Category Archives: thanksgiving


The Thanksgiving Leftovers Plan

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  That delicious feast where we cook all of our favorite foods and enjoy family and friends gathered around the table.  A bounteous array of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, family favorite recipes, and an almost endless parade of desserts.  It is a holiday of plenty.

 Erma Bombeck once said, “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not a coincidence.” While I agree with the eighteen hours to prepare, hopefully, your meal lasts longer than twelve minutes. 

In our rush to get to the big feast we sometimes forget some of the other important stuff. I’ve put together some thoughts on things to remember for the holiday so we can all have a happy, healthy, safe, and delicious day surrounds by those we love and enjoying our favorite foods.

Food Safety

According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from foodborne illness. That’s about 48 million people. As many as 128,000 of these people will wind up in the hospital. And raw foods of animal origin (such as poultry) are most likely to be contaminated. The holidays can present an enormous potential for foodborne illness. Combine a busy kitchen with a hectic schedule, a possible overload of guests, and high levels of cross preparation with raw meats and vegetables, and it all combines to make a perfect storm for food safety problems.

The CDC recommends the following rules regarding food safety:

  • Cook – make sure all foods, especially meats, are thoroughly cooked, a meat thermometer is especially helpful at this time of year
  • Separate – don’t cross-contaminate your cooking surfaces and be sure to clean all boards and utensils between foods
  • Chill – bacteria can grow on foods left out more than 4 hours so refrigeration is advised
  • Clean – thoroughly wash your veggies, your hands, your utensils, your prep surface, repeatedly
  • Report – if you or someone you know becomes sick and you suspect foodborne illness report it to your local health department

My suggestions  are:

  • Have multiple sponges, one for surfaces, one for pots, one for dishes
  • Microwave your sponges often, on high for 2 minutes, to kill bacteria
  • Have multiple towels for separate uses, hands, drying produce, drying counters, drying dishes

Feeding our fur-babies

While we’re enjoying the plenty that comes with this particular holiday, we need to be mindful of the fact that many of the foods that we eat for the holiday are not good choices for our dogs. Many people give their dogs “table treats” throughout the year.  On Thanksgiving, with so many people in the house, our furry friends may pull out all the stops when it comes to the piteous they-never-feed-me eyeball action.  Many of those around our table might be tempted to sneak them “just a little bit.”  The challenge is that all of these “just a little bit” pieces add up to quite a bit of food.  Add in the fact that many of these foods are, in fact, not safe for consumption by dogs and you wind up with very busy veterinary emergency centers.  No matter how much they try to convince us we need to remember that the following can be dangerous for dogs:

  • Turkey skin, gravy, drippings – loaded with fat and spices, it’s difficult for them to digest and could lead to pancreatitis
  • Turkey bones – these are very brittle and can splinter causing damage to the stomach and intestines
  • Bread, bread dough, stuffing, cookies, or other baked goods – dogs cannot digest these very easily and they can cause bloating or severe digestive distress
  • Onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, mushrooms, and nuts – these all contain different substances which can make your dog very ill
  • Chocolate – dogs cannot process the theobromine in chocolate. Consuming it can, depending on how much and how big your dog is, cause serious digestive upset and possible toxicity
  • Alcohol – especially beer, is very toxic for dogs

Leftovers

And after the big feast there will be leftovers.  Probably lots of leftovers.  Because let’s face it, isn’t that how most of us prepare for the big day?  We pretend we’re feeding an army (and maybe some of us are).  Partly because we enjoy the cornucopia of favorite foods. But also because after cooking for two days, it’s a great feeling to enjoy all these delicious treats again as leftovers. When we’re planning for leftovers, however, we need to have a plan.

Substitutions

In order to make sure you have the healthiest leftovers possible be sure to start with the healthiest ingredients:

  • This soup base is an excellent substitute for that chemical-laden standby cream of mushroom
  • If your family are biscuit fans do this instead of the whack-and-bake variety
  • Don’t buy the stuff in the can, it only takes a few minutes to make your own delicious cranberry sauce
  • If you eat gluten avoid the chlorine bleaching and bromates found in many commercial flours by choosing unbrominated and unbleached flours instead
  • Skip the crispy onions which come loaded with GMO ingredients and negative additives. Make delicious caramelized onions as a topping instead
  • Canned gravy usually has MSG, trans fats, sulfites, and caramel color, you can easily make your own 
  • Pie fillings often come loaded with GMO ingredients, MSG, plus artificial flavorings and preservatives, making your own is fairly easy. 

The plan

Most people plan their cooking day in great detail. What needs to go into the oven when, what gets cooked in which order, when family is arriving, and how to make the feast all appear on the table at the same time. While it’s great to pay all that attention to the meal, we also need to be mindful of how to plan for after the feast. These are my top tips for dealing with leftovers after the holidays:

  • Don’t throw out those bones, use them to make this delicious broth
  • And here’s a couple of recipes using it plus a wonderful one for my favorite meatball soup
  • Leftover wine can be frozen into ice cubes and used later. A standard ice cube tray is 1 ounce which is the equivalent of 2 tablespoons
  • Instead of storing each leftover item in its own container make them into Meal Jars using wide mouth pint jars for a quick and easy lunch or dinner 
  • Pie for breakfast – okay so it’s not nutritionally very sound, but when you’ve got a delicious gluten-free, lower sugar pie, there’s nothing wrong, in my humble opinion, with enjoying a slice of pie with breakfast
  • Here’s a blog post on one of my favorite leftover strategies, Sequential Eating
  • And another article Musings on Leftovers

However you celebrate, whatever is on your table, whoever your gather with, I wish you a holiday full of joy and gratitude, health, and happiness. 

Peaches – What’s In That Can

Thanksgiving is a very special time.  It’s become one of my favorite holidays.  After all, what’s not to like about spending time with people you love, eating your favorite foods, and having a little downtime.  Of course shopping for the holiday feast comes to mind as one of those less-than-fun activities.  Mostly because the stores are crowded, and if you didn’t plan well you’re in the thick of the fray looking for what you need.

This year I wasn’t cooking.  We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter, her fiance and his family.  Our responsibility was to bring mashed potatoes, braised carrots, and homemade cranberry sauce.  I also wanted to bring canned peaches.  It’s a tradition in our family started by my father-in-law.  He likes canned peaches and he always wants them at the Thanksgiving table.  Even though we weren’t spending the holiday with him it’s been adopted as a permanent part of our family tradition.  One which we wanted to share.

I haven’t made canned peaches in a while so we had none on hand.  This meant buying them at the grocery store.  Something I haven’t done in a very long time.  I was stunned by the sheer number of canned peaches available at the store.  I was amazed at the ingredients in them.  I thought I’d share the results of my canned peaches shopping expedition so you can see what’s really in that food.

It’s important to note that peaches are one of the dirty dozen foods (those foods highly contaminated by pesticides).  I did not find any organic canned peaches at my local grocery store.  Also, the notes about these containers do not include the issue of BPA which is often found in plastic containers, the linings of cans, and the lids of glass jars. Therefore all these containers are equal in respect to those issues.

Note: If you want to read the labels you’ll need to click on the images to enlarge them.

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Above you have the information you need to make the right choice for you depending on what’s important to you.  For those who want to take it one step further it is possible to make your own canned peaches.  There are many recipes out there on how to do this, one of my favorites is the Ball Blue Book Honey Spiced Peaches recipe substituting evaporated cane juice crystals instead of white sugar.

A Delicious Twist On Cranberries

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and as folks begin to plan their holiday menu out comes a wonderful fruit that only seems to make an appearance once or twice a year, cranberries. These deliciously tart fruits are grown on low shrubs in bogs. They’re grown commercially in the Northern US and Canada with most of the crop being turned into juice, craisins (dried cranberries) or canned “sauce.”

It is believed that Native Americans shared the berries with the starving Pilgrims in Massachusetts and this may explain part of its appearance on our Thanksgiving table.

Health Benefits of Cranberries

It is unfortunate that cranberries don’t play a larger role in our diet. These luscious red berries are high in fiber, a great source of vitamin C and also provide a lot of manganese and vitamin K. They are also high in anthocyanins and anti-inflammatory antioxidants. As if that wasn’t enough, their health benefits range from improving cardiovascular health and supporting brain function to helping fight H. pylori and E. coli bacteria in the body.

 
Many folks are familiar with the use of cranberries as a treatment for urinary tract infections. A recent study, published this year, 2009, in the Scandinavian Journal of Nephrology and Urology, found that “daily consumption of concentrated cranberry juice can significantly prevent the recurrence of symptomatic UTIs in children.” It is important to note that this would be 100% cranberry juice with no added sugar, not cranberry juice cocktails which tend to be more popular.

Sweet and Spicy Recipes

This year for Thanksgiving we’re having our traditional cranberry orange sauce which everyone loves. Now that we live in Texas we’re going to add a new tradition and make a cranberry salsa. I bought a large bag of cranberries and will keep the extra (they freeze really well) to use throughout the winter in cranberry muffins, cranberry scones, to use in salads, I even put some in oatmeal with maple syrup for a tangy breakfast treat.
 
If cranberry makes an appearance on your Thanksgiving table, try making your own sauce instead of purchasing the over-processed jellied mass they sell in cans, it’s not a lot of effort and it’s so much tastier.
 
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 C. water
  2. 3/4 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
  3. 3 C. cranberries
  4. 1 orange chopped fine (I use a Cuisinart)
  5. generous pinch cinnamon
  6. nutmeg (I use a nutmeg grater and shave several times)
Instructions
  1. bring the water and cane juice to a boil, stirring until crystals are dissolved
  2. reduce to a simmer, add cranberries, orange, and spices
  3. cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop
  4. remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before serving
Notes
  1. One really delicious way to use leftovers is to add a dollop to a bowl of oatmeal
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 
Cranberry Salsa
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 C. fresh cranberries
  2. 2 bell peppers
  3. 3 spring onions, minced
  4. 1/4 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
  5. 3/4 C. fresh cilantro, chopped
  6. juice of one lime
  7. generous pinch sea salt
  8. 1 t. crushed red pepper
Instructions
  1. Put cranberries and peppers into a food processor and chop well
  2. put mixture into a bowl and add remaining ingredients
  3. toss well and let sit at least 2 hours before serving for flavors to blend
Notes
  1. This is a fabulous topping for a warmed brie with organic corn chips
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/
 

 

Sources

  • Ferrara, P., et al. Cranberry juice for the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections: a randomized controlled trial in children. Scand J Urol Nephrol. 2009;43(5):369-72
  • Matsushima, M., et al. Growth inhibitory action of cranberry on Helicobacter pylori. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Dec;23 Suppl 2:S175-80
  • Zafra-Stone, S., et al. Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):675-83.

 

 

 

Thankfulness

Some hae meat and canna eat, and some wad eat that want it; but we hae meat, and we can eat, sae let the Lord be thankit.  ~ Robert Burns


Thanksgiving is an occasion for us to sit down together with loved ones, eat a good meal and be thankful.  Even when some of those things are not present in our lives the practice of gratitude is one that I believe helps us to lead a happier and healthier life.  This year I’m thankful for many things: being surrounded by my husband and children, friends, the abundance on our table and so much more.  

Today is a day for feasting; our menu includes turkey, chix nuggets (for the vegetarians), green bean and celery salad, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry chutney, braised carrots, wild rice and apple stuffing, olives, peaches, pumpkin pie, cherry pie and chocolates.  This doesn’t even begin to address the snacks for pre-dinner munching.  On this day, more than most, there is the temptation to indulge in overeating.  In order to avoid that groaning stomach and dyspeptic feeling the day after I plan to eat mindfully; enjoying the abundance of the table but not over indulging.  Saving room for pie, because, after all, who doesn’t love pie, and remembering that leftovers practically taste better than the meal itself.   In it’s own way mindful eating is a form of gratitude, one that causes us to reflect on the bounty before us, to savor the aroma and taste of good food lovingly prepared.

As we cook, slice, dice and saute for our feast later today I am struck once again by how fortunate we are; grateful to be baking pies with Steve, basting the turkey with Sasha, all cooking together.  While I try to practice gratitude every day, on this day it is more evident because of the nature of the holiday.  I plan to use today as an opportunity to renew my practice of gratitude for all the blessings in my life, both large and small.   And I send a wish that wherever you, whoever you are with, whatever your circumstances there are blessings in your life;  here’s to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day and every day.

picture courtesy of freefoto.com