Healthier Thanksgiving Alternatives
Are you an avowed vegetarian or maybe just tired of traditional turkey? Perhaps you have relatives or friends coming to celebrate Thanksgiving whose tastes and new traditions run more to tofu and tempeh than turkey and ham. Or maybe you’re cutting out or down on sugar, salt or butter–as conventional cranberry sauces, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, gravies, potatoes, pies, and other dishes can be high in sugar, sodium, and/or fat. Maybe you are living gluten-free and want some yummy ideas to make your holiday main dish, side dishes, and desserts sing.
Healthier eating doesn’t have to be dull, and even if you’re not changing your own diet, accommodating guests can be a flavorful experience for all. These tasty, tempting holiday alternatives will provide your family and guests with scrumptious dishes that may just make the usual fare a distant memory.
Thanksgiving Meatless Loaf
(from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)
1 medium sweet potato (about 7 ounces)
1 medium onion
2 ribs celery
1 medium carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans (or other white beans), drained and rinsed
14 ounces extra-firm tofu (one 14 to 16-ounce package)
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon spicy brown or whole-grain prepared mustard
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon thyme leaf
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup quick oatmeal or quinoa flakes
Wash medium sweet potato, pierce several times with a fork, wrap in a paper towel and microwave until done, 4-5 minutes. (Alternately, bake or steam the sweet potato.) Allow to cool enough to handle and then peel and set aside.
Mince the onion, celery, and carrot. You can do this quickly by cutting each vegetable in quarters and then pulsing in a food processor until finely chopped.
Heat a large, non-stick skillet. Add the minced vegetables, including garlic, and cook, stirring regularly, until they become tender, about 6-10 minutes. Add water by the teaspoon if necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking or becoming dry. Once they’re softened, add the drained beans and mash them lightly with a slotted spoon or spatula.
Place the peeled sweet potato into the food processor along with the tofu, soy sauce, and all seasonings, including nutritional yeast. Process until fairly smooth. Add walnuts and pulse a few more times. Scrape tofu mixture into a large mixing bowl and add quick oatmeal or quinoa flakes and the cooked vegetables. Stir well.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If you have a silicone baking mat (recommended) place it on a baking sheet. Otherwise line the baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray. Spoon the tofu mixture onto the prepared baking surface, using dampened hands to shape it into an oblong or oval loaf about 2 1/2 inches high. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is evenly browned. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 more minutes. Check to make sure center is firm; if not, give it a little extra time. (You can also remove the foil and cook for 5 more minutes for a crunchier crust.) Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Cranberry Kidney Bean Stuffing
(Low fat if using vegan butter; Low sodium)
1 package pre-toasted bread cubes (14 – 16 ounces)
3 tablespoons butter or vegan butter, plus extra
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
3/4 cup cranberries, chopped
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup wild rice, pre-cooked
2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat a large skillet and add 2 tablespoons butter and oil. Add onions, celery and cranberries and cook on medium-high heat until soft, about fifteen minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Place toasted bread, rice, and herbs in a large bowl, stir in eggs. Pour hot liquid mixture into bowl; add poultry seasoning, beans, salt and pepper and mix.
Grease two 8-inch pans with butter or cooking spray; pour mixture and dot with extra butter. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more or until top is crisp.
Fast and Easy No Sugar Added Cranberry Sauce
1 pound fresh cranberries
1 (12 ounce) can 100% apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
Combine cranberries, juice concentrate, and flour in a pot. Cover and simmer 5-10 minutes on medium heat until most of the berries have burst and sauce thickens. Stir in zest and/or walnuts and serve.
Easy No Sugar Added Pumpkin Pie Filling
1 9-inch pie shell
1 medium sized can pureed pumpkin (15 ounces)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk (fat-free or regular)
3/4 cup of sugar substitute such as Splenda or Equal (some are better for baking than others)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Prepared pie shell (check for sugar; some from health food stores are sugar-free); if raw, bake first
Combine pumpkin, milk, and eggs in large bowl. Add in spices, salt, vanilla, and sugar substitute. Sugar substitute should completely dissolve into the wet ingredients. Pour everything into pie shell and bake for 35-45 minutes at 400 degrees.