Rethinking Thanksgiving Sides

I suppose I should begin with a disclaimer. My still fit very octogenarian mother has been the poster child for responsible eating and living since she was an early teenager. She lost weight when she was 14 years old and has literally kept it off for over 70 years.

Even after three big children (my brother, her first born, weighed in at over 10 pounds) she worked her way back to fit, exercising before it was the trend and when there were books, programs and support groups to assist.

Add to it that my father was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when he was 45 so she adapted her cooking to help him make good food choices when he was home.

So, reducing sodium, eliminating as much fat as possible and right sizing portions has been my mom's M.O. since 1940.

Yet, on Thanksgiving (and other "high" holidays) my mother cooks with enough bacon to cause a diner shortage, enough butter to make even Deen blush and enough sodium to actually make you thirsty.

I once made her turkey dressing recipe and called her complaining it did not taste like hers, in spite of following her recipe to a tee.

I actually watch my mother prepare something with my note pad, taking notes and adding recipes to my antique recipe file. If the cooks in your family are still around, please do this. You will never regret it.

Anyway, she had me describe what I did, step by step. This is a summary of the conversation. Mom, it looks just like your dressing but it tastes a little bland. And, it's a little drier than yours is. What did I do?

Mom said "It's hard to tell you over the phone. Did you use the pound of bacon and pound of sausage?"

"Yes, I did. I used my biggest frying pan. I put the croutons into my big pasta bowl. I was sure to saut the onion and celery until they were soft and I added them to the big bowl. I slowly cooked the sausage and bacon, drained the fat and put that into the bowl."

Mom cut me off. "Stop there. You drained the fat?"

"Yup, I sure did" said me with a confident tone.

"There was your mistake. It needs every drop of fat to stay together and have the flavor you remember."

All I could say was "since when did you cook with fat?"

My mother explained that as long as you followed a healthy diet most of the time you could "live it up" on holidays and special occasions. Honestly, I think she is right. If you make good choices most of the time then you could enjoy any food you choose occasionally.


So, why am I rethinking Thanksgiving sides? Because my friends at the Independent Health Foundation and D'Avolio Cooking Class asked me to, that's why!

The recipes I am sharing with you today are all gluten free and have had Refined sugar removed. Agave has been substituted for sugar. Extra virgin olive oil has been substituted for any animal or saturated fat and while that does not save calories, it does help save your heart. Cranberry Orange Compote

Here is my original post: Cranberry Orange Compote

I substituted 1/2 cup of Light Agave for the 1 cup of sugar. I also substituted 1 cup orange carrot juice for the plain orange juice and added 1/2 cup D'Avolio Cranberry Pear White Balsamic Vinegar. Sweet Potatoes

Make this changed up recipe instead of the sugary one with marshmallows.

You won't miss the marshmallows in this one!

3 Sweet Potatoes (about 2-2.25 pounds)

4-6 Ounces Mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I used "Gourmet Blend" baby bella, shitake and oyster)

1/2 medium Onion, chopped

D'Avolio Cilantro and Roasted Onion EVOO

1/2 Amber Agave

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush olive oil into a 3 quart oven safe roasting pan. If the oven is hotter reduce the cooking time by about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Peel potatoes and cut into 1'1 1/2" chunks. Boil for about 5 minutes. Drain.

In heavy skillet heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO and saute onion for about 5-7 minutes until caramelized. Add mushrooms and toss with Cook for about a minute and remove from heat. Add drained potatoes and toss. Add agave and toss.

Evenly place them into the prepared pan and roast for about 30 minutes until they are soft. Free Stuffing

With all of the grain-less bread options out there you have many healthy options these days.

1-20 Ounce Gluten Free Bread (in the frozen section)

1 Cup Golden Raisins

2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth (1 Cup at a time)

2 Tablespoons D'Avolio Wild Mushroom and Sage EVOO

1/2 Onion, chopped

1 Medium Blub Fennel, chopped white part only

1 tsp salt

Oil a 3 quart pan with a brush.

Place break on a cookie sheet in an even layer. Dry in a 250 degree oven for about an hour (flipping about every 15 minutes) or place on sheet a day earlier, defrost and dry on the counter, uncovered. If it is not dry enough, put in oven for about 15 minutes or until it feels like dry toast.

Place 1 cup raisins and 1 cup broth in saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and remove from heat. You can also microwave for four minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the EVOO. Saut onion and fennel until soft, about 10 minutes then cool slightly.

Cube the dried bread roughly and place in a very large bowl. Add cooled raisins, onion and fennel; whisk eggs and add to the bowl, tossing lightly with your hands.

Place the mixture in the prepared baking pan. Drizzle with a little more EVOO and another cup of broth. Bake, covered for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees (with other things in your oven) and uncover for the last 10 minutes. Perfect Pumpkin Pudding

I adapted this recipe from one on Theirs uses brown sugar and half and half. I swapped it out with Agave and Vanilla Almond Milk. It tastes like the pie without the crust.

I hope you like these ideas and this inspires you to do the same with your family recipes.

This post gives you plenty of time to switch up your recipes or try mine. If you do, please let us know here on the blog or e-mail me at [email protected] if you have any questions.

Have a yummy day!

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