Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Thanksgiving Menu...It Doesn't Have To Get Complicated...

Busy never seems to quite cut it this time of year.  With all of the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, you can't help but overextend yourself for the fear of missing something great.  For a few weeks now I've had our itienerary's made for the coming weeks; so much to enjoy and participate in.  This year is already so much better than the last due to the fact that I am now a Food Allergy Holiday Veteran.  Last year was my first, and I knew going in to it that I was in for it; I didn't disappoint.  This year, however, I am still cooking but with a much happier attitude.  Our menu plan is for a group of 12 at my In-Law's.  I share the duties with my Mother-in-law.  My responsibilities this year:

My Thanksgiving Menu
Green Bean Casserole
Dressing
Macaroni and Cheese
Cheesecake
Thumbprint Cookies

She will have prepared a baked ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and corn.  My father-in-law's cousin makes the baked beans, and my brother-in-law smokes a turkey and a deer shoulder.  I know it will all be great.  This year I am attempting to make the old-school Green Bean casserole from the TV commercials, only my way.  I plan to make my own onion rings with thin slices of onion battered with cornmeal and deep fried until crispy; set aside.  Steamed green beans from the garden; set aside.  A basic cream sauce beschamel with thin sliced portabello mushrooms.  When cream sauce is correct consistencey- add green beans and pour into baking dish; top with onion rings.  I'll set aside and warm through before sharing with the family.  I was so excited to find gluten free cream of mushroom soup, but it unfortunately had soy listed.  A great dairy free option would be with almond milk, and sliced almonds included in the topping.  If we weren't tree nut free I would be all over that one.  The dressing is super simple for us.  I save all of our end pieces from our loaves of bread, I use for bread crumbs, croutons, and starting in August I save for Dressing.  I add it to crumbled Bob's Red Mill Cornbread that I pre-made.  Stir in chopped celery and onions that I sauteed until translucent, along with 2-3 eggs whisked.  I place all ingredients in crock-pot and add 4 cups of chicken stock to start.  Place crock-pot on low and leave for a few hours (5-6), adding chicken stock later if needed.  I know it's a bit "out of the box", but this is the way my uncle makes his and it's always super delicious.  I may even add chopped turkey cutlets for an even yummier addition.  My Macaroni and Cheese is my super yummy infamous Kentucky Hot Brown Mac n Cheese!  The recipe is listed here!  This year I am changing up my Vanilla Bean Cheesecake recipe just a bit.  Instead of using my vanilla wafer crust, I bought Bob's Red Mill Brownie Mix.  I plan to follow the directions for the brownie mix and then spread batter thinly on the bottom and up the sides of my spring form pan; and using my traditional vanilla bean cheesecake recipe  for the filling.  My husband is super excited about that one and even suggested I make it in the first place.  As for the thumbprint cookies- a shortbread cookie recipe I'm working on with a bit of jam in the "print".  I'm not sure where I'm going with the flavors of this one yet... I'm thinking possibly cranberry? maybe.  Anyway, there is a definite theme here....Easeness.  So what if I'm using the crock-pot and prepackaged mixes!  This year is about spending time with my family and the joy of the holidays, I missed that last year.  Last year I was so worried about everything with the food allergies that I forgot about the fun of everything and seeing everyone. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving as well!  If it's your first with facing these challenges I would like to remind you that It really will be okay.  Don't let the stress of it takeover, and if you feel that happening-take a step back.  Don't forget about those great moments of just enjoying homemade hot chocolate whether yours is with dairy, almond, soy, or even coconut... That's a great way to step back and remind yourself that this beautiful time of year only happens once... So make it count!!
Don't worry, I do plan on taking notes for all of these recipes so that I may tweak and/or share with all of you.  Lots of recipes are out there for food allergies, the key is to not get overwhelmed by the ingredients.  Sometimes they are intimidating on their own.  Remind yourself that cooking is supposed to be a little fun as well...
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!  I Hope It's Wonderful!