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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanksgiving & Holiday Meal Survival 101

With Thanksgiving just about a week away, here's a way to plan for a healthier Thanksgiving.  

Split your dish into three sections: One third is protein, another third is vegetables, salads and greens, and the last third is what I call category-2 vegetables, usually higher on the glycemic index like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams or rice. The chart below is what it would look like.

I suggest you stay away from sauces and pies (ok, ok...I'll be realistic, have a little). Sauces & pies always have some kind of sugar, which makes everything harder to digest. 

If you are the host, you can always treat your guests with healthier choices like organic turkey (raised without antibiotics), gluten-free pies, frozen or fresh vegetables and fruits. Ditch the traditional mashed white potatoes. Opt for mashed sweet potatoes or cauliflower instead.

Bottom Line: When it comes to food, celebrate - but with control! Taking these few simple steps will help make sure that your nutrition doesn't suffer.


Cauliflower Steaks with Parsley Butter Sauce

By Chef Michael Chiarello
Described as a “shockingly good” way to cook cauliflower, this recipe calls for fresh cauliflower with smaller heads, to prevent crumbling. Purple and golden cauliflower are also recommended, and the side makes a great pairing with grilled fish.


  • 2 small or 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 to 2 3/4 pounds)
  • Approximately 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional) 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling


  • When your gas grill is hot or the coals have begun to turn gray, place a plancha (flat grill) on the grill rack and heat for at least 10 minutes.
  • Cut the cauliflower head into slices, each about 1/2 inch thick. Cut away the stalk (just the base of it) from the bottom of each slice. With a knife or your fingers, give each cauliflower slab a smear of softened butter on each side. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.
  • Place the cauliflower slabs on the plancha and cook until they show a nice caramelized crust, 5 to 6 minutes.
  • While the cauliflower cooks, halve the lemons and place them cut-side down on the hot plancha for about 2 minutes. Remove from the grill and set the lemons aside.
  • With a spatula, gently turn each cauliflower slab, and grill the other side until caramelized, another 5 minutes.
  • When finished, drizzle with juice from the grilled lemon, and garnish with parsley and, if you like, with a sprinkle of Parmesan. Drizzle with olive oil and serve while hot.
Grilled Asparagus and Leeks

By Chef Seamus Mullen
A classic inspired by his days cooking in Catalunya, Spain, Chef Mullen shares a recipe that pairs asparagus and leeks, two “harbingers of spring.” The side is ideally served with Romesco, a versatile sauce based in nuts and red pepper.


  • 2 bunches baby leeks, about 10 total
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch asparagus


  • Wash the leek greens under cold running water to remove any residual sand. Set aside to dry.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.
  • Toss with the asparagus and leeks to coat evenly.
  • On a hot grill, grill the leeks until charred and completely black on the outside.
  • On a cooler part of the grill, grill the asparagus until tender. Carefully peel away the charred exterior of the leeks.
Grilled Vegetable Antipasti Sott’olio

By Chef Michael Chiarello
In Italian, Sott’olio means “preserved in oil.” Chef Chiarello says he loves “the smoky summer taste it gives them,” when referring to preserving a variety of vegetables, right out of the garden, in olive oil.


  • 6 large Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • 5 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 medium peeled carrots (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 3 small green zucchini
  • 1 large eggplant (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, preferably gray salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 pound small button mushrooms or large cremini mushrooms (leave the button mushrooms whole but halve the cremini from dome to stem)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Fill a large stockpot with about 5 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Peel the potatoes while you’re waiting for the pot to boil.
  • Add the kosher salt to the boiling water, then add the potatoes. Decrease the heat to keep the water at a good simmer but not a hard boil. Cook until the potatoes are about half done and still very firm, about 10 minutes. With tongs or a slotted spoon, take the potatoes out of the water (leave the water in the pot) and set them aside to cool.
  • Add carrots to the hot water, adjusting the heat if nec­essary to keep the water at a strong simmer. Cook until the carrots are about half done, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a plate to cool, leaving the water in the pot for the fennel.
  • Halve the fennel lengthwise and then cut each half into six wedges. Add the fennel to the pot of simmering water and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove the fennel, and allow it to cool. At this point you can drain the water in the pot.
  • Cut each zucchini lengthwise into 3 long slabs. Set them aside.
  • Trim the stem and bottom from the eggplant and slice into 1/4-inch rounds (approximately 10 slices). Rinse each slice in cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the one tablespoon sea salt over the eggplant rounds. Let the slices rest for 15 minutes, then rinse them in cool water and pat dry again with paper towels.
  • Turn a gas grill to high or ignite charcoal. When the grill is hot, for both gas and charcoal grills, clean your grill rack. Decrease the temperature to medium-high (on a gas grill only), and brush or wipe a little olive oil on the grill rack.
  • Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds and halve the carrots lengthwise.
  • With a brush, give each vegetable a light coat of olive oil and then a sprinkling of salt and pepper. You’ll cook the veg­etables separately and then either serve them immediately or refrigerate them.
  • Grill the potatoes for about 10 minutes, the carrots for about 8 minutes, the zucchini for 7 minutes, the eggplant slices and mushrooms for 6 minutes, and the fennel for 5 minutes, turning with tongs about halfway through the grilling time.
  • As each vegetable comes off the grill, transfer to a serving platter. Serve while warm or keep them covered with oil and refrigerated for up to 1 week. If you cover the vegetables with olive oil, save the olive oil and use it in the smoked oil dressing.
Sugar Snap Pea Salad

By Chef Seamus Mullen
“Sweet, crisp, snappy, and sugary,” Chef Mullen praises sugar snaps for their versatile qualities. The flavors for this side salad are made even bolder with “a pinch of Aleppo pepper for heat, some fresh ricotta cheese for richness and texture, and edible flower for color.”


  • 1 pound fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • A few leaves fresh peppermint
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Pinch Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
  • Handful of edible flowers, such as pea blossoms or nasturtiums


  • With a sharp knife, trim the tips of the sugar snap peas on both ends, remove the strings, and cut some in half lengthwise.
  • Blanch the sugar snaps quickly, just about 30 seconds and shock in ice water.
  • Slice the radishes thinly into coin shapes or half-moons.
  • Combine the peas, radishes, cheese, and peppermint in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss with the lemon juice and olive oil.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper and garnish of edible flowers.
An ideal muscle-building dessert

1 tbsp
reduced-calorie margarine
3⁄4 cup
5 cups
French bread cubes (1 inch)
2 cups
fat-free evaporated milk
1⁄2 cup
egg substitute
1⁄3 cup
brown sugar
1⁄4 tsp
ground cinnamon
1 tsp
ground nutmeg
11⁄2 tsp
vanilla extract
1⁄3 cup
Butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray
2 Tbsp
1 tbsp
1⁄4 cup


  • 6-ounce custard cups
  • Shallow baking pan


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for five minutes or until toasted.
  2. Meanwhile, combine milk, egg substitute, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla; beat with a wire whisk. Stir in bread and raisins. Spoon into eight 6-ounce custard cups coated with cooking spray. Place cups in a shallow pan and add hot water to pan to depth of 3⁄4 inch.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
  4. For whiskey sauce: Combine sugar, cornstarch, margarine, water and whiskey in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for one minute. Serve warm over bread puddings.

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