Thanksgiving dinner menu

This is one of the only menus where I'll combine Proteins with Starches, although I myself won't eat them together. I do this because to eliminate the turkey, or the potatoes, or the pumpkin pie, would be sacrilegious to most families on Thanksgiving. I just choose whether or not I'll have a Starch or Protein meal and eat accordingly. Note: it's very easy to make the entire meal compatible for food combiners, just eliminate either the Starches or the Proteins, substitute where appropriate, i.e. serve Tofurky with a Starch meal, or use Protein Bread Stuffing and Pecan Pie or Praline Cheesecake in place of the Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie.

Many of these recipes can be passed out to your guests beforehand to make the dinner a potluck affair. Thanksgiving shouldn't be a cooking marathon, with you exhausted and your family and guests satiated. So make a few copies of these pages and pass out the recipes. If a cooking-impaired guest asks what they can bring ask them to bring things like butter, ground coffee and cream (unless they're also coffee impaired, in which case they'll end up bringing a can of Folgers), ice, herbal teas, Fruit for appetizers, vegetables to roast ... To be ready when someone asks and to be sure I plan efficiently for the big day, I keep a list of these items by the phone and write the person's name beside what they're bringing.

The first thing I do to prepare for Thanksgiving is to make room in the refrigerator. At the beginning of the month I start by using up as much food as I can, using the last bits of sauces, dressings, cheeses ... to create soups, casseroles & sandwiches. I try to clean out the freezer too; using all those dishes I froze for a busy day - this is it - the busy day. Now I have room to make ahead and freeze portions of Thanksgiving Dinner.

On Thanksgiving day you may need even more fridge space and that's when you can buy or freeze a block of ice (use a leak-proof container so that you don't end up with a watery mess) and store food in a picnic cooler. If you live in a cool climate keep the cooler outside or in your garage. If you live in a really cold climate you can store well-wrapped (to keep it safe from little creatures) food inside a covered barbecue grill.

Set cookie sheets or plates on top of bowls, casseroles, & baking pans in the fridge so that you can stack another dish or two on top.

Another thing you may find yourself short on is serving dishes. I've purchased a bunch of extra containers, cruets, bottles, bowls, etc. which I use to serve dressings, sauces, & gravies, but you can use mugs with soup spoons as a standin for an extra gravy boat or for salad dressing. I put teacup saucers under all cruets & mugs (gravy boats come with their own drip catchers) to keep from dripping across the table when passing the dish.

Take a look through the menu below, then if you want to give yourself a head start click on the Head Start button at the bottom of the page for a do-ahead prep schedule.


I'm eliminating the salad from this menu in favor of serving the following appetizers:

The Turkey Protein

I usually do the turkey in a smoker (thank you to Bill T. who for many years quietly snuck into my back yard to tend the smoker every four hours through the night before Thanksgiving and finally taught me the secrets to his fabulous smoked turkey). I started smoking my Thanksgiving turkeys because even with three ovens I don't have the oven space to cook three turkeys (yes, you read it right - I cook three turkeys because I serve a huge crowd at Thanksgiving) with all the other dishes, but you may want to do so simply because it tastes fabulous! Any smoker will have the directions to smoke a turkey. The most important thing is not to let the water run out, or you'll end up with a dry-as-dust turkey.

If you'd like to smoke your turkey on your barbecue, light a briquette fire on one end of the grill. Soak hardwood chips in water for 1 hour. When coals are covered with ash, sprinkle chips over coals. Use your hands to scoop chips out of the water allowing the water to run through your fingers. Place turkey at the opposite end of the grill. Cover and allow to smoke. Cook until turkey is browned and internal temperature of turkey reaches 150 degrees.

While turkey is smoking place more chips in the water. About one quarter of the way through cooking, check the grill. Add more briquettes and place more chips on briquettes as needed. Repeat as needed. Have briquettes and drained chips ready to add quickly. The longer you allow the grill or smoker to remain uncovered the more heat you'll lose and the longer the turkey will take to cook.

The amount of time needed to cook your turkey varies with the climate, size of the turkey, and the heat inside your smoker/grill. Generally you should start your turkey around sunrise for a late afternoon, early evening dinner. You can keep the turkey warm by dousing the briquettes with water so they'll stop cooking the turkey and immediately replacing the lid of  your smoker/grill.

Port Gravy Neutral

Skim fat from roasting pan juices, reserving 1/4 cup fat. Deglaze pan with 1 cup tawny port over moderately high heat, scraping up browned bits. Bring port to a boil, remove pan from heat. In a saucepan whisk together reserved fat and 1/4 cup soy or nut flour, whisking roux over moderately low heat for 3 minutes. Add port mixture and 4 cups turkey giblet stock or chicken or vegetable broth in a stream while whisking. Simmer, whisking occasionally for 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic Mashed "Potatoes" Neutral

This recipe tastes just like mashed potatoes. The advantage being that you can serve these mashed "potatoes" with turkey and you can make them in a food processor without having them turn gummy!

Steam 3 heads of cauliflower, cut into florets until very tender. Dump out any liquid in pan. Replace cauliflower and keep pan on burner without lid and heat off to remove any excess water.

Cut top 1/4 from 2 heads of garlic. Wrap in aluminum foil and place in oven 400 degree oven. Roast for approximately one hour, until soft.

Puree vegetables with

2-4 tablespoons light vegetable or mock chicken broth powder (do not use liquid broth, you need the powder to keep the right texture)
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream or up to 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
1/2 cup melted butter
sea salt (and white pepper) to taste

Taste and adjust seasoning and liquid so that you end up with a rich tasting, smooth puree. Use only enough liquid to puree smoothly. You want the finished puree to be pretty stiff.

Keep covered in oven or in crockpot until ready to serve. You can also make this up to two weeks ahead & freeze in large freezer quality ziplock bags. Thaw by leaving at room temperature or on top of fridge until completely thawed or at least thawed enough to remove from bag. Set thawed or frozen mashed cauliflower in collinder to allow liquid to drain, then reheat in oven, microwave, or crockpot.

Squash Cakes Neutral

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place squash in oven for 40-60 minutes depending on it's size.

1 whole spaghetti squash with several slits cut through shell to release steam and keep the squash from exploding

When the shell is lightly browned and your kitchen has a slightly nutty smell, take the squash out of the oven. Don't overbake or the inside becomes mushy. Let squash cool enough so that you can touch it without burning yourself. Cut in half crosswise, scooping out & discarding the seeds & mushy strings surrounding the seeds. Scoop out the flesh of the squash which will separate into strands. Discard the outer shell.

Saute onion in a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil with a little sea salt and black pepper until just tender. Add to squash in bowl.

1-2 chopped onions (depending on the size of the onions & your own taste)


sea salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons dried sage
1/4 cup eggs yolks (this should be the yolks from 2-3 eggs, you can use 1 whole egg, but it will change this to a Protein dish)

Heat a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil in small non-stick pan. Pour in enough of the spaghetti squash batter to coat the bottom of the pan 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Cook over medium-high heat until browned on bottom. Either place pan under broiler to brown top (in which case you could use a larger pan because you won't be flipping the cake) or flip the cake & cook until that side is browned. Serve immediately or keep warm in oven, uncovered. You could also make the cakes up to 2 days ahead and then reheat in the oven, uncovered. If you cover the cakes while keeping warm or reheating they'll lose their crisp exterior.

I love these squash cakes so much that I eat them plain, but you can top them with butter, Mushroom Gravy, or Parsley Pesto.

Italian Squash Cakes

Add to batter

1 chopped roasted red pepper (chop by hand, pulsing in a food processor makes them too liquid)
1/4 cup Basil or Olive Pesto
1 egg yolk

Roasted Vegetables Starch or Neutral

Cut any assortment of the following vegetables into bite-size pieces:

Place all vegetables except mushrooms & green beans in large plastic bag. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar, enough olive oil to coat, sea salt & black pepper to taste. Shake until well coated. You'll be surprised at the wonderful sweet, rich flavor that the balsamic vinegar adds. Do the same with the mushrooms & green beans in a separate bag.

Spread the first bag of vegetables out in a shallow pan. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Stir. Add mushrooms & green beans & roast for another 30 minutes, until all vegetables are tender.

Serve with Parsley Pesto on the side in a cruet or gravy boat.

Parsley Pesto Neutral

This recipe makes way more than you'll need for this dinner. Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays and store frozen cubes in freezer to use for salad dressings, soups, etc. This is wonderful over turkey, Roasted Vegetables, Garlic Mashed "Potatoes", or Squash Cakes, spread on a slice of Bacon Muffin. Actually it works with pretty much everything on the menu except the dessert.

Even though you're using Parmesan cheese in this recipe you'l use so little of this sauce in comparison to the vegetables you'll be eating that it remains Neutral.

Place in blender or food processor bowl. Pulse a few times until chopped and well blended.

2 cloves raw garlic or 4 cloves roasted garlic
2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley, packed well
1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, or pecans

Add and pulse until blended

1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter

With motor running, add olive oil in a thin, steady, stream.

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Spicy Sausage Stuffing Protein

You can make this stuffing as a Starch by using whole grain bread cubes (whole wheat or corn bread are good choices) and soy sausage.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread in two large cookie sheets or shallow pans. Bake 10 minutes until crisp, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

8-1/2 cups Protein bread cubes

In large skillet heat

1/4 cup veggie or mock chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
(1 tablespoon unrefined sugar)

Add and cook covered about 5 minutes until vegetables ares crisp-tender.

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Uncover, cook 5-8 minutes longer, stirring occasionally until vegetables are browned and liquid is absorbed. Add

2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Transfer vegetables to large bowl. Add to skillet. Cook 8 minutes, stirring frequently until sausage is well browned.

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

Using slotted spoon, scoop sausage from skillet and add to vegetables, along with

2-1/2 cups veggie or mock chicken broth

Spoon stuffing into baking dish, (cut 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and dot over stuffing). Bake, covered 30 minutes, uncover and bake 15 minutes more. (Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley. If you don't have fresh parsley you can stir 2 tablespoons dried parsley with the other spices into the vegetable mixture.)

Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie Starch

The elimination of the more traditional cream and eggs, replaced by the tofu makes this pie is so rich you won't believe it. All that rich flavor with so little sugar and fat is probably what inspired my sister and brother-in-law to eat the leftover pie for breakfast the next morning. Of course, I didn't tell my brother-in-law that he was eating tofu! My nephews and niece are allergic to nuts so I sometimes eliminate the nutmeg and substitute peanuts for the hazelnuts and it still turns out great. In fact we love the peanut crust so much that I'm going to experiment with using peanut butter in place of the butter for more peanutty-delicious flavor.

If you've stuck to an essentially Protein menu you can have a small slice of pie.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

I've even served this pie in a store bought frozen crust and had rave reviews, but the hazelnut crust is truly superb.

Pulse approximately 1 cup toasted hazelnuts, to end up with 1/2 cup ground nuts(can use any nuts including peanuts)in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the following ingredients continuing to pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs:

6 tablespoons butter, softened, cut into small cubes (or if mixing by hand melt the butter and stir into dry ingredients)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (white whole wheat or graham flour if you can get it)
1/4 cup unrefined sugar

Pat evenly over bottom and 1 inch up sides of springform pan or 2 pie pans.

Process in blender or food processor until smooth (you may substitute 2 & 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves)

1 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
(1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 & 1/2 to 2 cups canned pumpkin (15 ounce can)
1 box firm or extra-firm low fat silken tofu

Cover the exposed crust with aluminum foil to keep it from getting too browned. Bake the filled pie for 50 minutes. When done the pie should be cracked on top and jiggly like jello. It will firm up as it cools.

Now you can stop here or keep going with the following dishes. I just can't help it, especially on holidays I want to serve more than anyone can possibly eat, which includes 2-3 desserts, several additional dishes, & lots of leftovers. Those who know me well bring their own Tupperware!

Additional Thanksgiving Recipes:

You'll also receive recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers when you click on the link above.

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