Intelligent Gourmet Thanksgiving: Aromatic Brined Turkey with Cider Gravy

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“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.” – Kevin James, comedian

Binge eating on Thanksgiving is as traditional as pumpkin pie, or the New Year’s resolution to lose weight. But you don’t have to feel as stuffed as a Turkey after dinner this year. You have the power to make Thanksgiving healthier and feel good about yourself the day afterwards. If you use the recipes I’ve written about this month, you can eat your fill guilt-free – and benefit from all the nutrients on the table – starting with the turkey and gravy.

Aromatic Brined Turkey
Yield – 6-8 servings

Ingredients
10-12 pound thawed or fresh turkey
1 C kosher salt
1/4th mixed peppercorns
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 whole carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
Generous bunch of fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup pickling spice (whole)
1/4th tsp ground ginger
1/4th tsp ground allspice
2 gallons water
5 cloves garlic

Turkey Rub
1/4th cup olive oil
2 Tb thyme
2 Tb parsley
1 tsp sage
1 tsp rosemary
½ tsp sea salt
1/4th tsp cracked black pepper

Prep:

Two days in advance: Take all ingredients (except the turkey) and add them to a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, and refrigerate.

One day in advance: Remove giblets from turkey and set aside.
Rince the bird under cold water and pat dry. Add the turkey to the refrigerated brine and allow to sit for 6 hours.

The night before: Remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry, and return to the refrigerator overnight. This dries the skin so it will crisp.

Thanksgiving Day: Preheat oven to 550. Rub the turkey inside and out with the olive oil & herb turkey rub. Put the turkey in the oven for 30 minutes, then cover the breast with aluminum foil and replace in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake until juices in thigh run clear and breast meat reaches 165 degrees with a meat thermometer. Let the bird rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Why it’s crazy-good for you: Turkey is such a healthy meat – high in protein, low in fat, and an excellent source of amino acids. And, did you know Tryptophan is an anti-depressant?

White meat or dark meat? White meat may be lower in fat and calories, and higher in protein, but dark meat has higher levels of Zinc, iron and thiamine. One choice is not automatically better for you than the other! Here’s the breakdown (1 serving = 3.5 oz).

  • Calories per serving: White meat contains 161 calories. Dark meat contains 192 calories.
  • Fat per serving: White meat contains 4 grams. Dark meat contains 8 grams.
  • Protein per serving: White meat contains 30 grams. Dark meat contains 28 grams.
  • Iron: White meat contains 1.57 mg. Dark meat contains 2.4 mg.
  • Zinc: White meat contains 2.08 mg. Dark meat contains 4.3 mg.
  • Thiamine: White meat contains .04 mg. Dark meat contains .05 mg.
  • Riboflavin: White meat contains .13 mg. Dark meat contains .24 mg.
  • Selenium: White meat contains 32.10 mcg.  Dark meat contains 40.90 mcg.
  • Folate: White meat contains .01 mcg. Dark meat contains 10 mcg.

Glory Foods Basic Gravy

Healthy Cider Gravy

Ingredients
4 cups Turkey stock or reduced sodium chicken broth, divided
3 Tb tapioca starch
1 1/4th cups apple cider (all-natural, unsweetened)
2 Tb cider vinegar
1/4 th tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Prep:

If making from your own turkey broth, skim off any visible fat from the pan juices. Whisk ½ cup turkey stock and tapioca starch in a small bowl until smooth and set aside. Set the roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat. Add cider and vinegar, and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from the pan. Boil until liquid is reduced by about half. Add the remaning 3 ½ cups stock and pour the reserved flour mixture into the pan. Boil, whisking constantly, until the gravy is thickened. Remove from heat and pour the gravy through a fine sieve. Season with salt and pepper.

Why it’s crazy-good for you: In several studies, vinegar has been linked to lowering glucose levels and evening out blood sugar, which means that even though you’re eating a lot today, you won’t up-end your brain chemistry completely tomorrow.

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An Intelligent Gourmet Thanksgiving: Smart Sides Part 2 – Wild Rice Dressing

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Forget the turkey, just let me eat the stuffing! It’s the best part of the bird, isn’t it? But, packed with bread and butter, it’s not the best thing for you – until now. My gluten-free Wild Rice Chicken Sausage Dressing has all the flavors you love, and is packed with B-vitamins. Feel free to experiment with variations, like adding chunks of apple, celery, or butternut squash.

Ingredients:
2 Tb olive oil
½ cup onion
2 Tb garlic
½ cup dried fruit
¼ tsp cumin
2 cups wild rice
4 cups chicken stock
8 oz chicken sausage*

Prep:
Saute the onions, garlic and dried fruit in the olive oil until onions are tender. Add the rice, chicken stock and chicken sausage. Bring to a boil and continue to boil until rice becomes level with liquid. Once rice and liquid are level, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

*To make vegetarian, use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock and a cup of beans in place of chicken sausage.

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Why it’s crazy-good for you:
Not only does this North American native plant harken back to the pilgrim days, wild rice has far more protein, minerals, B vitamins, and folic acid than other grains. It is high in carbs, but is only 83 calories in ½ cup of cooked rice.

*This is a WanderFood Weds post.

An Intelligent Gourmet Thanksgiving: Smart Sides Part 1

Green Beans
A golden-brown turkey is a sight to see, but I confess – my favorite part of Thanksgiving is the side dishes: casseroles and stuffing, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes with gravy. This week, I’ll take two of my favorite unhealthy sides and teach you how to turn them into feel-good food.

Rich, creamy, and delicious, green bean casserole topped with fried onions is one of my guilty pleasures. Here’s our healthier version from the Intelligent Gourmet kitchen.

Feel-Good Green Bean Casserole
Makes 6-8 servings

1 ¼ lbs green beans
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 Tbs unsalted butter
10 oz Portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 large shallots, plus 3 Tb minced
1/3 cup plus 3 Tbs all-purpose flour (or favorite gluten-free flour)
1 cup fat free half-and-half
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp soy sauce, preferably mushroom soy sauce
Canola oil for deep-frying
1 Tb garlic
5 sprigs fresh thyme

green bean casserole

Prep:

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly butter a deep 2 ½ quart baking dish. Trim the green beans and halve crosswise. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until tender, but crisp, about 4 minutes.

Drain and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they give off their juices and are browned, 6-7 minutes. Stir in the 3 Tbs minced shallots and garlic, and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the fresh thyme. Sprinkle with the 3 Tbs flour and stir well. Slowly stir in the half-and-half, stock and soy sauce, and then bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring, until thickened (4-5 minutes). Pull out the sprigs of thyme, and stir in the green beans. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.*

*The casserole can be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated.)

Bake until the liquid is bubbling, about 20 minutes (or 30 minutes if it has been refrigerated).

Cut the remaining 3 shallots crosswise into slices 1/8th of an inch thick, and separate into rings. Place the remaining 1/3 cup flour in a small bowl. Toss the shallot rings in the flour to coat evenly, shaking off the excess. Roast in the oven until golden brown. Remove the casserole from the oven, scatter the roasted shallots on top, and serve.

Why it’s crazy-good for you:
Green beans are some of the healthiest veggies you can eat, packed with Vitamin K (helps with healing and calcium absorption), Vitamin C (boosts immune system), Manganese (relieves symptoms of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and PMS), and Vitamin A (guards against wrinkles and age spots).

An Intelligent Gourmet Thanksgiving: Smart Appetizers

healthy thanksgiving recipes

While other nutrition and fitness blogs are probably giving out tips on how to avoid the upcoming eating frenzy at all costs, I have just three words for you: Go for it.

If that means making imperfect food choices, like grabbing seconds on that creamy green bean casserole topped with fried onions, well fine. I’ve even heard of dieters deciding to devote their entire day’s allotted calories to pie – and only pie. It’s Thanksgiving and if you need permission to enjoy all the goodies that you are blessed to have on your table, I give it to you.

However, our specialty at Intelligent Gourmet is taking the foods you love and making them healthier for you. So if you’d like to give thanks and feel great this holiday season, try this recipe to start off the festivities.

Intelligent Gourmet Appetizer: Blue Cheese, Agave Stuffed Radicchio

Ingredients:
12 Radicchio leaves
3 oz Blue Cheese
A drizzle of agave
36 almond slices

Preparation:
Fill each Radicchio leaf with a little blue cheese and drizzle with agave. Top with 3 almond slices.

Why it’s crazy-good for you:
Radicchio is high in antioxidants, especially dark red radicchio, which neutralize free radicals and fight cell damage. Its high fiber content promotes weight loss by helping make you feel full, and it also contains inulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Although honey would be delicious for drizzling, agave syrup has a far lower glycemic index and won’t spike your blood sugar.

Stay tuned, because next week I’ll give you side dishes, and the week after: the best turkey you’ve ever tasted!