Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Feast

This was my first Thanksgiving/major holiday as a gluten-free girl, and I am not going to lie - I was pretty nervous about it. I wasn't sure how I'd be able to eat anything at our traditional dinner besides turkey, and even there was room for doubt with cross-contamination issues. I think people with food allergies don't understand the anxiety that comes with large gatherings of people consuming food together, and especially on holidays that focus almost exclusively on that particular activity. There is food everywhere that smells delicious and which is off-limits for us, and people are touching all the food, eating, grabbing, and then touching everything else. Which is why, if someone reaches into my stash of food and grabs something with their bare hands, I get super nervous about gluten-contamination. For the most part, my family is understanding of the gluten-intolerance, but I usually feel like it is something that some people are a bit bemused by, and sometimes I end up feeling like they think it is just me being high-maintenance. My mom (who also went gluten-free) and I both tried to have a nice variety for ourselves, and I kept it all stashed away until it was time to eat. The menu, aside from turkey and another batch of the delicious sweet potato cornbread I made from the Gluten-free Goddess' website last week, included the following side dishes, which I found to be absolutely heavenly. I truly feel sometimes like I'm getting to eat the better food when I'm at gatherings of people, and while I missed getting to eat the 8 different kinds of pies that were at my grandma's house, I did make this pie from (guess who??) Karina's website: Vegan Pumpkin Pie, which was creamy, smooth, and very light in texture. It didn't go over too well with my family, but that's because almost no one would even give it a chance. But my other friends LOVED it (as they did the sweet potato cornbread), as did I! My mom made the recipe for sweet potato casserole pictured below, and it was delicious - sweet, with beautiful caramelized pecans on top, and slightly crunchy. The mashed sweet potatoes were silky smooth, thanks to the hemp milk I added. (I think I've been won over to hemp milk, by the way - at least for baking and cooking, it is fabulous!) And the stuffing, I have to say, rivaled my mom's normal stuffing, and in her words, it was "excellent." Altogether, Thanksgiving was great, and even with the food anxiety that always comes at big family gatherings, I had a great time, and best of all, didn't get sick!

Sweet Potato Casserole

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or butter, if you can tolerate it)
1/2 cup coconut milk if desired
1 1/2 cups sugar - but sugar is added to taste
2 tsp. vanilla
optional: 2 mashed bananas (usually made without it)
Dashes of nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, and ginger

Sprinkle half of the nuts into the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart greased baking dish. Mix everything else together except the sugar. Add the sugar to taste. Pour mixture on top of nuts and sprinkle the top with the rest of the nuts. Bake uncovered for about 1/2 hour or until a knife comes out clean.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 small white potatoes, peeled and chopped coarsely
salt to taste
thyme to taste
2 tsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 - 5 tbsp. hemp milk, to desired consistency

Place potatoes in a pot of cold water with a dash of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft and break apart when pierced. Drain and mash potatoes together. Beat with a fork until creamy, then add Earth Balance Buttery Spread, salt to taste, and hemp milk, and beat it all together until the desired consistency is reached. Add a generous sprinkling of thyme, to taste.

Thanksgiving Stuffing

1 loaf gluten-free bread (I used Food For Life White Rice bread, and it turned out to be slightly gummy)
1/2 - 1 liter gluten-free chicken broth (I used Swanson)
3/4 cup raisins/cranberries, or a combination of both
4 -5 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 giant onion, finely chopped
2 granny smith apples, peeled and finely chopped
2-4 tbsp. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
A generous amount of black pepper and basil
Smaller amounts of thyme and parsley

Place the bread slices on foil-covered oven racks and bake at 250 - 300 F until the bread slices have been dried out. Remove from oven, cool, and break into small pieces in a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small saucepan, place 1 cup broth with the cranberries/raisins and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes to soften the dried fruit. In a separate saute pan, place the Earth Balance Buttery Spread, celery, onion, and apple, then add the spices (very heavy on the black pepper and basil), and saute until the onion is translucent (but not mushy). Add the onion mixture to the broth mixture, and then add that whole mixture to the dried bread pieces. Toss to mix it all together, adding more broth as needed to moisten the bread slices.

If using as turkey stuffing, add a lot more broth and stuff it into the turkey. If you are just making it on its own (which is what I did), place the whole thing in a baking dish and pour more broth over the whole thing, then cover tightly with foil and place in the oven for at least 30 - 50 minutes. Check on it after about 25 minutes and, if necessary, pour some more broth over it to make sure there is enough moisture (otherwise, the bread will be pretty gummy and chewy). I added roughly 3/4 liter of broth in total, and mine came out to be pretty soft and easily chewed.

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