Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dream Thanksgiving Menu & the Right Turkey to Serve

Kale, Butternut Squash Salad (recipe below)
I may have mentioned that my family went out to eat for Thanksgiving last year. I wasn’t happy about the plan but you know what?  My day wasn’t spent in the kitchen. Instead of a marathon meal, it was more like a 10K. I drank and ate what I wanted (as did everyone else) and wasn’t sucked into having things because they’re traditional or homemade. And there are no second helpings when you’re at a restaurant. We’re going out again this year and I’m thrilled. Most of clients will be hosting or at a relative’s next Thursday. They will face the typical holiday booby traps, food pushers etc. but the tide is turning. It’s no longer about having a heart attacky holiday feast with a lonely, decorative vegetable. Nope, more and more we’re hearing “nobody needs marshmallows on sweet potatoes” and we concur. Here’s our Foodtrainers’ dream Thanksgiving and I have no plans for next year in case you're cooking...

Appetizers should be very simple maybe olives (I’m voting Cerignoa), Parsnip Chips or veggies and my new favorite dip Basilicotta.
 I served this Kale Butternut Squash salad at Halloween but if I were hosting Thanksgiving I’d serve it again. It’s seasonal/festive but healthy and so delicious. My friend Jenna from Rosaberry concocted it; I wish I had thought of it. I guess it isn't Thanksgiving-like to be jealous.
1.5 pounds butternut squash, diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 bunch lacinato kale, thick stems removed and cut into thin strips
Juice of one lemon
2 Tablespoons pepitas
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place the squash on the pan and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Roast until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
  2. To toast the pepitas, place them in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Cook until golden, stirring frequently.
  3. Place the kale in a large bowl. Using your hands toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste frequently and make sure the kale is well-seasoned. Add the squash, toss again, and taste again.
  4. Place on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the pepitas.

You may not think so but Brussels sprouts are crowd pleasers. Perhaps you’ve had them roasted or spruced up with bacon or pancetta. But have you had hash?
Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots.
Unbutter (I have used half the suggested amount) or you’ll have to unbutton.

Carolyn wrote a Thanksgiving post on WebMD regarding turkey, an unappetizing excerpt:
“Did you know that traditional, factory farmed turkeys are artificially inseminated to reproduce? That’s how I’ll start the dinner conversation this year. If I have my way, none of us will ever look at the turkey baster the same way again. That’s not even taking into account the massive overfeeding, followed by saline and flavor injections to improve taste and texture. Eventually my family members will give me “the look”, or an elbow, or both. I’m giving you the opportunity to get a wild, heritage, or organic turkey.”
In case Carolyn scared you, Rustic Root has turkeys from Hemlock Hill Farm “Free Range, Pasture Raised, No Antibiotics, Steroids or Hormones of any kind.”
They are so concerned that you may be serving up steroids, they are offering free delivery just enter the code- foodtrainers, at checkout. Order before Friday at 5pm.


I am a big fan of the Smart Grain brand and use their gluten free bread crumbs in meatloaf and for breading. The have a Sage Stuffing that I believe both G-Free NYC and Gary Nulls carry.

Raw Pumpkin Mousse
Next year, when you invite me over bear in mind I’m not such a dessert person. I’ll be perfectly happy with a square of Alter Eco Quinoa/Dark Chocolate. If you insist on serving something, I like treats in ramekins. How about...pumpkin mousse? After all, there is no need for “crust” after a holiday meal.

I’m so thankful to be able to be lighthearted. I am thinking about those people who don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving or always hosted in a house that no longer exists. I’m having a little Sandy fundraiser on 11/29, email me if you’d like more information.
In the meantime? What would be on your dream Thanksgiving menu? Any of these recipes/ideas you think you’ll try? Will Carolyn cause you to look at your turkey differently?


  1. I agree, who needs the crust? I always eat the pumpkin pie filling and skip the crust.
    Strangely, the two recipes I'm making this year are; kale and orange salad, and a butternut squash and quinoa pilaf. I should just make your salad, as it seems to have all my ingredients in ONE recipe :)

  2. I need to get my hands on that Basilicotta! Other than the kale & squash salad I'm making roasted fingerling sweet potatoes, some brussels sprouts dish (not sure which yet), a "clean" turkey, and then the things I wouldn't necessarily tell an RD about.... (horseradish mashed potatoes, my mom's cornbread & sausage stuffing, and gravy).

  3. Such great ideas here! Especially love kale and butternut squash combo. I celebrated thanksgiving last month (It's in October in Canada),but the family was away on vacation so no turkey-feasting this year. Also, I didn't know about the turkey-insemination, so I'm thankful we opted out. Have a good one!!!

  4. Yum! We're going out again this year as has been our MO for the last 8 years. I wish I could cook a big Tgiving feast, but that's so much work for only 2 people. And I love the side dishes most of all. I'm going to steal these recipes for other meals next week. Many thanks!

  5. hearing lots of people (post sandy) going out to eat and volunteering. I love sides too but also happy to get delicious fish and a seasonal veggie (festive I know).

  6. turkey is so prevalent we have to think about where our turkeys come from (even when it's icky)

  7. A good mix, something for everyone. I am wondering if there isn't a healthy spin on horseradish....horseradish mashed cauli? Great Brussels in Times Well (veggie thanksgiving) with maple and hazelnuts.

  8. Maybe that's out motto, "who needs crust"? I wonder if quinoa could be used for a "stuffing"?

  9. Last year I made my mom get the organic/free range turkey and my dad complained that it was too dry...something was different. I liked it just fine but that's the only way I'lll eat it!

    This year, t-day will be different, my mom usually hosts and makes ALL the food. It'll be a tough one without her but I'm going to try and re-create her stuffing (even though she never followed a recipe). My dream thanksgiving menu would be ALL stuffing without the calories/fat/unhealthiness haha I love it. Not gonna lie. YUM!

  10. I don't eat pie without the crust...bc I just like the crust. haha. Oh dear. Am I really a dietitian?

  11. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner once. And from then on we decided to go to NYC for Thanksgiving. I'm sure you can imagine it was a family decision!

    Thanksgiving foods don't really appeal to me anyway so I'm totally fine eating anything restaurant-made.

  12. where will you be this year on Thanksgiving?

  13. Yes, you know what you like and when it's worth it.

  14. I can imagine it's going to be hard. I love that you're recreating her stuffing. Do you know My Judy The Foodie? My friend Shari started it trying to replicate some of her mother's creations. I wonder if your dad complained just because he knew the bird was organic or if he was just used to the "injected" variety.

  15. We will either be at McCormick and Schmick or a similar restaurant in NYC…love how easy it is!

  16. love the non-traditional thanksgiving foods idea! after a while i just get so sick of the typical cranberry sauce, stuffing & candied sweet potatoes deal. I'm going to try making a mashed cauliflower and kale butternut squash salad (the recipe you mentioned above) as healthy sides this year

  17. I've actually seen quinoa stuffing recipes before! They do sound good, but I prefer GF bread, because it's more like stuffing :)

  18. My family is very untraditional. Some years we did the whole bird thing, others out to dinner, and others we just made a nice dinner with no traditional dishes whatsoever. I like the fact that when you go out you don't overstuff as much. And the no clean-up is also a great perk. What restaurant will you go to?

  19. This menu would be fabulous!! I love the kale and butternut squash salad! Sounds so fresh and so fall! :)
    My parents are hosting this year. But I can see exactly what you mean about going out to much easier on you! Enjoy!

  20. used to the injected variety...we bought it secretly haha He's like that. Ug.

  21. My dream Thanksgiving which will actually become a reality next week: Roasted Turkey Breast, Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnuts and Salad! SOOO EXCITED :)

  22. Everything on your dream menu sounds delicious, but especially those parsnip chips! We will start out our Thanksgiving Day with a big family/friend hike at one of my favorite spots-Torrey Pines Reserve-then we will head over to my in-laws for late lunch/early dinner. I will confess that my favorite part of Thanksgiving is the stuffing (probably since I usually only eat it on Thanksgiving!) Love your fundraiser idea, especially since it is on my birthday :-) Not sure if I can do anything from across the country, but let me know if there's anything I can do to help!

  23. I love the stuffing...not crazy about Turkey your dessert idea. I think you eat like a saint :)

  24. Really? Funny it doesn't feel saint-ly feels sort of how I like to eat (so not that hard) funny in light of today's post.

  25. sounds great, I'm a chestnut freak (or just a freak ha).