Ben’s Thanksgiving Survival Guide, Pt. 1

Posted November 2, 2010 by

Thanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday. I love food, and while Thanksgiving originated to celebrate the act of being thankful for who and what we have in our lives, we all know we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t admit that the feast is a major (perhaps the primary) aspect of this holiday!

While I encourage the occasional splurges because it has been shown to help keep the overall nutrition program on track (less chance of burning out), and Thanksgiving is one of the best times to take advantage of said splurges, that doesn’t mean that one needs to purposely make meals as unhealthy as possible. Beyond this, “healthy eating” shouldn’t be seen as a necessary, less-tasty alternative to the unhealthy foods we all enjoy eating—there is no reason healthy foods can’t be made just as deliciously (or often MORE deliciously) as their unhealthy counterparts.

I would like to challenge each of my readers to substitute just one of the healthier alternative Thanksgiving dishes listed in this article series for one of your typical Thanksgiving dishes this year. You will likely be surprised to find that it’s just as satisfying as the original, if not more so, AND you won’t be sacrificing your diet in the process!

Stuffing Alternative: Pear, Prosciutto & Hazelnut Stuffing

Each serving of this stuffing provides 6 grams of fiber, 23 net grams of complex carbohydrates, 9 grams of protein and only 5 grams of fat (healthy fat at that!). The toasted nuts and crisped prosciutto provide an excellent, deep flavor to the dish.

  • 3 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut into ribbons
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 2 cups diced fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 2 tsp minced fresh sage
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 8 cups stale whole-grain baguette, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 Bosc pears, ripe but firm, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto; cook, stirring, until crispy, about 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel and shallot and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add sage, thyme and rosemary and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Transfer everything to a large bowl and gently stir in bread, pears, parsley, hazelnuts and the prosciutto. Add broth; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the stuffing into the prepared baking dish; cover with foil. Bake for 40 minutes; remove the foil and bake until the top is beginning to crisp, 25 to 30 minutes more.

To toast chopped nuts & seeds: Cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Alternative: Pumpkin Coconut Tart

This tart is healthier than ultra-buttery, super-sugary pumpkin pie and yet it retains a delictably-complex and rich flavor thanks to the coconut milk, dark rum and spices.

  • 1 1/4 cups white whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 tbsp granulated Splenda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 tbsp cold reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel)
  • 1 1/2 cups canned unseasoned pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup granulated Splenda
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup “lite” coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut chips, (see Ingredient Note) or flaked coconut, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 11-inch round or 8-by-12-inch rectangular removable-bottom tart pan with cooking spray.

To prepare crust: Combine flour, almonds, 1 tablespoon Splenda and salt in a food processor; process until the almonds are finely ground. Add butter one piece at a time, and then cream cheese by the tablespoonful, pulsing once or twice after each addition, until incorporated. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan (it will be crumbly), spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom and all the way up the sides to form a crust. Bake the crust until set but not browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

To prepare filling: Beat pumpkin, 3/4 cup sugar, rum, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in coconut milk. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling.

Bake the tart until the filling is just set (the center may still appear soft, but will become more solid as it cools), 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Serve room temperature or refrigerate until chilled. Remove the pan sides before slicing. Garnish with coconut, if desired.

Recipes originally provided by Eating Well.

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