All posts by CA


Planning Your Thanksgiving Dinner

It is the month of the year where we all start thinking about the blessings we have and becoming increasingly aware of how thankful we are for the people and things we have in our lives. It is officially November!

You may want to start preparing your list for Thanksgiving dinner. It is never too early to think about your menu and who you’d like to invite. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it centers around the family meal and “breaking bread” together.

There are many different foods that are considered traditional at each Thanksgiving table and what is popular varies from State to State. General Mills did a poll and I found it very interesting what is considered the most popular food by State. Here is a graphic that illustrates this perfectly:

You can also see the information above by clicking here.

Turkey is almost always a staple of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. It also can be very tricky to cook. You can roast, bake, deep-fry, smoke, or even grill a turkey. The most common way a turkey is cooked on Thanksgiving is oven roasting. Now, there are even more options to choosing what kind of turkey to have for your dinner. When planning your meal, that is the best place to start.

Before buying your turkey, tally up your guest list; you’ll need that number to buy the right size turkey. Figure on 1 to 1 -1/2 pounds of turkey per person. Add a few pounds on for bones and you’ve got your turkey weight. For example, 8 people will require a 12 to 14-pound turkey. If you want more leftovers, then add a few more pounds for good measure!

Here are just a few popular types of turkey to help you choose the right one for you and your guests:

  • Fresh: A turkey may be labeled “fresh” only if it has never been chilled below 26°F.
  • Organic: The USDA’s National Organic Program requires that turkeys labeled as “organic” be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency. A certified organic turkey will have been raised on 100% organic feed, given access to the outdoors, and will never have received antibiotics.
  • Kosher: A kosher label may only be used on poultry that has been processed under rabbinical supervision. The turkeys are grain-fed with no antibiotics and are allowed to roam freely. In addition to being individually processed and inspected, kosher turkeys are soaked in a salt brine, which gives them their distinctive savory character (This is good to know if you are planning to brine it yourself – no need to double brine).
  • Natural: The term “natural” simply means “no artificial ingredient or color added, and minimally processed.” The term makes no reference to the way the turkey was raised as the label organic does.
  • Self-basting: A self-basting turkey has been injected with or marinated in a solution of fat, broth or water, plus spices, flavor enhancers, and/or other flavorings/substances.
  • Frozen: Turkeys chilled below 0°F must be labeled “frozen.” Or, if they’re sold already defrosted, you may see “previously frozen” on the label.

After choosing your turkey, you may have the need to defrost your turkey. It is important to do this carefully and give yourself enough time to do so because, unfortunately, it can take up to a week to defrost a large bird. A safe rule of thumb for defrosting is 24 hours for every 4 pounds and the safest way to do so is to keep it in the original wrapper in the refrigerator. So, if you’re feeding an army with a 20-pound bird, prepare to start thawing 5 days ahead of time. Go here to calculate how long it will take to defrost your turkey.

There are so many ways to roast a turkey, and I’m not going to argue with your great-grandmother’s tried and true way that has been in the family for generations (because those are the best!). However, for those who would like some quick tips, here are some for the big day:

  • Unwrapping your turkey the night before and letting it “dry out” in the refrigerator (or at least 8 hours) before cooking will dry out the skin and allow for easier browning of the skin.
  • There are many people that will say to baste, but I say – baste not! Instead, try using avocado oil and rubbing the skin with a light layer. You can also rub your choice of herbs directly under the skin or with your avocado oil. You can also try brining your turkey – this produces incredible flavor and a juicier bird.
  • I highly recommend preparing your stuffing and turkey separately. Your turkey will cook the most evenly when the bird’s cavity is loosely filled or altogether empty. You can fill with aromatics instead like onions, garlic, herbs, etc.
  • Reduce the urge to open your oven door! Every time you open that door, the oven’s temperature drops, and your turkey will take longer to cook.
  • Invest in a meat thermometer! Roast your turkey uncovered in a 325 F oven, allowing around 15 minutes per pound. For a turkey in the 14 to 20-pound range, this will take 4 to 5 hours. The thickest part of the breast should be cooked to 165 F (This may sound early, but the temperature will continue to rise to about 170 degrees once you take the bird out of the oven.)
  • Let your turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Resting the bird loosely tented with aluminum foil allows all of the delicious juices to redistribute, giving you the most tender meat possible.

I am not going to leave out those guests who would rather go hungry than eat a turkey! There is really no way around making two main dishes unless all of your guests are vegetarian. Over the years I’ve noticed that most of my friends and family who are vegetarian also like to eat gluten-free, thus the inception of my yumm-o-licious roasted vegetable lasagna. It’s made with layers of extra-thinly sliced potato, eggplant, zucchini, onion, my homemade pesto and goat cheese. (By the way, most people who are lactose-intolerant can eat goat cheese without any issues. Cha-ching!)

Although this recipe might sound painstakingly difficult given the “extra thin” sliced vegetables, it’s really über simple if you invest in a mandolin — no, not the musical instrument, it’s a kitchen gadget, people! I have a super mega-cool mandolin that I bought from Williams Sonoma for a zillion dollars (well…$150 really, but it was expensive). Given that I’m always cooking, teaching cooking classes or developing recipes, it was an investment. The good news is you can find a decent mandolin in the kitchen gadget section of your local supermarket for around $10. This tool will slice the potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and onion in a snap.

Buon Appetito! 😉

Christine’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
(serves 10)

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for greasing the dish
  • 6 medium red potatoes, very thinly sliced
  • Christine’s Pesto (see below)
  • Sea Salt
  • ¾ pound eggplant (about 1 large), unpeeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium golden zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce
  • 12 ounces soft goat cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a 2-quart baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Arrange half the potato slices in the dish.
  4. Season each potato with a small drop of the pesto.
  5. Top each potato with a slice of eggplant, zucchini, and onion.
  6. Using half of the goat cheese, place a bit of cheese onto the top of each vegetable stack.
  7. Pour half of the marinara over everything.
  8. Make a second layer of potatoes, pesto, vegetables, and sauce.
  9. Lastly, drop mini dollops of the remaining 6 ounces of goat cheese over the top of the lasagna.
  10. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  11. Remove the foil and bake until the lasagna is bubbling and the top has browned, about 10 minutes.

Nutrition facts per serving: 297 calories, 12 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fat

Christine’s Pesto
(makes about ½ cup)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with the side of a knife
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Combine the basil, cheese, pine nuts, cayenne and garlic in a food processor or blender.
  2. With the machine running, slowly pour in the oil.
  3. Blend until mixture looks bright green and thick, about 45 seconds.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Nutrition facts per tablespoon: 71 calories, 1 gram protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, 7 grams fat (mostly good fats!)


Not only is this month full of family, friends, and one of the biggest meals of the year, November 16th is National Fast Food Day. I like to think of fast food as something that is quick to make, provides a PC combo (check out my books for information on why you need a healthy combo of both protein and carbs) and gets you out the door and on with your day – without having to stop at the traditional fast food places. This recipe is most definitely fast, nutritious, and you can fit it into your Thanksgiving menu for a pumpkin pie substitute!

Christine’s Skinny Pumpkin Pie Cottage Cheese

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups nonfat cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cups organic packed pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon organic raisins
  • 1 tablespoon crushed walnuts
  • cinnamon

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy.

See nutrition information and more on ChristineAvanti.com


“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”― Maya Angelou

 

Christine

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Some people are born for Halloween, and some are just counting the days until Christmas.” — Stephen Graham Jones

Which type of person are you? Do you love the spooky atmosphere and costumes of Halloween? Are you excited for Trick-or-Treating and The Great Pumpkin? Or are you simply counting down to mistletoe and tree trimming?

Regardless of what holiday you prefer, Halloween is coming fast and so are all the sugary treats that accompany the day. I love to find healthy alternatives for those costume parties, school treats and monster mash parties because we all know there will be no shortage of candy in the next few months. Before I share some recipes, here are some helpful tips for October 31st for your kids (and a few for you too):

  • Take a small bag Trick-or-Treating. How much candy do you really need, anyway? And, if you take a small bag, your child still walks away with a FULL bag of candy!
  • Fill up before you leave. Have a healthy dinner before going out to your party or Trick-or-Treating. Your stomach will thank you later.
  • Set expectations before you leave. If you have boundaries on how many sweets you’re allowed and stick to it, you are more likely to eat less of the unhealthy and more of the healthy food!
  • Take care of your teeth! If you can’t brush or floss right after you eat sweets (which is always ideal to prevent cavities), drink water. Drinking plain water afterwards can rinse some of that sugar off your teeth and gums until you can brush well later.
  • Minimize your treasure. Pick out your favorite loot from your Trick-or-Treating and give the rest away. Hide the rest and have the rest as treats. I like the rule of “no sweets during the work/school week” and eat in moderation on the weekend (and only after a nutritious meal).
  • After a set amount of time, throw it out – there is another holiday right around the corner.

Here are some ideas for fun Halloween-themed treats this month that won’t give you a cavity by November 1st 😉

Colby Jack-o-Lanterns

I found these fun Colby Jack-o-Lanterns on EveryDay Health. I like to substitute the butter for olive oil spray and add fresh tomato and oregano to kick up the flavor a just a bit (you can find my recipe for my favorite grilled cheese sandwich here), but these sandwiches are perfect for both adults and kids and are so cute, they will have your kids screaming for more.

Ingredients

  • 4 whole-wheat sandwich thins
  • olive oil spray
  • 1 (8-ounce) block of Organic Colby Jack cheese, sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Split four sandwich thins in half (so you have 8 slices) and lightly spray one side of 4 of the slices with olive oil.
  3. Lay oil side down on a baking sheet and layer Colby Jack cheese on them (add your fresh veggies if adding them).
  4. Cut out jack-o’-lantern faces on the other 4 slices, then lightly spray olive oil on one side and lay oil-side down on baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. Remove and place jack o’-lantern faces on top of the sandwiches.
  7. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Apples

These healthier-than caramel dark chocolate-dipped apples are a work of art! They are super fun to make together and can just as well be a family project as well as a dessert or treat to have at home or bring to a dinner party!

Ingredients

  • 8oz dark chocolate
  • 8 Medium apples
  • various toppings as desired
  • 8 bamboo skewers or wooden pop sticks

Directions

  • Wash and dry apples.
  • Arrange toppings in medium sized bowls
  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper coated with cooking spray.
  • Insert wooden stick into apple cores.
  • Fill a medium sauce pan half way with water.
  • Bring water to a boil and place a medium glass mixing bowl over boiling water and immediately remove from heat.
  • Melt chocolate in the glass bowl over the hot water.
  • Coat the apple with a thin layer of chocolate by gently spooning melted chocolate on to each apple starting about one fourth inch away from apple top working downward
  • If you are using additional toppings dip apples into topping bowls or sprinkle toppings over apples.
  • Place decorated apples onto parchment paper and refrigerate for fifteen minutes to harden.

Click for More Information on ChristineAvanti.com

Pumpkin Dip with Apples

There are a lot of recipes for pumpkin pie dip that include a lot of unhealthy ingredients, or that take all day to make. I love pumpkin and this is the time of year where pumpkin and fall just go hand and hand, and what goes better with Halloween than pumpkins? Here is a healthier pumpkin dip that would pair great with apples, graham crackers, or anything else you’ve got handy to dip!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I prefer Voskos)
  • 1 cup organic pumpkin puree (I recommend Farmer’s Market)
  • 1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1 tablespoon organic pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla

Directions

  • Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth
  • Serve in a bowl with graham crackers, apples or other dipping snacks!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This month is not only an extremely important time to shed light on Breast Cancer and the dangers, signs and symptoms but also a good time to remind ourselves to take preventative action. The third Friday in October each year is National Mammography Day, first proclaimed by President Clinton in 1993. On this day, or throughout the month, women are encouraged to make a mammography appointment. This year, National Mammography Day will be celebrated on October 18.

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. According to the American Cancer Society, guidelines for women receiving mammograms are the following:

  • Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
  • Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
  • Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
  • All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.

Women should also know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away. Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is very small.) Talk with a health care provider about your risk for breast cancer and the best screening plan for you.

If you are worried about the cost of mammograms, but would like to schedule one, the CDC offers free or low-cost mammograms. Check here for programs in your area.

There is no proven method to prevent breast cancer, but there are ways to reduce your risk:

Nutrition is extremely important; good nutrition can improve health and wellbeing. Not only that, but proper nutrition can be a vital part of preventative medicine, helping your body stay well. No single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself. But research shows that a diet filled with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other plant foods helps lower risk for many cancers.

Keeping a healthy weight is also crucial because obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer. Many studies have shown that moderate to vigorous physical activity is linked with lower breast cancer risk, so it’s important to get regular physical activity. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day/5 days a week is the recommended amount of exercise by the American Cancer Society. This can be anything from a brisk walk, yoga, to aerobics – anything that gets your heart rate up. If you cannot dedicate a full 30 minutes at one time, you can break this time up to three 10-minute segments a day!

Avoiding alcohol will also reduce your risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that women have no more than 1 drink per day as even low levels of alcohol increases their risk. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor).

To learn more about Breast Cancer and more about what you can do this month to reduce your risk and increase your awareness, go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website here.


“October is a symphony of permanence and change.”– Bonaro W. Overstreet

 

xoxo

 

 

 

Christine