Healthy Thanksgiving: It's All About Baby Steps

Are you ready for the feast? Some of you have been putting together your menu for weeks. Others will probably shop in the next few days for the same ingredients for the same dishes you make every year. After all, Thanksgiving is about tradition. Right?

We're right there with you. But we also believe in baby steps toward making holiday traditional meals into healthy fare. Each year we've tinkered with a few recipes and tried new variations to start our own healthy Thanksgiving traditions without going "cold turkey" on the family.

The first year after we consciously started our healthy eating journey we started by looking at our menu and eliminating the "worst" recipes. In our family, that meant ditching the sweet potatoes with a pound of brown sugar and marshmallows on top. We also traded pecan pie, which is basically a corn syrup soup (ugh!) for apple pie using local apples. We also tried out some new recipes like homemade cranberry sauce rather than that canned stuff.

Last Thanksgiving we incorporated more healthy recipes. Mom Lazo tried out whole wheat crescent rolls made from scratch rather than the ones out of the little Pillsbury tube. We also urged Mom to make her pie crusts out of whole wheat pastry flour and real butter (ditching the white flour and margarine/shortening). Ericlee also requested this stuffing that incorporated wild rice (which is known for its high-protein content - double that of brown rice) and goat cheese instead of the usual cubed white bread-based stuffing. (We saw Bobby Flay mix this new version up on a Thanksgiving cooking show.) The stuffing was a wild hit!

For us, these changes in the menu while maintaining the "integrity" of a traditional Thanksgiving are baby steps. We didn't spring Tofurky on the crew. We thought of ways we could make old favorites with organic and local ingredients. We decided to reduce the amount of butter and salt in recipes and use natural sweeteners like honey. This year we're adding a homemade Green Bean Casserole (instead of that canned soup kind) and adding our new fave, Banana-Pumpkin Muffins (a greater starter or dessert that uses no sugar at all!)

There's no convincing Ericlee's mom at this point that we don't need two turkeys. Maybe next year? In the meantime, we're dreaming up healthy leftovers with that excess of bird!

This year's menu:

Gorgonzola & Pear Pizza
Whole Wheat Crescent Rolls
Banana-Pumpkin Muffins
Dorina's Butternut Squash Soup

Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Classic Roasted Turkey with Herbed Stuffing
Paul's Teriyaki-injected Turkey
Wild Rice & Goat Cheese Stuffing
Mashed Pecan-crusted Sweet Potatoes
Pomegranate-pear Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Tiramisu
Oatmeal-Nut Crunch Apple Pie
Blueberry pie with Oatmeal crunch with Honey Whipped Cream
Organic Italian Pizzelle Cookies

We're interested in a word from you. What healthy additions or subtractions do you have for your menu this year? What questions do you have about how to make a healthier Thanksgiving meal?


Lip-Smackin' Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey-Lime Soup with Quesadillas

If you're anything like me, you're dreaming about turkey leftovers even before you get to the real Thanksgiving feast. I decided to post my fave recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers so you could get the extra ingredients when you make your rounds to the grocery store before the holiday. Are you in the mood for something to warm up your cold winter day? I created this recipe using ingredients we had in the pantry/fridge after Thanksgiving. Haven't you always wondered what to do with that turkey carcass? Here's a way to use it! This one would even work in the crockpot. Enjoy!

Turkey-Lime Soup
inspired by Chicken-Lime Tortilla Soup served in the Yucatan

Turkey Stock ingredients: (Or skip the stock and just add boxed organic chicken broth)
1 turkey carcass
8 cups water
2 cups chopped celery
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Soup Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
turkey stock (or 2 quarts organic chicken broth)
1 chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 diced red bell pepper
1 29 oz. can organic diced tomatoes (or use fresh ones if they are available and in season)
2 cups chopped turkey
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 thinly sliced limes
2 cups chopped turkey
1 diced jalapeno or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/4 cup cilantro (garnish)
tortilla strips or chips (garnish)

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot.
2. Simmer 2-3 hours until meat falls off bone and vegetables are soft.
3. Strain broth as a starter for soup and discard bones, etc.

1. Saute onion, celery, carrot and garlic in olive oil.
2. Meanwhile, dice red pepper and prepare limes.
3. Set burner to medium-high heat. Heat broth in large pot. Add tomatoes and lime peel and juice.
4. Add sauteed vegetables and red pepper.
5. Add turkey and boil for 5 minutes.
6. Reduce to a simmer and add the jalapeno/red pepper flakes.
7. Cook an additional 30 minutes. Add lime slices.
8. Serve with cilantro or sauteed tortilla strips on top.

This soup goes great with quesadillas for lunch or tacos for dinner. A wonderful winter treat!


Recipe of the Week: Harvest Apple Salad

Here's an easy Apple Salad recipe I created the other morning. I started off with a Classic Waldorf Salad recipe but decided to add a healthy twist with some ingredients I had at home. The yogurt and honey replace the mayonnaise and give this salad a fresh taste. This is perfect to add to a brunch menu or for a side at lunch or dinner for your Thanksgiving guests. Apples are in abundance at local farm stands here in Fresno so we've been gobbling them up!


4 apples (I like Pink Ladies and the classic green cooking apples)
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (could use walnut pieces)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup plain yogurt

1. Chop apples and mix with lemon juice and vinegar.
2. Chop celery, nuts and green onions and add to apples.
3. Add pumpkin seeds and cranberries and mix in.
4. Mix honey and yogurt and drizzle over salad mixture.
5. Mix well and serve or chill.


Recipes of the Week: Persimmon Party

Wondering what to do with all those extra persimmons? Have you seen this elusive orange fruit in the grocery store or at the farmer's market and wondered how to employ it in your favorite dishes. According to Eating Well magazine, persimmons provide half the Vitamin C and one quarter the fiber we need daily. The "fuyu" persimmon is like an orange, squatty tomato and firm when ripe. These are great in place of apples or pears in your fave dishes. The "hachiya" persimmon is the acorn-shaped variety that becomes mushy to the touch when ripe and can be squeezed out to use in smoothies or for baked goods like cookies and breads. Here are some of our recipes using the persimmon. (Please share some of your creative uses for the persimmon!)

Baby Greens Salad with Fuyu Persimmons

1 package mixed baby greens or fresh organic greens of your choice
2 thinly sliced fuyu persimmons
1 thinly sliced small red onion
1 container 4 oz. feta cheese or goat cheese

1. Arrange salad in a bowl.
2. Make dressing. Easy Dressing: Add 3/4 salad oil to a small mason jar.
3. Mix in 1 T. apple juice, 1 t. lime juice and 1 t. mixed herbs (1/4 t. basil, 1/4 t. oregano, 1/4 t. rosemary, 1/4 t. mint)
4. Shake jar and pour over salad.

Baked Salmon with persimmon salsa

1 large-2 medium salmon fillets

sea salt & pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper


1 red onion

1 red or yellow pepper

1 orange

1 cup fuyu persimmon

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

1/2 jalapeno or pepper of your choice, depending on how much heat you want

1. Coat 1 large salmon fillet big enough for your family with olive oil. (We get it from Costco or Trader Joe's - You can substitute in the kind of fish of your choice. Mahi mahi is another one of our faves.)

2. Sprinkle with sea salt & pepper

3. Rub on mix of herbs, such as basil, oregano, coriander, garlic, lemon pepper and/or chili pepper.

4. Let salmon sit in a dish or on a platter and prepare the salsa in a small bowl.

5. Chop 1 red onion, 1 red or yellow pepper, 1 orange, 1 cup fuyu persimmon, 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro and 1/2 jalapeno (or pepper of choice) finely minced. Make sure everything is in bite-sized pieces or smaller and stir together.

6. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. (You can make this salsa ahead of time and reserve in ziplock bag)6. Grill the salmon approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on your grill and the size of your fillet. Watch for when the white fat juices start to ooze out the top and the salmon meat is flaky at the touch of a fork. Then it's done. You only need to grill on one side.

7. Top with persimmon salsa and serve with rice or potatoes or other favorite side.

Persimmon & Honey Cookies


1/2 cup butter, organic softened
3/4 cup honey
1 egg
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or other flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup persimmon pulp (2-3 soft & peeled)

1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup semi-sweet or carob-sweetened chocolate chips, optional

1. Cream together butter & honey.
2. Beat in egg.
3. Sift dry ingredients and add to butter mixture.
4. Stir in nuts, raisins and chocolate chips.
5. Lightly grease cookie sheet and drop tablespoons full onto sheet.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until golden brown on top.


November Healthy Menus

Looking for ideas for some homecooked meals with a healthy twist you can whip up for your family? This month's menus include some of the fall produce like persimmons, pomegranates, apples and greens. Try adding ground flaxseed to comfort foods like casseroles, stews and soups for that extra dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Dried cranberries are also a rich source of antioxidants for fighting colds and flus. Grab a handful for a snack. Add them to chicken salad for lunch. Or, try sprinkling them over a green salad.

Novebmer 16-22

Italian Wedding Soup
Corn Bread
Green salad with tomatoes, radishes, carrots and cucumbers

Green salad with persimmon, feta and pecans
Broccoli Mac & Cheese with Turkey Bacon
Leftover Soup

Salmon with Persimmon salsa
Black Wild Rice pilaf
Sauteed Chard

Guacamole & Organic tortilla chips
Black bean enchiladas with Green tomatillo sauce
Brown rice

Chili Pizazz
Cheesy whole wheat biscuits
Persimmon & Honey Cookies

Baby greens salad with black olives, cherry tomatoes & Parmesan cheese
Spinach ravioli with Alfredo sauce
Foccocia bread

Luscious Leftovers

November 9 - 15

Salmon with Pepita-Lime Butter
Brown rice
Steamed carrots

Baby Greens salad with tomatoes and black olives
Veggie Ratatouille Pasta

Waldorf salad
Giada's Winter minestrone soup (We subsitute turkey bacon for the pancetta.)
Rosemary bread

More-Please Meatloaf
Mashed sweet potatoes
Broccoli salad

Dorina's Killer Guacamole with organic tortilla chips
Chicken Fajitas with Persimmon salsa
Black Beans
Brown Rice

Small Group Dinner:
Green Salad
Chicken Cacciatore
Whole Wheat Pasta

Luscious Leftovers

November 2 - 8

White Bean & Chicken Chili
Organic tortilla chips with cheese

Honey-teriyaki Chicken
Millet Fried Rice
Sauteed Bok Choy

Deep Dish Potato & Pumpkin Pie
Green Salad with Feta & Fuyu Persimmons

Crockpot Beef & barley stew

Cross Country League Champs
Dinner out with Team

Thai Chicken Coconut Soup
Stir-fried Veggies
Jasmine Rice
Thai-spiced Salmon

Taste of Friendship event:
Spinach-stuffed Manicotti Shells
with Marinara Meat Sauce
Baby greens salad with feta, walnuts & dried cranberries
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