Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Thanksgiving. That time of year where family members put their differences aside, clear their busy schedules to gather around the dinner table in hopes of drowning our everyday sorrows with the comforting taste of roasted turkey along with an endless variety of intensely filling side dishes. After the indigestion and heart burn slowly melt away we are left with the feeling of guilt (and sometimes nausea). This year, reach that time of New Year’s resolutions without feeling ashamed and possibly even bloated.

Instead of reaching for the mashed potatoes doused in butter and gravy or carb filled stuffing, try a cranberry cashew couscous or chicken sausage and brown rice alternative. Being healthy does not necessarily mean losing flavor.

November is the time of year where rich and earthy vegetables are ripe for the picking. This means roasted butternut and acorn squash, toasted pumpkin seeds and pomegranate cocktails. Opt for an in season bok choy mixed green salad, adorned with roasted beets, oranges, apples or even cranberries.

Replace fattening sauces such as gravy and overly sweetened canned cranberry sauce by making your own version using a sugar substitute. Or create your own chutney using pears, kiwis and persimmons. You can create an endless amount of recipes using in season fruits and vegetables, cutting back on calories while enhancing nature’s brilliant flavors.

 

Pear Persimmon Chutney

• 2 bosc pears diced
• 1 persimmon peeled and diced
• ¼ cup of golden raisins
• 2 cloves of star anise
• ½ tablespoon of toasted cumin seeds
• Kosher salt for seasoning
• ¼ cup of water
• Sprinkle of brown sugar
Throw all ingredients in a medium sized pan on medium heat, cook until they become a jam like texture stirring occasionally. Remove star anise and serve.

 

Sautéed Swiss Rainbow Chard

• 1 bunch of Swiss rainbow chard, peel leaves off stems
• 1 stem of each color, slice thin on a bias
• 1 ½ cloves of garlic, thin sliced
• Olive oil for sautéing, enough to coat the pan
Blanch chard in hot water, shock in ice cold water making sure to ring the excess water out.
In a medium sized pan, sauté chard in garlic and olive oil until just wilted, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

 

Cranberry Cashew Couscous

• 1 cup of vegetable stock
• ¼ cup of mandarin orange syrup
• 4 sprigs of thyme
• 4 fresh sage leaves chiffonade
• ¼ cup of dried sweetened cranberries
• ¼ cup of crushed cashews (keep separate)
• 10 0z package of couscous
• Kosher salt
Place all ingredients (other than the couscous and cashews) in a pan on high. When the water begins to boil, quickly add couscous, stir and turn off the flame.

Add the couscous to a Tupperware container and cover to allow the pasta to cook. Remove thyme sprigs. When it has cooled, add the cashews for additional crunch and serve.

 

String Beans w/ Caramelized Onions

1 lb of string beans, blanched
2 tablespoons of butter
1 whole onion, diced
Place butter in a medium sized pan on medium high, sauté onions until translucent. Add blanched string beans, toss and serve warm.

 

Apple Chicken Sausage w/ Almond Brown Rice

• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic sliced
• 10 cremini mushrooms sliced
• 2 chicken sausages sliced into rounds
• 1/2 cup of rinsed, canned cannellini beans (Northern white beans)
• 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
• 1/4 cup of chicken broth
• 1 cup of brown rice
• 3 cups of water
• slivered almonds

Start by sauteeing garlic and mushrooms in olive oil on high heat until they are golden brown.
Add chicken sausage slices and sauté until golden brown keeping the flame on high, then add cannellini beans.
Add spinach, sauté until just wilted and then add chicken stock turn off flame set aside.

Place rice and water in a pot and cook on high until boiling for one minute, then lower and simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is tender.

Toast almonds in a pan until golden brown and add to the brown rice in last minute of cooking.
Combine contents of rice pot into other pan and mix well, serve warm.

Kymberlee Fajardo is a freelance food writer and food culture photographer who grew up in Queens and Long Island, NY. Having always had an intense and rocky relationship/fascination with food, Kym was persistent in pursuing a career that involved her love for the culinary industry. At 19, she attended culinary school in NYC and graduated in the top 5% of her class. As a line cook she had experience in fine dining, South East Asian Street Market food in NYC, farm to table in upstate NY, as well as contemporary comfort food in NJ. Eventually she combined both her passion for writing as well as for all things culinary to pursue her career as a food writer. She maintains her own food blog Free Spirit Eater which contains original writing and photography. Kym also runs a culinary advice column on Bromography.com as well as contributing to MadlyJuicy.com.
Kym Fajardo
Kym Fajardo
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5 Responses to Guilt-Free Thanksgiving Side Dishes

  1. Sandra's Easy Cooking November 19, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Kym, beautiful article..love your way of thinking!!!

    Reply
  2. Amalia November 17, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Wow, a fabulous combination of side dishes! The apple chicken sausage with almond brown rice sounds amazing! I would love to have some of that on Thanksgiving 🙂 Great post!

    Reply
  3. Kim Bee November 16, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    These all sound fab but I am partial to the sward. Something about sward just appeals to me.

    Reply
  4. Kiri W. November 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Wonderful article!
    Since losing (a lot) of weight, I’ve always been tiptoeing around Thanksgiving. There are certain favorites I must have a nibble of, but my hosts have been great and gone as far as to make fillo dough pumpkin pie to lower the calories for me. Some of these sides look delicious, especially the couscous!

    Reply
  5. Tina@flourtrader November 16, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I am so bad at coming up with good side dishes, this post was a helpful read. I like the tips as well as the recipes, my favorite one is the Couscous. Great article. Have a wonderful day.

    Reply

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