Diet Detective: Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes 2012

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Detective: Healthy 2012

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Walnut-Apple Basmati Pilaf

Healthy Recipe by Mollie Katzen author of Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen (William Morrow Cookbooks; 2009)

Makes 8 servings

1 cup brown basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium acorn squash (about 2 pounds apiece) halved and seeded
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, minced
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (about half a small clove)
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 medium apple, chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries (halved or quartered, if overly large)

Combine the rice and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting, cover the pot, and let the rice simmer undisturbed for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with foil and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Use a pastry brush or a rubber spatula to distribute the oil so that it coats the area where you’ll put the squash. Place the squash cut-side-down on the olive oil coating. Put the tray in the center of the oven, and roast the squash for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it is tender enough on the bottom to easily insert a fork or a sharp knife. Remove the tray from the oven, and let it sit while you prepare the filling. Turn the oven down to 300°F.

While the squash is roasting and the rice is cooking, place a small skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon (that’s 1 1/2 teaspoons) olive oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the butter and swirl until it melts into the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the onion becomes very soft and is beginning to turn golden. (If it appears to be browning too quickly, turn the heat to medium-low.) Add half the walnuts, and cook them with the onion, stirring frequently for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the nuts begin to toast and give off a lovely aroma. Stir in the garlic and salt, if using it, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat. (Meanwhile, lightly toast the remaining walnuts and set aside.)

After 40 minutes of undisturbed cooking, you may now disturb the rice by fluffing it with a fork. Give it a taste. If it is a little too crunchy, add another 3 tablespoons water and, without fluffing or stirring it further, put the top back on and let it sit for another 10 minutes with the heat turned off. It will steam itself a little further and become more tender.

When the rice is done to your liking, transfer it to a medium-large bowl. Add the onion-walnut mixture (using a rubber spatula to scrape in all the delicious essence that might otherwise be left in the pan) and toss with a serving fork until well combined. Add the apple and cherries, and mix until thoroughly combined.

Turn the squash over, so their cavities are facing up. Divide the rice mixture among the squash, using a soup spoon to fill the cavities, packing down the filling, and then mounding the top.

Cover the filled squash loosely with a tent of foil, and return the tray to the oven for only about 10 minutes – just long enough to heat everything through. (You can also skip this step and just serve it warm, as is. It’s good either way.) Serve topped with the remaining toasted walnuts.

Please note: You can include the squash in the stuffing as well. Simply roast it as directed, peel it and cut it in chunks. Add the squash chunks to the rice mixture.

If you can’t find dried cherries, it’s OK to substitute dried cranberries.

Nutritional information (per serving): 290 calories; 10 g fat; 23 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 5.5 g protein; 10 mg sodium
Sunshine Butternut Squash

Healthy Recipe by Karen Ciancio from

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 pounds butternut squash
3/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the squash cut-side down in a large Dutch oven. Pour in boiling water 1 inch deep. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until tender.

Drain the squash, and allow it to cool slightly. Combine the orange juice, cornstarch and ginger in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Add the butter and stir well.

Peel and cube or mash the squash. Add the squash, salt and pepper to the orange juice mixture, tossing or mixing together lightly.

Nutritional information (1 cup): 103 calories; 2.2 g total fat (1.3 g saturated; 0 g trans fat); 5 mg cholesterol; 117 mg sodium; 21.9 g carbohydrate; 3.2 g dietary fiber; 1.8 g protein
Cranberry Balsamic Green Beans

Healthy recipe from The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook: 125+ Delectable Plant-Based Vegan Recipes for a Fit, Happy, Healthy You by Melissa Costello (HCI Books, $18.95)

Makes about 4 servings

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
1–2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup dried cranberries
Zest and juice from 1 medium orange
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons pomegranate juice or cherry juice (not from concentrate)

Steam or blanch the green beans until fork tender, 5 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the beans. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Turn up the heat slightly and caramelize
the onion until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar and pomegranate or cherry juice. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the green beans and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Nutritional information (per serving): 150 calories; 6 g fat (4.5 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 15 mg sodium; 25 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 4 g protein
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

Healthy Recipe from Sleeping Naked After 40, by Rosie Battista (CreateSpace, 2102)
Makes 8 servings
For crust:
1/2 cup raw unsalted pecans
1/2 cup raw unsalted walnuts
1 cup pitted dates (soaked overnight in 1/2 cup water, then drained)
For filling
2 cans organic sweet potato (make sure sweet potatoes are the only ingredient) or 5 small baked sweet potatoes, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup coconut cream or coconut shreds
1/4 cup chia seeds
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or pumpkin pie spice mix
For topping (optional):
2 tablespoons crushed pecans
Drizzle of maple syrup

To make the crust: Drain the dates and place in a food processor with the nuts. Pulse until the mixture forms a sticky dough-like consistency. Spread the crust mixture into a round glass pie dish (9-inch glass pie plate)
Use a sheet of wax paper or your fingers to press the crust into the bottom and along the sides of the dish.

To make the filling: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend to a creamy, smooth consistency. Pour into the crust and refrigerate for about 5 hours until firm. Decorate the top with crushed pecans, a drizzle of pure maple syrup and/or a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Keep the pie refrigerated until ready to serve so that it is easier to slice.
Nutritional information (4.3 ounce/ 1 slice): 372 calories; 6.6 g protein; 58.8 g carbs; 15.2 g fat
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Healthy recipe from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever, MS. RD, CPT (Alpha, 2011) (

Makes 12 servings.

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
3 tablespoons water
1 cup date syrup (or date paste)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups oat (or other whole-grain) flour
1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 1/2 cups grain-sweetened chocolate chips (or raisins or other dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl gently mix the flaxseeds with the water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Add the date syrup, pumpkin, maple syrup and vanilla extract and combine until smooth. Gently stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Mix until there are no more lumps. Add in the chocolate chips and distribute them evenly throughout.

Pour the batter into a loaf pan and bake for one hour.

Allow the bread to cool before cutting and serving.

Nutritional information (per serving): 312 calories; 6 g fat; 62 g carbs; 4 g fiber; 3 g protein

Spiced Pumpkin Dip

Healthy Recipe by Brittnee MacIntyre from @TheTable

Makes 12 Servings

1 (8-ounce) package fat-free cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (16-ounce) can 100% pure packed pumpkin
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional

Combine the cream cheese and pumpkin Add the sugar and spices and stir to combine. This dip can be served warm or chilled.

Note: You can replace the sugar with non-calorie sweetener, honey or agave.

Nutritional information: 67 calories; 0.28 g fat; 13.27 g carbs; 1.31 g fiber; 3.43 g protein

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