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A Thanksgiving recipe for those who want to cut the calories

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.

But as I've gotten 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 far 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. And we haven't even talked about drinks and starters.

I doubt if I'd ever be able to skip the turkey, the stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. But that's doesn't mean I can't lighten them up.

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 will satisfy anyone for just 303 calories and 6 grams of fat. A comparable 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 degrees and let the meat cook slowly — the longer, the better.

As long as you stick to white meat and don't eat the skin, turkey is one of your best 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.

Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.


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 freshly 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 degrees, with barely any bubbles reaching the surface, add the turkey. Adjust the heat, if necessary, to maintain the temperature at 165.

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

When the meat reaches 150 degrees, 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.

Nutritional information per serving: 303 calories, 6g fat (1g saturated), 70mg cholesterol, 26g carbohydrates, 35g protein, 3g fiber, 381mg sodium.

A Thanksgiving recipe for those who want to cut the calories 11/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2011 3:30am]
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