With all of the indulgences and sweets out there tempting you this time of you, we all seem to give ourselves the “okay” to binge during the Thanksgiving meal. But, if you look at the traditional American feast created for Thanksgiving, it’s enough to make a foodie’s hair fall out. Boxed stuffing. Instant mashed potatoes. Canned cranberries. And the one healthy item, sweet potatoes, are overladen with sugar and marshmallows. Or how about green beans drowning in canned creamed soup? Then after over-dosing on carbohydrates, calories, artificial flavorings and preservatives, there are the desserts waiting their turn to do their damage to your body.
The first Thanksgiving meal I made for my family was intuitively healthy and delicious. It is possible to do both. My string bean casserole is made with fresh strong beans, real mushrooms and caramelized onions. I use just a bit of cream for the sauce, but overall the calories are slashed considerably.
Sweet potatoes? Squash? I bake it and mash it. It’s already sweet. I add a dab of butter, salt and pepper and it’s done.
The turkey? I keep it simple, preferring au just to heavy gravy. I use a fat strainer to separate the fat from the pan drippings. I also made my own stock with the neck and giblets while the turkey is roasting.
Cranberries? NEVER EVER, EVER from a can! I prefer the sweet and sour flavor of my cranberry sauces, so I use fruit juice and just a bit of sugar. Keep it unprocessed by experimenting with other sweeteners, like honey, agave nectar, stevia and brown sugar. Plus, I love to mix fresh seasonal ingredients with the cranberries, from oranges to pomegranates, serrano chiles to persimmon.
Mashed potatoes? Always made fresh. I’ve used all sorts of potatoes, from baby reds to big Idaho russets. I keep it simple, I’ve mixed in cauliflower and I’ve also mixed in pumpkin, too.
The worst offender on the dinner table is the stuffing. In the past, I made it healthier by using whole wheat bread. I adore homemade stuffing, made with celery and mushrooms. But, alas, I know it’s not good for me. So, this year I chose a gluten-free route. I used quinoa. I combined my green beans and mushrooms with my quinoa to create my faux-stuffing. Seasoned with white wine, sage and thyme… you could taste Thanksgiving with each bite. Click here for the recipe. Another great quinoa side dish for the fall is my Quinoa Pilaf with Butternut Squash & Pomegranate. Click here for even more quinoa recipes.
Well, there you have it. My healthy, yet delicious Thanksgiving meal. Maybe you think it’s just too much work. But, you’ll be surprised how easy these side dishes really are. They can easily be whipped up while the turkey is quietly roasting away, with time to spare to catch up with family or watch the big game. Or even indulge in a glass of Pomegranate Sangria!
I’m not the only one challenging you to keep it healthy and real during the holidays. Cathy from What Would Cathy Eat has her Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge going on as well. Her story is remarkable and you’ll rethink your diet after checking out all of her healthy recipes!