Thanksgiving dinner is synonymous with turkey. While it’s a traditional centrepiece to a harvest meal, it also seem to be a yearly hassle for those in charge of dinner.
It’s a high maintenance meal – lots of work to prepare, and often comes out dry. There’s trouble with the trimmings as well – gravy and stuffing are often loaded with calories. Don’t turn to that frozen and sodium pumped turkey yet! A headache-free Thanksgiving dinner is possible.
I’ve got tips and tricks to ease the turkey prep, as well as unique & healthy recipes to round out your holiday meal.
- Worried about what size bird to buy? Calculate 1 ½ lb per person – for 10 guests, get a 15lb turkey.
- Brush the turkey with a heart-healthy oil. Add seasonings and some white wine over top. Place the turkey on a rack in a pan – don’t let it sit directly in the liquid or it will steam.
- I like to soak a cheesecloth or J-cloth with corn oil to place around turkey, which allows for even cooking and proper browning of the bird.
- Bake at 325 F and use an instant read thermometer stuck into thigh muscles to keep an eye on the internal temperature, making sure not to hit the bone. Baste the turkey often.
- Cook for 15 minutes per lb unstuffed / 20 minutes stuffed. For example, a 10 lb turkey = 2 ½ hours unstuffed and approx. 3 ½ hours stuffed.
- Cook until approx. 170F in thigh bone – 155F in stuffing. The bird will continue cooking when you remove it from the oven.
- Remove stuffing immediately right away to prevent bacteria, but don’t slice the turkey for 20 minutes to let juices redistribute.
- For a lighter gravy, try my cranberry version:
1 cup canned whole cranberry sauce
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp thawed orange juice concentrate
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, soy sauce, orange juice concentrate, sesame oil, lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes.
Think about using these substitutions in your favourite stuffing recipe: whole grain bread, dried fruits, lots of sautéed vegetables. Never stuff a bird with the stuffing since it can become a bed of bacteria. Always bake the stuffing in a separate pan.
For a lighter and trendier stuffing try this version with wild and brown rice, dried fruit and pecans:
Wild and Brown Rice Stuffing with Dried Fruit and Pecans
¾ cup wild rice
¾ cup brown rice
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
¹/³ cup chopped green onion
¹/³ cup dried cranberries
¹/³ cup dried chopped apricots
¹/³ cup chopped cilantro or parsley
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp raspberry or balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp sesame oil
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1.Combine the wild and brown rice with the stock in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce
the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or just until the rice is
tender. Drain off the excess liquid. Place the rice in a large serving bowl and set aside
2. Stir the pecans, green onion, cranberries, apricots and cilantro into the cooled rice.
3.Whisk the olive oil, juice concentrate, lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and garlic together in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Nutritional Information per Serving
Protein 6.4 g
Fat 9.5 g
Saturated Fat 1.4 g
Carbohydrates 33 g
Cholesterol 1.9 mg
Sodium 107 mg
Fiber 3.5 g
Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice
Thanksgiving dinner has got to include a pumpkin-flavoured dessert! While most of the time we stick with a traditional pie to top off our meals, the pie crust and whipped cream can be the last thing week need after a huge feast. Try opting for a lighter (but just as tasty) dessert – my pumpkin cheesecake squares are divine & easier on the waistline.
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes
I bake these cheesecakes in a “bain marie” (water bath) to keep them moist. Just fill a large baking sheet with about ¼” water and place the muffin tin inside. You can find the square muffin tin at a kitchen store if you want a different look.
12 oz light cream cheese cut into cubes
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup pecan halves
3 Tbsp icing sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Caramel sauce (store bought or homemade) (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin (round or square) with vegetable spray.
- In food processor puree all ingredients for the cheesecake until smooth. Divide evenly into muffin pan.
- Place pan in a larger pan filled ½” with water to create a water bath.
- Bake for 15 – 18 minutes just until no longer loose in the middle.
- Meanwhile make candied pecans: Rinse the pecans with cold water. Drain, but do not let them dry. Combine the icing sugar, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg in a small bowl. Dip the pecans in the sugar mixture, coating them well. Spread on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F in the center of the oven. Remove and cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, chop coarsely.
- Chill cheesecakes in freezer to cool down quickly.
- Serve cheesecakes with chopped nuts over top and caramel sauce if using.
Nutritional Information per Serving
Protein 4 g
Saturated Fat 3.3 g
Sodium 150 mg
Fiber 1 g