Tag Archive | Thanksgiving

Pumpkin Cheesecake–grainfree, dairy free, egg free!

Living here in New England, we are surrounded by pumpkin everything as soon as fall hits! I can usually walk by all of the pumpkin cookies, cakes, and donuts without a problem. But one fall favorite that I simply cannot live without is Pumpkin Cheesecake. This is a bit of a problem considering that both dairy and grains have been identified as allergens and have been proven to mess with my fertility.

 

If I were to eat a real pumpkin cheese cake, not only would I get sick, but it would seriously affect my fertility. Since getting the allergens out of my diet, my hormone levels have gone from sub fertile, to fertile, and now to the optimum zone. I’m not going to let gluten or dairy take that away from me.

BUT, I WILL HAVE MY PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE!

pumpkin cheese cake

If I can make pasta without grains, I can make cheesecake that is dairy-free!

I had a few ideas as how this might be done. I knew I’d need to use coconut milk to substitute for the dairy products, and of course a can of pumpkin, and the rest, well I took what I knew from making other grain free recipes and decided to do a little tweaking. The result was success on the first try!

I was sold on the tastiness of the cheesecake immediately; but, I always like to run a dish by my grain loving friends and family before sharing that recipe with my followers. I am lucky enough that they are always willing to act as a focus group; their opinions mean a lot to me.   Now that they have given me their seal approval, I am pleased to share my recipe with you!

pumpkin cheesecake slice

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust:

1 cup nuts of your choice

1 cup dates

1 TBSP coconut oil

1 tsp cinnamon

 

Filling:

1 can coconut milk (I use Native Forest)

1 can organic pumpkin

1TBSP gelatin

1 ½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

 

In a food processor, chop nuts until they have a “meal” like texture. Add dates and coconut oil; process until smooth. Add cinnamon and process one minute. Press into spring form pan.

 

Heat coconut milk until boiling in a large saucepan. In a small ramekin, mix gelatin with water and whisk until smooth. Wisk gelatin mixture into coconut milk, set aside. Mix pumpkin and spices in food processor. Slowly add coconut milk until blended thoroughly.   Pour on top of crust. Refrigerate at least three hours, preferably overnight.

 

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as my family and friends have!

Grain Free Thanksgiving 2013

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in.  Between the infertility and my grain free lifestyle, gatherings of any type can be summed up in one word: awkward!  This past Thanksgiving is a great example.  We went to my mother’s house for dinner.  It’s our annual holiday there and for reasons that can be addressed in another post, we don’t play “holiday hopscotch,” bouncing from one location to the next.

couple in car

I have an allergy to grains, so I made sure to review the menu with her before our arrival. Specifically, I cannot eat: wheat, rice, oats, corn, or any corn products such as corn syrup and corn syrup solids, barley, quinoa, wild rice, sorghum, teff, and all other grains.  Eating even small amounts of these foods causes me to become ill with a stomach ache that I can only equate to the cramps one gets with the flu.  The one exception to this is white flour.  If I accidentally ingest a small amount of white flour, I don’t get the full blown reaction.   White flour is highly refined and so dissimilar from whole grain wheat, I only get a bloated belly, gain a pound, and the stomach ache goes away within a day.

confused cook

Let me be clear, I know my dietary needs are difficult for the average host to manage, that’s why I take such care to review my allergies with them and ask what I can bring to help with the meal.  If I’m lucky, my host will understand or be somewhat sympathetic, he or she will laugh a bit when I explain that the five staples of my diet are: meat, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, and wine.  From there, we usually problem solve a bit and arrive at a menu which all can enjoy.  I ask that he or she make a vegetable that I can have, and usually I bring a bread, a salad, and or a dessert that is grain free but can be enjoyed by all.

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chcolate chip cookie bars

This was not how Thanksgiving went!  My mother was very offended when I asked to review the menu with her.  I explained that I was aware that she’d be making stuffing, but that over the past year or so I’ve found grains lurking in the strangest places and so I have to be aware of what I’m eating.  We figured I could eat the turkey but not the stuffing. I asked about the sweet potatoes she makes with a maple syrup glaze which used to be my favorite.   Her maple syrup had a corn syrup base and she wasn’t interested in using organic syrup in its place, instead she said she’d make me a baked sweet potato.  This is like watching your friends eat chocolate while you eat a chocolate flavored rice cake, it’s torture.  The rest of the meal was pretty much out as well, her cranberry sauce contained corn syrup, and once again, she wasn’t interested in purchasing or making an all-natural alternative.   We went over the appetizers; there wouldn’t be any of those that I could eat, and same with the desserts.  She wasn’t serving soup, and our conversation ended with her telling me, “I don’t know what you can eat besides the turkey and the canned vegetables, bring whatever you’d like, don’t bring too much because no one else will be interested in eating that stuff.”

question marks

Whether I’m cooking grain free or not, my food is always devoured by all.  Typically, I bring a potato skin casserole, a dessert, and maybe a soup if I’m feeling adventurous.  I’ve served grain free versions of these to grain lovers and received accolades, there’s no reason to assume that people wouldn’t enjoy them.  Rather, I think she was upset that I wouldn’t be eating her food.  Someday, I will be able to explain that my grain free diet is not a choice, but a must in my life; as for now, it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

I decided that I’d bring the foods that I needed to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.  That meant: soup, roasted carrots, my usual potato skin casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, grain free chocolate chip bars, and grain free stuffing.  I found some grain free crackers on vitacost and brought those along with me as well so I could at least enjoy the cheese plate while others were feasting on stuffed mushrooms, and all other kinds of grain based goodness.

Thanksgiving table

So, after appetizers, it was straight to the meal. There were no courses; it was everyone grab everything you want and eat quickly so we can get this cleaned up.  I’m my mother’s only child, I’m the extra set of hands to follower her around and assist as needed.  In particular, I was in charge of setting up the buffet .  We squeezed all the food we could onto the sideboard table.  Of course, there wasn’t any room for my food, which was relegated to the kitchen, and remained in the mini slow cookers I had brought it in.  As everyone served themselves from the buffet, I went into the kitchen and helped myself to the grain free goodness which I prepared.  Low and behold, a line of guests followed me to enjoy the soup, cranberry sauce, and carrots that my mother said no one would want to eat.  I can’t blame the guests for not touching the stuffing, it’s not perfected yet, but it was something. On my way back to the table, I also stopped at the buffet table and took some turkey and some butternut squash, which I was assured was safe.

Mid-way through the meal, I felt uncomfortable. Could it have been because we sat down to eat everything at once and I’m not accustomed to eating so much food so quickly?

dishes

I continued to eat my meal, and helped with the cleanup.  When the meal had been cleared and packed away, it was time for dessert, and I still wasn’t feeling well.  I sipped coffee and nibbled at my grain free chocolate chip bars which the grain lovers raved over.  I still didn’t feel well, but I figured my emotions had kicked and the crumby feeling in my stomach had quite a bit to do with the crumby way I’d been treated that day.

Dinner ended.  We were thrilled to go home, our obligatory holiday at mom’s now crossed off the list for another year.  We took care of our fur babies and went off to bed.  In the middle of the night, I awoke with a terrible stomach ache, the one that lets me know I’ve inadvertently eaten corn.  I had the nasty stomach ache, the obnoxious gas that goes along with it, and of course the bloated abdomen that is often called a “grain baby”.  Somehow, despite being so careful with all that I ate and only eating my foods, turkey, a sweet potato, and butternut squash, I had ingested corn and my body was mad!

 

 

It was a rough night.  In the morning, the symptoms were in full swing.  Typically, when I ingest corn, no matter how much, my body experiences discomfort for about four days.   There’s nothing I can do about this.  I just have to drink plenty of water and let my body do what it does.  I did however call my mother and try to determine the source of the corn.  She made no apologies for the illness I was experiencing and was adamant that the foods I had eaten did not contain corn.  I had to disagree with her. I’ve made a fair amount of mistakes with my grain allergy, and I’m familiar with how my body reacts to wheat, rice, and corn, the grains which are most commonly included in foods that one would assume are grain free.

I thought perhaps she had put some maple syrup in the butternut squash, she hadn’t.  I asked if she had cooked the sweet potato in the same baking dish she used for the potatoes candied with maple syrup, she had not.  I was not giving up. I know how my body reacts to corn and this was a corn reaction.

wheat belly

While I was out mom called and left a message, saying that it must have been trace amounts of wheat from the stuffing in the turkey broth which I used to make my gravy.  No way, I only bloat and gain weight from wheat, I do not awaken in the middle of the night with pain.

corn II

I returned my mother’s call and explained that the wheat in the stuffing was a good thought; however, this was a corn reaction without a doubt.  She was adamant that she did not use corn or any corn products in the stuffing.  We reviewed the ingredients list and found the culprit.  She had used sweet Italian sausage in the stuffing.  She couldn’t say that it was all natural or organic, and every sweet sausage I’ve ever found that wasn’t all natural or organic has contained corn syrup solids or corn syrup.

sausage

Since it was a day after Thanksgiving she asked if I was “better” now.  I explained that it was going to be at least four days before anything close to better happened.  I’m not sure what we’re doing for Thanksgiving next year, but I know I wish that I had made her give me an ingredients list for everything she was making that day!  I could have avoided the pain, sleeplessness, and the four pounds I gained from the small amount of corn in the gravy and the turkey.

First grain free holiday

Since I was diagnosed with grain intolerance in October of 2012, Thanksgiving was my first holiday without grains.  The Girl Scout in me said that preparation would make the difference between a successful grain free holiday and starvation.  My mother hosts the holiday every year and had no intention of changing her menu.  This was totally understandable, none of us knew a single grain free recipe and I was still making bread with gluten free flour that contained sorghum, a little known grain.  Yeah, I had a lot to learn!

confused cook

I tried my best to bring food that I could eat.  I brought the bread that I had been making, a stuffing I had made from the bread, I brought my usual potato skin casserole, and some grain free chocolate chip cookies (I later learned that mix contained sorghum as well).   Because the flour I was using at the time contained garbanzo bean flour, the bread, cookies, and stuffing all tasted way to much like beans.  I’ve put a lot of time into perfecting my bread recipe since then and I have to say, it doesn’t taste at all like beans anymore.  It tastes like a homemade sweet bread made from white flour!

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As we ate, I got lots of questions.  Why wasn’t I eating the appetizers?  Weren’t the stuffed mushrooms delicious?  To each of these I explained that I’m unable to eat grains due to an allergy.   The question was always followed by a gasp and then this question, “You can’t eat grains, does that mean you’re gluten free?”  I tried to be polite and explain that gluten is the protein found in wheat.  I am gluten free but not just gluten free, I have an allergy or sensitivity to the proteins in all grains including rice, oats, corn, barley, quinoa, etc.  This was followed by the question, “You can’t eat wheat, you can’t eat rice, what can you eat?”  I gave my standard response: “meat, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, and wine.”

It wasn’t the greatest holiday for me.  I kind of felt like a freak, between not being able to eat all the foods that I had been accustomed to eating and the ridiculous questions that folks were asking about my diet, and the unbearable pain from the endometriosis, I just wanted to hide!  Needless to say, I drank a lot and made my way through the holiday as best I could.

Needless to say, this Thanksgiving is going to be a lot different than last year’s.  No, my host isn’t being any more accommodating-that’s a topic for another blog post.  The difference is that I’ve done my research and created recipes that are grain free but don’t taste different from grain based recipes.   I’ve learned to cook many more grain free recipes over the past year.  This year our menu will feature Italian Peasant Soup, potato skin casserole, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, roasted candied carrots, creamed spinach, homemade cranberry sauce, chocolate chip bars, and bread pudding