Kitchen MacGyver: Healthier Holiday Gobbles, Part 1

Check out these Thanksgiving recipes that combine favorite preparations and ingredients with some healthier substitutions.

Check out these Thanksgiving recipes that combine favorite preparations and ingredients with some healthier substitutions.

The countdown to Thanksgiving is on, and while the day is the country’s greatest culinary celebration, ending the afternoon in a sofa-ridden food coma shouldn’t be the only outcome of a festive feast. To keep things satisfying and celebratory without overdosing on decadence, I’ve created recipes that combine favorite preparations and ingredients with some healthier substitutions. Use all of the recipes in this and upcoming installments of this series to create a healthier yet delicious holiday meal, choose one dish to bring to a potluck, or swap a few dishes for your usual butter- and cream-filled traditional recipes.

While there’s plenty of grazing and lazing during my Thanksgiving family gatherings, we also tend to play games like horseshoes, poker, taboo, basketball and even bowling before and after the meal. And I’ve learned that you can’t partake in all of the activities if you’re too stuffed to move. Turkey trot finish or early long run aside, I try to watch how much snacking I do before the big meal and, instead of cheese and crackers and chips and dip, I’ll eat crudite and a few cubes of cheese, or even better, a hot appetizer that’s so flavorful and full of nutrients that you only need two or three to keep you going.

Spinach and Pancetta Stuffed Mushrooms

Filled with iron, folate and potassium, these stuffed mushrooms are the perfect balance of healthy decadence.

20-25 whole extra large white button mushrooms (sometimes labeled as stuffer mushrooms)

2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling on mushroom caps

2 small shallots, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small package cubed pancetta* or six slices pancetta, diced

2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained of as much water as possible (wrap spinach in sturdy paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out water)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 slices garlic (or regular) Naan* bread, diced finely or ground in a food processor to resemble bread crumbs

3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

*Notes: 1. If you want to make these even lighter, substitute ground turkey for the pancetta. Or, if you want to make these vegetarian, use boca crumbles or vegetarian sausage in place of the pancetta.

2. Although widely available in many grocery stores, if you can’t find Naan bread and don’t want to make your own, you can substitute 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. With a damp towel or mushroom brush, clean the mushrooms. With a paring knife or small spoon, carefully remove the stems from the mushrooms so that the caps are clean and ready for stuffing. Place caps, hole side up, on two aluminum baking sheets lined with aluminum foil.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil and saute garlic and shallots until translucent, about three or four minutes. Add pancetta and cook until pancetta is lightly crisp, about three more minutes. Add defrosted, drained spinach and cook for three minutes, stirring often. Add salt, pepper, oregano, nutmeg and Naan bread or breadcrumbs. Cook mixture for about five minutes, stirring often. When spinach is heated through and all liquid has been absorbed, remove spinach mixture from heat and allow to cool for about five minutes. Stuff cooled mixture into the mushrooms caps, dividing them evenly. Add a few drops of olive oil to the top of each filled mushroom cap, then sprinkle each cap with grated cheese. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and the stuffing is lightly browned.