Healthy Thanksgiving Solutions

on November 1, 2009
Mark Boughton

The most food-focused holiday of the year can present challenges for healthy home cooks. Here, we dish out delicious solutions to some common Thanksgiving quandaries.

Challenge #1: You're bored with the same-old sides.
Solutions: Cranberry Jalapeno Relish and Green Beans Romescu

Cranberry Jalapeno Relish
This spicy take on cranberry sauce adds Southwestern flavors to a traditional table.

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin
2 green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

  1. Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add cranberries. Return to a boil; cook 10 minutes without stirring. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix lightly. Refrigerate. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves 8.


Green Beans Romescu
This dish is adapted from a classic Spanish sauce. Smoked paprika lends a unique flavor (find it in the spice aisle), but you can substitute regular paprika if you want.

2 pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 medium red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and cut in 2 inch lengths
1/4 cup almonds slivers, toasted
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add green beans and cook 2 minutes. Drain beans and plunge in ice water to stop cooking process. Drain well and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic, chipotle and paprika to shallots and stir well. Add beans and sauté until nearly tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add bell pepper, stir well and cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Add almonds and lemon rind and mix well. Serve immediately.

Challenge #2: You want a lighter alternatives to traditional sweet potato casserole and dressing.
Solutions: Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Thyme and Buttermilk Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Figs

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Thyme
This is one of the few dishes you can't prepare ahead. Luckily, it doesn't take long to make. Fresh thyme and the potatoes' natural sweetness produce crispy and delectable roast potatoes.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Thyme sprigs (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Cut potatoes into 3/4-inch dice and transfer to a 15 x 10-inch baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Place baking sheet on upper rack of oven.
  3. Turn potatoes after 15 minutes. Bake until potatoes are tender and edges are browned, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with thyme sprigs.

Buttermilk Cornbread Dressing with Sausage and Figs
This recipe features cornbread made with whole-wheat flour.

8 cups toasted Buttermilk Cornbread cubes*
12 ounces lean turkey Italian sausage (about 3 links)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped dried figs
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

*Buttermilk Cornbread
Makes one 8-inch square pan for about 8 cups cubed cornbread.

Cooking spray
1 cup yellow whole grain cornmeal
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons dark honey or agave nectar

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Place toasted cornbread cubes in a large bowl, and set aside. Sauté sausage in small nonstick pan over medium-high heat until brown and thoroughly cooked. Drain well; crumble; set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and celery; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic. Sauté 1 minute longer. Stir in 1/2 cup broth, sausage, figs and dried herbs. Simmer 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Pour vegetable mixture over cornbread. Add parsley and stir well. (Dressing may be prepared a day ahead to this point and refrigerated, covered, in mixing bowl.)
  3. Transfer stuffing to a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Combine eggs and remaining broth; pour over cornbread mixture, tossing well. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake 25 minutes. Remove foil; increase oven temperature to 375F and bake until top begins to brown, about 10 minutes longer.

For Buttermilk Cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Combine buttermilk, olive oil, eggs and honey whisk well. Add to flour mixture and stir just until smooth. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

To toast bread cubes for the dressing:
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut cornbread into 1/2-inch cubes. Place cubes on baking sheets; bake 5 to 7 minutes, until lightly browned.

Challenge #3: All that leftover turkey. Need we say more?
Solution: Roast Turkey Soup with Wild Rice

Roast Turkey Soup with Wild Rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1/3 cup chopped celery
2 cups sliced Shiitake or brown cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups shredded roast turkey (about 8 ounces)
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups kale or spinach, torn in bite size pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat olive oil in 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; sauté until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms; sauté 1 minute longer.
  2. Add thyme and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add turkey, wild rice and kale. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper.


Challenge #4: Your overnight guests need a healthy morning-after breakfast.
Solution: Oven-Poached Eggs in Spinach Nests

Oven-Poached Eggs in Spinach Nests
This one-dish meal is packed with low-fat protein and gives your guests a head start on their daily veggie quota.

Spinach Nests
Cooking spray
3 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound lowfat small-curd cottage cheese
4 (10-ounce) boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

8 large eggs
1 cup (4-ounces) shredded Swiss or
Parmesan cheese
4 English muffins, split and toasted
1/2 cup slivered red bell pepper, optional
1/2 cup slivered onion, optional

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

  1. To prepare the spinach nests, combine eggs, flour and cottage cheese; whisk well. Add spinach, salt and pepper; stir well. (This can be done up to 2 days ahead). Press mixture into prepared dish. Make 8 indentations with the back of a spoon (where the eggs will later be placed). Bake 25 minutes.
  2. Remove from oven and using a spoon, hollow the nests out even more deeply. Break an egg into each indentation. Bake 15 minutes or until whites are set. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 1 minute.
  3. Place 1 egg and spinach nest on English muffin half. Garnish with slivered red pepper and onion, if desired. Serves 8.
Found in: Nutrition