To say that I love Thanksgiving dinner is similar to saying that expensive Champagne is something to satisfy your thirst.
I don't just love it, but live for it. And much of that is thanks to my wonderful childhood memories of this meal.
But as I've gotten older, there's something I have come to not love about Thanksgiving dinner — all those calories. They make you want to crash on the couch, loosen your belt and doze off into a food coma. A nice indulgence, but not a healthful lifestyle.
And it's way easier than you might think to down thousands of calories in that one meal.
A cup of cranberry sauce can pack 440 calories alone. Two rolls with butter: 270 calories. A large serving of turkey: 318 calories. A slice of pumpkin pie with whipped topping: 416 calories. A large serving of mashed potatoes: 237 calories. A cup of stuffing: 400 calories. See what I mean? And we haven't even talked about drinks and starters.
I doubt if I'd ever be able to bypass the turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. But that doesn't mean I can't lighten them up a bit. And there's nothing wrong with that.
To scale things down, I've used turkey breast, whole-wheat bread for the stuffing, a cranberry sauce made with agave nectar rather than sugar and a delicious low-fat gravy. This recipe will satisfy anyone in your family for just 303 calories and 6 grams of fat. A comparable regular dinner would weigh in at 1,450 calories and 58 grams of fat.
There are many ways to cook a turkey. Here, you poach it. It keeps the meat moist without any added fat. Plus, the poaching liquid is used for the stuffing and to make the gravy. I like to bring the temperature of the poaching liquid to 165 F and let the meat cook slowly — the longer, the better.
As long as you stick to white-meat turkey and don't eat the skin, turkey is one of your best nutritional bets. It has less saturated fat, less total fat and less cholesterol than chicken, pork or beef. Skinless turkey breast also is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, iron, selenium and zinc. Best of all, turkey tastes great.
This meal takes roughly an hour and a half to make, far less than typical turkey dinners. That means you also can avoid some of the holiday-cooking frenzy.
One more thing: Remember that Thanksgiving isn't about celebrating the perfect turkey or the smoothest mashed potatoes. It's a time to think about family and togetherness.
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours
3 cups low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 pound fresh or completely thawed boneless, skinless turkey breast, trimmed of all visible fat (turkey breast chops also work)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 cups (about 4 ounces) cubed, stale, whole-wheat bread
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley
4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup no-sugar-added cranberry sauce
In a medium pot with a candy or deep-fry thermometer attached, heat 2 1/2 cups of the broth over medium-high. When liquid reaches 165 F, with barely any bubbles reaching surface, add the turkey. Adjust heat, if necessary, to maintain temperature at 165 F.
Using foil, cover pot (leaving face of thermometer exposed for easy monitoring) and poach turkey for 30 minutes. Uncover and use an instant thermometer to check temperature at meat's center (not the liquid). Meat should read 150 F. If not, cover and continue to poach for another 10 minutes, or until meat reaches temperature.
When meat reaches 150 F, turn off heat and let turkey rest, covered, in poaching liquid for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium. When hot, add the olive oil. Add the celery and onion and saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Add the poultry seasoning and bread. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and add 1/2 cup of turkey-poaching liquid. Stir, then add another 1/2 cup. Bread should be moist, but not wet. Cover, then cook until bread is hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and adjust seasonings. Set aside.
Remove turkey from remaining poaching liquid and cover meat with foil to keep warm.
Remove thermometer from pot and bring poaching liquid to a boil. Cook until reduced to about 1 cup; this should take only a few minutes. In a small bowl, mix together remaining 1/2 cup reserved, cooled broth and the cornstarch. Whisk into hot broth, then return to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
Serve turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 303 calories; 6 grams fat (1 g saturated); 70 milligrams cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 35 g protein; 3 g fiber; 381 mg sodium.