My First Gluten-free Thanksgiving

 

Turkey stuffed with orange, apple, onion, sage, savory, thyme, & rosemary

 

This year was my first gluten-free Thanksgiving.  We were expecting our friend, Caity, to join us for the weekend.  She has Celiac and I was looking forward to sharing being gluten-free for that holiday with her, as well as giving her some cooking lessons again.  Alas, due to my new job in retail with wild hours and her change in jobs without being able to visit for the entire week like originally planned, she decided she would postpone a trip to see us.  That left me with dropping the ball on planning what I would fix.  I had no idea and little energy to sit down and figure it out.

I knew I would make turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.  Beyond that, I was clueless.

Candy Carrot Coins

I finally sat down one day and was perusing through Shirley Braden’s recipes at gfe – gluten-free easily.  I printed off several recipes and whittled those down to two.  Candy Carrot Coins and Super-Charged Garlic Lemon Broccoli.  I really wanted to try her Fried Calamari, but it was too ambitious for what little time I had to prep for Thanksgiving with my work schedule.

Then I got it into my head that I needed to make gluten-free stuffing.  Don’t ask me where or why.  I just decided I had to have gluten-free stuffing.  First off, I’ve never made stuffing before.  Granny always made it.  When I was living in Hawai`i, I did without stuffing.  When I moved to Kentucky, my mother-in-law made it.  Maybe it was just that need to have that experience of having gluten-free stuffing at least once in my life.

 

Gluten-free stuffing

 

I did it though.  I bought some of Whole Foods’ gluten-free bread.  Risky since I had no idea what it tasted like.  But, it was the only gluten-free bread they had that would give me the most for what I was paying for.  I used an entire loaf for my stuffing.  I even diced it up and dried it two days ahead of time.  It was a lot easier to make than I thought it would be, too.  On Thanksgiving day, I sautéed the onions and celery my husband prepped for me.  Then I tossed it together with the bread cubes, chopped apple, and chopped sage, thyme, and savory.  Threw in some of my homemade chicken broth and mixed it well.  I put it in a baking dish and cooked it at 350 after I took the turkey out.  As with many first time dishes, I had no idea what to expect from this.  My final result was heaven.  At least for me.  I just wanted to eat the whole baking dish full and forget the rest of the food.  It did need more broth for more stickiness, but it was still moist and flavorful.

Cranberry sauce

I made my cranberry sauce ahead of time.  The same day I dried the bread cubes.   I always make cranberry sauce from scratch.  I can’t even remember the last time I had it from a can.  Since I was making mashed potatoes and gluten-free stuffing, I wanted to make sure that the cranberry sauce was whole foods friendly.  This year, I used maple syrup instead of sugar.  I always add orange zest and the juice of an orange to the water.  I’ve also started to add a cinnamon stick in recent years.  It just gives the flavor more depth.  I let the sauce simmer a long time to let it reduce.  After sitting for 2 days in the fridge, it was just as thick as when I make it with sugar.  It wasn’t overly sweet either.  The bonus is that my husband doesn’t like cranberries, so the sauce was all mine.  Instead of gravy on my turkey, I use cranberry sauce.

 

Mashed Potatoes

 

Calling my mashed potatoes “mashed potatoes” doesn’t really do them justice.  The recipe was given to our family by a friend and the name is really “Party Potatoes.”  But, that just doesn’t fit to me either.  While the potatoes are boiling, I whip together some cream cheese and sour cream.  I use more sour cream than the recipe calls for.  I leave the mixture in the mixing bowl and add the potatoes to the mixer little by little with a stick of butter.  So, they get whipped in the mixer.  There are some chunks at the end, but no one ever seems to mind.  I spoon the potatoes into a deep casserole dish that is greased with butter, then top it with a few slices of butter before it goes in the oven.  Yes, this baby is whipped then baked.  The beauty of the potatoes is you can prepare them ahead of time (minus the baking) and freeze them.  I usually bake the potatoes for 30 minutes at 350.

 

Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

 

When I did the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving my eye caught some Brussel Sprouts on sale.  I couldn’t pass them up.  I had some bacon at home and I figured I’d try make the Brussel sprouts with the bacon since we liked the version at Eddie Merlot’s so much.  I kept it simple.  I cooked 4 pieces of bacon in a pan and set the bacon aside.  I added quartered Brussel sprouts to the bacon fat with some salt and pepper, covered and let it roast in the pan while stirring occasionally.  I crumbled the bacon and added it to the pan with about 5 minutes left to cook.  It wasn’t quite like Eddie Merlot’s, but it was still wonderful.

 

Super-Charged Garlic Lemon Broccoli

 

I have to give thanks to my extraordinary husband.  I couldn’t have made everything without his help.  Yes, I did prepare some things ahead of time.  But, he agreed to do all the prep work for me on Thanksgiving day for the veggies and herbs.  That gave me time to sit and enjoy time off my feet.  He even carved the turkey for me while I made the gluten-free gravy.

 

Lots of food!

It was a spectacular first gluten-free Thanksgiving.  Now that I’ve navigated one holiday gluten-free, I look forward to Christmas.  Don’t ask me about plans though.  I’m still trying to get through the Christmas rush both at work and trying to get the last of the presents ready and mailed off.

 

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Adopt A Gluten-free Blogger: gfe – gluten-free easily

 

Candy Carrot Coins

 

My husband will probably roll his eyes when he reads this post.  He thinks I’m in love with Shirley Braden, author of gfe – gluten-free easily.  I made some Irish Stew the other night and we had the following conversation:

Him: Is this your recipe?

Me: No.

Him: Who’s recipe is it?

Me: Theresa Hernandez’s

Him: Phew.

Me: What?

Him: If you said it was Shirley’s I was going to ask if you were going to run off and marry her.

He says the same thing about Iris, too.

He’ll catch me laughing at a comment Shirley makes on Facebook or her blog.  I talk a bit about her, too.  Especially when she and I comment back and forth on things with each other.  We have quite a few things in common and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her better over the last few months.  I can’t even remember how I found her blog, but I loved that her concept was focusing on foods that are naturally gluten-free.  It was exactly what I was doing.  As the weeks went on as I followed her and some other bloggers that she followed as well, I noticed how encouraging she is with everyone.  So, if I fell in love with Shirley, that is why.  When you are making life changes, it’s important to have people who will encourage you in order to succeed.  Shirley definitely is someone you want to hear from when need a little poke to remind you that it’s not that bad.  I picture Shirley as a force of nature.  Her compassion for those she encourages knows no bounds.  She is a staunch advocate and leader for the gluten-free community.   She’s an inspiration to all.

That said, I should share with you some of the things I made.

This year was my first gluten-free holiday.  I am used to my mother-in-law making broccoli and/or green bean casserole for our veggie dishes.  She makes a good casserole.  Since it was just hubby and I for Thanksgiving, I was able to break away from the casseroles and make wholesome veggie dishes.  When Shirley posted her recipe for Candy Carrot Coins, I was intrigued.  First, I still had no idea what veggies I was going to make for Thanksgiving.  Second, cooked carrots were never my favorite.  I love them raw.  I like them in stews and soups.  I think it’s because everyone that cooked them for me growing up made them mushy.  I didn’t like it.  It was a huge risk making them as a side for Thanksgiving, but I trust Shirley and her recipes never let me down.  I. LOVED. IT.  The honey gave it just a hint of sweet to the carrots.  Not like those syrupy yams and marshmallows I see during the holidays (and don’t touch).

 

Super-Charged Garlic Lemon Broccoli

 

I also made her Super-Charged Garlic Lemon Broccoli.  I struggled over whether or not to add this one in the post because I had mixed emotions about it.  I topped the broccoli with sautéed mushrooms and shredded hard romano cheese.  Shirley suggested nuts and dried cranberries, which I no doubt would have loved, but my husband doesn’t care for nuts in his food and he really dislikes cranberries.  I enjoyed the broccoli, but I kept thinking that it was missing something or that the romano was overpowering the dish.  I looked at the recipe again last week and realized I flubbed it.  I forgot the garlic.  DUH!  I have no doubt if I hadn’t forgotten the garlic I would be sitting here raving about the broccoli.

 

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

 

I had many intentions for dessert on Thanksgiving.  First off, I wanted to make pie using Shirley’s No Fail Press-in Pie Crust recipe.  I knew if I couldn’t make the pie, I wanted to make some of her cookies.  Sadly, no dessert was made.  My hours at work had me exhausted that week and with Thanksgiving being the first full day we had together since his sister’s wedding at the beginning of November, I wanted to enjoy it.  So, we went to see Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows before dinner.

Last week, I knew I needed to get a move on this post and I really wanted to make Shirley’s cookies.  I told her a while back that I really wanted to make the Flourless Almond Peanut Butter Cookies after she shared the recipe.  It was right before we moved to Cincinnati so baking anything was nigh on impossible.  Everything was packed.  I had two days off in a row last week and I decided it was time.  I made the Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies instead.  Call me crazy, but she shared the older post on Facebook and I saw chocolate and peanut butter.  Instant love.

 

Flourless Almond Peanut Butter Cookies

So, last Tuesday I pulled everything out and set to work.  I have to tell you, they were so easy to make that the only thing easier would have been to buy pre-made dough.  Simple ingredients.  No flours or butters to measure out.  No sugar and butter to cream together.  Throw everything in a bowl.  Stir.  Voilà.  Naturally gluten-free cookie dough.  I didn’t use chocolate chips.  Instead, I used a bar of Lindt 85% Chocolate.  I like Lindt bars because there are not a lot of additives or sugar.  I knew since I’d be using brown sugar (a rarity for me to use refined sugar) that I didn’t want more sugar making it too sweet for me.  The 85% chocolate bars are what I’ll eat when I want a little chocolate…with a little peanut butter smeared on it.

The cookies were barely on the rack cooling when I decided I had to have one.  I bit in to soft, chewy goodness.  It was just like gluten-filled cookies, but I knew it was healthier.  The dark chocolate chunks were a great balance to the sweetness of the brown sugar in the cookies.  Not to mention all the gooey chocolate I got to lick off my fingers.

Today, I whipped up a batch of the Flourless Almond Cookies.  I wasn’t paying attention when I bought the almond butter and realized I had chunky almond butter.  I had the same reaction as before.  These flourless cookies are heaven.  Especially for those who have done without cookies for so long.  The chunks of almonds just gave the cookies another texture and were wonderful.

I made both batches of cookies with all natural nut butters.  I like the nuts to be the only ingredient listed in my nut butter.  If there is a second ingredient, it is salt.  That’s it.  If you do make these cookies, make sure to read Shirley’s notes at the end and press them down just slightly if you use an all natural nut butter.  And I mean just slightly.  I did a light press on the cookies with the back of my spoon and they filled out nicely.

Yes, I’m in love with Shirley Braden’s recipes.  🙂