Friday, November 16, 2012

Side x Side Thankfulness

It's time for the big, all-you-can-eat, comfort food bash. Whatcha bringing to the table?  Some of y'all have your standbys that you grew up with.  Others will make dishes based on diets and allergies.  Whether this is your first time putting on the big dinner and you feel confident trying all new recipes or you're making the traditional dishes again this year, the Thanksgiving meal has become more than simply a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

This year for our dinner we will have the best of both worlds - "combined comfort" is what I'm calling it. We will start with the usual deep-fried turkey that my guy cooks up and I'll make his favorite roasted garlic chorizo dressing. But the rest will be a challenge, as I plan to create sides and desserts that have all the flavor and pizazz that the family has come to expect, yet also be low glycemic/low fat to fit into my dietary regiment. I am not about to give up on the feeling of comfort that my all-time favorite holiday meal brings me, but at the same time, I don't plan on adding any extra pounds to the scale either!  I've worked too hard to get this far... I'm jus' sayin'!

Here's a few of the recipes I'll be making...

Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms
(In place of the Green Bean/Cream of Mushroom Soup Casserole)

Preheat oven to 350
In a large zip-lock bag, place 4 cups of snipped green beans and 2 cups of mushrooms (cleaned and quartered). Pour 4 tbs. of good balsamic vinegar and 2 tbs. of olive oil into the bag. Shake to cover all. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt and 1 tsp. of Herbs de Provence over the top. Bake for 15 minutes or until roasted to your liking.

Coconut Pumpkin Panna Cotta
(Gives you a Pumpkin Pie fix without the guilt)

3 cups canned coconut milk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (organic suggested)
1/2 cup coconut sugar (may use more if not sweet enough to your taste)
2 tsp. of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4 1/2 tsp.)
6 tbsp. (90ml) cold water
*Chopped dates and coconut to garnish

In a small bowl bloom the gelatin in the 6 tbsp. of water. Set aside.

In a large heavy pot, combine the milk, pumpkin, sugar and spices. Whisk with a wire whisk to combine them all. Taste to see if it is sweet enough - add more sugar or agave syrup as necessary. Bring to a simmer. When slight bubbles start to form on the outside of liquid, take off of heat. Stir in vanilla. Gently incorporate the "bloomed" gelatin and whisk until melted, making sure you have no lumps. Pour liquid into desired molds. Depending on your mold size you may have anywhere from 6-8 servings. Chill at least 4 hours before inverting on a plate and garnishing with chopped dates and coconut.

This next dish came to me this week from my friend Jette. She knows I am following a stricter diet and healthier lifestyle these days and thought I would be interested in this particular chef. His name is Chef Alain Braux. He is an amazing holistic nutritionist that really knows his stuff. He is a trained French chef that specializes in making gluten-free desserts from scratch. He is the Author of How to Lower Your Cholesterol with French Gourmet FoodLiving Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food and Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10/Day.

I decided to try out his French pasta dish. I chose a quinoa pasta that was pretty bland. However, the sauce is so packed with flavor that the pasta was merely a vessel to hold the rich and flavorful sauce. Because the dish was so easy to make, I could see this as a delicious and easy alternative side to have on Thanksgiving Day. I also thought it would be a super quick dish to whip-up to have with some of that leftover turkey. Either way, I highly recommend you check out his site and try this tasty dish.

Provencal-Style Macaroni
By Chef Alain Braux
(This is a nice change from macaroni and cheese, and a lot healthier)

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 15 min.
This recipe is gluten-free. Can be made CF

12 oz gluten-free macaroni
3 qt water
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded or 1 can (28 oz) organic crushed tomatoes with basil
1 tbsp. Herbes de Provence blend
Sea salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan or alternative cheese to sprinkle

1. In a large pot, cook your pasta al dente. Drain and rinse.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pot. Sauté the onions and garlic with the salt until light brown. Add the crushed tomatoes with basil and the Herbes de Provence. Cook for 15 minutes until the flavors are well blended.
3. Add to pasta. Toss gently. Serve. Sprinkle with parmesan or alternative cheese.

Spicy Cranberry Walnut Compote

3 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1 large orange (juice and zest)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder
1/2 cup of coconut sugar
1/3 cup of water
1 tsp. vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla)

Combine all of the above (except for the vanilla) into a pan. Bring to a boil. As soon as the berries start to pop, lower heat to simmer. Simmer for 6 minutes until a thick consistency (to your liking) is made. Take off heat and add the vanilla. Store in mason jars or a beautiful serving bowl in your fridge until you are ready for your Thanksgiving meal. I plan on serving some of mine on a whole grain cracker with a smear of Laughing Cow cheese as an appetizer.

I know that salad is probably the last side you want on Thanksgiving when you have so many other sides to choose from. Try taking persimmons, those beautiful orange globes now in the super market's produce section, and add them to your spinach salad. My plan is to eat a larger portion of salad so that I only have room for a small piece of pie later. Learning all these tactics from Transitions has made these life changes for better living so much easier. Here's wishing y'all a very blessed Thanksgiving.