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Gluten Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Here are a few helpful hints toward making a great holiday meal with a healthier focus by recipes and cooking techniques that have been "tweaked" a little. The Stuffing is gluten free, and the green beans are fresh, and a healthy take on the old casserole - it also tastes a LOT better.

The Cranberry Sauce is made from scratch. Boil the Cranberries in water (to cover), juice from 1/2 of a freshly squeezed orange, and a very little bit of sugar (Raw sugar or brown sugar is best). Sauté 1 large Sweet Onion, Raisins and Walnuts in extra virgin olive oil and add to the cranberries after they are goopy. You can add a fine amontillado sherry in lieu of some of the water and you will be AMAZED! Add some ground cardamom if you are feeling adventurous. Cook till you can't stand leaving it in the pot. At some point you'll just want to eat it. Serve it on fresh croissant with a cream cheese yoghurt mix for post Thanksgiving breakfasts and everyone will love you.

The Turkey is easy. Roast it breast side down. Period. I have friends who swear that brining is the only way, but for those watching their sodium intake that is absurd! If you let the juices from the back, legs and thigh run all through the breast as it is roasting there is no chance it will come out dry. We are not going to eat the skin anyway so what does it matter if the top isn't brown? The wings, legs and thighs will have lots of brown skin if someone has to go there, but the breasts will be so moist that people will actually want to eat the white meat. There are two other secrets. Buy a small organic hen. If you have a lot of people cook two birds. Packaged birds are not good. Big old birds are not good. Also, when the bird is done and it has rested for 20 minutes - do yourself a favor and pull the beasts of the carcass whole. Yes, I said it, pull them off whole. You can slice them as boneless breasts on a cutting board and get much thicker slices of breast. This will also help them stay moist.

The Green Beans are really fun. Use only fresh green beans (lightly steamed), assemble them in a baking dish with sautéed Baby Bella mushrooms. Oregano is the best herb for this, but Thyme works as well. Add about 3 Tbsps of a greek yogurt/cream cheese, 50/50 combo (a product in your local fresh food market). Add a little low sodium chicken stock (mushroom stock if meat is not your thing, or if you just prefer the flavor). This is your cream of mushroom soup. If you are not counting calories use as large splash of cream. If you are totally gluten free sauté an onion in with the mushrooms and top the whole thing with Gluten Free bread crumbs or sliced almonds. If you are not gluten free then use the Lars French Fried Onions on top. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 until everything is bubbling. For an extra wow no one will believe try lacing the beans with chunks of crumbled feta cheese before you add the crunchy topping. It is so much fun delivering on an old casserole everyone thought was dead. You can achieve a completely Vegan version by substituting Toffuti sourcream for the cream cheese/yogurt and foregoing the bread crumbs - using the almonds instead. This is a dish worth recreating as the substitute versions are better than the old stand by.

The Stuffing is the same stuffing you have always loved, just substitute the bread crumbs for gluten free bread cubes. With that said, do not stuff the turkey. Roast the Dressing separately and put an entire carton of Turkey stock in it to keep it moist. This makes all the difference in the world. Roast it for a good 45 minutes covered and give it the last 20 minutes uncovered. For a real treat try chopped Fennel instead of celery and all Italian herbs. DO NOT use seasoning mixes. DO NOT! If you want more meat and flavor add Italian sausage that has been sautéed with your onions and fennel - Abbondanza!

The Yams are the easiest of all. Steam them until just barely cooked and then roast them in Orange juice (the other half of the orange from the cranberry sauce), butter, ground cardamom and brown sugar. I like to take the skins off so the plate has a real "hit" of orange. They roast just fine with the skins on, which is healthier, but sometimes you sacrifice for aesthetics.