Best Turkey Day Recipes

Turkey Day is fast approaching, so chances are you’re planning out your Thanksgiving dishes. Whether you’re hosting a big affair or whipping together something for your family, it’s tricky to separate the good enough from the truly spectacular recipes. 

To help you serve up a stellar feast, we’ve tracked down tried-and-true Thanksgiving dishes guaranteed to make your meal a success. Consider this your cheat sheet to a flawless Thanksgiving meal. Dig in!

First course: Butternut Squash Soup

While you’re waiting for the rest of your meal to come together, serve up a bowl of creamy, curry-spiced squash soup. For a special touch, top the soup with fried sage leaves or homemade croutons with melted Gruyere cheese. You may be doing your guests’ waistline a favor: Research shows that people who start this meal with a filling soup eat fewer calories during the meal.

Main: Roast Turkey

Some chefs swear by brining or deep-frying their bird, but the simplest approach may be the best. This version, from Simply Recipes, calls for the basics: butter, lemon, veggies and spices. The result is juicy, flavor-infused meat that’s not too fussy and practically foolproof.

Side: Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

Even the brussels sprout haters in your crew will love this flavor-packed recipe. Although it’s deceptively simple, it creates perfectly roasted veggies that are crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside. With just the right amount of seasoning and a sprinkle of cheese, your family will gobble them up.

Side: Stuffing

This recipe is delicious on its own, or you can use it as a base for your family’s favorites, whether it’s extra vegetables, sausages or oysters.

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie and Apple Galette

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without a piece of pumpkin pie, and this delicious recipe from Smitten Kitchen hits all the right notes: Warm cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger woven into a smooth pumpkin filling. When you’re cooking a number of dishes, timing is key -- unless you want to serve supper at midnight. So do yourself a favor and keep dishes simple: Pinch My Salt’s apple galette tastes like mom’s grandma’s pie, but skips the extra steps it takes to create that perfect lattice top.

DIY Oils for a Quick Flavor Boost

Flavored oils are the perfect meal accessory: They can dress up nearly any dish, transforming it from ordinary to extraordinary. Instead of shelling out up to $20 on one of those pretty bottles in the grocery or specialty store, consider making them yourself. They’re easy to whip up, and they make a wonderful gift when adorned with a handmade tag.

To make flavored oil, you infuse a vegetable oil with fresh or dried herbs or savory spices. There are two methods: You can heat up dried herbs in the oil, or simply place fresh herbs in cool oil (called cold processed). If you use a strong flavored oil, like curry, try a lighter-tasting olive or vegetable oil; extra-virgin olive oil tends to have a strong taste that can compete with herbs and spices.

Experiment with your own combinations, or make one of the following tried-and-true recipes. You can use these oils as a sauce for poached fish or chicken, or a sauté. Blend them into a vinaigrette or as a base for an infused mayonnaise. Or simply set it out as a dip for artisan bread -- your options are endless!

CURRIED OIL

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon honey

Salt to taste

In a sauté pan over low heat, combine the oil, curry powder and honey until just warm. (Take care not to let it get hot or the curry could become bitter.) Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes; strain through a fine-mesh sieve and store in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator.

Serving suggestion: Use as a sauce for poached salmon or sauté shrimp or chicken in it for a full flavored dish.

BASIL-GARLIC OIL

1 cup fresh basil leaves, firmly packed

2 cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil

Salt to taste

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth. Let steep for 10 minutes, and then strain through a fine- mesh sieve.

Serving suggestion: Use as a base for a homemade pesto sauce or as the oil in a vinaigrette dressing.

HOT PEPPER LEMON & THYME OIL

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Grated peel from one lemon

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine ingredients and let steep for 30 minutes. Store the remainder in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator. Before using, allow the oil to reach room temperature.

Serving suggestion: Use as a dip for your favorite bread.

CINNAMON-NUTMEG OIL

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Salt and sugar, to taste

Combine ingredients in small saucepan and heat until just warm. Allow to steep for 10 to 20 minutes, and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Store in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Serving suggestion: For a sweet popcorn, use 2 tablespoons oil and 1/3 cup popcorn kernels. Pop corn according to directions. Sprinkle with salt and sugar if desired.

ROASTED RED PEPPER OIL

One 8-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained

1 cup vegetable or light olive oil

Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until finely pureed. Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and store in a lidded glass jar.

Safety note: Oils flavored with herbs and spices can become breeding grounds for bacteria when left at room temperature for long periods. Make sure to store your flavored oils in the refrigerator and toss after two weeks. 

Soup Up Your Diet

When it’s chilly outside, there’s nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup. But instead of sticking with your tried-and-true chili or chicken noodle recipe, consider branching out: You can turn some of your favorite recipes, such as mac 'n' cheese and chicken pot pie, into a tasty stew.

Along with saving yourself some time with a one-pot recipe, you’ll also be doing your waistline a favor: A study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that people ate fewer calories on the days that they scooped up their dinner than when they ate the same ingredients in solid form. That’s because soup’s liquid can fill you up on less calories.

So break out that pot, bowls and spoons with one of these delicious family-friend recipes. Your kids -- and scale -- will thank you!

1. Mac 'n' Cheese Soup

 

Turn this childhood favorite into a healthy soup with the addition of vegetables like broccoli, onion and carrots. Your kids will love the creamy, cheesy flavor, and you’ll love how this recipe is only 253 calories per cup. For an added health boost, use whole-wheat macaroni.

2. Chicken Enchilada Soup

 

Toss the ingredients of in the slow cooker first thing in the morning, and you’ll have a tasty soup waiting when you come home. Made with chicken, black beans, corn, and plenty of chili and cumin, you’ll get authentic Mexican flavor with every spoonful.

3. Chicken Pot Pie Soup

 

Made with cream and butter, chicken pot pie is loaded with fat and calories. But this delicious twist uses nonfat milk, so each 1-cup serving contains just 185 calories and 3 grams of fat. To keep the meal traditional, serve each bowl with a whole-grain biscuit.

4. Pizza Soup

 

Scrambling to put together dinner from a bare-bones pantry? Chances are you already have all the ingredients you need for this recipe. The genius is that you can add in any of your kids’ favorite pizza toppings, like olives or pepperoni, into this good-for-you soup made from pizza sauce, broth and more.

5. Thai Stir-Fry Soup

 

Who needs takeout when you can whip up a Thai stir-fry in soup form? This easy-to-make soup uses coconut milk for a creamy base; to lighten up the dish, opt for light coconut milk. You can also add in extra vegetables or a protein, like shrimp or chicken.

Healthy Pumpkin Recipes for Fall

It’s pumpkin season -- and your favorite fall ingredient shouldn’t be limited to pie -- try something new this year! “Canned pumpkin puree is an excellent substitute for high-fat dairy products,” says Jackie Newgent, R.D., author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes. “It adds creaminess but not fat.” What it does supply: cancer-fighting vitamin A. Just three tablespoons of pumpkin puree covers your vitamin A needs for the entire day. Use these tricks to make your fall treats much more diet-friendly.

Brownies (340 calories, 18 g fat per piece)

Healthy Trick: Bake a pumpkin version to save more than 135 calories and 15 grams of fat each. It couldn’t be easier: Simply stir together a 19.5 ounce brownie mix with a 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree and bake at 350 F for about a half-hour. (Don’t add the oil, water and egg to brownie mix.) They’ll be fudgier and a little denser than a typical brownie -- but oh so good. On the Cookies & Cups blog, you can see how delish they’ll look.

Broccoli Cheese Soup (580 calories, 47 g fat per 1½ cups)

Healthy Trick: You can get away with a lot less butter and high-fat dairy by whisking ¾ cup pumpkin puree for every 2 cups of vegetable broth, says Newgent. Check out the full recipe, which slashes 380 calories and 34 grams of fat.

Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino (280 calories, 2 g fat for a small without whipped cream).

Healthy Trick: Whip up a pumpkin smoothie in your blender. Follow this recipe from Whole Foods Market, and your drink will be about 120 calories lighter.  

Baked Mac and Cheese (639 calories, 39 g fat per cup)

Healthy Trick: You can use about 1/3 less cheese in your favorite recipe if you stir in a cup of pumpkin puree, says Newgent. Simply mix it in right along with the cheese. The kids won’t notice a difference (the pumpkin is orange, after all) and they’ll get 60 calories and 6 grams of fat less per serving -- a savings that really adds up if your kid (or you) is mac-and-cheese obsessed.  

Vanilla Ice Cream (230 calories, 14 g fat per 1/2 cup)

Healthy Trick: Make your own pumpkin fro yo! You don’t even need an ice-cream maker. To save 150 calories and 13g fat, follow the instructions from Babble’s blogger  by simply mixing together 1 cup non-fat or low-fat vanilla yogurt, 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Place the bowl in the freezer and stir every half hour until it reaches the consistency you like.

5 Lunches Best Served Cold

There’s nothing like a hot lunch, but having a portable meal that you don’t have to heat is important too as fall schedules get more and more hectic. Check out these five delicious dishes best served cold.

Cold Rice Noodles With Peanut Lime Chicken
Chill out with this flavorfully refreshing afternoon dish. With ingredients like lime, Thai chilies and cucumbers, this meal is the perfect way to fuel up for the rest of your day.

Chilled Cantaloupe Soup
Healthy, light and dangerously delicious, this soup was made for slurping! Adding in Greek yogurt as the base packs a nice punch of protein; 1 tablespoon of ginger boosts depth and flavor.

Chicken Pasta Salad
This bowl has just about all your favorite filling ingredients in one, from nutritious veggies to hearty chicken and beans. Toss in 2 teaspoons of Dijon and a few dashes of cumin to bring out just the right amount of heat.  

Chilled Salmon With Cucumber Dill Sauce

We love this classic New England meal. Dill, cucumber and horseradish make the perfect tangy dip for the seared salmon.

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad
Blue cheese and buffalo sauce go together just as much as peanut butter and jelly. Tossing in some greens and quinoa helps blend the flavors together to create a savory, satisfying salad.