I recently found myself reminiscing about my family’s Thanksgivings of the distant past. The preparations would begin in the middle of November when my mom and my aunt got us children together on a Sunday afternoon to make place card favors for the table with little cups attached to each one. On the big day, they would be filled with mints and salty roasted peanuts.
The weekend before Thanksgiving things became more intense. That’s when my mom and dad would make Stollen from a recipe handed down through generations of my dad’s family. Stollen is a rich buttery German yeasted bread studded with raisins, bits of candied citrus fruit peels, and slivered almonds. This was serious stuff, along with some serious fun, all of us taking turns mixing and then kneading the heavy dough, all by hand. It made 6 loaves, enough to share with friends. I can still remember the scent of the rising dough filling our kitchen, a hint of good things soon to come. The turkey was another joint venture on the part of my parents, always stuffed with Pepperidge Farm stuffing.
My mom made all the side dishes. She was an incredibly good cook. Every Thanksgiving, in addition to turkey and stuffing we had mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, sliced apple and sweet potato casserole, dinner rolls, and Stollen. Dessert was always her homemade pies, an apple pie, and a pumpkin pie. To this day, my mom’s apple pie has never met its match. Clearly, I would have some big shoes to fill in the future when it came to Thanksgiving dinner.
Through the years as my family grew, I made attempts at healthier eating. Two Thanksgivings stand out in my mind. One year I put all the vegetable leftovers straight into the crockpot as I cleared the table. I added tomato juice, and we had nice soup with our supper of leftover turkey. My other attempt was the one and only time I bought a “Tofurkey” instead of a real turkey.
I’ve been following the Zone Diet for over 25 years. My Thanksgiving dinners are now designed to appeal to all my guests. I naturally cook Zone-friendly, and Thanksgiving is no different, especially since turkey is an excellent source of low-fat protein. Surprisingly, many traditional Thanksgiving dinner foods are good Zone choices. I also make sure to have stuffing and a few roasted potatoes, so no one feels deprived. This year I created a Zone Pasta Orzo side dish as a healthy alternative to stuffing.
Zone Orzo Stuffing Side
Amounts are up to you.
Sauté equal amounts of 3/8 inch chopped onion, apple, and Baby Bella mushrooms in a little olive oil until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add dry orzo, 1 bay leaf, dried thyme, and enough beef broth to cover the orzo. Simmer uncovered according to orzo package instructions, adding a little more broth if needed. Can be made ahead and reheated.
Dessert at our Thanksgiving dinners is always homemade apple pie and pumpkin pie, a tradition that’s been part of Thanksgiving since my childhood, but with a twist. A few years ago, I discovered how to make a Zone-friendly and very tasty pumpkin pie, without crust.
No-Crust Pumpkin Pie
My tip is to go heavy with the spices and use as little as possible of the sweetener (taste as you add, my choice is blue agave nectar).
Mix 1 15 oz. can of 100% pumpkin, 2 slightly beaten eggs, a Zone-friendly sweetener, pumpkin pie spices, and 3/4 cup milk. Bake in a lightly oiled 8 or 9-inch pie plate at 375 degrees until set.
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