you have special dietary needs, they are probably more stressed about the meal than you are at this point and would likely welcome the help. No host wants one of there guests running to the bathroom, swelling up like a balloon or passing out after dinner. Okay maybe a quick nap is acceptable in some instances (blame the turkey) but really, no joke - when you've been cleaning, shopping and decorating for days and wake up at 5am to start dinner, you really want your guests to have a good meal and not end up sick from it. But do be prepared to help, if you offer - be ready to assist in menu planning, shopping and prep work - then it's on you to make it work for you. Oh, and do it NOW, not 2-days before thanksgiving. And bring a dessert. And wine.
So don't stress this Thanksgiving! Make this sans gluten feast a great one, get involved, make memories and actually enjoy a holiday meal for once. Just keep reminding yourself, gluten doesn't matter on Thanksgiving.
Have a favorite dish that's a challenge to make sans gluten? Share it here, maybe together we can find a fix.