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l Planning a Thanksgiving menu used to be so simple. Turkey, stuffing, cranberries, green bean casserole, candied yams, pumpkin pie — and voila!
Those were the days.
Now, so many guests have dietary restrictions and food allergies, the task has gotten a lot harder. That green bean casserole? Too high in sodium. The sweet potatoes? Too much sugar. Pecan pie? Yikes, nut allergies. And no way the gluten-free folks are going to eat stuffing.
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Among the eight of us on the AARP health team planning our holiday meal, we count relatives and friends who are gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, vegan, vegetarian, allergic to nuts, allergic to shellfish, diabetic and trying to lose weight.
To make things easier on us — and you — we each have contributed a favorite recipe that could be enjoyed by those with (and without) food issues.
We've included roasted herb-flecked root vegetables for vegans; a low-fat macaroni and cheese, a gluten-free quinoa and black rice salad; smashed cauliflower with Parmesan for vegetarians; an updated lower-sodium version of green bean casserole; a you-won't-believe-it's-fat-free cranberry cake; and a creamy, dairy-free pumpkin pie made with coconut milk and a butter-free crust.
Roasted Winter Vegetables
Contributed by Patricia Barry
This is a dish to suit many dietary needs — vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free — and is delicious eaten on its own or with any kind of roasted meat. Select amounts appropriate to the number of people you're feeding.
- Olive oil
- White potatoes
- Garlic cloves
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh or dried rosemary
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Pour a little olive oil into a large mixing bowl. Peel the root vegetables and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Skin the shallots and, if large, cut them in two or divide into segments. Remove the papery skins from the garlic cloves.
2. Mix the vegetables with the oil so that each piece is thinly coated. Add a shake of black pepper and salt. Add plenty of spikes of fresh or dried rosemary. Mix well.
3. Pour a small amount of olive oil onto a large metal baking tray and place in the hot oven for 3 minutes. Add the vegetable mixture to the hot oil in a single layer and return to the oven. (If you're feeding a lot of people, use more than one tray.)
4. Roast for an hour altogether. But after 40 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the vegetables to brown them evenly. Serve hot, with a scattering of chopped parsley.
Low-Fat, Fiber-Friendly Mac and Cheese
Contributed by Stacy Julien
For many families, a Thanksgiving spread isn't complete without a dish of macaroni and cheese. Here's how to indulge and feel good about yourself the next day.
- 2-1/2 cups whole-wheat pasta (penne or elbow is a nice choice)
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon butter spread
- 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour
- 1 can fat-free evaporated milk
- 4 ounces low-fat yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
- 4 ounces low-fat white extra-sharp cheese, shredded
- 4 ounces low-fat Swiss cheese, shredded
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 egg whites
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Boil pasta according to the package directions, with a pinch of sea salt. Drain and place in casserole dish. Set aside.
3. Melt a teaspoon of butter spread in a saucepan on medium heat. Add flour (enough to make a paste; add a little more if necessary). Add the can of evaporated milk and stir until warm.
4. Add the yellow cheddar cheese to the saucepan to make a cheese sauce. Add pepper to taste and stir well.
5. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles in the casserole dish and mix well.
6. Stir in the egg whites.
7. Stir in the remaining shredded cheese, reserving one layer to sprinkle over the top.
8. Place on the middle rack in the oven to bake and brown to your liking, roughly 45 to 60 minutes.
Quinoa and Black Rice With Tomatoes, Avocado and Pine Nuts
Contributed by Gabrielle deGroot Redford
The quinoa and black rice make a nice base for all sorts of vegetables. This recipe calls for avocado and tomato, but feel free to add your own favorites. This also makes a lovely gluten-free day-after-Thanksgiving meal if you cut up some leftover turkey and add it to the mix.
- 1 cup red or tricolor quinoa, rinsed well
- 1/2 cup black or wild rice, rinsed well
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 small onion, chopped finely
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon cilantro
- 1 teaspoon chives
- 2 avocados
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Set aside.
2. Cook the black rice according to the package directions. Set aside.
3. Toast the pine nuts in a 350° F oven for 5 minutes. Set aside.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and saute until the onion is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Add the cooked quinoa and rice to the onion mixture, along with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix well, then stir in the cumin, cilantro and chives. Remove from the heat.
6. Slice the avocado into 1/4-inch pieces, then slice the cherry tomatoes in half, and fold the vegetables into the grains. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lemon juice over all. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Contributed by Yolanda Taylor
Love mashed potatoes but aren't crazy about white potatoes? Cauliflower has much the same texture and boasts a slew of antiaging, cancer-fighting antioxidants.
- 1 cauliflower head, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter spread
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1. Steam the cauliflower. When soft, drain and place in blender with butter, salt and pepper.
2. When fully mashed, place in bowl and stir in rosemary and Parmesan cheese.
Green Bean Casserole Redux
Contributed by Elizabeth Agnvall
Green bean casserole made with canned soup may be the Thanksgiving recipe many love to hate — our own Candy Sagon proposed dumping the "mushy 1950s-era corporate concoction" — but it wouldn't be Thanksgiving in our house without the casserole Mom had on her buffet for decades. Here, we've adapted a fresher, healthier, BPA-free vegetarian version from blogger Plum Pie at Food52.
- 1-1/2 pounds French green beans, ends trimmed
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 cup shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons flour, divided
- 8 ounces mushrooms (shiitake and baby bella or mixed), sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup half-and-half
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Wash and trim green beans. Blanch in boiling, well-salted water. Immediately transfer to ice water bath and set aside.
3. Heat 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep, medium skillet.
4. Pat shallots dry, then toss with 1 tablespoon flour. Season with salt and pepper. Fry shallots in oil (in batches) until golden brown, then transfer to a plate to drain on a paper towel.
5. Melt butter over medium heat in a medium pan or cast iron skillet. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are golden brown.
6. Add garlic and nutmeg and cook for another minute or two. Add 2 tablespoons flour and cook for a minute.
7. Slowly add white wine, cook for a minute, stirring to break up any flour lumps. Slowly add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Boil the mixture for another 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low.
8. Add half-and-half and cook, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat.
9. Add green beans to mushroom mixture. Add 1/4 cup of the fried shallots. Mix to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer green bean casserole to a 9-by-9-inch baking dish or bake in cast iron skillet. Sprinkle remaining shallots on top or around edges of casserole.
10. Bake for 20 minutes until green beans are warmed and mixture is a little bubbly.
Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie
Contributed by Candy Sagon
This creamy pumpkin pie is made with coconut milk, which gives it a rich-tasting filling that's guaranteed to please pie purists as well as the lactose-intolerant. The crust skips the butter and uses canola oil plus a touch of baking powder, which makes it extra flaky.
Contributed by Jenna Isaacson-Pfueller