Making wise Thanksgiving choices can depend on the kitchen of origin.
Those preparing the meal and choosing the ingredients have control, but those dining with someone else should take steps to control the sizes of their portions, said Sarah Davidson, chef and owner of Simple Meals on St. Simons Island. The meal preparation service housed in The Club offers participants a number of healthy options each week.
Sarah is always one to champion nutritious food, even during the holidays.
“Choosing to enjoy a few bits or smaller portions of pecan pie is easier to overcome than eating a slice the size of your plate,’’ she said.
Also, remain aware of “grazing,’’ repeatedly eating small portions of highly processed appetizers, crackers, mixed dips and foods with hidden sugars, she said.
Those trips to the table with small plates can quickly add up.
“What started out with just a little snacking has turned into another whole meal eating foods that will not give you the nutrients and energy you desire,’’ Sarah said.
She also recommends preparing in advice by cutting carrots, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and celery and preparing a simple hummus dip that will boost nutrition all day.
For those in charge of the meal, there are a number of ways of cutting down on calories and the use of highly processed foods.
She and husband, Justin, a member of the St. Simons Community Church ministerial staff, share the cooking duties. Justin learned to cook at culinary school in Vermont, and he is the one who cooks most of the meals at home.
Sarah Davidson credits him for some of the recipes she serves professionally.
Among the favorites at Simple Meals is to substitute an alternative vegetable, such as cauliflower, for one that is high in carbohydrates like potatoes, Sarah said. Also, cauliflower, squash and other vegetables can replace bread in stuffing recipes, she said.
“You will be surprised when using the right flavors and spices how enjoyable the alternative recipes can taste and how good you feel afterward,’’ Sarah said.
Recently, Justin prepared the cauliflower mash in the their kitchen, quickly mincing rosemary and blending it with fresh garlic into cooked cauliflower, a dish with the consistency of mashed potatoes although with far more appealing flavors.
The Davidsons’ also take some thoughtful steps to save on the empty calories in dishes such as substituting pure maple sugar for brown sugar in a sweet potato dish.
One of Justin favorite holiday dishes is an old one, green bean casserole topped with fried onion crisps. Instead they sautee green beans and incorporate roasted peppers and onions, mushrooms and cream sauce and top it with toasted bread crumbs and bake it.
There are also some tasty desserts that save on calories.
The Davidsons’ two children do get to indulge, especially on holidays, with things like ice cream. But even dessert can be healthy.
“We make a flourless dark chocolate torte,’’ she said. “That’s a special splurge.”
Cauliflower Garlic Mash
1 large cauliflower (or 2 small)
3 tablespoons garlic
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Cut cauliflower into florets
Place cauliflower into pot of water and begin to boil cauliflower until tender/
Meanwhile place the garlic with coconut oil in a pan and on medium low and sauté for 2-4 minutes until slightly brown and tender
In a food processor (or using an immersion blender) puree the cauliflower and garlic. You may add 2-3 tablespoons of cream, milk, or chicken stock if you would like a smoother consistency. (be careful to not over blend)
Stir in the butter and cheese, until it’s melted.
Alternative options: Roast the cauliflower for an added depth of flavor, Add minced fresh rosemary for a herby added flavor.
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
1/4 cup (60 ml) tahini
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
Salt to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water
Dash ground paprika or sumac, for serving (optional)
Other toppings can include roasted red peppers, black beans, avocado, even pumpkin
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more.
Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended. Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.
Most likely the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.
Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Stir, or top hummus with any additional add ins.
Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.
2 medium heads of cauliflower (roughly the 6 cups chopped)
1 tbsp avocado oil, olive oil or butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 stalks of celery, sliced thinly
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
1 cup carrots, small sliced
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
2 1/2 tsp dried sage
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
Garnish with fresh parsley
Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until “rice” consistency is reached.
Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onions, garlic and celery and sauté for 5 mins until soft.
Add mushrooms and continue cooking until they’ve begun to “sweat” and release their liquid. (about another 5 mins)
Add in cauliflower and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until fully cooked.
Top with pecans, (cranberries), spices and vinegar and cook for 1 min.
Garnish with fresh parsley.
Serve warm or store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.