Gluten Free Thanksgiving: Orange Cranberry Relish

This is probably the simplest, most delicious cranberry stuff I’ve ever had. I do a little bit of fussing with the orange, but that’s my personal preference.

You need:

  • 1 bag of cranberries (I think 12 or 16 oz?)
  • 1 large orange
  • sugar

You also need:

  • A bowl
  • A food processor

Place the cranberries in the food processor. Cut the orange up into chunks, remove any seeds, and put the whole thing in there too. Push go, and let the processor run until you have a finely chunked, red and orange bowl of amazing. You’re going for seed-bead sized chunks, not puree (but it’s not an exact science). Stir in some sugar – I usually end up wanting about 3/4 cup, but I’ve seen recipes for this that call for anywhere from 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar. 3/4 cup is usually just about right for the sweet/tangy balance for me.

Refrigerate until serving.

The Orange Trick: The white pith of an orange can be kind of bitter, so I do the following to my orange:

  1. Using a paring knife, cut the zest – just the orange part, not any of the white part – off the orange in big strips.
  2. Using a serrated knife, slice away the rest of the rind, get all the white pithy part off.
  3. Cut the orange open and remove any seeds
  4. Toss the zest and the orange pulp into the food processor in chunks
  5. Proceed with the rest of the instructions

This gets the bitter pithy part out of the relish, and leaves a prettier result (no white stuff). I’m fussy like that!

Planning a Gluten Free Thanksgiving

I’ve found over the last three months that living Gluten Free hasn’t been as hard as I’d thought most of the time. Since I do so much cooking, it’s been pretty easy to make delicious yummy food that just isn’t made with wheat, barley, or un-tested oats. All that said, though, in two weeks (yikes) I’m going to have my mother and father, mother and father in law, and brother and sister in law all here at my house for Thanksgiving again.

Which is really very fun – it’s a big potluck kind of Thanksgiving.

But the gluten free thing is kind of a challenge, more so because my mother in law is completely unfamiliar with what it means to not eat gluten, not helped by the fact that she lives in a tiny farm town that doesn’t have anything remotely resembling “specialty” food (at one point, before I was GF, we had a conversation where she said that the area she lived in was too poor to have people that couldn’t eat gluten).

Fortunately the turkey is easy. My father in law always brines and smokes a turkey for us, so not only do I not need to cook it, I don’t need to worry about it – I know what’s in his turkey brine, and it’s perfectly OK for me to eat.

Also, it’s the best turkey any of us have ever eaten. Ever.

Mashed potatoes are also easy, as is some kind of green bean dish (I may actually make a homemade traditional casserole, which just avoids the flour in canned soups and means I make my own, which is yummier anyway). Everyone loves my artichoke gratin, and I can just as easily make that with GF breadcrumbs (or pulverized GF pretzels). I can thicken the gravy with cornstarch instead of flour, there’s no gluten in my orange and cranberry relish or in the drunken rum carrots, and I’ve caved in and agreed to have some baked (frozen) yeast rolls for everyone else, since I know that my brother and father in law are of the opinion that it’s not a meal without bread, and can go through an entire bag of rolls just between themselves.

Which leaves me with two fussy problems.

Stuffing and pie.

The pies I will just make myself.

My mom and dad will be here to help with our side of the cooking, and I’ve made gluten free pie crusts before. They’re not all that easy to make, because the flour doesn’t have the sticky stretchiness that regular wheat flour does, but piecing the crust together in the pan works just fine as long as you don’t need a top crust. Which means pumpkin and my bourbon chocolate pecan pies.

I think everyone will be happy with that, and if they’re not, they can buy their own damn pie from the grocery.

Stuffing I’ve kind of caved in on, but I’m not overly upset about it. When I set out to do this whole Thanksgiving thing, I decided I didn’t want anything on the table that I couldn’t eat. I was willing to negotiate on rolls, but I’m more worried about that than the stuffing, because I love bread. LOVE bread. So maybe I’ll buy some GF bread to serve instead.

Stuffing, however, my mother in law always makes, with a mixture of white bread and cornbread.

When I asked her if she would be willing to make it only with cornbread (and with cornbread ONLY made with corn and not with white flour) she balked. Her husband and sons both LOVE the stuffing she always makes. Making it without white bread just wouldn’t be the same.

So she’s making the stuffing she always makes, but using a gluten free cornbread, and will put some aside for me that doesn’t have white bread in it.

It’s not the ideal situation, but I think it’ll work out without having to ask anyone to buy gluten free bread that might not be any good for $10 a loaf.

Anna’s (mostly) Gluten Free Thanksgiving Menu:

  • Smoked Turkey
  • Assorted Stuffings (GF and not)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Drunken Rum Carrots
  • Green Bean Casserole (homemade, GF)
  • Artichoke Gratin
  • Orange Cranberry Relish
  • Frozen wheat rolls (not GF)
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

If anyone wants recipes, let me know in comments and I’ll do what I can to have them posted soon!

What I’m not eating anymore

Food is such a weird subject sometimes. It’s hard to keep what you’re eating straight most of the time, between all the pseudo news science and fad diets, organic versus local versus whatever you can afford, food allergies and new labels and what the hell is a Xanthan anyway, and why is it gummy?

Labels on food have been kind of eyeroll-inducing for awhile, but it seems to be getting worse lately. I’ve seen trans-fat free labels on blueberries and fat free stickers on bananas, gluten free vegetables – and that’s just the produce department. Packaged foods are now telling me how many grams of whole grain are in them, even going so far as to sell sweetened, packaged, enriched bleached flour children’s cereal as “part of a healthy breakfast” because they have “whole grains”.

So perhaps it’s not so strange that I’d eyeroll at all those labels and ignore them, cracking it all up to food fads and secretly making sarcastic remarks in my head.

(This is where I’d do a cool segue if I could think of one, and it would be sophisticated and thoughtful and you’d all love me for my transitional abilities. But I can’t think of one. So.

Segues are for suckers.)

Approximately one week ago, I finally got something resembling a diagnosis for my chronic pain, fatigue, and other issues. One of those issues is a tummy issue, and I’ll avoid TMI’ing you overmuch, but let’s just say that my system worked overtime, all the time, and I’d be running to the bathroom 4-6 times a day on a normal day. Which is pretty disrupting, all things considered, especially when you can’t move very fast because your joints hurt.

SO.

Doctor put me on new medication, told me I have to swim several times a week, gave me a bunch of activity restrictions… and told me to go gluten free for 3 months.

Three months, no gluten AT ALL. Not “a little bit every now and then”. Not “if you feel better you can cheat a little”.

None.

I woke up last Thursday morning and went through my pantry, trying to figure out what I could eat. I literally had NO IDEA where to start. Even as someone who eats a lot of whole foods, I couldn’t eat any of my breakfast staples – no oatmeal, no granola bars, no cereal, no multi-grain muffins.

I ended up eating a banana and an egg.

Friday, I went grocery shopping, and I found myself feeling kind of like an asshole about rolling my eyes at the gluten free labels.

Maybe not on the strawberries (no duh?), but on packaged goods? All of a sudden I was floundering like an idiot, thrown head first into this exclusion diet where nearly every packaged item we eat contains gluten (anything with soy sauce, anything with MSG, anything with maltodextrin or malt sweeteners, anything that uses a food starch anti-caking agent for those anonymous “spices”).

Those “Gluten Free!” labels became a little lifeline, a little sanity break that meant I didn’t have to grill my brain to remember which of the various ingredients might have gluten, or be processed in such a way as to be easily contaminated with gluten (like white vinegar).

So far I’m not sure what to think of eating gluten free. It’s a huge mental process, and I seem to vacillate between “I can do this”, “I will never be able to eat anything again”, and “Why am I bothering?”

I definitely don’t roll my eyes at the Gluten Free labels anymore.

Though I do still make snide remarks in my head about trans-fat free blueberries…