Traditions. I personally think that no matter your athletic aspirations or health inclinations, you shouldn’t forgo traditions. That being said, I also think you shouldn’t forgo your health. It’s a sticky dilemma. This dilemma can be solved with a few simple updates to traditional foods that bring back so many memories. Food experiences are often so intertwined with memories and experiences with loved ones that it’s hard to untangle them from emotional comfort and nostalgia.

 

Thanksgiving table spread

Nothing beats family time spent around a holiday meal. [Photo credit: Kari Lund]

 

I, too, cherish food traditions. I love a big golden turkey coming out of the oven for Thanksgiving just as much as I love that slice of pie. The tastes and smells of these particular foods put me in my grandparent’s kitchen, talking amongst my aunts and uncles, feeling loved. Just because you’ve adopted a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean it needs to be a different experience. Holidays are one of the occasions that I abide by an 80/20 rule, especially if I’m not in charge of the menu planning. I eat clean most of the time so my aunt’s signature holiday dessert can count for that 20% where I allow myself to not worry as much about what I’m eating. If you’re in charge of the menu, you can easily substitute a few healthier ingredients to traditional holiday foods or change up the menu a bit to accommodate your clean eating goals.

 

The following recipes are a full holiday meal spread of traditional fall foods made with clean ingredients. This meal accommodates serving about 6 to 8 but can easily be scaled up for a larger group. The full meal will take you about 2 to 2 ½ hours to prepare if only one person is cooking. I’ve included a few sequential notes to help with timing each dish at the end. On the menu: Roasted Cornish Game Hens, Marbled Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Kale and Quinoa Stuffed Squash, and Creamy Mushroom Green Beans with Crispy Shallots. For dessert, try a dairy free pumpkin pie! I’m thankful to experience these traditions and share healthier foods with my family both near and far. The time spent bonding around the table with family is truly a time to be cherished.

 

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

roasted Cornish game hens

[Photo credit: Kari Lund]

 

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 1 hour 15-30 minutes plus 15 minutes rest (does not include marinade time)

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cornish game hens, neck and giblets removed
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

 

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  2. Rub a little of the marinade into the body cavity and under the skin of each hen.
  3. Then, place two Cornish hens in a zip top bag and pour half of the marinade over them. Repeat with the other two. Set aside and marinate in the fridge 4 hours or overnight.
  4. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Take hens out of their marinade and place in a baking dish (9x13 or a rimmed baking sheet works well).
  6. Scoop marinade out of bag and spoon onto each of the hens.
  7. Roast for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes until a meat thermometer placed in thickest part reads 165 degrees.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest 10-15 minutes before serving. Reserve pan drippings for the gravy.

 

Marbled Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

mashed potatoes and gravy

[Photo credit: Kari Lund]

 

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 40 min

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 russet or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 teaspoon salt (for cooking water)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup milk of any kind (almond, coconut, dairy, or use broth)
  • 1 egg (optional, for added creaminess – you’ll need a little more butter or milk if you omit this, however)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

 

Gravy Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter, olive oil or lard
  • 4 tablespoons flour (all purpose, or a gluten-free all purpose)
  • 2 cups reserved water from cooked potatoes (or use broth)
  • Pan drippings from the cooked Cornish hens
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or more to taste

 

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Place cut potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to about one inch above potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
  2. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 30-40 minutes.
  3. Drain potatoes and reserve 2 cups of the potato cooking water for the gravy.
  4. Separate the sweet potatoes into a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil or butter and mash with a fork.
  5. Mash white potatoes with a potato masher or use a hand-mixer on lowest speed and blend in salt, pepper, coconut milk (or broth), egg and remaining olive oil/butter.
  6. Place white potatoes into a serving dish and then gently swirl the sweet potatoes into them.

 

Gravy Instructions:

  1. Place butter/olive oil or lard in a small saucepan and heat just until melted. Add flour and whisk to make a thick slurry.
  2. Add reserved potato water (or broth), pan drippings, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
  3. Boil until thick, about 5 minutes. If gravy ends up too thick, add water or broth in order to thin to desired consistency.

 

Kale and Quinoa Stuffed Squash

stuffed squash

[Photo credit: Kari Lund]

 

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 60 min

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 small squash (carnival, acorn, sweet dumpling, celebration)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 ounces, cremini or mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 1 cup broth of any kind
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Pinch black pepper

 

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice each squash in half. Remove stem and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Brush cut side with olive oil and place squash cut side up on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake about 60 minutes until skin easily indents with the touch of your finger.
  5. While squash is baking, prepare filling.
  6. Sauté shallot and mushrooms in a saucepan with butter or olive oil about 5 minutes.
  7. Add quinoa and broth and cover the pan.
  8. Let simmer 15 minutes for quinoa to cook (you should still have a little liquid left in the pan – if not, add a touch more broth).
  9. Stir in kale, sage, salt and pepper and stir-cook until kale is wilted.
  10. Stir in pomegranate seeds.
  11. Divide filling among the squash halves.
  12. Serve warm.

 

Creamy Mushroom Green Beans with Crispy Shallots

green beans

[Photo credit: Kari Lund]

 

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 40 min

 

Green Bean Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces mixed mushrooms (cremini, shitake, oyster), roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • Splash of white wine (optional)
  • ½ cup coconut milk, almond milk or dairy cream
  • 1 tablespoon flour (all purpose, or a gluten free all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup broth of any kind
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ -2 pounds green beans, trimmed

 

Crispy Shallots Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoon butter or olive oil

 

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Prepare crispy shallots by placing sliced shallots in a small saucepan with the butter or olive oil. Butter seems to work better for this but olive oil will work.
  2. Cook shallots on low heat about 40 minutes until they have caramelized and begin to crisp.
  3. While shallots are cooking, sauté the mushroom and garlic in a small saucepan with olive oil until the garlic is fragrant and mushrooms have given up most of their moisture.
  4. Add white wine and sauté a few minutes.
  5. In a small dish, make a slurry of the coconut milk and flour.
  6. Add broth and coconut milk slurry with salt and pepper to the saucepan and cook on high until sauce has thickened to a gravy consistency about 5 minutes.
  7. When shallots are mostly crisped, remove from pan and let drain on a paper towel.
  8. To prepare beans, boil enough water to cover beans. 
  9. Place beans in boiling water and simmer 4 minutes.
  10. Drain beans and place in serving dish. Top with creamy mushroom mixture and toss to combine.
  11. Place crispy shallots on top and serve hot.

 

Sequence of Orchestration

  1. Prepare a dessert, if desired, the day before.
  2. Marinate Cornish hens the night before.
  3. Place Cornish hens and squash in the oven at the same time.
  4. Boil the potatoes.
  5. Start crispy shallots for the green beans. When done, just set aside until ready to garnish.
  6. Prep filling for the squash.
  7. Prep mushroom sauce for the green beans and keep warm.
  8. Start saucepan with gravy ingredients so it’s ready when the potatoes and Cornish are done.
  9. When potatoes are done, mash them, place in serving dish and set them aside. Add the require potato water to the gravy. Cover finished potatoes with foil to keep warm if needed.
  10. Take Cornish hens and squash out of oven.
  11. While Cornish hens are resting, fill the squash, place on serving platter, and set aside. Cover squash with foil to keep warm if needed.
  12. Boil the water for green beans.
  13. Transfer Cornish hens to serving plate.
  14. Add pan drippings to gravy and finish cooking the gravy.
  15. Finish assembling the green beans in a dish to serve.

 

Eat and Enjoy!

More delicious ideas for your holiday gathering:

Holiday Recipes to Satisfy the Athlete's Sweet Tooth

 

 

 

 

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