For most of us, Thanksgiving conjures up visions of our favorite dishes — some that we wait for almost a whole year to enjoy.
That’s why cooking for the big day can be such a stress for most people. So my advice: Don’t try to make it happen all in one day, use this how-to knowledge to plan ahead and you’ll see that it’s fun and satisfying.
Five Days Before
Have your shopping list complete and do the big shop. If your turkey is frozen when you buy it, check the package instructions for safe defrosting. Some large birds may take up to three days to defrost in the fridge, so give yourself an extra day for the defrosting process just to be on the safe side. Don’t be tempted to defrost on the countertop as it could allow harmful bacteria to develop.
Two Days Before
Desserts and cold sauces like cranberry keep well for two or more days if they are properly stored. Make your cranberry sauce at least two days ahead. Be sure to cool it on the countertop completely before transferring to an air-tight container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Desserts like cookies and pies both store well, like apple pie or pumpkin pie. For cookies, allow to cool completely before storing in a cookie tin on the countertop until ready to use. For pies, bake and cool completely before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating until ready to serve.
Are you an advanced foodie cook? Then try my special Hungarian nutroll that you can make 4 to 5 days in advance and store the same way you do the pies.
The Day Before
Prepare your stuffing and chop your vegetables for side dishes like green beans, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Prepare the stuffing until the last step (but don’t bake it yet) — instead cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Or store my stuffing recipe overnight in the fridge covered with plastic wrap (remove wrap before baking).
Trim and chop your vegetables, but do not cook them. Store them refrigerated in clean ziplock bag. Next: prep your bird! Wash it well under cold running water and if you decide to keep your bird whole, fill the cavity with a tablespoon of salt to help kill bacteria. To butterfly it, simply watch the video below to find out how. Next, rub the surface of the turkey with olive oil and spices like dried herbs, paprika, and freshly ground black pepper if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to roast.
Check the cooking time for your turkey and place it in the oven with at least 1 hour leeway in case it needs to cook longer.
You will want to rest it at least 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute — a classic turkey newbie mistake is to skip the resting = dry bird! If it’s done cooking and you still have 1 hour to go, reduce the heat on your oven to 200°F, then remove to rest at least 30 minutes before slicing.
Make your vegetable side dishes, salads, green bean dishes, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. Place your stuffing on the countertop to warm the dish about 20 minutes to avoid cracking you dish. Bake your stuffing, keeping it covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper (for at least 30 minutes).
Looking for more tips on cooking techniques? Check out my video series below that will teach you how to butterfly a turkey and make delicious, lump free gravy!
Healthy + Tasty Thanksgiving Video Series
You’ve got plenty of Thanksgiving recipes — but what about chefs’ secret tips to make it easier, simpler and lower in calories without skimping on taste? In this video, I’ll invite you behind the curtain of my Skinny Secrets Thanksgiving How-To Video Series to help you avoid common mistakes while amping up the flavor.
Enjoy important how-to tips to make your holidays stress-free (with do-ahead tips), enjoyable (with great shortcuts) and successful (with key insights how to avoid common mishaps like clumpy mashed potatoes). Get the Skinny Chef into your kitchen and be the star of this year’s Thanksgiving! Above are six videos for everything from turkey preparation to a new spin on the old cranberry sauce stand-by!
For example, butterflying turkey dramatically cuts down on roasting time, resulting in overall moister meat. In addition, by making the stuffing outside the bird ahead of time, food safety is improved while saving time on T-Day that you can spend with your family instead.
As a health coach, I always champion home-made turkey stock as the perfect base for velvety gravy, giving cooks tighter control over the amount of salt in their recipes – ideal for people who want to cut back on sodium.You can use low sodium store bought broth, or make your own homemade broth that will take your gravy to a whole new flavor level.
Harking back to my upbringing in rural Pittsburgh, I still swear by my granny’s moistest stuffing — but I created a “skinny” version with all the flavor and less fat.
Smooth, lump-free mashed potatoes are easy to make when you follow a few easy steps that are detailed in the healthy Thanksgiving video series –- among them my tips to mash the cooked potatoes when they are still hot and using warm milk.
Here are some other smart and healthy ideas to get your Thanksgiving off to a great start!
Sweet and soothing, tart and rich, apples and sweet potatoes make a fall duet that is irresistible when sprinkled with spice and honeyed walnuts. I made these lovely layers with the help of a Japanese mandoline that will give you uniform slices in seconds. But there are plenty of other tools to make the prep time for your favorite Thanksgiving dishes go a lot faster without investing too much cash.
My granny makes the moistest stuffing and here is the “skinny” version with all the flavor and less fat. Even though she calls it stuffing, Granny likes to bake this Thanksgiving classic outside the bird.
In this episode, Granny shares her best Thanksgiving tips for what she considers to be the biggest feast of the year. From smooth mash potatoes to her moist stuffing, Granny knows best – after all she has cooked over 60 Thanksgiving dinners for a clan consisting of 15 family members! She also tells the story of a jealous feline, our family’s black cat, who almost spoiled the finale to the meal, her luscious homemade pumpkin pie!
Hands down, Thanksgiving is the biggest cooking holiday out there. Some of the foods that are served at the Thanksgiving table are actually healthy foods that have gotten a bad rap because of the way they are prepared, so here are four ways to lighten up the classic recipe without compromising a lot on taste!
You’ve got plenty of Thanksgiving recipes — but what about chefs’ secret tips to make it easier, simpler and lower in calories without skimping on taste?
I’ll invite you behind the curtain of my Skinny Secrets Thanksgiving How-To Video Series to help you avoid common mistakes while amping up the flavor.
Enjoy important how-to tips to make your holidays stress-free (with do-ahead tips), enjoyable (with great shortcuts) and successful (with key insights how to avoid common mishaps like clumpy mashed potatoes). Get the Skinny Chef into your kitchen and be the star of this year’s Thanksgiving!
This morning I was reading a blog,Vitamin G that my friend Maridel Reyes, a brilliant writer and health expert, recently took over. She was talking about a very real dilemma that many of us “health focused” folks face. There are times when we simply can’t do what we are used to doing: exercise during busy times in our lives.
Maridel gives tips for her active readers who have everything but time. From sneaking in calf raises while brushing her teeth, to squeezing in some lunges on her portable yoga mat, late into the evening. The more I started thinking about squeezing in or sneaking in exercise, the more I realized that exercise starts in the brain before it travels to the body.
Skipping my exercise routine might not cause me to gain weight immediately, but it certainly does disrupt my mind, my peace of mind that I am doing some much needed stress relief – a necessity for my body and long-term health.
While movement is essential for the body, I’ve found that the key to keeping in shape has more to do with momentum than intense, infrequent work-outs. Keeping your mindset in the zone of exercising on a regular basis, keeps the momentum of your new program going. Exercise will feel less like a chore and more like a natural, everyday part of your schedule, say like brushing your teeth with or with out calf lifts, that is! So here are five simple ways to keep the momentum going, even when you don’t have time to do your complete exercise routine. Sneak it in:
1. Combine exercise with an errand you have to run.
Pardon the pun! If I know that I have to make that trip across town to the bank, I switch into my tennies and literally run to the bank. That 15-minute run will not only increase my heart rate and give me some cardio but it’s also a great way to “check in” with my body and see if my other forms of exercise are building the strength I need to take a short sprint.
2. Exercise while catching up with a friend.
I’m not much for chit-chat on the phone, but once a month when I want to catch up with gal pals who live out-of-state and overseas, I pop on my ear piece for the phone and chat while I talk a brisk walk.
3. Create your own mini-exercise routine.
Create your own mini-exercise routine that doesn’t require special clothing or equipment. Yoga and pilates are ideal for this. When I have to travel for work, I know that I can do my routine in any small hotel room in my PJ’s first thing in the morning or right before bed. No mat necessary.
4. Make your exercise routine part of your job.
Like many professionals, I believe that volunteer work is part of my job and an important learning experience. So I teach yoga as part of my volunteer efforts which covers one day a week in my own exercise routine and happens to be a lot of fun!
5. Cook healthy meals for yourself.
This will not only help to keep you trim or lose weight, but walking to your local store (if you can), carrying groceries, and whisking about your kitchen are also calorie burners!
Sandwiches are a convenient lunch-time favorite, but what about the fat and carbs? Find out how Maridel lightens up her sandwich.
Are you a sugar addict? Maridel can tell you how to start the sugar detox.
I’ve created a brandnew email course, Ditch The Dietto teach my readers to be healthier – by learning why fad diets are bad, curing bad habits, and avoiding the worst diet mistakes.
I was doing some internet searches on carving pumpkins and I came across this cute idea from Better Homes and Garden on stenciling. So if you’re interested in doing this, you can stencil your pumpkin for Halloween and then cook it a few days later, waste not want not!
Choose a design to carve before you go shopping for pumpkins. Think about which shape would best suit your design – tall and narrow? Fat and round? If you’re going to use stencils, look for a pumpkin with a shape similar to the pattern you’re going to carve.
Check for a smooth, uniformly colored skin. The flesh should be firm, not elastic in any way. Inspect the entire pumpkin. Stay away from pumpkins with bruises, cuts, scratches or any signs of mold. If you’ll be using stencils, steer clear of dents as well.
Keep an eye out for smaller, “sugar” pumpkins for eating. Not all pumpkins will taste good in a pie. Sugar pumpkins are 200-250 millimeters (8-10″) in diameter and will have smoother, less stringy flesh than a decorative pumpkin.
Knock on the shell. Ripe pumpkins will make a “hollow” sound. If the pumpkin is on the vine, the vine should be dry and the stem should be hard and brown. The ripeness of the pumpkin might not matter as much if you’re only interested in carving (in which case an unripened pumpkin might last longer).
Set the pumpkin up to make sure it sits level. You don’t want to choose a pumpkin for carving only to find that it won’t sit up straight for you. If the pumpkin grew on its side and has a flat spot there, you might be able to incorporate it into your design or turn that side against a wall so it isn’t seen.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Here’s what you need:
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, or other seasoning of choice
Place the pumpkin seeds in a colander and rinse well. Use your fingers to remove all the pulp. Spread the seeds out on a paper towel and pat dry. Transfer to a bowl. Spread out on a cookie sheet to dry overnight.
Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with non-stick spray. Place the pumpkin seeds in a large bowl along with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Toss to coat. Spread out the pumpkin seeds onto baking sheet. Bake about 1 hour, tossing every 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Green tea, often associated with wise men and sages of the East, is highly revered in China and Japan for good reason. Black tea production uses fermentation to give a hearty flavor unlike green tea that is created by gently steaming and drying fresh tea leaves. Some medical experts say that skipping fermentation safeguards some of the antioxidant benefits that are inherent in green tea.
Now health experts and medical professionals alike are catching on in the West! Medical studies have associated multiple health benefits with the consumption of the pale golden-green brew. From fighting tumors resulting from breast cancer and calming inflamed bladders to helping prevent autoimmune disease and even reducing bacteria in meats, green tea is their drink of choice.
So what about taste? If you’ve ever enjoyed green tea ice cream, it’s likely that you’ve tasted green tea powder made from ground dried leaves. Green tea has an herbal, slightly sweet, grassy flavor. I love to cook with green tea powder pictured in my green shot glass and I use it to make pound cakes, cookies, and other bright green treats without artificial food coloring. If you’re an iced tea fan, this is the drink for you! Since green tea is so mild, it makes a soothing, refreshing iced tea and combines well with spices and other flavorings like ginger. A recent study states that combining green tea and citrus helps to boost green tea’s antioxidant benefits throughout digestion. Try adding some freshly squeezed grapefruit or fresh lemon to your cup to pump up the vitamin C for a super-rich antioxidant tea break.
One of the biggest dieting myths out there claim that most people don’t get enough protein (protein deficiency is defined as eating 50-75% of the recommended daily amount of protein).
Yet in fact, the average American consumes about 50% more than the recommended daily amount.
How does that happen? In a meat-eating land, the average American consumes 112 grams of protein a day, twice the amount recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. So why do health professionals tell you to get enough protein, and what do they mean specifically?
Why Is Protein Important?
First off, protein is crucial for the inner workings of the body that we need not only to build muscle mass, but also to carry out many other biological functions in the body.
When health experts say to get enough protein in your diet, they mean that approximately 15 to 30% of your calories should be from protein – depending on your age and sex. But the key, and something people get confused about, is to choose efficiently and get the right amount.
Pick heart-healthy low-fat proteins that aren’t high in saturated fats (which can cause heart disease): Fish, lean pork, eggs, turkey, tofu, and low fat diary products (like yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, and kefir), as well as beans are all good sources of lean, high quality protein.
A lot of gym-savvy people tell me that protein bars and shakes help them stay lean, but sadly, most of those products sit on store shelves forever, are loaded with preservatives, sugar, and artificial colorings. Let’s face it, they aren’t real foods at all.
By contrast, I find that it’s a lot easier to get your protein needs for the day by eating whole foods that have a wealth of other health benefits, including a slender silhuette as I point out in my brandnew 24-page Ditch The Diets booklet.
For women 25 years and older, health professionals recommend around 50 grams a day, and for men of the same age around 63 grams. So let’s take a look at how this adds up in terms of meal choices:
Have a baby spinach salad with a sliced grilled chicken breast at 26 grams of protein, 1/2 cup of chick peas at around 10 grams, with a chopped hard-boiled egg at 6 grams, tossed with low-fat dressing and you already have 42 grams of protein for the day!
So if you happen to be one of those people who are lacking protein, just remember if you are adding more don’t decrease the amount of veggies and fruits to keep your plate and your system well balanced!
In tomorrow’s post, Tender Chicken Dishes for Fast Week Night Cooking, I’ll address one of the perennial problems faced by home-cooks: overcooked chicken, and my tips how to cook chicken properly.
Yogis believe that there is a radiating energy field around our bodies that has a deep link to physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Whether or not you believe in auras there is no question that a certain energy surrounding people can make a person beautiful, charismatic, and in some cases irresistible.
Breath Easy and Visualize
Find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably for at least 10 minutes. Take deep breaths in – through the nose and out through the mouth. While you continue to breathe, visualize bright white light surrounding you. If you know about the chakras you can imagine the light moving up and down the length of your spine through the chakral center. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the brightness and intensity of the white light as you continue to breathe.
Clear Negative Energy
Have you ever had the experience of spending time with someone and feeling completely drained? I call the experience the old “mojo zap”. Chances are that the person has negative energy or is transferring some of their unhappiness onto you – it might be in such a subtle way that you don’t even realize what is happening. People who believe in auras say that others can toss negative energy onto you that gets caught in the aura. Either way, the best way to clear the air of negativity is by seeking out and surrounding yourself with people who are positive. I’m sure you can name these people already. They make you feel energized and can even leave you feeling good hours after you’ve left their company. Want to learn to attract more positive people? Start by monitoring your own thoughts and comments when you’re spending time around others.
Clear Negative Thoughts
Yogis believe in the power of thoughts and that negative thoughts can be harmful since they create negative energy. I know from personal experience that negative thoughts can impact the quality of your every-day life, how you interact with others, and even cause wrinkles from furrowed brows and frown lines. If you are the pessimist, try piping in your favorite tunes or try a mantra.
Be Kind and Shine
Want to spiff up your aura? Take five minutes today to do a small kindness for someone, it doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day, a sincere compliment, a phone call to an old college friend, or leaving a home-baked treat outside a neighbor’s door. Good people who are happy have a natural glow about them that is unmistakable.
Sooth and Sleep
According to the experts, a clean aura is a sign of good health. Getting regular exercise and sleep can affect aura, and boost your confidence in the process. Americans are one of the most sleep-deprived in the world, and many of my friends with children, busy careers, and active social lives have trouble sleeping even though their schedule allows for a solid seven to eight hours a night. Aroma therapy works great for me and taking a warm bath is also a way to clean your aura! Try adding fresh lavender to your warm bath or drops of essential oil. A warm bath can sooth you and you’ll be snoozing early.
Chakra, meaning “wheel” in Sanskrit, is a term that yogis use to describe energy points in the body that start at the base of the spine and travel past the crown of the head. The seven main chakras that you might have heard about from your yoga teachers – the ones you might focus on during asana or physical practice or in active mediation practices – are usually depicted as series of lotus flowers with various colors and number of petals.
Yogis and spiritual healers believe that chakras correspond to the health of certain body parts, functions of the nervous system, and a variety of bodily processes, such as breathing, digesting, or procreating.
They also represent the elemental forces of earth, water, fire, air, sound, light, and thought. As the chakras progress from the lowest to the highest along the spine, they start with survival needs and become more spiritual in nature.
As a person becomes more spiritually developed, he or she learns to correctly balance all these centers and more focused on the hear chakra and beyond.
The Seven Chakras
Root or muladhara chakra: This chakra is believed to be located at the base of the spine and governs basic instincts, survival, and feelings of security. It is said to be associated with the color red and the element of earth, and it is visualized as a four-petaled lotus.
Sacral or swadhisthana chakra: The sacral chakra is said to reside in the groin or pelvis, and is related to sexual energy, emotions, and creativity. It is thought to be associated with the color orange and the element of water. The sacral chakra is symbolized by a six-petaled lotus.
Solar plexus or manipura chakra: The solar plexus is the region where the abdomen and the thorax meet. The chakra associated with this area governs digestion, mental function, and power. Its color is yellow and its element is fire. The solar plexus chakra is represented by a ten-petaled lotus.
Heart or anahata chakra: This chakra is said to govern love and compassion. It is associated with the entire chest area, including the lungs. The heart chakra is said to be related to the color green and the element of air, and its lotus has 12 petals.
Throat and vishuddha chakra: The throat chakra is believed to be related to communication, self-expression, and growth. It is symbolized by a lotus with 16 petals and associated with the color blue and the element of sound or life.
Brow chakra: This chakra, also known as the third eye, is symbolised by a two-petaled lotus. It is said to govern intuition and perception. Its color is indigo and it is related to the element of light or time.
Crown and sahasrara chakra: The crown chakra is said to represent the pinnacle of spiritual awareness, or connection to the divine. It is symbolized as a violet or white lotus with a thousand petals and its associated element is space or thought..
My mother-in-law has huge pots of blossoming lavender that line her long terrasse. Lavender has a refreshing clean smell that is unmistakeable, which has made it a scent in the forefront of the perfume industry. But lavender isn’t just for soap and shampoo, I use it to flavor summer dishes!
Lavender pairs well with a lot of other foods that you might be more familiar with such as pork, lamb, lemon, olives, vanilla, honey, pistachio, pears, ginger and rosemary.
If you are experimenting with it for the first time, try using the leaves and buds sparingly since it can be an overpowering strong herb. Start with 1/2 teaspoon and taste as you go.
Lavender is also refreshing in mixed drinks and cocktails, like my favorite martini they served at Employees Only. Place a few sprigs of lavender into a bottle of gin and store in the freezer until you’re ready to make your own.
Nobody wants to catch a cold or get the summer sniffles right before they’re ready to head out on that long-awaited vacation. Air travel, planes with recycled air and confined spaces can be incubators for germs, but how can you strengthen immunity before you take that flight?
I just finished reading a fantastic article that my friend Ahou sent, Get Defensive, that explains how to really boost immunity. Here are two easy ways, that even people with the busiest schedules can manage to fit in before they head out for their summer break:
Supplement Your Diet Safely
Skip those supplement pills and fortify your meals with foods that are bursting with vitamins and minerals. Spinach, broccoli, carrots, red peppers, and sweet potato carry high levels of the antioxidants that your body needs to get the immune system strong. Here are some ways to get more of these delcious veggies into your meals.
Instead of making tacos, sandwiches, and salads with lettuce use baby spinach. It has a mild flavor and it only takes one cup to get good amounts of vitamins like A,C, and K.
Dust off that mini chopper or food processor in your cabinet and toss in broccoli, carrots, and red pepper. Stir them into store-bought soups, sprinkle on top of salads, and fold them into your spaghetti made with store-bought sauce.
Stock your freezer with goodies the whole family craves like these yummy sweet potato fries that cook up in 25 minutes or make your own.
Try washing your hands more frequently – especially when you come home from traveling in the car, train, or subway. Studies show that about 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch. Check here for the proper way to wash your hands.