Healthy Thanksgiving Menu
I cannot believe we are already through a good part of November. Thanksgiving is just weeks away and Christmas is right around the corner. Yippee! Some of you may be less than enthusiastic about that exclamation of mine. Y'all are thinking, “Ugh, my husband’s missing another holiday and I have to host all by myself.” Or “I don't have time to stress about hosting Thanksgiving this year!” Believe me, I understand. It’s not fun missing a spouse over the holidays or hosting when you are a busy mom or dad.
If you don't have time this year to prepare a super intricate meal but want a healthy, low-processed Thanksgiving, I have done all the legwork for you. The key to a delicious, healthy meal is proper planning.
Please learn from my mistake. If you are buying a frozen turkey, be sure you allow ample time for thawing. Don't wait until the last minute before you're going to start prepping to buy your frozen turkey. Here are some tips for thawing your bird:
Cold Water Thawing
- Thaw breast side down, in an unopened wrapper, with enough cold water to cover your turkey completely.
- Change water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled.
- Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per pound.
And, make sure you purchase a whole turkey if you decide that you want a traditional looking table. Silly me purchased a turkey breast for this article and didn't realize it until I cut open the packaging. Yes, I am a turkey roasting newbie. If you are too, don't be intimidated and learn from my mistake!
Plan, plan, plan... I cannot suggest that enough. Most of these menu items can be made a day or two ahead of time. To help you plan, each recipe includes prep ahead times. Please don't be mad at me for not including a pie or stuffing in the menu. I've never been a fan. I am always so stuffed with the turkey and bountiful sides that I have little room for rich desserts. Plus, as a nutritionist, I know how many calories are in my dinner, and just how easy it is to go overboard on this special meal. This year I am taking a different route with my Thanksgiving menu so I can enjoy my dinner and feel great afterwards. If you desire a pie you can check out the one I made last year on my personal blog which is a healthy, dairy-free option.
With all the stress and rushing around this holiday season, which seems to come every year with the same fury as the one before, remember to stop and take in the sights and smells and wonder of the season. Enjoy the time building relationships with your family and friends.
Happy chef-ing this holiday season!
Lemon-Garlic Herbed Turkey
The Seasoning: Lemony Garlic Herb Butter
(Make one day ahead.)
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, packed
- 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 4 medium cloves garlic
- 2 tsps lemon zest
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp black pepper
Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor.
(Make same day, but make sure to thaw turkey ahead of time.)
- 1 10-12 lb turkey, thawed
- Lemony Garlic Herb Butter (see above)
- 2-3 tbsps salt
- lemon wedges
- herbs leftover from Lemony Garlic Herb Butter
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place rack in large roasting pan.
- Remove giblets and neck from inside of the turkey.
- Pat turkey dry with paper towel.
- With fingers, gently separate skin from meat under breasts and around sides of turkey starting at the neck. Tuck wing tips behind turkey.
- Season under and all over skin with seasoning. Sprinkle salt all over and inside. Stuff cavity with leftover sprigs and lemon wedges. Tie turkey legs together.
- Pour 2 cups water into roasting pan. Roast for 2 hours.
- Loosely tent with foil and roast for another 30-60 minutes or until thigh reads 165 ° F.
- Remove turkey from oven. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before carving.
Note: Be sure to save the carcass after carving for turkey broth. That's what I did! If you need a good broth recipe, be sure to subscribe to InDependent's newsletter. Subscribers can download the Fall Recipe Book free during the month of November.
(Make same day.)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 6 oz (about 1 ¼ cup) baby portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 6 tbsps all-purpose flour
- 4 cups chicken or turkey broth, cooled
- 1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
- Add oil to a hot saucepan over medium-high and heat for 1 minute. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened (about 3 minutes). Add mushrooms and thyme. Stir. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is released (about 4 minutes).
- Add flour, stirring into the mixture well. Gradually add the broth, stirring constantly until thickened. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add hot pepper sauce.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
(Make up to two days ahead.)
- 1 medium butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 tbsps olive oil, divided
- pinch salt and pepper
- ½ cup shallot, chopped
- 1 cup leeks, chopped
- 2 tbsps garlic, minced
- 3 cups broth, warmed
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Preheat oven to 400 ° F. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and strings. Set aside in a bowl.
- Brush flesh of butternut squash with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Place flesh side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until you can easily puncture with a knife.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool to the touch.
- Peel off skin with either a pairing knife or a vegetable peeler. I set mine aside for a vegetable broth I made later that day.
- Cut flesh into roughly 1-inch cubes and set aside.
- Over medium heat, add remainder of olive oil in stockpot. Add shallot and saut é until translucent and fragrant. Add leeks and saut é for 5 additional minutes.
- Add minced garlic and squash and saut é until well coated in olive oil
- Add about 3-4 cups of chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
- Remove pot from heat and puree squash mixture, including liquid, in batches in a food processor or blender until smooth. Careful, it's hot! Leave a small space in the top open for the steam to escape or else you are going to have a mess on your hands. You may place a clean dish towel atop the open lid space if you are worried about food splatter.
- Return puree to the stockpot and add salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme.
- Be sure to taste to make sure it's to your liking. Sometimes I add more of each spice.
Note: If soup is too thick for you just stir in more broth one ladle at a time to your liking.
(Make up to one day ahead.)
- 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries (approx. 3 1/4 cups)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 medium cinnamon stick
- zest of one large orange
- 2 tbsps fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1 ½ cup water
Put everything in a pot.
Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
When liquid has reduced to half, remove cover and continue simmering. The longer you let this simmer, the thicker the sauce will get. Stir more frequently near the end.
Allow to cool before serving.
Whipped Yams/Sweet Potatoes
(Make up to three days ahead.)
- 3 lbs yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into approximately 1. 5-2 inch chunks
- 1 cup chicken, turkey, or vegetable broth ( sign up for our newsletter to receive a broth recipe)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2/3 cup full fat milk or unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tbsp butter or vegan alternative
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put potatoes and broth in large pot with tight-fitting lid and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
- Put potatoes back into the pot with the cinnamon, almond milk, butter, and salt.
- Mash in food processor or with handheld masher until smooth. Add vanilla extract and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
If making ahead: If they're a bit dry, stir in a little water just before serving.
Pan-seared Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Pecans
( Make same day.)
- 1 lb Brussels sprouts, de-stemed and halved
- 2/3 cup fresh cranberries
- 1/3 cup toasted pecans
- 1/2 cup barley
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- optional: Gorgonzola or blue cheese
Prepare barley according to package instructions. Heat Brussels sprouts, cranberries, and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
Add balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Stir to coat and remove from heat.
Toss barley, sprouts, cranberries, and toasted pecans in a large bowl. Top with cheese if desired.
Roasted Spiced Carrots
(Make same day.)
- 2 lb carrots, peeled
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (mine were orange infused)
Preheat oven to 400 ° F.
Prepare a shallow baking dish with the two tbsps of olive oil.
Slice peeled carrots diagonally into 1 -inch pieces and place in the dish.
Add in garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove dish from oven.
Pour orange juice over carrots and add the cranberries.
Homemade Artisan Bread
(Start at least 24 hours in advance!)
- 1 ½ cup warm water
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ¼ tsp dry active yeast
- 1 ¾ tsp salt
- optional toppings: rosemary, garlic, basil, lemon zest, chives, olives, whatever suits your fancy
Add all ingredients to bowl. Mix until incorporated in a mixer with dough hook attachment or by hand.
Transfer to a well-oiled large bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 12-18 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 ° F.
Put dough onto a floured surface and form into a ball. It'll be soft and squishy.
Dust flour on the bottom of a Dutch oven or other 2-quart size pot. Place dough ball inside.
Bake covered for 30 minutes. Make sure your cover is safe up to 450 ° F. If not cover with foil.
Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Baked Pears with Pecans and Honey
(Make same day.)
- 2 large ripe Bosc pears
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsps honey
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Option: yogurt or frozen yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cut the pears in half and place on a baking sheet. I cut a sliver off the other end so they sat upright.
Using a measuring spoon or melon baller, scoop out the seeds.
Sprinkle with cinnamon, top with chopped pecans, and drizzle 1/2 tsp honey over each one.
Bake in the oven 30 minutes.
Remove, let cool and enjoy!
What are your favorite healthy Thanksgiving recipes?