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Eat Well – Thanksgiving Edition

Eat Well – Thanksgiving Edition, by Tony Polito

Undoubtedly, Thanksgiving is not just about turkey. It’s the time of the year that signifies the beginning of the holiday season. It brings family and friends together for that special dinner everyone is longing for, followed by great day of football! Having said that, I hope this article brings you the joy of good food and good cheer.

I was recently on the West Coast visiting my favorite olive oil producer, California Olive Ranch, when I was inspired to develop two fantastic, easy and delicious recipes for Thanksgiving. I’d also like to share some thoughts on appreciating the meaning of the holiday.

Often times, keeping you head connected to you shoulders can be a tough task during the holiday season. To help reduce some craziness, ask for help from those you’ve invited to your home. Years ago, that might have been an insult to folks, but by today’s standards, it’s not. It takes a great deal of time for one person to prepare all the food. I’ve seen my mom work herself to the bone pleasing everyone. It wasn’t until I started preparing holiday dinners with my siblings when we realized the effort that’s involved. It’s a good feeling when we make something from scratch and hear others say “mmmmmm, that’s really good!,” or “hey, you gotta try this!”  Go ahead and ask your guests to bring a dish that they mastered over the years, and let them get some praise as well. If they haven’t already mastered a dish, I’ve got plenty of suggestions in my new book, Fresh.

Whether you’re making roasted turkey with caramelized apples and onions, or roasted vegetables with creamy bashed potatoes, or stuffed mushrooms with beans, or a divine shiitake soup with pan roasted garlic, the true test is having fun with your family and guests. I remember a few years ago I introduced a fun Thanksgiving activity called “Who’s the Turkey” to my family. We had a ball, with this simple game that everyone of all ages can enjoy.  Try these suggested “Who’s the Turkey” questions below with your family- it’s a recipe for fun.

1) When was the first Thanksgiving celebrated? A) 1492, B) 1812, C) 1621, D) 1777

2) Which U.S. president moved Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November to create a longer holiday shopping season? A) John F Kennedy, B) Harry Truman, C) Franklin D. Roosevelt, D) Ulysses Grant

3) When was the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation? A) 1621 B) 1777, C) 1492, D) 1776

The answers are: 1) c, 2) c, 3) b. You can find many more fun questions on the Web, and consider throwing in some questions about healthy eating. Ask how we can boost energy, increase antioxidants and promote heart health (the answer is simply to exercise). In the meantime, have a lot of fun and enjoy the recipes below. Comments are truly appreciated.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries

Yields 4 servings:

1 large butternut squash

1 large Spanish onion, sliced thin

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 tsp. nutmeg or cinnamon

1 tsp. rosemary

½ cup dry cranberries

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup California Olive Ranch® Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Peel squash and remove ends. Cut the squash in half so that you have a flat bottom. Stand it up and with your knife and remove the first layer of skin. Once completed, slice squash in ½ inch pieces and then chop in small cubes. Just pick a size you like and go with it. Add Spanish onion, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, rosemary, cranberries, salt, pepper and toss well. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Gently toss with olive oil and plate. Garnish with California Olive Ranch olive oil. Tip: When buying butternut squash, look for those that are not bottom-heavy. Squash with smaller hips have less seeds. For a sweeter finish, you may add 1 tsp. of honey or agave nectar.

Juicy Citrus Turkey

Yields 12 servings:

1 turkey, cut into pieces (8 to 10 lbs.)

4 large limes, juiced

1½ cups orange juice

20 oz. tomato sauce, seasoned with herbs

2 T. rosemary

1½ T. cumin

2 T. oregano

Salt and pepper

½ cup California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2½ large Spanish onions, cut in ¼ inch slices

4 large carrots, cut and cubed

2 large potatoes, cut and cubed

The night before, combine ingredients 1 to 8 in a large glass bowl and toss well with ½ cup of California Olive Ranch oil. Another alternative is to do this process before the cooking takes place (four hours minimum). Transfer ingredients to an oven-safe pot or pan and add onions. Cover with foil to help retain juices. Place in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 1½ hours. Check to make sure the juices are not overflowing, and adjust remaining time if needed. A good rule of thumb is 12 minutes per pound. Once the turkey is nearly done, add the carrots and potatoes. Continue to cook for an additional 45 minutes. Uncover and broil until golden brown on top. Your end result will be a juicy turkey dinner that can be enjoyed with any side dish.

Recipes from Chef Tony Polito, “Fresh – Eating Healthy Never Tasted So Good”


Tony Polito is a chef and food consultant in Boston and New York. Tony’s specialty is helping people get fit, starting in the kitchen. He not only teaches people what to eat, but also how to eat. His first cookbook, “Fresh,” includes over 75 recipes that can be made in 10 minutes or less. Visit his web site at www.cookingwithtony.com.

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