Thanksgiving is full of gluten-filled land mines! If this is your first Thanksgiving on a gluten-free diet, you might not realize the challenge that awaits you. Let’s make sure you’re ready to stay gluten-free this Thanksgiving. And, even if you’re not new to a gluten-free diet, then a refresher course might still be valuable! (How do you think I came up with this list anyway?)
In the past, we’ve celebrated low-key Thanksgivings–just immediate family and attended huge family gatherings. When it’s just immediate family, I try to keep the dishes simple and easy (but still have all of the traditional Thanksgiving foods). Since I’ll do most of the cooking (and the gluten free eaters are in the majority) all of the recipes are to be gluten-free. Small gatherings are an unusual circumstance for us at Thanksgiving though. So I’ll also tell you about how we deal with the large family potlucks as well. And, give some tips for hosting a gluten-free guest.
Here’s an example of a typical Gluten Free Thanksgiving menu for us and a day-by-day picture of what the week of Thanksgiving looks like in our kitchen. If you don’t see a recipe that you must have, be sure to peruse our other gluten free Thanksgiving recipes.
Roasted Turkey Breast or Chickpea Cutlets with Cranberry Sauce
The key to remaining calm and collected for the this Thanksgiving meal is to spread the cooking over several days–so that you don’t get too tired. However, since you still need to eat in the meantime, plan easy suppers throughout the week. We’ll be having stew on Monday might and spaghetti on Tuesday.
If you’re in charge of the turkey, it may be time to start thawing it. My dad will take care of this part of the meal, and he’ll probably just cook a turkey breast. But, if you’re cooking a large bird, put it in the refrigerator now. It can take 3 – 4 days to thaw!
John doesn’t like stew without bread of some sort of bread, so this will be the perfect night to make a large batch of the Spoonbread Muffins. I’ll bake some of the muffins for our dinner, and only parbake the remainder. Parbaking is a cooking method in which you cook a bread for 80% of the cooking time, and then rapidly freeze it. I’ll take the frozen muffins to my parent’s house and finish cooking them right before the meal.
The main ingredient in Cornbread Dressing is (of course) corn bread. The stuffing works better if the bread is slightly stale, so I’ll make two batches of my Southern Cornbread tonight and store it in zippered storage bags in the refrigerator until Thursday.
If we make it to my parent’s house Wednesday night, then I will go ahead and make the Layered Salad. This salad is somewhat unusual in that it tastes better the second day, so it’s a perfect candidate for making ahead. I think my mom has a recipe, but the salad layers goes something like this: lettuce, red and yellow bell peppers, eggs, green peas, red onions, celery, Ranch dressing, cheddar cheese. You layer everything in a large glass bowl, and the Ranch dressing works its way though all the layers to make the best salad ever!
For those of you cooking turkey, get that bird in the oven soon. They take hours to cook. Here’s a great turkey tutorialif you have no clue what you’re doing.
I’ll start the day by doing all of my chopping. Celery and onion for the stuffing, mushrooms for the cream of mushroom soup (Green Bean Casserole) and gravy, and sweet potatoes. Once that’s done, I’ll move to the stove to saute the celery and onions, start the cream of mushroom soup, and cook some rice for the chickpea cutlets. (I’ll make the gravy closer to lunch time).
The Green Bean Casserole and Corn Bread Stuffing will both need to bake for a while, so I’ll assemble them first. I can always cover them and let them sit in the refrigerator for a while if I get them ready too early. IF we eat at 11:30, then the Stuffing will need to go in the oven around 10:00, and the Green Bean Casserole around 10:45. Scheduling this all out before hand is key if you have a deadline to meet!
The sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce can cook away on the stove top while I do other things, so I’ll start them now. The cubed sweet potatoes will be gently tossed with butter, brown sugar, and Madras curry for a super simple side dish. The cranberry sauce will be made with fresh cranberries (though I imagine the canned version will be on the table too) and I will probably stick with the recipe that’s on the bag of cranberries.
While that’s going, I will blend the rice and chickpeas together with lots of herbs, Veggie Chicken Better Than Bouillon, xanthan gum, and a little bit of cornstarch if needed. This mixture can be shaped into cutlets and pan-fried for a vegetarian alternative that won’t be quite as scary to your guests as tofu. While the cutlets are cooking, I’ll whip up a batch of gravy. It will be happy to simmer away on the stove until lunch is ready. And, if I don’t forget (probably will) this is the time to put the muffins into the oven to finish baking.
For dessert, I’m taking the easy way out. I stopped by Whole Foods today and snagged a few frozen gluten free pie crusts. I’ll make an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, but I’m cheating and using canned pie filling and the recipes on the back of the can. I’m sure I could make something better if I tried, but I’m taking it easy this year. And if I’m tired at this point, my dad can always help me with the pies since there’s no dough rolling involved =) The pies will go into the oven as we sit down to eat so that they are piping hot at dessert time.
Over the years John and I have been guests at many non Gluten Free Thanksgiving celebrations. Most of these meals are potluck and my strategy for dealing with the meal depends on whether the hostess assigns the dishes ahead of time or not.
If the hostess does assign dishes, then I take first dibs on the Dressing and Gravy and also volunteer for a vegetable side dish. In a worst case scenario, John and I can make a meal of stuffing, gravy, and my veggie dish. If we’ve known the other guests for a while then they are usually aware of our food issues and will check their ingredients with me. I don’t usually ask them to change the ingredients unless its an easy substitution, but I at least know whether it’s safe for us to eat. (Never take their word though. Always study the food carefully before putting it on your plate. At least 50% of the time you’ll realize that they’ve used an ingredient they didn’t realize contained gluten).
If the hostess doesn’t assign dishes, then I bring at least one large dish to share with everyone, but I also bring a mini-Thanksgiving meal for John and I. I set our food up away from everyone else’s and we try to fix our plates first so that there aren’t cross-contact issues with the serving utensils. If my parents are coming, then they will bring a couple of gluten free dishes as well so that I don’t have to do quite as much.
Hosting a gluten free guest is probably as stressful as being a gluten free guest. Here are a few tips to smooth the way:
Would your Thanksgiving be less overwhelming if you knew the gluten free recipes that you’re planning would turn out wonderfully? Would it help to have a shopping list and cooking timeline to follow? Would you like to have someone to go to when you have questions? If so, then my Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Kindle Book may be just what you need.
Thanksgiving is the one holiday that stresses out more people on a gluten free diet than any other. It’s a combination of normal holiday stress, family, travel, cooking, and everything else that comes along with that. Plus, the added problem that many of the dishes we traditionally eat at Thanksgiving contain gluten. And let’s face it….Thanksgiving is mostly about the food, isn’t it?
Holidays are a time that should be enjoyed with family and friends, and Thanksgiving is no different. We shouldn’t be so stressed out about what we’re going to eat that we’re unable to enjoy the day.
The biggest meal that I cook every year is our gluten free Thanksgiving dinner. The entire meal is gluten free, no matter who we’re eating with, and it’s always delicious. Last year I decided to compile all of my Thanksgiving recipes into a cookbook for Kindle. This is partly selfish. It’s much easier to switch between recipes when they’re on my Kindle. But, I thought some of you might find it useful too, so we put the cookbook into the Kindle store.
Here’s a picture of the cover and I’ve listed all of the recipes below. Be sure to read all the way to the end of the cookbook, because the last page tells you how to get my next Kindle cookbook for free =)