Making Thanksgiving dinner allergy friendly | Families

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Making Thanksgiving dinner allergy friendly

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's that time of year where everywhere you look there are Turkeys, fall vegetables and pumpkin pies.

For people with food allergies a Thanksgiving meal can be tough. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, an estimated 4 percent, of adults and 8 percent of children have food allergies, with young children affected most. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions, with nuts and wheat being the biggest offenders.

Chef Micah Windham executive chef at Pele's Wood Fire in Riverside shared a few gluten- and nut-free Thanksgiving ideas to help make a delicious and allergy-free meal.

Windham recommended you start fresh, that way you know where the ingredients came from.

"To prepare for Thanksgiving, you want to look at all of your resources, you want to look at the farmers markets, look at the grocery stores, look at everything that's in your neighborhood, look at all of your resources and pull them together."

Now that you have a plan coming together, it's time to prep your kitchen to be allergy friendly.

"If there are any severe allergies, everything has to be taken into precaution and that's every detail, every speck really needs to be cleaned and it's a process but it's well worth it and especially for that piece of mind that you're doing the right things and that you're going to be taking care of your guests," adds Windham.

Since the turkey takes the longest to prepare, Windham tackles this topic first.

"I like to brine my turkey with a little bit of beer and in this case we used a wheat free, it's a brunehaut a nice amber and basically intake a little bit of water and some sea salt and brine it up to a nice salty level almost like the Pacific Ocean ... then let the turkey sit in that mixture over night."

A great tip Windham shared is to empty out one of the fruit or vegetable drawers in your refrigerator if possible. Brine your turkey in a brining bag and use the drawer as the brining container. Be sure to thaw your turkey properly: "The turkey has to be thawed out in the refrigerator as well, and not on the counter like our grandmothers used to do."

The turkey Windham prepared was rubbed down with a little bit of honey and then Windham took a little more of the beer, some Italian seasoning some salt, some pepper to evenly coat it. Next, Windham put the turkey in the oven for a nice slow roast about 325 degrees, "for about a 12 to 14 pound bird you're looking at pretty close to 4 to 5 hours." Windham pointed out the turkey should be taken up to at least 165 degrees.

Windham shows us that stuffing is surprisingly not off limits for a gluten free Thanksgiving. "It's a Fall roast pear stuffing. There's celery, Vidalia onions, a little bit of Italian sausage in there and we've topped it off with some candied cranberries."

Windham used gluten free rice bread from Pele's Wood Fire, "with a couple days notice, we can bake a fresh loaf of gluten free bread for you," added Windham.

Windham also whipped up some gluten-free gravy. "You really can't tell it's made just with a little cornflower instead of wheat and it's absolutely delicious made from the drippings of the turkey."

Gravy is usually thickened with flour and can be easily over looked in the planning process. Windham used a clever alternative worth noting and also crafted a cranberry chutney with a hint of lavender and a bit of orange juice.

When it comes to sides, fresh veggies are the way to go when cooking nut and gluten free.

"Brussels sprouts, they're prime this time of year, carrots, parsnips, squash from acorn squash to butternut, things that are really just hardy and fresh."

Brussel sprout preparation is a bit of a process, but Windham said it's worth it. He suggests taking the end of the brussel sprout and slowly peeling off the leaves, only blanch the leaves in salt water only for a couple of minutes, toss in a little bacon, add fresh Vidalia onion and a smidge of honey.

Moving on to dessert, if you do have food allergies, you know that pies are normally off limits. The crust, the nuts, all those things make it a big fat no no, but Widham's pie is a go go.

"We have a pumpkin chiffon pie. This is a recipe my wife came up with a few years ago, its dynamite. It's a lot like a traditional pumpkin pie but it's got a little bit of meringue folded through the custard, which makes it light and fluffy but has all the richness of a traditional pumpkin pie, topped with a little candied orange zest, nice baked meringue. The crust is a faux graham cracker crust."

Advice from Windham: "Whether it's a 12 course French pre-fix or it's a 12 course gluten-free, it's really the same amount of labor. It's something that is just details and you don't miss the details -- you just spend time rehearsing and reading and doing your research and you'll be completely fine."

Happy allergy-free Thanksgiving!

Featured Menu

Grand Roast Turkey, Brunehaut Beer Brined, Fall Pear Stuffing, Candied Cranberries, Gravy


Roasted Beet  "Carpaccio" Arugula, Goat Cheese, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon


Tupelo Honey Glazed Brussels, with Smoked Bacon


Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, Faux Graham Butter Crust

For recipes, email Chef Micah Windham at

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