Thanksgiving is, in the USA calendar of celebrations, the most important event of the year. Many Americans think of Thanksgiving as a wonderful time to celebrate getting out of school for a long weekend, and eating a great dinner; maybe they think it is the start of the Christmas holiday season. It can mean many thing to different people - it is a day of thanks, a day of celebrating the country, a day of sharing between cultures, and most importantly it is a day of sharing food and companionship with your family.
Other countries and cultures celebrate different holidays such as Christmas, Diwali (in India and Nepal), Chinese New Year and Ramadan, however they are all celebrations that involve getting together with friends and family and enjoying the “fruits” of the land. Of course, these celebrations can be wonderful social occasions but can also be a nightmare for people who suffer a food intolerance such as celiac or lactose intolerance. How do you tell Aunt Mary that you cannot eat her Thanksgiving turkey because she baked it in an oven bag with flour!! Or even worse, not eat her pumpkin pie!!!
These occasions can be very enjoyable – all they need is a bit of prior planning and organization. It is not as hard as you might think!! It is easier to start with the big items – a gluten free turkey, stuffing that is wheat free, gluten free pumpkin pie and of course gluten free gravy. All of these are easily achievable by the average cook, and you will be surprised that no one will be able to tell the difference – just a wonderful prepared meal that is full of flavor. Traditionally for Thanksgiving there is always the table center piece of the “Thanksgiving Turkey”.
A fresh or frozen turkey does not contain gluten in its natural state. Some turkeys have been marinated to enhance the flavor of the skin and meat. It is this marinade that may contain gluten and some turkeys are injected with a broth that is used to also enhance the flavor. Read the label carefully to ensure that no 'additives' have been placed on or in the turkey. Remember a turkey in its natural state is best – you might be able to get an organic turkey, or a turkey from a local farm. You can then make your own marinade using gluten free sauces and quality herbs such as sage, thyme and rosemary or go Latin with cumin, chillies and lime.
Gluten free stuffing is easy – you can buy these commercially or make your own, using gluten free bread as the base, or crumbled up pieces of gluten free cookies!!. There are many different options and recipes out there – just get creative!! If you are invited to other people's place for dinner, may be you can suggest that you will bring the turkey and that way you can ensure that the turkey will be something you can confidently eat.
Can I eat a "Thanksgiving Turkey" if the stuffing has gluten in it? No, you can't. Even if you are sure it is a gluten-free turkey, cooking it with stuffing that contains gluten will contaminate it. The gluten in the stuffing can permeate into the meat of the turkey so even if you think you can just eat the breast meat, it still could be contaminated.
Gravy is a must to compliment a beautiful baked meal of turkey and vegetables. There are many commercially made gluten free gravies on the market or in health food shops. Otherwise, you can use corn starch as a thickener instead of the traditional wheat flour. You may find that the texture is a little thinner than what you are used to so if that is the case, you can add a little potato starch or even some tapioca to thicken it up.
In many American households, macaroni and cheese is a 'must' on the Thanksgiving table. For a gluten-free Thanksgiving table, make the macaroni and cheese with rice noodles instead of wheat noodles. You may also be able to buy gluten free macaroni. The cooking time for the rice noodles may differ from wheat noodles so ensure you read the label so that you do not under -cook your macaroni. Once you smother those noodles in cheese, eggs, milk, butter and more cheese, your guests will not even notice that they are gluten free.
It is hard to imagine Thanksgiving dinner without pumpkin pie For pumpkin pie, the biggest hurdle is making a pie crust that is gluten free. You can use such substitutes as gluten free flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, sweet rice flour so there are plenty of options. With the pumpkin custard filling the main thing to remember is to use gluten free flour.
If you have an old family tradition recipe for Grandma's pumpkin pie that contains gluten, then do not worry!! If you are having visitors that are both celiacs' and non-celiacs', then a suggestion is to make your 'normal' gluten pumpkin pie but set aside some of the pumpkin pie filling (as long as it is gluten free) and bake it with no crust. Your celiac guests will appreciate that treat with some whipped cream or ice cream.
Poached pears or a beautifully prepared fruit platter can make a lovely (and healthy!) alternative to pie, especially when prepared with the finest and freshest ingredients.