Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a huge holiday in the McAllister household, and a huge cooking event for us, as it is for a lot of families.

In the past, everything for Thanksgiving was made from scratch. I spent the days ahead making bread from scratch, that would then be cubed and dried to prep for stuffing. The bread maker would be mixing and churning and beating ingredients together to create a beautiful, spongy dough to be turned into butter glistened rolls, and I would prep apples for apple crumble (better known in this home as "apple yum-yums", so nicknamed by my brother in law).

Luckily, many of our Thanksgiving "staples" are already gluten free. The turkey is prepared with a white wine and rosemary baste, glistening with honey and butter. The sweet potato casserole, passed down from my great-grandmother Baba, took years to perfect (although my aunt always made it better, and my cousin seems to have inherited her mother's touch). Jason makes a green bean casserole from scratch, although the fried onions definitely are NOT gluten free (and I don't touch green bean casserole, so nothing will change for that recipe). I make twice-baked potato casserole every year, and while it is definitely not fat-free, it is gluten free. Our pie fillings are either gluten free (apple, chocolate, cheesecake), or easily converted with a gum free flour (pumpkin pie).

I've figured out the pies - I've already made the apple crumble gluten free, although I think the addition of oats would take it up a notch. My mom found AMAZING GF ginger snap cookies that I will use in place of graham crackers for the pumpkin cheesecake (ginger snaps - my neice, who has been GF for years, tried these this week and, eyes sparkling, asked where to get them - they are THAT good). Pamela's has a fantastic graham cracker that, although it is a little sweeter than the traditional, will make a great crust for the pumpkin pie. I am still waffling for the chocolate crust from my chocolate pie. All of my options are untested, and I am choosing between chocolate cookie crumbs, chocolate cheerio crumbs, or cocoa pebble crumbs (guess I will just have to experiment with some chocolate - huge bummer there! 😉)

My biggest hurdle is the bread components. I am still struggling with making GF bread. Part of that was the ease of bread flour and my bread maker. Bread flour created beautiful, fluffy, chewy bread every time, with little effort, and the bread maker made it even easier - I could simply dump all the ingredients in and 3.5 hours later I had bread. I've bought a lot of GF bread in the last 7 months, but, for someone who used to make at least one loaf a week, I've made less than one loaf a month. It's disappointing to have so many failures when my bread used to be such a success, every time, without trying. Part of that is understanding that GF bread is just.... different. It's not the same as regular bread. I often tell Jason to describe the bread he's eaten... "was it fluffy and airy like a wonderful yeasty cloud? Tell me about it!!!"

So, after years and years of being boastful and proud of an "everything from scratch" Thanksgiving, I'm giving in a little when it comes to stuffing, and possibly with rolls. Trader Joe's has a GF stuffing mix, that I am going to experiment with - we've already tried the stovetop directions, and I will try the oven directions next to see what turns out better. I also haven't decided if I will use the seasoning mix it comes with, or if I will season it myself. Rolls are still in debate. I had initially given in to just store-bought for everyone (GF for me, regular for all the gluten eaters), but I think we will be experimenting with my mother-in-laws roll recipe (what we normally make) to see if it would work GF.

Either way, the minor and major changes to Thanksgiving will work out. Despite the emphasis on food for this holiday, what really matters is being surrounded by family and friends, breaking bread (GF or glutened), enjoying the company we keep, and being thankful for all we have and for who we have. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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