My Gluten-Free Holiday


            Ok, ok!  I know, I know!  It was Christmas two days ago, not Thanksgiving, but guess what?  We had Thanksgiving again!  I froze a whole lot of our leftovers right away, purposefully for Christmas.  So we had turkey and all the trimmings without all the work!  We did that last year when I had planned a big dinner and most of our guests cancelled on us; we ate off everything for about a week then froze the rest and it was such a treat on Christmas.

            I actually meant to share my Thanksgiving menu a month ago (wow, has it been a month already!) but as that statement will tell you time flew by and I simply haven’t had the chance.  I apologize.  I wanted to share it all with you!  We did everything gluten-free and everything I made was dairy-free.  I wanted to show how great it can be and that you don’t have to go without.

            One of my reasons for starting this blog in the first place is to displace some of the misconceptions and ignorance regarding a gluten-free diet I’ve experienced with friends and family.  Most people that come over to my house are really surprised to find out something they are eating is gluten-free.  They had no idea until they saw me eat it!  So many think just because it’s gluten-free it’s not good and won’t even try it.  Some say they won’t have it at dinner because it will be too different.  (I’ve actually changed a couple of recipes to be either gluten-free or simply cleaner and liked the end result better than the original, but in many cases no one has any idea.)

            I like to cook on Thanksgiving because it is my most favorite holiday and many of the traditional dishes are among my favorite things and I don’t want to feel deprived.  I hate feeling deprived and surrounded by people eating things I love so why not enjoy myself?  I hope you can enjoy it too!  Whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any old Thursday or Tuesday of the week, cook what you love and enjoy!  Life is too short to deprive yourself.

            Here was our menu this year…


Roasted Turkey with Fresh Herbs

Cornbread Stuffing

Thanksgiving Caramelized Onion and Sausage Stuffing

Green Bean Casserole with Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup and Fried Onions

Creamed Spinach (provided by my mother-in-law – a family favorite my husband asks for every holiday)

Mashed Potatoes

Turkey Crescent Rolls

Fresh fruit (provided by my husband’s aunt – I wish I’d taken a picture of the beautiful tray she made for us – it was like edible art!)

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Pomegranates

Pomegranate Coconut Chocolate Bark

Pumpkin Pie (made by my mother-in-law)


            We actually celebrated our family Thanksgiving on Friday.  We were invited to my husband’s step-sister’s on Thursday but we were all fighting colds and feeling dreary so decided to stay home, but I had prepared Creamy Cashew Cheese for an appetizer Stuffed Grape Leaves Casserole as dishes to share and have something gluten-free.  I got them both from the Vegetarian Times website and they are both a definite make-again!  They are both gluten- and dairy-free.  The Creamy Cashew cheese can be found at and it’s not a cheese at all; actually, think hummus with cashews instead of chickpeas.  I served it with fresh parsley and chives on top and with gluten-free crackers and fresh vegetables on the side.  It was so good I saved the recipe and made a note on the top to double it next time!  The Stuffed Grape Leaves Casserole is just what it sounds like – Stuffed Grape Leaves without all the rolling.  It can be found at and it was very easy; I made both these recipes on Wednesday and just waited to cook the casserole on Thursday.  The baby napped and hubby and I enjoyed a little carpet picnic in the living room with football on; we were really bummed to miss out on the day’s family festivities, but that was nice too.

            Friday morning I planned a fun breakfast, since we weren’t eating until two, and I found a recipe for crescent rolls and cinnamon rolls all in one; it makes a big batch and I just split it in two.  I prepared it the night before, made my cinnamon rolls (sorry I don’t measure when I make cinnamon rolls – I just add until it looks good – but roll them out and spread with butter (I used coconut butter so it would be dairy-free) then sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar, roll up, and cut into slices.  Place in a greased cake pan and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, pull them out of the fridge and let rise while you preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and then bake for about fifteen to twenty minutes. 

            I use my mama’s Powdered Sugar Frosting to top them and it’s actually her mama’s roll recipe I usually use, but this one was the two in one so I tried it.  They were very good, but my grandma’s recipe converts beautifully to gluten-free and rise much better; I’ll share that recipe another time.  The rolls I got from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom and she converted her recipe from Pioneer Woman.  It can be found here: and has a great tutorial.  She also has links to lots of other yummy-looking Thanksgiving recipes at the end of the recipe I can’t wait to check out!


Connie’s Powdered Sugar Frosting

About 1/3 bag powdered sugar

¼ to 1/3 cup shortening (I used coconut oil)

Extract – vanilla or almond – ½ cap to start (I like pure almond extract on my cinnamon rolls; I think the flavors compliment nicely.)


While mixing, slowly add milk to easy spreading consistency.  Adjust ingredients to taste.


            I’ve used both lactose-free cow’s milk and coconut milk to make this and both work fine.  This is the recipe I used, with butter and real milk to make frosting for my homemade sugar cookies to give as Christmas gifts.  It’s also good made with peppermint extract and put over top of brownies…but, I’m getting off subject!  (And hungry!)

            Back to breakfast!  The cinnamon rolls are pictured above and I served them with some nitrate-free bacon, fresh pears, and coffee (ever tried Starbuck’s Thanksgiving blend?  It’s awesome!). 

            On to dinner!  I did everything ahead of time that I could and did everything homemade that I could.  I was determined to not use anything from a package, but I ran out of homemade broth and at the last minute had to use some gluten-free, low-sodium vegetable broth.  I cooked for the better part of a week, doing everything unprocessed, but I think it was worth it!  It tasted so, so good, but it also felt good, knowing I was feeding my family something better for them and unprocessed.  Here come the recipes!


Roasted Turkey with Fresh Herbs

            I don’t usually use a recipe for my turkey.  I have a couple of times, but for me, there’s so many other things to do and I’ve never preferred any of the recipes we’ve tried to just basic seasonings, although I did see a recipe this year from Melissa Sevigny of I Breathe I’m Hungry that inspired me a little ( ).  I often use chunks of onion or garlic and stuff into the cavity and along the sides of the pan, but I’d never used lemon or apples and I thought it was a great idea.

            When shopping for your turkey, make sure it is gluten-free!  Some out there are injected with broth or other gluten-containing ingredients – even the “all-natural” ones.  If I am going to be a guest and not the hostess I will ask if they wouldn’t mind making sure it is gluten-free.  You don’t have to make a special trip somewhere you’d never shop; several supermarket brands say “Gluten Free” right on the label!  I like Jennie-O (most of their packaged meats, even their sausages, are gluten-free), but still check the label.  The last two years I have bought our turkey at Sprouts, but only because I was already there, they had their turkeys for a good price, and I didn’t want to make an extra trip when I would only save literally a few cents a pound going elsewhere. 

            I used an 18-pound turkey.  Yes, eighteen pounds for nine people!  As I stated before, I was planning ahead for leftovers.  And I used the 20 minutes per pound rule and put it in the oven at eight a.m. for serving at two o’clock.  I usually use a combination of butter and olive oil but used just olive oil this year so it would be dairy-free for Blessing.  I used thyme instead of sage and I’m sorry, but again I didn’t really measure.  I chopped up a few bunches with some garlic and salt and pepper, added some olive oil and got messy.  Spread it all over, instead and out – like a deep-tissue massage for that bird!  I stuffed more garlic and the lemon and apple into the cavity then I followed Melissa’s advice and put it in upside down at 400 degrees F.  (Have you tried that?  It makes all the juices sink to the top instead of the bottom!)  After an hour I turned it over and turned the oven down a bit and started basting about every half hour or so. 

            I don’t have a meat thermometer and the little button that came with the turkey popped prematurely so we had to wing it (literally!), but by the time we were ready to eat it had been in long enough we knew it would be good, but Melissa recommended 165 degrees F at the thickest part of the thigh.  (I asked Santa for a meat thermometer, by the way.)  I am not very good at gravy.  I’ve gotten better over the years, but if there is a mama, an aunt, or grandma willing to do it, they get the job!  This year, Auntie Anne took over, using Arrowroot Starch over flour (xanthan gum, gluten-free flour, or cornstarch work fine too), and she did a great job.

            After removing the turkey from the oven let it rest.  I find it works well to pull it from the oven and put your sides in to finish.  If you have just one oven this is even better, but a few years ago for Christmas I got an electric roaster for Christmas and I never knew I wanted one until I had one.  It frees up the oven, plus keeps it from being on all day and sweating everyone out by dinnertime!  (We have a small place and it really heats up when the oven is on.)

            Don’t throw away all those bones after dinner!  Make yourself a super-healthy, nourishing bone broth!  Get all the meat off the bones you can and place the bones in a big, heavy pot.  If there are bits of onion or apple or lemon in there, leave them!  They’ll help flavor your broth!  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, turn down and cover, simmering for about thirty minutes to an hour.  I use a fork to test it, and when any leftover meat falls off the bone (if it hasn’t already on its own) it’s ready.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Remove bones, using a slotted spoon to get any little ones that came off while cooking and separate the meat from the bones, adding the shredded meat back to your broth or set aside for another use, depending on what you want your broth for.  Either strain it and freeze for future use – it can be used in any recipe calling for chicken broth (and is SO much better for you than the canned kinds; plus, you made it yourself so there’s no doubt it’s gluten-free!) or make into soup.  We went with soup this year.  I added rice, some white beans, and the basic veggies – carrots, celery, onion, and garlic – and it was really yummy!  I froze a bunch to have next month before or after the move.


The Stuffing

            The stuffing… Yes, you can have stuffing when you are gluten-free!  This was one of those things that when I made it the first time no one at the table believed me it was gluten-free.  We made two stuffings this year and I don’t stuff my bird with it.  It’s just a matter of personal taste; I don’t care for it that way, plus it’s one more thing to do before we eat!  I like just taking the dish out of the oven and putting it on the table, but I know there are those of you who swear by cooking it in the turkey, so have at it.

            We made two stuffings because I wanted bread stuffing but my in-laws are eating low carb at the moment and I found a recipe for a grain-free stuffing.  It was sweet potatoes with sausage and onions basically and very, very good!  I found the recipe from one of my favorite blogs, PaleOMG.  You can find it at  and I recommend you try it even if you don’t have to eat gluten- or grain-free.  It was savory and sweet all at the same time and really complimented all the other flavors well.  My mother-in-law made it for me after I asked her to after I found out I needed to prepare food for myself the day before and she said it was easy.  I’ve saved the recipe for myself for another day.  Try it!

            The other stuffing was a cornbread stuffing.  I love stuffing or dressing, whatever you call it.  When I wasn’t eating meat I would eat fish on occasion and made that once, but I was happy with only a big dish of stuffing, some green beans, and a big dollop of cranberry sauce.  Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without it, if you ask me so that was why I made two.  I hadn’t had stuffing since last year, so I was ready for it!  I first tried this recipe a few years ago and it’s now our favorite.  I got it from a little booklet put out by Jules Gluten Free.  I’ve tweaked it just a bit to our personal tastes and I’ve included their recipe for the cornbread that goes with it, but you can use a mix too.  Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite gluten-free cornbread mix and I always have to snitch a piece of two before crumbling it for the stuffing!  I actually baked my cornbread the weekend before.  Let it cool, crumble and toast it, then just store until you need it.  It’s always one of the first things I do.

            Another note about stuffing before I share the recipe.  You don’t need a gluten-free recipe to make stuffing.  Use a family favorite and substitute your favorite gluten-free bread.  I’ve used a cheaper brand of bread too that I thought was a little dry and dense otherwise, but after being soaked in broth and baked with all that other goodness you’d never know!


Cornbread Stuffing



1 recipe cornbread (homemade, by a mix, or bought from your favorite local bakery)

2 Tablespoons butter or non-dairy substitute (I used olive oil)

1 cup each diced celery and carrot

¾ cup diced onion

2 cups gluten-free vegetable stock (Imagine Foods and Pacific are both gluten-free if you have no homemade on hand)

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ teaspoon cinnamon (yes, you read that right; trust me, it’s good!)

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

2 teaspoons dried sage (thyme or oregano good too; I used thyme this year)

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup chopped pecans



Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Allow the cooked cornbread to cool, then cube and spread onto a baking sheet (I like to simply tear it apart with my hands).  Bake the cornbread cubes for 30 minutes or so, until they are browned and toasted.  (As I stated before this is always one of the first tasks I do.  The rest can be done the day or two before up until putting it in the oven.)

Raise oven temperature (or preheat) to 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sauté the celery, carrots, and onion until soft.  Add the stock, toasted cornbread, cranberries, pecans, and spices, mixing together well.  Pour the stuffing into an oiled 9×11” baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm.

Copyright Jules E. Dowler Shepard 2010


Homemade Gluten-Free Cornbread



1 cup milk, dairy or non-dairy (I’ve used both coconut milk and lactose-free cow’s milk)

1 egg (or egg substitute)

¼ cup yogurt, dairy or non-dairy (I use either coconut milk yogurt or sheep’s or goat’s milk – whatever I have on hand – and it all turns out the same)

½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

¾ cup gluten-free all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoons gluten-free baking powder

½ cup gluten-free cornmeal *

1/3 cup granulated cane sugar



Preheat oven 375 degrees F, 350 degrees for convection.

Mix together all liquid ingredients, adding the dry ingredients in gradually and stirring until all the lumps are smoothed.  The batter will be thin but not watery.

Pour the batter into an oiled 8×8” baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove to cool.

Copyright Jules E. Dowler Shepard 2010


* Cornmeal by itself is gluten-free but always check your labels!  Same thing with the baking powder.  Never assume something is gluten-free.  I always check a label of something simply out of habit and have been shocked at some of the places gluten hides.


The Green Bean Casserole

            Yes, you can still have Green Bean Casserole too!  I went without this for a couple of years before I found this recipe (tweaked a little to our tastes), another from the Jules Gluten Free cookbooklet, but I used a Martha Stewart recipe last year and just converted it.  In the past I have used store-bought cream of mushroom soup (Progresso, Health Valley, Imagine, and Pacific all make some gluten-free versions) but in an effort to eat cleaner this year I jumped on a recipe I found for homemade that was also dairy-free!  You can find it at .  It is really good and made a nice big batch with extra leftover after making the green beans that Blessing and I enjoyed for lunch the day after our celebration. 

            For the crispy onions, there is a brand of onion-flavored “chips” out there that are gluten-free, but why use that preservative-filled, sodium-saturated junk when you can make your own for a fraction of the cost and just a few minutes of your time?  All it takes is an onion, some gluten-free flour, a little salt and voila!  Homemade crispy onions that are AMAZING and so worth the few minutes it takes to slice and bake them!

            Here are the recipes:


Green Bean Casserole



1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed, and halved (don’t cinch on canned or even frozen; nothing beats the taste of fresh green beans if you ask me!  It’s a bit of extra effort, I know, but I make the whole dish beforehand, usually the day before, but you can do the green beans even before that.  It’s worth it, trust me!)

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or non-dairy substitute (I used coconut oil)

About 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (the original recipe called for 2 large Portobello mushrooms but button mushrooms work fine…they’re cheaper too)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 Tablespoons gluten-free flour

2 cups gluten-free cream of mushroom soup (not condensed)

“Fried” Onions (recipe follows)



Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Boil the beans in lightly salted water for 5 minutes, then rinse in cold water and drain.  (You can do this up to a couple of days before.)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter or oil and toss in sliced mushrooms and pepper.  Stir over medium heat about 5 minutes, then add spices and flour, stirring to coat.  Cook an additional minute then add the soup and lower the heat to medium-low.  Cook while the mixture thickens, approximately 5-8 minutes more.  Remove from heat and stir in half the fried onions and all of the beans.  Pour mixture into a large casserole and cover with remaining onions.  I usually do it up to this point the day before.  The original recipe calls for it to cook only 10 minutes but the first time I used the recipe it took much longer, so I put it in at the same time I do the stuffing and it’s perfect (about 25 minutes).


“Fried” Onions



1 medium onion, sliced thinly

1/3 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Olive oil



Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Oil a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.

Combine the chopped onions and dry ingredients in a large bowl, tossing until totally coated with flour.  Pour out onto the baking sheet and separate the onion ring slices so they are not touching each other too much.  Bake for 15-20 minutes (again, I think it takes much longer, about twice that; whether it’s my oven or personal taste, I’m not sure; I like them good and crispy!), tossing once or twice while cooking until golden brown. 

Remove when cooked and set aside while you are making the casserole.


Note:  Along with baking my cornbread for the stuffing this is usually one of the very first things I do, and this year I made them both on Saturday for a next Friday dinner.  They’re both supposed to be dry and crispy so get them out of the way first.


Turkey Crescent Rolls

            I had some fun with these.  I got the idea from the television show, The Food Nanny.  She goes to people’s homes and helps them “rescue” dinnertime, giving them easy, healthy recipes and helping them making meal plans…it’s good and I always enjoy watching it.  I saw her help a mom make these several months ago and knew we had to do it for Thanksgiving.  (You can see my version in the bottom-middle picture of the collage at the beginning.)

            On the show she made her own roll dough and I had never made homemade crescent rolls before, but went to our trusty friend, the Internet, and found the recipe I mentioned before.  Just so you don’t have to scroll to the top again you can find it at .  As I already told you I made the whole recipe and split it in half for cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but if you having a lot of people over make the whole batch – or save the other half of dough for the Pigs in a Blanket idea she shows!

            These were so easy.  Roll out your dough into a large circle, about ¼”-thick or so and cut into triangles like a pie or pizza.  Then take each triangle and place in an oiled muffin tin, one triangle for each tin.  Using a pair of kitchen shears cut a slit on wide end of triangle, about four or five for the feathers then use a toothpick to poke in two eyes at the point of triangle and there’s your turkey!  Brush with olive oil or melted butter and bake according to the recipe and they’re perfect and oh, so cute!  Don’t you just love them?  I think they’ll become a Thanksgiving tradition at our house.


The Cranberry Sauce

            I got brave and decided to make homemade cranberry sauce a few years ago.  I was going through a huge Martha Stewart phase and I followed the entire menu she had in a magazine.  The whole menu was amazing, as she is, and I realized how EASY! it is and (in my opinion) so much better tasting, not to mention better for you.  I make mine with honey instead of sugar, so it’s refined sugar-free and fresh cranberries are SO! good for you, loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants.  This year our pomegranate tree finally began to fruit so I added some fresh pomegranates to the mix.  Oh my!  So good!

            Feel free to add more honey, according to your tastes.  I personally like mine a little tart.  There are several recipes out there, but I usually just check the back of the cranberry bag.  Sometimes I’ll try theirs if it’s a little different and sounds good, but this is a very basic recipe that you can tweak to your taste.  I always make this ahead of time, this year the weekend before, but I think you can even do it before that.  Refrigerate until ready to use then serve cold or warm (I like mine warm personally).  Leftovers are good cold over Greek yogurt…just saying.



1 (12 oz.) package fresh cranberries

½ – 2/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

½ cup plus 1-2 Tablespoons honey

½ cup orange juice

½ c. water

½ teaspoon grated orange rind



  1. In a saucepan,      boil the honey, water and orange juice for a few minutes, until honey is      dissolved.
  2. Add      whole cranberries and cook for 10 minutes.       Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes without stirring.  (I recommend using a splatter screen if      you have one or tilt a lid on top to allow venting – it makes a bit of a      mess!)
  3. Remove      from heat.  Stir in orange rind.
  4. Sauce      with thicken as it cools.  Store in      the refrigerator.



            Our traditional family desserts are usually Pumpkin Pie and German Chocolate Cake.  The cake thing is what I grew up with, and it’s still a favorite.  We went with something else this year, but I’m thinking of making one for a late-Christmas family get-together next week.  My mother-in-law offered to bake a gluten-free pumpkin pie so she did that and I did something very simple that would still give us that chocolate fix.

            I used another recipe from Juli Bauer of PaleOMG and made her Pomegranate Coconut Chocolate Bark recipe.  It can be found at and was amazing and so easy.  So easy that I made it the night before, but you can make it sooner than that and refrigerate until serving. 

            It went well with the Pumpkin Pie and was a great way to use more of those yummy home-grown pomegranates!  My in-laws have been growing them, so I surprised them with these.  They are refined sugar and dairy-free when using the Enjoy Life chocolate chips; they’re a little more money but they also have no soy and they are made in a dedicated allergen friendly facility so they have not contact with nuts or any of the other top food allergens.


            So that was our Thanksgiving menu!  After dinner I set aside a fair amount of everything and immediately froze it.  I took it out of the freezer a few days ago and on Christmas Day we had a lovely turkey dinner that we are still enjoying! It was great, I sat down and looked at my plate and went to the hubby, “Wow, what a good idea!  Turkey and all the trimmings and it only took about ten minutes!”

            It is possible to have a gluten-free, dairy-free, clean food holiday on a budget without breaking the bank or losing your mind.  It may take a little effort but it is well worth it and if you are the hostess and go to that effort it will mean the world for the gluten-free loved one at your table, I guarantee it!

            It always surprises me how often someone asks me if I ever cheat on my diet, and the answer is a resounding (and almost deafening) NO!  It’s just not worth it and there’s no reason to.  This menu is evidence of that.  Look at all the holiday greatness I get to partake in!  When you are cooking for someone (whether it be a food intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy) remember that just a little is NOT ok, and cross-contamination is a real thing.  They will thank you for it!

            If I could give you any more advice as a hostess it would be to talk to your guests and find out what they can or cannot have.  I know you can’t be a short order cook and appeal to everyone but any bit of effort you put out to making something they can have will mean the world to them.  I personally have had family meals I’ve downright felt unwelcome to because it seemed like an inconvenience or annoyance when I tried to talk to the hostess.  I’m often automatically told to bring my own food, which is fine (and then I don’t have to wonder if it really is safe) but that gets old and it means so much when someone has something or ANYTHING I can have.  One thing I often offer to do is to make a side dish.  I make it a hearty one that I can make a meal of if there is nothing else I can eat, but something that I can share.  I sometimes offer to bring dessert too; it’s really the only time I feel deprived and it really, really stinks sitting there surrounded by people eating something you love (especially if dinner was small because there wasn’t much you could eat and you’re still hungry!)

            As the guest, communicate!  I’m still learning to be bold but as I mentioned already, offer to make something or go through the menu and offer some small substitutions that will easily make the meal something you can eat.  I personally always ask my guests if there is anything they can’t have or don’t like because I know what it’s like to show up at someone’s house and be left out at dinnertime.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort and I simply want everyone to feel welcome in my home.

            I hope you had a wonderful holiday and I wish you a very happy New Year.  Stay tuned for more in the coming months.  I look forward to continuing this journey with you.


Blessings to you,



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