Do you love the Thanksgiving holiday but dread the bloating and indigestion that come with eating a lot of unhealthy food?
Do you have diet restrictions that prevent you from indulging in your household’s annual feast? This year, instead of whipping up the traditional dishes that leave you feeling sluggish, try some of my delicious, diet-sensitive Paleo meals for Thanksgiving that provide the nutrients and energy you need to enjoy the holiday season. These meals can also help you eat your way out of a mid-life crisis (link to Eat Your Way Out of a Mid-Life Crisis article) if you have been struggling with more than just the holiday blues.
Appetizer: Pumpkin Hummus
Hummus makes a great appetizer to tide your guests over until the main course is ready, and pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber--to name a few nutrients. The following recipe uses a pumpkin base instead of chickpeas to pack important nutrients into your Thanksgiving meal. It’s important when you are sourcing the pumpkin to read the ingredients to make sure it is pure pumpkin without additives.
1 can of pumpkin puree
A 7- to 8-inch zucchini, cut into chunks
½ cup of tahini
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Step 1: Add the zucchini and garlic to the food processor and pulse 3 to 5 times to create a minced texture.
Step 2: Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse 3 to 5 times to incorporate.
Step 3: Spoon the hummus into a serving bowl with a lid or cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl into the refrigerator for one hour to let the flavors meld before serving.
Side Dish: Butternut Squash and Sausage Hash
Our Paleolithic ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers. At the core of their lifestyle was an understanding that the best game was always on the move and that each season had its own bounty of fruits and vegetables.
The prime ingredients of this recipe are butternut squash, apples, and pork sausage. Butternut squash offers many vital nutrients that benefit your hair, skin, blood pressure, and digestion. The starch and complex carbs of butternut squash are a great way to fortify you against cold fall mornings. Apples are rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber and are excellent for your cardiovascular health. Pork sausage is high in protein and healthy fat and contains vitamin B3 which is beneficial to your eyes, skin, and hair. All of these ingredients are at their peak from September through January.
The best place to source the sausage is through a full-service butcher. Full-service butcher shops often have a large amount of trim meat that comes from processing their own meat. This often includes cuts like Boston butt and picnic shoulder. You will usually find them in the display case in a natural casing. Since they are made in house with the intent to sell them quickly, you can usually find them at a great price per pound. As an added bonus, they usually don’t have additives like tert-Butylhydroquinone and nitric acid that you often find in store-bought sausage.
A crisp apple such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or Red Delicious will hold up to the heat better than a soft and juicy apple. If you are looking to take a wetter approach to this dish, I would recommend a McIntosh.
9” X 13” glass or Pyrex roasting pan
Small work bowl
12-inch, non-stick sauce pan
10 to 12 ounces of sausage, sliced thick on the bias
1 small butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large, crisp apple, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne powder
Salt and fresh-cracked pepper
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350F
Step 2: Cut the butternut squash in half. Scoop the seeds from the cavity, peel and cut it into 1-inch pieces.
Step 3: Grease a glass or Pyrex baking dish with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add the pieces of the butternut squash to the pan and place it in the oven.
Step 4: After 10 minutes, peel, core, and slice the apple. Toss it with some lemon juice to help reduce browning. Add them to the baking dish in the oven.
Step 5: After 15 to 20 minutes, the butternut squash pieces should be soft enough that you can insert a fork with only a modest amount of resistance. Remove them from the oven.
Step 6: Place the sausage in a sauce pan over medium heat. Allow it to sear for 3 to 5 minutes or until the sausages begin giving off some fat into the sauce pan.
Step 7: Add the butternut squash and apple to the sauce pan along with the garlic and toss to combine. Allow it to cook for 2 minutes.
Step 8: Sprinkle the hash with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Toss to combine and plate immediately.
Side Dish: Braised Red Cabbage
In addition to its hearty and robust flavor, red cabbage provides cardiovascular protection thanks to its anthocyanins. Braising cabbage brings out its natural sweetness and unlocks certain chemical compounds known to help prevent cancer. This recipe makes a great side dish for beef and lamb, but it plays really well with pork dishes. I love to serve this alongside grilled pork chops. If you’re in the mood for a completely vegetarian meal, you could serve this as a stand-alone entrée.
Large sauce pan
Half of a head of red cabbage with core removed, roughly chopped
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
3 tablespoons of bacon grease or duck fat
1 carrot, sliced and chopped fine
1 spear of celery, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup of cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon of thyme
½ teaspoon of fresh rosemary, chopped fine
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of fresh-cracked black pepper
½ cup water
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Step 1: Melt the bacon grease in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once it melts, add the carrots, onions, and a small handful of the cabbage. Sear the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes, tossing occasionally until the onions start to take on a little color.
Step 2: Add the garlic, celery, and half of the cherry tomatoes. Allow them to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until the garlic turns a light golden brown.
Step 3: Turn the heat down to low, then add the rest of the cabbage and seasonings, along with the water and red wine vinegar. Reserve the apple and lemon juice. Toss to combine, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 4: Peel the apple and cut it into chunks. Toss the chunks with the lemon juice and add them to the large sauce pan with the cabbage. Continue to simmer, tossing occasionally for another 7 to 10 minutes or until the cabbage is soft.
You can serve this dish immediately or take it off the heat and it will stay warm for a while with the lid on as you finish other components.
Side Dish: Mashed Rutabaga
Mashed potatoes with rich butter are a classic American comfort food that has a limited place in the philosophy of the Paleo diet. This recipe for mashed rutabaga is a nice replacement, as rutabaga include a diverse range of nutrients that, among their benefits, strengthen your bones and combat stress. For this recipe, you will be using chicken schmaltz* to replace the butter.
Large sauce pot
2 medium rutabagas
1 teaspoon of salt
¼ cup of schmaltz
½ teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
Step 1: Peel the rutabagas and cut them into chunks.
Step2: Put the chunks in a large pot of water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.
Step 3: Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
Step 4: Drain the water and rutabaga chunks through a colander. Return the chunks to the pot.
Step 5: Sprinkle the salt and pepper. Then add the schmaltz and mash with a potato masher until it reaches your desired consistency. Serve immediately.
*Schmaltz is essentially the hardened fat that sits on top of chicken stock after it is cooked and refrigerated. It can be used to sauté vegetables or as a substitute for lard. To use schmaltz, carefully remove the fat cap from chicken stock and pat it dry with paper towels. If you don’t have schmaltz on hand but wish to avoid using butter, you can always opt for coconut oil.
Main Dish: Good Ol’ Turkey
Turkey is a lean meat and, therefore, an excellent diet choice. Many traditional methods of cooking turkey have natural, acceptable, amounts of fats and oils found in the turkey and butter. It’s the trans-fats and unstable vegetable oils in frying that overshadow the turkey’s nutritional benefits. In order to enjoy all the health benefits of eating turkey, I recommend that you forgo the deep fryer and bake the turkey as this definitely the best way to enjoy your turkey.
The healthiest way to cook turkey is to roast/bake it in the oven. The quality of the meat is preserved while enhancing its flavor with any herbs or spices you choose to add. Smoking turkey occasionally is fine. However, I do not recommend smoking on a regular basis due to the carcinogens. Try these simple recipes to roast (link “roast” to http://thehealthyfoodie.com/maple-glazed-turkey/) or smoke (link “smoke” to https://thedomesticman.com/2013/10/01/perfect-smoked-turkey/) your turkey this year.
The holidays bring many temptations to entice you away from your Paleo diet, but they are also a great opportunity to learn how to eat Paleo every day. Please feel free to contact my office at 303.503.5969 to learn more about what is the Paleo diet and how to eat Paleo at Thanksgiving in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I would love to help you develop customized techniques to maintain a healthy diet through the new year. Happy Holidays from Sage Nutrition and Healing Center!