If someone who has a dietary need is joining you, having dishes they can enjoy is important in welcoming them for the holiday. If that person is on a gluten-free diet, be sure to check labels, and use cornstarch to thicken sauces and gravies. For a vegetarian, consider a turkey substitute (maybe not for the entire group), like a stuffing-filled portabella mushroom cap, and try using vegetarian broth in place of standard turkey or chicken broth. Though something like a peanut allergy may seem like an easy dietary accommodation for Thanksgiving, be sure to check food labels to see if some of your ingredients are processed in facilities that also process peanuts. Hang on to the food packaging if you are unsure so your guest can review it themselves; it is always nice to avoid ER trips during the holidays.
Plan out your menu, try new dishes before the big day, and prepare anything you can ahead of time (but keep it safely refrigerated) to minimize stress. Enlist the help of others to put together the meal. Most people enjoy bringing a dish or doing something to help out. Cooking and preparing food together the day before is also another nice way to spend family time during the holiday season. Try to have fun with your holiday cooking; after all, Thanksgiving is just as much about spending time with loved ones and counting our blessings as it is about food.
Jordy Kivett is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. For more information, contact her at 561-7450.