Healthy versions of favorite holiday foods

December 15, 2015

I’m always looking for ways to take an otherwise fattening recipe and, with a few tweaks, turn it into something healthy. Some experiments are, admittedly, more successful than others.

This Thanksgiving, I took one of our family favorites—Grandma’s Sausage-Rice Stuffing—and tweaked away. In years past, we used sausage, white rice, cream of mushroom soup, some celery and called it a day. It was tasty covered in gravy, but not the healthiest choice.

My revised version is more savory, but not necessarily healthier. I switched the white rice for quinoa and the pork sausage for chicken sausage. It’s still pretty heavy in carbohydrates, and even “nitrate-free” sausage, like all cured meat, is high in salt; it just has no additional sodium nitrate added, and chicken sausage is leaner than pork.

Cream of mushroom soup contains a lot of starch and sugar, so I substituted it with my own concoction. Xanthan gum is a thickener that can be found in grocery stores on the baking aisle. It’s a sugar that’s used in a lot of foods, including to give consistency to gluten-free foods.


Chris’ Cream-Of Soup Substitution


-2 T butter
-½ to 2/3 c. celery, finely minced (or mushrooms or cooked chicken)
-¼ t. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
-¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
-½ t. xanthan gum
-3/4 cup chicken stock
-3/4 cup half and half
-Pinch of salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the celery, salt and pepper, and cook until celery has softened, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and half and half. When the mixture is hot, sprinkle on the xanthan gum and whisk until well blended. Simmer uncovered stirring frequently until the soup thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Yields 1½ cups.


Healthy Quinoa and Sausage Stuffing

-½ lb. nitrate-free savory sausage, like white wine/garlic or pork and sage
-½ lb. nitrate-free sweet sausage, like chicken-apple or pork and blueberry.
-1 T. olive or coconut oil
-Half a yellow onion, finely minced
-1 large shallot, finely minced
-1 c. celery, finely chopped
-1 large apple rustically cut
-1 palm-full of Herbs of Provence
-1+ t. Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
-2 c. cooked quinoa
-Black pepper to taste
-½ c. toasted slivered almonds
-1 c. Cream-Of Soup Substitution

In a large, heavy-bottom pan, brown the sausage in olive or coconut oil. When you cook sausage for stuffing, caramelize it to get all those crispy bits of yumminess.

While the sausage is browning, add the onion and the shallots. After about five minutes, add half the chopped apple and let it cook while preparing the quinoa.

Add the celery and a generous pinch of Herbs of Provence along with some Pink Himalayan Sea Salt.

Add the sausage mixture to one cup Cream-Of Soup Substitution and stir. Cook for a few minutes and, when the quinoa is ready, add it one cup at a time to desired consistency and stir.

Add the rest of the apple and cook for a few more minutes. Stir well, add the rest of the spices, and top with toasted slivered almonds.

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