Thanksgiving, Vegan and Food Allergies

Ahhhh Thanksgiving… a time to gather around the family table and share in a bountiful feast of the season, giving thanks for all that the year has brought you. How many of us have favorite family memories of this time of year?

I know I do! Nanny’s turkey, green bean casserole, rice pilaf, mac and cheese, and more… pumpkin and pecan pies with a cup of freshly brewed chicory coffee with half and half… sigh!

Until my body began rejecting foods almost a decade ago… first gluten and anything more than minimal amounts of dairy, then all dairy… then all land animals, and eventually soy, eggs, and corn as well as more than a small amount of sugar or carbohydrates.

At first, even as I was bringing my own food to prepare, I’d look at my grandmother’s spread in despair that I could not join in on this tradition directly any longer. My “recipes” (if you could even call them that) were paltry compared to what everyone else was eating. My grandmother took it as an insult that I was no longer eating her food. It took me YEARS to help my grandmother understand that it was a medical issue, showing her when I’d have eczema flareups from unexpected contact with an allergen (as I was still learning all the hidden sources)…because she didn’t get the bloating/torn up stomach connection… and even longer to develop recipes that made me feel like I was really participating in the food festivities of the season.

At first it it made holidays SO not fun… I had this internal battle of wanting to spend time with my family, but also wanting to stay home and avoid feeling “judged” by my family who didn’t understand my issues with food, and the weird substitutes I would eat. How many of you have experienced this?

So, how did I turn it around? …because I did…

Well, first it started with changing my attitude around the whole thing. I had to stop seeing myself as this “poor me, I have food allergies” person, and see what was happening as my communication with my body being more clear around foods that support me and don’t support me personally. When I began to really FEEL that, then I noticed the way I dealt with everything else changed. I became WAY more confident with how I dealt with family (not that I didn’t have my moments where I would flounder… but we are all human). I was able to help them see that having a food allergy and the accomodations that need to be made are much like a person who has diabetes or high blood pressure and the food choices they have to make.

I also began becoming more inventive with food, really digging in to how I could make my holiday favorites in a way that would taste much like the original, but be friendly to me. It’s funny, because my family would look at what hubby and I were making, noses all wrinkled, and brows all furrowed, wondering what THAT was… and then pull one of us to the side to ask if they could sample it, and then want some for their plates after they had a taste. I just had to laugh.

Over time, my recipes have gotten better… Last year was the best so far!

Vegan AF Mac'n Cheez

Vegan AF Mac’n Cheez

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Butter Beans with Caramelized Onions

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Kale Salad with Green and Purple Kale (sunflower seeds and cranberries)

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Vegan AF Green Bean Casserole (that we didn’t get to eat because pops reheated it with the lid on…lol)

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The whole Thanksgiving dinner plate 2013

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My first attempt at AF vegan Pound Cake… hubby loved it, but too sweet for me.

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AF vegan Sweet Potato Cheezcake (I even cooked the sweet potatoes and mashed them myself!)

My patience and willingness to answer their questions has slowly shifted how my family responds to our family’s issues with food. They are now more willfully accommodating of what we need to feel welcomed at the table too, and no longer take it as a person insult that we are not able to eat their food. At the end of the day, we all are able to sit around a table together and share thanks for not only all the blessings we’ve had throughout the year, but also another year of sharing time and love with family… something that not all people are blessed to have. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most (even if your family are friends).

So, what are some quick tips I can give you to make you holiday with non-allergic, maybe even judgmental, family more enjoyable? Here are a quick few to keep in mind as you finalize your meal plans and run off for last minute shopping today… especially if you are attempting to re-create oldie but goodies.

  • Often you can sub out 1-for-1 ingredients like dairy, butter, etc. as long as it’s not being used as a thickener.
  • Instead of eggs, you can use flax meal, chia seed, arrowroot, guar gum, corn starch, xanthan gum, etc to thicken or “set” a recipe
  • Nutritional yeast is GREAT as a sub for the flavor of egg yolks and cheese/butter in a recipe… use generously (LOL)
  • Daiya cream cheez is a GREAT sub for soy or dairy cream cheese
  • You can use a little fresh lemon juice (or raw apple cider vinegar) to replace the tartness of buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, or cream cheese in a recipe.
  • When using AF flours… SIFT, SIFT, SIFT is the key to “lightness” in your recipe.
  • Use a little more (maybe a teaspoon more) Baking Powder in your baking recipe to help your AF flours rise during cooking.

Hope these tips help and that you have an AH-MAZING Thanksgiving with family and friends!

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