Get ready for the holidays with a potato dish


Want to hear something more shocking than the results of last week’s presidential election? Thanksgiving is next week – less than 7 days away!

I’m not sure if it was the preoccupation with political mayhem, the 90-plus degree weather we’ve been having, or the pain medication I’ve been taking for a strained deltoid muscle in my shoulder, but Thanksgiving has totally crept up on me.

Thankfully, there’s no crisis. The menu for Thanksgiving at my house doesn’t change too much from year to year. Some of you have heard my mantra about this meal: Don’t Mess with Tradition. I know from experience that my family does not appreciate me playing around with their holiday food.

So, I make the same thing year after year. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and biscuits from a refrigerated tube. They love it. Because I crave a little variety, I do like to make an extra side or two that is different from the same old, same old. It’s my chance to freshen up the traditional meal without causing too much of a ruckus.

Since a few members of our family have lactose intolerance, I’m always on the look-out for dairy-free dishes I can add to the repertoire. Lactose, which is a natural sugar found in dairy products like milk and yogurt, can be difficult for some people to digest.

Folks who are lactose intolerant don’t have enough of the enzyme called “lactase” to digest and break down the lactose, or milk sugar, in the small intestine. This leaves the lactose undigested as it moves into the large intestine causing symptoms like bloating, abdominal cramps, gas and diarrhea. Never enjoyable things to have any time of year, but especially not pleasant in a house full of relatives visiting for a holiday meal.

Lactose intolerance is quite common in adults, especially those with Asian, Mediterranean, African, or Native American backgrounds, and affects over 30 million American adults yearly. While some forms of lactose intolerance are a result of intestinal disease or injury, most intolerance is a normal result of aging.

As we age, our bodies gradually produce less of the lactase enzyme to help us digest dairy products. While many people will take over-the-counter lactase enzyme supplements before consuming that four-cheese lasagna, others choose to reduce or eliminate their consumption of dairy.

Not all dairy products contain a lot of lactose; hard cheeses like Parmesan, Swiss, Asiago, and cheddar are lower in milk sugars. And lactose free milks like soy, almond, coconut, and rice are readily available at most grocery stores.

If I didn’t already have potatoes on my Thanksgiving menu, I think I would include this week’s dish, Scalloped Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Basil. This delicious recipe is from Vegetarian Times magazine and is gluten-free. It can also be completely dairy-free if you use alternative cheeses. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and all the traditions of the holiday.

Scalloped Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Basil


  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) full-fat coconut milk, whisked until smooth
  • 3 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch-thick rounds
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Set rack in bottom third of oven, and preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place onion in small bowl, and strain coconut milk over top. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir together potatoes, coconut milk, Gruyère, and basil mixture in prepared baking dish, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Evenly arrange potatoes to cover bottom of dish. Potatoes should be covered with coconut-milk mixture. Sprinkle Parmesan over top. Bake 35 minutes or until top is lightly golden brown and potatoes feel tender when pierced with tip of paring knife. To brown the cheese a little more, broil for a couple minutes on high. Cool 15 minutes before serving.



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