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Swap in New Ingredients For a Healthy Twist on Thanksgiving Favorites

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Rochester: Swap in New Ingredients For a Healthy Twist on Thanksgiving Favorites
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Chef Dan Rothman serves up some tips and recipes to help you bring healthier options to the dinner table this Thanksgiving. Jill Urban filed this report.

Thanksgiving is a time of overindulgence! Some call it the Super Bowl of food, but for many of us eating like a champ just leaves us feeling defeated.

“We love to indulge in Thanksgiving and at the end, often we don’t even make it to the couch without feeling like 'Oh my God, what did I do?' There's great ways to really enjoy everything and put a little healthier twist on it,” says Dan Rothman, regional chef for Whole Foods Market.

Rothman says there are ways to enjoy delicious, flavorful food without the ingredients that can impact our health and waistline. First, if you start your meal with a rich pumpkin or butternut squash soup, a simple swap can help cut the cream and the calories.

“A great cream replacement that works super well is using yogurt. It adds a richness and the tartness plays really well off the sweetness of those vegetables in the soup,” says Rothman.

Also, mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, and they are often loaded with heavy cream and butter, but they don’t have to be. Instead, he suggests pureeing roasted garlic and oil and mixing that into the potatoes instead .

If you serve cream vegetables like cream onions, or spinach, he says lighten it up with a little nut cream instead of heavy cream.

“Nut creams are a fantastic heavy cream replacement as well. We take skinless cashews or almonds with onions or garlic and herbs and you just simply simmer them for about 30 minutes until they are soft and puree them until they're smooth in a food processor,“ says Rothman.

If you are looking to cut back sugar, his cranberry sauce has no processed sugar at all.

“I replaced sugar with the sugars from whole dried figs, and the sweetness of fresh local cider. Puree it all together with some fresh cranberries and have this beautiful cranberry conserve,” he says.

Another really easy thing to swap out is salt. Salt tends to be the go-to ingredient when we want to add flavor. Instead, he recommends using herbs, mustard or even a little vinegar to give your food that pop without all the sodium.

From gluten free to vegan, stay tuned for the next Healthy Living report, where Rothman cooks up some fabulous sides to accommodate any special diet at the table.

Healthy Thanksgiving Sides from Whole Foods Market

Colonial Cranberry Conserve

2 cups apple cider
1 cup dried figs (stem trimmed off and quartered)
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cup cranberries (fresh or thawed)
1/3 cup pecans. Lightly toasted (sub lightly toasted sunflower seeds to make nut free)
2 ea. clementine (washed well and quartered, seeded if any, do not peel)
4 oz. apple brandy or port wine
.5 tsp salt
1 pinch cayenne

Soak cut dried figs and dried cranberries in the cider for 2 to 12 hours.
NOTE: you can warm cider to a low simmer and accelerate the process if you don’t have time for a long soak.

Combine all ingredients in food processor fitted with metal chopping blade.

Pulse a few times and then let run until all ingredients are pureed. Leaving it a little coarse provides a nice texture.

This is a great dish to do up to a week in advance as it holds very well and gets better as it sits.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Crisp Topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

4 ea. large sweet potatoes
1 oz. molasses
1 tsp. dried ground ginger
.5 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp. salt
2 cups quick oats
1 cup sliced almonds
6 oz. coconut oil

Wash and bake sweet potatoes in their skins for 50-55 minutes, until soft to the touch. Allow to cool slightly.

Peel over mixing bowl to capture any caramelized juices that may escape from under the skin.

Mash together potatoes with molasses, spices and salt.

Spread into casserole dish. Note: you can lightly oil dish for easier clean up if you prefer.

For the topping, simply warm coconut oil to soften and combine with oats and almonds.

Spread topping over mashed sweet potatoes and bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes.

Roasted Garlic Oil Mashed Potatoes

This technique also applies well with mash celery root or turnips.

1 cup peeled garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil
2 lbs. Yukon gold or russet potatoes
1 Tbsp salt (divided)
Fresh ground black pepper
Ground turmeric, fresh chopped thyme, rosemary or sage optional

Wash potatoes, cut in half and and cover with water and half the salt, bring to boil, lower to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender but not mushy. NOTE: inserting a knife through a potato with little to no resistance is a good way to test for doneness.

While potatoes are simmering in a small pot, bring oil and garlic up to a very light simmer, stir occasionally and allow garlic to roast in oil about 20 minutes or until soft. NOTE: it is best to keep flame low to keep garlic soft and prevent cloves from getting bitter. Allow to cool slightly and mash with a fork or in food processor.

Drain potatoes very well but do not allow to cool, using ricer or food mill, mash process potatoes into a pre-warmed bowl. Fold in roasted garlic puree, remaining salt, pepper and if desired a spoon full of fresh chopped herbs.

Bonus Health Tip: Boast your body’s intake of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories while helping bring a beautiful bright color to your mash by adding a bit of ground turmeric into the water you cook your root vegetables in. A teaspoon is enough to make white vegetables vibrant yellow.

Nut Cream

1 cup cashews, almonds, pine nuts or macadamia nuts, raw and peeled
3 cups water or light vegetable stock
1 cup. White onion, peeled and rough chopped

Simmer together the above ingredients on low flame and covered about 30 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.

Puree in blender until smooth and cream-like.

The above is a great base for a nutritional, flavorful substitute for heavy cream.

You can play around with the flavors by adding some whole garlic in place of some or all of the onion, and by adding herbs such as sage, bay leaf, thyme that can be removed prior to pureeing or left in for visual contrast. This sauce also works will with a teaspoon of white miso or nutritional yeast to give you a nutritious sodium boost. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP