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Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Food and nutrition experts at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen offer a fresh, nutritional take on traditional holiday dishes.

The average Thanksgiving meal — complete with piles of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and stuffing — can total a whopping 3,000 calories. Add the festive drinks, tempting appetizers, and sugar-laden desserts, and you could be looking at 4,500 calories in one meal.

Whether you’re looking for some healthier recipes to try this Thanksgiving or just feel like mixing up tradition, Health Matters turned to experts at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen for a fresh take on a few classic dishes.

“These recipes are a lot lower in sugar than your traditional Thanksgiving recipes,” says Joseph Malota, director of Food and Nutrition at the Teaching Kitchen, “and they’re also packed with fiber to help you feel full longer.”

“We tend to overeat on Thanksgiving, so it’s important to be mindful of how much you’re consuming,” says Emilie Berner, chef and coordinator at the Teaching Kitchen. “Starting your meal off with a soup is a trick of mine to eat slowly — you have to, because soup is hot! My pumpkin custard recipe is a great alternative to traditional pumpkin pie because it’s sweetened with maple syrup instead of granulated sugar, and it’s prepared in little ramekins, which help with portion control.”

Thanksgiving is also a time to practice gratitude. Berner recommends these tips for staying mindful during your meal: “Take a few deep breaths before you dig in, think about what you are grateful for, and remember to savor every bite, using all of your senses!”

Mushroom Canapes with Truffle Oil

Serves 4

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs mixed mushrooms (shitaki, baby bella, chanterelle, etc.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp white wine
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp butter
4 slices crusty bread, toasted
1 Tbsp truffle oil
Optional: shaved truffles or shaved Parmesan

1. In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil.
2. Add the mushrooms and cook until they soften and begin to brown, about 7 minutes. Note: Do not overcrowd the pan or the mushrooms will never brown. They need to sit on the pan, and don’t move them around much; they need time to form that “browning.”
3. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, white wine, and thyme. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes longer. Reduce heat, and add parsley and butter until melted. Remove from heat.
4. Mound mushroom mixture on toast, sprinkle with parsley, and drizzle with truffle oil.
5. Add optional shaved truffles or Parmesan.

Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 4-6

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion and celery until translucent.
2. Place all remaining ingredients into the pot, cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30–40 minutes or until everything is soft.
3. Purée using an immersion blender or a blender.

Can be stored in refrigerator for 5–7 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

Roasted Delicata Squash

Serves 4-6

2 delicata squashes, or acorn or butternut squashes, cut in half, seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup safflower oil or other high-heat oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Toss squash slices in safflower oil with salt and brown sugar.
3. Spread out in one layer on a sheet pan.
4. Bake for 20–30 minutes, until squash is nicely browned, and soft all the way through when poked with a utensil.
5. Enjoy with skin and all!

Stores in refrigerator for up to 5–7 days.

Cream of Yams

Serves 6

1 large onion, cut into 1-inch slices
2 large yams (or sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cinnamon stick
Water, enough to cover the vegetables
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ginger juice
1 Tbsp fresh, chopped parsley, as a garnish

1. In a large pot, on high heat, add onions, yams, carrots, cinnamon stick, and water.
2. Bring to a boil, and add salt.
3. Cover and reduce heat to medium; simmer until the vegetables are tender.
4. While vegetables are simmering, prepare the ginger juice: peel 1 inch of ginger and blend in a blender with 1/4 cup of water. Use a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to squeeze ginger.
5. Once vegetables are soft, turn off heat, remove cinnamon stick, and add ginger juice.

This can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 12

Ingredients for the topping
1 Yukon gold potato, cut in quarters
4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cups cauliflower
3 Tbsp olive oil, softened
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper

Ingredients for the meat filling
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/2¬–2 cups)
2 large carrots, diced small (about 2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp)
2 lbs ground turkey
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas

1. For topping, place potato and parsnips in large stockpot and cover with cold water, bring to a boil, then decrease to simmer until they are soft enough to break with tongs, about 15–20 minutes.
2. Drain and add back to pot, adding olive oil, milk, salt, and pepper. Once you get the flavor and consistency you like, mix in egg yolks, and set aside.
3. For meat filling, preheat oven to 400 F.
4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium/high heat, sauté onions and carrots for about 5 minutes, then add garlic.
5. Add ground turkey, salt, and pepper, and break up with wooden spoon while the meat browns and gets mixed into the vegetables, about 5 minutes.
6. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, and cook for another minute before adding tomato paste, chicken broth, and dried herbs. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for about 10–12 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.
7. Add corn and peas, then transfer the mixture into a baking dish.
8. Add the potato and parsnip topping and lightly press down with a fork to spread evenly.
9. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes begin to brown.

Pumpkin Custard

Serves 6

1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk (or milk alternative: soy, almond, or coconut milk works best)

1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
2. Stir pumpkin, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg together in a large bowl.
3. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then whisk in the maple syrup, vanilla, and milk.
4. Whisk the egg mixture into the pumpkin mixture until well combined.
5. Pour custard into six 1/2 cup ramekins. Place the ramekins in a baking pan and add enough hot water to the dish to come up about 2 inches high around the ramekins.
6. Transfer to the oven, and bake for 45¬–50 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out clean.
7. Serve warm or chilled.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital’s renowned Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen, 1992 Crompond Road on the hospital’s Cortlandt Manor campus, has been open to the public since July 2014. Named after the Iron Chef winner and owner of Xaviars Restaurant Group, the Teaching Kitchen is part of a larger initiative at the hospital called Harvest for Health, which advocates healthful eating as a way to prevent chronic disease and promote health.

Each month, cooking demonstration classes are offered to the community, including sessions for breastfeeding mothers, patients who have had weight-loss surgery, cancer survivors, and people with heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic diseases. The Teaching Kitchen also holds innovative programs that focus on nutrition for bone, brain, and eye health. Learn more about upcoming classes.