Here's a healthy (for you), happy and grateful (for the turkey), delicious and most of all, festively impressive, centerpiece entrée. In fact, it's a whole Thanksgiving meal!! And if some at your table want to eat it as a side dish to their turkey, that's ok too. It just means it's that good.
Meal for at Least 4 (or side dishes for lots more)
Cut off the top of the pumpkin, and cut the stem to about 2 inches. Scrape out the seeds (these are a delicious pre-dinner snack if you clean, oil, salt and roast them). Rub the pumpkin and lid inside and out with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle inside with a little organic sugar. Roast the pumpkin and its lid for one hour at 350 degrees. Watch that the pumpkin doesn't overcook or over-brown. You can cook the pumpkin ahead of time and refrigerate it until you're ready to complete the recipe if that works better for you.
The Pumpkin Filling
Pre-cook the rice, using 4 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt for 2 cups dry rice. Pre-cook the chickpeas, covering with water. Be sure to keep them covered with water throughout cooking. Add olive oil to a good-sized saucepan, then mixed fruits and almonds, and sauté briefly. Add sugar and other seasonings, and sauté a moment more. Mix fruits, almonds, rice, and chickpeas together, check the seasoning and adjust, and set aside.
Wash and cut the apples in half, removing the stem and core. Oil lightly, stick a couple of cloves in each and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake cut-side up on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for a few minutes, watching constantly, so they don't overcook. These apples will cook very quickly, in just a few minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the cloves and set the apples aside.
The Cranberry Sauce
Juice an orange and add the juice along with the agave or sugar to a sauce pan. Boil down the mixture to syrup consistency (it's a small amount so that it will happen fast). Remove the syrup from the burner while you add the cranberries, stirring gently to mix. Put the cranberries and syrup back on the burner, and cook together for a couple of minutes until the cranberries are about half-cooked. This will happen quickly as well. If the cranberries let off the significant juice, and there's too much liquid, remove the cranberries from the syrup, and boil it down again, then remix with the cranberries.
Assembly of Your Pumpkin Meal
Now comes the fun part! Stuff the pumpkin with the Pumpkin Filling so that it rises a little over the top, and place the lid back on the pumpkin. If it needs reheating, you can heat it in a tray like this, covering with foil if the pumpkin starts to brown too much.
There will be lots of extra filling. If it needs reheating, package it separately in foil and let it warm in the oven with the stuffed pumpkin -- or place in a glass bowl and microwave to heat.
If the apples need reheating, do that separately as well, adding them to the pumpkin tray for a couple of minutes.
At serving time, put the Stuffed Pumpkin in the middle of a beautiful platter. Surround it with additional Pumpkin Filling. Arrange the six apple halves around the pumpkin. Spoon the Cranberry Sauce over the apples, and sprinkle the white sesame seed generously over the Sauce.
Present and wait for the compliments!! When ready to "carve," slice down from the top to the bottom into 1-2 inch wedges, and place on a dish along with some filling and a half apple with Sauce.
Is your favorite Thanksgiving food the mashed potatoes coated in gravy straight from the turkey? Instead of the carb-heavy favorite, why not try a different vegetable in its place? Done correctly, your family won't even notice that they're eating healthy.
Place the cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small area open to vent. Microwave on high 6-8 minutes or until tender. Place the cauliflower in a food processor and process for 10-15 seconds, then add salt, pepper, sour cream, and chicken broth. Puree until smooth.
A typical sweet potato casserole is filled with butter, brown sugar, and eggs, making it so high in calories that it's more of a dessert than a vegetable. Instead, try substituting mashed sweet potatoes. Your family members can always add a sprinkle of brown sugar or pecans to the top while you keep your healthy eating lifestyle on track.
Use the potato setting on your microwave to cook the sweet potatoes until they're tender. Scoop out the insides of the sweet potatoes, then place in a bowl and mix with the honey, milk, cinnamon, and salt until smooth.
It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a huge slice of pumpkin pie. Thankfully, you can prepare it without all the extra sugar and calories that smother the pumpkin and cinnamon flavor anyway.
Mix all ingredients well. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350 for an additional 45 minutes or until the pie is set well in the center. You can make this pie with a crust, but it doesn't really need it! Instead, omit the crust to keep it healthier.
Your Thanksgiving table is already overflowing with dozens of dishes that you can't wait to try. Who has room on their plate for salad? That's exactly the point. On Thanksgiving, in particular, you'll want to fill your plate with all the delicious foods that are being offered. If your plate is already full of something healthy, however, you'll be more likely to choose smaller portions of the foods you know you shouldn't be eating. Put together a Thanksgiving salad to create a healthy option that won't leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable at the end of the day. Some great Thanksgiving salad options:
When you put together an appealing salad, it will help remind you of all the reasons why you're trying so hard to stay on track with your healthy eating plan. Don't forget the dressing! A light vinegar will add plenty of flavor without piling on the calories.
Your Thanksgiving table will be filled with food, family, and fun. Keeping the recipes healthy, however, will keep your calories in check and your healthy eating goals at the forefront of your mind. Even better, you'll feel less guilty, not just on Thanksgiving, but when you go back for leftovers later!
P.S. staying healthy this month is more fun and easier than ever - all you need to do is join our fun "Walkie-Turkey Challenge"!
Photo Credit: Bigstock