Thanksgiving 2012 & Feeding the Stuffing Addiction

apron brooch

CB thinks it’s hilarious when I wear his apron because I can’t eat pork.

I have to admit, Thanksgiving went down better than I ever anticipated.  I made the entire meal gluten-free rather than having things I couldn’t eat after I slaved over it for two days.

Here was our menu:

Turkey (cheated and bought a Marks and Spencers ready-to-roast job)
Gravy
Cornbread and bacon stuffing
Sweet potato casserole
Green bean casserole
Pecan-crusted spinach and artichoke dip (with homemade creamed spinach, no less!)
Baked macaroni and cheese
Sour cream mashed potatoes
Pao de queijo (not traditional Thanksgiving by far, but I wanted rolls, and this is what I got)
Pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin cupcakes

I was going to make oven-roasted root vegetables but decided at the last minute that we had more than enough food already.

Clockwise from top left: Cornbread and bacon stuffing, sour cream mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin cupcakes, pecan-crusted spinach and artichoke dip, pao de queijo, turkey breast, green bean casserole (left), sweet potato casserole (right), and the shining sun in the center is the baked macaroni and cheese. Pumpkin cheesecake not pictured.  And, yes, we have a terrible tablecloth.  We know.

Clockwise from top left: Cornbread and bacon stuffing, sour cream mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin cupcakes, pecan-crusted spinach and artichoke dip, pao de queijo, turkey breast, green bean casserole (left), sweet potato casserole (right), and the shining sun in the center is the baked macaroni and cheese. Pumpkin cheesecake not pictured. And, yes, we have a terrible tablecloth. We know.

When I was young, I became fascinated with stuffing.  It was my favourite part of Thanksgiving, and I remember being so excited when I found out you could eat it other times of the year.  I begged for it until my mother finally showed me a box and told me I could make it myself.  No, it’s not good for you, and it’s especially not good for you from a box!

When I found out I couldn’t eat gluten, stuffing was the first thing that came to mind.  Instantly, I wanted it all the time and for every meal.  Gluten-free stuffing mixes exist here (well, at least one), and, while tasty, they just don’t scratch the itch of this Stove Top purist.  I’m afraid nothing ever will.  However, last year, while visiting my parents for Christmas, I came upon a recipe that I adapted into a satisfying replacement.  Don’t get me wrong — it doesn’t taste like Stove Top — but it is good enough to go back for seconds.  I used a bag of Bob’s Red Mill cornbread mix last year, but I didn’t have one for Thanksgiving.  I immediately went to the Gluten Free Goddess and located something I could make work for me with several adjustments.  So, without further ado, here is my version of what makes Thanksgiving Thanksgiving.

Cornbread and Bacon Stuffing

Sweet Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 cup stone ground gluten-free cornmeal
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (optional — not included in dry ingredients list)
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 cup very warm water
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
2 extra tablespoons water, if needed

Hardware:
Cast iron skillet
Oven
2 mixing bowls
2 whisks
Measuring cups and spoons
Spatula (to get the last bits out of the bowl)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C with lightly greased skillet inside.

Combine the dry ingredients — cornmeal, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, fine sea salt, and brown sugar — in a bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

Whisk the eggs and olive oil together for about 1 minute.  This is where the original recipe had me confused.  I checked the comments and notes, and it seems like I’m the only person who can’t seem to figure it out.  I don’t see where the warm water and juice is meant to be added.  I choose to add it here, as I thought it might be lumpy if you tried to mix it in later.  So, add the lime juice and the warm water. Mix to combine.

Add the dry bowl to the wet bowl in three or four portions, ensuring to mix thoroughly between each portion.  You are looking for a smooth, cake-like batter; do not beat it past when it looks like cake batter.  If your batter is too thick, add in a little extra warm water, bit by bit, until you get the consistency you want.  Mine came out perfect without extra water.

Remove the skillet from the oven (carefully!) and sprinkle the coarse sea salt into it.  The salt here is optional, but I love the complexity it gives a sweet cornbread.  Pour the batter into the skillet, scraping the bowl with the spatula to make sure you have it all.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Definitely check on it at 25 minutes because mine did not need any longer.  Let the cornbread cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving (or turning it into stuffing).

Stuffing

Ingredients:
3 cups crumbled cornbread
6 slices gluten-free bread, toasted
6 slices bacon (I used 4 slices of turkey bacon [turkey bacon has bigger pieces because there is less fat])
2 eggs
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped (I didn’t bother)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Hardware:
Casserole dish with lid that can go in oven
Oven
Stove
Small bowl
Measuring cups and spoons
Frying pan or skillet
Various kitchen utensils (fork, spatula, something to help with frying)
Mixing bowl

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Cut the toasted bread into small cubes.  Set aside.

Fry the bacon until crispy and remove from the pan.  If you are using veggie or turkey bacon, add some oil to the pan, as there is a lot less fat in them than pork bacon.  Add the onion, celery, sage, and thyme to the pan and fry until the onion is tender and translucent.  Remove from heat.  Crumble cooled bacon back into the pan.

In the small bowl, beat the eggs with the fork.  Add to the mixing bowl with the bacon and onions/celery and all seasonings — salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Fold together with the fork.  Add the cornbread crumbles and bread cubes and fold with the spatula.  Try to ensure that all the dry parts are covered.  Pour half of the chicken broth over the mixture and fold with the spatula.  Assess how much more broth you need (I needed the whole cup) to completely moisten the mixture and add it in.  Fold again.

Pour the mixture into the casserole dish (no need for greasing) and cover.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes.  Alternatively, it can be used to stuff a bird instead of baking.  I’m not that adventurous yet.

Jennifer Esposito Calls out CBS, and I Make Tacos

Lest I fall into the same pattern as the shops around town, I made sure to make my mother a gluten-free dinner that didn’t have to be made with exceptions or substitutions.  It’s not hard to find a cake or cookie suitable for a gluten-free lifestyle in Tesco or M&S; this is not to say that they are all tasty!  However, it’s much harder to find a decent loaf of bread.  Considering all the foods that have “hidden” gluten — meaning, not just bread — it’s more important that we can eat dinner than dessert!

As I watch my mother struggle with her new lifestyle, I realise how lucky I was to have supportive folks around me as I worked my way through the changes.  I did it very much alone in the sense that I didn’t know anyone who could give me advice or show me the ropes, but I did have my husband (while he was still on the way to being my husband) and our families for moral support.

All these thoughts were piqued today when I read this article: Blue Bloods’ Jennifer Esposito Departs Show, Slams CBS For Its ‘Shameful Behavior’.  I don’t know this actress (I mean, I’ve seen her in things) or anyone else on the show or in the network, so I can’t speak to what truly happened.  However, her words “[…] CBS implied that I was nottruly ill […]” struck such a chord with me.  I know most Celiacs don’t like to actually say “Celiac Disease” because it sounds so terrible like that.  However, it IS a disease, and it is something that requires actual treatment and consideration.  Some people think that, just because the most-known treatment is not eating particular food that it’s not as bad as other diseases.  You don’t hear people saying the same about Diabetes, which also involves a specific diet as a major form of treatment.  While, like I said, I don’t know for a fact that CBS acted terribly, her phrasing makes it sounds real.  It is something that happens, and it shouldn’t.

Anyway, so, in an effort to support my mother through the process and show her that real food is within reach, I made tacos.  Tacos have long been one of her favourite meals, but removing both beef and gluten from her diet have made the concept of making them unappealing for her.  What follows isn’t really a recipe for tacos as much as it is just a chronicle of the meal.

I made tortillas with masa harina (OH! That is what was in the mystery jar! Mystery solved!), water, and sea salt in my tortilla press. I fried them without oil in a cast iron skillet and kept them warm until everything else was prepared.  I battered the chicken lightly in a seasoned corn meal and pan fried.  It was served with lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and salsa (I decided against the salsa because of my recent surgery).  It was a great send-off for my mother’s last meal in Belfast (this time!).

tacos