Thanksgiving is more complicated than ever these days with the myriad dietary restrictions one might have to navigate to accommodate a crowd. Is it possible to serve a meat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, diabetic-friendly meal that your guests will want to eat?
Yes, just probably not all in the same dishes.
Retired long-time Lexington caterer Harriet Dupree Bradley, who will offer a class at the Living Arts & Science Center Saturday on cooking for those with menu restrictions, has tips on how to satisfy your guests without giving them — or you — indigestion.
She recommends taking it one dish at a time, that way everybody gets a little something.
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“The idea is you want to have an abundant, gorgeous meal where people don’t feel like they’ve missed anything,” Bradley said.
▪ The turkey. This is the big one. What can you do for vegetarians that approximates the succulent goodness of traditional turkey? There are things that are surprisingly tasty and satisfying, although they may not be enough to make the meat eaters happy if you don’t also have a turkey on hand.
One favorite with many vegetarians and vegans: the Turk’y Roast from Quorn, which is available at most grocery stores. Sliced, it tastes and looks like turkey breast, especially dressed with vegetarian gravy. (Quorn products are made from mushroom-like mycoprotein, so those who are allergic to mushrooms may not find this suitable.) Other options include Tofurky and the Field Roast Celebration Roast, both of which are usually available at Good Foods Co-op, 455 Southland Drive.
▪ Stuffing or dressing. Often made with bread crumbs, a simple gluten-free alternative is to substitute cornbread, Bradley said. Or use brown rice. She is even planning on trying a cauliflower rice version to see how that turns out.
Bradley recommends avoiding substituting a gluten-free bread in a stuffing recipe that calls for white bread crumbs or croutons. “My general feeling is don’t even try; just make a rice stuffing,” she said.
▪ Mashed potatoes. They seem harmless enough, right? No gluten there ... but often plenty of dairy, with butter and cream or milk. Here, Bradley likes to substitute unsweetened coconut milk, which she said will give the same creamy mouthfeel without the lactose.
“Full-fat coconut milk in the can is wonderful substitution for dairy,” she said. And you can also use coconut oil in the jar in place of butter or you can clarify the butter to remove the milk solids, making it lactose-free as well, she said.
▪ Sweet potatoes. A casserole that usually includes brown sugar may be impossible to replicate for diabetics, but plain baked sweet potatoes are pretty tasty, too. If you want to make a casserole that accommodates vegetarians, try Dandies Marshmallows or Trader Joe’s Marshmallows, both of which are vegan and kosher.
▪ Rolls or bread. Gluten-Free Miracles Bakery & Cafe, 145 Burt Road, has packages of dinner rolls made with almond flour that have a nice, homemade taste, and lots of different breads available for Thanksgiving, too. You can call 859-278-8888 to order.
▪ Cranberry sauce. If your guests just gotta have that dish of jellied cranberry, Ocean Spray actually has a recipe using cooked fresh or frozen cranberries and the sugar substitute of your choice. You can even mix in a package of gelatin or sugar-free jello to get that jiggle. But if you add the gelatin, be aware that it won’t be vegetarian any longer.
Another alternative: a fresh cranberry, apple and orange relish sweetened with a sugar substitute.
▪ Desserts. This may be the one place you can make almost everyone happy, whether they eat gluten-free or sugar-free.
“There are all kinds of substitutions for making a wheat-free crust, such as quinoa or rice flour,” Bradley said. “There are a lot of different flours for pastry crusts, and you can buy them or make them if you have a good blender.”
If you go
Harriet Dupree Bradley will teach a class on the Alternative Thanksgiving Meals: Dietary Substitutions for the Holidays at the Living Arts & Science Center, 362 North Martin Luther King Boulevard, 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 12. Registration required; go to lasclex.org. It’s for teens and adults; $45 for non-members and $40 for members.
Low-calorie cranberry sauce
1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
1 cup water or fruit juice
Sugar substitute to taste
2 cups fresh washed cranberries
2 apples, cored and cut into slices (I like tart ones, but use what you like)
1 large whole seedless orange, with the peel left on, cut into sections
1 to 2 cups sugar or sugar substitute such as Truvia
Nuts to taste (optional)
Grind or process the cranberries, apple slices and orange sections together until they are very small chunks, well mixed. Add sugar a little at a time until it’s about as sweet as you want it. Add nuts if desired. Refrigerate and serve.
Gluten- and dairy-free pumpkin pie
From Harriet Dupree Bradley
Gluten-free sweet pie crust:
From Béatrice Peltre’s “My French Family Table”
2 tablespoons golden flax meal
1/3 cup hot water
2/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup white rice flour
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced (may substitute non-dairy margarine)
Whisk together flax meal and hot water in a small bowl. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until it becomes gelatinous. This acts as a finishing binder and is added at the end of mixing the crust.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer and a deep bowl) combine the flours, almond meal, cornstarch, confectioner’s sugar, and sea salt. Add the butter and beat on medium speed until crumbles form. Add the flax gel and beat until incorporated. Beat until the dough detaches from the side and forms a ball; it will be sticky. If it is still crumbly, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, one at a time until the dough comes together. Dust with rice flour and wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Take out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before rolling out.
When rolling out the dough, use rice flour to dust the counter and rolling pin. Work the crust into a 9-10 inch pie pan and flute the edges. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
Makes one 11 inch tart crust.
Pumpkin pie filing:
One 15-oz can pure pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon bourbon or apple cider
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup pure coconut milk, canned, like Thai brand
In a medium sized bowl, add pumpkin, eggs, bourbon or apple cider, fresh ginger and all of the spices. Take the coconut milk and whisk to blend it thoroughly. Warm it slightly in the microwave to melt the fat before adding it to the pumpkin mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until the center of the pie begins to rise slightly. Cool slightly before serving.
Gluten-free cornbread stuffing
2 sticks butter or non dairy alternative margarine
3 cups celery, sliced (about 4 stalks)
3 cups yellow onion, diced (about 1 very large onion)
1 recipe gluten-free cornbread, below
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped including stems
1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup toasted pecan pieces
1 cup chopped bacon
Make cornbread a day or two ahead of assembling the stuffing. In a skillet or large saucepan, melt butter and saute celery and onions until soft. Crumble the cornbread, including edges and crust into a large mixing bowl. Add the sautéed onions and celery, the herbs, salt and pepper. Taste to check and adjust for seasoning. Add optional add-in ingredients and toss. Finally, add the chicken stock and distribute it evenly. Put the dressing in an oven proof casserole and refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake at 350 degrees until top is lightly browned and it is hot throughout, about 45 minutes.
Serves 10-12 with leftovers
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup white rice flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 sticks melted butter or non-dairy alternative margarine
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take a large heavy 10 inch skillet or a 9x13 baking dish and butter or spray it with non-stick spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients and whisk together. Beat eggs and buttermilk into dry ingredients being careful not to over mix. Add melted butter and whisk in, just until blended. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake at 375 for 35 - 40 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.
Makes 8-10 servings