Thanksgiving: A New Twist on an Old Favorite Dish

Thanksgiving really snuck up on me this year. It seems we’ve had so many things going on that I haven’t been able to keep track of them all and I’ve been forgetting things. (Kind of like my child on Halloween, swinging her candy bucket…something invariable falls out. My head’s like that.)

In fact, my family can be thankful this week for my iPhone. I used the alert function in the built-in calendar to remind me to take the turkey out the freezer to thaw on Monday. There’s no way I would have remembered that on my own. That phone is practically my personal assistant.

So, our turkey is thawing and I am in planning mode for what will make up the rest of our Thursday’s dinner. Here’s our very basic menu:


Garlic mashed potatoes (a combo of russet and red)

Rosemary-sourdough stuffing (I might post that recipe, too)

Sweet potato casserole

Sauteed green beans

Cranberry sauce

Dinner rolls

Pumpkin pie

Annnnnd…I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something.

Of course, I will do what I can to make each dish as healthy as possible. One thing I’ll be doing is substituting a healthier dish for an old, fattening, sodium-filled favorite. The old dish: Green bean casserole. The new: Sauteed green beans.

If you’d like to give my “new” dish a try, it’s very simple to throw together. Steam one package of thinly sliced green beans (the package may read “Italian cut,” “French cut,” or “French style”). In a skillet or similar pan, pour a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Let that heat for a few minutes, and add a quarter of a chopped white onion, a handful of sunflower seeds or pine nuts (sunflower seeds are cheaper), and a sprinkle of bacon bits (optional). When the onion is translucent, add the beans. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, and dried garlic (or minced fresh garlic). Sautee for a few minutes longer until beans are heated through and everything is thoroughly mixed. Delicious!

Do you have plans to make your Thanksgiving dinner healthier this year? Do share!

©2010 Sally Dinius
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Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here.

Cooking With Your Kids This Thanksgiving

By Peggy Baron

Photo courtesy of Libby's

Photo courtesy of Libby's

Thanksgiving can be a little stressful when you have company coming and you have to cook the whole meal. Sure the company is bringing a pie and will help with the dishes and clean up, but you’ve got a whole lot of work ahead of you when you wake up on that special Thursday morning. Don’t despair and stress – rally the troops!

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got one or two or more children running around that house don’t you? Put them to work and give them all jobs. Just don’t mention the words “work” or “job.” Kids like to be helpful, especially when they see how much you appreciate it. Let them help!

First off, you need to have a plan. Take some time before Thursday morning to plot everything out. Of course you know what you want to prepare and serve – you do the same thing every year, don’t you? So that’s the easy part. Really look at each recipe and see what’s involved. You could probably do it in your sleep, but your kids can’t. Assign a recipe to each child, depending on their skill level. You may even want to find an easier version of the recipe. Go over the steps with your child and explain how it’s all going to work. Do kind of a foodless dress rehearsal with them.

If the child is too young to do a whole recipe, just give them certain tasks in a recipe and have them help you. Little ones can melt butter in the microwave, mash the potatoes, wash the vegetables, toss the salad, and put the marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole.

This is one meal where everything seems to happen at the same time. To help prevent this, the kids can mash the potatoes ahead and keep them warm in the crockpot, ditto with the sweet potato casserole and veggies. If you don’t have a way to keep them warm, time them to come out before the mad rush, put a lid on them and wrap them in several towels. They can stay quite warm that way. The salad can definitely be made earlier in the day or even the night before.

Try to schedule the prep time so there aren’t too many people walking around the kitchen with sharp knives at once.

What about the pies? Kids love to make the pies! Go with the pre-made pie crusts if their pastry skills aren’t quite up to snuff. Maybe they could pick the pies they want this year and shake tradition up a bit. I’m sure a Chocolate Dream pie is a tradition in someone’s home even if it isn’t (yet) in yours.

Keep one step ahead of total chaos by having someone wash the dirty dishes that are accumulating. Perhaps those who are watching football on TV could lend a hand! Not only will there be fewer dishes to do at the end, but it leaves lots more room for the cooks to prepare the grand feast.

If you give it some thought and plan ahead of time, this Thanksgiving could be a lot easier on you and a heck of a lot more fun for the whole family. Have a good attitude and lots of patience and just enjoy yourself. Your kitchen will be filled with those you love, and that’s something to be thankful for.


Peggy is the editor of the popular Cookin’ Kids Newsletter. Interesting themes, fun facts, silly clip art, easy recipes, kid jokes, cooking terms, and safety tips make this newsletter a hit with kids! Learn more about it at

A Healthy Thanksgiving…Hard to Imagine?

If you’ve read my post on the ExerciseTV blog about my hard-to-believe holiday plans, you know those plans include making healthy versions of the “usual” holiday dishes, starting with Thanksgiving. I’m talking about marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole, peanut butter fudge, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. Each and every one will be getting a makeover.

Also, as you’ll see in the post I mentioned above, my daughter and I are following a health challenge to maintain our weight and gain not even one pound during the holiday season. Yikes, right? More on that in a later post!

Following is a list of each dish as it used to be (a torpedo of fat aimed straight for the hips), and what it will become (delicious and nutritious):

Sweet potato casserole, previously made with eggs, spices, brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows and canned pineapple, will now be sweetened with turbinado sugar (“sugar in the raw”), with a crispy streusel topping.

Mashed potatoes will no longer be made from baking potatoes (or, as was the case on some Thanksgivings, from a box). This year, my “mashed potatoes” will actually be made from red potatoes, cauliflower (that’s right), and roasted garlic.

As far as the gravy is concerned, I used to make it by whisking together turkey broth, water, and a couple of MSG-laden packets of turkey gravy. No monosodium glutamate on our turkey day table this year! We’ll have gravy, but it’ll be made in a more nutritious way.

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Our usual homemade whole berry cranberry sauce will be sweetened with turbinado sugar this year instead of white sugar (hint: the addition of frozen blueberries makes it even sweeter).

Green bean casserole…now that will be a tough one. I’ll either use the low-fat version of cream of mushroom soup in it, or may just replace the casserole with a healthier veggie dish. I’ll let you know.

Peanut butter fudge is also stumping me, I’ll admit. I’ve made it for years from a stick or two of real butter, what seemed to be a ton of sugar, peanut butter (of course), and a jar of marshmallow cream. You know — and I know — that for someone who’s trying to get and/or stay healthy, that’s a dangerous thing to have sitting around. I’ll either make a healthier version (perhaps with turbinado sugar) or I’ll just make less, considering how my 17 year-old son begged me not to ditch the fudge this year.

And, last but never least: Pumpkin pie. I’m really pretty excited about this one. While shopping in the natural foods section of my favorite store last week, I found a can of organic pumpkin pie filling! Who’da thunk it? Organic pumpkin pie filling? I grinned from ear to ear when I held that can for the first time. It contains nothing but pumpkin, organic cane juice, and spices. I just have to add eggs and a crust. I bought a second can today because I’d love to try making some pumpkin pie biscotti with it.

The turkey, as usual, will be roasted inside a Reynolds Oven Bag. I’ve cooked it in one of those for the past 10 years (at least), and it’s been perfect every time.

I am really excited about the changes I’ll be making to our Thanksgiving menu! I plan on posting recipes all next week for you to try, so you can have a healthy (but tasty) Thanksgiving, too.

©2009 Sally Dinius
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