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My Food Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving

11/26/2013 09:06 am ET | Updated Jan 26, 2014

When it comes to holidays, Thanksgiving has the best menu, in my very humble and completely unscientific opinion. We're talking all of my favorites: mashed potatoes, apple pie, dinner rolls, turkey gravy, stuffing...

Notice a trend here?

Gluten.

Wheat.

Dairy.

Gluten and wheat and dairy in (almost) everything.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in New York with my sister and some friends. Early on in the planning stages, we realized we were embarking on quite the adventure. Among the group, a few were newly vegetarian or vegan, myself and another had problems with gluten and wheat, and I couldn't do dairy or egg.

But instead of getting intimidated by these restrictions, we met the challenge and crowdsourced recipes. We decided right away that everyone probably wouldn't be able to eat everything at the table -- that would be too difficult (and unnecessarily stressful for us cooks). So long as there were enough options on the menu for everyone to fill up their plates, we'd consider the meal a success.

This was my first gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free Thanksgiving, so the first thing I did was hit the Web in search of recipes. You'd be amazed how easy it is to find recipes that meet any and every dietary restriction; I had dozens to choose from.

Below are a couple of recipes that made the grade as well as a new one I plan to experiment with this year. Give them a shot -- your allergy-afflicted guest will be overcome with gratitude (which is the point of Thanksgiving, after all).

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Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
gluten-free / dairy-free

This is my all-time favorite Thanksgiving dish. I usually go back to the banquet table for seconds... and then later that night heat up some leftovers for a snack while watching a holiday movie. Hey, Thanksgiving is for indulging!

Skipping the spuds was simply not an option, but when your favorite dish typically includes a fair amount of butter and milk and flour (oh my...) finding an alternative can feel a bit daunting.

Turns out, it's incredibly easy to tweak this Thanksgiving favorite.

Fluffy Mashed Potatoes recipe from Post Punk Kitchen

Instead of unsweetened almond milk, I tried unsweetened coconut milk, which also tasted great. This particular recipe uses olive oil in place of butter, which I loved, but I still added a bit of vegan butter to my own plate for personal taste.

Gluten-Free Gravy recipe from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

I used organic chicken broth, which you can buy at most grocery stores. The key is to just keep stirring -- eventually, the gravy will thicken up! Be patient. This year, I'm going to experiment with vegetable broth for my vegan friends.

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Apple Pie
gluten-free / dairy-free / vegan

My sister does the baking in the family, and when she set out to make not just a dessert that I could enjoy, but a full-on pie that met the necessary restrictions (and actually tasted good at the same time), I worried she may have bitten off more than she could chew (oh, the puns). Baking a pie without gluten or wheat is one thing, but no dairy, either? Yikes.

Good thing she ignored my concerns. This recipe was a huge hit. I've already put in my request for a repeat performance this Thanksgiving.

Apple Pie recipe from Rajovilla.

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Note: Adorable cookie cutter latticework optional, though it certainly makes for a great food photo op.

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Pumpkin Black Bean Soup
gluten-free / dairy-free / vegan

Okay, you caught me: This isn't a traditional Thanksgiving dish. However, at our fete last year, a friend of mine served up this warm-and-hearty-with-a-bit-of-a-kick recipe, and it absolutely hit the spot. In fact, I made my own batch the following week, and it's become one of my favorite winter soup recipes. Plus, it has pumpkin in it, which automatically makes it appropriate for the holiday.

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup recipe from Smitten Kitchen

To keep things vegetarian for our crew, we omitted the ham and used vegetable broth instead of beef. I've also used chicken broth when making it for myself -- both work great!

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Stuffing
gluten-free / dairy-free / vegan

A new recipe I'm trying this year!

Confession: I'm not a huge fan of the gluten-free, vegan breads currently sold in grocery stores (the ones I've tried, at least). Maybe I just haven't found my perfect match, but they typically taste bland and crumble to pieces the second I take a bite. No thanks. And yes, I know I could make my own bread, but it's been far easier to just swap out my morning toast with something else. Because of this, I haven't had stuffing with my Thanksgiving meal for a couple of years.

However, I'm thinking with all of the added ingredients and spices (and since dry bread soaks up the stock better), this gluten-free stuffing recipe could work out. Stay tuned.

Gluten-Free Bread Stuffing recipe from Whole Foods Market

I plan to substitute vegetable stock instead of chicken and vegan butter instead of regular.

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I was more than surprised to discover that this whole holiday-foods-that-everyone-can-enjoy-and-still-taste-yummy thing wasn't so hard after all. If you're new to the world of food allergies and/or intolerances, don't be intimidated. There are hundreds (let's be real, thousands) of incredible food writers and bloggers out there with recipes just waiting to be tested.

If you have food allergies or an intolerance and would like to share your tips or links to favorite recipes, please do!