If your kids have food allergies like mine do, you know the frustration of large get togethers that center around food. It’s just hard. Nothing replaces the feeling of being left out, especially when that is part of every holiday memory you have. Thankfully kids get focused on playing, but there is inevitably time at the table, and that’s hard! Other than skipping the mealtime altogether (which my kids don’t want to do when given the choice), we resolve do the best we can. Honestly, it’s a lot of work for me, but it is always worth it when I see my kids’ plates licked clean of their favorite foods.
I thought I’d share how I do our traditional Thanksgiving meal free of the eight major allergens and corn. Keep in mind, it’s not made to be full of gourmet recipes, but alternatives to the main family meal (because we get together with many other people who cook) that are still delicious but simple to do… a way to include everyone without making an entirely different meal.
EveRy food allergy family has different needs, so find what works here and leave the rest. Use your safe something and make something else work. You know food allergy mamas are the queens of modifying! I’ve been unspecific on purpose, because we all have our own spreads, margarines, oils, amounts etc that work for our specific needs. I’m just sharing how we think out of the box. And I have no photos because I can’t wait until next Thursday to take them all so I can share them with you!
I get fresh turkey legs or thighs from the butcher at my higher end grocery store, put them in the crock pot with at least 1 cup of broth or water (more if I want to make gravy), and set them to cook on high for a few hours(less than 4 hours for 4 legs) … I just watch to see when it’s done.*
*I buy meat with no ingredient list, which means nothing has been injected into it. The injected solutions are not corn or other allergy friendly.
I keep things pretty simple in the kitchen, as you’ll notice as this post goes on. I have no idea how everyone else makes gravy or what they do to complicate it, but I’m the hired gravy-maker now for our family gatherings, and people keep going back for more. I take the broth leftover from the crock pot (fat included), bring it to a boil (high heat) in a skillet. Turn down to medium-low, and add brown rice flour, whisking consistently (though not necessarily non-stop) as it boils. Keep whisking and simmer for 2-3 minutes while it thickens, repeating this step until it’s as thick as you like it. Salt to taste.
Sweet potatoes are a tough thing since so many sweet potato casserole recipes our kiddos will see are covered with marshmallows and loaded with sugar, milk and eggs. What I do now is bake sweet potatoes in their peel (poke with a fork, bake at 425 until they’re soft), peel them, place in small casserole dish, mash lightly with a fork, stir in some liquid (safe milk alternative or chicken broth), add margarine (or your safe spread), then top with brown sugar and cinnamon. It’s okay if they’re loaded with sugar… everyone else’s recipes are too!
Dressing… or is it stuffing?
Either way, I got nothin’ for ya’ because we don’t like it, so I’ve never tried to replace it! (Post a comment if you have a recipe to share.)
We make our mashed potatoes with chicken broth instead of milk, and safe margarine or oil instead of butter. The chicken broth adds so much flavor, we prefer them over those made with milk and butter now!
Or go really easy (no one will tell your mother) and use these instant flakes! Potatoes only!
Ummm, do they really have to eat something green? I suppose to be helpful I’ll add that steamed veggies with a holiday-amount of your favorite spread are permissable. My kids love salad, so when I require them to eat something green at a holiday meal (really, never) I give them that, and it’s really easy to make match for every guest who will attend.
Sometimes I make safe rolls, depending on how well I’m doing on getting everything else done… usually that’s not very well, so most years the kids have had toast (on their safe bread), warmed and slathered with their margarine (or whatever you prefer) and honey. If I get my act together a few days early, I make the safe dough or rolls and freeze them to easily bake or thaw Thanksgiving morning. (For gluten free “rolls,” I make the same dough I use for bread and bake it in muffin tins.) Cranberry muffins made safely are perfect too.*
*In quick breads or muffins, I use familiar wheat recipes and sub brown rice flour cup for cup with excellent results. And I use 1T flax meal stirred into 3T warm water for each egg I need to substitute. These make for easy allergy free baking and avail a lot of options!
I’ll admit, I’ve tried and failed at a number of allergy friendly pie recipes. The dairy-corn-wheat-egg free pumpkin pie was gross and the dairy-corn-wheat-egg free pecan pie (we’re obviously not nut free around here!) was very runny, though still delicious. I’ve settled on a good old modified apple crisp. Smells like fall as it bakes, and can be loaded with doubled topping for extra holiday fun! Oatmeal raisin cookies are my most successful allergy free cookie recipe, and can be pre-made, frozen and then warmed just in time for dessert too!
Allergy Free Apple Crisp
6 medium tart apples, sliced and peeled
2 1/4 cups turbinado, raw or brown sugar
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups oats (gluten free if you need that)
1/3 cup oil (just enough to coat the topping when stirred)
2 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Arrange sliced apples in pan. Mix all other ingredients and sprinkle over apple layer.
Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until topping is lightly browned.
This might seem like a silly one, but to a corn allergy child, prepared drink options are severely limited. I make sweet tea beforehand to make sure he has something he loves.
A few other tips:
Feed them a snack before you arrive or before the meal. If they’re not starving, their eyes and stomach will be much more satisfied with what they can have instead of what they can’t have.
Fix their plate for them (before you call them to the table) so they don’t have to walk through the line and see what everyone else might be having.
If dessert isn’t an organized event, don’t feel the need to call them when everyone else comes. Leave them playing and feed them their dessert whenever they come looking.
As silly as it sounds, fun holiday paper plates & cups or beautiful china makes a different meal really exciting too… it takes the focus off the food!
Create “matching” food only for the things they like. One year I went to great effort to make a safe green bean casserole… only to be reminded how much my son hates green beans. Now I just “match” the foods I know my kids love. They have a plate full of their favorite foods, and are very happy to not have to eat broccoli! (I avoid any and all food battles on holidays as a gift to my food-allergy-mama self. I encourage you to do the same!)
Most importantly, don’t encourage (or allow) a “poor me” attitude about their allergies. They are tough, for real, but some people can’t run, or hear, or even swallow. Help your children keep in perspective that there is much they can enjoy as a kiddo with food allergies, and all their favorite foods on Thanksgiving are a great beginning!
Now it’s your turn. Share your suggestions or post links to your allergy free recipes here!