Sunday, November 19, 2023

Gobble, gobble.


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We are currently in the midst of Peak Eating Season, which I define as the period that starts when you buy the first bag of Halloween candy and ends after the leftover Easter candy goes on sale. The season kicks into high gear in the U.S. this coming week with Thanksgiving on Thursday.

A lot of people stress over Thanksgiving, and not just because all the relatives are coming (including the ones you don't like). There's also a lot of angst over how to cook the turkey, how much food to buy, which sides to have, and so on. Not me! I am one of those people who makes the same thing every year. I buy the biggest turkey I can*, stuff it with Pepperidge Farm stuffing, roast it in one of those plastic cooking bags, and serve it with mashed potatoes from a box, nuked whole sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, crescent rolls from the vacuum-packed can (nothing says a holiday meal at La Casa Cantwell like the explodey sound those tubes of dough make), and the jellied substance that my daughters long ago dubbed "canberry sauce". With pumpkin pie and chocolate pudding pie for dessert.

That is, that was the menu for many, many years. Then I went low carb.

Honestly, though, as a veteran of decades of dieting, I can assure you that of all the holiday meals, Thanksgiving is one of the easiest to adapt to whatever lifestyle change you're making. Granted, it's tougher for vegetarians and vegans because of the focus on meat (a problem that Thanksgiving shares with Christmas dinner). But for nearly everybody else, a few tweaks and you're good.

Take this low-carb thing. There's quite a number of carbs in my old menu, but you can lean on lower carb veggies for sides.

Take the stuffing, for example. A couple of years ago, I found a recipe online for cauliflower "stuffing". It is amazing. It 100 percent tastes like regular stuffing. And it's not just me saying it - other people I've served it to have said the same thing. (Pro tip: If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, skip the business about chopping your own cauliflower, carrots, onion and celery -- instead, stop by their produce section and pick up a bag or two of fresh riced cauliflower and a container of mirepoix.)

For rolls, I've made almond flour biscuits. The mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? You could sub mashed butternut squash, but honestly, I just skip them and add another veggie. This year, it'll be acorn squash. It's not like there isn't enough other food on the table.

Turkey is already zero carb, but I always feel like I ought to put something where the stuffing usually goes. I'm going to try this recipe this year, which includes my cherished plastic cooking bag but doesn't require you to stuff the bird with bread.

The canberry sauce is a tough one, but in the past, I've made cranberry-orange relish with Swerve instead of regular sugar.

For dessert this year, I'm going to tweak a pumpkin pudding recipe that I've used for many years. It worked great when I was doing the regular kind of dieting, and I think all I'll have to do to make it low carb is swap the brown sugar for brown "sugar" Swerve. I'll report back.

Here's the recipe. I don't remember which newspaper I got it from, or I'd give them credit.


1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree (don't get canned pumpkin pie filling by mistake)

1/2 c. light brown sugar (I'm going to sub brown "sugar" Swerve)

1/2 t. nutmeg

3/4 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. ginger

1/4 t. ground cloves

(Of course, you could use 1 3/4 t. of pumpkin pie spice (aka "pumpkin spice") instead of the individual spices)

1 c. whole milk (or 2% or nut milk -- but remember that the less fat in your milk, the less creamy the pudding will be)

3 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. Bring a large teapot full of water to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar/"sugar", and spices. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs, then add them to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until smooth. Arrange eight ramekins in a shallow baking dish (about 2" deep) or lasagna pan. Spoon or ladle the pumpkin mixture into the ramekins. Place the baking pan in the oven. With the oven door open, carefully pour the hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Push the baking pan to the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until the pumpkin is set. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven and remove the ramekins from the pan. Serve warm or cool.


* On the off chance that I haven't bored y'all with this before, here's why I always buy a huge turkey: It's cheap. This year, I paid 67 cents a pound for my turkey. And here's the key:

You don't have to eat the whole thing in one weekend. 

Once the big meal is over, I use a four container system for turkey leftovers: one for slices from the breast for sandwiches, one for the rest of the white meat, one for the dark meat, and one for the skin and the other stuff that nobody's gonna eat. The breast slices go in the fridge for eating that weekend, and the light and dark meat goes in the freezer. (The fourth container goes in the trash, or you can boil the contents for broth.) I can stretch those frozen leftovers for months: turkey rice soup, turkey taco filling, turkey this, turkey that. If you only have turkey a couple of times a month, you don't get sick of it. I swear to you it's true.


If you take away only one thing from this post, make it this: Don't make yourself crazy over a single feast. Bodies are adaptable. One day of breaking your diet isn't going to wreck your metabolism or your life. If you want the damn pie, eat the damn pie.


These moments of festive low-carb blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

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