Simple {gluten-free} Sourdough Stuffing and a 2020 Thanksgiving Menu

I stumbled upon a twitter thread the other day amongst the celiac community on the topic of the upcoming holiday celebrations. The initial question was about handling cross contamination at gatherings involving food. So many individuals repeated what I’ve felt all year, a sense of not having to worry about it for the first in a long time, due to smaller stay-at-home gatherings this year. As sad as it to think about such a drastic change to our social traditions the last few months, not traveling or eating with others has also been much easier on me. For the first year in more than a decade, I haven’t experienced any of the multi-day ill effects after eating out at restaurants or in others’ households due to cross-contamination.

Even before the pandemic hit, William and I had planned for this year to be a non-travel year for the holidays. What we didn’t necessarily intend was that we would be spending Thanksgiving (and likely Christmas), not with friends or family coming to us, but with only the two of us. A continuation of the norm this year. Instead of lamenting over not catching up with anyone or seeing friends in person, I’ve decided to take the perspective that this year can be a good ‘rest year’ from the constant scurrying about that has become the last 15 years. And because I love to cook, I’ll be making holiday meals of the dishes we truly enjoy. Because I’m married to a traditionalist, and trend towards the traditional as well, I’m planning for a smaller-scale traditional Thanksgiving featuring all my / our favorite sides that I can now enjoy free of gluten-fear.

Below is what I plan to make, along with a little more inspiration if you’re still deciding on your own scaled down semi-traditional Thanksgiving meal. As per usual, all of these recipes are gluten and dairy free. Most are also vegan and soy free. William has ordered a ‘half turkey’ from his favorite local farmer, and though I don’t tend to crave meat left to my devices, we’ve both agreed it’s not really a Thanksgiving meal without the turkey — and stuffing of course! If you do not eat turkey, I suggest adding some sort of protein-rich side to your meal such as the creamy white beans linked below, and then make a centerpiece dish by baking this stuffing in a medium-large pumpkin or winter squash instead.

In whatever way you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday, I hope you find a little time to reflect on what you are thankful for this year and what has brought joy or peace amidst the rest.

Savory //
Renee’s Harvest Moon Kale Salad
Claire’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts + Mushrooms
Celebratory Turkey (the best you can find, brined and rubbed with thyme)
Celery Root + Potato Mash
Simple Sourdough Stuffing (recipe below)

Other savory ideas:
Roasted Vegetables with Autumn Roots + Mushrooms
Persimmon + Grains with Moroccan Seasoning
For the Joy Salad
Wild Rice Stuffing Balls
Creamy White Beans with Greens
Delicata Squash, Rosemary + Cranberry Flatbread

Sweet //
Cranberry Chia Jam
Apple Pie with a Fabulous Gluten + Dairy-Free Pastry
Pumpkin Pie

Notes about the Menu:
– If you eat turkey and are highly sensitive to gluten, you may need to make sure your turkey has been processed without any gluten-additives. My first recommendation is always to purchase a turkey from a local farmer, if available, but I know that can be asking a lot, especially if you’re not hosting the meal. Otherwise, here is an excellent list of available brands that don’t process with gluten.
– For dairy-free / vegan mashed potatoes, we tend to skip the russet varieties and opt for German Butterball or Yukon Gold varieties. They have more flavor and moisture, and work well by mashing without butter, and just a bit of non-dairy milk, seasoning, and a splash of olive oil, if desired.

Simple Sourdough Stuffing, serves about 4
This is as close to the flavor of my mom’s (and similarly, grandma’s) gluten-full stuffing as I can get, but features whole-grain gluten-free sourdough bread instead. Truly, flavor rich! Growing up, my mom’s thanksgiving stuffing was my favorite dish to look forward to. Years later, when I finally asked what her secret is, she told “me lots of butter”. Though that’s not exactly true because I grew up on margarine. Anyways, I first made this with olive oil and the flavor fell a little flat. I could tell it was the lack of butter. If you can tolerate dairy products, using ghee will be best (flavor and digestibility) and alternatively a good quality vegan butter instead of olive oil. My preferred brand of vegan/non-dairy butter is linked below. My mom doesn’t keep a recipe and relies on tasting to make sure just the right amount of seasoning is added. That’s a good method since we all have a different preference and it will depend a little on the freshness of your dry herbs.

5 cups gf / whole-grain sourdough bread cubes (~ 1-inch)
2 Tbs. vegan butter (this one is preferred) or ghee
2 Tbs. dried sage leaves
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 small onion, chopped (~ 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, finely chopped (~ 1 cup)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 3/4 – 2 cups mineral broth, or low-sodium vegetable broth
black pepper to taste

  • A couple days before you make the stuffing, place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and let them dry uncovered. Or speed up the process by putting them in the oven at 275 degrees F for about 25 minutes, or until they are dry.
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then, heat the oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sage and thyme leaves, as well as the salt. Cook for a few seconds until you can smell the herbs, then add the onion and celery. Saute for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion is soft and clear. Reduce the heat to low.
  • Stir in the bread cubes, along with the parsley and 1 1/2 cups mineral broth. Turn off the heat, and add black pepper, any additional sage or thyme, and more broth until the mixture tastes flavorful, and is soft and wet. If the bread is still a bit dry, add more broth.
  • Transfer the stuffing to a deep baking dish such as a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Alternatively, bake it inside your Thanksgiving turkey or inside a large pumpkin / squash, for a centerpiece effect.
  • Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover the dish and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until the edges are starting to get a little crispy and golden brown.

Spanish Salad with Hazelnut + Paprika Dressing

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In the last couple weeks, I’ve had a strong inclination to be more mindful when shopping for food and to put more emphasis on supporting local growers, producers, and processors. Part of this, I think, stems from the recent fires here in the west, and several conversations about a warming climate and how we will have to adapt some of our food and/or growing conditions now and on into the future. I count myself very fortunate to live in an area of the world that is rich in agricultural and ecological diversity, and one in where a strong local food scene is thriving, but I also know the many hands that go into supporting the kind of community I want to live in, and how much consistent work it takes to advocate for a local food system–as well as the flip side of how we rely so much on the status quo with generally no thought to what will happen if… natural disaster, climate change, soil degradation and nutrient depletion, loss of community due to choosing mass-market businesses, etc.

 

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On this topic I’m inspired lately by Andrea’s plan for a locally grown September, and her invitation for others to share in a similar challenge, which I’m structuring in my own way. If you’ve been reading long, or read back into the archives, you’ll know that for me, developing a connection to what is produced locally and in relationship with the producers in my community kick-started and supported me out of my disordered relationship to eating many years ago, and it’s this connection to place and community through food that always assists me when I begin to fall even a little back into old habits.

This salad came about because of my refocus on mindful consuming, using what I have grown and what’s produced nearby, while at the same time taking inspiration from Sara Forte’s Spanish chopped salad in her Bowl + Spoon cookbook.

Before I get there though, this article shares some of the conversations in California (and likely elsewhere) about long-term crop planning and climate change.

And this article, in which I’m interviewed, speaks a little to the impact of our dietary choices on our environment.

Enjoy, or just enjoy this salad. It’s a good one!

 

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Hazelnut + Paprika Spanish Salad
1 small bunch kale, chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
3-4 cups arugula, torn into small pieces
2-3 green onions, finely diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 small, diced apple
1-2 medium cucumbers, diced
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2-4 Tbs. parsley, minced

Hazelnut + Paprika Vinaigrette
1 clove garlic
3 Tbs. sherry or wine vinegar
3 Tbs. toasted hazelnuts
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. honey
2 Tbs. parsley, minced
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbs. water, to reach desired consistency

  • Blend the vinaigrette ingredients until smooth in a food processor or blender. Add a little water at the end to thin, as necessary.
  • Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle atop 2/3 to 3/4 of the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add a little more until you’ve reached your desired dressing level.
  • Serve immediately, while nice and fresh!

Simple Weeknights with Sun Basket

 

I’m sure I learned quite an extent of where and how my food is produced growing up on the ranch, but it wasn’t until I graduated high school, began working on others’ farms, and explored the full extent of farm and food systems that I was able to cement my understanding that just about every farmer, no matter how ill we might think their production practices, believes wholeheartedly in what he or she is doing, and is putting their heart, soul, and of course body into the work. For a couple summers in college, I had a wild hare to go adventuring, so sought out farmers from Vermont, Iowa, California, northwest Washington, etc. in which to work. Somehow, I never quite made it to those places, as even then I guess I knew my calling was not in becoming a farmer.

 

 

During that search for adventure and learning, I remember one distinct phone conversation with Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm, in Guinda, California. It was the summer before I began grad school, a pursuit I was admittedly on the fence about. During that phone conversation, Dru shared about the importance of agricultural educators, of which I was looking to become, and we sort of mutually came to the conclusion that since I was still planning to return to school in the fall, something in the program was drawing me over the farming venture. It’s kind of funny now to realize that one phone conversation with a nice farmer I’ve never met resolved a lot of internal uncertainty about a career path which advice from friends, family, and mentors was not able to clear up.

 

 

Even though I have since stepped away from agricultural education in the formal sense, I put a lot of store in farmers: Farmers that will have me eating turnips right out of the ground at the beginning of my first visit, farmers that will re-name the agronomist’s scheduled farm tour as Rebecca’s Farm Tour, and then spend a whole summer having me traipse along behind, explaining little details all the day(s) long, and farmers that will offer a random girl some career advice over a long-distance phone call.

 

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When Sun Basket, a new healthy meal kit service that delivers organic ingredients and delicious, easy-to-make recipes for cooking at home, contacted me about sharing some of their meals on my blog, my first desire was to look into which farms they source from. While they source from a number of farms, ranches, and sustainable fisheries, I was excited to find that Full Belly Farm happens to be one of them. Having already had a good phone chat with one of Sun Basket’s farmers was quite a nice treat.

What I like about Sun Basket, other than their super quality ingredients, is that their recipes are created by their chef who was formerly the head at a James Beard award-winning restaurant. The meals are special but not too fancy for weeknight cooking, diverse, nutritious, and always feature seasonal ingredients. There are also gluten-free, vegetarian, and paleo options each week to choose from.

 

 

Sun Basket has an in-house nutritionist, the meals take approximately 30 minutes from prep to eating, and all the ingredients are sustainably sourced from the West Coast. Keeping the need for a little more local sourcing in mind, Sun Basket meals are available to those living in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho. A subscription includes delivery of three recipes per week for two, four or six people. William and I tried two dinners and their new, two-breakfasts option. Both dinners easily stretched beyond two servings to make three to four meals for us.

We tried Indian Red Lentil + Chard Stew with Naan, Honey-Ginger Tofu with Roasted Bok Choy + Forbidden Rice, Piña Colada Smoothies, and a Baby Kale Scramble with Chermoula. Our absolute favorite was the red lentil stew (William was a big fan of the naan), but I now have all the recipes and will gladly make each one again. With every recipe, the extra mile was taken in the seasonings/herbs/sauces to make it taste special. The fact that those seasonings, herbs, and sauces all came pre-measured and prepared helped to cut down the cooking time significantly. In essence, every recipe calls for a little prepping of veg, a little hands-on cooking, and a lot of flavor at the end for the effort.

 

I can now say I’m a big fan. I recommend Sun Basket to my friends and family trying to eat a little healthier throughout the week, and I’ll recommend it to you. If you live on the west coast, Sun Basket is offering $30 off for your first week of service. Subscriptions are weekly and you can cancel any time, so you can even try it once and then decide whether you wish to continue. I guarantee, it’s a nice treat to not have to plan, shop for, and prep meals.

 

$30 off Sun Basket
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