By Chef Judi Gallagher –
I like to think the Pilgrims did not sit down to enjoy a green bean casserole made with cream of mushroom soup topped with crispy canned onion rings. I am also a firm believer that cranberries don’t fall out of a can, sliding onto a plate with the shape of that can fully intact.
I do realize, however, that Thanksgiving today is as different as houses in a neighborhood. Many of us are facing the fall and winter holidays on a diet to lose weight. Others have medical dietary restrictions. Others have committed to a specific healthy lifestyle that eliminates many products and ingredients that Americans are accustomed to using in holiday recipes. Vegans, vegetarians, Paleos, Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach, Diabetics, Heart Healthy eaters – there are plenty enough delicious holidays recipes to delight and satisfy us all. You find them online or in specialty cookbooks.
As a restaurant critic and TV chef, this will be my first Paleo Thanksgiving. That means no corn, potatoes, breads or sugar. No grains and no traditional dishes from mom’s recipe box. Tough you say? No way. There are amazing cookbooks that help people with all kinds dietary limitations enjoy a grand Turkey Day. With or without the turkey.
Since we always have vegetarian friends also joining our table, I rely on several cookbooks to guide me. Vegan can be a little tricky but with the help of Vegan Desserts in a Jar by Kris Holechek Peters and The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester, help is on the counter with these illustrated cookbooks.
I will still be serving a traditional turkey, but instead of bathing the bird in butter, I will brine and the rub the turkey down with duck fat. Yes, that’s right, duck fat. I imagine the skin will glisten as it crisps to a golden brown.
If family insists on stuffing made with bread, there are always gluten free options but I prefer creating a simple mix of ground pork sausage, sautéed diced white onions, fennel, diced apples slightly softened in the pan, chopped apricots and pecans. An organic chicken broth (low sodium) will add the moisture. I don’t think we will miss that Wonder bread mix anyway. Pan drippings and a cranberry chutney will replace my traditional gravy. But, if you want to make this no-fail delicious gray, you’ll find the recipe elsewhere in this month’s issue. It’s easy and will make you a kitchen star.
Whether you are heading to grandmother’s house in an open carriage, attempting your very first Thanksgiving dinner or if you just need some helpful advice you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
May your turkey be moist, the dessert sweet and may each family have the blessing of good company and great pleasures at the table.
Vegan Desserts in Jars by Kris Holek Peters offers beautiful desserts presented in Mason jars.
Pumpkin Crème Brulee (Serves 6)
½ cup raw cashews
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar, divided
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
Set aside six 4 ounce canning jars. In a small bowl, combine the milk with cashews. Let them soak for about 30 minutes. Place the milk in a food processor with cashews. Puree until creamy. Add ½ cup of the sugar and the remaining ingredients and blend until creamy. Pour the pumpkin mixture into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until it begins to bubble and thicken. About 5 minutes. Fill each jar to just under the brim. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving sprinkle one tablespoon of the remaining sugar over the top of each jar. To broil, place the jars on a rimmed baking sheet and turn the broiler on high. Place the jars under broiler about 30 seconds until the sugar caramelizes.
Paleo Cranberry and Almond Upside Down Mimi Cakes (makes 8)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground all spice
1/2 cup ghee, melted (or oil of our choice)
1/2 cup honey
For the cranberry layer:
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup honey
Preheat oven to 350-degrees and grease your muffin tin. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and all spice in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine eggs, ghee/oil and honey. Combine wet and dry ingredients and set aside.Toss cranberries with orange zest, lemon zest and honey. Arrange mixture into a single layer at the bottom of each muffin cup. Top with cake batter and cover evenly. Place pan into oven for 20-25 minutes or until tops are golden brown and fully cooked. If your cakes get too brown but need to cook another minute or two place a sheet of foil on top and continue cooking.
Paleo Butternut Squash-Bacon Soufflé
1 small butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise (about 2 cups pureed)
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 heaping tablespoon coconut flour
4 slices of bacon, diced
1/4 cup rendered bacon fat (from the bacon you just cooked)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash cut side down on baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes until soft. Scoop out the excess seeds. Turn down oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out the insides of your butternut squash and place in the food processor. Puree until smooth. Now place your diced bacon in a pan over medium heat and cook until crispy. Remove cooked bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with a paper towel. Pour out the excess bacon fat into your food processor, leaving behind a tablespoon in the pan. With your butternut squash and bacon fat in the food processor, add the egg yolks. Puree until smooth, then add to a large bowl. In the pan with the leftover bacon fat over medium heat, add minced garlic and sliced shallots. Cook until shallots are tender and translucent. Add shallots, bacon, coconut flour, herbs, salt and pepper to your bowl and mix well. Now in a separate large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. With a spatula, fold in egg whites into your squash bowl until no white streaks remain. Grease ramekins with coconut oil and pour in mixture to each ramekin. My mixture made 5 soufflés. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Creamy Parsnips and Turnips (Serves 4)
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cubed
½ pound turnips, peeled and cubed
½ cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons ghee
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of cracked pepper
To a pot of cold water and add parsnips and turnips. Bring to a boil, partially cover and cook for 15 minutes, until fork tender. Drain the vegetables in a colander then transfer to a food processor. Add the chicken broth, butter, sea salt, thyme, and pepper. Puree until smooth.