I’m sure many of you have been wondering where all the delicious Off The Broiler posts have gone in the last month or so. While I could make a number of excuses about how my new job and my current consulting gig on Wall Street has limited my WordPress and stomach time, the reality is that as of about a month ago, for a number of reasons of a personal nature, I — along with my wife Rachel — underwent major lifestyle changes. I decided that after being obese for 20-something years that I had finally had enough and I was going to do everything I could to eat and live better. This included major changes to my diet as well as starting an exercise regimen, as well as enlisting the services of our new personal trainer and natural bodybuilder Dustin DeMercurio who you will be hearing a lot more about in the future.
I’ve thought about how this was going to impact the blog, and what it was going to do to my reader base, who is used to seeing the likes of overstuffed fatty deli sandwiches, chili dogs, pizza, and any number of things that for the lack of a better description, I can no longer eat, or at least not in quantities exceeding tasting size portions. I seriously thought about shutting Off The Broiler down for good, and perhaps starting a new blog focused on cooking, eating and living healthy. But then I realized that Off The Broiler was my brand, and realized I could still continue to make the content interesting and creative, the food delicious, and of course the pictures appealing. And I am sure many of you are in the same predicament I am in.
So the blog is going to change in a fairly organic way — whatever I am cooking and eating will still strive to be delicious, but we also don’t want to promote an un-healthy lifestyle either – and aside from some backlogged content we have that we are going to be releasing that will fill rainy days and such, we are going to try to keep everything low on the glycemic index, low carb, and stay within the bounds of unsaturated rather than saturated fats. And yes, we still will be going to restaurants — good ones — and will be taking food photos and writing about the meals we eat. But everything is going to be done in moderation, and you should be well aware we’re only going to be tasting starches and desserts and not eating them wholesale. What we’re likely to order will reflect the healthier options on those menus. I’d also like to add that this is going to be the beginning of a very long learning process, and I am anything but an expert on nutrition — while I am currently doing my research, and we are tweaking recipes, this next six months or so should be considered a transitory period. I am learning, maybe you guys will teach me some new stuff, and vice-versa. That’s what this whole blog thing is supposed to be about in the first place.
So, now that I’ve sent all of you into a state of shock, let’s get to the issue at hand — Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and probably one where people tend to over-do it the most. I certainly intend on enjoying myself, but there are serious limitations on my favorite Turkey Day foods — I can’t eat much of stuffing, mashed potatoes, or any of the other heavy carbs. If I’m lucky, I’m going to be able to taste a spoonful or two of each. And I need to avoid excess sugar like the plague. Sayonara, Pecan Pie, Cranberry Sauce and Candied Carrots. Turkey? That I can eat as much of as I want.
These Turkey Burgers over a Brown Rice and Whole Wheat Couscous Bake were a dry run for Thanksgiving.
So lets get right to the chase — stuffing replacement. Any way you try to get around it, if you don’t have some kind of carb or grain, then you are going to feel utterly deprived on Turkey Day — I don’t care what kind of diet or restrictions you are on. So if you are going to have carbs, well, then make it COMPLEX carbs. Stuff with a lot of fiber content and that is considerably lower on the glycemic index than the traditional options. And oh yeah, it has to taste good.
Thanksgiving Brown and Wild Rice Dressing
1C Diced Onion
1C Diced Celery
1C Sliced Mushrooms
4C of cooked Lundberg Farms Wild Rice Blend (available at Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Amazon.com )
2C cooked Whole Wheat Couscous (available at Whole Foods) or Quinoa
Chopped Fresh Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
Saute vegetables in 1Tbsp olive oil or Smart Balance Butter Substitute spread. Add herbs, salt and pepper, then remove from heat. Gently combine with cooked rice and couscous. If rice and couscous are warm, serve immediately. This can be made ahead for reheating later — if you like crispy edges a la Stove Top dressing, bake in casserole dish for 20 minutes. Also can be used to stuff a turkey.
This Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Apples was lifted directly from Martha Stewart, with modifications.
To go along with your ersatz Stove Top, you’ll want to have some vegetables. Obviously, mashed potatoes inundated with butter is not the ideal side if you are looking to lose weight. Glazed and Candied carrots and yams are also not ideal unless you completely suspend the idea of glazing them with sugar sauces and instead cook them plainly or with herbs, garlic and olive oil. Green vegetables, particularly ones that are high in Alpha Lipoic acid such as cruciforms like Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts, are beneficial to the metabolic process and if prepared properly, actually taste really good.
I don’t typically regard Martha Stewart as a huge font of knowledge for all things healthy, but in this case, her Brussels Sprouts recipe is a real winner if you make a few minor changes — for starters, we’re going to switch out the regular bacon for Turkey Bacon to give us that smoky taste. We’re in the middle of evaluating a number of these, but we can say that we like Trader Joe’s brand so far and should be fairly easy for you to get. We’re also going to roast the sprouts instead of saute them.
If using frozen Brussels sprouts, 2-1 lb bags of the petite kind are best. If you are using fresh, you may need more than 2 lbs, because you’ll have to trim the stem, outer leaves and may lose some if they are bad inside. Cut large sprouts in half or quarters, leave small ones whole.
If you have to use dried thyme, as opposed to fresh thyme sprigs, add about 1 tsp with the apple & vinegar.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Turkey Bacon and Apple
4oz Turkey Bacon
2Lb Brussels Sprouts
10 Thyme Sprigs
1 Granny Smith Apple
2tsp Cider Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat your oven to 400 F. Dice or cut turkey bacon into strips. Spread out bacon on a half-sheet pan or roasting pan and cook in oven for 10-15 minutes, until mostly cooked and it has rendered fat. Remove cooked bacon and set aside. Drizzle whatever rendered fat there is over the sprouts. If there’s a lot of rendered fat, you don’t have to use all of it, but I seriously doubt that’s gonna happen with Turkey Bacon. You might want to drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the sprouts as well so they caramelize nicely.
Add the sprouts to the pan and roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully using a spatula, turn and mix the sprouts so that they roast evenly. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
While the sprouts are in the oven, peel and dice your apple. Mix with cider vinegar (and dried thyme if you are using that instead of fresh sprigs) and set aside.
After the sprouts have roasted for about 30 minutes, add the cooked bacon and diced apple, stir to combine, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Add fresh ground pepper to taste, be careful with adding salt as the bacon adds a lot of saltiness. Best served immediately.