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Home | Blog | (The Gluten-Free Family) Gluten-Free . . .

(The Gluten-Free Family) Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Tips
Elizabeth Carroll
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Photograph: Elizabeth Carroll
Photograph: Elizabeth Carroll

November 7, 2012

Note from Elizabeth Barbone: We're just getting started on Thanksgiving posts here at To kick things off, contributor Elizabeth Carroll tells us how her family handles gluten-free at Thanksgiving. Take it away, Elizabeth! 

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year with our extended family -- we try to be together no matter how far and wide we are spread. Yet, when feeding twenty-plus people a Thanksgiving meal, stress tends to set in and detracts from spending precious time with loved ones. With that in mind, I offer a few time and money saving tips to make some gluten-free favorites at your Thanksgiving table. Additionally, if visiting others, instead of hosting, a few tips to ensure you have gluten-free items to enjoy!

Our Thanksgiving staples are those many others share -- turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, a cranberry dish, rolls and pies. I start thinking about the gluten-free stuffing months in advance. To save money on expensive pre-made gluten-free stuffing mix, I save gluten-free bread slices in the freezer -- I'll save crusts that kids won't eat, parts of loaves that turned out not high enough or with air holes mid-slice, and the end of loaves that are starting (but not yet) stale. All these pieces are frozen in anticipation of the stuffing. When the time comes, I use all of this saved bread, accompanied by some fresh bread, especially Trader Joe's Ryeless Rye (for flavor), and make my own stuffing mix using any standard recipe. With fresh herbs, good broth, and a little sausage, the stuffing is so flavorful! Everyone enjoys this stuffing, whether on the gluten-free diet or not.

For the classic green bean casserole, I use a Pacific Natural Foods Cream of Mushroom Soup, for the base. To save a bit of time, instead of the canned fried onions for the top (which contain gluten), I simply crush ridged potato chips and add those for a bit of crunch.  

We use the apple peeler, corer, slicer to peel and cut a lot of apples in a hurry (note this is also a tool that can be used with potatoes.) With all of these apples, we make two dishes -- an apple and cranberry casserole, topped with a brown sugar crumb mixture, and a dutch apple pie.  I double the crumb mixture -- made with gluten free oats, butter, rice flour, brown sugar and spices and use it on both dishes. The apples are used in both dishes as well. The pie crust is homemade, using a recipe from Elizabeth Barbone's Easy Gluten-Free Baking.  

We purchase some items as well -- as a time saver. Sweet Ali's Bakery, a 100% gluten-free bakery in Hinsdale, IL, is our favorite spot for gluten-free dinner rolls, gluten-free pumpkin pie, and frosted, cut-out gluten-free turkey cookies.  

Finally, when serving children with “selective” appetites, sometimes it is best to just be sure that their tummies are full to help ensure everyone's happiness. To that end, we usually add some gluten-free macaroni and cheese to our menu.  

Photograph: Elizabeth Carroll
Photograph: Elizabeth Carroll

Some years we visit family's homes at Thanksgiving. Thankfully, our family is pretty well versed in the gluten-free diet, but we always review the menu to be sure. Most importantly, I tend to ask about the turkey, just to be careful, and to indicate the problems with stuffing it for those on a gluten-free diet. (Almost ten years ago, when we started this diet, I occasionally remember seeing some ingredients in some brands of frozen turkey that were questionable. This is not the case now, and a fresh turkey is always gluten-free.) Not expecting a full gluten-free meal at any house but my own, I ask what will be served and then offer to make some of my own family's gluten-free favorites, including desserts, to bring and share with everyone. This assures that several dishes will be available for those on the gluten-free diet. Of course, if the host is not versed in the issues of cross contact, this should be discussed as well, perhaps with labeled serving utensils for the gluten-free dishes.

I would love to hear about your family's tips for an easy gluten-free Thanksgiving. Wishing everyone a holiday with the opportunity to reflect on our blessings!

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