Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Tips for the Contemporary Cook

Feasting is the fun of Thanksgiving Day, but when you and your family members, and some of your guests, have special dietary needs, cooking the feast may be more of a challenge.

Something as simple as turkey gravy is problematic. It's made from animal fat and a wheat flour roux. It's high in fat, includes animal product and gluten, so no one in my family can have the traditional turkey gravy.

Fortunately, neither my son the celiac nor my daughter the vegetarian likes gravy. So I just purchase a small jar of good quality turkey gravy and my husband and I cheat on our diets on Thanksgiving Day.

If you like gravy, though, and can't have gluten, make the gravy with cornstarch slurry instead of roux. Dissolve two tablespoons of cornstarch in one cup of warm water; that's your slurry.

Bring your drippings and approximately one cup of water to a boil, turn the heat back a bit and slowly, slowly stir in the slurry. If it thickens too quickly, add a little plain water to balance it out. It's still high in fat, but at least it's gluten free.

Need a vegetarian gravy? Make the cornstarch slurry. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add one tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan. Bring two cups of good vegetable broth to a boil and then turn back the heat a bit. Slowly stir in the slurry. That's it. You have vegetable gravy.

The vegetable gravy works well with mashed potatoes and meat-free stuffing, but you want to include a vegetarian main dish as well. Try stuffed acorn squash. Cut the acorn squash in half and clean out the seedy, stringy centers. Roast until just tender. Fill the centers with meat-free stuffing, sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar and place under the broiler just long enough to give the top a bit of crust.

If the celiac in your family likes stuffing, simply make a loaf of gluten free bread two days before Thanksgiving. Wrap it in a towel after it cools and leave it on the counter. The next day, slice the bread into thick slices and lightly toast the slices in the oven on low heat. Allow the slices to cool and then cut them into cubes. Put the cubes in a plastic bag to store until you're ready to make the stuffing.

Now, about dessert. My family isn't fond of pumpkin pie, but we do like my made-from-scratch gluten free chocolate muffins, which are made using pureed pumpkin. They're not fat free, but the pumpkin provides a better type of fat than butter or oil. It does include an egg, and if you don't eat eggs, you can use egg replacer or a 1/4 cup of rice milk. Watch the video to learn how to make these muffins. They're great for breakfast, for dessert, and for snacks.

Don't let the dietary needs of your family and guests make this Thanksgiving feast a chore rather than a celebration. And if you have any other challenges, let us know, and together we'll find a solution.