Since America is a melting pot, one would think that the menu for Thanksgiving dinner would vary depending on what ethnic neighborhood in which you might be dining. Yet pretty much nationwide, where every you go city, village, small town or in the country the traditional fare is turkey and stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Maybe this is one of those times we do all actually melt together.


Besides tradition some of it has to do with the availability of foods at fall harvest and the celebration of this country’s bounty. As little as two generations ago almost everyone had gardens and nothing was left to waste.  Root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, and beets, pumpkins and squash would winter well in the root cellar. Creative cooks would make everything from soups to cookies out of pumpkin and squash nothing went to waste.


The fall harvest is a plentiful one so let’s look at some new and old ways to put variety up next to tradition producing meals with less fat and calories but all the taste.


Try mashing the potatoes with half the butter, skim milk or rice milk and two cloves of garlic. Or skip the garlic and the butter and mash the potatoes with plain yogurt. Yogurt gives potatoes a rich creamy taste without the fat.


Clarify some butter for basting the bird by heating it on low heat until the milk solids rise to the top. Skim off the fat and you have wonderful buttery flavored oil without added fat and fewer calories.


Add wonderful flavor and aroma to your bird and the gravy by laying fresh sprigs of sage, rosemary and thyme between the leg and the breast of the bird. Your gravy seasoned with herbs will require less salt and will draw rave reviews.


Make a naturally flaky pie crust by adding some roasted oat flakes; almond flour or 1/2c finely ground blanched almonds. Half the white flour called for in the recipe and use half rice flour for a nutty crispy crust. Sweeten your apple pie with maple syrup and stevia. Stevia would work well for other fruit pies- cherry, blueberry, or other berry pies-use as directed.


Sweet potatoes mashed with sour cream and fresh grated nutmeg will reduce the amount of butter needed. Or use brown rice syrup or maple syrup and 1/2 the amount of butter.


Try serving one artfully simple dish to balance out the heavier foods. Lightly marinate a few fresh raw vegetables- multicolored peppers and cucumbers, red onion, tomato and carrot in a light olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some honey. Season it with fresh ground pepper, dried basil, mint or dill.


These changes will not lessen the quality of your feast, quite the contrary. If you are the one cooking this holiday, I hope you will find these suggestions useful. Happy Thanksgiving and special thanks to all the cooks preparing the feast. Till next time, Rebecca