Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup (aka a few of my favorite things)
It’s November which means it’s the month of Thanksgiving and if you know me at all then you know that Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday. Ours is more of a 'Friendsgiving', although family members are allowed to attend if they behave. I start planning the menu in October - as soon as the fall magazine covers hit the grocery store checkout lines. I even have a special folder of recipes printed or torn out of magazines that have been accumulating for over a decade.
Ever since my daughter was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis we’ve been cleaning up our diets by eliminating foods that are often inflammatory, like gluten, dairy and refined sugar. At first I thought I’d never be able to do that over Thanksgiving (what about the stuffing?!?) but as it turns out it’s really not hard at all. Not only that, I don’t miss the things I thought I would never be able to live without. My body feels better, my mind is clearer and Thanksgiving dinner is as festive as it ever was.
Here are some of my favorite ‘clean’ Thanksgiving recipes for you to check out.
In my opinion, homemade bone broth can be the difference between a good meal and an outstanding one. I use it at Thanksgiving for everything from gravy to stuffing as well as many of the other side dishes. Homemade beats the box every time . It's delicious and has no funky ingredients. Homemade broth is super easy to make with very little actual hands-on time. You basically put everything in a pot, bring it to a boil, let it simmer for hours and then strain it. You can make it well ahead of the big day. I usually make mine on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
And don’t forget to make stock from your leftover turkey carcass. I typically take all the remaining meat from the bird when dinner is over start the stock in my slow cooker before I head to bed. When I wake up in the morning it's ready to strain.
Having some simple things to nibble on during cocktail hour is very important. Little things like spiced nuts, olives, sweet potato hummus and even some shrimp with cocktail sauce are perfect for this. These go well with my Thanksgiving tradition of passing out tequila shots to my guests when they come in the door. It’s a sure fire way to start the holiday off in a good mood!
Curry Spiced Cashews
Holiday Spiced Pecans
Whole 30 Cocktail Sauce
Easy Salt & Pepper Crackers
Amazing (and simple) Seed Crackers
Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Hummus
Pumpkin Spice Pepitas
After years of concocting all manner of herb rubs and delicious but unwieldy wet brines I found The Judy Bird (insert the singing of angels here*). The Judy Bird is a based on a recipe for roast chicken from the the late Judy Rogers of the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. It was adapted for Thanksgiving birds by Russ Parsons from the LA Times a few years back. This has been my go-to turkey recipe for the last several years and will remain so for the foreseeable future. It’s so easy! All you need is salt, a large, sealable plastic bag and a turkey that’s defrosted by the Monday before Thanksgiving Day. You’ll rub the whole bird with kosher salt and put it in the fridge for 3 days (although in complete honesty I only managed 2 days once and it was still perfect). Here is the recipe and the story behind it.
I often find gravy making the most stressful part of the whole meal. For one thing, the 30 minutes after the turkey comes out of the oven is when the gravy gets made and it's already action packed in the kitchen. All the side dishes go into the oven (hopefully all at the same 350 degree temperature) and the energy in the house is high as people are now ready for the main event. Add gravy making to this and suffice it to say that it can get a bit “schvitzy” in the kitchen.
Plus, so much is riding on good gravy! The key to traditional good gravy is either a roux, which is a paste of flour and fat, or a “slurry,” which is flour that is dissolved in broth and added to the pan juices along with lots more broth (hopefully the bone broth you made a few days before). Dissolving the flour into the warm broth keeps the gravy from getting lumpy which is important. I use the gluten-free flour blend from Bob’s Red Mill or rice flour but you can use whatever kind you like. You can also use corn starch or arrowroot.
Another solution is making your gravy ahead of time. The recipe for Umami Gravy from Michele Tam at Nom Nom Paleo is AMAZING and for the last 2 years I’ve made this as well as gravy from the pan juices. Her recipe is all about umami goodness and uses ingredients like dried porcini mushrooms, tomato paste, fish sauce and other things that when combined produce a gravy that can’t be beat.
Dressing (aka stuffing)
Did you know that it’s only called stuffing if it’s actually cooked inside the turkey? If it’s baked in a baking dish then it’s called dressing. Either way it’s always been my personal favorite at Thanksgiving. After years of experimenting with various gluten-free breads for stuffing, I had the idea of just subbing wild rice into a recipe instead. Most GF breads that I have found are full of fillers and I prefer to keep things simple. The results were excellent as measured by the fact that the that the rice stuffing was gone by the end of the meal, eaten by gluten-free friends as well as purists. Now I make a regular bread stuffing for those purist friends but also make a wild rice version for myself, my daughter and anyone else who might be interested. Here are some great wild rice dressings, a totally grain-free dressing and the standard bread stuffing that has been my go-to for years.
It took me until I was a full-on adult before I appreciated having cranberry sauce with my turkey dinner. Now it’s one of the things I enjoy the most on my holiday table. Not only does it add a nice balance to all the savory things on the table, it’s bright and it’s beautiful. That said, most cranberry sauces I’ve tried (and most recipes out there) are really heavy on the white sugar. Here are a few versions that have zero refined sugar and are tasty and easy to make several days before the feast.
Everyone has their favorite side dishes - the ones where “it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without ‘fill in the blank’.” One of my most favorites involves simply adding veggies in with the turkey for the last 60 minutes of roasting. I typically add a bag of pearl onions (peeled), several carrots and some parsnips. They cook to perfection in the roasting pan. Here are some of my other faves as well as a few that are on my list of things I want to try.
Roasted brussels sprouts with honey & toasted almonds
Maple and cardamom glazed carrots
Green Beans with Caramelized Onions & Tarragon
Roasted Garlic Autumn Root Vegetable Mash
Old Bay - Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Sautéed Red Cabbage with Pecans, Dill & Goat Cheese
Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes (I use about 1/3 the amount of maple syrup recommended)
Delicata Squash with Tahini Drizzle
Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds, Brown Butter & Lime
Cauliflower with Lemon Parsley Dressing
Caramelized Fennel & Onions
Vibrant & Tasty Green Beans
Amidst all the delicious and often heavy food, I like to have something raw at the table. It helps create balance and tastes nice and refreshing. Here are a few ideas.
I’ve never been much of a baker - it’s just not my thing - but I have always been a dessert lover. These desserts are all festive, delicious, gluten and/or grain-free and have no refined sugar. Trust me, you won’t miss the gluten or the sugar. I promise!
Easy Gluten-Free Pie Crust
Sour Cherry Pie with Crumble Topping
Deliciously Organic Apple Pie
Grain-free Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Maple-Vanilla Frosting
Cardamom Caramel Pear Upside Down Cake
Pumpkin Bars (these are a crowd pleaser at my house)
Hope you enjoy these recipes, and if you want more of my best Thanksgiving tricks and tips you can find them right here.
Have a happy and delicious holiday!