Lightening up the BIG Thanksgiving FEAST!

By: Marci Resnick


We all LOVE Thanksgiving and all the yummy foods that go with it, but most of us don’t like the “food coma” or bloated feeling we get after the holiday meal or even the next day. Now I’m a big foodie and also a traditionalist when it comes to my Thanksgiving meal so there are certain foods that I just have to have at my Thanksgiving table. I mean, what’s Thanksgiving without stuffing, green bean casserole, brussel sprouts and pumpkin pie?? BUT…. I also don’t want to blow an entire week of healthy eating on just one meal!! So what’s a girl to do?? The answer is simple, find ways to satisfy those cravings for those Thanksgiving classics, but in a healthier and lighter way.

Over the years, I have played around and taste tested a number of different “healthier” versions of Thanksgiving classics. My main goal of course, ….. lighten up the GREAT Thanksgiving FEAST! The problem is, healthy is not always synonymous with tasty! But never fear, I am an adventurous eater and will not stop until I get it right. So… today I bring you three recipes that will not only satisfy your cravings for those Thanksgiving faves, but also, make your tastebuds ( and your waistline) sing with NO DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING GUILT.

Now, let’s be honest here. Never, have I ever heard anyone say…”I can’t wait to eat that yummy roast turkey!” We all know the turkey is SUPPOSED to be the STAR of the meal, but yet the real action on the table is the sides! I mean a turkey without stuffing would be like getting dressed and forgetting to put shoes on before going out! The two just go together and the stuffing REALLY is what makes the turkey shine. But….there is no reason, we can’t find a healthier and tasty alternative to the traditional bread stuffing. This is where SWEET POTATO UNSTUFFING comes along and I LOVE this STUFF ( no pun intended)! This one satisfies three of my requirements on the Thanksgiving table: the stuffing, the sweet potatoes and the brussel sprouts. It’s chock full of some of my fave fall foods (sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, dried cherries, apples, & pecans ) and has the flavor of stuffing, but without the bread. I guess you could say it is a stuffing, that will not leave you stuffed! Once you try this unstuffing stuffing, you will ask yourself why it took you so long to make it!

SWEET POTATO UNSTUFFING!

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  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed (1 ½–2 cups, ¼–½ inch cubes)

  • 1 1/2 cups halved or quartered Brussels sprouts

  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (3/4–1 cup)

  • 2 celery ribs, chopped (3/4–1 cup)

  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 medium apple, cored and diced

  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme (1 tsp. dried)

  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary or sage (1 tsp. dried)

  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder

  • 1 tsp. sea salt

3 Tbsp. avocado oil or oil of choice

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Combine all of the ingredients (except for dried cherries and pecans) in a large bowl. Toss with oil

  3. Transfer to a baking dish and cover with foil.

  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, add the dried cherries and pecans, toss and then bake for an additional 10-20 minutes longer or until sweet potatoes are cooked through. Remove from oven and serve.

Now, I’m all for nostalgia, but if you are still eating grandma’s high calorie, high fat version of green bean casserole, you must still own a VCR, think that TIK TOK is the sound that a clock makes and live in the DARK AGES! It’s time to lighten it up and kick up the flavor baby with this healthier and lighter version of an oldie but a goodie!

Ingredients for Healthy Green Bean Casserole

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  • Green beans: We are using fresh string or French green beans. You can use thawed previously frozen green beans too.

  • Milk: Using 3.25% whole milk makes the most creamy sauce. 2% works as well but I wouldn’t recommend less than that.

  • Onions and Mushrooms: Slowly cooked onions, almost caramelized, add that classic French onion taste. We do not spend 30 minutes on caramelizing onions, just enough to bring out their best flavours. Use brown mushrooms or also known as “Baby Bella” as they pack more flavor. Please skip white mushrooms.

  • Oil: Any oil you use for frying like olive oil, avocado oil or coconut oil.

  • Pecans: I use crumbled pecans in place of breadcrumbs.

  • Dried herbs, red pepper flakes and cornstarch: Dried oregano, basil, and thyme add another layer of flavour. Red pepper flakes are added for a little heat kick. Cornstarch thickens the sauce.

  • Parmesan cheese: Parmesan adds major umami flavor, nuttiness and saltiness when combined with fried onions and roasted pecans. It goes in the topping and in the sauce as well.

How to Make Healthy Green Bean Casserole

  • Start onion topping: Roast pecans in a hot skillet until fragrant, stirring often cause nuts burn quickly. Transfer to a large bowl and then cook onions with oil for about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown/almost charred, stirring occasionally.

  • Cook string beans and mushrooms: Return skillet to the stove. Add green beans, oil, a splash of water and cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring once. Transfer to a large bowl and then sauté mushrooms until golden brown.

  • Make creamy sauce and add green beans: While mushrooms are cooking, whisk milk, Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, pepper and cornstarch. Add to the skillet with mushrooms, bring to a boil and cook until thickened a bit. Turn off heat, add previously cooked green beans and stir.

  • Finish onion topping: To the bowl with fried onions and pecans, add Parmesan, oregano, salt and stir well.

  • Assemble and bake: Spray large baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer green beans and mushroom mixture and sprinkle with onion topping. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes in preheated oven at 375 degrees F oven.

Of course any memorable Thanksgiving meal would not be complete without dessert! Now I’m a pumpkin pie girl, but….I certainly don’t discriminate when it comes to sweets and I’m always up for more than one dessert at my Thanksgiving table (or really any other time :) Plus, my peanut gallery (aka the hubs) prefers a chocolate dessert while my dad never met a cheesecake he didn’t like! Allow me to introduce…the Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Shooter! At only 78 calories and 4 grams of fat per shooter, this guilt free dessert finishes up the Thanksgiving meal with just the right amount of pumpkin, chocolate AND cheesecake and can satisfy the most discriminating sweet tooth.

PUMPKIN CHEESCAKE SHOOTERS

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1.5 oz total whole chocolate graham crackers

  • 4 oz 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened

  • 1/2 cup pure canned pumpkin

  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar, unpacked

  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 8 oz light whipped topping or whipped cream

  • Chocolate shavings for topping ( optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Crush graham crackers in a food processor. Set aside

  • In a large bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth with an electric mixer.

  • Add the pumpkin, vanilla, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat until well combined and creamy.

  • Use a spatula to fold in 5 oz (1-1/2 cups) of the whipped topping; combine until no streaks remain.

  • Place in a piping bag or ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.

  • To assemble: Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of graham cracker crumbs on the bottom of each shot glass. Pipe a layer of pumpkin cheesecake onto the graham cracker crust (about 1 tbsp) followed by a layer of whipped topping. Repeat a second layer and finish with another sprinkle of crumbs.

  • Insert small spoons and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays. It truly is all about family being together, gratitude and good food. The Thanksgiving meal, however, doesn’t have to be a “Belly BUSTER”. Simply by substituting a few of our traditional recipes for lighter, healthier versions, and learning how to navigate the Thanksgiving table, we REALLY can save hundreds of calories and not completely derail our nutrition goals. AND the best part….we can still enjoy a really TASTY Thanksgiving meal!


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