Monday, November 24, 2008

Simple, Healthy Thanksgiving Ideas

Thanksgiving. The day of family, celebration, thanks and gorging yourself on as much food as humanly possible and spending the next six months wondering how you'll lose those holiday pounds. You hear it all the time, "You can eat whatever you want in moderation," but "moderation" isn't what Thanksgiving is all about. Thanksgiving is about stuffing yourself fuller than the bird, drifting off in a tryptophan induced catatonic state, and then devouring leftovers by the fistfuls for days afterwards. And I say hell yeah, eat yourself silly. I'm no nutritionist or a doctor, but I do cook a mean Thanksgiving meal and have a few tricks to making healthy substitutes to some of your favorite dishes without skimping on flavor.

First Tip, how to make a turkey moist and juicy and flavorful, SANS BUTTER.

I'm not gonna tell you how to roast a turkey. You can or you can't, and if you CAN'T, don't start on Thanksgiving!

My mother always put pats of butter under the turkey skin, but I prefer broth and herbs. I also inject the turkey periodically with syringes of the broth/herb mix, and have also used apple juice to add some moisture and flavor.
Second Tip-Sweet Potatoes.
My S'Meat Potato Recipe (don't worry, it's Vegetarian friendly!)

3-5 Large, Peeled Sweet Potatoes, Chopped, Boiled and Ready to Whip
Fat Free Condensed or Evaporated Milk, use to moisten, eyeball and taste measure
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup or so of Unsweetened Applesauce
1/4 stick of Light Butter OR you can use Spray Butter Sparingly. Don't use fat free butter substitute. it's gross, you'll ruin the dish and be really pissed.

Yams are sweet as is, and i eat them year round, baked, whipped, candied...however. I love me some yams! An easy way to cut the fat with Sweet Potatoes (aka "S'Meat Potatoes, since Gracie my kitten, alias "Meat" likes to help.) I use fat free condensed milk in place of cream, and mix it with fat free milk. It's less fatty, but condensed milk is heavier and tastes richer without added fat, and fewer calories. I also use unsweetened applesauce as a natural sweetener. I use applesauce in a lot of things for added sweetness when I'd rather not use white sugar. Experiment and see what you prefer to taste, but don't overdo applesauce or condensed milk, or your sweet potatoes will be watery!

Third Tip-My Moist and Flavorful Stuffing Recipe
Love Stuffin'

1-2 Loaves of Bread, Chopped into cubes
1-2 Cans Swanson Low Sodium Chicken Broth (if you can find turkey, God Bless you!)
2-3 peeled & chopped Granny Smith Apples
1 cup diced onions, frozen are fine
1-2 Cans of Chestnuts
Celery Seed (if you want....)

Stuffing, or Dressing, is quintessentially Thanksgiving to me. And being a carb hound, I can't get enough stuffing. I like to make homemade stuffing from toasted bread chunks. I go to a bakery, pick up whatever bread suits my fancy (whole wheat, white, foccaccia, something not too heavy-avoid pumpernickel or rye, unless you want that strong flavor coming thru). I use the herbs i used for the turkey, which I get from William Sonoma. You can blend your own, but they do it for you, so why mess with easy perfection! Cut the bread into chunky squares, and let them get a bit stale. Once they are stale-but not moldy-toast them in the oven for a few minutes so they get warm and a little more firm. I saute up onions, chestnuts and granny smith apples in a teflon pan, using a little extra virgin olive oil, some generous pinches of salt and pepper, and a few liberal dashes of celery seed-i don't like celery, so i avoid it. It's the texture. Crisp and stringy...ick. Once everything is soft and the onions are translucent, I put in 1 can of Chicken Broth. I use a lot of chicken broth, simple Swanson low sodium chicken broth. Let this simmer for a bit, until the broth cooks down considerably, then I add my toasted bread chunks. They start to absorb the mixture, and the flavors start to meld gloriously. I keep an extra can of broth around, to keep it moist, and keep stirring occasionally until ready to serve. You can add dried cranberries, pears, squash-whatever you like, to make your stuffing unique. This is my recipe, and for the last 6 years, I've had it as a standing request at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it's sooo yummy, and actually not that unhealthy considering it's a Turkey Day Staple!

Hopefully this tips and recipes will help you feel a little less guilty about the Thanksgiving Feeding Frenzy! Happy Cooking and Happy Thanksgiving!

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