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.

What’s for Lunch – School Lunchbox Edition

At the start of school Brian and I decided that one day a month Isabelle could buy lunch at school. We wanted to let her have the experience and once a month seems sufficient but not overly so. We looked at the menu for the month and she chose which day she would like to buy school lunch. Her choice for the month of September came this week. She chose beef taco salad as the one. As you can imagine she was ecstatic when the day came. So cute with her little baggy full of money and filled with excitement that morning. After school she gave me the rundown of what lunch was like. It was not what she expected. Since she choose beef taco salad she expected to be getting a salad with beef flavored like tacos. Instead she got a pile of chips “with hardly any lettuce” and beef and cheese on top. Don’t get me wrong she still ate it and thought it was good but it was not the salad she hoped for. Now, we know for next time. =)

Her brought from home lunches recently have consisted of the following:

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Turkey and mozzarella lettuce sandwiches, cauliflower, and peaches.

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Pickles and olives, bean and lentil mixed veggie salad, and apple slices.

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Green bean spaghetti, watermelon, walnut trail mix (with candy corn pieces!).

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Yellow lentils and millet (warmed), salad, and a banana.

Since these are all prepped and in the fridge a few at a time it’s fun to see what she feels like for lunch on any given day. I’m always surprised by her choices.

I must say I’d love it if my lunch choices were so put together. If I got to grab a hand-made with love lunch each day from the fridge I’d be pretty happy. Especially, compared to the rushed chopping and throwing together that usually happens to my daily lunch salad. Although, I am pretty lucky that I eat lunch at home with my best Lexi each day so there is that. And her lunches usually mirror Izzy’s lunch so hers are not as rushed to put together.

Side note: Isabelle has told me she gets to explain her lunch to the kids seated around her since most of the kids are used to seeing sandwiches and lunchables. So far, she doesn’t seem too concerned that her lunch is very different because she loves them. How do I keep her my confidant and well-adjusted six-year-old?! Not looking forward to when other people’s opinions affect her.

Double Grill

With the hot weather this week we planned a double grilling night. This means I make two dinners on the grill on one night. Since the charcoal is still pretty hot after grilling the first meal we’ve been creative in using up that additional heat. Sometimes we grill desserts, or toast nuts, make granola or simply make another meal. I opted for the later (and some extra) today.

Tonight’s dinner was grilled zucchini boats, broccolette,  and okra. The zucchini boats were stuffed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, corn, and white beans.

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I did grill some meat for later this week. It’s hard to think outside the box when grilling because meat just seems so obvious. So I grilled some bacon wrapped turkey breasts for Thursday.

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Also, I grilled granola bars (this recipe again). I figured I needed to make some to bring on our vacation and the grill is hot so why not. Must be careful when grilling things like this though, since it’s not as attended as in the oven the potential for burning is much higher.

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I tried a grain-free granola bar recipe from the Wheat Belly Cookbook this afternoon as well. They have nuts, seeds, dates, peanut butter, and milk in them. The turned out alright. I’m not in love with the taste but I think that can be altered next time to add some additional flavor and texture through add-ins. A good starting off point.

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Aside from cooking the girls and I went to the $1 summer movies and watched Despicable Me 2. They love this movie and have seen it tons of times. I was kind of hoping it would reduce some of the Frozen obsession temporarily. Not the case, though, immediately after the movie Lexi was singing Frozen. I tried!

More fun was in store for the girls as we participated in Ihop’s 56 cent pancakes for their 56th Anniversary. They each got a short stack of pancakes for lunch with a side of sausage. Their little tummies were extra full from eating movie popcorn and then pancakes but they were excited to get to do such special things on the same day.

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Now, I get the joy of going to the store to buy a whole bunch of bulk items. I always dread having to bring the girls since the bulk section is time-consuming but I also dislike going by myself. However, for their sake if I can make it work to go in the evening while they are in bed I do that because they would much rather be at home playing than at the store with me during the afternoon.