Well, we not only survived our first AIP/Paleo Thanksgiving, but completely thrived on it too. I know it is sort of weird to write about Thanksgiving recipes after the fact, but I’m going to do it anyway in the hopes that maybe it can be inspiration for upcoming Christmas & holiday meals (or for next year’s Thanksgiving).
So much of AIP involves making other healing lifestyle choices, other than just changing the food a person eats. Reducing stress, getting adequate rest/sleep, and gentle exercise are all also key components in promoting healing. The holiday season can be stressful & I didn’t want that potential stress (and lack of sleep/exercise) to derail all the hard work I’ve already done. We decided to celebrate at our own home knowing that cooking for ourselves would give us the greatest control over our food ingredients (and reduce the risk of cross contamination.
Since this Thanksgiving was my first on AIP, or paleo, I wanted to make it seem as “normal” as possible, including items similar to our traditional Thanksgiving favorites. But I also knew the importance of keeping things as simple as possible & not overdoing it. We planned to eat a hearty, late-morning Thanksgiving brunch & then an early dinner. Having the main meal later in the day didn’t require us to get up at the crack of dawn to start cooking & gave us more time to prepare things. Here’s what our menu looked like. Note: I have reintroduced green beans, eggs in small quantities, as well as a few nut varieties, like pecans. Other than those reintroductions, everything else is AIP.
- Squash Pancakes (Paleo, included whole eggs)
- Bacon (AIP, check ingredients)
- Grapefruit (AIP)
- Dry Brined, Butterflied Turkey with herbs (AIP)
- Starch-free Gravy (AIP)
- Mashed White Sweet potatoes (could be topped either with gravy, or with a few chopped honey-candied pecans to mimic Paleo sweet potato casserole)
- Roasted Green Beans with fried shallots (AIP Reintroduction)
- Braised Collards (AIP)
- Cranberry Sauce (AIP)
- Carrots & Pickles (AIP, check ingredients in pickles)
- Pumpkin Pot de Creme with coconut whipped cream (Paleo, contained egg yolks)
- Pumpkin Pie (for Husband, not paleo or AIP, served on paper plates to reduce risk of gluten cross contamination)
On Thursday, after brunch, we candied pecans for the mock sweet potato casserole, assembled & baked the pumpkin pot de cremes, fried the shallots for the green beans, roasted the turkey (which took only two hours for our 20lb + bird, because it was butterflied) with a basting liquid of bacon drippings/homemade turkey stock/white wine(the alcohol completely cooks off in the oven), braised the collards, reheated the beans & mashed sweet potatoes, whipped coconut cream, and made gravy. Yes, we still worked a good amount on actual Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t frantic work & we weren’t exhausted by the time we actually ate.
Having so much leftover food has been one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving! We’ve eaten either reheated actual leftovers or repurposed leftovers for many meals since Thursday! And I still have a few ideas for the leftover Turkey that has been frozen too. I’m starting to think of preparing Thanksgiving as the ultimate batch cooking session :) Knowing that we would be eating Thanksgiving leftovers for future meals helped us to restrain our portions on actual Thanksgiving & keep us from doing the traditional overeating. Though, everything was SO tasty that it was hard to keep from getting extra portions :)
The one dish I was very concerned about missing from our AIP/Paleo feast was mashed potatoes, which are usually my favorite side dish of any holiday meal. Once we topped our mashed sweet potatoes with the starch-free turkey gravy, they tasted SO good that I didn’t even miss the regular mashed potatoes. I do highly recommend mashing white sweet potatoes instead of the orange or purple ones because the white ones tend to be a little less sweet & a little more like regular potatoes. The gravy topping was also key. I’ve thickened gravy & fruit sauces with arrow root starch, but I had also never made gravy without any starch. Cooking onions & shallots with turkey drippings, homemade stock, a little white wine (don’t worry, the alcohol boils away), and herbs, then pureeing the whole mixture made for the most fantastic gravy.
I often find myself wishing that Thanksgiving didn’t come only once a year, not just for the food, though it is some of my very favorites, but also for the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness that permeates the season. I am thankful for the Autoimmune Protocol & Paleo. I am so very thankful for better health this year, especially when I compare it to how awful I felt at this time last year. I am thankful for a husband & family & friends who support me on this healing journey. And yes, I do want to repeat this exact menu for Christmas Eve dinner too :)
Starch Free Turkey Gravy
4 Tbl (80 g) Turkey Drippings (we basted our dry brined turkey with 2 oz bacon grease, plus 1 cup Sauvignon Blanc & 1 c homemade Turkey Stock)
1 large shallot, minced (approximately 1/2 c or 55 g)
1 small onion, minced (approximately 1 1/2 c or 195 g)
1/2 c Sauvignon Blanc
1 c Homemade Turkey Stock, unsalted
1 tsp fresh Thyme leaves
1/2 tsp Sage, minced
Sea salt, as needed
- Saute the shallot & onion in the turkey drippings over medium heat until translucent.
- Add the wine & turkey stock. Bring to a boil & cook until the liquid reduces by half.
- Puree the liquid with an immersion blender (or in a high speed blender). Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding additional sea salt if necessary.
- Serve immediately or store cooled leftovers in the refrigerator.
Note: if you did not baste your turkey with bacon/wine/stock as I did, and your drippings are not as flavorful, you may wish to add some bacon grease and/or a little additional wine/herbs to the liquid before reducing the liquid.