Surviving Thanksgiving – Tips, Recipes & More

photo credit: ldandersen via photopin cc

photo credit: ldandersen via photopin cc

The holidays can be a stressful time, can’t they? So much to do and there’s really not enough time to do it all. This year marks my 8th year hosting Thanksgiving. Those first couple of years were insane and hilarious as I tried to A) make food that didn’t taste horrible and B) get food on the table while it was still hot.I feel like I’ve got it down to a science to make it as least stressful as possible so for today’s email I’m sharing some of my favorite tips for a smooth experience and some healthy & delicious Thanksgiving recipes in case you are looking for a less indulgent meal!

Don’t get me wrong, my Thanksgiving dinner is pretty indulgent! I assure you we’re not eating wheat grass and berries all day! But I do make everything (except for one thing) from scratch. John would kill me if I tried to take away his canned cranberry sauce. I’m not convinced there are any cranberries even in it but to him, it’s not Thanksgiving if he doesn’t have a gelatinous, can-shaped slice of red high fructose corn syrup on his plate.  Pick your battles folks!

Anyhow, here are the goodies I’ve promised!

Healthy & Delicious Thanksgiving Recipes
1. Check out these vegan Thanksgiving Recipes by Kris Carr. Many vegan recipes at the holidays use meat substitutes made from wheat protein and processed soy which is terrible for us but Kris Carr focuses on whole foods – that is a vegan lifestyle I can support! Her recipes are delicious and aren’t too laborious.

2. Check out these paleo Thanksgiving Recipes by Diane Sanfilippo. The green bean casserole we all grew up with pales in comparison to hers! Lots of delicious stuff here that you can use throughout the holiday season.

3. Raw Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream. So, if you’re not used to raw deserts, the texture of this one might put you off at first, but if you like adventure and are open, I think you will love this! It’s absolutely delicious and it’s certainly a treat worthy of Thanksgiving!

4. Raw Carrot Cake Bites.  These are incredibly rich! Definitely cut them up into bite sized pieces or you will feel like a ton of bricks is in your belly (something we’d like to avoid). Same warning as above goes – be open to texture change.  The first time I had these I was so impressed by how much the coconut oil & soaked cashews tasted like a cream cheese frosting. When I was blending it in my blender I remember thinking “there’s no way this is going to taste good!” but after some time in the freezer:  Mind totally blown!

Tips for a Sane Thanksgiving
1. Don’t do your grocery shopping during peak times. The busiest times tend to be weekends, early morning and early evening (you know, when everyone is on their way home from work). Try shopping after dinner (the later the better) or mid-day during the week if possible and avoid the day before Thanksgiving at all costs!

2. Scan over the recipes you’re planning to make and chop & prep all veggies (except potatoes) a few days before.  Onions, celery, carrots, and butternut squash all stay fresh for several days if you keep them tightly sealed. I recommend double or triple sealing chopped onions in multiple bags or containers if you’ve chopped several! They will flavor everything in the fridge if you don’t.

3. Get out all platters, serving utensils and serving dishes that you will need during the actual serving of the meal (including appetizers, drinks and dessert) and set them up on a counter or table the night before. The last thing you want to do in the middle of cooking is try to figure out where you last saw your pie server 364 days ago. It will make a huge difference in how smoothly things go during the event with a little planning. I even set them up in the order I will be using them and place the utensil needed for that item right on top.

4. Think about planning out your timing . If you’ve never cooked a big meal for a holiday before and are worried about having everything done on time, take some time to “plan” a strategy. I actually make a spreadsheet and make a column that lists everything I’m making, one column for oven temps, another for approximate cooking times and then I create another column with the time that I need to put something in the oven or start something on the stovetop. To figure this out, I work backwards from the time I want to serve dinner and subtract the cooking times (and resting time for the turkey) until I know what time each item needs to get started on.  I then sort the column that lists each dish by the order it will be started – turkey goes in first, gravy is done last etc.  I even include a row for steps I might forget about when I’m mingling with guests or cooking, such as reminders to take appetizers out of the fridge at a certain time so that they’re room temperature, or to open a bottle of wine to breathe.  I know it all sounds a little Type A to do it that way but it takes so much work out of the day if you sketch it out!  I even do planning like this with cleaning for holidays, gifts and anything else that is easy to forget when really busy.  Find a system that resonates with you and you’ll never go back to winging it ever again!

5. Enjoy the food, the people and the day. No matter what your way of eating and no matter what kind of food is on your table on Thanksgiving – enjoy it!  Take a little bit of all the foods you enjoy and savor each bite.  Problems arise when we view certain foods as “off-limits” or “bad”.  Barring any health condition that actually requires you not eat certain foods for your safety (such as in the case of nut allergies or celiac disease), there’s little harm to your waistline with just one meal.  Relax and enjoy every bite! Then try to go back to normal eating the next day.  It’s ok if you treat yourself to one indulgence over the few days following (with all those leftovers, how could you not?) but try not to see it as a free for all.  You deserve to enjoy it, but you don’t deserve to feel crappy about yourself, and you will if you see it as a feast or famine situation. Christmas is around the corner – there are plenty more treats coming.

And if the holiday season tends to be a food free for all for you and you’re tired of gaining weight each year, consider joining my 12 Day Natural Detox program.  Groups start December 1st and 13th.  Either one you choose will help you get your cravings under control and still enjoy Christmas day. It’s all real food that you prepare yourself. No weird packaged processed junk to buy! You may feel so good afterwards that you change your eating habits permanently like I did.

If I don’t talk to you before then, have a lovely, warm and relaxing Thanksgiving with your family and friends! I have a lot to be grateful for this year – including all of you!

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