This year I need a healthy, easy gluten-free Thanksgiving menu. In the past two weeks, my family has lost two members. We have traveled to visit relatives in hospice care and to plan and attend funerals. We are weary from the travel, the organizational details, and the loss. When I was a child in a small town, the community would have been feeding us. Now we’re spread out everywhere with no central place to deposit casseroles. At moments, it is hard to function through the sadness. There’s no way I can face a full fledged Thanksgiving production in less than two weeks.
Conventional wisdom might be to buy prepared food, but I still prefer homemade and with four gluten-free and family members, the research to find appropriate prepared food sounds exhausting. My solution is to create a healthy, easy gluten-free menu.
I often use holidays as an opportunity to test a recipe. That’s off the table this year. I want to serve dishes that can be prepped, or possibly prepped and cooked, in advance so that I can do a little each day for a week rather than have a marathon kitchen session.
With that in mind, here’s my menu:
Turkey – I’m going to stick with turkey because the cooking time may be long, but the prep time is minimal. I use a roasting bag to keep the turkey moist. That means there’s no need for continual basting. I flour the bag with sweet white sorghum or gluten-free oat flour and stuff the turkey with a halved apple, celery sticks, and a halved orange. The only other prep is to remove the neck and giblets, rinse the turkey, pat it dry, and lightly oil it with olive oil. You can add herbs or seasoning as well, but I don’t bother and the result is always delicious.
Green Beans and New Potatoes – Green beans are available during any season. I wash them. Then I break the beans into smaller pieces using three containers (washed beans, prepped beans, discarded ends) and the footstool in front of my couch. The lack of need for other tools means I can binge watch while prepping. That makes it seem less like work. These can be cooked in advance and rewarmed Thanksgiving Day.
Baked Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are traditional and healthy when served baked rather than candied. Baking can be done in the oven or the microwave. I like to eat these with nothing but butter added, but I will serve them with a bowl of brown sugar in case someone else desires a sweet topping.
Corn – Rather than cleaning corn on the cob, I’ll use frozen corn. It can be cooked in a matter of minutes and only needs a dash of salt and a pat of butter to be ready to serve.
Orange Cranberry Relish – The only ingredients in this are oranges, cranberries, and sugar. My grandmother served it every Thanksgiving and my sister is usually willing to make it.
Rolls – This is not the year for extensive baking. A local bakery sells frozen Brazilian cheese rolls (Pão de Queijo) that we can pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes just before the meal.
Dessert – I haven’t settled on dessert yet, but I’m considering a version of orange pecan cake. It’s simple, low carb, and delicious.
Cornbread Stuffing – I live in the South where cornbread stuffing is the traditional version. It’s easy to make it gluten-free and the cornbread can be made days in advance. Nonetheless, I haven’t decided whether it will make the final menu. I’m going to wait a few days and see how I feel. It complements the turkey and we all love it, but with rolls on the table, it isn’t essential.
Appetizers – On a normal year, I’d have appetizers to snack on while we visit before our meal. Those might include stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, sausage balls, party mix or something else that requires cooking. If I offer appetizers this year, they will consist of a relish tray or antipasto with gluten-free crackers.
While I realize there’s no green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, corn pudding, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, or pecan pie on this menu, many of the flavors of the most common Thanksgiving dishes are represented. The preparations I’ve chosen for those flavors are more simple and appropriate for a difficult year.
For me, taking this approach is less stressful than trying to purchase appropriate pre-cooked, gluten-free food. I will order groceries through an online app minimizing my shopping time and further streamlining the process.
Whether you choose an elaborate production or a meal in a restaurant, I wish you a peaceful and happy holiday!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”