by Kathleen Walck

Having navigated more than a dozen years of Thanksgiving as a vegetarian, I feel that anything is possible when it comes to that most revered meal-of-the-year.   People adapt Thanksgiving dinner all the time, like the year my mom added mozzarella to the stuffing (not my thing, ewww) or when I decided we’d had enough of the canned cranberry sauce and made my own (stick around for the recipe!).

I’ve celebrated with friends one year, and enjoyed flan and sopapillas in lieu of pumpkin pie, and once even tried Tofurky (not terrible, but SO not turkey).  So why should it be difficult to nix the gluten at Thanksgiving?

It isn’t impossible, but that’s coming from me, a person who doesn’t need to avoid gluten in her diet.  Aside from the stuffing, I think most of what is traditionally served would be fine for a gluten-free eater.  Turkey? Good.  Gravy? Ok unless thickened with wheat flour.  Cranberry sauce?  Bring it on!  Veggies, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, all good, unless they’re flavored with non-gluten-free Chicken stock.

I’ll assume this is all harder when faced with the prospect of having dinner at someone else’s house.  But if you’re doing the cooking, you can certainly control all the ingredients and make substitutions when necessary.  Maybe your pumpkin pie has a gluten-free crust, or you make a pumpkin custard or creme brulee instead.

When I think of Thanksgiving, I can’t help but crave my mom’s amazing, carb-laden stuffing.  I’d definitely miss that, if I was avoiding gluten.  Stuffing could probably be made with gluten-free bread, which would be fine.  However, I recently came across a recipe that looked like it could be a good substitute: Wild Rice Stuffing with Cranberries.

WILD RICE STUFFING WITH CRANBERRIES (adapted from Cooking Light magazine, Nov. 2011)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leek or onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium, gluten-free chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 2 cups uncooked long-grain brown rice
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; swirl to coat. Add leek/onion, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sauté 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 cups water, chicken broth, and wild rice; cover. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in brown rice; cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400°.Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter over high heat in a large skillet; swirl to coat. Add celery, carrot, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; saute 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Combine rice mixture, veggies, pecans, cherries, and green onions in a large bowl. Spoon stuffing into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with foil; bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

One dish that is always on our Thanksgiving table is my cranberry sauce.  Rather than accent it with orange flavor, I add grapes.  It’s delicious, and so easy to make, and I haven’t met a person who doesn’t like it (and there is always quite a crowd at our Thanksgiving dinner).

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CRANBERRY GRAPE SAUCE (makes roughly 1 quart of sauce)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bags of fresh cranberries
  • 2 lbs. seedless grapes (any color)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
  • pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium-high until cranberries begin to pop.  Lower the heat and continue to simmer until cranberries have wilted down, the sauce has thickened, and the grapes are soft.  Cool and enjoy.

ImageThis keeps nicely for a few weeks in the fridge and is delicious over oatmeal or even spread on toast.

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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