Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

Whether you're going with a free-range turkey or choosing the Tofurkey this year, Healthy Girlfriend has some delicious healthy Thanksgiving recipes. These favorites of ours happen to be plant-based, but if you're not ready to give up your butter and pan-drippings, feel free to sub out half of those for the vegan stand-ins we include in each recipe. You'll still be happily stuffed and feel like a good nap on the sofa.

Starter: Holiday Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Warning: your guests will devour these in a heartbeat, so make a double batch, put them in small bowls near all the seating areas of your living room. These sweet and spicy nuts can be made a day or two ahead of time for convenience.

3 cups mixed nuts * 2T melted virgin coconut oil * 2T brown sugar * 2 tsp sea salt (leave out if you're using pre-salted nuts) * 2-3T fresh rosemary, minced * 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients and put on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Roast at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. You can also add a tablespoon of maple syrup for extra sweetness. 

Healthy Versions of Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

Like we said, if you simply can't give up your butter (make it grass-fed please) or turkey pan drippings, consider using half the amount and following our suggestions for their substitutes. Chances are, you won't even detect the difference anyway! Most of these recipes will feed about 8 people.

Curried Squash

8 lbs winter squash of your choice (acorn, buttercup etc.) * 1/2  T virgin coconut oil or cold-pressed olive oil * 1 clove garlic * 1 small onion * 2-3 tsp curry powder * fresh parsley (optional)

Quarter the squash and scrape out the seeds. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper to avoid using extra oil. Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Set aside.

Let the squash cool, then scrape out the flesh, and mash it in a large mixing bowl. You can add a little more oil or even a little vegan butter such as Earth Balance for a richer taste. 

Stir the onion, garlic and curry powder into the squash, scatter some minced parsley on top if you like. Reheat if serving right away, or put in fridge if making ahead of time.

Mashed Parsnips and Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy

For the Mash: 6 lbs potatoes of your choice ( we love Yukon Golds) * 2 lbs parsnips * olive oil or Earth Balance * nut milk * Hungarian paprika 

Cut the potatoes and parsnips into medium-sized chunks and boil until done. Drain and rinse. Mash with enough oil/vegan butter and nut milk until fluffy and smooth. We use whatever nut milk we have on hand, which is usually soy or unsweetened almond, but any will do. Keep warm while you make the gravy.

For the Gravy: 1 large onion * 1 large carrot * 3 stalks of celery * 1 tsp olive oil * 8 oz. package baby bella or button mushrooms * 2 cloves garlic * 1 C water * 1 medium tomato, diced * 6 C water * 1 bay leaf * 1 tsp thyme * 1 T soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Aminos

Cut up the onion, carrot and celery, toss with olive oil and roast until well-done, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, on the stove top, cook the mushrooms, garlic, bay leaf, and tomato in 1 cup of the water for about 20 minutes. When the all the veggies are done, put them in a large mixing bowl with the soy sauce and about 5 cups of water, and partially puree with a hand-held blending stick (or you could use a high-speed blender.) We like our gravy with a some little veggie bits, but if you prefer it smooth, go for it. Add the thyme and keep warm.

Marianne's Delicious Cornbread

This is the only cornbread we've been making for's the best we've ever tasted. The recipe came from a massage therapist we knew and have lost touch with, but she lives on in our hearts each time we make this easy recipe.

1/4 C honey (raw if available) * 1 1/4 C unsweetened soy milk * 2 farm-fresh eggs or equivalent amount Egg Replacer * 1 C coarse cornmeal * 1 C spelt or whole wheat flour * 1 T baking powder * 1/2 tsp baking soda * 1/2 tsp sea salt * 3 T melted coconut oil + more for the pan.

Mix dry ingredients and liquid ingredients separately. Fold all ingredients together, turn into an oiled baking dish ( 8 X 8 or similar) and bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Sweet Corn with Red Pepper

This is soooo easy and yummy you'll want to make it all the time. The only challenge is keeping it warm, so make it last.

 2 tsp Earth Balance * 1 large organic red bell pepper, diced * 6 C frozen organic corn * salt and pepper to taste * 1/2 tsp onion powder

Saute red pepper in Earth Balance until soft, about 10 minutes while cooking corn according to package directions. Combine corn and red pepper, toss with salt, pepper and onion powder.

Just for Fun.... Cashew Loaf

If you're new to nut loaves to replace a meat main dish, this one's a winner. It's a riff on a recipe from  The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Karen Brooks. This was our first vegetarian cookbook, found in a used bookstore in the days before Amazon. Even non-vegetarians love this, so it's great for Meatless Mondays or for your first foray into a totally vegan holiday. At the very least, your vegan friends will be grateful that you included this in your healthy Thanksgiving recipe menu.

2 flax "eggs" * 1T olive oil * 1 large onion, diced * 1 C mushrooms, diced * 1 C celery, diced * 1/2 C whole cashews, roughly chopped * 1 C whole wheat breadcrumbs * 1 tsp salt * 1/2 C almond or soy milk *  Daiya cheddar vegan cheese (optional)

Put 2 tablespoons of ground flax (or chia) seed in a small bowl. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water and stir. Set aside while you sauté onion and mushroom in oil until lightly-browned. Combine onion with all the other ingredients, then mix with your flax "eggs" which are by now sticky and gooey and egg-like. Turn mixture into an oiled loaf pan. Top with Daiya vegan cheese if desired. Bake for about 40 minutes.