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How to make traditional holiday dishes healthier


Cranberry-pecan-quinoa_vert-1_pp-685x1024We get it: You want to make whatever holiday feast you’re cooking up a little healthier this year. But if you serve a tofurkey instead of a turkey, your Uncle Larry will either boycott your dinner or show up with a bird anyway.

Not to worry. “There are smart ways you can make traditional holiday dishes healthy where people don’t feel like they’re eating 1970s health food during the holidays,” says James Beard Award-winning chef Maria Hines. “You want it to be delicious and familiar.”

As the founder of organic ingredient-focused Tilth Restaurant in Seattle and a leader in the America Cooks With Chefs movement, which teaches people make comfort meals healthier, Hines is a pro at boosting nutrition without sacrificing flavor. Or chasing meat-eating relatives from your holiday table…

It starts with using better ingredients, she says, like an organic local heritage turkey. Here, she shares three more simple recipe tweaks that make classic holiday dishes healthier—and that keep everyone at the table (and in the kitchen) happy. —Jamie McKillop

(Photo: Three Beans On A String)


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Green bean casseroleGreen Bean Casserole
Tweak: Swap out the fried onions and use mushroom puree in place of the can of soup

Green bean casserole is all about the deep-fried onions and can of mushroom soup, but unfortunately these marquee ingredients aren’t exactly stars in the healthy hall of fame.

“Swap caramelized shallots [cook them over low heat], so you still get the flavor, but add toasted slivered almonds, so you still get the crunch,” Hines says. Next use real mushroom and puree them with almond milk. “Because mushrooms are so dense, it will get really creamy,” she promises. Wait, what’s dairy?

(Photo: Eat The Love)


Tweak: Skip turkey drippings and replace some bread with minced veggies

Drippings is the fat that collects in the bottom of the roasting pan used to make stuffing delish. Many cooks avoid it by filling the turkey with the stuffing instead. But if you’re vegan or are serving one, just give the stuffing its own pan and use veggie stock to give it flavor.

“Another health bonus is to put more minced carrots and celery with currants instead of just bread as your stuffing mixture,” Hines says. Of course, the higher quality bread you use, the better the health profile. Hello, sprouted sourdough?

(Photo: Autoimmune Paleo)


Tweak: Thicken with pureed sprouted whole grain bread instead of white flour

Traditionally, gravy is made with white flour. “To make it healthier, replace some of the flour with a slice of dried-out whole wheat  bread and puree it in a blender, and cook your gravy with that,” Hines says. “It will end up thickening the chicken stock.” Again, low-sodium chicken stock and veggie stock are great options, too.

(Photo: The Gracious Pantry)


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