Thanksgiving with Grace

Not sure our Thanksgiving crowd is ready for Tofuturkey (although I hear it is pretty good). But, I do try to make the holiday dinner less of a "let's stumble from the table to crawl on the sofa in a food coma" to more of a graceful "let's take a walk after dinner!" kind of meal.   Here are a few ideas on how to do just that without suffering from too big a detour from Mom's traditional Thanksgiving flavors that everyone waits for each year!

Here is a game plan to keeping to a traditional Thanksgiving, but doing so a bit lighter and a bit easier leaving you a little lighter, too . . .despite the indulgence of this time of year! The

Game Plan

Thanksgiving is around the corner, so let's get to planning it, but with a lighter touch!

Keep the appetizers light. Try to keep the beginnings on the light side as well as well as nutrient dense. Kale chips fill both those requirements. Some crudites of raw carrots, celery, broccoli and cauliflower with a highly seasoned dip made with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream works well. And, include one cheese to keep the traditionalist smiling.  Here is one to try that transports well and despite being a cheese appetizer, is very light and does not fill you up too much and spoil the feast.

Whipped Goat Cheese with Honey, Pomegranate and Mint

  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon minced mint
Now do this
  • In a food processor, season goat cheese with salt and pepper and whip goat cheese until very light and airy - about 2 minutes. Season to taste.
  • Scoop the cheese onto the center of a plate or your serving piece.
  • Drizzle with the honey.
  • Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and mint on top. Grind fresh pepper if desired too.
Serve with warmed flatbread or cracker of choice.

Start with a green salad. Begin your table gathering with a large green salad as a starter with lots of various greens and a tangy vinegar dressing. The crispness is a welcome contrast to all the soft food typically served and the vinegar cleans the palate a bit. You may want to try this one:

Green Salad with Pear and Pecans

  • 8-9 cups of organic mixed washed and dried greens including spinach, romaine, green leaf, and endive
  • 2 organic pears diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • large handful of organic dried cranberries
  • 4 tablespoons best balsamic vinegar you can get
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepper
Now do this:
  • Tear greens into bit size pieces and add to large salad bowl.
  • Add pear to the bowl. 
  • Pour last five ingredients into a jar and shake well to make dressing.
  • Spoon dressing over greens but do not drown the salad.  
  • Sprinkle with pecans and cranberries.

Pump up the gravy.  More seasoned food can be more "filling."  The thinking is this:  if you keep the gravy really flavorful, it is so satisfying, you may end up using less.  Some boosters to stir in your gravy are as follows:
  • Herbs:  Sprinkle in some chopped chive, thyme or rosemary for a delicate and tasty addition.
  • Mustard: Stir a scant spoonful of Dijon or whole-grain mustard into the gravy for some zing. 
  • Soy or Worcestershire Sauce: Measure a teaspoon or two of this to add depth and saltiness.
  • Paprika:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of smoked or sweet paprika to the flour or other thickener you use for a richness and kick.  

Offer a light dessert or two.  You can lead your crowd to a dessert bar that consists of berries with a small dollap of fresh whipped cream and a shaving of chocolate, a pumpkin pie spice souffle like below and, of course, a traditional pie or two.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Souffle with Gingersnaps

This dish is make ahead - really.  The filling can be made a day (or even two) ahead, covered and refrigerated.  Bring them to room temperature before you bake them, though. Here are some other great tips on souffle making.

Although these will fall if not eaten immediately, they still taste just as good.  If they fall, you could spoon a bit of whipped cream on top and sprinkle with a tad of crushed gingersnaps as well to cover the fall if you like for presentation purposes.

  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk  
  • 1 two inch chunk of fresh ginger, washed but not peeled, and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 10 ginger snap cookies, crushed
Now do this
  • Bring eggs to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. 
  • Butter 8 6-ounce ramekins. 
  • In saucepan over medium heat, bring almond milk to low boil. Add smashed ginger and pumpkin pie spice, remove pan from heat, cover, and let steep 30 minutes. 
  • Remove ginger chunk and any other ginger bits and discard.
  • In medium sized bowl, whisk egg yolks and 6 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk in flour until well combined. 
  • By droplets, gradually add warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent curdling the eggs. 
  • Pour mixture back into saucepan and place on medium heat. 
  • Cook, whisking constantly, a minute or two or until custard boils and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in pumpkin puree and vanilla and set aside.
  • Using electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy.
  • With mixer running, one tablespoon at a time, add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar.
  • Beat whites until stiff but not dry. 
  • Fold a large spoonful of egg whites into pumpkin mixture to lighten, and then add the rest of the egg whites mixture to remaining pumpkin mixture, folding in gently.
  • Spoon batter into ramekins, filling halfway. 
  • Sprinkle each souffle with a 1 teaspoon of crushed gingersnaps.
  • Top with remaining souffle batter. 
  • Sprinkle each with remaining gingersnap cookies, and lightly run finger around inside rim to create a "moat." 
  • Place ramekins in large baking pan with a lip. Place baking pan on middle oven rack and add hot water around ramekins to come up the sides about 1/3 of the way.
  • Bake about 20-25 minutes or until souffles have risen and tops are golden brown and serve.
Inspired by Epicurious Ginger-Pumpkin Souffle

So, how about that stroll?  Will you share and enjoy the bounty enough to make it around the block or two and NOT spend weeks shedding the holiday weight?

photo credit: <a href="">FotoRita [Allstar maniac]</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>
photo credit: <a href="">elviskennedy</a> v