This is honestly my favorite time of year. I love October because we haven’t quite rolled into winter yet, and it’s always absolutely gorgeous outside with the leaves changing (although this year in Iowa, we had a winter snow storm the day before Halloween and had to trick or treat in the snow. So thanks for that, midwest weather. Thanks). Don’t believe me? There’s proof below..
October rolls into November (duh), which brings about Thanksgiving and then Christmas, and everything is just so magical and stressful at the same time and I love it.
The only thing that gives me a little bit of anxiety about Thanksgiving is the meal itself. We typically go to my in-law’s house most years because my mother in law cooks the most amazing Thanksgiving feast I’ve ever had in my life. The only hitch is this year, I’m feeling too dang good that I can’t decide if I want to make Thanksgiving my “cheat” day when it comes to eating gluten and dairy.
(If you’re just getting to know me, I have something ridiculous called Eosinophilic Esophagitis, and dairy + gluten are two of my trigger foods. 95% of the time I avoid them, and only eat them on occasions that I deem “worth it,” which means the discomfort I’ll feel after the meal pales in comparison to how freaking good [or worth it] that meal may be).
So we’re considering having me cook Thanksgiving again this year, which would be my third year doing so. I’m a pretty good cook, so I’m not worried about the outcome. I’m just not sure I’m ready to commit to that much work. Ha.
Two Thanksgivings ago I made a completely paleo-approved Thanksgiving meal, and I was pretty freaking proud of myself. I even made regular Thanksgiving sides for those who attended who aren’t like me and want all the gluten and dairy in their sides. I went all out, and the response was great.
My only regret is that I didn’t take pictures to document, which will make this post a little difficult. One promise I will make is if I decide to cook a gluten-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving this year, I’ll take pictures and then update this post so you’ll have them as a point of reference for future Thanksgivings.
Real talk: when you buy a turkey from the grocery store for Thanksgiving, you may have to deal with some gross aspects like cleaning out the insides. I also think sometimes you can purchase a turkey that’s already been wiped clean 😉 A couple things to keep in mind: you’ll need about 1.5 pounds per each person attending. I’ll let you figure out the math for how big of a turkey that would be for your specific party.
All turkeys will come with thawing, cleaning, and cooking instructions. Follow what’s outlined on your turkey. I’m just going to teach you what to do to avoid the dairy and the gluten. The professionals can teach you the rest.
You will want to get one of those turkey cooking bags because that will help hold in the heat and the flavor while you’re cooking. Not sure what I mean? You can snag or peek at some here.
Most turkey recipes will tell you to put butter and stuffing on the inside, or coat/baste the outside with butter. I personally have never put stuffing inside my turkey (because that’s why they invented Stove Top, right?), and as far as butter, there’s an easy swap-solution.
Substitute your regular butter with ghee. I literally take a couple spoonfuls of ghee, and melt in the microwave with a little garlic powder and pepper. Then, with a cooking paintbrush (because honestly what are those things called?) cover the outside of the turkey with a thin layer of your garlic ghee masterpiece. This helps the outside skin get brown and crispy while cooking in the oven, and lets the ghee soak down into the inside to help keep the turkey moist and full of flavor.
Tie up your turkey bag and pop that baby in the oven. Cooking times will vary but again – follow the instructions that came with your turkey!
This is one of my favorite recipes that I like to make year ’round with sweet potatoes. The directions are the same, you just need to decide if you’ll be using russet potatoes or sweet! Or – you could make both!
What you’ll need:
- 6 potatoes (yields about 12-16 servings depending how big of a heap you like to plop on your plate)
- 1 can of coconut milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
What you’ll do:
- Bring a big pot of water to boil (I never measure how much water. I fill a big pot a little over halfway full – I’m not a master chef, guys. I’m just a mom who cooks for her family and this is what works for me).
- While you’re waiting on the water to boil, peel your potatoes and throw away the skins (don’t throw the skins down the garbage disposal. That’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way in life).
- Cut the potatoes into quarters.
- Once the water is boiling, add your potatoes to the water and cook for about 15 minutes on medium-high heat (you can check to see if they’re done by sticking a fork into a few of the potatoes. If it easily goes through, they’re done).
- Carefully drain the pot of all water.
- Add the potatoes to a mixing bowl, with 2-3 tablespoons of ghee, and 3/4 of your can of coconut milk. Mash or mix well. (I use a hand mixer).
Green Bean Casserole
This one always makes me slightly sad, and may just be the deciding factor on my worth-it meter when it comes to making my food choices this Thanksgiving. Green bean casserole is my jam. I love it. It’s my favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving. BUT. If you’re someone who can’t have the dairy in the cream of mushroom soup, or the gluten that coats those crispy onions, it’s okay. You can still make and enjoy a delicious version of America’s favorite side dish.
What you’ll need:
- Fresh cut green beans from your local grocery store
- Ghee or olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Veggie seasoning
- Slivered almonds (or nuts of your choice)
- Optional: onions
What you’ll do:
- Sauté your green beans with cooking fat of choice (ghee or olive oil) over medium-high heat until soft.
- Season with salt, pepper, and veggie seasoning.
- Once green beans are cooked, add your slivered almonds on top and let sauté on low heat for another five minutes
You could add caramelized onions on top by doing the following:
- In a separate pan, sauté chopped onions with 1 tbs of ghee over medium heat until dark. This takes approx. 15 minutes. Add the onions to the top of your green beans and serve.
Listen. I realize that stove top stuffing isn’t exactly the ritziest of sides, but come on. It’s great. And it only takes minutes to make. The bad part is, it’s full of those delicious little gluten-filled bread crumbs. So, if you want to make a gluten-free version, you’re gonna have to get fancy.
What you’ll need:
- 1-2 pounds of pork sausage
- A couple stalks of celery
- 1 medium onion
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- Minced garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 1 package of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix (plus the ingredients needed there – eggs, ghee, and your milk substitute)
What you’ll do:
- Follow the directions on the back of your cornbread mix to make the cornbread. Once it’s made, let it cool and then cut up the bread into tiny little squares (try to avoid super small crumbles, although it is bread, so you can only do so much).
- Cook your pork sausage over medium heat until browned completely.
- In a separate pan, sauté your chopped celery and onions with a little ghee or olive oil over medium heat until translucent.
- Add your minced garlic and seasoning to the veggies and allow to sauté a little longer.
- Add your veggies to the cooked pork and mix well.
- Add your corn bread crumbles to the meat and veggies, stirring together and being careful not to crumble the cornbread again too much.
- In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs with the chicken stock and then pour over the top of your food.
- Transfer to a baking pan, and cook in the oven on 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. You can add a little ghee on top of your stuffing during the cooking time to help brown the top, if desired.
For one Thanksgiving, I made homemade gravy from the “drippings” in the bottom of the pan containing the turkey, and no joke, spilled the entire pan of boiling gravy all over myself and our kitchen. Luckily, I wasn’t injured. But I was freaking annoyed. Therefore, I’m no longer a supporter of making your own gravy. Ridiculous? Possibly. Since the same thing could happen with store bought gravy. But at least with store bought gravy you didn’t go to all that hard work just to watch your dog try and eat it up.
Just look for gluten-free and dairy-free gravy in your local grocery stores. Our Hy Vee and Target have one that I like to use, or you could order it from Amazon and never even leave the comfort of your home 😉
Normally this is just something I go without, while making regular rolls for the rest of my family. However, I have heard good things about Udis Gluten-Free Rolls. If I happen to try them, I’ll let you know!
So…in a nutshell, that’s how we celebrate a gluten-free/dairy-free Thanksgiving in the Funderburk house. I’m not much for baking desserts on Thanksgiving, because when I’ve tried in the past everyone is too full by the time we get to dessert anyway that it goes to waste. I do, sometimes, bake up Simple Mills Pumpkin Muffins to either have as a semi-sweet treat later, or to have for breakfast that morning while I’m getting everything else prepped.
If you want to go even further in showing off and want to impress your guests with homemade place settings this year or homemade centerpieces, you can check out this easy Thanksgiving DIY project. Bonus: keep the kiddos busy with DIY Thanksgiving Placemats.
Natasha Funderburk is a wife, #boymom, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Consultant, and ACE-Behavior Change Specialist. When not watching her son play baseball, she can be found on various writing platforms, coaching her clients to live their best lives, drinking all the coffee, and conducting living-room dance parties.