Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.  A day for family, friends, lots of great food, and football for those who enjoy the game.  A day where even the healthiest of people throw a side there common sense and eat twice their weight in food. This is the only day were eating just one meal is considered acceptable. It may seem like I’m bashing Thanksgiving, but it’s quite the opposite… I LOVE Thanksgiving! I have been cooking the meal for 10 of the last 12 years for a group ranging from 18 people to 6 and I have loved every minute of it. Even when I have spent the entire day before hand staying up until 1am prepping and them getting up at 6am to put the bird in the oven I have enjoyed it. Not to say that I don’t get stressed towards the end as I hope and pray that everything will be ready around the same time and that all my hard work will taste amazing, but still one of my favorite holidays.

I have always done my best to try and create a ‘healthy’ feast, so that we can all enjoy food that tastes good and is good for us. This year I had a thought though… What about all of those people who even my healthy version of Thanksgiving might cause problems. People who have to watch what they eat even more because of dietary concerns like those with Celica’s disease, diabetes, or pregnant women. With this thought in mind I decided that this year I would attempt to do a gluten free thanksgiving.  

My challenge: make a great gluten free Thanksgiving (with no one at the table realizing the food was gluten free and healthy).

My menu:


This year, I bought a beautiful range-free, hormone and antibiotic free, grass fed turkey.  I know it costs more, but is definitely worth it! Not just because of all the toxins and crap in the other turkeys, but because these turkey’s taste so much better!! They are much more juicy and packed with flavor.  While it still put me in a turkey food coma afterwards, it did not leave me feeling sick like the others can. For the turkey I never really use a recipe but go by these basicdirections.

Cornbread and Bacon Stuffing

I got this recipe from RecipeGril.com, and did a couple of modifications based on my persona taste. It turned out amazing!!! By far the best stuffing I have ever made (and every year I try a new recipe).  Even my mom who typically does not like stuff went back for seconds.  For the recipe click here.

Note: if you don’t like bacon, try pancetta. It’s similar to bacon but has a very different taste.

Cranberry Sauce

I have used the same cranberry sauce recipe for years now with slight modifications every year. This year I have to admit that it was a little lacking in flavor (when compared to other sauces). Cranberry sauce is one of favorite things on the table, but I typically find it to be a tad too tart. So, this year I attempted to cut out a lot of its typically tartness but was too successful leaving it with less flavor. Next year I will again modify this recipe to add back in some of the orange juice I eliminated. Here is the recipe I used this year (replace some of the water with orange juice, not sure how much yet though).

Rosemary and Garlic Mash Potatoes

This is another recipe I have “tinkered” with over the years, but a couple of years ago I found the secret to making this dish exactly how I wanted it, and have continued to have success since then. My recipe: begin with a standard mash potato recipe (with the skins left on and boiled). Then the trick I found was to heat up the milk before adding it to the potatoes (to prevent the dish from getting cold immediately) and during that time to infuse the milk with a stick of fresh rosemary (remove before adding mild to potatoes).  Also, I found that if I roast the garlic by itself (the whole clove wrap in foil with some olive oil and roast at 350°F for about 30 minutes) and then add as much as I wanted, it adds a much better flavor that melds well with the other flavors.  Also, don’t forget to salt and pepper to taste.

Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese

This was a very simple dish and required almost no time at all. Again I didn’t use a recipe; I saw a picture in an ad and thought it looked yummy.  To make this dish, clean the asparagus and cut the bottoms off. Then place them on a piece of foil, drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Next fold the foil around the asparagus making sure the seams are tight. Place in an oven at 375°F for around 15 to 20 minutes (until they are tender).  Place on a service plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. This dish was also a big hit, which I love since it required almost no effort!

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

This year I got a crazy idea and decided that instead of buying a premade crust which I normally do that I should make my own. This proved much harder and took much longer than expected. In the end the crust turned out ok, but definitely lacked some flavor. Next time I might throw some cinnamon or something into the curst to add a little something. (Sorry no pictures of this, people were so excited they dug in before I could grab my camera). For the recipe click here.

While I tried my best to make of these recipes gluten free, please remember that if you have a condition that require you to be gluten free please make sure all of the ingredients used are certified gluten free. If you try these recipes, please let me know what you think and any alterations you made. I always love getting new ideas on how to improve a recipe.

All in all, I would have to say this was the best Thanksgiving meal I have made yet, and it was gluten free to boot! At the end of the meal when everyone was happily stuffed and complimenting me on what many of them also thought was my best thanksgiving, I revealed my secret. Everyone was shocked because they all assumed gluten free would mean less flavor when this meal was backed full of it! Just goes to show that just because food is healthy or has a special dietary modification doesn’t mean it has to taste bad.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

McRib vs NickRib

As promised in my last post, I tried the NickRib recipe and I’m here to report back. To start with I decided that in order to truly compare the NickRib to the McRib I would need taste test them side by side. So, I went to McDonalds and paid the $3 for a McRib (all in the name of science of course).

First Impressions: While driving home from McDonalds I couldn’t help but notice that the McRib was making my car smell a little weird. I admit that I’ve had McDonalds off and on, typically on road trips because I’m hungry and they have a clean bathroom, but this was the first time that I noticed a sort of strange chemically smell. Definitely not the smell a BBQ sandwich should make.  Point 1 NickRib.

Presentation: I have to give it to McDonalds their presentation looked a bit better than mine, mostly because their patty was flat and mine was sort of hamburger looking. However, theirs definitely needed more sauce and I agree with Nick I need more than 2 pickets for the whole sandwich (although I took the onions off because I don’t like raw onions).  I think I’ll have to give this point to the McRib (although those who actually have some presentation skills will probably have no problem with this part).

Taste: Hands down the NickRib wins here! I now definitely get Nick’s reference to the McRib having a chemical taste. There really is no other way to describe it then it tasted like a science experiment. I didn’t taste pork or really BBQ, it just had that signature ‘McDonalds’ taste that somehow most of their food ends up tasting like. I’m so glad that I compared the two side by side, because this definitely helped me realize how bad their food actually tasted. With that being said I would still make some changes to the recipe (no offence Nick, I just have problems following any recipe and always tweak things to my taste).  Personally, I would add a bit more seasoning to the meat so that it jumps out more against the BBQ sauce.

All in all this was a fun experiment, and one I would definitely suggest doing yourself. It was fun to get other people’s opinion and feel like we were food critics, and I still have two patties that I put in the freeze for a quick lunch/dinner some other day. Also, it was a great reminder of why I don’t like fast food, because when you compare it ‘the real thing’ it just doesn’t come close to tasting as good.