Thanksgiving is a very special time for me. When I moved to the US all the other holidays were the same as back home in Canada, except Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated earlier than in the US). This holiday became symbolically significant for friendship because I was usually celebrating with friends rather than my family. Out of these circumstances “Friendsgiving” was born. My group of friends and I would always arrange a potluck Thanksgiving dinner that really celebrated how grateful we all were to be friends. We would share food and plan activities that emphasized giving back to the community, like bringing canned goods to wherever we held the dinner or we would schedule time to volunteer. Being so far from family around a holiday was difficult but Friendsgiving became a real special way for me to connect to my new home and my new family; which is certainly relevant considering the spirit of the holiday to begin with.
With Thanksgiving so close, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of holiday season - which basically begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Years Eve. During all the parties and festivities (and prepping for the parties and festivities) it can be easy break all the great health habits you’ve spent so much time cultivating during the year. Rather than watching all your hard work go to waste and feeling guilty about it here is a Healthy Thanksgiving Meal Guide full of recipes. Healthy substitutes and ideas for all of the traditional family favorites!
Butternut Squash Cornbread Stuffing
The majority of stuffing recipes traditionally uses bread as the base, which if you are striving to live a gluten free lifestyle presents a problem. But I always say that necessity can be an opportunity for adventure. Here is a stuffing recipe that uses cornbread instead of traditional bread or you can substitute the bread with a gluten free bread and still get the taste without feeling like you're depriving yourself.
Recipe copyright From The Kitchens Of, 2011
Show: From the Kitchens Of...Episode: Kenmore Elite - Celebration Meals - http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/butternut-squash-cornbread-stuffing.html
PREP TIME:10 min
COOK TIME: 1 hour
TOTAL TIME: 1hour and 10 mins
- 3 cups peeled, diced butternut squash (about half a butternut squash)
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, diced parsnips (about 2 parsnips)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups diced onion
- 2 cups diced celery
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon rubbed sage, or more to taste
- 4 cups cornbread
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lay the diced cubes of squash and parsnips out on baking sheet and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees until the vegetables start to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute the onions and celery until translucent and lightly browned. Add the cranberries and season with the sage, salt and pepper.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss the cornbread cubes with the roasted squash and parsnips and the sauteed onions and celery. Drizzle the chicken stock over the stuffing and lightly toss, adding more chicken stock as needed until the bread is moist. Transfer to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, dot with the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes.
Healthy Green Bean Casserole (Vegan)
I know that there are some American classics that you can’t help falling in love with and a green bean casserole is certainly one of them. Unfortunately, many of the traditional green bean casserole recipes have creams, soup mixes and use ingredients that don’t support a healthy lifestyle. But here is an ultra creamy version of the classic green bean casserole that’s dairy free because it uses a soaked cashew and almond milk blend for the creamy sauce. Enjoy!
PREP TIME: 45 mins
COOK TIME: 20 mins
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 5 mins
- Heaping ½ cup 365 raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
- ½ cup 365 unsweetened almond milk
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp 365 whole grain bread crumbs (sub gluten-free bread crumbs if necessary)
- 3 tbsp gluten-free oat flour (sub gluten-free oat flour if necessary)
- 2½ tsp salt (divided)
- 2 lbs 365 frozen cut green beans
- 1 tbsp 365 extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-8oz packages sliced mushrooms, chopped
- 1/2 tsp 365 ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (sub tamari if necessary)
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for at least four hours or overnight.
2. Blend soaked cashews with almond milk in a blender or food proccessoruntil completely smooth and creamy. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 475F.
4. Place onions, bread crumbs, flour and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl, tossing to combine. Be sure to separate each individual onion piece. Spread onions in an even layer on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spray onions once again with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes, tossing halfway through. Once onions are done cooking, remove from oven and lower oven heat to 350F for casserole.
5. Bring a large pot with two inches of water to a boil. Once boiling add green beans. Bring back to a boil and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain and run cold water over green beans to stop cooking. Set aside.
6. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onion. Cook for five minutes and then add garlic and mushrooms. Cook for another ten minutes, stirring often. Add nutmeg, soy sauce, white wine, 1½ tsp salt, and pepper. Simmer for about five minutes.
7. Stir in cashew cream and ¼ of the baked onions. Stir in cooked green beans.
8. Spread mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with remaining baked onions. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
So when it comes to cooking your turkey there are many options for how to prepare your bird. And it was recently recommended to me to brine turkey because it will make the turkey very moist. So I did a bit of research into brining in order to understand it a bit better and found an article that offers some additional information : http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/11/the-food-lab-the-truth-about-brining-turkey-thanksgiving.html
Out of all of the options available I still recommend roasting turkeys. First, that’s how my mother did it so it feels very traditional for me, but it also seems to be the most healthiest option - Mom’s still know best. Brining( both wet brining and dry brining) requires the use of a lot of salt and that can be an unhealthy option for many who are trying to keep their sodium down. Yes, it will take a longer amount of time, but if you keep an eye on the turkey when roasting you will end up with moist and delicious meat and it will be healthier for you. Another healthy option to think about is removing the skin on the turkey before eating it, as that also can reduce fat intake.
Here is a basic no fail Roasted Turkey Recipe that will be the healthy star of your Thanksgiving meal: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=whfkitqa&dbid=130
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Rub 3 TBS lemon juice and some salt and pepper on the outside of the turkey. Then lift up the skin where you can and rub these seasonings directly on the flesh.
Place the turkey breast side down in a shallow roasting pan. Roast unstuffed turkey for 15 minutes for each pound.
At 30 to sixty minutes before it is done, measure the internal temperature with a thermometer. (The range reflects the differing size of the turkey; do so at 30 minutes for smaller turkeys and 60 minutes for larger ones.) When it reaches 125°F/74°F, you should turn the turkey and then increase the oven temperature to
400°F/200°C for the remaining roasting time.
When the turkey is done, its internal temperature must read 165°-170°F/74°-77°C when the thermometer is inserted into the mid-thigh. When it is done remove it to a platter, and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to be redistributed and the meat to become moist throughout.
If you want optimal safety, it is better to cook turkey stuffing outside of the turkey, for the simple reason that contamination of the stuffing with microorganisms from the raw turkey is not possible if the stuffing is cooked separately. However, many people look forward to the special flavor of stuffing cooked inside the turkey, and if you decide to use that procedure, please make sure that the center of your stuffing is tested with a cooking thermometer and reaches a minimum of 165°F/74°C.
Cranberry Ginger Relish
This is one of my sister’s favorite receipes from Martha Stewart and it is a huge hit at Thanksgiving in our home because it’s very easy and is packed with fresh flavor. You may have noticed that this has sugar in it but you can reduce the amountof sugar or you can use a natural sugar substitute like stevia instead (just remember that 1 cup of sugar is converted to only 1 teaspoon of stevia).
- 1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
1. In a large saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, ginger, and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until most of the cranberries have popped, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in vinegar.
2. Remove relish from heat. Let cool to room temperature, and serve (or refrigerate up to 3 days).