Hey everybody! Thanksgiving is JUST around the corner, and I don’t know about you, but for me, the holiday is best spent enjoying some favorite foods and flavors of the season. This can be tricky, however, when dealing with food sensitivities. How does one fully enjoy the holiday without pulling into Inflammation Station? Well, I’m SO glad you asked!
It was about 5 years ago that I started experimenting with a fully “paleo” Thanksgiving menu. Two years after that was when I dared to make it autoimmune compliant for my then recent Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Now in the present, living somewhere between fully paleo and gluten-free, I have my collection of favorite recipes that I make year to year. For me, a full day spent cooking is enjoyable and meditative, and having enough prepped food for nearly two weeks afterwards is a giant cherry on top.
I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. I’ll try my best to breakdown why the ingredients work well for me and my autoimmune symptoms, while offering substitutions should you want to stay strictly Paleo or AIP. Here we go!
First things first – let’s take care of that damn bird. Now here is the thing…I’m not a turkey fan. From my childhood to now – the turkey is the part of Thanksgiving I’m the always least interested in. It always seems so stressful – where’s the bird, did we get a bird, is the bird cooking, is the oven even on?? And no matter how you choose to prep it, 90% of the time it comes out too dry and tough anyway…and don’t get me started on the politics of who is even going to carve this damn thing.
Anyway – Thanksgiving without a roasted bird is barely a Thanksgiving, so what to make instead when you don’t want to wrestle with a turkey? DUCK! It’s smaller (perfect for a solo Thanksgiving), it’s all dark meat (my favorite), and compared to the cost of a giant turkey, duck can actually ring in cheaper. But how to cook it? Well thanks to The Hungry Mouse – I can provide you an easy step by step guide that has been foolproof every year. Take a gander at the recipe here – I personally stop the at the point when they recommend to glaze the bird. I prefer mine straight up and crispy (let that duck fat speak for itself), but to each their own. If you’d like a little extra flavoring, go for the recommended glaze – for me, the soy and added sugars (even from honey or molasses) make it undesirable. Aka if I wanted to fall asleep directly after the meal, I would have stuck with the turkey 😉 #tryptophan
Now that the bird is settled, let’s move on to the sides.
Now I love rolls…warm, gooey, fluffy rolls – but let’s be honest…rolls would be the exact thing to leave me doubled over on the sofa in total GI distress, so shall we make a better choice? I present to you, Bacon and Chive Sweet Potato Biscuits from PaleOMG. You guys…I’m blown away by these every single year. They are dense, flavorful, and easily take on the role of traditional rolls whether you are using them to soak up your sides or simply serving them with butter. Just trust me and try them, will you? I know you won’t regret it.
Moving right along…mashed potatoes can be a tricky subject. In the Paleo realm, white potatoes are a no-no, so often times you see cauliflower offered as the substitution. Can I be honest about something, though…anyone trying to replace mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower is lying to you. I’ve given it several of my best attempts, and it always ends up a watery, mushy, flavorless mess – and I’m saying that as someone who LIKES cauliflower. So, what then? Potatoes aren’t so much an inflammatory issue…frankly if you wanted to throw caution to the wind and enjoy some classic mashed potatoes for one day out of the year, I think you’d be more than fine. However, the snag in that plan for me is that in planning an entirely paleo menu, those starchy veggies are better employed elsewhere (like in that biscuit recipe posted directly above – sweet potatoes or yams serve as the entire base to those babies). What I’m try to say is, if you’re not careful when planning a paleo menu, you can easily end up serving a plate of starchy carbs with a side of starchy carbs, and some starchy carbs thrown on top as a garnish – not exactly a well-rounded meal.
That’s where NomNomPaleo comes to the rescue with her Roasted Garlic Root Vegetable Mash. Made up of parsnips, carrots, and (ok, yes) cauliflower – you’ll save on some carbs had you just gone with another serving of potatoes, but get more depth and flavor than having used cauliflower alone. The roasted garlic is the key to this recipe – don’t get antsy and skip that step. You’ll thank me in the long run.
Going a little out of meal order – let’s talk about dessert. My all time favorite Thanksgiving dessert is the almighty pumpkin pie. The great news – it’s not terribly hard to make paleo compliant! I admit I have probably tried one too many recipes for paleo pumpkin pie, but that means I can proudly declare these two the very best.
If you’re aiming for a standard, paleo option (and nuts don’t bother you) – go with Mark’s Daily Apple’s recipe. Sometimes, keeping it simple is key, and that is exactly true in this case. The simple ingredients let the natural flavors speak for themselves. The recipe is buttery, nutty, and absolutely delicious!
The other available option – should nuts not be your jam – is AutoImmune Paleo’s 100% AIP recipe. I made this one a couple years back when I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and wanted to stay strict on my elimination protocol. I found the recipe a little daunting at first, but it all came together beautifully. One tip – be sure to soak those dates and use a food processor to blend it well. I aimed to do it all by hand and it proved time consuming and exhausting. Ah well, alls well that ends well, and I was even able to turn the recipe into individual mini pies
So let’s see…we’ve got a bird, some biscuits, root mash with cranberry sauce, and dessert…what’s missing? Well, as I always say, a meal isn’t complete without something green on your plate, and sorry, the chives in those biscuits just aren’t going to cut it. So here is a Brussel sprout recipe directly from me to you –
What you’ll need:
1/4 cup of your favorite cooking oil (i.e. Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil,etc)
0.5-1 tbsp of crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how much heat you’d like)
3-4 cups of Brussel sprouts – shredded
1 onion, diced
Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a pan. You want to extract some of the heat and flavor from the pepper flakes directly into the oil.
Add your onions – let them caramelize in the hot oil – about 5-8 minutes
Add the Brussel sprouts – stir occasionally. Let them get brown and crispy.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Viola! A delicious, EASY, green side completing a well rounded Thanksgiving spread. I hope you’ll try even a couple of these recipes for your Thanksgiving meal this year! If you do, please reach out and let me know how they turn out – I’d love to hear. Enjoy!