Thanksgiving Dinner – Fresh Tastes by Bev
By Bev Laumann, Author of A Taste of The Good Life: A Cookbook for IC & OAB
I gazed out the taxicab window watching as I sped by clumps of blazing red maples and neat rows of white clapboard houses. It was classic… a picturesque snapshot of Americana filled with fall colors and crisp blue skies. I was on my way to the airport after four exhausting but exhilarating days at the NIDDK bladder research symposium and ICA National Meeting in Minneapolis. Riding along, a feeling of great calm and hope came over me as I thought of all that had transpired in the previous four days. Despite the pain and limitations of IC, we all do have so much to be thankful for this year.
A few days earlier a bladder research symposium had opened in a Minneapolis hotel ballroom, filled with more than 150 doctors and scientists. All were working hard toward a greater understanding of, and eventually a cure for, interstitial cystitis. Fifteen years ago such a hope inspiring scene would have been unthinkable. IC was a little-known disease then and IC research was virtually nil. So this Thanksgiving, when I sit down to dinner with my family and we contemplate what we are thankful for, I’ll be thinking of those IC researchers and how far we’ve come.
Of course, there’s also one other thing we can all be thankful for every Thanksgiving: some worry-free dishes both we and our families can enjoy eating. This month I’ve assembled a few bladder- friendly recipes for traditional Thanksgiving foods. (No, I haven’t come up with an IC friendly cranberry sauce yet.) Be sure to try these out in YOUR kitchen before Thanksgiving. If there’s one thing that kitchen faux-pas have taught me it’s that they always happen when I’m under pressure and trying to cook several unfamiliar recipes at once.
What’s Thanksgiving without the traditional turkey? Luckily for us, a fresh or frozen whole turkey is usually artificial additive-free (unlike the processed “deboned” rolls of turkey meat, which frequently have preservatives added). Turkey is a bladder-friendly, naturally low-fat, good source of protein. And by cooking a big enough turkey, there will be plenty of leftover meat for sandwiches and other quick-fix dinner dishes later.
These days, easy-to-follow cooking instructions are usually on the packaging for each bird, and if not, many cookbooks have detailed instructions.
If you want a truly all-natural bird raised without hormones and antibiotics, you can order “free range” turkeys up to a week before Thanksgiving from natural foods grocery stores. I’ve found these traditionally raised turkeys are actually a bit more flavorful, but still just as tender and juicy, as the standard bird you find in grocery stores.
Everyone has their favorite recipe, but most have two serious drawbacks– onions and bread. There are some workarounds though, that can keep both your bladder and the rest of the family happy at the same time.
Onion strategy #1:
If your bladder is extremely sensitive to onions, first consider leaving out the onions entirely from your favorite recipe…. at least in your portion. If others in your family have stomach problems, perhaps they too would enjoy a stuffing without onions. Otherwise, make slightly more stuffing than is needed for the turkey– enough for about two more servings– minus the onions. Set aside your onion-free stuffing in a separate greased pan. Bake it, covered, for the last 45 minutes that the bird is roasting. Cover or uncover it the last few minutes depending on how it is browning.
For stuffing the bird: Stuff the bird lightly, don’t mash it in. Stuffing expands slightly as it cooks, so keep the stuffing fluffy. If you don’t want to cook your stuffing separately, stuff the bird almost full, then put in your serving of onion-free stuffing last. When it’s time to remove the stuffing, take yours out first and set aside.
Onion strategy #2:
If your bladder is only sensitive to raw, undercooked, or excessive amounts of onions you might consider this trick: Follow your favorite stuffing recipe but make sure you first fry the onions in a bit of oil or margarine. Stir the chopped onions constantly to avoid scorching, until they’re clear and slightly golden. Drain thoroughly on paper towels, then add them to the recipe and proceed as usual. Frying heats them to a higher temperature than they’d be subjected to in the bird. (High temperatures destroy some of the onions’ sulfite compounds that may possibly contribute to bladder symptoms).
Onion strategy # 3:
Substitute fresh chopped chives for the fresh chopped onion in your favorite recipe. Chives have a milder onion flavor and may be less of a problem for some peoples’ bladders. Bread strategy # 1: If you have a favorite bread that doesn’t give your bladder problems, then by all means use it. Most white bread and whole wheat bread can be used interchangeably in bread stuffing recipes– just beware of bread that is loaded with preservatives. Don’t fail to consider french or Italian breads (minus the crust of course). It’s probably best to forget the boxed, prepared bread crumbs. They have too many preservatives and flavor enhancers to be safe, and who needs a bladder pain flare-up on Thanksgiving? You can always make your own bread from scratch and use that, but these days not many people have that kind of time. So to be the safest, find bread without preservatives. Bread strategy #2: Use rice instead of bread. Here is a wonderful stuffing with a Middle Eastern flair that completely avoids the use of bread and raw onions.
Rice Pilaf Stuffing
– Makes about 9 cups of stuffing
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (or slivered almonds)
- 1 stick of margarine
- 1 cup chopped fresh chives
- 3 cups uncooked long-grain rice
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper (optional)
- 2 cans Campbell’s Healthy Request Chicken broth
- Spread pine nuts or almonds on a baking sheet and lightly toast at 350 degrees F. for about five or ten minutes, just until golden. (Watch carefully.) In a large frying pan, heat the margarine and saute the chives about four minutes. Add the rice and cook while stirring over medium heat for another five minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the chicken broth to boiling. Blend into the rice, the nuts, parsley, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper. Pour the boiling broth over the rice mixture. Stir slightly, reduce heat under rice to low and simmer covered until the moisture is absorbed (about 20 to 30 minutes). Fluff the rice and lightly stuff your turkey. Allow about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.
This unusual cornbread stuffing is another one which is not only very mild and bladder- friendly, but avoids the use of fat-loaded bacon that many cornbread stuffing recipes use.
– Makes about 4 cups of stuffing
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 drops vinegar (the baking soda will neutralize it, but meanwhile it will help the bread rise)
- 1 egg
- 1 Tablespoon canola oil
- non-stick cooking spray
- 1-1/2 tablespoons margarine
- 3/4 cup frozen broccoli (partially thaw and chop in 1/2″ pieces)
- 2 slices white bread (preservative free) crust removed, torn in pieces
- 1-2/3 cups chicken broth (Campbell’s Healthy Request or Health Valley)
- 3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
- 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (optional, omit for low-oxalate)
- non-stick cooking spray
To make the cornbread:
- Thoroughly combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center. In a large measuring cup, whisk together the milk, vinegar, egg, and oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the well and gently stir until all is moistened. Spray a 7- inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the cornmeal batter and spread evenly. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 20 minutes or just until golden and center springs back when touched.