By Riki Shore
Here’s a little secret.
I never liked Thanksgiving dinner when I was growing up.
I’ve met so many adults who say they loved Thanksgiving as a kid because they got to eat “all of their favorite foods” in one night.
Favorite foods? Maybe I was at the wrong house. We spent every Thanksgiving that I can remember at my aunt’s ranch house in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Kids weren’t welcome in the kitchen, which was closed off with swinging doors at both ends.
But when I did manage to glimpse inside, the women were all at work making casseroles from vegetables in cans. Canned sweet potatoes topped with mini-marshmallows out of a plastic bag. Canned string beans topped with canned fried onions. And the turkey was so dry it seemed to scrape my throat. I’ve disliked turkey ever since.
When I was old enough to host Thanksgiving, I decided I’d buck tradition and serve all of my favorite foods in one meal.
Those first few years we were living in the Pacific Northwest and the centerpiece of Thanksgiving was a side of salmon, special-ordered, and oven-roasted with only salt and pepper. Being that it was the Pacific Northwest, the dinner was always delicious.
A couple of years ago, I finally gave in to tradition and ordered a turkey breast. I wasn’t very excited to eat it, but I felt like I was doing the right thing, providing turkey for my family. I served it with lots of veggies (I remember brussels sprouts braised in white wine) and an amazing deep dish apple pie.
This year, I’m planning to make some old favorites and a few new dishes too. There’ll be a turkey breast, of course, along with some oven-roasted root vegetables. For stuffing and cranberries, I turn to Bon Appetit. I’ll omit the cheese from this cornbread-chile stuffing and substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour in place of white flour. I’ll also be sure to use some homemade chicken stock.
This roasted cranberry sauce with candied walnuts is the best incarnation of cranberries at Thanksgiving that I’ve ever had – it’ll be on our table this year. Of course, it contains a lot of sugar. You can easily omit the sugar from the walnuts (simply toast them instead), but the cranberries need a little sweetening up. If you’re feeling adventurous, try reducing the sugar by half and see what happens.
One thing that’s always on my Thanksgiving table is a fresh green salad with a bright mustard vinaigrette. I think it’s the best thing to accompany a potentially heavy meal, and I always sprinkle a few dried cranberries in it, to celebrate the season.
For dessert, I’m making (an almost) sugar-free Paleo Pear and Ginger Sorbet. Others will have pie, and I’m sure there’ll be ice cream too. The trick is to enjoy dessert without eating so much that you feel sick, either that night or the next day.
Whatever your fancy, I hope you’ll be enjoying all of your favorite foods this Thanksgiving.
I like to use a combination of root vegetables, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and a winter squash. Feel free to add your favorites – carrots, beets, turnips, and rutabagas would all work well. The key is to dice the veggies all the same size so they cook evenly.
1 butternut squash
2 medium potatoes
1 sweet potato
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Prep your veggies. First peel the squash and scrape out the seeds. Wash the potatoes and peel the sweet potato, carrots and parsnips. Cut everything into 1/2-inch dice.
3. Place the veggies on a sheet tray. Drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper, and toss well.
4. Roast the veggies for 25 minutes. Mince the garlic and add it to the veggies, tossing well. Roast for another 20 – 30 minutes until everything is soft and just beginning to brown.
Inspired by a conversation with Nell Stephenson about Paleo desserts, I got to thinking about sugar-free sorbets. The problem is that the sugar is what keeps the sorbet from turning into a pint of freezer burn. The solution is the addition of a teaspoon of vodka. The alcohol keeps the sorbet from freezing solid without adding any unwanted flavors.
4 ripe pears, preferably Bosc
1 1/4 cups water
1″ piece of fresh ginger
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons agave syrup (optional)
1 teaspoon vodka
1. Peel, core and cut the pears into 1″ dice. Cut the ginger into a couple of large chunks. Place the pears and ginger in a medium saucepan with 1/2 cup of water. Cover and cook on medium-high for about 15 minutes, until the pears are soft and cooked.
2. Remove the ginger from the pears. Puree the pears in a food processor with the remaining 3/4 cups of water, lemon juice, agave syrup and vodka.
3. Cover and chill this mixture in the fridge for 4 – 8 hours. Freeze according to the instructions on your ice cream maker.
Here are a few more Thanksgiving ideas for you to try: