Turkey Day Recipe Review

First off I’d like to wish everyone a happy belated Turkey Day! What could be better than a holiday that is entirely dedicated to food? I figured it might be fun to share what was on my plate this Thanksgiving. While I was back in school studying away furiously, my mom called me up to tell me that this year I was going to be in charge of the entire meal (aside from the turkey which my Dad loves to make). Most of you would probably crawl in a hole upon hearing this, but since I love food…I was kind of excited.

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A few weeks ago I attended a healthy living lecture at my school about how to not overeat during the holidays…as if that’s possible. Even though I’ve always gone all out on holidays (aka thrown the health food out the window and buddied up with Paula Deen) the lecture actually made me think about changing my ways. According to the speaker, the average person gains around 5 pounds during the holiday season and never loses the weight. The average Thanksgiving meal alone comes in at about 5,000 calories, which is pretty mind-boggling especially since as a woman your suggested caloric intake is between 1,500-2,000 calories A DAY.

In a sense I already knew that this was probably how much I was consuming because every Thanksgiving or Christmas I typically suffer from a food coma – that fun time when you are so exhausted from your strenuous day of eating that you have to jump into your sweatpants and become one with the couch. As I thought about this, I asked myself – why? It’s really no fun to feel sick to your stomach from overeating. It wasn’t so much the thought of gaining weight that worried me, but the idea that I would be making myself feel tired and exhausted for no reason.

With this in mind, I decided to try some new recipes this Thanksgiving. Of course I couldn’t go without the traditional sweet potato casserole, turkey and stuffing but why not try to make it a little healthier? A 2,000 calorie meal would definitely be better than a 5,000 calorie one!

Here’s the official run-down of what I made in order of favorites first:

#1 BEST IN SHOW: Tone It Up Cranberry Sauce

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This recipe was absolutely killer. It’s from the website Tone It Up which is my FAVORITE source of free workout plans, clean-eating recipes and fitness inspiration! I recommend it to anyone who’s trying to get or stay in shape. I’ve never made homemade cranberry sauce before so I decided why not start now? I was so pleasantly surprised by the amount of flavor in this sauce! The recipe uses all natural ingredients and no added sugar (the only sweetener is maple syrup which works REALLY well!) I will never do Thanksgiving without this recipe again – it is without a doubt, the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever eaten. Just to run a comparison, this whole bowl is about 400 calories and I’d say it could serve more than 10 people. The typical Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce is about 110 calories for the same amount, and this recipe is so much tastier! So if you’re not totally set in your jello ways, try this recipe out!

#2 THE RUNNER UP: Tone It Up Sweet Potato Casserole

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Once again, this recipe has no added sugar but it is SWEET! The recipe uses honey, maple syrup and almond milk to get that great sweet potato casserole taste that everyone knows and loves. What I liked most about this recipe was the sweet honey-cinnamon-pecan topping that added just the right amount of crunch! One substitution I made from the original recipe was using coconut oil instead of olive oil since it is also a healthy oil and I thought would blend better with the other flavors. It’s also a bit heavy on the cinnamon (which I love) but if you’re not a huge fan I’d suggest adding less. Overall I give this recipe 2 thumbs up!

#3 STILL WORTHY OF AN AWARD: Ina Garten’s Sausage & Herb Stuffing

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Ok, so this one’s not so healthy but I just couldn’t go without it. I made this recipe last year for Thanksgiving and fell in love. I think it has such a unique blend of flavors: cranberries, granny smith apples, fresh parsley and sourdough bread all in one! Absolutely delicious. If you wanted to make this recipe healthier, cut back on the amount of bread and add more fruits/veggies, choose low-fat sausage (or omit it) and use olive oil or a light butter alternative. The stuffing also tends to come out a bit crispy so if you like a softer stuffing add more chicken stock to the original recipe.

#4 CAN I HAVE SECONDS? Blogilates Pumpkin Pie

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Blogilates, run by the fitness guru Cassey Ho, is another awesome site that I love. Cassey posts free pilates videos (that are extremely tough and WILL force you into shape) as well as recipes like this one as part of her ‘cheap clean eats’ segments. This pumpkin pie recipe was delicious! I was really impressed by the flavor of the crust which was made out of ground almonds, whole wheat flour and coconut oil. The only issue with this recipe is that I made it with the minimum amount of almond milk suggested, baked it for an extra 10 minutes, and it still came out runny (even after cooling it for 30 minutes). The picture above is what it looked like after chilling for a day, and as you can see it was still a bit runny. I’m thinking the recipe needed less egg whites, but unfortunately I’m not quite knowledgeable enough on the chemistry of baking to know for sure. Despite all these issues, don’t get me wrong – the flavor is fantastic. The pie truly does not taste like a “healthy” dessert – you would never guess that each slice is only 221 calories.

#5 NOT BAD AT ALL: Skinnytaste Garlic Mashed Potatoes

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Skinnytaste has a wealth of diet-friendly recipes that are friendly on the taste buds as well. This mashed potato recipe was easy, quick and pretty darn tasty. I liked it, it just didn’t blow my mind or anything (but that’s kind of hard to do with mashed potatoes when you’re not adding heaps of butter). I was thinking about trying the Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes instead next year.

#6 GOOD BUT NOT GREAT: Tone It Up Green Bean Casserole

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Now don’t get me wrong, this was not a bad recipe AT ALL, I just think it could have been better. I liked the fact the the green beans were crisp and very fresh-tasting, I also liked that the recipe used mushrooms. However, the topping is made out of an olive oil flax-seed blend (which is obviously way better for you than French’s onion rings) but the flavor was pretty noticeable. I actually still liked the taste but this dish isn’t something I’d bring to a potluck because I think many people wouldn’t like the flavor. Another issue I had was that the mushroom sauce wasn’t quite as thick as I would have liked. However, there was one great takeaway from this recipe: you can sauté onions in non-fat cooking spray!!! Why haven’t I ever thought of this before? It’s such a great way to save on calories and fat when cooking!

Hope you enjoyed getting a peek at my Thanksgiving table – if you have any healthy Thanksgiving recipes you’d like to share please post in the comments below! Happy Holidays 🙂

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