Before I arrived in the USA, I never heard of the Thanksgiving holiday or the traditional meal that is usually prepared on that day. Little did I know that it would become one of my favorite days on the calendar of American holidays, firstly because of the meaning it carries, the spirit of gratitude and reflection over the past year’s blessings. Secondly, I simple love a good Thanksgiving dinner! The meal offers so much goodness: first-rate animal protein, vibrant vegetables loaded with healing compounds, fruity condiments, nice wine to go with it all. What’s not to like?
At first, I would visit other people’s Thanksgiving festivities and got a chance to see regional variety of the special meals served on that day: different ways to prepare sweet potatoes, sometimes from a can sometimes fresh, in some houses additionally sweetened by marshmallows (not my favorite), in others more on the savory side. Turkeys brined or not, stuffed or not, whole or just breasts, and so on. One of the best Thanksgiving meals was always served at my Mother in Law’s house where we usually spend the holidays before the arrival of the kids.
As a family now, we are making our own Thanksgiving feast. Over the years, I have found what suits our tastes best, and what conforms to my mission of cooking healthy while enjoying the deliciousness of it all. Even though it is only the four of us this year, I am still planning to prepare a full feast which we will then end up eating for several days in a variety of ways. My shopping and preparation of this Thanksgiving meal go in line with my general beliefs of what makes the food best suited to optimize our nutrition while at the same time being delicious and enjoyable. (You can read about my key principle of healthy eating here)
Here are the four principles I try to follow for this meal, but also on a regular basis:
Lots of vegetables and fruit, and a variety of them, to feed not only ourselves but also our microbiome (the varied gut bacteria need a variety of prebiotics - vegetable fiber needed for them to thrive and in turn to make us thrive)
High-quality animal foods (in moderation)
Heart- and gut-healthy fats (also in moderation)
Limited sugars and starches (but there will be some: honey, maple syrup, and of course some desert)
The feast has all the ingredients needed for optimal taste and wellness, including polyphenol-rich healthy fats, like extra virgin olive oil; phytochemicals present in the variety of vegetables and fruits; and tons of beneficial herbs to boost immunity, digestion, and general health. Here is what we are having this year:
Turkey, prepared with lots of herbs from the garden and citrus fruit in the cavity to make for a super aromatic bird
Gravy made with turkey drippings, chicken bone-broth, and sherry wine
Homemade sourdough bread stuffing with celery, apples, dried cherries and hazelnuts.
Russet potatoes, mashed with olive oil, roasted garlic, and rosemary
Savory mix of sweet potatoes and Japanese yams, roasted with salt, pepper and loads of fresh marjoram
Green beans steamed till al dente and drizzled with garlic infused olive oil and a generous sprinkling of fresh thyme
Fresh cranberry-orange sauce, sweetened only with orange juice and raw honey and spiced up with orange zest, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon.
Since I'm pretty much flying solo in the kitchen, I'll have to prepare some things in advance. Luckily, my 17 year-old daughter is a budding baker, so she will be making out desert (dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, yum!). The preparation has started already:
Sourdough bread is backing right now, four days in advance. I like it to get a bit stale before putting it into the stuffing.
The cranberry sauce can be made up to three days in advance.
The stuffing can be made up to two days in advance since I am not putting it inside the bird.
Everything else will be made on the day off.
What are you preparing this year? I'd love to hear! Whatever you cook or eat, it's not the most important thing on this Thanksgiving day, right? It is a special time of the year, a time to reflect and practice gratitude.
I wish you and your loved ones the happiest Thanksgiving!