Thanksgiving Day 2011: Top Easy, Healthy Recipes for Your Holiday Menu

on November 20 2011 7:02 PM

For Thanksgiving Day 2011, friends and family will be looking forward to some traditional dishes as roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, pecan and pumpkin pie, and sweet potato and green bean casseroles. But what about finding recipes for a healthy, easy or (god forbid) fast-prepped Thanksgiving menu, too?

Below, you'll find our favorite recipes for Thanksgiving classics that are healthy, easy and absolutely delicious. Many of these recipes cut time from meal prep, too. If you want to stick closer to you traditional recipes, keep scrolling for tips on how to cut fat and calories, as well as hassle, without sacrificing taste.

Our Green Bean Casserole Recipe: Fresh French Casserole

This recipe ditches Campbell's soup, which is full of salt and often far fattier than it needs to be. This version uses fresh mushrooms with its frozen beans and ditches the french-fried onions for a recipe that's fast, easy and healthy.

Servings: 6

Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. frozen french-cut green beans (about 4 cups)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbs. canola oil, divided
  • 1 medium sweet onion, half diced and half sliced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 tb. buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tb. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 1/4 tsps. salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and bring to a simmer, stirring often.
  4.  Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  5. Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat.
  6. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread onion topping over the casserole.
  7. Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Our Mashed Potato Recipe: Miracle Mash

If you prefer, you can nix the garlic from this recipe, but it's definitely what makes this recipe so special to us. The trick to this recipe is mixing cauliflower with potato-- it has the same texture, and is a lot healthier for you. The time spent peeling spuds meanwhile, can now be spent relaxing and spending time with family, and that's what every Thanksgiving day should be.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized russet potato (about 12 oz.)
  • 5 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
  • 3 tbsp. fat-free half & half
  • 2 tbs. light whipped butter or buttery spread
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or more to taste
  • Optional: roasted garlic, black pepper, chopped chives

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, peel and cube the potato, and break up the cauliflower florets.
  3. Add potato and cauliflower to boiling water. Return to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. Cook until potato and cauliflower are very tender, 15 - 20 minutes.
  4. Drain water and transfer potato and cauliflower to a large bowl. To the bowl, add half & half, butter, and salt. Mash until completely blended.
  5. If you like, season with pepper, additional salt, garlic and chives.

Our Stuffing Recipe: Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing

Cornbread stuffing is a Southern favorite, and a welcome change from traditional white-bread stuffing. This recipe cuts two-thirds of the fat of a regular homemade of store-bought stuffing, all while still giving you a Thanksgiving side with some delicious textures and flavors.

Servings: About 12

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Italian turkey sausage (about 4 links), casings removed
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
  • 2 pounds prepared cornbread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups worth)
  • 1 1/2-3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tb. sage
  • Pepper and parsley to taste.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with Pam cooking spray.
  2. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add onion and celery; cover, reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add cornbread, parsley and sage.
  4. Bring broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Pour 1 cup over the stuffing mixture and toss gently (the cornbread will break into smaller pieces). Add as much of the remaining broth as needed, 1/2 cup at a time, until the stuffing feels moist but not wet. Spoon the stuffing into the prepared pan and cover with foil.
  5. Bake the stuffing until thoroughly heated, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Note: to give your stuffing an added kick, use spicy sausage instead of sweet.

Our Cranberry Sauce Recipe: Berry Almond Sauce

This cranberry sauce substitute avoids being cloyingly sweet and has a nice crunch to it from the almonds and apples. It's fast, too!

Servings: 12

Total Time: Overnight (30 minutes active time)

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz. bag whole cranberries
  • 1 11 oz. can mandarin oranges
  • 1 cup peeled and finely chopped apples
  • 1 envelope (1/4 oz.) dry unflavored gelatin
  • 2/3 cup Splenda sweetener
  • 1/4 cup Almond Accents, Oven Roasted
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a medium pot, combine cranberries, Splenda, and sugar with 1 3/4 cups water. Set stove to medium heat, cover pot, and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes, uncovering to stir occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small dish, combine gelatin with 1/4 cup cold water, stir well and set aside.
  3. Turn off heat and stir in gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved and thoroughly combined. Stir in cinnamon and apples and mix well. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours (overnight is best).
  4. Once chilled and set, remove mixture from the fridge and give it a good stir. Drain juice from the can of orange segments. Roughly chop orange segments and drain any excess liquid from them. Slightly crush almonds so that they break into smaller pieces. Add chopped orange segments and almond pieces to the cranberry sauce, and mix thoroughly.

Our Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe: Orange Pecan Casserole

This sweet potato casserole swaps sticks of butter for honey and oranges, and marshmallows (save them for the hot chocolate) for a pecan streusel. Trust us: this easy, scrumptious recipe is about to become an instant favorite

Servings: 10

Total Time: 70 minutes

Ingredients

For Casserole:

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbs. canola oil
  • 1 tb. honey
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For Topping:

  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 2 tbs. canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan. Mash and measure out 3 cups.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (or similar 2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Whisk eggs, oil and honey in a medium bowl. Add mashed sweet potato and mix well. Stir in milk, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish.
  4. To prepare topping: Mix flour, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, oil and butter in a small bowl. Blend with a fork or your fingertips until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over the casserole.
  5. Bake the casserole until heated through and the top is lightly browned, 35 to 45 minutes.

Our Turkey Recipe: Herb-Roasted Bird

This method gets you the juiciest, best-tasting turkey ever, and the cooking method lets the flavor soak in. That way, even if you remove the skin to cut some fat, you'll still be getting the same delicious flavors. Cooking the stuffing separately meanwhile, saves calories both in your serving of turkey and in your sides, since the fat will drip into the pan's base instead of into the bread.

Servings: 15

Total Time: 3 1/2 hours

Ingredients

 

  • 1 10-12-pound turkey
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs
  • 20 whole sprigs, such as thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano or marjoram
  • 2 tbs. canola, oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups aromatics, like onions, apples, lemons or oranges, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 cups water, with more as needed

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 475°F.
  2. Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavities and reserve for making gravy. Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan; pat dry with paper towels. Mix minced herbs, oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey, under the skin and onto the breast meat. Place aromatics and 10 of the herb sprigs in the cavity. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Add 3 cups water and the remaining 10 herb sprigs to the pan.
  3. Roast the turkey until the skin is golden brown, 45 minutes.
  4.  Remove the turkey from the oven. If using a remote digital thermometer, insert it into the deepest part of the thigh, close to the joint. Cover the breast with a double layer of foil, cutting as necessary to conform to the breast. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting for 11/4 to 13/4 hours more. If the pan dries out, tilt the turkey to let juices run out of the cavity into the pan and add 1 cup water.
  5. The turkey is done when the thermometer (or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone) registers 165°F. Transfer the turkey to a serving platter and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes. Remove string and carve.

Our Pumpkin Pie Recipe: Graham Cracker Pumpkin Pie

Swapping a pre-made or home-made dough crust for a graham cracker version can actually be healthier, and let's be honest-- they taste better anyway! Some sugar substitutes and swapping tofu for milk and eggs helps this recipe get even healthier, giving the pie a delicious, super-silky texture that's done in 2/3 the time.

Servings: 10

Total Time: 75 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 can (16 ounces) pureed pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup Splenda sweetener
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3 tbs. cornstarch to firm up the pie filling
  • 1 package (10-12 ounces) silken/soft tofu
  • 1 9-inch graham cracker crust pie shell

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Mix the pumpkin and sugar. Add salt, spices, cornstarch and tofu, mix thoroughly.
  3. Lower heat to 350° F and bake for another 60 minutes. Chill and serve.

Want more suggestions on how to have an easier, healthier Thanksgiving Day feast this year? Your 2011 menu can be helped by the these tips, including some of great ways to cook your Thanksgiving Turkey and different ways to cut fat and calories from your favorite pies and other Thanksgiving desserts.

Stuffing Tips:

Not in the mood for sausage and cornbread, or don't want to have to find prepared bread to use? Use these tips to make your traditional recipe healthier, and save time.

  • Cook your stuffing outside the turkey. Stuffing baked separately has half the fat and calories of stuffing inside the bird.
  • Use egg substitutes, cream-style corn or greek yogurt as alternatives to oil, butter and milk.
  • Balance bread with fruits, nuts and lean meats. It can cut your cooking time, add texture to your meal, and keep you from OD-ing on starches on Thanksgiving Day 2011.

Sweet Potato Casserole Tip:

If you can't bear breaking away from the marshmallow topping, you can still make your traditional sweet potato casserole recipe healthier by trading something else: the sweet potato itself. Switch it out for butternut squash, and you'll cut fat and calories without sacrificing any taste.

Cranberry Sauce Tips:

If the sauce sounds like too much work, you can stick to a home-made recipe and use sparingly. Just be sure to avoid the canned version at all costs. Canned cranberry sauce is full of sugar, corn syrup and other sweeteners, with almost none of the good stuff left.

Turkey Tips:

  • Avoid butter all together and use a miso paste rub or a white wine baste on the turkey. It will keep the bird fresh without adding almost any caloriess
  • Stick to white meat as much as possible: it has less calories and fat, and some believe white meat fills you up faster.
  • Let the turkey rest for 30-40 minutes before you carve it. The bird will absorb juices will draining some fat.
  • Remove the skin, and save 15-25 calories and 2-3 grams of fat per serving.

Gravy Tips:

  • Skim the fat from your pan juices. To make things faster, plop in some ice cubes, which will make the fat congeal and make it easier to get rid of the excess.
  • Avoid mix or time-wasting gravy altogether with this fast solution: use the drippings from the roasting pan (skimming this as well) to pack a powerful punch and cut gravy prep time out of your 2011 Thanksgiving Day meal completely.

Dessert Tips:

Desserts, especially pies, are many people's favorite part of their Thanksgiving meal. Here are some more tips to make a healthy, easy dessert for Thanksgiving Day 2011.

  • Ditch the top crust. You'll save time, making your prep work a lot faster, and you'll shave off significant amounts of calories and grams of fat.
  • Use egg whties or egg substitutes instead of whole eggs. Most recipes are unaffected by the swap.
  • Cut the sugar, especially in a pecan pie. Using maple syrup and Splenda mixes also yields good results.
  • Still stuck on having pecan pie instead of the (much healthier) pumpkin? Opt for mini-pies you can get at the store.

For more tips on dessert swaps, check out our earlier Thanksgiving Day 2011 dessert article here. Recipes courtesy of hungrygirl.com and eatingwell.com.

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