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The Thanksgiving "Test Kitchen"

 

The Thanksgiving "Test Kitchen"

Thanksgiving test kitchenWith both sides of our family being local, Thanksgiving is usually a large family affair with cousins, in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents and grandkids. And my husband and I are the common thread between all of our relatives, so Thanksgiving is usually at our house. While I love to indulge in all of the typical foods served at Thanksgiving, I get bored with the “same old, same-old,” so I will try out new recipes that add a twist to the traditional fare, and our extended family has become the “guinea pigs” for all of my experimentation with food.

One year I decided to fix Thanksgiving foods with an Asian flair:

  • Baked turkey with an Asian glaze of garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, and chili sauce.
  • Asian green beans, like those at P.F. Chang's-- sauteed in sesame oil and soy sauce, sprinkled with sliced almonds vs. the traditional green bean casserole with the processed mushroom soup and French fried onions.
  • Dressing with a variety of medicinal mushrooms, including shitake and maitake.
  • Sweet potatoes baked in coconut milk with ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.

 

I thought it was all delicious, however, some of our folks still preferred the traditional hum-drum. I am glad for the honest feedback-- it fuels my quest for success! So, I continue to experiment, and it must not be that bad because everyone continues to congregate in our home every year for this all-American holiday.

One of my favorite pastimes is to “Julify” (a term coined by my friend, May Davies) delicious but unhealthy recipes by transforming them into a healthy alternative through substitution. My first attempts were not not very successful. When I first began experimenting with using stevia and xylitol for baking pies, I had to agree with my traditional relatives that the old-fashioned recipes were better than my experiments! The taste and texture were less than desirable. Not being one to give up easily, I stuck with it, and this year, I met success! My husband's favorite Thanksgiving dessert is a pecan pie recipe that he printed out from our local grocery store over a decade ago. I made one pie according to the original recipe and a second “Julified” version. The funny thing about this story is that when I put them in the oven to bake, I lost of track of which pie was which, and my daughter and I spent several minutes sampling from each to try and figure it out. I am thrilled to report that we never did figure it out-- they tasted IDENTICAL! Unfortunately I did not make my own pie crust (I just used a store-bought one from the freezer section-- next time, I want to use the Gluten-Free Pie Crust recipe from my Healthy Alternatives Cookbook.  So, here is my recipe with all of the flavor and none of the guilt:

pecan pieGuilt-Free Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Beat 4 eggs

Add one at a time, while continuing to beat:

  • 3 T. melted butter
  • 1 c. xylitol crystals
  • 1/3 c. vegetable glycerin (in place of corn syrup; glycerin is a ZERO glycemic index sweetener)
  • 3 T. pure maple syrup (may omit for a truly sugar-free pie)
  • 1 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour into an uncooked gluten-free pie shell lined with:

  • 1 bar of Lily's Dark Chocolate bar (Original, or try the Coconut for a twist!), broken into small pieces. This chocolate is sweetened with stevia and is delicious!

 

Arrange 1 c. pecan halves on top, then place into a preheated 400 degree oven. Immediately turn down the temperature to 275 degrees, and bake at least one hour until filling is set in the center.

I love pumpkin! I have about three different pumpkin soup recipes that I prepare regularly, and the rich, hearty flavor that pureed pumpkin adds to any soup is a welcome comfort during the cold winter months here in Colorado! Low sugar or naturally sweetened pumpkin pie is a healthy option even for breakfast-- my kids love it, and so will yours! This year, a friend of mine got me turned on to raw pie making, so true to character, I decided to do more “field testing” on my family for Thanksgiving, and I am happy to report that the response was pleasantly positive! We were all surpirsed that raw pumpkin could be so creamy and not grainy or lumpy. So here is my delicious “Julified” version:

pumpkin pieHealthy Sweet Raw Pumpkin Pie

In food processor, pulse together, then press into a pie plate:

  • 3 c. pecans
  • 1 c. dates (or date paste)

 

In blender, puree until smooth:

  • 3 c. raw pumpkin, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ¼ c. coconut milk (I used canned)
  • 6 T. vegetable glycerin (ZERO glycemic index sweetener)
  • 1 T. mashed ginger
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ¼ t. cloves
  • 1/8 t. salt

 

Once smooth, slowly pour in:

  • 3/4-1 c. coconut oil (liquified)

This will form an emulsion, like mayonaise. Blend until thick, then pour into the pecan and date pie crust. Refrigerate until set, then serve.

Alternative: Make the filling with no crust, then top with pecans instead.

Both of these pies are great alternatives to their sugar and corn syrup-laden ancestors! Use these and other recipes from my Healthy Alternatives Cookbook to satisfy your sweet tooth this holiday season without negatively affecting your blood sugar, weight and immune system. Remember that sugary foods, including carbs are what increase body fat, elevate cholesterol, and diminish our immune function. But rather than going “cold turkey” with sweets, you can make your own healthy alternatives this holiday season! Send me your feedback-- I would love to hear from you! Healthy Holidays!

L'chaim-- To Life!

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