A Delicious Gluten-free Thanksgiving

[The following is my newsletter article from the November Co-op Community News – you can pick up a copy in either store or on our website at www.communityfood.coop.]

Me at my Grandma Lamb's house circa 1979-ish

Thanksgiving was always an exciting time of year in our household, and has always been one of my favorite holidays. When I was younger, we would travel from Blaine to La Conner to spend the holiday with my grandparents and make a whole weekend out of it (including both sets of grandparents—they lived four houses apart when I was growing up so it made visiting them really easy). I have particularly fond memories of making lefse (a Norwegian potato flatbread) with my mom and my Grandma Lamb the morning after Thanksgiving. They always made a huge amount of mashed potatoes to be sure there would be plenty left over for this family favorite.

Now that I am an adult, every few years I take on the role of hosting the Thanksgiving meal for my family. Last year my mother-in-law flew in from Michigan the week prior and we got to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her for the first time. It was also the first time I had cooked a feast like that since I was diagnosed as being gluten intolerant.

Cookin' up gluten-free fritters last month © Photo courtesy of Habiba Sial 2011

Don’t think for a second that just because you have gluten intolerance it means you can’t have the foods you are used to during the holidays. It also doesn’t mean that the rest of your guests have to “suffer” through a gluten-free meal. With a little preparation and elbow grease, you can easily adapt just about any menu so everyone’s cravings are satisfied.

Stuffing

This is one of the two things that might take the most extra preparation, but you also have a few options. You can use your favorite gluten-free bread – cut it in cubes and dry for about 20 minutes in a 200° F oven on a baking sheet (I recommend the gluten-free rolls from our Co-op bakery * or you can save the heels from your favorite gluten-free loaf). Another option is to use gluten-free cornbread—and you might as well make a double batch so you can have some to serve with dinner as well! You can prepare it from scratch or buy a mix (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one), and if you do it a day or two in advance, then you don’t have to scramble when the big day rolls around. You can also forget the bread-based stuffing all together and make a delicious wild rice stuffing, which is easily made both gluten and dairy free without any special substitutions.  Keep an eye out at the Cordata store in November—our bakery is working on developing a made-from scratch gluten-free stuffing mix that should be available for the holiday!

Gravy

Make whatever recipe you traditionally use if you prepare your gravy from scratch; just use either a gluten-free cornstarch or arrowroot powder to thicken it. The Co-op also sells pre-made turkey gravy from Imagine Foods that is gluten-free and pretty tasty.

Green Bean Casserole

Make sure you use a gluten-free cream of mushroom soup (or better yet, make your own using chanterelle mushrooms, if they are available).  You’ll probably have to make the fried onions to top the casserole (to make french fried onions, soak cut onions in milk for about 5 minutes, coat with a gluten-free flour a few at time, and fry in about 2T of oil until crispy), but that is easy if you also do it a day or two in advance.

Pies

Pumpkin and chocolate cream were always the go-to Thanksgiving pies in our house. Thank goodness they both do well with a graham cracker crust. Either buy a box of gluten-free graham crackers or cookies (crush the crackers and mix with melted butter then press into pie plate) or you can make it from scratch with the gluten-free graham cracker recipe available on this blog. Instead of cutting the rolled dough into crackers, press it into a pie plate and pre-bake.  I also highly recommend using Pamela’s Gluten-free Bread Mix pie crust recipe – it tastes just like a wheat pastry crust and is the easiest to handle of all the gluten-free crust recipes I have tried.

It is simple to make a from-scratch pumpkin filling (here’s a link to a vegan recipe (no gluten, dairy, eggs) and traditional). If apple pie is a staple at your house, think about making a simple apple crisp using gluten-free oats and flour—assemble it ahead of time and pop it in the oven while you are enjoying dinner— then it will be hot out of the oven when you are ready for dessert.

The Turkey

Whatever you do, just don’t cook it using beer! I always brine my turkey so it’s super moist and then brush it with seasoned butter before popping it in the oven. I don’t recommend stuffing your turkey with dressing as it tends to not bake at the same rate as the turkey. Just stuff your bird with chunks of onion, celery, and herbs packed in a bundle of cheesecloth so it’s easy to remove.

You’ll find all the recipe ideas mentioned in the article on the Recipes page of the blog, with the exception of the lefse—our family recipe has more to do with knowing the correct texture, as the only ingredients are mashed potatoes and flour. If you’d like to prepare a dish that I didn’t mention, our Service Desk staff are a great resource for finding alternatives and they also have additional recipes available or feel free to email me at sassysampler@communityfood.coop.  Look for in-store demos at the Cordata Co-op the week of Thanksgiving as well—we will be sampling an array of from-scratch and packaged items designed to make everyone’s holiday a little easier.

* The Co-op’s bakery and deli items are produced in a kitchen that also uses wheat flour.  While we take every precaution to avoid cross-contamination, our gluten-free products may contain trace amounts of gluten.

Note from Melissa – I am going to make a chocolate pumpkin pie this week for my in-store demo at the Cordata Co-op on Friday.  I saw a recipe for it on The Chew yesterday and it sounds divine!  That recipe will be available on Friday afternoon…or you can check it out on their website right now!

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