Move Over, Pecan Pie — This Healthy Alternative Is So Much Better

Photo: Sophia van den Hoek

Thanksgiving might be the ultimate You. We. All. holiday, with an emphasis on giving back, gratitude, and community—and, of course, plenty of delicious food.  While a typical Thanksgiving table might be enough to induce a stomachache based on sight alone, we think of the holiday as an opportunity to nourish your body, in addition to your soul.  With that in mind, we reached out to some of the year’s biggest food stars to share their favorite healthy Thanksgiving recipe and some tips, tricks, and traditions that help them get through the holiday with a smile on their face (and bellyache free!).  

Marie Reginato is the founder of 8th and Lake, the healthy food blog and Instagram sensation.  With her soothing voice and no-nonsense approach to elegant, flavorful food, she’s quickly amassed a huge following.  Her new cookbook, Alternative Vegan: Plant-Based Recipes That Break the Rules, features plant-based cooking with the addition of fish and eggs, a response to the flexible eating rules that so many of us truly follow in an increasingly label-free world.  Marie’s Sticky Date Cake, excerpted from her book, is the perfect dessert for anyone with a sweet tooth who doesn’t want to be slowed down by a blood sugar spike and crash.  

mbg: What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions or rituals?

MR: The traditions are the best part of the holidays! Every year we host Thanksgiving dinner at my family’s house in San Francisco. That day all the Italians from my dad’s side of the family come over for a classic American feast...which also includes homemade ravioli. And then comes the next morning, aka, round two of the Thanksgiving feast, when everyone from my mom’s side of the family visits and we do the whole thing all over again! This is followed by some hot chocolate, a movie, and an early evening in (we're quite tired from all the festivities at that point!).

mbg: What are your best tips for making Thanksgiving dinner a bit healthier (but just as delicious)?

MR: If anyone has reservations about healthy eating—let’s say your friends or family—the best thing to do is never tell them from the get-go that what they’re eating is healthy. I have a lemon curd recipe in my book that I’ll be serving the next morning for a fun brunch meal, but it’s a sneaky one as it’s super healthy. For example, the lemon "curd" sounds pretty decadent, right? Well I would never say, "Hey, guess what, guys? There’s tofu inside!" That might terrify my family. But unbeknownst to them, tofu is actually what makes it creamy without having to use raw eggs. Definitely postpone your reveal till after the fact, and then I’m sure they’ll be coming back for seconds!

Another tip: As humans we eat with our eyes first, so have fun with dressing up a healthy dish with tons of toppings—think pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, cilantro, parsley, roasted tomatoes, etc. Choose ingredients that add a visual element to first entice them, then let your guests enjoy the meal, and when they’re done, reveal that it was actually a healthy dish.

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mbg: When you're feeling super full post-Thanksgiving, what do you do to feel better?

MR: I walk it off. I’ll boil a few slices of ginger root in water; pour it into a mug and head out the door for a long walk. Nothing wakes me up more than a walk through the park, breathing in the brisk autumnal air. Getting out of the house and moving around is also a great way to rev up your appetite, getting you ready for your next meal.

Healthy Sticky Date Cake

Thanksgiving is usually all about the pies, but honestly it’s so nice to switch it up and offer a dessert that’s just as satisfying as it is healthy. This naturally sweetened cake uses dates, which caramelize down into flavorful pockets that taste like toffee, all without any refined sugar or butter.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups (190 g) Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup (240 mL) water
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg, or flax egg if vegan
  • ½ tsp. vanilla powder, or vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup (150 g) coconut sugar
  • 1 cup (120 g) spelt flour
  • Pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F (177°C). In a food processor or blender, add in the dates, water, baking soda and powder, and mix until well-combined, about 30 seconds.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, vanilla, and sugar. Using a hand mixer on the highest speed, whisk the three ingredients together for a minute, until it becomes fluffy and paler in color. Then stir in the flour, the date mixture, and salt to this bowl.
  3. Pour the batter into a small baking dish (11-by-11-inch [28 x 28 cm]) that has been greased with coconut oil (so the batter doesn’t stick when cooked). Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the center of the cake is moist. If you’re using a different size pan, the temperature may vary. Keep an eye on the cake to see if it has cooked through. Take a knife and stick it into the center of the cake; if it comes out clean it is fully cooked.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Top with the coconut whipped cream or ice cream of choice!

Based on excerpts from Alternative Vegan: Plant-Based Recipes That Break the Rules by Marie Reginato, with the permission of Page Street Publishing. Copyright © 2017.

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