Jewish Journal

A healthier Thanksgiving

by Elana Horwich

November 20, 2012 | 11:23 am

Root Vegetable Soup Puree With Crisped Sage Leaves. Photos courtesy of Elana Horwich

Thanksgiving is my least favorite meal of the year. The problem with the holiday is that it’s difficult to feel thankful when you’re slumped on the couch in a food coma after the meal. It’s hard enough as it is to maintain decent conversation with distant relatives and their straggler friends; I don’t need a digestive drain on my system, to boot.

Let’s be real, people: It’s not the turkey. I know about the supposed effects of tryptophan, but no one complains about the effects of tryptophan while in line for a noontime turkey sandwich every other day of the year. It’s not the turkey. 

The problem is that most Thanksgiving meals are prepared in a way that demonstrates zero gratitude to our bodies. On the contrary, the marshmallows on top of candied yams, the white-bread stuffing, the high-sugar cranberry sauce and the overly sweet desserts are the real culprits. 

Don’t get me wrong: I would never eat “lite” on Thanksgiving — just smart. Enjoy these recipes that I hope will add a healthier indulgence to your holiday. 



This broth is the basis of my Thanksgiving meal. With one fell swoop, I can whip up a root vegetable soup and add the over-the-edge homemade feel that I am looking for in my stuffing. I then freeze the rest to make future risotti, braised meats, and other soups and purees.

If you think store-bought broth is no different than homemade broth, it’s because no one ever taught you differently. Your therapist can’t fix what’s been missing in your food. Love is in this soup. 

16 to 20 cups water

2 parsnips, tops cut off

3 onions, unpeeled

3 whole carrots, tops cut off, unpeeled

1 rib celery

2 celery roots, peeled

1 turnip, peeled

2 russet potatoes, unpeeled

1 yam, unpeeled

4 pounds chicken (I use 3 pounds necks and 2 whole leg-thigh sections )

2 beef marrow bones

2 bay leaves

1⁄2 bunch parsley

6 to 10 thyme sprigs

3 whole cloves

Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients except salt in a large stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours, until all vegetables are cooked through. Remove from heat and let broth cool slightly. Remove chicken and marrow bones. Use broth and vegetables for soups and purees, adding salt to taste.

Makes about 6 quarts.



Vegetables from prepared Broth That Keeps Giving: 

1 onion, peeled

1 small celery root

1 russet potato

1 yam

1 turnip

2 parsnips

3 carrots

1 celery rib

10 to 12 cups Broth That Keeps Giving 

Salt and freshly ground pepper

20 to 30 sage leaves

3 teaspoons olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Use tongs to remove the vegetables listed above from the broth. Cut vegetables into manageable pieces and put them, in batches with a few cups of the broth, in a Vitamix, food processor or powerful blender. Puree. To each batch, add salt and pepper to taste. Add more broth for thinner consistency if desired. As each batch is finished, pour into a large soup pot and mix gently. 

To crisp sage leaves, put 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat; be careful not to burn it. Add half of the sage leaves and cook until crisp, about a minute or so on each side. Place on paper towels when done. Repeat with remaining sage leaves and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, reserving a few fresh leaves for garnish. Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil, and top each serving with one of the reserved fresh sage leaves. 

Makes 8 servings.



Stuffing is the star of Thanksgiving. There are few things better than good bread, and once homemade broth, herbs, and roasted mushrooms and fennel are added, what else do you want in life? This stuffing is a winner. 

3 portobello mushrooms

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon thyme sprigs

3 fennel bulbs

1-pound loaf crusty, multigrain bread, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes

8 tablespoons duck fat or shmaltz

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced 

1 cup chopped celery

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped sage

1 teaspoon thyme leaves 

2 links uncooked chicken sausage (mild  Italian or chicken apple), squeezed out of its casing (optional)

3 eggs

1/8 cup chopped parsley

2 1/2 cups Broth That Keeps Giving 

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Wash mushrooms, pull off stems, and carefully remove brown “gills” underneath, using a paring knife. Slice into 1/2-inch cubes, arrange on one of the baking sheets, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Add 20 grinds of the pepper mill.

Holding the thyme sprigs at one end, use the fingers of your other hand to gently slide down the stem, pulling off the leaves, and sprinkle the leaves on the mushrooms (discard thyme stems). Using your fingers, mix gently.

Remove feathery fronds from the fennel bulb, and cut bulb in half vertically (discard the fronds). Use a paring knife to carefully remove the triangularly shaped tough core. Cut the fennel into vertical slices about 1/4-inch thick and then again into 1/4-inch cubes.

Place fennel on the other baking sheet and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and add 20 grinds of the pepper mill. Using your fingers, mix gently. Put both baking sheets in preheated 400 F oven and roast for about 17 to 20 minutes. 

To stale the bread: Place bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes at 375 F. Let cool. 

To assemble the stuffing. In a large pan, over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons duck fat or shmaltz. Saute onion, leeks, celery, sage and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves for about 7 minutes. Put in large bowl and set aside. If you are using chicken sausage, add 1 tablespoon duck fat or shmaltz to pan and saute sausage for about 4 minutes or until cooked through. Add it to the bowl.

Add the vegetable/herb/sausage mixture, bread, mushrooms, fennel, eggs, parsley and broth to the bowl; mix well. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Transfer to a 13x9-inch baking dish or deep casserole and dot with remaining 3 to 4 tablespoons duck fat or shmaltz.

Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and crisp on top.

Makes 8 servings.



It may be a little labor intensive to use fresh pumpkins, but honestly, how many times a year are you making this? The crust, on the other hand, takes only minutes. The filling is adapted from Sarah Raven’s “In Season.”

Flourless Pecan Crust (recipe below)

2 medium sugar pumpkins

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 of a whole nutmeg, grated

3 eggs

1/4 to 1/3 cup honey 

Zest of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 orange

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Juice of 1/2 orange

Prepare Flourless Pecan Crust; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut pumpkins into 1-inch wedges; remove and discard skin. Steam pumpkin in a steamer over boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes. Put pumpkin into a food processor and puree; you should have about 3 cups of puree. 

Add all remaining ingredients to pumpkin puree; pulse into well mixed. Pour mixture into unbaked crust. 

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Remove pie from oven; use aluminum foil to cover the edges of the crust to prevent it from burning. (Place two large sheets of aluminum foil, one atop the other, like a plus sign. Place pie pan on top, and fold foil over edges of crust.) Return pie to oven and bake 20 minutes longer or until filling is firm to the touch. Let cool to room temperature before serving.  

Makes 1 pie, 8 to 10 servings.



3 cups pecans

10 to 12 dates, pitted

5 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil

Place pecans, dates and 4 tablespoons coconut oil in a food processor, and pulse into a paste. 

Use the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil to generously grease a 9-inch pie pan.

Using your fingers, press the pecan/date mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan to form the crust, making it about 1/4 inch thick.

Elana Horwich teaches cooking classes in Beverly Hills. For more information and a link to her blog, go to mealandaspiel.com.

Tracker Pixel for Entry


View our privacy policy and terms of service.




Elana Horwich is the founder of Meal and a Spiel, a boutique Beverly Hills cooking school and online recipe resource based on the philosophy that anyone can learn to cook. Her...

Read more.