It’s the Holidays! Don’t Be a…YouKnowWhat

Just as a puppy can be more of a challenge than a gift, so too can the holidays. 
–John Clayton

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

As Thanksgiving approaches and Christmas is not far behind, I have been noticing the articles online: including a very grudgingly-written one bout how good manners dictates we provide food at our holiday for the vegetarian, for the people allergic to dairy, for the recovering alcoholic, for the people with nut allergies, for weird Aunt Sophie–and now, to top it all off, we have to accommodate those gluten-free nutjobs.

Now some gluten-free nutjobs would be offended by that. I’m not.

Ordinarily, I don’t consider myself really “gluten-free.” That moniker implies that you eat everything else: just not grains that have gluten in them. That’s not true of me. I don’t eat grains at all if I can help it. I also more or less avoid starchy vegetables, excessive fruit intake, and all seed and vegetable oils; and I seek out as much other fat as possible.

At the holidays I’m willing to make exceptions for the celebration–but not in the area of wheat. If I eat any wheat at all, my next week to ten days is completely ruined and I would not enjoy the holidays.

Counterproductive, that.

So this is where I and the gluten-free crowd come together over a bowl of eggnog and start singing “We are the World.”

Or something.

What I am actually concerned about here is not being anything like the annoying vegan crusader who ruins everyone else’s meal–if not their entire holiday–by being contentious, patronizing, condescending, snark, and pointless.

So here are a few points to remember over the next two months:

1. Eating something five or six times a year on a major holiday never did and never will make anyone fat. If that’s your main goal–to lose weight–don’t destroy the holiday for yourself and everyone else by making a big deal about a few meals. You get fat from drinking soda ten times a week; not from having cranberry juice or apple cider on Thanksgiving. You get fat from eating muffins, bread, and pasta every night of the week; not from eating stuffing once or twice a year. You get fat from eating dessert after ever meal; not from some apple pie at Christmas. You get fat from drinking smoothies every day; not from having stewed apples and sweet potato casserole at a celebration.

Now, I do want to throw out a caveat–some people have other reasons for avoiding this stuff. If wheat makes you really ill–as it does me–or if you’re flirting with diabetes and need to watch your sugar at all times, that’s different. But it is perfectly possible to protect ourselves without being offensive. Let’s allow the vegans to have the corner on that market. Along with that, remember:

2. Most holiday dishes are not like the United States: they are not indivisible. Guess what? Unless you have an extreme allergy that doesn’t allow you to even be in the same room with certain ingredients, you can eat the filling out the apple pie and pick the marshmallow sugar crumb substance off the sweet potatoes. I’ve been known to eat the fillings out of sandwich cookies at the beach after kayaking a couple miles (my helpful nephew polished off the cookie portion for me).

3. Most people don’t want to hear about how you’re eating, and the ones who do don’t want to hear about it now. Sorry, but it’s true. Everyone is together to enjoy each other, celebrate, and remember. Just…keep it to yourself. If someone asks you, then tell them by all means. But be sensitive to that glazed-over look. It means: Gee, I didn’t actually want to know everything about the state of American nutrition I just wondered why you didn’t want a roll will you just shut up already?

4. Be the one who brings/makes something everyone can enjoy. Never be the one who only brings a long list of things no one can serve you. You don’t want to be the one loudly announcing: “OH, I DON’T EAT THAT I WATCH WHAT I PUT IN MY BODY” and sitting down with a tiny plate of turkey, sad, and lonely all by itself.

5. Except for serious allergies, it’s not worth ruining friendships or anyone else’s holiday. Hopefully this wouldn’t be an issue for you. I hope it’s not. Let’s be real now, though: if you should put on ten pounds between now and January 2, you hopefully now know how to get it back off. But if you destroy your relationship with your sister, do you know how to fix that? I’m not trying to give you an excuse to pig out on things you know are bad for you. I’m just saying that many, many, many people complain online about their insensitive, condescending relative with the weird food issues. That doesn’t have to ever be you.

6. Be aware of yourself. We’re all different. I, personally, have not historically been someone to struggle with sugar addiction. My mother didn’t allow a lot of sweets, and I ate enormous amounts of whole grains and fruit because I honestly believed they were good for me. I guess that might be why. But at any rate, I can celebrate a friend’s birthday with some cheesecake or ice cream and get up the next day and go back to eating normally. Some people cannot do this. Are you one of them? Some people cannot indulge without going crazy. Some people eat one piece of fudge and lose all self control. Some people report–particularly after eating wheatthat they feel unusually hungry for the next week or even month. As in they have to struggle not to overeat, or not to eat more sugar or grain products. If you know that’s you, be careful.

If it’s not, well, as my Dad used to so lovingly say: If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to stuff your big foot into it.

So, now on to the important stuff. What I am making for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow?

I’m having people over who do not eat as I do, so I’m trying to provide a meal that everyone can enjoy. This means some compromise. We can compromise on some things, like rice and sweet potatoes, fruit, and maple syrup.

So here’s my recipes. You’ll notice some stuff there I normally don’t eat–apples, rice, sweet potatoes, even a little sugar. But it’s nothing that’s going to hurt me, it’s all stuffed through with protective fat (which fills you up, hence discouraging overeating, and slows the absorption of starch and sugar) and everyone can enjoy it.

Instead of stuffing, we’re having a delightful cranberry rice pilaf. I’m going to limit myself to a few spoonfuls, but hey…it’s a holiday.

Here’s my recipe:

Cranberry Rice Pilaf:

  • 2 T compound butter (garlic and herbs)
  • 2 T finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup rice
  • 3 C homemade lamb bone broth
  • 1/3 C slivered blanched almonds
  • 1/2 C (little) cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (to your taste)
  • Juice from 1/2 a small orange
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Saute the onion in the butter for a few minutes. Add the rice, throw in your broth and cover it. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes or so. Toast your almonds and add them with everything else to hot, fresh rice.

No, Thanksgiving is complete without cranberry sauce. Here’s mine:

Cranberry Grape Sauce:

  • 3 C deep purple wine grapes (not the red ones)
  • 15 oz cranberries (I prefer the small ones)
  • Drizzle to a dollop of maple syrup
  • Water as needed

Just throw all those together into a saucepan and simmer until the grapes are falling apart. The water is to keep it from burning. Make this one the night before–it’s better the next day.

This year I’m not making my usual salad, but this has been a hit in previous years.

Cucumber Pear Cheese Salad:

  • 4 small cucumbers
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 red pears
  • 1 C diced white cheddar
  • 1/2 C chopped walnuts

Combine all right before serving. Don’t let it sit too long or it becomes mushy.

A few years ago The Teacher introduced me to spicy sweet potatoes. I never liked the traditional kind with marshmallows or sugar crumb topping, anyway. This is awesome.

Spicy Sweet Potatoes:

  • 1/4 C butter
  • chili powder to taste
  • 2 t cumin
  • black pepper and cayenne to taste
  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes, chopped

Combine all ingredients (except the butter) in a plastic bag. Shake to mix. Bake for 22-25 (with the butter) at 400 F. Toss with spoon halfway through.

I’m also having some green beans with bacon.

Thanksgiving Green Beans:

  • 5 T butter
  • 8 slices of crispy bacon
  • Green beans for six

Fry your bacon in the butter while steaming or boiling your green beans till cooked but still firm. Take the bacon out of the pan and crumble or otherwise make smaller pieces out of it. Drain the beans and then throw them in there with all that fatty deliciousness. Just kind of throw them around together for a sec and stir.

Someone gave me some apples. Ordinarily I don’t eat them. The only fruit I eat much of now is berries. Maybe a little citrus. Apples are a real treat, so I decided to do something treatish with them at the last minute, just to have another dish to put out.

Apples Impaled With Cinnamon: (title suggested by The Sister)

  • However many apples will fit on the floor of your crock pot
  • A cinnamon stick for each apple, plus one for the crock
  • Some of those little cranberries
  • Bunch ‘o Butter
  • Maple syrup (by which I mean actual real maple syrup; no high-fructose corn syrup mess, please)
  • Sprinkle of salt

Core your apples and place them in the crock pot. Fill the insides with cranberries, then shove a cinnamon stick in each one. Put one more stick on the floor of the crock pot. I used about 1/2 C of butter all sliced up. I put a slice between each apple and then on top of each apple. I then drizzled maple syrup over it all and put the crock pot on its lowest setting. I’ve been basting it through the evening and will take it out tonight. If the smell is any indication, there will be no complaints.



Finally, we’re having this pumpkin cheesecake, with an almond flour crust. I made the crust by grinding some blanched almonds, mixing them with melted butter till nice and wet, and adding some ground cinnamon and cloves and ginger. Then I spread it all out on a cookie sheet and baked it till it was crunchy. Then I bashed it with a rolling pin to make it into crumbs and followed the rest of the crust recipe as given on the link. Be aware, this is NOT a sweet cheesecake. This is very rich, very pumkin-y and not terribly sweet.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!





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