Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving thoughts and a few tips/recipes

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching.

Two weeks and counting.

Anyone else feeling a bit nervous? I might be. Mostly because I haven't thought it through in my head, and formulated my plan.

The holidays make me sentimental. Sorry. You might have to put up with a bit of my reminiscing.

Holidays are not a big deal in our home, mostly b/c I'm the only one who gets excited about them. My husband could probably care less about Thanksgiving (except for the excess amount of dishes I seem to dirty), and my cat will just run and hide if people come over or I try and put a Santa hat on her. I'm sure once we have kids, this will change.

But I grew up in a holiday home. We all got really into the holidays. My mom is obsessed with Halloween. And Christmas! We had our Christmas tree up by Thanksgiving weekend, and it often stayed there until Valentine's Day.

Growing up, we didn't have any family in town, so we found our own to spend the holidays with. My "adopted" grandparents, Jane and Jonathan, always had a glorious feast ready when we came over for holiday well as the latest season of Star Trek on a VHS. I remember falling asleep at my dad's feet as the post-turkey coma overtook me, incorporating Captain Jean-Luc Picard's monologues into my dreams.

My grandma Jane really knew how to throw a party! There were usually 15-30 people at our holiday dinners, and she made sure there was enough food that everyone got leftovers :) Johnny would carve the meat, and my sister and I usually got saddled with the responsibility of setting the table, or keeping the cats away from the turkey. The only thing we didn't like about Thanksgiving dinner was the "weed" salad, which my mom made us eat. There were things like spinach, red lettuce, kale and DANDELIONS in it. So funny that I totally eat all those things now!

New to the allergy-free holiday zone? Check out this article, which features Karina from The Gluten Free Goddess. It has some great tips on how to host for people with food avoidances, as well as how to approach a host for a party you're going to.

Once you get a plan in place, braving the holidays isn't too daunting. Being prepared is the key. Always having more than enough food, so you don't go hungry while everyone around you is gorging. And overcoming your fears (like learning to make gravy! It's so easy! And I used to be terrified of it!!!).

Around here, I've got a pretty good routine down. We're usually invited to my husband's family shindig, hosted by an aunt or grandma. They all understand my dietary needs, however, since I have such a long list of things to avoid, I have learned it's easier for everyone involved if I just bring my own basics.

So, usually the day before Thanksgiving (or the frantic morning of), I'll make myself a turkey, some sides like stuffing, potatoes, rolls, and lots of gravy. I pack up a plate for myself, and will usually bring some fantastic-looking dessert to share with everyone.

When we get there, I'm given the lowdown on what's safe for me to eat, and will join everyone in munching on veggies, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, and such until dinner is ready. Then when everyone is gathering around the table, I just throw my plate in the microwave, and dig in! I've learned what I need to have at a family dinner to not feel left out, so I make sure and have extra meat and gravy, rolls, and something chocolatey :)

Check it out!! I've found a great potato-free alternative to the omnipresent spuds that accompany most holiday dinners. Mashed parsnips! I was a skeptic, I'll admit. I've tried undercooked parsnips, and the flavor is strong! But, if you actually cook them through, and add the right amount of butter, a little salt, and the perfect plate of meat, this side dish is a miracle to behold!

I don't really have a recipe, so I'll just wing it...

Potato-Free Mashed Parsnips

Boil some water in a pot. Once it's bubbling, add some peeled, chopped parsnips (I don't know how many make a serving, probably one good-sized parsnip per person). Cook until parsnips are very soft. Make sure you don't undercook, or you'll have a helluva time trying to "mash" them!
Once they're cooked, drain the water from the parsnips. Add some butter (or butter sub like earth balance), a splash or two of milk (or almond milk or other sub), and some salt. Using a hand mixer, beat the parsnips in a large bowl, until they resemble, well, mashed potatoes :) Top with a little cheese, additional buttery goodness, or gravy.

Apparently mashed veggies are all the rage. If you're not sensitive to crucifers, and can't find/don't want to try parsnips, you could also check out Elana's mashed cauliflower.

Here are a few of my recipes that have worked well for holiday feasting, or general winter enjoyment:

Bread cubes for stuffing

Pumpkin Soup

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Thanksgiving Meal Plan 2008, including links to a lemon cream coffeecake and rolls

And I have apparently not posted my stuffing recipe, but that's okay. It's really easy. I found this recipe, which is almost identical to the one I use. Just use the bread cube recipe above, and you're set!

One last thing: Check out the thanksgiving favorites post here by over at Gluten Free Easily, as well as giveaways of two awesome books!!


Chef Basket said...

Thanks for your post about thanksgiving. I enjoyed hearing about your personal stories regarding the holiday.

Stephanie said...

Thanks for visiting Chef :) Glad you enjoyed the post!