Friday, November 26, 2010

Our grainfree Thanksgiving, with pictures

Our Thanksgiving went great! I hope all of yours were happy and blessed, too.

I posted the other day about what I intended to do for Thanksgiving. In the end, I decided to expand the menu quite a bit, but I still kept it 100% grainfree! Taking pictures of every dish helped motivate me to make everything just right, even without guests (and with a husband who barely cares what he eats).

First off, I decided we needed an appetizer. I had chickpeas I'd promised to make into hummus, but wasn't quite sure what to put it on -- normally I like crackers or pita wedges. I decided on celery and carrots. John was quite pleased and said that was a very good idea! I think the celery went with the hummus best, but then, I've been on a bit of a celery kick lately. We ate the hummus about lunchtime, to tide us over, since we'd decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at six p.m.

After that, I decided to make some cranberry sauce, mainly because I had a whole bag of cranberries and I knew the cranberry apple casserole wasn't going to use them all. John happened to mention that he didn't like cranberries, and I made a decision: I was just going to make what I wanted to eat, because I was tired of saying, "Well, making X for just one person would be a waste, so I'll just go without." By golly, one day a year, I'm going to the trouble to make what I want. (Meanwhile, I am slowly training my child to eat what I eat, to put that picky husband of mine in the minority. (John believes that he is not picky. He says I'm the one who's picky because I insist on dinner being hot when I eat it. Different strokes, different folks.))

My recipe was simple: one cup of orange juice, one and a half cups of cranberries, and a few tablespoons of sugar. It's a great way of adding flavor while using much less sugar than traditional recipes. I nearly burned the sauce on two different occasions because I was distracted with the baby, but luckily it escaped unharmed.

Dear readers, it was the best cranberry sauce I have ever had.

The most delicious part of the meal turned out to be an afterthought. I was walking into the kitchen a little before the turkey was due to come out, and the delicious smell of it roasting made me think of sage and celery. I hadn't planned to have stuffing -- my thought Wednesday was that it's just wet bread stuffed up a bird's behind, no big deal -- but at that moment I felt I had to have it! Quite a frustrating realization when you passed up 99 cent boxes of stuffing only the day before, and you have no idea how to make it from scratch (I could probably guess, though I'm not sure). And, of course, stuffing is not at all grain-free!

I decided to just follow my usual instinct for grain-free recipes: just make it as usual, but leave the grain out and increase the other ingredients. It worked great for beef stroganoff, after all. So I chopped up some celery and onion and sauteed them in olive oil. When they smelled absolutely delicious, I poured in some of the giblet stock I had simmering for the gravy, and seasoned the whole thing with poultry seasoning (mostly sage, thyme, and rosemary). The stock pretty absorbed completely, so I dumped the whole thing on a plate and put it the oven to keep warm. That also made it a bit crusty on top, yum!

Today I made the same thing for lunch, only I replaced the turkey stock with water to be vegetarian and added mushrooms. Definitely mushrooms need to be a part of this recipe.

Technically, this is dressing, not stuffing -- I would not recommend putting it inside a bird. Anyway, it was really delicious, and my favorite part of the meal. I keep forgetting how much I love celery, particularly if it's cooked right, and then every Thanksgiving I remember.

Here's the bird, in all its glory:

He weighed a good 12 pounds -- and only cost 46 cents a pound! I'm so glad I waited and browsed the local stores ... Aldi kept the price at 99 cents clear through Thanksgiving (and they are probably still 99 cents now).

It wasn't as juicy as last year's, though I can't think why. I did the exact same thing: cooked it breast-down, in my Pyrex dish, at 350 degrees. Perhaps it was just a drier bird. It was still good though. I rubbed the outside with olive oil and poultry seasoning, and John asked "Are you giving the bird a back rub?" Yes, dear. Yes, I am.

I did not find arrowroot powder for the gravy, but I did find potato starch. You're supposed to dissolve 2 tablespoons in 1/4 cup of cold water, add it to the stock/drippings, and boil for a minute. That's what I did, and it turned out fine -- though more transparent than I'm used to. Still thick enough, so I had no complaints.

The gravy was composed of a mix of drippings and stock made from the giblets (including the neck), celery, carrot, and onion. As usual, it was delicious. John mashed the potatoes that went with it, and those were good too -- but, you know, with me, potatoes are only a vehicle for gravy.

The apple-cranberry casserole, such as it was, was pretty simple: cut-up apples, cranberries, and a dusting of sugar, baked for 45 minutes. I didn't realize, though, that the streusel was playing a valuable role in the original recipe -- it kept the fruit from drying out. So it was drier than I'm used to. Next time I'll add a little water or something -- or just keep the streusel topping, seeing as John didn't eat any anyway.

I ate this with ice cream, and it was delicious!

John's contribution was the seven-layer salad. To be honest, guys, I really don't know what-all was in it. I know it had scads of vegetables, and also a mayonnaise-based dressing, and cheese. It was really good.

Here's the guest of honor, shoving pumpkin in his mouth like there's no tomorrow, while staring at the dining room fan:

Here's the table all set and pretty -- which I did for you, dear readers, because no one else cared. Oh, and for me. I definitely cared.

Here's my plate, all dished up with some of everything. I had forgotten the cranberry sauce. Don't worry, I had some later!

The lack of grains may have helped more than just John -- I felt great after this meal, not overstuffed, just satisfied. I had seconds of turkey and a little more mashed potatoes, but I didn't feel like eating any more than that. And I didn't feel the least bit bloated or sleepy, like I often do after Thanksgiving dinner.

Afterward, we played Scrabble and I ate my apple-cranberry casserole. The baby, who had been cranky and miserable all afternoon, suddenly flipped a switch and stayed up playing happily an hour and a half after his bedtime. I wasn't going to mess with a happy kid, so I just let him.

All in all, it was a success! Quite a huge feast for three people, one of whom ate nothing but pumpkin and mashed potato, but it was a comfort to me to have a traditional meal at a time when I'm missing my family something awful. There's something about the completely predictable menu that gives me a sense of continuity with the past. I can understand why Jewish people get so much out of their Seder meal. Our nation's traditional meal has no "meaning," as such, but it's a vehicle for us to practice some very meaningful things: gathering with family and friends, memory, gratitude.

Yes, it was a good Thanksgiving.


Allison said...

Maybe you can tell John he isn't picky. I'm pickier than he is. I don't like Hummus, carrots or celery. No onions either. I think there's more I don't like than I do like. It's just the way it is.

So perhaps you're lucky he isn't as picky as I am ;)

Sheila said...

I know it could be worse. My brother doesn't like half the food there is. John just doesn't like much that is fancy, foreign, or strongly flavored. But we've been able to find a lot of compromises.

Luckily he eats all his vegetables without complaint. But cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie -- all the GOOD stuff -- he "isn't crazy about" or "doesn't care for," which translates "won't eat any."

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