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Deciding which Thanksgiving dishes to make healthy

JIM ROMANOFF
For The Associated Press
This photo taken Oct. 31, 2009 shows whole-wheat couscous, wild mushroom and leek stuffing. Choosing which parts of your Thanksgiving meal to trim some fat and calories will allow you to keep a few of your favorite indulgences on the table. This whole-wheat couscous, wild mushroom and leek stuffing keeps this classic side healthier with less saturated fat than its bagged counterpart. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
AP | FR41490 AP

Serving a healthy Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to mean giving up that pumpkin pie or those buttery sweet potatoes. But it does involve making some trade-offs.

The trick is knowing when the indulgence is worth it. Of course, this is somewhat subjective. For some us, it isn’t Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie, while others will claim it’s the mashed potatoes that make the meal.

So here are some suggestions of places you can trim.

• Serve plenty of vegetables, but don’t drench them in butter. A teaspoon or so goes a long way. As an alternative, a sprinkling of toasted, chopped nuts can add incredible flavor and a richness that comes from the healthier fats they contain.

• Fat-free chicken broth or nonfat buttermilk can give mashed potatoes a luxurious quality without adding fat.

• The turkey itself is pretty lean (especially the white meat) as long as you remove the skin, which contains most of the fat.

• To make a lighter gravy, skim and discard the grease from the drippings in the roasting pan, add chicken or turkey stock to the pan, then thicken with cornstarch instead of the traditional roux made with flour and fat.

• As for the stuffing, instead of a stick or so of butter, add moisture with other ingredients, such as diced vegetables and fruit. A bag of herbed stuffing mix can be transformed with a mixture of dried cranberries, chopped walnuts and orange zest. Or try a blend of dried apricots, pistachios and chopped leeks. Just saute these ingredients (using only a tablespoon of butter or olive oil) along with the chopped onion and celery you normally would add to the dried stuffing mix.

Or you can skip the bagged stuffing mix altogether with this whole-wheat couscous, wild mushroom and leek stuffing. The soaking liquid from the dried porcini mushrooms plus some toasted walnuts add a complex richness without adding a lot of saturated fat.

This recipe makes 8 cups, enough to stuff a 12-pound bird or make 10 side dish servings.

Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (45 minutes active)

Servings: 10

2 cups water

1⁄2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3⁄4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped sweet onion

2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced

8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste

10-ounce package (123 cups) whole-wheat couscous

1⁄2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

3⁄4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (if baking in a casserole)

In a medium saucepan, bring the 2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in the dried mushrooms, then remove from the heat. Let stand for 20 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft. Pour them through a fine strainer set over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the walnuts and stir until toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and leeks, then saute until soft, about 3 minutes.

Add the shiitake mushrooms, garlic and the reserved porcini mushrooms and saute until the shiitake mushrooms have softened, about 3 minutes longer. Set the mixture aside.

Add enough water to the mushroom-soaking liquid to equal 2 1/4 cups. In a large saucepan, combine this liquid with the salt, pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to a boil, stir in the couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Uncover the couscous and fluff with a fork. Stir in the parsley and the reserved mushroom mixture. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

If baking inside a turkey, let the dressing cool completely before stuffing the turkey. Stuff the turkey just before roasting.

If baking in a casserole, heat oven to 325 F. Coat a 4-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish, then pour the chicken broth evenly over the top. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and bake for 15 minutes longer.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 224 calories; 84 calories from fat; 9 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 32 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 5 g fiber; 204 mg sodium.