The Thanksgiving Post

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My partner and I are hosting Thanksgiving for our families for the first time this year. I’ve hosted one Thanksgiving before, but it was about six or seven years ago so it’s been a while. The one thing my Mom instilled on me when it comes to making a large meal like this is doing as much prep ahead of time so I can actually enjoy the day.

I’ve opted to go with a fairly traditional Thanksgiving. This is mostly so I don’t stress about testing out a ton of new recipes ahead of time, and I also feel it gives a neutral playing field for getting our families together: a little familiar, a little new. That said, I had to go the extra mile with a few recipes to add some of my values: using organic ingredients, local ingredients when available and altering some ingredients to make dishes healthier and I believe tastier. I thought I’d share my menu and prep work with you in the hopes it may inspire you this Thanksgiving.

You will notice that this is not a paleo menu. Despite my mostly cooking paleo at home, I wasn’t ready to force this on a crowd at our first Thanksgiving. Plus, deep down inside I really love me some gluten. You will, however, notice this menu is dairy-free (aside from the appetizers and mashed potatoes guests are bringing). I highly suspect no one will even notice the missing dairy thanks to some exceptional substitutes! Check it out!

Make as much in advance and freeze it! You're looking at Carrot Cardamom Soup, Apple Pie Filling, Maple Pumpkin Pie filling, Paleo Mushroom Soup (for Green Bean Casserole), and Sweet Potato Casserole.

Make as much in advance and freeze it! You’re looking at Carrot Cardamom Soup, Apple Pie Filling, Maple Pumpkin Pie filling, Paleo Mushroom Soup (for Green Bean Casserole), and Sweet Potato Casserole.

The Menu

Key: P=Paleo, DF=Dairy Free, GF=Gluten Free, V=Vegan

  • Appetizers: I can’t help you here, guests are bringing these.
  • Carrot Cardamom Soup, P/DF/GF, make in advance and freeze
  • Brined Spatchcocked Turkey, I’m using the William-Sonoma Brine, this might be a cop-out considering how easy brine is to make, but it’s tried-and-true in our family. I’m also stuffing the skin with ghee before roasting. This will be the first time in 5 years that we’re not having a bacon-wrapped turkey because my partner wanted to really taste just the turkey skin.
  • Sweet Potato Casserole, P/DF/GF/V, recipe below, make plain casserole in advance and freeze before cooking.
  • Green Bean CasseroleP/DF/GF, I used this soup recipe and blended it smooth with an immersion blender. I’ll be using the recipe for fried onions found here for the topping. Make the soup in advance and freeze. The casserole can be put together a day in advance, as can the fried onions. Then add the onions and cook on Thanksgiving day.
  • Homemade Gravy, recipe below
  • Homemade Cranberry Sauce, I add chopped pecans and orange zest to this recipe. It can also be done with maple syrup but I’m doing maple in the pumpkin pie and didn’t want maple-overload. Make up to a week in advance and refrigerate.
  • Sausage Stuffing, if you follow the recipe as written this is P/DF/GF. I’m using Whole Foods’ stuffing bread though so mine will not be GF. I’m also omitting the pepper.
  • Mashed Potatoes (provided by a guest)
  • Apple Pie, DF I use my Mom’s very traditional recipe for this.
  • Maple Pumpkin Pie, DF, recipe below

Sweet Potato Casserole (P/DF/GF/V)

Ingredients:

  • 6 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil the sweet potatoes in a pot of salted water for ~20 minutes, until they become soft. Drain.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and use an immersion blender to blend smooth (or put in a food processor or blender to blend).
  3. At this point you can put this in a casserole dish or ziplock and freeze until the day before Thanksgiving. If you want to proceed…
  4. Add to casserole dish and bake for ~20 minutes at 350ºF. If you’d like a paleo topping check out the pecan topping found here. I’m personally cheating here and topping with marshmallows because…well, marshmallows.

Homemade Gravy

Full disclosure: I found this recipe at Whole Foods but it’s too good to not share! I did make a couple minor adjustments.

Ingredients:

  • Pan drippings and brown bits at the bottom of the pan
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup turkey stock (see recipe below)
  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 3 tbsp arrowroot powder mixed with 3 tbsp of water
  • 2 tsp porcini mushroom dust (I bought dried porcini mushrooms and will be grinding them)
  • salt, pepper and fresh parsley to taste

Directions:

  1. Remove turkey from roasting pan and set aside to rest.
  2. Deglaze pan with the wine and stock, making sure to scrape off all the brown bits.
  3. Your choice to pour this into a saucepan or continue by making the gravy in the roasting pan.
  4. Add arrowroot powder mixture and stir until thick.
  5. Add butter, mushroom dust, parsley and spices. Serve hot.

Stock Ingredients:

  • Neck, giblets (not the liver as it can make the stock bitter) and backbone (if spatchcocking) from the turkey
  • Water
  • 1-2 stalks celery, halved
  • ½ an onion, chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt + pepper

Stock Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, add giblets and cover with water.
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring to a boil and let it cook away until it’s about half of the amount you started with.
  4. Let cool, remove fat layer, and reduce again until rich and golden. Strain.
  5. This can be made ahead of time and frozen. I’ll be doing it day-of since that’s when I’ll be cutting out the backbone.

Maple Pumpkin Pie (DF)

A good portion of this recipe was taken from this recipe (and you can find a Paleo crust there if you’d like), but I doctored it up a bit. The filling is VERY easy to make and can be made ahead and frozen. If you’d like to make the whole pie in one shot start with the directions for the crust.

Filling Ingredients:

  • 15oz can of puréed pumpkin (you can also make your own, but from what I’ve read it’s very hard to get the right consistency when you roast your own and it’s often too wet)
  • 2/3 cups raw walnut halves
  • 1/3 cup raw or roasted unsalted cashews
  • 3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp maple extract

Filling Directions:

  1. Blend nuts in a food processor or blender until finely ground. Add eggs, honey and maple syrup and blend for 2-3 minutes until completely smooth (you could also add some of the coconut milk if it’s too thick for your food processor or blender to puree well). It is very important to blend until completely smooth, otherwise your custard will be watery.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined.
  3. At this point you can put this in a ziplock bag and freeze it until the day before you want to make the pie. Then just defrost it in the fridge overnight.
  4. If you’d like to continue, add the filling to a pre-baked pie crust and cook for ~40 minutes at 350ºF.

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • ½ cup leaf lard
  • ¼ cup butter or coconut oil if you’re going for dairy-free
  • 3-4 tbsp very cold water
  • zest from a small orange
  • 1/8 cup pecan meal (grind pecans)
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Crust Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF
  2. In medium mixing bowl combine flour, pecan meal, orange-zest, and sugar.
  3. Cut in lard and butter until pea-sized beads are formed.
  4. Add water 1tbsp at a time and knead into the batter until it is smooth enough to roll into a ball without pieces flaking off–if it becomes sticky and thin add more flour.
  5. Grease a 9″ pie plate and dust with flour.
  6. Roll out the crust batter with a floured rolling pin on a floured surface until round. Place in the pie plate and lightly pat down to form into the pie plate. Press edges with a fork.
  7. If you have them, add pie weights to help the crust keep it’s shape while cooking. If you don’t have pie weights, pierce the crust with a fork every ¼” or so to stop the shell from bubbling up while it bakes.
  8. Bake for ~20 minutes, until the crust is just starting to brown.
  9. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before adding filling.

I’ll add pictures once the meal is cooked. 🙂 What are your favorite Thanksgiving treats? What tricks do you have for prep work?

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