Original Image. Oddly, while not my picture, we have the same cutting board and a similar tile background (though yellow)… and I don’t depend on the pop up things, they always pop up just after the turkey is overdone and dry. Put a butter / herb mix under the skin and cook it ‘by the pound’ instead. Just wonderful…
OK, it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I’m The Chef… so I’ve started the cooking. Yes, cooking for Thanksgiving starts at least one day in advance.
What makes this even more fun is that I’ve got a collection of family and friends who show up for this event that includes a variety of “special foods needs”. For me, it’s an interesting challenge. For them, it’s “safe food” they like…
What’s “in the mix”?
A friend is gluten intolerant. Not horridly (it’s more like a wheat allergy, so things like oats work fine along with some of the other minor grains that have a tiny bit of non-wheat gluten like proteins.)
A relative is soy intolerant. All kinds of ‘odd issues’ that seem to be triggered by soy. It’s not clear what component (since “having become better” from dropping ALL soy anything, she is reluctant to do the ‘challenge’ to find out if it’s in or out of the soybean oil, for example.
I can’t eat corn. Well, I can… I just can’t hold onto it for long ;-)
OK, I started with the Gluten Intolerance adjustments. Corn bread made with rice flower instead of the wheat. Gravy thickened with non-wheat flower. Etc.
Then we discovered the Soy issue. Not too hard, swap to non-soy products. Leave out just about everything pre-packaged as they all seem to have “soy” something somewhere on the label.
And I was already used to keeping the corn dishes flagged so I knew what to avoid.
But Wait, There’s More
Since then, we’ve added a couple of things. A son who, like me, avoids all hydrogenated oils (though I was willing to accept trace amounts in things like pre-packaged stuffing mix, and he isn’t). So a lot of the premix packages are now replaced by “DIY” from scratch.
And, for me, The Biggie: I’ve now got 5 of the 8 who are vegetarian (ovo lacto) leaving just three of us as omnivores.
Ever try to make a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner without wheat, corn, and soy?…
Yeah, it’s a ‘challenge’…
The Meal Plan
The basic idea is to just accept that not every person can eat every dish. So we make ‘variations’ where a common ground can not be reached. But there are edge cases some times that can be challenging. Will the vegetarians eat stuffing from inside a bird? Probably not…
Each year, I always over plan the choices, then as we ‘implement’ if something drops out of the mix, it’s still a well ‘over the top’ dinner. So don’t expect every single one of these dishes to ‘hit the table’. It will depend on how the choreography of the event unfolds as we go. Usually it’s one of the minor side dishes that ends up forgotten or ‘without a pot’ or sometimes ‘without oven space’ (though the addition of a ‘portable oven’ has reduced that risk). But here’s what’s in the fare so far:
Roast Turkey ( 9 pound “Diestel” brand. Figure 3 pounds per meat eater is about right ;-) with wheat stuffing in it. Non-hydrogenated oil in the croutons, and no soy, but the no-soy is also a vegetarian so may or may not accept ‘turkey touched’ stuffing… .
Side dish stuffing: One corn bread stuffing made with non-wheat corn bread. One vegetarian non-soy made from scratch with vegetable broth instead of animal. The corn bread base is made by me, from scratch, today (or will be ;-). I use blue corn meal so the things with corn meal in them are color tagged so I know what to avoid… Simply swap “rice flower” for the wheat flower in the corn bread recipe of your choice. I double the egg to make up for the low gluten too.
Vegetarian rice noodle lasagna. (Everyone can eat this, and makes a nice ‘main dish’ for the vegetarians). Prego brand spaghetti sauce is soy free, so it’s a simple quick assemble. Rice noodles, with layers of a (spinach, ricotta, parmesan, mozzerella mix), sauce, some pre-cooked mushrooms and / or olives and / or the occasional boiled egg slices) and then more noodles. Repeat to the top. Top with Olives and parmesan. I put about a teaspoon of “Italian Seasoning mix” in the bottom and top layers and usually add some garlic bits ;-)
A Fruit plate: Quick and easy. Platter of bananas, tangerines , grapes, pomegranates.
Salad bowl: Another quick and easy. Salad in the bowl, bottled dressings set out. (home made oil/vinegar/spices for me).
Peas: Simple dish of “just peas”.
Baked Beans: Bush’s Baked beans, vegetarian, re-baked. I’ve tried to improve on them, but can’t yet make anything enough better to be worth it.
Hard Boiled Eggs: The extras from any other dish (i.e. lasagna) set out. If I get time, I turn them into a deviled egg platter. Takes about 10 minutes.
Baked Squash: Acorn Squash, cut in half and baked ‘skin up’. Served with butter, brown sugar, and ‘season to taste’ of salt and pepper. Yeah, you could season them up much more interestingly… but the ‘crowd’ is also a lot of ‘supertasters’ and like to add seasonings in very small amounts. So cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, et. al. are set out for use as desired.
Candied yams: Another simple dish. Yams, in a pot, with a load of brown sugar, sometimes some maple syrup, and a lot of butter. Just slowly simmer it for about an hour. Moisture from the yams will make the sauce. Add ‘white fluff’ as desired. (Whipped cream or marshmallows… but the non-soy makes it a bit of an issue to find commercial marshmallows that are soy oil free…)
Tortellini Alfredo: I use a commercial pre-made tortellini that is good for everyone but the ‘gluten intolerant’ (who must content himself with massive amounts of lasagna instead ;-) topped with Classico Alfredo sauce. Fairly quick and easy to make, meets all the ‘hot buttons’ but one (wheat in the tortellini). Served with parmesan shakers, grated cheese mix, and side olives as ‘toppers’.
Breads: Often a challenge. I have some of the Rice & Corn bread, and often a “Regular Corn bread”. I’ve got a source for non-soy sweet French, and we usually do some prepackages warm and serve dinner rolls (mostly because the spouses Mom always did that and it’s got nostalgia value…). Real Butter on the side.
Cranberry sauce in little serving dishes on each end of the table.
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. Very straight forward, though usually the ‘limiting dish’ on serving time as the ‘from peeling to table’ always takes longer than I expect. Gravy is a ‘challenge’. Can’t do the ‘pan drippings’ that I really like (so I save them for the day after ;-) at home). Can’t do the “mushroom soup’ gravy their Mom always did (as it has wheat and soy in it). Last year found a non-soy non-wheat mushroom soup at Whole Foods. Have to check on that again… If we end up there, it will be Cream of Mushroom gravy and the ‘other folks’ can just do butter… or I can make a bit of pan drippings gravy for the non-wheat meat-o-vores in the group.
And my personal favorite: Buttered Parsnips. Simple. Peel and slice parsnips. Boil in an open pot (to let the ‘piney” flavor resins evaporate) butter with real butter, and put in a serving dish.
I’m tempted to toss in a side dish of rice (dump rice in rice cooker…) of either brown rice or ‘saffron’ rice. But that might be a bit much ;-)
Then, finally, from my family traditions. Something we’ve always called “Scalloped corn” but I suspect is some kind of ‘poverty food’ adjustment from some prior dish. I ate this every holiday for the first 30+ years of my life and it’s just not Thanksgiving without it. Even if I can’t eat it, the smell is essential… Take 2 cans of corn. One creamed corn, one sweet. Drain the water from the sweet corn can (reserve it in case you need to add some added water). Dump the corn into a casserole dish. Add 2 eggs, beaten. Add about 1/2 stick ( 1/8 cup or 4 TBS) of butter. Take “one stack” of saltine crackers (one of the packets that come in a large box of crackers. 4 ounces.) and crush it. Add. Now mix it all together. You can put more butter on top if you are so inclined ;-) Lightly pepper the top (salt is in the crackers) and bake it. About 40 minutes in a medium oven, but depends on the shape bowl you use to some extent.
The crackers can be doubled for a more ‘bread pudding’ like texture (and less corn flavor). If you use non-saltine crackers, salt will be needed. I’ve used up to 1 stick of butter per stack of crackers, but that can be a bit rich ;-) Eggs can be cut in half (to one egg) for a looser texture – less stuck together – or left out entirely for a very loose corn dish. For folks who just love corn, using Fritos instead of saltines can make an over the top corn flavor… And if you like more ‘crunch’ and less ‘bread pudding’, leave out any water and sprinkle the cracker mix on top instead of mixing it in. Some folks like added flavor from onions or cheese, but we’ve always left ours more ‘traditional’.
I make a ‘rice cracker’ variation for the non-wheat folks.
Another family member provides the deserts and someone else brings the beverages.
So that’s what I’m up to for the next 24 hours… Wish me luck…
I’m still trying to think of a better main course for the non-soy vegetarians that has some kind of ‘special’ character like a roast turkey. Ideas welcome. The “gluten guy” is bringing a “Lentil ‘meat’ loaf” and we’ll see how that goes…