Thanksgiving Mostly Clean Eating

Brian and I have been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house for a few years now. We have the most space so it just seemed to make sense for us to take everyone in here (plus, we have the most kids and I’m not trying to cart them around on Christmas!). Over the years we have kind of gotten it figured out, as much as you really can. I do a lot of cooking and prep leading up to the day so that I’m not spending all day cooking and missing out on family time. Having half the dishes already made before Thanksgiving is ultra helpful. Also, our meals have gotten a little more complex since we have been on our limited grains and sugar journey. Gone are the days of boxed anything and cans of gravy.

You know how everyone seems to have their quintessential Thanksgiving dishes? Well, we try to accommodate those as much as we can but also add in healthy options for us. For example, Brian is a huge mashed potato fan and we rarely have them so on Thanksgiving and Christmas I make a lot of them. Everyone else seems to enjoy them as well so that dish doesn’t get modified. In case you are wondering the best way to make the mashed potatoes is in the slow cooker.

On the other hand, I do make multiple stuffing versions. One fairly regular version (except that I make my own bread crumbs because that boxed stuff is no bueno!). The second is one for my family and is never quite the same. In the past I’ve made an almond flour bread stuffing, this year I created one with sweet potato, onions, celery, and a granola that I flavored to be like stuffing. The stuffings are made in advance so we’ve taste tested them. After three years of being mostly grain-free I didn’t even like the regular stuffing (where is all the flavor?! Why do I only taste bread?!). I used to be a die-hard stuffing fan. Eat all the stuffing! And the girls said they didn’t care for the regular stuffing much either, except for the veggies in it. =)

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There is always a big salad filled with vegetables. We are also having roasted vegetables. It depends on what I have on hand but this year we are having roasted green beans and chard (so many green beans, yay!). No dinner rolls. It always seems that people get the dinner roll and can’t ever finish it, so I’ve decided I’m not wasting my efforts. I make my own gravy and am still perfecting the recipe. I follow one from Rachael Ray and sometimes it works better than others (I have real gravy issues!).

I married into a family that has both turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas so we stick with that. It’s a lot of meat and makes me sick to think about it but I fear there would be a revolt if both them weren’t present. To top the meat I’ve become a fan of cranberry sauce. I never ate cranberry sauce when I was younger but once I started making my own (recipe here) I converted to a cranberry sauce lover.

Those are the key dinner items. Occasionally, someone will bring something like macaroni and cheese or green bean casserole. We welcome people to bring whatever they may want and I TRY to limit how much the kiddos get of these other items.

Dessert has always been my favorite part and we don’t skimp here. There are multiple pies and other desserts for the after dinner spread. This year I kept it fairly simple. I made THE Ultimate Holiday Pie, grain-free and refined sugar-free! Using this grain-free honey graham cracker crust, subbing honey for the sugar in the cheesecake layer, this pumpkin pie, and the pecan pie topping from here. The healthy version came out beautifully and I’m hoping for no complaints about the lack of sugar. I just wanted to be able to eat this lovely creation and not feel sick. In addition to pie we are having fruit salad (chopped up fruits stirred in with homemade honey sweetened  whipped cream), and these cake batter truffles (also grain and refined sugar free).

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Before dinner we snack on vegetables and hummus and this year I made spiced bar nuts. The nuts were a huge hit last year and when I made them earlier this week we were loving the preview.

While I don’t necessarily love making the multiple versions of foods I am excited that this year I have converted all the dessert to be edible for my family. And that despite the mashed potatoes and the regular stuffing the rest of the food fits right into our eating style. I dream of the day when I can say that about all the food on the table. Small steps for now. We have come a long way from Thanksgivings past.

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THE Ultimate Holiday Dessert

Looking for an outrageous dessert that screams holiday spirit? I’ve found THE dessert (thank you Pinterest!). Actually, I found it about a month ago or longer but decided to give it a serious look again. My best friend is going through a rough season and I wanted to make something for her. So I made THE ultimate holiday pie. It’s crazy like the piecaken but totally not the same.

Now that we’ve established it as THE ultimate holiday pie. What exactly is it? It is a layered pie. Cheesecake on the bottom, followed by pumpkin pie in the middle, and topped with pecan pie. In each and every bite you get the distinct flavor of the individual layers but in combination! And if that’s not enough to convince you just wait until the smell of this pie while cooking is wafting through the house. Holiday smells irresistible.

The key to layering this pie is that each layer is made separately, poured into the pie pan, and set to freeze before the next layer is added. That way the layers don’t mix together and stay nice and separate while baking.

The original recipe called for a pastry crust but I’d never use a pastry crust on cheesecake so I went with graham cracker crust instead. It was the right move. Since the cheesecake is on the bottom the graham crust melts in the cheesecake just as you’d expect from your typical cheesecake. But with pumpkin pie and pecan pie on top this cheesecake is anything but typical:

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The pumpkin pie layer is the thickest layer, appropriately so:

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After the pumpkin pie layer is frozen on top of the cheesecake layer you spoon the pecan pie filling on top. The pecan pie filling is thin and once cooked sort of melts into the top portion of the pumpkin pie layer. Another reason that the pumpkin pie layer should be slightly thicker. No need to freeze again, but bake and enjoy the delicious smell filling your house. A little pointer: I was extremely nervous putting my frozen glass pie pan into a hot oven. I got lucky with no broken pie pan but next time I will not preheat the oven and let the pie plate heat up with the oven.

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I could not follow the original recipe in regards to the pecan pie because it called for corn syrup and that’s just not something that makes its way into our house. Instead I found a recipe using agave and it worked! This whole recipe is not the kind of thing I usually make as it is laden with sugar but like I said, best friend, rough season, seemed like a good time to give this a try.

Once the pie is done, the pecan pie filling will be browned and the pie will still be jiggly but not wet. We had to taste test immediately but it’s much better when it’s had adequate time to set up in the fridge. Topped with whipped cream this pie is the perfect combination of the holiday season and flavors.

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I’m pretty sure I can alter this to be refined sugar-free and grain-free but I had to have the original recipe under my belt first.  The classic pumpkin pie was set to make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table but I’m reconsidering. Classic pumpkin pie or THE ultimate holiday pie?! We’ll put it to a vote.

My Kids Rock

….and I don’t when it comes to updating the blog. I’ve been making great stuff and taking pics of all of it but have been seriously failing when it comes to putting a post up. If there was anything that is deserving of a post it is this: my kids are awesome!

Twice now I’ve made a super easy but incredibly delicious one pot roasted meal. This meal seems fancy but is very simple and requires minimal hands on time. I’ve been roasting a whole chicken atop whatever greens and vegetables I have. The greens, collards, or chard are coated with a little olive oil and some spices and then go into the roaster (I happen to have an electric roaster but in the oven would work too). Same thing with the veggies. As always, I slice up onions for good measure. I’ve been seasoning the chicken with the lemon and herb recipe from The Against All Grain cookbook. This dinner tastes amazing and totally cooks itself! Love! The girls like this dinner a lot and ask for a piece of chicken still on the bone. Eating meat off the bone is a novelty to them.

So when you cook a whole chicken you get a couple of bonuses. One being that you get to make homemade chicken broth with the leftover carcass. Which also cooks itself after you add some rough cut vegetables, water, a touch of apple cider vinegar, and herbs. I get more excited about the chicken broth than the actual chicken. A mug full of homemade chicken broth on a cold day warms me right up. Another bonus is the liver you get from the chicken. In all honesty we usually just toss that stuff (I don’t even like to admit this wastefulness). Not this time, I’ve been hearing all about how nutritious organ meat is. Since I already had some from my chicken I figured I’d give cooking liver a shot. If the family didn’t like it, no loss. Well, I only had a small amount of liver from my one chicken so I bought an additional pound from the store so we could really try it.

How does one cook liver? I was unsure so I did a little research and decided simple was better. Here’s how I did it: I patted the liver dry and then marinated it in almond milk for a couple of hours. I sautéed some shallots in coconut oil until soft and then added the liver (drained and patted dry again). Cooked until the liquid is released from the liver and it’s browned. That’s it, simple no fuss liver.

Now, could I serve this to the fam? Yes, if I was careful to avoid any negative connotations. I dished this up for lunch over some wilted spinach and plenty of other options just in case it was not a hit. Most importantly, I simply called it chicken from a different part of the chicken than we normally eat.

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And……they ate it and liked it! My kids eat chicken liver, no questions asked, how awesome are they?! In fact, Brian had more qualms about it than they did. He said he’d be more ok if it was mixed into something rather than a pile of liver on his plate. Understandable, I guess. We had plenty leftover and mixed some with lentils into our chiles rellenos later in the week.

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Again, no questions asked! Did I mention my kids rock! They are no different from other kids who love pizza, and cake and sugar but when you feed them real food instead they will eat real food! Amazing. Shout out to my mom who fed me liver as a child. I didn’t remember until I tasted the liver and then the memory of eating and enjoying it came flooding back. I was not at all a picky eater when I was little and my parents fed me all sorts of different things, which had led to some funny stories now that I’m grown. Moral of the story: (not about me but about typical kids, I was weird) don’t give up on the picky eaters! They can and will learn to enjoy a variety of foods if you allow them the opportunity to keep trying.