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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nicci's Healthy Holiday Dinner

Me and my family wanted to put together a healthier Thanksgiving dinner with less fat, salt and calories...and it had to be flavorful. Below is our holiday dinner menu we'll be making and serving in the coming weeks.

If you're going meatless... you may still like some of recipes.

The meal is a combination of recipes we found and just tweaked a bit to our tasting.

Lets make some turkey shall we!

If you're having turkey you can make it lower in fat by seasoning the bird with your favorite fresh herbs and spices ( I love thyme and rosemary...just don't over do it!) and skipping the butter and unhealthy oils on top. I will be using olive oil...again don't over do it. I will be preparing my turkey in a brine prior to the spicing stage.

So, before tossing any spices on your turkey it should be fully thawed (about 24 hours for an average size.. if you are buying a large turkey it may take a tad instructions!) - after thawing I'll be making Sunny Andersons (from the Foodnetwork!) brine to make sure its moist and tender.

Brine the thawed out turkey prior to cooking: This is for a 10 pound turkey (more or less)

In a large enough bowl or bag, whisk together 3-4 cups apple cider, salt, 5-6 sprigs of thyme and 4 sprigs of rosemary. Add turkey and enough water to cover the bird. Cover and let brine in the refrigerator 2-4 hours. I'll be pre-measuring my oil as to not use too much, I figure 1/2 - 1 cup of olive oil...remember, the brine will help keep it moist and the oil will give it a nice browning.

Work out the timing so the oven is preheated nicely at 325 degrees. Each turkey should come with cooking directions and times. If yours does not contain them, use this site HERE.

Remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Brush with olive oil and season. Place turkey in a roasting pan. Cook required time until done and skin begins to turn golden. After cooked, let the turkey rest at least 10 minutes. Eating the skin isn't exactly healthy, so take the skin off of the turkey after you roast it and stick to eating the lower fat white meat if you the will. Also, don't cover your turkey in high-fat gravy--you can make lower fat gravy with a small amount of turkey drippings, fat fee chicken broth and sautéed veggies.

Here's a good recipe I found for a lighter turkey gravy with all the flavor:

Once you've take out your turkey try to scoop out the juices that are not fatty and put them into a small sauce pan. Once the less fatty juices have been collected and placed into a sauce pan you can put the sauce pan on the stove and put the burner on high heat. For every cup of less fat turkey juice that you have been able to scoop up you need to mix up a cup of water with three tablespoons of corn starch.

Once the low fat turkey juice is boiling quickly pour in the mixture of corn starch and water. As you pour in the corn starch and water mixture make sure you mix the pan of turkey juice. Keep stirring until the mixture is the consistency of gravy and then take the mixture off the burner and turn the burner off. Once the mixture is cooked you can add spices like salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper or garlic powder. The choice of spices depends on what you like your gravy to taste like.

Pour the low fat gravy into a serving bowl and serve.

Stuffing. Stuffing does not have to be all about butter or sausage. Instead, use whole grain bread cubes and sautéed onions, celery and apples. To give it some extra flavor, add some fat free chicken broth instead of using water. Cut the butter in your stuffing recipe in half--you won't miss that extra butter at all!

More of a Cornbread Stuffing kinda lover?

Healthier Cornbread Stuffing

Make the cornbread first. Use a corn meal mix and follow the instructions for cooking the cornbread and substitute a few ingredients it calls for to make it heart healthy. Use egg whites instead of the whole egg. Use skim milk or 1% milk. Instead of using shortening or other oils, use canola or olive oil. Add a 1/4 cup of plain yogurt.

While the cornbread is cooking, dice half of a medium onion and 4 celery stalks and put them in a small sauce pan and heat on low heat with just enough water to cover them. Cook just until they begin to be soft. Set aside.

Toast 4 pieces of whole wheat bread. Once the toast and the cornbread have cooled to room temperature, start crumbling the breads into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of sage and mix into bread well. Next, add the onions and celery. Add a 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of pepper for flavoring and mix well. Add the chicken broth and mix well. The dressing will hold together and you spread it into a large casserole dish. You can either cover it to cook later or cook it immediately. Cook on 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Instead of using gravy with your turkey and dressing, substitute Lipton's cream of chicken "cup of soup".

Everyone loves mashed potatoes at the dinner table, but if you're not careful it can be heavy on the fat and calories.

Try this cauliflower and mashed "potato" recipe on your guest...they'll never know the difference!

Ingredients (serves about 4)

1 head cauliflower
1 clove garlic
1 leek, white only, split in 4 pieces
1 tablespoon soft-tub margarine, non-hydrogenated (or another healthy choice!)
Pepper to taste


Break cauliflower into small pieces. In a good-sized saucepan, steam cauliflower, garlic and leeks in water until completely tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. While cauliflower is hot, puree until the vegetables resemble mashed potatoes. (Use a food processor, of if you prefer a smoother texture, use a blender. Process only a small portion at a time, holding the blender lid on firmly with a tea towel.) Add a little hot water if vegetables seem dry. Stir in margarine and pepper to taste.

Make the vegetables the focus of your meal by grilling them and adding seasonings. Skip the fattening green bean casserole and instead make green beans with sautéed mushrooms and garlic.

Low-fat desserts. Instead of making a fattening pie crust for your apple pie, make an oatmeal crumble topping for apples. Spray a casserole dish with fat free cooking spray. Pour one can of apple pie filling into the dish. Mix 2 tablespoons butter, ½ cup quick cooking oatmeal, ¼ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts until crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture over apple pie filling. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes....a healthy apple cobbler!

Not digging the cobbler?

How's a healthier version of good ol' pumpkin pie with a twist. Whole wheat crust!

For the full recipe with step by step instructions...and pictures. Click HERE!

Nicci's holiday tips: Don't just sit around filling up on heavy appetizers and fattening drinks before dinner is even served. Instead try serving up some wine spritzers and a vegetable platter with low-fat onion or spinach dip.

To make the onion dip, mix one 16-ounce container of fat free sour cream with a packet of onion soup mix (you can use ranch dressing mix if you prefer). I'd have a little bowl out of individually wrapped mints for Serve with a spread of broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks and sliced cucumbers.

For the low fat spinach dip (which I found on makes a terrific appetizer. Serve with a platter of fresh vegetables or with some baked chips or breadsticks. Use frozen chopped spinach if you prefer. You can spice it up a little by adding a dash of hot sauce.

* 10 ounces fresh baby spinach, steamed until wilted
* 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt, drained of excess water
* 4 ounces fat-free cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

I also like Silk soy nog (with a little cinnamon stick)as opposed to the fattening version...tastes amazing and a lot healthier!

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