I will deal with a typical Thanksgiving meal first. Let’s look at a possible menu:
- Turkey — easy — buy fresh, not frozen, with no injected additives. Local, small markets carry these birds, and you will never buy a frozen turkey ever again after eating one of these birds.
- Stuffing — Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing and other packaged stuffing mixes contain many GMO ingredients such as soy, canola, and corn. Make your own from organic or homemade bread. Cut into cubes, allow to dry (or toast in low oven). Add your own herbs, and you have herbed stuffing mix.
- Vegetables — no green bean casserole if you want to avoid GMOs. Steam your vegetables and just butter, or serve plain so people can butter, salt and pepper their own: broccoli, squash, brussel sprouts, carrots, green beans, corn. Or bake sweet potatoes as a nice alternative for each person to butter and top. I make a yellow squash casserole every Thanksgiving using fresh yellow squash, sliced organic onions, organic eggs, organic milk, organic crackers, cheese, salt and pepper. So easy. Candied yams, simple if you use fresh yams (avoid canned), boil, then use real sugar and spices.
- Salad — I make a marinated salad from hothouse cucumbers, colorful bell peppers, grape tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese making my own vinaigrette marinade. This can be made the day before and is really popular with my kids.
- Mashed potatoes and gravy. Cook organic potatoes, mash, rice or cream with butter, organic milk or sour cream, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Gravy is so easy made from scratch and takes less than 10 minutes. Pour drippings from turkey into a saucepan, adding flour mixed with a little cold water (I whisk these together in a measuring cup and pour into the hot drippings) — 1 Tbsp organic flour per cup of gravy — boil gently for a few minutes. Season to taste.
- Pies — I grow my own sugar pumpkins, cooking and pureeing days ahead, then refrigerating. I will attempt to make my own pie crusts this year — I admit to being inept at pie crusts. Use organic ingredients and you will be fine. Avoid canned pumpkin, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk. I use organic whole milk when recipes call for evaporated milk — you can use half and half or cream as well. Corn syrup substitute recipes are below. Organic apples make for a delicious apple pie. Pecan pie will require a homemade simple syrup (corn syrup substitute — see below).
- Homemade rolls — avoid canned and bakery rolls. My bread recipe can be made into rolls. Timesaver: bake rolls a few days before Thanksgiving, double bag and freeze. Take out of freezer early in the morning on Thanksgiving day and pop into the oven to warm up right before dinner is served.
Corn syrup substitutes
For baked goods, such as cookies you can simply substitute 1 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water for 1 cup of corn syrup.
For other purposes, where you need that syrup, just make your own cane syrup. Learning to make syrup from sugar will be priceless when you are out of pancake syrup or maple syrup and your family wants pancakes or waffles. We make all of our own pancake syrup (even my kids know how to make this and do so regularly).
Cane Syrup – Small batch (makes 1 quart)
2 cups cane sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar* (optional)
Cane Syrup – Large batch (makes 2 quarts)
4 cups organic cane sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp cream of tartar* (optional)
Combine all ingredients in saucepan on medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved; bring to a gentle boil. Cover and allow to boil for 2 minutes (this sweats any sugar crystals off side of pan). Remove lid, and insert candy thermometer; monitor temperature until just before it reaches 240° F. Remove entire pan from heat and place on cool surface. Allow syrup to cool to barely warm before pouring into clean glass 1-pint canning jars. Store at room temperature for up to 2 months.
*Most recipes call for cream of tartar to hinder the formation of crystals during storage. I read that the cream of tartar changes the sugars, though, so I leave this out myself.