Thanksgiving Dinner: Healthy Leftovers

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving Dinner are all of the yummy leftovers, but you don’t need to splurge on another big, calorie laden meal to enjoy them. We found some fresh ideas to transform some of those leftovers into healthy meals and future meals.

Turkey Stock

blog post_leftovers01

Don’t throw out those turkey bones. After you take off all the meat, add the carcass, meat scraps, garlic, onion and whatever veggies you have on hand. Put them in a big soup pot, add water and you can create a wonderful turkey stock that can be frozen into portions for soups, stews and sauces through out the winter months.

1 turkey carcass and all additional bones, bits of meat
2 head of garlic, roughly chopped
2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped into chunks
2 carrots, cut in half
2 celery stalks, cut in half
1handful fresh parsley, leaves and stems,
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt

Note: If you have other vegetables such as peas, green beans or tomatoes, you can also add to stock pot if you wish.

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Cover with fresh filtered water until all ingredients are covered; adding an additional inch of water past the ingredients.

Bring contents to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to medium low and continue simmering for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and allow for contents to cool for several hours, as this will draw the nutrients out of the contents and into the broth. Strain contents into another pot keeping the liquid. Discard the contents. Place liquid in the refrigerator overnight; skim off any fat the next day. You can freeze the stock into glass jars for several months and allow a day to defrost. Turkey stock is great for soups, stews and sautee through out the winter months.

Karen Langston, Certified Holistic Nutritionist specializing in Crohn’s Disease

Turkey Tacos

blog post_leftovers02

1 yellow onion, small diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 can black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (optional)
1 tbsp. chili powder
½ tbsp. cumin

Place the above ingredients in a pan and sautée, then add them to 6-inch whole grain tortillas or hard taco shells. Top with reduced fat shredded cheese, shredded lettuce and salsa.

Cranberry Salsa

blog post_leftovers03

2 cups cranberries
2 sweet red bell peppers, de-seeded
3 spring onions, minced
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice crystals
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine
juice of one lime
generous pinch sea salt
1 tsp crushed red pepper

Put cranberries and bell peppers into a food processor and chop until fine. Place the mixture into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well and let sit at least two hours before serving so flavors blend.

See the entire article with more recipes here.


Thanksgiving Tips (and Recipes)

Everyone has their own special way of preparing Thanksgiving dinner. From the juiciest, “this will never dry out!” turkey, to Great Grandmas classic casserole, Thanksgiving is a festive annual tradition. How can you spice up your Thanksgiving routine this year?

Here are two sure fire recipes to keep your guests satisfied this holiday season, but be warned – you just might be the new annual Thanksgiving dinner host! Good news is, those who cook don’t have to clean, right?


Don’t let your turkey dry out like the Arizona desert! Brining ensures that it never happens again through a simple process of adding moisture to your meat. Turkey is very lean; therefore, it requires much moisture and longer cooking time. Traditional brines consist of water and an abundance of salt, but you can add special seasonings and herbs to enhance the flavor of your brine. This salt solution moistens the turkey through a process known as osmosis, where the higher concentration of salt water diffuses to the lower concentration. When equilibrium is reached, the water and seasonings are then trapped in the turkeys lean tissue, keeping it tender and moist throughout the entire cooking process.


Super Moist Turkey

by Alton Brown of Food Network

blog post_turkey


1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey


To make the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

½ cup light brown sugar

1 gallon low sodium vegetable stock

1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns

1 ½ tsp allspice berries

1 ½ tsp chopped candied ginger

1 gallon heavily iced water


For the aromatics (stuff inside of turkey cavity while roasting):

1 red apple, sliced

½ onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

4 sprigs rosemary

6 leaves sage

Canola oil



Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38°F two or three days before roasting.


Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.


The night before Thanksgiving Day:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket, (you can use a sanitized Home Depot bucket). Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.


Preheat the oven to 500°F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.


Place the bird on a roasting rack set on top of a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.


Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.


Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500°F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161°F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.


Carve, serve and enjoy!


blog post_chicken 03

Oatmeal bake

Created by our Chef at central kitchen, Chef Kate

With all the cooking you’ll be doing, worrying about breakfast is the last thing on your mind. This oatmeal bake is light yet filling – perfect on days of long holiday cooking. Make it ahead of time and serve it with some yogurt or milk!


1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup warm water

1½ cup oats

2 eggs

1 cup frozen fruit

1 cup dried fruit

1 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds)

½ cup brown sugar

1 oz vegetable or canola oil

¼ cup low sugar applesauce

1½ tsp ground cinnamon

1½ tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

¾ cup skim milk


Crunchy topping:

4 Tbsp maple syrup

2 Tbsp coconut oil (warm or room temperature)

1 cup chopped walnuts (or pecan/almonds)

¾ cup sunflower seeds



Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all wet ingredients in medium bowl and all dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Once well mixed, pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix together. Then pour oatmeal mixture into a greased or sprayed 8×8 inch pan.


For crunchy topping:

Mix all ingredients together, then sprinkle on top of oatmeal mixture and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean when poked in the center.


Tip: Add a little more sugar or chocolate for sweetness and serve it with your favorite ice cream for a healthy and tasty dessert after your delicious holiday meal.


Meals to Make Life Easier…Crock Pot Edition

This is the perfect time of year to get out your crock pot and start making life easier. We’re all so much busier these days, especially with the holidays on the horizon. How nice does it sound to come home to a healthy dinner all ready to eat? We have some tips on prepping these meals, as well as some fresh recipes for your family to try.

Prepping your meals

blog post_crock pot meals

Thanks to Tupperware and Ziploc bags, it’s easier than ever to prepare your food ahead of time and freeze/refrigerate. A lot of crock pot recipes can be prepared all in one day and in only a couple of hours. Talk about easy…

  • label all bags/containers
  • combine portioned raw meats with seasonings and/or marinates
  • cut up raw veggies, portion – add seasoning and/or marinates
  • pre-cook rice/pasta
  • OR completely cook a meal, freeze, and use the crock pot to warm the food in time for dinner

blog post_chicken 03

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: About 9 fajitas


  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 red, orange and green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey

For serving:

  • Flour tortillas
  • Optional: sour cream, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, monterrey jack or cheddar cheese


  • Pour half of the canned tomatoes into the bottom of a slow cooker and spread into an even layer. Top with half of the peppers and half of the onions. Sprinkle garlic in. Top with chicken breasts.
  • In a bowl whisk together chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander, salt and pepper. Evenly sprinkle half of the seasoning over chicken breasts then flip chicken and sprinkle in remainder. Top with remaining half of the tomatoes, then layer in remaining peppers and onions.
  • Cover and cook on HIGH heat 3 – 4 hours or low heat 6 – 8 hours, until chicken has cooked through and veggies are tender (note that if you want to be able to cut chicken into strips cook more near lesser time on HIGH or LOW, otherwise it will probably just shred, which is also fine).
  • Remove chicken, and cut into strips, or shred. Ladle out 1 cup of the broth in slow cooker (mostly tomato liquid) and discard. In a small bowl whisk together lime juice and honey and add to slow cooker along with chicken and season with additional salt to taste if desired. Gently toss. Serve warm in warmed tortillas with optional sour cream, guacamole, cheese and salsa.
  • Recipe source: Cooking Classy
Check out more ideas and recipes on our “Make Life Easier” Pinterest board (follow us while you’re there!)

Meals to Make Life Easier…Freezer Edition

      Trying to get the kids out the door, off to school, on time to after school activities, and home in time to prep, cook and serve dinner, while keeping everyone happy and fed… how does a parent buy time for all of that? With all these responsibilities as a parent, some days, homemade meals just aren’t achievable. Freezing and prepping meals when you’re already making them makes it easy for another day when life is too hectic.

Whole Grain, Whole Wheat & Multigrain

blog post_freezer meals01

            Why are whole grains better for you? Whole grain means the outer nutritious coating of the grain has not been removed, thus leaving healthy vitamins and nutrients in the grain. Some of these nutrients include fiber, b vitamins, iron and zinc.

            When shopping for whole grain products in the grocery store its important to look for labels that say, “100% whole grain” not “100% wheat”. When a label says “100% wheat”, it does not necessarily mean that the grain in the food is whole grain, thus lacking important healthy nutrients in your food.

            What are the differences between whole grain, wheat and multigrain? When a food is listed as whole wheat, this mean that wheat and the entire wheat kernel were used to make that food product. Whole grain food products are made from just the grain of many different kernels; these could be something other than wheat such as oats or barley. Multigrain is food product, much like whole grain, that not only uses one grain but also uses many types of grains to make the food product. Something to be cautious of when buying “multigrain” foods, they are not always whole grain, many multigrain products contain several different grains but they could lack the nutritious outer coating.

Grilling Vs. Frying

blog post_freezer meals02
Grilling is a less messy and healthier way to prepare foods at home! When meat is grilled instead of fried, the excess fat is melted off the meat and into grill, leaving you with leaner and healthier meat for your meal. When food is fried, the fat from the meat and the fat added to the pan soak the meat leaving the meat for your meal very fatty.

            Another health benefit to grilling is the rewarding flavors that enhance your meat and food’s taste. Often times when frying food, added salt and seasonings are used in excess when they’re not needed. Large amounts of salt are bad for your health and is one of the commonly over used seasonings that contributes to conditions like hypertension.

            The last and best benefit to grilling is the little mess it leaves in the kitchen! Big frying pots and pans wont need cleaning after grilling, making for a quicker clean up. Who likes doing dishes anyway?

Recipe Ideas

Below are ideas to add to your recipes at home, for cook and freeze meals.

Grilled Chicken

Fully cooked grilled chicken in the freezer makes meal preparing much easier during the week. When chicken is already cooked it is very efficient to just heat the chicken and add it to whatever meal you want to prepare. Next time you’re grilling chicken or steaks, throw a couple more chicken breasts on the grill and save them in the freezer for a tasty meal later in the week.

Some ideas for grilled chicken meals could be:

  • Over a salad of fresh green lettuce and vegetables
  • Added to whole grain pasta or rice dish
  • Inside tacos or a quesadilla
  • Inside a wrap or sandwich

Whole grain pasta is a great alternative to use instead of white pasta for many reasons when cooking and freezing foods ahead of time. Besides the better nutritional value, whole grain pasta does great when cooked and frozen; it keeps its shape and texture well, without becoming mushy after heating up. You can make these baked pasta meals in large amounts, such as making an additional batch/pan to store in the freezer for an easy heat and serve meal. (Quinoa)-?

  • Lasagna (traditional meat sauce, vegetable or cheese)
  • Baked macaroni and cheese
  • Baked ziti or penne pasta with a red meat sauce or vegetarian sauce
Chili & Soup

Chili is a great cook and freeze meal because it can be double or tripled and it stores very nicely, until you are ready to heat and serve. Be creative when cooking chili, serve it as a vegetarian meal, or use ground chicken and turkey instead of red meat. Also by adding any nutritious vegetables that you would find tasteful makes the chili unique to you and your family’s favorite foods. Homemade soup is great to keep in mind as well; it is similar to chili and is useful, especially in fall and winter months.

  • Vegetarian chili with beans, carrots, onion, corn, bell pepper, potato and zucchini
  • Add ground turkey, chicken or beef

Just like grilled chicken, meatballs are very easy to add to many meals when cooked and frozen ahead of time. Meatballs are a great way to be creative as well; you can use any meat and many different flavorings. When mixing up the meatballs, add a little bit of sauce for flavoring different types of meatballs for different types of meals. Some suggestions for meatball flavorings and meals:

  • Ground turkey, chicken or beef
  • Barbeque meatball sliders
  • Buffalo meatball sliders
  • Teriyaki meatball with brown rice and broccoli
Calzone & Pasty (Bread Pocket)

A pasty is a bread pocket that you can essentially put anything in. Remember to use a whole grain bread for your calzone or pasty. It can be a meal or snack and served for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

  • Pizza Calzone (pepperoni, cheese & red sauce)
  • Vegetable Calzone (mushroom, spinach, cheese, bell pepper & zucchini)
  • Cheese Calzone (3 cheese parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta)
  • Turkey & ham with cheese pocket
  • Beef & potato pasty
  • Breakfast pasty (egg, bacon, potato, cheese)

Other freezer tips:

When fruits, vegetables are on sale or in season, buying extra and freezing them for later is always helpful when making snacks and meals. Smoothies and homemade yogurt popsicles are a great way to use frozen fruit. Quickly microwave frozen vegetables as an addition to any meal, this makes for a quick fix when you’re thinking of a delicious side for dinner.