A Healthy Thanksgiving Feast

by Jessica Mishra on November 22, 2010

The holidays are rapidly approaching. The air is cool and crisp, Tahoe got lots of fresh snow in the last couple of days, and Christmas decorations are going up all over town. I love this time of year!

My parents decided to come and visit me this year for Thanksgiving (yay!), and I will be in charge of preparing the turkey and side dishes for the first time ever! Not only do I love any holiday that revolves around food, but I am so thankful that I get the opportunity this year to put my own spin on things and create a delicious and healthy Thanksgiving meal to share with family and friends.

I put together a meal that includes all the essential elements of a proper Thanksgiving meal, but with a healthy twist. I would like to share the recipes that I will be using this year. I took some time and selected recipes that I felt would be just as tasty as the original dish, but used ingredients that were healthy and of high-quality. Enjoy these recipes and let me know if you try any of them out!

The Menu:

  • Maple Turkey with Gluten-free Cornbread Stuffing
  • Orange Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce
  • Green Salad with Goat Cheese and Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Green Beans with Bacon and Onions
  • My Dad’s Famous Curried Mashed Potatoes
  • Pumpkin Pie (With Fresh Pumpkin Puree) with Vanilla Coconut Milk Ice Cream/Fresh Whipping Cream

The Main Event: Turkey

For my turkey-cooking debut, I decided to try to brine it. This process is supposed to result in a very moist and flavorful turkey, and it looks way too easy to pass up. I bought a brining bag at Whole Foods. I will be using the basic recipe on the box, which calls for:

  • 1 cup kosher salt (I bought a high-quality kosher salt that is multi–colored which means the minerals are still in tact)
  • 1 cup sweetener ( I will be using maple syrup)
  • 8 quarts cold water, divided

Instructions for brine:

Boil 2 quarts of water, add maple syrup and salt, stirring until completely dissolved. Add rest of water and let cool. Place thawed turkey in the brining bag. Pour the cooled solution over the bird. Seal the bag tightly and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Turn occasionally to ensure the turkey is covered by the liquid. Remove turkey from bag and pat dry. Grill or oven roast the turkey using your favorite recipe.

Gluten-free Cornbread Stuffing:

A friend of mine sent me this recipe and it looks amazing! Scroll down to see second recipe.

Apple-Pecan Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

I will be adjusting this recipe slightly as follows:

For the cornmeal and gluten free flour blend I will be using the Bob’s Red Mill brand as I feel his products are of high-quality. Instead of white sugar, I will be using whole cane sugar. Whole cane sugar is a great, less refined substitute for regular sugar and can be used in any recipe calling for white sugar. For the vegetable oil I will be using melted coconut oil.

This recipe is nice because you can make the cornbread the day before which will shorten your prep time on the day of.

Orange Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce:

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add ½ cup – ¾ cup maple syrup or agave nectar (depending on desired tartness). Add 3-4 cups organic cranberries. Boil until you hear the cranberries “pop”. Reduce heat and add 1-2 teaspoons orange zest and a couple cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Green Salad with Goat Cheese and Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • Mixed Spring Greens
  • Chopped or Shredded Carrots
  • Diced Cucumbers
  • Diced Avocados
  • Assorted pitted olives (I get mine from the olive bar at Whole Foods)
  • Herbed goat cheese (I love Laura Chenel’s Chevre – Chabis & Dill)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Minced garlic
  • Salt, pepper

Add all the vegetables to a bowl and mix. Crumble the goat cheese on top and lightly fold in to combine. In a separate bowl combine vinegar, mustard and garlic with a whisk. While quickly whisking, add in olive oil. Whisk until the oil and vinegar are thoroughly combined. Add salt, pepper to taste. Add dressing to salad right before serving.

Green Beans with Bacon and Onions:

For this recipe I will be using nitrate-free bacon and organic green beans and onions. If using chicken stock, ensure it does not have MSG in it (monosodium glutamate).

Green Bean Recipe

My Dad’s Famous Curried Mashed Potatoes:

This recipe is a nice way to spice up the traditional mashed potatoes. We used to make both plain and curry varieties in the Mishra household and we eventually just started making the curry ones because they were so much more flavorful!

Start by boiling about 9 red potatoes in a pot of water until fork tender. Rinse, drain, and add to a bowl to be mashed. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher until the desired consistency is reached. Leave the skin on as it provides added nutrients. Set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Add a tablespoon of curry powder, salt, pepper and a couple cloves of fresh minced garlic. Add ½ of a chopped onion and cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add 1/3 a bag of organic frozen peas. Cook approximately 5-10 minutes until peas are warm. Add this mixture to the mashed potatoes and combine thoroughly. For a creamier consistency, add a splash of coconut milk. These would be great the next day in a wrap of sorts with a little cranberry sauce on top (I love the combo of sweet, spicy and savory).

The Best Part,Dessert!

I chose this recipe as it uses coconut milk in the place of condensed evaporated milk. I do happen to disagree with her recommendation to use “lite” coconut milk. Lite coconut milk does not contain all of the benefits of full-fat coconut milk. Many people shy away from coconut milk thinking it is a saturated fat that will clog the arteries.

The saturated fat from coconuts is in the form of medium chain fatty acids which support the immune system, thyroid gland, nervous system, skin, and provide fast energy. They also increase metabolism and help with weight loss (Superfoods by David Wolfe). You heard right, coconut milk will actually help you lose weight. Sorry, soap box moment….here is the recipe:

Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Milk

For the sweetener I will be using ½ cup whole cane sugar and ¼ cup maple syrup. For the crust I purchased a gluten-free ready-made crust from Whole Foods.

Pumpkin Puree:

I try not to eat too many canned foods, thus I found this recipe to make the pumpkin puree from scratch. It is quite easy and you can freeze it to use in later recipes:

Pumpkin Puree Recipe

Pie Toppers:

Fresh whipped cream: add a pint of organic heavy whipping cream to a blender with your desired sweetener. Blend until the cream thickens.

I will also be serving Vanilla Island coconut milk ice cream by Coconut Bliss. Are you starting to see a theme here? I love me some coconut!

Phew, this was a long blog post! I hope you get a chance to try some of these recipes. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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