Thanksgiving with Food Allergies

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Everyone in my family knows that I don’t love cooking, that’s Mark’s department. I’d rather bake yummy goodies than make dinner any day of the week. The one exception to this is cooking for the holidays. I like planning big meals to share with family and friends. Something about sharing our table with friends and family brings it out in me. If you follow our blog you know that we have Food Allergies. Often people express shock and awe that we are able to handle it. I don’t feel like a superhero because you just do what you have to because that’s how life works. But I thought I’d share some things that we’ve found that help around the holidays.

Over the years I’ve found a lot of substitutes for “normal” foods, we have the daily stuff down pat. Around the holidays it becomes a new challenge to find replacements for the usual holiday fare. No one wants to have to skip out on the pumpkin pie because of their dairy allergy! Since it’s November, I’m thinking a lot about Thanksgiving, so I’ll share some of our recipes for Turkey Day.

One thing I can’t stress enough is to check your labels, every single time because they change all the time. Just because it was safe last year doesn’t mean it will be this year.

The Turkey

Did you know that sometimes grocery store turkeys have “stuff” added to them? I sure didn’t until I read a label. So if you’re trying to cook an allergy-friendly turkey, just make sure to check the label. Sometimes there is gluten or soy hiding in there. I’ve had the most success with brands that are labeled “natural” and oddly enough generic store brands rather than the big names. And let’s be real, I want my turkey to be turkey, so I’ll skip the added soy, thank you very much.

Also remember, that anything you stuff the turkey with can potentially cross-contamination it making it unsafe. One year, I stuffed my turkey with my grandmas stuffing recipe using bread that had soy in it only realizing that was a problem 2 hours into the cooking time. That was the year Oliver didn’t get to eat turkey. Hey, we all make mistakes.

For turkey recipes, we live by Alton Brown, a brined bird is a happy bird. You can find our favorite recipe here.  Make sure to watch your Turkey Stock for hidden allergens! Something about starting the cooking time at 500 degrees makes the bird amazing. I’m seriously hungry just thinking about it.

The Sides

As important as the turkey is, part of Thanksgiving to me is having so many sides you run out of room on your plate. One thing I can’t stress enough is that if you’re cooking for someone with an allergy, it’s OK if there are a few things that aren’t safe for them. Believe me, we totally appreciate being able to eat anything! So if you can’t make the Cheesy Broccoli Casserole dairy free that’s ok. And I’ll be honest, especially when my kids with allergies were younger, most of the time, they’re not going to eat most of the food anyway, and I always felt bad when Grandma made the mashed potatoes without butter and then all my kid ate was two bites of turkey and a roll.  Below, I am just going to post the things we modified, closer to Turkey Day be on the lookout for a post with our full menu.

The DF GBC

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From scratch, dairy free, cream of mushroom soup.

Last year I decided that my kids were clearly missing out because green bean casserole was not dairy and soy free. I love me some green bean casserole. The classic recipe has soy sauce (which we skipped and it was totally fine) and cream of mushroom soup, both contain soy and/or dairy which are no goes. I don’t know why, but the thought of making my own cream of mushroom soup was so daunting! I scoured the internet and settled on this recipe. It turned out great, much to my surprise. I subbed Unsweetened Original Ripple Pea milk (our current favorite milk replacement) for the soy milk. It wasn’t that hard either, obviously, it’s easier to open a can, but whatever. After all that work, my kids didn’t even like it. In fact, Eli asked for green beans without (insert wide gesture of disgust) all this stuff on them. Typical.

The Perfect DF Mashed Potato

Dairy-free mashed potatoes was another challenge for me.  I love butter, it’s fricking delicious. I am pretty sure I could spread Kerry Gold on a piece of cardboard and it would be down-right gourmet.  Usually, I would make regular mashed potatoes and then a small amount of sad non-dairy mashed potatoes.  My kids were totally getting the short end of the stick because they were not good.  Last year I decided that I wasn’t going to be making a regular and allergy friendly version of stuff.  It was JUST TOO MUCH.  I was already cooking a billion things.  I am here to tell you I cracked the code to ah-mazing DF mashed potatoes.

First off, I was using the wrong kind of potato, you want to use russets for the best texture.  I had been using whatever I found in a bag, whoops. Second, I learned that you have to heat the “milk” before adding it, again I used Unsweetened Original Ripple milk.  Game changer. For that buttery taste, I used copious amounts of Earths Balance Soy-Free “buttery spread” it’s not Kerry Gold, but it was good.  If I wouldn’t have told you they were dairy free, you wouldn’t know the difference.

Stuffing – The Evolution of Grandma’s Recipe

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Everyone has their own ideas about stuffing.  It’s been a great debate between Mark and I, for years, about how it should be.  His family puts sausage in it, SAUSAGE people. Mine (obviously because that’s wrong) does not.  For me, it was important to use my Grandma’s recipe for the stuffing. (It’s a basic Sage Stuffing)  I still have the index card she wrote it on for me many years ago, which is really special now that she has dementia and likely couldn’t write it out or remember how to make it.  Her recipe had Oleo in it, which has dairy and soy in it so that was out.  It also used store bought white bread which is always hard to find that is safe for us, it also kills me a little inside to make a $5 loaf of bread stale. What I ended up doing was using Earths Balance for the Oleo and our regular whole wheat bread recipe we make in our bread machine.  It turned out great.  This year we have a new challenge since I (and Mark in solidarity) went Gluten Free, I’ll be modifying it yet again. Wish me luck!

Desserts

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The only thing better than 400 sides on Thanksgiving is having more desserts than people.  It’s tradition.  Zoe loves everything pumpkin spice.  When she went dairy free there were tears over pumpkin pie.  IT’S NOT THANKSGIVING without pumpkin pie.  So I scoured the interwebs for a recipe.  The first year it was a total flop, so don’t use that recipe.  The next year I used this recipe and it turned out awesome. I cheated and used a store-bought pie crust, this one worked for our allergies.  For whipped cream, I made my own coconut cream whipped cream with a can of coconut milk using this recipe. Cue happy Zoe.  Mark thought it was pretty awesome too. (I don’t eat pumpkin pie)

One of my favorite pies for the holidays is a Jello Pudding Pie.  I was surprised when I read the ingredients of the Jello pudding mix, there isn’t any dairy in it.  So it was easy to sub out a non-dairy milk to make the pudding. Then I again used the whipped cream recipe from coconut milk. Finding a safe crust was a little more challenging I was planning on having to make one, but I stumbled across one while at Super Target in the baking aisle. SCORE!

I know it can be totally overwhelming when you are cooking a big meal.  Even more so when you find out that one or more of the attendees, has an allergy.  Remeber, we (people with food allergies) do not expect you to make everything safe for us.  We expect to have to pass on some (or have to bring our own) foods at gatherings.  Honestly, we come for the company, not to challenge you.

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