Hack Your Thanksgiving

Caution - this post is loooong. Thanksgiving is a big deal so I decided that if there was ever an occasion to write a huge post this would be it (expect something similar for Christmas). If you are on a Ketogenic Diet there’s a real chance that this meal, no matter how you prepare it, will knock you out of ketosis just due to the sheer volume of feed you will consume. However, that’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You can still stay true to the spirit of your plan and, for those with a low carb plan, you can still stay pretty much on track. That said, this is a holiday and a celebration, so, be thankful, indulge with pleasure and try something new for a change.



For some reason it is generally accepted that Thanksgiving Dinner will be followed by an obligatory food coma. In the absence of said state of total dysfunction and discomfort people seem to think that they must have been deprived somehow and that they did not indulge sufficiently in honour of the day.

Allow me to challenge this concept. For the past 10 years or so I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinners at my cottage for all kinds of people, from family to friends, and I am happy to report that (to the best of my knowledge) at no time has anyone been left in a state that, should there be a fire or charging herd of elephants bearing down on them, would surely result in their untimely demise. Nor has anyone been left feeling like they did not get to indulge and enjoy fabulous food. It must be said that, as the resident Jew in my extended family and the hostess of said dinners, I am unfettered by family traditions and the obligation to absolutely reproduce Aunt Phyllis’ marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole. If I had a nickel for every time a client tried to explain to me that the least little change in the family meal would result in an uprising I would be writing this post from Bali rather than my Toronto dining room table. I do understand. And I sympathize. But nevertheless, I say throw caution to the wind…. make a few substitutions and in a worst case scenario you will at least have enough energy to escape the hordes in the unlikely event they choose to take out their disappointment on you.

Here are the substitutions I have developed over the past few years that have now become traditions in our family:

THE TURKEY
Do your best to avoid the Butterball, injected with all manner of chemicals - buy a fresh or frozen (ideally pastured, but at the very least untreated) bird - food quality is still ideal.
1. Do NOT stuff the Turkey. It will cook better, you will have more control and you will do away with the soggy mass of bread that you have to dig out of the cavity after hours upon hours of careful measuring and roasting. Instead, throw a few onions, apples and lemons or oranges (depending on the flavour you’re after) into the cavity after you rub it with salt, pepper and grass fed butter and then see how much less time it takes to get to the juiciest fastest cooking bird you’ve ever enjoyed.
2. Consider brining your turkey overnight. And. Make your own brine. Google Paleo recipes for brine and notice how it is indeed possible to make a brine without a cup of sugar. Seriously guys….it is possible and it is delicious.
3. Make a seasoned butter (I like grass fed butter with a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest, sea salt), take off your rings, roll up your sleeves and carefully massage the breast, thighs and everywhere else you can reach with the deliciousness…do your best not to break the skin. This can be a bit gross but a self-basting bird is a beautiful thing…trust me. Finish off with some fresh sage leaves arranged under the skin again, rub more rub a dub on the skin and the bird is ready to go.
4. I have the good fortune of owning a Big Green Egg at my cottage so we smoke our turkey, low and slow….no rules here, you can also roast it in the oven, with the added benefit that your house will smell awesome.

“STUFFING”
1. As you must have deduced by now, stuffing in my house is just a dish and bears no relationship to what most people refer to as stuffing. I don’t bother with gluten free, grain free bread simply because I don’t like it and I find that people get too full and then get comatose and…well, we went through this already….
2. The Paleo-Sphere again, is your best answer here. Sausage, apples, nuts, chestnuts, herbs etc.…. all cooked in a savoury delicious casserole serve as a side dish extraordinaire…. I don’t know that have a particular recipe I make every year but those are the main ingredients and we’ve never really had a fail yet. To create your own, you can do what I did, either source a recipe or take an existing recipe, excise the bread and go forth.

VEGETABLES
Here’s where the fun really happens (for me anyway) ….
1. Mash. You gotta have mash. Instead of potatoes go for steamed (or roasted in GF Ghee or coconut oil for extra flavour) cauliflower and turnips mashed up light and fluffy. If you do dairy use a bit of butter and cream, or, for a lighter fluffier version, GF Ghee and chicken or turkey stock.
2. Brussel Sprouts. These have actually become a tradition in our house. Chop your Brussel sprouts then sautéed them in ghee and chopped garlic in a cast iron skillet (this is important) till they start to char, add fresh oregano and a squeeze of lemon to finish.
3. Green Beans. Steam till crisp and bright green. The toss with shallots sautéed in ghee till they are sweet and soft. Top with chopped almonds or roasted pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon.
4. Roasted Spiced Carrots. A variation on a Moroccan cooked salad…. cut carrots in half and then in quarters lengthwise. Toss with melted ghee or coconut oil, coat in a mix of spices of cumin, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper. Roast in a cast iron dish if you have one so they get a bit crispy and sweet…. top with chopped fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon right before serving.
5. A fresh green salad to start - use bitters like arugula, dandelion greens, radicchio mixed with fennel dressed with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh lemon or apple cider vinegar. Great to get digestion going. If you happen to use Brain Octane oil add some to your dressing to get the ketones flowing.

CRANBERRY SAUCE
Forget the canned stuff and the sugar laden store bought versions…it’s cranberry sauce for crying out loud, it’s supposed to be a bit tart. I will post my favourite recipe on my blog when I get to my cottage on Friday night but here’s the gist: Pick the recipe that looks good to you. Cut the sugar in half (at least) and replace it with either Monk Fruit powder (my favourite) or Xylitol or some Stevia if you like it. I would stay away from Erythritol because it can cause digestive upset in some people.

My recipe involves cooking fresh cranberries with fresh squeezed juice from one orange, orange zest (from said orange) and half a small orange peel and all processed till fine. I use a splash of Grand Marnier if I have it, and, in the past about 1/4 cup of maple syrup - this year I will switch to Monk Fruit. Make it at least a day ahead so the flavours have time to blend. And cook your cranberries with all other ingredients just till they pop. We never have leftovers.

The Gravy
Personally, I use the pan drippings, add a bit of cognac and as much Turkey Broth as required for volume and then strain it. Yes, my gravy is more like a “jus” but we love it. If you and your crew must have a more traditional gravy replace the flour with Konjac Flour - it’s a prebiotic and an incredible thickener - just be careful as you need to first whisk it in cold water before whisking into hot or you will end up with lumps. I order mine from LowCarbCanada.com

Dessert
Yup, you can absolutely stay on plan here as well. Not ketogenic mind you, by now, your ketones are likely a distant memory but they will be back, not to worry. And for low carbers, you’ve probably (but not necessarily), in sheer volume exceeded your usual daily limit but let me remind you that this is a holiday and straying from your plan once in a while does have its benefits. All that being said, you can totally enjoy a bit of dessert without going totally overboard.

Once again, our Paleo friends come to the rescue. One of my favourite books “Paleo Comfort Foods” has a spectacular nut crust recipe for pies and they have a sweet potato pie that is to die for that I make every year.

Or, you can make this Apple Pie I created a couple of years ago. https://nniddam.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/apple-pie-paleo-style/

The Whip
I happen to prefer coconut whipped cream to dairy but depending on your food tolerances you can use either. Just make sure that the dairy is full fat and organic. For the coconut whip, I find that it seems to set overnight in the fridge so I like to make it a day ahead of time.

CLOSING HACKS
• Plan your day properly. This could be a great day to practice Intermittent Fasting - let’s face it, getting your calories in one meal won’t be too hard.
• If you have trouble fasting, have an exogenous ketone drink mid-morning to keep your energy up as you cook and prep - my go to: Keto O/S works like a charm. Go to canfuel.pruvitnow.com/ca to learn more and get some for yourself! There’s still time if you choose rush shipping option.
• Hydrate all day long. And drink lemon water first thing, and maybe at the end of the day.
• Plan for a family walk after the big meal…. nothing crazy, just some easy movement to assist the downward movement of the meal.
• And then - plan to fast again the day after the feast, more ketones to get you into fat burning mode, another walk, maybe a hike this time…till dinner when you get to do it all over again with my favourite - Leftovers!!!