I may be mis-remembering, but I believe this Thanksgiving will be my first as the host and only cook for my whole family.
A couple of decades ago, my then-husband and I hosted his family for the holiday once or twice, but those were always potlucks. I vaguely remember cooking a turkey once. But mostly, my kids and I have dined at someone else’s house for our holiday meal. Or I had to work the holiday, in which case I would participate in a work potluck and the family ate elsewhere.
This year, the stars aligned: the kids weren’t going to their dad’s house, they would all be in town, I didn’t have to work, and we didn’t have obligations elsewhere. So I’m preparing a full Thanksgiving dinner for my 23-year-old daughter and her fiancé, my 21-year-old daughter, my 17-year-old son and my six-year-old, with an assist from my husband of course.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a dining table so much as a dining peninsula. Hmmm. Must procure an actual table.
I may be all about healthful eating, but I admit I’m not a fantastic cook. Because I work at night, we typically only eat two dinners a week as a family. Generally, they consist of: salmon; some sort of chicken; a soup or rice concoction; leftovers; or small, convenient things that any of us can throw together. Vegetables are in abundance, of course. There’s always one night of pizza or something not-so-healthy thrown in there, as well. I’m more about simplicity than gourmet, I suppose.
So I’m excited about this Thanksgiving. My super hilarious future son-in-law made a crack about having nothing but vegetables for Thanksgiving. He’s a funny guy. I’ll be sure to make extra brussels sprouts just for him.
Here’s the menu for a healthy, clean-eating vegetarian mom’s family on Thanksgiving day:
Turkey: While my 21-year-old and I may be vegetarian, I understand the rest of the family likes meat. So, yes, I will be making turkey, Brandon. You’re welcome. Lean protein is a necessity for every function in the body, particularly for muscles. I get my protein from various sources, including fish, greek yogurt, nuts and seeds, cheese and protein powder. Animal protein also has benefits because it’s considered “complete” protein and has all the amino acids your body needs. This is partially why I decided to add fish back into my diet after going veggie in 2010.
Mashed potatoes: Duh. I always loved mashed potatoes as a kid. So do my kids. But white potatoes are a very high-starch carbohydrate with little nutritional value. So how do you make these somewhat healthy? Use red potatoes, for one. Leave the skins on, for another. Red potatoes are lower on the glycemic index and provide many nutrients, particularly in the skin. Just don’t eat three cups of them.
Roasted sweet potatoes: I used to hate sweet potatoes. But I’ve grown to appreciate them both for their health benefits and their taste. Why didn’t I like these things before? They’re awesome. So I’ll be using this recipe. Sweet potatoes provide a ton of nutrients, including vitamins A, C and B6. Check this out. Again, moderation, as that sweet flavor comes from, you know, sugar.
Brussels sprouts with cranberries and pecans: I’ll be using this recipe, minus the gorgonzola cheese. Blech. Brussels sprouts = vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals. The cranberries offer a sweetness along with a strong supply of antioxidants, and the pecans are a good source of omega 3 fats and protein. I made these for a neighborhood party last year, and they were a hit (after the requisite smart-ass comments, of course).
Arugula salad: a neighbor made this for our annual fourth of July block party, so I’ve been hooked on arugula since. I don’t make it with everything she included, but the key ingredients are arugula, tomatoes, goat cheese, almonds and a dressing I create with apple cider vinegar, olive oil and dijon mustard. Throw on some chia seeds for a little extra fiber and protein. This is one of my go-to meals for work that I can throw together quickly. I may add a hard-boiled egg for protein, too.
Apple crisp: My mom makes the best version of this. Ever. I’ve taken her recipe and health-ified it a bit, using almond meal/flour with granulated stevia for the crumb topping instead of the white flour and refined sugar that her recipe calls for. I also use honey to coat the apples instead of brown sugar. The family loves it just as much as the original.
I hope you all enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, whatever it may contain!