"I cannot wait to binge on all of that healthy food at Thanksgiving,” said no one, ever. But what if healthy and delicious weren’t mutually exclusive? What if it were easy to make vegetables that made your guests say, “Wow!”? Maybe Cousin Johnny is bringing his new vegan girlfriend to dinner, or Aunt Cathy can’t eat dairy anymore. Or maybe you are trying to sneak in some healthy options for yourself. These new recipes make it easy to incorporate decadently delicious foods that are (shhhh!) healthy.
Sweet Potato Cups
A roasted sweet potato has so much natural sweetness in addition to its incredible health benefits. Leave out the added sugar and marshmallows and instead enjoy the fresh taste of citrus. Putting the sweet potato pulp in orange cups gives the side an extra festive feel. If you are overwhelmed or pushed for time, skip the orange cups and heat and serve the sweet potatoes in an oven safe casserole with an orange slice on top. This recipe includes lots of options to personalize the sweet potatoes to your and your family’s liking.
Do not try to cheat time and microwave or boil the sweet potatoes. Roasting brings out their candy sweetness. When it comes time to heat and eat, you can warm the sweet potato cups in the microwave.
4 large sweet potatoes
½ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste
4 oranges, halved with the pulp scooped out
Roast the sweet potatoes at 425 F until the jackets are loose and the potatoes are soft enough to squish with your fingers. Or if you don’t like burning your fingers, they should yield to the gentle pressure of a fork or the dowel end of a wooden spoon. Depending on size and shape of the potatoes, cook time could vary from 40 to 90 minutes. Let the potatoes rest until cool enough to handle.
While the potatoes are cooking and cooling, cut the oranges in half and scoop out the orange sections. The remaining orange skins become your orange cups to hold the sweet potato. Set aside the orange sections and use for another recipe.
After the potatoes have cooled, remove their skins and mash. Add the orange juice concentrate, butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Sweet potatoes will vary in sweetness as will the orange juice concentrate. Taste the mashed potato. If the orange is too subtle to notice, add more concentrate or a tablespoon of maple syrup to heighten the sweetness.
When you have made all adjustments to the potatoes, scoop enough potato filling into each orange cup to have a rounded mound.
Make ahead: Recipe can be made 1 to 2 days in advance, held covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to heat and serve. Heat at 350 F until the sweet potato filling is warmed through, about 15-20 minutes. Serves 8.
Add roughly 1 tablespoon of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce to the sweet potato filling. Adjust the amount up or down to get your desired level of heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to take the potatoes in a sweeter direction. And, yes, you can put some mini marshmallows on top before you heat the cups if you can’t tolerate the straight up healthy food.
Remove the membrane from the orange flesh. Chop the flesh in small chunks and fold into the mashed sweet potato.
Fold in some pomegranate arils to the mashed sweet potato for a surprising burst of color and flavor. Or sprinkle the arils on top just before serving.
For dairy free, use 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and an extra pinch of salt in place of the butter. Top with a salted roasted pecan before serving.
Rosemary Roasted Mushrooms & Rice
Roasted mushrooms offer a meaty umami flavor to your meal. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, these fabulous fungi can help lower inflammation in your body and boost your immune system. They are a low-calorie source of fiber and may mitigate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Paired with the whole grain rice, which is chock full of phenols and flavonoids, a class of antioxidants known to protect the body from oxidative stress, the dish provides a host of zinc and manganese to keep you healthy and strong.
2 pounds baby bella mushrooms
4 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
2 cups brown rice, preferably jasmine
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup pecans
Salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Preheat oven to 425 F. Wipe off any dirt from the mushrooms. Trim the stems and quarter the mushrooms. Drizzle 2 tablespoons each balsamic and extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon rosemary over the mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to evenly coat. Spread mushrooms on a prepared baking sheet.
When the water is boiling, add the rice and 1½ tablespoon salt. Stir and bring the pot back to a boil for 25-30 minutes until the rice is no longer crunchy but still has a little tooth. Drain the water and return the rice to the warm pot. Cover and allow to steam with no heat for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, roast the mushrooms for about 20 minutes until they release their juices and begin to turn golden brown. Toss them halfway through to make sure they brown on a couple of sides.
Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the pecans and stir over medium heat until the nuts are a shade darker and send off a roasted aroma. Sprinkle with a little salt.
Toss together the mushrooms, rice, and pecans. Add the remaining balsamic, extra virgin olive oil, and rosemary. Taste to adjust seasoning. Serve warm or room temperature. Can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated, until you are ready to warm and serve. Serves 8.
Double the spice mix. Cut up a butternut squash in cubes in addition to the carrots. Toss the squash with the other half of the spice mix and olive oil. Roast on another baking sheet at the same time as the carrots, tossing occasionally. Cook the squash until caramelized on several sides and fork tender. Combine all the vegetables and serve as above.
Double the spice mix. Toss roasted carrots with 3 cups of cooked quinoa, the additional spices, juice of one lemon, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add arils of one pomegranate to any of the above variations.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
Roasted Brussels sprouts make a delicious and healthy side dish. Heat from the oven caramelizes the sprouts’ natural sugars, leaving them sweet and tasty. Serve them simply with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Or, dress them up with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Top them with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, red pepper flakes, roasted pine nuts, pistachios, or pepitas. Look for bright green sprouts with tightly packed leaves in the store.
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Balsamic glaze (such as Nonna Pia’s) to drizzle
Preheat oven to 425 F. Trim stem ends of the Brussels sprouts along with any yellow or damaged leaves. Cut in half from tip to stem. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Arrange sprouts cut side down on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast for 15-25 minutes until the sprouts have golden brown caramelized markings on the outside and are tender on the inside. Don’t crowd them in the pan or they will steam instead of roasting.
Transfer sprouts to a serving dish. Swizzle balsamic glaze over the top. Serves 8.
Make ahead tip: You can trim and halve the Brussels sprouts a day ahead. Keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.
Toast ½ cup of nuts such as walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts in a saute pan over medium heat until the nuts are slightly browned and toasted. Sprinkle the toasted nuts over the Brussels sprouts after the balsamic glaze.
Grate Pecorino Romano cheese over the cooked sprouts when they first come out of the oven.
Mix in crumbled cooked bacon before the balsamic glaze.
Add some heat by sprinkling the sprouts with ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes before roasting or drizzle them with a hot honey sauce for the last 5 minutes of roasting.
Spice Roasted Carrots
Skip the vegetable tray appetizer that people ignore before dinner. Instead, roast your carrots paired with a Middle Eastern style spice rub to bring out their natural sweet flavor with a flair.
Sure, you know carrots help with vision, but did you know that they can help regulate blood sugar and pressure as well as lower your risk of cancer? And vitamins A and C in carrots help boost your immunity.
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cardamon (optional)
1 pound carrots
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion, sliced thinly
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Mix spices paprika through cardamon. Cut carrots about 3 inches long and half or quarter so that they are relatively the same thickness. Toss in a bowl with onions, the spice mix, and olive oil. Spread the mix out onto a baking sheet large enough that the vegetables are not overcrowded. Roast until the carrots are caramelized and fork tender, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Vegetables may be roasted several hours ahead and served at room temperature. Add the parsley just before serving. Serves 8.
These beets couldn’t be simpler or more surprisingly tasty. They add a tart sweet crisp flavor on top of salads. A delicious side by themselves, these zippy beets can lighten a heavy meal.
When so many Thanksgiving dishes require cooking time or warming at the last minute, it is helpful to have a make ahead dish that gets more flavorful as it sits and is ready to go at dinner time. Be careful whom you let taste the beets before the big day; the beets might disappear by the forkful over the week.
Red, Chiogga, golden beets, or a mix, raw and peeled
White balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds
Julienne the beets into matchsticks to get 8 cups. If you are using multiple colors of beets, make sure to keep them separated so they do not dye one another.
Mix the white balsamic and water half and half to make enough liquid to cover the julienned beets. Add the caraway or fennel seeds.
Place the beets in a nonreactive container — a clean plastic quart takeout container is perfect. Cover with the balsamic mixture and let marinate for at least 24 hours. They can last in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. Serves 8.
Hot and sweet roasted tomatoes make the plate! This recipe is great to make a day or two ahead of time and store in the refrigerator. It takes a long, slow bake but is easy to heat up in the microwave just before dinner, and the leftovers are worth fighting over. As for nutrition, canned tomatoes actually have three times the amount of calcium and iron as fresh ones. And cooking the tomatoes increases the absorption of lycopene, an antioxidant known for boosting prostate health.
3 (15-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in tomato juice
2 slices whole wheat bread, diced
¾ cup Vidalia or other sweet onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 275 F. With your hands, break or tear the tomatoes into smaller pieces about the size of a quarter. Fold in the remaining ingredients, and put them in a prepared ovenproof casserole dish.
Roast for 2 to 3 hours, removing the casserole from the oven every 30 minutes and stirring. The tomatoes will begin to concentrate and darken in color. Bits will begin to caramelize and stick to the sides of the dish. Stir those flavor bits in as you go! Cook until the tomatoes thicken and take on a reddish-brown color.
Begin tasting for seasoning after about an hour and a half. Some people love this dish fiery hot with pepper, whereas others will prefer a milder version. Enjoy!
A happy, healthy Thanksgiving to you and your family!