This is my second Thanksgiving gluten-free and I’ve learned alot from last year. Here are my tips for having a gluten-free AND happy Thanksgiving.
I don’t like making a fuss about being gluten-free when out to dinner or at a friend’s house, so for Thanksgiving last year my game plan was to arrive at the host’s home and spontaneously figure out what I could eat that was gluten-free. Not a great game plan. There was very little I could eat, other than cheese and veggie sticks for appetizers and plain turkey and sweet potatoes for the entree. Dessert was completely out of the question. To boot, my host finds happiness in feeding others and, knowing nothing about Celiac, was clearly offended when I didn’t eat much of her home-cooked feast.
As they say, live and learn. So as I have lived an additional year gluten-free, I have learned…have a Thanksgiving game plan.
Call the Host/Restaurant In Advance
Hosting Thanksgiving is a big endeavor, so make sure to call the host or restaurant at least two weeks in advance to find out what’s on the menu. Go through each item to determine how it is prepared and what it contains. If you feel comfortable enough with the host, this is a great opportunity to recommend gluten-free ingredient replacements and cross-contamination prevention tips. For example, if the salad or soup is being prepared with croutons or crostini, request that they be offered on the side. If pumpkin pie is being made for dessert, ask for a portion of the filling to be set aside before going into the crust. Layer the filling with whipped cream and/or ice cream and voila…you have a tasty parfait. These are effortless acts that your host will be more than happy to accommodate and you will be happy to have been accommodated.
Offer to Make Gluten-free Versions of Your Favorite Dishes
Most Thanksgiving get-togethers have several people preparing dishes to bring together a complete meal. If you are already expected to prepare one or two-dishes, why not offer to make gluten-free versions of the dishes you really like? There are excellent gluten-free recipes for stuffing, corn bread and desserts. And, a box of chocolates is always a delish alternative for dessert. You won’t feel deprived and your guests will be amazed at how good gluten-free can be.
Tips for Getting Through the Meal Gluten-free
§ Bring staple ingredients with you from home, such as gluten-free dressing or ice cream. Or, don’t be afraid to ask the host or waiter for basic staple ingredients
§ If the salad dressings contain gluten, you can make your own in two minutes with staple ingredients. All you need is olive oil, any kind of vinegar or lemon juice, mustard, your choice of dried or fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Honey or agave nectar help to balance any tartness from the vinegar.
§ If the gravy is made with flour and you can’t eat your turkey plain, here are a variety of fixes, both savory and sweet: dijon mustard; Russian dressing; cranberry sauce and; apple sauce
§ I’ve seen many a dessert table without a single gluten-free option. While the pumpkin and apple pies may be taboo, the ice cream to top them off is often okay (unless they have add-ins, in which case you have to check). Doctor up a scoop of plain vanilla with a fruit sauce or syrup and/or dried fruit. Chopped nuts and whipped cream go well with chocolate.
I am a big fan of traveling light, however, if you’re visiting friends or family I highly recommend packing up a few slices of your favorite gluten-free sandwich bread. No one should have to say not to eating leftover turkey sandwiches. Gluten-free or not, that just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.