Intelligent Gourmet Thanksgiving: Aromatic Brined Turkey with Cider Gravy

Gobbled Gobbled

“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

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


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

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


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.

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


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).

Health Benefits of Pumpkin – So Good, it’s Scary

Only Jack-O’-Lanterns grin wider than I do during pumpkin season. While all winter squash is delicious there’s just something especially festive about pumpkins – and especially healthy. From canned pumpkin to pumpkin seeds – even pumpkin pie – the health benefits of pumpkin are scarily good.

Why Pumpkin Eaters Will Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

Just one cup of pumpkin contains 49 calories, more than 200% of your daily recommended dose of Vitamin A, lots of fiber, more potassium than a banana, and almost 20% of women’s recommended intake of Vitamin C.

All that means pumpkin-eaters will see better in dim light (handy for fighting the undead), and have their body’s balance of electrolytes restored since all that potassium improves muscle function (which you’ll need for endurance while running from those zombies!).

Pumpkin Seeds are a Ghoul’s Best Friend

A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols, zinc, beta-carotene, and tryptophan (like Turkey).

Combined, these nutrients reduce wrinkles, and make you feel amazing (Tryptophan is most famous for inducing post-Thanksgiving snoozes, but it is also an important amino acid for producing serotonin – the feel-good chemical in your brain). They also lower bad cholesterol, boost the immune system, and prevent cancer. You’ll live so long, your neighbors might think you’re a member of the un-dead.

Pumpkin Pie Spices Up Your Love Life

As if sexy Halloween costumes weren’t enough to get you in the mood – that pumpkin pie (or pumpkin pie flavored body shot) at your Halloween party just might push you over the edge. The spices that makes pumpkin pie taste delicious are just as healthy as the gourd, with one very sexy added benefit.

Pumpkin Pie Spice is a mix of Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, and Nutmeg. Not feeling “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” yet? You will after you read these fun facts:

Cinnamon has been linked to lowering bad cholesterol.
Powdered Ginger decreases blood pressure, aids digestion, and stimulates the circulatory system (great for your skin and increasing blood flow to… important places).
Cloves have a higher antioxidant content than any other food, boost memory, and help with flatulence (rather important for sexy activities).
Nutmeg has been said to work as a powerful aphrodisiac.

Live longer, feel happier, and have better sex? No wonder that Jack-o-Lantern is grinning.

Linda’s Low-Fat, Low-Carb Eggplant Lasagna Recipe

As a kid in an Italian-American family, I didn’t grow up eating mac’n’cheese from a box, we didn’t have fried chicken, or casseroles. And we never ate anything out of a can. At home, my mom cooked every night: Pasta fagioli, fritatta, meatballs, and fish on Fridays including calamari and bacalao (salted cod). We ate calves liver with sautéed onion and bacon, stuffed peppers, linguine with white clam sauce, mussels, and my favorite, eggplant parmesan.

These recipes weren’t low-fat or low calorie, but my mother made sure we had a salad on the table at every dinner. With food that tasted that fresh, and that good, I never believed people should settle for less. Even when dieting.

Here is one of my favorite Italian recipes that brings back the flavors of my mother’s kitchen, but without the fat and carbs!

Eggplant Lasagna

Lifestyle recipe by Intelligent Gourmet

Yield: Makes 1- 1/2 sheet pan (8 to 10 persons)


  • 2 large eggplant (choose firm vegetables with little or no bruising)
  • 28 ounces of fresh plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups of sweet onion, 1 cup chopped
  • 1- cup of fresh basil chopped, 1/2 cup chopped
  • 1-cup of fresh flat leaf parsley, 1/2 cup chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. of ground fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon of cracked blk pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons of sea salt
  • 2 lb’s of ground chicken or turkey breast
  • 8 ounces of low or no – fat cottage cheese


  1. Slice the eggplant 1/8-inch thick horizontally and lay out on sheet pans over paper towels . Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sea salt and set aside to “sweat.” This is how you achieve that great noodle-like texture, without the noodles.
  2. Puree fresh tomato with crushed red pepper, 1 cup- onion, 1/2 tbs of sea salt, 1/2 cup of basil, and 1/2 cup of parsley (stems removed). Bring tomato mixture to simmer on stove over medium low heat, careful not to burn the bottom, and let cook at a slow simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Brown ground poultry in a large skillet with cooking spray, add cup of chopped onion, 1/4 cup of chopped basil, 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, oregano, fennel seed, 1/2 tsp of black pepper and a pinch of sea salt.
  4. Drain cottage cheese and mix with remaining fresh herbs and black pepper.
  5. Rinse all of the eggplant slices thoroughly and pat dry.
  6. Begin with a 2 inch deep baking pan. Coat bottom of the pan with your fresh tomato  sauce, cover with eggplant, layer with drowned meat and dollop with cottage cheese mixture.
  7. Continue until all of the eggplant is gone. Top with additional fresh tomato basil sauce.
  8. The acid in the tomato sauce may eat through tin foil – to prevent this, you can cover the top layer with plastic wrap, and then cover the plastic wrap entirely with foil. The plastic won’t melt – I promise.
  9. Bake covered in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Un-cover completely and continue baking for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Chef’s Notes:

• To make this meal Vegan or comply with Ideal Protein® protocol we omit the cottage cheese.

• Average calories per 8 ounce serving: 254, 234 without the cheese, all nutritional information is calculated on the web and is accurate to the best of our ability. Full nutritional information is available on request.

TOO BUSY TO COOK?  Catering is  available daily in our store front or online.

Intelligent Gourmet & catering by Amore are located at 4245 Henderson Blvd. Tampa, FL. 33629. If you would like this heated when you arrive please call ahead 813.287.2253

All content is the intellectual property of Linda Baldwin & Intelligent Gourmet © 2012

Four Fab Foods for Weight Management

Intelligent Gourmet Chicken Dinner

Weight management really is a mathematical equation. For woman it’s about 1200 to 1500 calories per day; for men 1800 to 2200 calories, depending on height, age, and activity level. While you can’t ever throw out calorie counting if you really want to see pounds drop, there are some foods you can have as much as you want without keeping track.

  • Non – Starchy Vegetables: Eat as many as you want in unlimited quantities (unless you are a brittle diabetic), as long as the preparation method is “clean”. No one ever got fat from a carrot or beet.
  • Boneless Skinless Poultry: One of the most versatile of all foods, chicken eaten plain, grilled, with salad and parmesan, or stir fried with fabulous red bell peppers, is a sure way to keep your energy up and lose weight.
  • Eggs, yolks and all: I am not afraid of yolks; they have great Vitamin D and Iron. Take 2 egg whites and whip with a whole egg and spinach (or other vegetables), top with 1 ounce of great natural whole cheese, and you’ve made a huge breakfast for yourself.
  • If you can’t drink enough plain water, slice up a cucumber and half a lemon and put the slices in a big pitcher with water, ice, and a few mint leaves. It’s natural flavored water that is far more refreshing, and fun!