Thanksgiving with mixed eaters

Those that have read my blog know that I frequently struggle with my mixed dietary preference family. We have the vegan, the vegetarian, one who changes frequently, and a couple omnivores. For Thanksgiving, we decided to host brunch for our crazy Brady Bunch style family. The guest list included my husband and I (omnivores); our three daughters (1 vegan, 1 vegetarian, 1 mostly omnivore, though not much on red meat); our oldest 2 daughter’s father and his girlfriend and other daughter (1 omnivore, 1 gluten free, not 100% sure on one); our youngest daughter’s mother (vegetarian); a boyfriend of a daughter (nut allergy); and 4 friends of kids (1 gluten-free vegan, not sure about the other 3, as they were added last minute).

As you can imagine, much planning needed to go into this meal. First and foremost were concerns for health. Our gluten-free guests are not by choice but by medical necessity, so if you are unfamiliar, this means that their foods cannot be prepared in areas where it is -possible for them to be exposed/cross-contaminated with gluten of any type. Luckily, I had already planned a menu that was mostly gluten free.

Here’s the menu:

  • smoked Chicken (GF)
  • smoke mushrooms (VG, V, GF)
  • mashed potatoes (V, GF)
  • sweet potato casserole (V, VG, GF)
  • bacon (GF)
  • sausage and cheese frittatas (GF)
  • cranberry sauce (GF, VG, V)
  • Brussels sprout salad (GF, VG, V)
  • baked beans (GF)
  • vegan baked beans (GF, VG, V)
  • vegan brown gravy (VG, V)
  • pumpkin pie (V)
  • blueberry pie (V)
  • French toast casserole (V)
  • rolls (V)
  • mimosas (V, VG, GF)
  • coffee (V, VG, GF)
  • juice (V, VG, GF)

If the symbols are not clear, V=vegetarian, VG=vegan, GF=Gluten-free. I don’t have a symbol for nut-free, but everything except the sweet potato casserole and the Brussels sprout salad were nut free.

We did all our shopping on Tuesday. We store-bought the pies, frozen dinner rolls and the bread to make the french toast casserole so that no actual flour/gluten products would have to be prepared in the kitchen. My lovely husband cleaned every surface in our kitchen, including the oven and stove.

I prepared the cranberry sauce Wednesday night and drew up a battle plan for Thursday morning. We went with just chicken legs this year for simplicity and even cooking time. I put them in a brine of just salt, garlic and water overnight. I prepared the French toast casserole. Nothing more could really be done ahead.

Of course, Thanksgiving day I wake up over an hour later than planned. Remember, this is brunch, so people are coming early and hungry! However, I quickly got things on track. I pop the french toast casserole into the over with a drip pan below (it always overflows or bubbles over on me and I need to protect the stove from contamination). I get the grill started for smoking and manage to get the chicken on with plenty of time, as I am only expecting it to take 2 hours or so, but have budgeted almost twice the time.

The rolls also go in for the last 10 minutes with the French toast casserole. When both of these come out of the oven, they are moved to their own serving area in the dining room. All other foods are displayed on our buffet, bar cart, and some on the dining table across the room.

I then clean the kitchen up and start on the remaining dishes. I used the instant pot for my baked beans and the dutch oven for the vegan version. We have pots of sweet potatoes and gold potatoes going. My lovely husband took care of shredding the Brussels sprouts for the salad and the bacon.

In the end, everything ends up great, and we have tons of leftovers as usual. I didn’t do a great job of planning for those leftovers and the fact that my husband and I were going out of town after, and we experienced a little food waste in the end. I have accepted that. (And that was after sending lots of food home with our guests!) I also accepted that there were a few errors. I forgot the orange zest in my salad, but everyone loved it anyway. I completely forgot to cook the sausage I made. And I forgot the sriracha in my baked beans, so they were not as good as in my test run. Oh, and the rolls totally sucked, so I won’t buy those again!

Next year, I may try the whole roasted cauliflower I saw on the Kitchen this morning!

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