Friday, November 16, 2012

Diet for a Second Life: Thanksgiving

Worn favorite cookbooks and torn family recipes are being opened up on kitchen counters across the country as Thanksgiving hosts  prepare their holiday menus. Certain traditional dishes should never change but the fact is that our palates and digestive systems do. We become more educated, dare I say, sophisticated with our food choices and that bloated, unsettling feeling we ultimately experience as we push away from the dinner table is no longer acceptable. So how should this change be considered when planning our Thanksgiving Day feast? 

Who better to go to than Second Lives health coach Ruth Hantman (see her 2nd life profile from this past summer) of Nurtured By Nature to learn how she would put her own spin on the Thanksgiving Holiday Menu. Her suggestions follow below that can make up a full menu or one to accompany the traditional turkey as the centerpiece. 

Ruth selected recipes “for the mature palate”. She added, “If appreciated slowly, the ingredients should fall into each other in a cascade of flavors. I cook with liquor, so you will note the option for the orange flavor of Cointreau in the pear dessert offering.”

First Course: Beet and Orange Salad 

I love the sophistication of these flavors together. You can add goat cheese on rounds if your diet permits it. 


4 medium-sized beets 
3 clementines 
1-tablespoon apple cider vinegar 
1 handful of candied walnuts 
1-tablespoon sugar substitute 
¾ teaspoon sea salt 
½ cup sesame oil 
4 very thin slices red onion 
1 bag Arugula 

1. I buy my beets cooked and marinated in vinegar. But if that’s not available, buy the canned ones and rinse them. 
2. Peel and remove the pith of the clementines. Separate the orange segments and slice them into ¼-inch pieces. Set aside. 

3. Mix the salad dressing ingredients, vinegar, oil, and salt in a bowl. 

4. Add the beets, oranges, and onion to the mixture and mix well with a spoon until combined. 

5. Arrange on serving plates and add the candied walnuts.

Soup: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 med butternut squash chopped, peeled and seeded 
1 med onion with peel on 1/2 bulb garlic (or whole if you like) with peel on 
1 - 2 tbsp oil 
3 cups water or low sodium veggie broth or chicken broth 
2 tsp salt (if not water add salt according to taste test) 
1 tsp cumin 
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp nutmeg 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 tsp cardamom 
1/8 tsp cayenne 
3 sliced shitake mushrooms 
3 oz pumpkin seeds 

1. Preheat oven to 400º F

2. Peel, chop de-seed the squash. Cut the ends off of the onion and slice the top of the garlic bulb off, making sure the rest of the bulb stays intact. Coat everything in olive oil, also coat the bottom of the pot. In a good Dutch oven roast the squash, onion and garlic (both with the peels on) until soft. 

3. In your toaster oven, coat the tray with silver foil and toast the pumpkin seeds and sliced shitake mushrooms. 

4. When the veggies are soft take out of the oven and add 1/2 the water or broth. Blend until smooth keep adding liquid until it is the consistency you desire. 

5. Garnish with toasted seeds and shitake mushrooms. 

Serves: 6 - 8 small bowls 
Cook time: 65 min 
Equipment: Dutch oven, hand blender or blender 

Main &/or Side Dish:   Harvest-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This hearty Thanksgiving entree is made of savory lentil cashew stuffing baked in juicy portobello mushrooms infused with aromatic herbs. It’s topped off with a sliver of sweet tomato and fresh thyme leaves. This dish is packed with protein and fiber and will hold its own on the Thanksgiving table. 

1 large yellow onion, small
1 diced cup cashews
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked brown rice (or grain of choice)
1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus extra for garnish
6 portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
1 tomato, sliced in thin rounds
Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper 

1. Preheat oven to 350º F

2. In large skillet, sauté the onions and cashews with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until onions are soft and lightly browned. Add garlic and let cook a few more minutes.

3. In a large bowl combine onion mixture, brown rice, lentils, breadcrumbs, vegetable broth, basil and thyme. Mix together and season to taste with salt and pepper. (The stuffing can be made up to three days in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator.)

4. Brush both sides of mushroom caps lightly with olive oil and place top-side down on an oiled sheet pan. Stuff mushrooms with about 1/2 cup lentil cashew stuffing, then press one tomato slice on top of the stuffing. (The mushrooms can be stuffed and assembled on a baking tray the day before you plan to bake and serve them.)

5. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the stuffing is browned and the mushroom begins releasing juices. Garnish with extra fresh thyme leaves.

Yield: Serves 6.

Main &/or Side Dish:   Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie 

8 large or 10 medium potatoes (Yukon gold works well) 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1/2 cup milk or milk substitute like rice milk or almond milk 
Salt to taste 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 large onion, finely chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
6 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms 
2 15-ounce cans lentils, lightly drained 
2 tablespoons dry red wine, optional 
1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid  
2 to 3 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning blend (such as Spike or 
   Mrs. Dash) 
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot 
8 to 10 ounces baby spinach or arugula leaves 
Freshly ground pepper to taste 
1 cup fresh bread crumbs 

1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small mixing bowl. 

2. Stir the Earth Balance into the potatoes until melted, then add the rice milk and mash until fluffy. Season with salt, cover, and set aside until needed.

3. Preheat the oven to 400º F.

4. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet.

5. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.

6. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the optional wine, soy sauce, seasoning blend, thyme, and pepper. Cook gently for 5 minutes.

7. Combine the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.

8. Add the spinach, a little at a time, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.

9. Lightly oil a 2-quart (preferably round) casserole dish, or two deep-dish pie plates. Scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom. Pour in the lentil mixture, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top. If using two pie plates, divide each mixture evenly between them. 

10. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve. 

Dessert: Pears with Cranberry Sauce 

This can be made in advance as it gets better overnight.

Sauce Ingredients: 
¼ cup sugar substitute or (use ½ cup of sugar) 
½ cup Cointreau liquor or Orange Juice 2 or 3 clementines peeled and separated, cut pieces in half 
1 cup of water 
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries 

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. 

2. Add cranberries and bring to a boil.

3. Add the Cointreau (or add orange juice)

4. Add the Clementine pieces

5. Cook until the cranberries start to pop, about 10 minutes. 

Pears Ingredients: 
2 Tablespoons truffle oil or 2 tablespoons of butter 
2 Tablespoons honey 
3 pears 

1. Slice pears in half lengthwise, preserving the stem in-tact. using a melon-baller or cookie scoop, scoop out seeds, creating a small bowl in the thickest part of the pear. 

2. In a saute pan over medium heat, combine oil and honey together.

3. Add the pears to the saute pan, cover and cook until tender and lightly browned on the inside, about 5 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and carefully arrange on a plate or platter.

5. Fill bowls with homemade cranberry sauce and serve.
Serves 6 
Thank you Ruth for these savory offerings.  Ruth did admit that she would be dining out next week but using these same guidelines when making her restaurant and menu selections.  Enjoy your own holiday meals and think about serving some more "sophisticated" dishes to your guests this year.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


  1. A vegetarian feast! Wonderful. Will print out and try them all!!! Yay.

  2. I've just bookmarked this page. There are some wonderful recipes here though I admit I will certainly be going with turkey as the main course. But these additions could add variety and wonderful options for all.

    I've found that one of the benefits of getting a little older is that my body won't tolerate the excesses of earlier years. So, it's much easier to stop when satisfied and not overdo.

    Hooray for that! Besides, there are always leftovers...

  3. This menu is like a breath of fresh air. Yum!

  4. Thanksgiving is very important to be celebrate. So the dishes should be spectacular. Your menu is stellar. Its one of kind. My mouth is watering just by looking at it.
    Interactive Presentation

  5. Glad you all are enthused over these recipes. I of course won't be preparing our Thanksgiving meal this year since my house is being repaired after Sandy's destruction but I do plan to try these recipes as well. I have followed a few of Ruth's recipes in the past and they are delicious and easy to pull kind of meal. Enjoy and thanks for commenting.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.