My Perfectly Healthy Thanksgiving Menu AND Timeline

We haven’t lived near our extended families for over 6 years.  So, these past few years, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in our own home and I’ve done all of the cooking myself.  To accomplish this with 3, now 4, children underfoot, I’ve benefited from a wonderfully supportive (and food-loving) husband, a well executed timeline/plan, and some fabulous recipes that allow me to plan ahead.  The first year or two I went with Thanksgiving menus very similar to what my husband and I experienced growing up.  And, in the past few years, I modified the menus quite a bit to include healthier recipes.  So, from my kitchen to yours, here are my favorite healthy Thanksgiving Recipes.

Perfect Roast Turkey

This recipe uses the seasoning combination of Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken and the cooking method of Martha Stewart’s Perfect Roast Turkey.  The result is Heather Hartman’s Perfect Roast Turkey!  🙂

Ingredients

1 15-20 pound turkey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, quartered

Preparation

Remove the innards and wash the turkey, inside and out.  Pat dry.  Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey.  Stuff the inside of the turkey with the thyme, lemon, garlic, and onion.  Place the turkey breast-side down in a roasting pan.  Drizzle the top of the turkey with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then, turn the temperature down to 35o degrees and roast for another 2-2.5 hours until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees.  Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.  (This is an important step as the bird continues to cook after it’s removed from the oven and the juices settle into the meat and make it yummier!)  Carve and enjoy!

Rosemary Basmati Rice

I created this recipe completely by experiment about a year ago.  I wanted to make some rice that was comforting, flavorful and the perfect side dish to my roast bird.  And, so I just added a bunch of spices I felt would fit that mood.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!  Oh, and if you’re looking for something a little spunkier than this traditional rice, Ina Garten’s curried couscous would be a perfect complement to this menu, too.  It’s amazing!

Ingredients

2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water or broth
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Preparation

Rinse and drain the basmati rice twice.  Add the rice and the broth to a pot.  Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes (do NOT lift the lid for these 20 minutes).  Remove the cooked rice from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes.  Add the oil and spices and combine well.  Serve hot.

Cornbread Stuffing

The first year I decided to try a healthy Thanksgiving menu, one of my vegetarian friends gave me all of her family’s healthy Thanksgiving recipes.  We enjoyed all of them that year, and my favorite was the stuffing.  I was stunned that you could prepare the perfect cornbread stuffing without butter or anything remotely unhealthy for that matter.  This is hands down the best stuffing I’ve ever eaten.  If you decide to try it, I don’t think you’ll try another recipe either!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 quarts cornbread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. dried sage
3/4 tsp. thyme
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
3 cups hot broth

Preparation

Heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and celery in the oil until transparent but not browned, stirring occasionally.  Add the salt and seasonings.  Scrape the mixture, including the oil into a large mixing bowl and combine with the cornbread crumbs, tossing lightly.  Grease 1 or 2 9 x 13″ baking dishes and press the cornbread mixture into each dish.  Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees.  (Note:  This dish freezes well, so if you want to make one now and freeze one for later…Christmas…New Year’s…Easter…random dinner in the middle of the winter…you can do that!)

Green Beans with Turkey Bacon

The hardest unhealthy menu item for my husband to give up has been green bean casserole.  I relented for a few years and made it for him; however, on year 3, I told him we would have to come up with something to replace it because I just couldn’t bear all that yuck anymore (part of that is because I was never a fan in the first place…the other part is that I wanted a healthier side).  So, he came up with adding turkey bacon to our steamed green beans and I have to say, I think it was pretty genius!

Ingredients

2 pounds green beans
8 ounces turkey bacon (or to taste)
1/4 cup butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation

Steam the green beans until tender, about 5-10 minutes.  Saute the turkey bacon and add to the green beans along with the butter, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Pie

I’m not a fancy pie kind of a girl.  I love a basic apple, pumpkin, or chocolate cream pie.  No extra flavors or flares.  So, for this recipe I started with Martha Stewart’s Traditional Pumpkin Pie and made it my own with a few healthy substitutions.  I have to say that I believe the result is simple and perfect.

Ingredients

For the crust:

3 cups unbleached or pastry flour
1 1/4 cups butter
1 egg
5 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. vinegar

For the filling:

1 15 ounce can pumpkin
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp. arrowroot
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
pinch of ground cloves
Whipped cream, slightly sweetened, for serving

Preparation

For the crust, cut the butter into the flour until the butter chunks are smaller than peas.  Combine the egg, water and vinegar.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until it’s all incorporated, but do not over mix.  The less you handle your dough, the flakier the resulting crust will be.  Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes.  Roll the crust out until it’s 2″ larger in diameter than your pie plate.  Transfer the rolled crust to your pie plate and crimp the edges.

For the filling, whisk together the pumpkin, maple syrup, arrowroot, sea salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, eggs, milk, and a pinch of cloves in a large bowl.  Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie crust.  Bake the pie at 325 degrees until center is set but still a little wobbly, 50 to 60 minutes. (If the crust browns too quickly, cover the crust with aluminum foil.)  Allow the pie to cool then refrigerate.  Serve chilled with whipped cream.

Timeline

How to pull it off, pretty much, by yourself and stay sane in the process…

Tuesday or Wednesday

–  Bake Cornbread and Assemble Stuffing then refrigerate until Thursday

–  Assemble and Bake Pie then refrigerate until Thursday

–  Stuff Turkey then refrigerate until Thursday

Thursday

8:00 a.m.

–  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Bake turkey for 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

10:00 a.m.

–  Lower heat to 350 degrees.  Bake turkey for 2.5 hours at 350 degrees.

11:00 a.m.

–  Whip Cream for pumpkin pie.

–  Start rosemary basmati rice.

11:15-11:30 a.m.

–  Remove the turkey from the oven.  Allow the turkey for rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

–  Bake the stuffing for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees.

–  Start steaming green beans.

12:00 p.m. Enjoy!

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