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August 1, 2014, 5:51 am

Speed up, slim down Thanksgiving dinner

  • Written by ROCCO DiSPIRITO
  • Published in Lifestyles

To say that I love Thanksgiving dinner is similar to saying that expensive Champagne is something to satisfy your thirst.

I don't just love it, but live for it. And much of that is thanks to my wonderful childhood memories of this meal.

But as I've got older, there's something I have come to not love about Thanksgiving dinner — all those calories. They make you want to crash on the couch, loosen your belt and doze off into a food coma. A nice indulgence, but not a healthy lifestyle.

And it's way easier than you might think to down thousands of calories in that one meal.

A cup of cranberry sauce can pack 440 calories alone. Two rolls with butter — 270 calories. A large serving of turkey — 318 calories. A slice of pumpkin pie with whipped topping — 416 calories. A large serving of mashed potatoes — 237. A cup of stuffing — 400 calories. See what I mean? And we haven't even talked about drinks and starters.

I doubt if I'd ever be able to bypass the turkey, the stuffing, the gravy and cranberry sauce. But that's doesn't mean I can't lighten them up a bit. And there's nothing wrong with that.

To scale things down, I've used turkey breast, whole-wheat bread for the stuffing, a cranberry sauce made with agave nectar rather than sugar, and a delicious low-fat gravy. This recipe will satisfy anyone in your family for just 303 calories and 6 grams of fat. A comparable regular dinner would weigh in at 1,450 calories and 58 grams of fat.

There are many ways to cook a turkey. Here, you poach it. It keeps the meat moist without any added fat. Plus, the poaching liquid is used for the stuffing and to make the gravy. I like to bring the temperature of the poaching liquid to 165 F and let the meat cook slowly — the longer, the better.

As long as you stick to white-meat turkey and don't eat the skin, turkey is one of your best nutritional bets. It has less saturated fat, less total fat and less cholesterol than chicken, pork or beef. Skinless turkey breast also is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, iron, selenium and zinc. Best of all, turkey tastes great.

This meal takes roughly an hour and a half to make, far less than typical turkey dinners. That means you also can avoid some of the holiday cooking frenzy.

One more thing: Remember that Thanksgiving isn't about celebrating the perfect turkey or the smoothest mashed potatoes. It's a time to think about family and togetherness.

And football.

TIPS:

— Poaching the turkey keeps the meat moist without adding fat. And as a bonus, the flavorful poaching liquid is used for the stuffing and to make the gravy.

— I like to bring the temperature of the poaching liquid up to 165 F and let the meat cook slowly — the longer, the better.

___

THANKSGIVING DINNER

Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours

Servings: 4

3 cups low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth, divided

1 pound fresh or completely thawed boneless, skinless turkey breast, trimmed of all visible fat (turkey breast chops also work)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped yellow onion

Salt and ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

2 cups (about 4 ounces) cubed stale whole-wheat bread

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 cup no-sugar added cranberry sauce

In a medium pot with a candy or deep-fry thermometer attached, heat 2 1/2 cups of the broth over medium-high. When the liquid reaches 165 F, with barely any bubbles reaching the surface, add the turkey. Adjust the heat, if necessary, to maintain the temperature at 165 F.

Using foil, cover the pot (leaving the face of the thermometer exposed for easy monitoring) and poach the turkey for 30 minutes. Uncover and use an instant thermometer to check the temperature at the center of the meat (not the liquid). The meat should read 150 F. If not, cover and continue to poach for another 10 minutes, or until the meat reaches temperature.

When the meat reaches 150 F, turn off the heat and let the turkey rest, covered, in the poaching liquid for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium. When hot, add the olive oil. Add the celery and onion and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the poultry seasoning and bread. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and add 1/2 cup of the turkey poaching liquid. Stir, then add another 1/2 cup. The bread should be moist, but not wet. Cover, then cook until the bread is hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Remove the turkey from the remaining poaching liquid and cover the meat with foil to keep warm.

Remove the thermometer from the pot and bring the poaching liquid to a boil. Cook until reduced to about 1 cup; this should take only a few minutes. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved cool broth and the cornstarch. Whisk into the hot broth, then return to a boil and cook for 1 minute.

Serve the turkey with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 303 calories; 6 g fat (1 g saturated); 70 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 35 g protein; 3 g fiber; 381 mg sodium.