Thursday, November 22, 2007

Recipe for Thanksgiving Success

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Is today a joyous occasion for you, or a day of dread and overindulgence? Is there a way to enjoy Thanksgiving without gaining a bunch of weight? I can tell you right now, it can be done. Some folks say it is easier to focus on the family connections, friends, and conversation rather than the food, but for some of us, it's not that simple. I don't have any extended family. I do all the cooking myself, and we stay home. There is no way I am going to skip the food, and I don't think you should either. Let me explain.

1. Roasted turkey - the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal - is VERY good for you! It is an excellent source of lean protein, is filling and tasty. Choose white meat (breast) for lower fat, but if you are really fond of the dark meat, go ahead and have a bit.

2. Mashed potatoes. I always make my mashed potatoes the same way, year round, and all of my children and husband have declared them to be the very best mashed potatoes ever! I just boil 'em, drain 'em, add about 1T of real butter (in a huge pot of 'taters, this is not enough fat to be unhealthy but does give a nice flavor) and some salt, and enough skim milk to make them creamy. Beat with an electric mixer just until creamy. You can also use fat free chicken broth in place of some of the milk if you like, for a different flavor. You can also add roasted garlic. These potatoes are nearly fat free yet creamy. Just don't top with butter. Instead, top with...

3. Gravy!! Everyone thinks gravy is a sin. When made from fat (with flour, to make a roux), it is pretty unhealthy. But again, I have always made my gravy the same way: without flour. I take the turkey pan, with its drippings, and I add some hot water and scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan into the water. Then I pour the brown drippings and liquid into a tall glass container and let it sit for a few minutes. All the fat rises to the top. You can then spoon it off, leaving only the flavorful broth to make gravy with. (I do this with beef, pork, chicken and turkey roasts). If you can't quite get that last bit of fat off the top, throw in a couple ice cubes and all the fat will stick to them, and you can scoop them out. If you have time, you can refrigerate it instead and lift off the solid fat later. Then, take your remaining, nearly fat free liquid and put it in a pan. If there isn't enough for as much gravy as you want, add canned broth. Let it come to a simmer. In a small cup, put about a half cup of cold water. Add 2 generous forkfuls of cornstarch to the cold water and stir briskly with a fork until it is dissolved, and then quickly add this liquid to the boiling gravy. And as soon as it is in the pan, start whisking it with a wire whisk. Keep on whisking and simmering for about a minute. It should thicken up right away. If it doesn't, you can add some more cold water/cornstarch until it is as thick as you like. Season with LOTS of black pepper, some salt, and if you like, onion powder. This makes excellent gravy that is very low in calories and high on flavor!

4. Stuffing. I love stuffing in my turkey. Skip the high salt, processed Stove Top and go for a simple stuffing made from toasted bread crumbs or boxed dry bread cubes. Just saute a bunch of chopped onion and celery in a nonstick pan and a bit of olive oil (just a teaspoon or so). Add that to some nonfat turkey or chicken broth, maybe a bit of skim milk, and a bunch of poultry seasoning and pour it over the bread crumbs so they are just moist but not soggy. Stuff that in the bird, and the natural juices as the turkey roasts will flavor your stuffing nicely. I am a fan of Mrs. Cubbison's bread cubes (next to the Stove Top) and there is a decent recipe on the box. Just omit the butter. Yummy stuff, just don't eat a ton of it!

5. Green bean casserole. Skip the canned processed mushroom soup kind, and make it from real, fresh green beans! You can make your green beans plain (steamed) or you can use this wonderful recipe for a delicious fresh casserole:
It is not exactly low fat, but it is delicious and much healthier than the usual canned fare. Again, have this in moderation.

6. Candied Yams. Forget about that mushy, buttery, super-sickening-sweet bowl of sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows. Enjoy the delicious, basic taste of Candied Yams made simple. Because your sweet potatoes are cut in large chunks, there is more vegetable and less sugar and fat with each bite, and it is truly my favorite way to make them.

This can be doubled.
Take 3 big sweet potatoes and scrub them clean. (Don't peel, there is a lot of nutrition and flavor in the peel! Just trim the ends or any spots). Cut into large chunks. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a skillet and toss in the potato chunks, stir to coat. Sprinkle on 1/2 c. brown sugar and 1/2 c. white sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, and a little dash of salt. Stir, cover the skillet and cook on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally til they are tender and sticky. Add 1/2 T. vanilla at the end. Yummy, great nutrition, and honestly when you eat it most of the syrup ends up staying on the plate or in the pan so it's really not bad calorie-wise.

7. Side dishes. Lots of choices for sides, but we always have warmed up, plain canned corn (no added fat and nice to have a spoonful with the potatoes), canned chilled cranberry sauce (go easy, only a spoonful or so because it's sugary), rolls (you can choose whole grain rolls if you like, but we use store bought white rolls and I only have ONE!), salad with fat free dressing (we don't always do this but it is a good option), and carrot/celery sticks. Fruit salad is also a nice side. We always have this one salad that might sound kind of ridiculous but it is everyone's favorite:

Snicker Salad (aka Caramel Apple Salad)
Get a big bag of apples. A mix of Granny Smiths and a sweet red apple like Gala or Fuji works well. Wash them, core them, and chop into bite sized pieces. Leave on the peels for nutrition, taste AND color. Make a huge bowl (I think we used about 4lbs of apples for this?) and the fold in a tub of fat free Cool Whip. Then (you're gonna love this) chop 5 Snickers candy bars in pieces. I cut them in half down the middle and then in pieces about 1/4" thick. Easier to chop if they are cold. Fold them into the apples. Viola! You're done. A great way to get everyone eating a lot of apples. Tastes a lot like caramel apples. Best if you prepare this right before serving, because it gets soupy and goopy over time even though it still tastes fine. This can be considered a dessert, also, and is a lot healthier than a piece of pie!

8. Dessert. Everyone has pies! What's a dieter to do? Have a slice. ONE slice. Whatever is your favorite. If you can't decide between Grandma's cherry pie and Mom's Pumpkin pie, have a HALF slice of each. The best way to cut calories with pie is to leave at least part of the crust on your plate. It isn't that tasty and it packs a lot of fat and calories, so just leave the last half of the crust. Best nutritional and calorie choice: pumpkin pie. Worst choice: pecan pie, with cream pies a close runner-up. Pumpkin or single-crust fruit pies are a better choice.

If you eat these foods in moderation, stopping when you are full (hey, you can have leftovers later...) then you can eat, enjoy, and not gain a ton of weight. Drink lots of water and avoid the sodas. And remember, it's just one day. It is not going to derail you unless it snowballs into 2, 3, or more days.

By the way, I have the flu! So we will be making our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. I have been sick for 3 days so I should be on the mend by tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving!!


alexis said...

Happy Thanksgiving! And I hope u feel better soon :)

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving!
I overate on Thanksgiving and did not exercised...but I didn't eat too much fatty food...!

Get better soon!

Rae said...

I hope you start feeling better soon & Have a happy Thanksgiving I am proud of myself I did great with my eating on Thanksgiving

Heather said...

hope you had a great thanksgiving and feel better!

I looove caramel apple salad and found a healthier version of it on Spark people where you use sugar free caramel pudding mix and it tastes pretty good.