The short week is upon us. My kids are only in school two days this week, which means I have two days to really have the time to tie up loose ends for Thanksgiving — well except that I work at my job on Tuesday…. and one daughter is home sick today with a cold. But either way I am bound and determined to forge ahead and get what I need done for Thanksgiving. I hope you can do that too.
Whether you are cooking your meal at home or going to someone else’s house, feel free to use this quick list of handy tips to best manage your gluten free Thanksgiving.
- Skip the Bread. Stop trying to make everyone happy at Thanksgiving by bringing gluteny bread into the meal. Crust flies all over the place with those French or Italian bread loaves. Go out and get a tasty gluten free corn bread mix! Corn bread doesn’t have to have gluten in it to taste good. My absolute favorite is Bob’s Red Mill brand. BUT it is easy to make from a a recipe off the back of a cornmeal can, just substitute gluten free flour and xanthan gum (about 1 tsp per cup of flour) for the standard flour request.
- Attempt creating gluten free stuffing/dressing. I know it’s not Stove Top Stuffing which, let’s be honest, used to be SOOOO easy. I appreciate it even more after attempting to make our wild rice dressing this weekend in preparation for Thanksgiving. But these days there are so many more bread options and you can even buy gluten free stuffing mix or the bread cubes to make it with. A quick Google search will help you. Heck, it still early, you could even get a stuffing mix sent to you by Wednesday if you needed it. Let’s face it– it is time for you to make dressing and enjoy Thanksgiving!
- Don’t eat turkey stuffed with gluteny stuffing. First of all, who stuffs their turkey any more? Everything I understand is that it can be unsafe. Celebrity Chef Alton Brown talked about the subject here. I love how Brown explains that dressing is when the stuffing is made in a casserole dish and stuffing is when the stuffing is actually stuffed into the bird. — I just had to share that in case you were wondering about the different terminology. The USDA explains how stuff your bird safely here. But aside from the general food safety issue that affects everyone when stuffing a turkey, we gluten free folks can’t eat turkey that has had gluteny stuffing put into it. It contaminates the turkey.
- Not all turkey is gluten free. I know it’s painful to say out loud. How can a turkey not be gluten free? Well some are injected with broths that can contain gluten and other turkeys are pre-stuffed. You can also buy a gluten free turkey even if it has a gluten-filled gravy packet. Just throw the packet away and make your own gravy. Word of caution, about a year ago, my mother-in-law bought a turkey breast and the gravy packet burst open all over the turkey. She didn’t discover the issue until she unwrapped it. I am not saying this will happen to you. I am just saying it has happened. Butterball has some gravy packets that are gluten free. You might want to look into those. Click here to see a good comprehensive list of gluten free turkeys courtesy of glutenfreerecipebox.com.
- Try your gluten free flour mix to thicken gravy. The easiest go-to for everyone is corn starch to make a quick gluten free gravy. It certainly tastes fine and does the job! However, it looks a bit unappealing. Its see-through, gelatinous appearance bugs me. My regular flour mix is actually courtesy of The Gluten Free Gourmet, Bette Hagman. I use a little bit of that and it thickens perfectly and no one has a clue it is gluten free. Click here to see the Celiac Sprue Association’s list of quick gluten free flour mixes, including Hagman’s.
- Offer to bring a dish or two for the meal. This is a way you can have a little bit of control in a situation that is mostly out of your control. It is hard to go to someone else’s house and be confident the food that they tell you is gluten free really is. In part, because you simply don’t know. Bring a few dishes yourself and if you have any reservations, just eat from those dishes if you need to. I would recommend bring the best thing you make so people have a good experience trying gluten free for the first time.
- Don’t expect a host who is offering to cook gluten free for you, to get it right. No offense to the hosts. I am not saying they are not capable. I am saying as someone who manages a celiac diet, we should think back to those first days when we were cooking gluten free and how overwhelming it can be. How can a host, potentially new to gluten free, get everything right? It would be difficult I think. On the other hand, I hope the host or hostess would know how important it is to get the gluten free diet right and prepare to ask for help. I wrote about this a few years back. Check out this article entitled Cooking Gluten free for Celiac Family or Friends? Read this first!
- Leave gluten free extras in the kitchen away from the meal. I suggest this because if the food on the table or at the buffet got contaminated (which it easily could if you’re having a combo meal with gluten and gluten free items), you still have seconds from which to choose. Just set aside enough for yourself for seconds or left overs and let the rest of the folks eat away. This way you’re not worrying about cross contamination.
- Be the first person to get served. Confirm what is gluten free and serve the food to yourself first to ensure you have food that is not cross contaminated.
- Have your own table. This is a little segregating, but some people say it really works. Have a table separate for gluten free folks. This way the people who eat the other food don’t unknowingly cross contaminate.
- Be prepared for anything. Yup! As frustrating as it can be, you need to be ready for that rare moment when the aforementioned gravy packet explodes (now what?), or a well meaning host to take the spoon from the green bean casserole and stick it in the potatoes. Stuff happens. Yes it is stressful, disappointing and sometimes downright angering. But by always having a Plan B, (some options mentioned above) you can be ready.
If you have any additional tips, feel free to add them in the comment area below. Have a great holiday!