Oh, wow, do we ever have so many things to be thankful for! And the chance to have a day off from work and school to celebrate with family and friends is a real gift. My friend’s mom once said that Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday because it is about enjoying good food and hanging out with those that you love. There is no need to get bogged down with the trading and unwrapping of way too many gifts that Christmas can bring.
But Thanksgiving dinner can come with the hefty price of making you overeat and feel like a stuffed turkey yourself. According to WebMD, the average American consumes approximately 4,500 calories and 229 grams fat from eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Granted Thanksgiving only comes one day a year and it is okay to overindulge every once in a while, but how about if you could enjoy some delicious seasonal food without having to wear your elastic-band pants? (And if you are like me, you are still snacking on your child’s Halloween treats- yikes!)
I have compiled a few healthier options for your Thanksgiving feast to go along with your turkey. And yes, these are easy and fun to make. Happy Thanksgiving!
There’s not much to this. I love to use baby carrots and cut up a few different vegetables: celery, cucumbers, green peppers, yellow peppers, red peppers. You can make a neat “rainbow of colors.” I love to serve these veggies with hummus, but you can also serve with a Greek yogurt dip. Skip the mayonnaise.
Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Spread
This is one of my favorite appetizers to make year-round. This recipe is from my family friend, Ashley Cashel. She and her mother, Jayne, an accomplished chef, are always cooking/ baking/ chopping up something delectable. (Jayne shares how to use real pumpkins for an aesthetically-pleasing dessert- see Ice-Cream Filled Pumpkins below.)
1 large log of goat cheese
1 basket of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
salt & pepper
Slice the goat cheese into 1/8 inch rounds
Place rounds flat on a large platter
In a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients, saving some herbs for a final garnish.
Distribute tomato and herb mixture about the goat cheese rounds.
Sprinkle remaining herbs on top of the goat cheese, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
Serve as an appetizer with Water Crackers.
Note: any fresh herbs will do the trick!
**The secret to cutting goat cheese into perfect rounds is dental floss. Wrap dental floss around pointer fingers and firmly slice through goat cheese log.
Baked sweet potatoes
Instead of adding tons of butter and sugar, why not just embrace the natural sweetness in the sweet potato itself? My husband and I bake sweet potatoes and eat with fish, steak or chicken. It is the perfect filling side.
Rinse your potatoes and prick 2-3 times with a fork. (My husband likes to coat the outside with sea salt, but that is optional.)
Place potato directly on the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Turn the oven to 425 degrees (no need to preheat).
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. (Note: Cooking time varies by diameter. Also, for easy clean-up and to collect syrupy drippings, put a small piece of aluminum foil on the rack under the rack where the potato is roasting.) Turn potato half-way through cooking time.
After time has elapsed, you can turn off oven and let potatoes sit for up to 30 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
(To expedite oven cooking time, I will prick holes in sweet potatoes and cook in microwave for 3 minutes on each side.)
Balsamic glazed carrots
We always have a bag of baby carrots in our fridge. This is about as easy as it gets!
Bag of baby carrots
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the carrots with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes or until carrots are done to taste. Coat carrots with 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar and roast for 2-3 minutes or until vinegar has evaporated.
Canned pumpkin anything
I am a big fan of canned pumpkin. I will throw it in pancakes (can add banana) and like to whip up all kinds of desserts. An easy one is to add canned pumpkin to your favorite brownie recipe to give it a distinct flavor.
Ice cream-filled pumpkins
This recipe includes actual baby pumpkins and is courtesy of Chef Jayne (these are her pictures from a recent dinner party).
Ice Cream or frozen yogurt
Optional: cookies to serve on the side
Cut the top off the pumpkins. Take out all of the seeds and thoroughly scrape the inside out. Put pumpkin in freezer for a few hours. Fill frozen pumpkin cavity with your favorite ice cream or frozen yogurt for a healthier option. Jayne used a sea salt/ caramel flavor.
Serve with your favorite cookie or biscotti on the side.