Hands down, the most iconic American holiday dinner meal is Thanksgiving. It’s a dinner feast with a menu handed down from generation to generation: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and all the trimmings.
When it comes to dessert, though, one choice is obvious:
That’s pumpkin pie.
But what if you’re diabetic? Gluten intolerant? Lactose intolerant?
The choices narrow.
Today, it seems more and more people have someone in their family who has a restricted diet, whether due to allergies or other health concerns. And when you invite additional family or friends over to share your feast on Thanksgiving, the chances are even greater that someone with a restricted diet will be left out when it comes to dessert.
What do you do?
Of the three diet challenges I mention, perhaps the easiest one to overcome is diabetes. You can accomplish this by substituting a sugar-free sweetener in a pumpkin pie recipe if you make one from scratch. My preference would be Splenda’s “Sugar Blend” or Truvia, made from the Stevia leaf. These are also considered to be the two best sugar substitutes for baking as they can hold up to higher baking temperatures without breaking down and losing their sweetness or leaving behind a pronounced metallic taste. In the case of a pumpkin pie, you’re only needing it to sweeten the filling (not the crust), so you’re not compromising any attributes of your crust. These same two artificial sweeteners can be used in my recipes for Pumpkin Panna Cotta.
Another dessert choice is apple pie, in which the same rules apply, or you can sear fresh-cut apples in butter (on high heat) until golden, and then sprinkle on a bit of ground cinnamon and artificial sweetener, and serve over a sugar-free ice cream.
For those of you making a pumpkin pie, substituting almond coconut milk, soy milk, or silken tofu in your pie filling is the perfect solution. In the case of almond coconut milk, you might even like it better than a traditional recipe pumpkin pie! Just follow the directions on the can of pumpkin and substitute the non-dairy milk one for the dairy milk–one for one.
My seared apple idea is also a good start and can be served over one of Duncan Hines’ dairy-free cake mixes (yellow or spice) with a soy-based aerosol whipped topping.
Of course, a regular apple or cherry pie is also (generally) dairy-free, so this dietary challenge is rather easy to accommodate.
I’d have to say that this dietary restriction is the most challenging, especially if you happen to like cakes, cookies, or pie crusts.
Now there are, just like artificial sweeteners, flour substitutes. But just like sugar substitutes, they typically alter the taste and texture of the recipe. Gluten-intolerant folks have grown accustomed to these differences, but preparing a gluten-free pie crust for the only pumpkin pie you might be making for your Thanksgiving meal probably isn’t the best solution. Having said that, one of the best flours you can make as a substitute for wheat-based flours is below. Stir these ingredients together and use the results as you would a regular wheat flour in your pie crust recipe.
¾ Cup White Rice Flour (superfine)
¼ Cup Potato Starch (not potato flour)
¼ Cup Sweet Rice Flour
¼ Cup Tapioca Starch
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
If you’d prefer to purchase an all-purpose, gluten-free baking flour, Pillsbury, King Arthur, Cup 4 Cup, Glutino, Hodgson Mill, and Bob’s Red Mill all make their own special blends.
Keep in mind that fruits are gluten-free, so once again, sautéing apples or pears in butter with sugar is a great choice and most ice creams are also gluten-free. In addition, both Crème Brulee and Panna Cotta desserts are gluten-free, and both can be made pumpkin flavor. They are two of my very favorite gluten-free desserts.