Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving coming up, I've been asked to post some of my favorite gluten free recipes, and tips for making the holiday easier.
Our first Thanksgiving after the diagnosis was spent at our church bishop's house at a potluck where John could only eat one or two things, none of which were really that good. The last two years have been amazing in comparison.
If you're making your own meal, it can be fairly simple to keep your food gluten-free, and if you're cooking for a celiac, there are a few things to know about where gluten is found in some Thanksgiving favorites, and how to replace it.

First of all, the turkey. This is so easy to make gluten-free. But, many people do add just a little bit of flour to the bird for browning. If you use an oven-bag for your turkey--which gives you a great juicy bird--it calls for a few tablespoons of flour. You can use any rice flour or even cornstarch to avoid this. And, in speaking of the turkey, gravy is typically thickened with flour, but can be thickened just as easily with cornstarch, though you only need half the amount of the called-for flour if replacing it with cornstarch. I typically use a sweet rice flour for thickening gravies (I got it at Trader Joe's, now Wegman's carries another brand, but it doesn't seem as easy to find).

And, of course, the stuffing. I assumed that I would never have stuffing at Thanksgiving again, but then, after making a lot of breads, figured that gluten-free breads would work quite well in stuffing. Which is correct. I've gone to other people's homes the last two years, with many non-celiacs eating my foods, and they've even preferred my stuffing to the gluten filled varieties also available. I just modified Bette Hagman's recipe.

First of all I take about 6 slices of brown-rice bread (John buy's the Food for Life brand, brown rice bread sweetened with fruit juice), and cube them to make about 2 1/2 cups
1-2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 cup butter
2 large cooking apples, peeled cored and diced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (more or less) GF chicken broth
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup craisins (optional)

Mix the poultry seasoning and bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute half of the apple cubes, celery, and onion until the apple and onion are translucent. Add this mixture to the bread cubes, along with the beaten egg. Mix in the chicken broth, a little at a time, until the dressing has the texture you desire. Add the remaining apple and craisins (or other mix-ins) to the mixture. Season with salt. I bake my stuffing separately, so I make sure there is plenty of broth, put it in a 1 1/2-2 quart greased casserole and bake for 1 hour at 375, or whatever works with what I have in the oven. You can add other little things like nuts or orange peel or other things to flavor it as you like.

Thankfully, cranberry sauce is already gluten free, but it really does taste best if you make your own, and that depends on your recipe. There are so many varieties out there, this is one I have for Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce
1/2 orange
2 cups water
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin orMcIntosh
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Directions: Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside. Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into 1/2-inch dice and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for 1 hour before serving. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a sauceboat and pass at the table. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 cups.

Mashed potatoes are also gluten free, although you have to be careful when adding things like butter and sour cream to be sure that they are free from all crumbs. For instance, if you use butter from a tub that you use to spread on wheat toast, it will contaminate the mashed potatoes and make your loved one sick, so use new, un-tainted butter and sour cream.

My sister Emily inherited a family recipe from her in-laws that is now a favorite in my own family for Aunt Margaret's Sweet Potatoes.
3 lbs yams
¾ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

If using fresh yams, chop and boil until soft. Put in a casserole dish and mash. Add remaining ingredients, mix all up, and sprinkle with a little brown sugar and chopped pecans. The recommended time and temperature is 400 degrees for 30 minutes. It really just needs to be warmed up and so it can be put in the oven with whatever else you’re cooking.

I know that a lot of people consider Green Bean Casserole to be a Thanksgiving staple, we never did, but I was intrigued when I came across this recipe in my EatingWell magazine. I haven't tried it, but it seems easy to just replace the flour with GF mix and make what I would assume would be tastier as well as healthier, and don't forget gluten-free, version of an old classic.

My preferred recipe for green vegetables is Lemon-Thyme Roasted Asparagus. We all love it.
2 lbs fresh asparagus, trimme dof any tough stem ends
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a baking dish, mix together everything but the asparagus. Add the asparagus and toss to coat. Loosely cover them with foil and roast until teh asparagus is just ender, 15-20 minutes, tossing once about midway through the cooking time. Take care not to overcook. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes roasting time.

And, lastly, but certainly not least, the pie. I've said this before, but will repeat it here: gluten free pie crust is very difficult to make. The safest way to make a great pie crust is to use Gluten-Free Pantry perfect pie crust mix. Honestly, it's great. It makes enough for 3-4 pie crusts, but they freeze very well. Last year, I had a panic because the stores were out, and I didn't know what I would do. Luckily, my great friend Melissa bailed me out by bringing one of her pie crusts over to me so I could still make the apple pie I'd promised. I have actually now taken this pie crust mix, and made my own approximation and you can find my from scratch recipe here. Also, eating gluten free has a good from scratch recipe for a very rich and thick pie crust, I used it for a berry pie, and it was great, but it is very thick and rich, not as light and flaky as my recipe.

Typically, it's easy to make the pie filling once you've got the crust made, knowing that you have to replace any wheat flour with a gluten-free variety. My favorite kind of apple pie is Dutch apple pie, and the streusel topping can be more temperamental. My favorite gluten-free version comes from Bette Hagman:
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Mix together flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or two forks until medium-sized crumbs are formed and it all looks moist. Toss int the pecans and mix with a fork. Sprinkle this streusel over the pie.

And I've never been a big pumpkin pie fan, so we make pumpkin cheesecake. This year I was planning on using this recipe from Bon Appetite.
Obviously, you have to use gluten free ginger snaps. You can buy your own at the store, but my experience has been that they're incredibly gingery, and if you haven't guessed based on my other recipes, I make my own. I was able to modify my mother's gingersnap recipe to make them gluten free and tasty.

3/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups Featherlight mix
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and molasses, blend. Mix togther flour, xanthan gum, soda salt and spices; blend into the butter mixture. Roll into small balls, then roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or untl they have melted and puffed. For crisper cookies, bake until they have flattened. Cookies bake down to form perfect rounds with traditional gingersnap crakcs on top. Makes 5 dozen.

Okay, so this is incredibly long, but at least it has some of the basics of Thanksgiving to help anyone, if nothing else, know that a good, traditional Thanksgiving dinner is still possible gluten-free.