This recipe came to me as I was walking through the entrance to my supermarket a few weeks ago. They had all the thanksgiving goodies out and on display, forcing you to walk through all the unhealthy (note: amazing) side dish ingredients we all look forward to eating on Thanksgiving day. It’s all about the sides, right?
So I grabbed a can of french fried onions. You know the ones. This topping is the best way to make a perfectly good vegetable (green beans) a ridiculously indulgent casserole. I got to thinking of (and practicing) ways to get those same flavors I crave on Thanksgiving, but to make it a little more healthful (and convenient) for any day. After a few tries, I feel like I nailed it. Skip to recipe.
The seasonings combined with the apple remind me of my mom’s stuffing, the onions give a little indulgent crunch on top, and the brown rice, lean meat and vegetables provide some nutrient dense protein and vitamins that I look for when feeding myself and my family. Win-win-win.
Tip: To make the best use of time on a busy day, I try to prepare and set aside anything I can earlier in the day when I get a moment, sometimes even the night before. For this recipe, you can pre-chop the carrots and parsnips, precook the rice, and make your seasoning mix. Just store the veggies and rice in the refrigerator and put the seasoning in a covered dish on the counter. These little shortcuts make getting dinner on the table just a bit easier.
Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. In your favorite casserole dish, combine carrots and parsnips, a drizzle of evoo, salt, and pepper. I use a glass 13x 9 dish for this, but you can certainly use something else. Using cast iron would be great, you just may have to reduce the cook time slightly as they’re better conductors of heat than glass. Roast in the preheated oven for about 25 min or until the edges brown and they soften. Remove from oven and set aside in the roasting dish. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Now, while your vegetables are roasting, start browning the ground turkey and chopped onion in some olive oil. You wont need much, just enough to help it break apart and cook down. If you choose to use 99% lean turkey rather than the 96% , you will need more olive oil to compensate for the lack of fat in the meat.
Once the turkey is no longer pink, add the salt, pepper and seasonings. Don’t be afraid to taste your food! (Once it’s no longer pink of course, nobody wants turkey sushi.) Tasting as you cook allows you to adjust the seasoning to a level that you like best without necessarily over-doing it on the salt or anything else for that matter. Once you evenly distribute the seasoning, splash some deglazing liquid (I used white wine, Smoking Loon Sauvignon Blanc, because I love the taste and can enjoy some while I cook). You can use stock or water instead, I just don’t recommend drinking that as you cook…
Add the chopped apple and let the liquid reduce for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the turkey mixture to the existing carrot mixture in the roasting dish. Fold in the cooked rice, dried cranberries, and can of soup. This can get messy, so try to use a folding motion, and I recommend using a silicone spatula to do the job neatly. Once everything is evenly distributed in the pan, top with the french fried onions. I wont judge if you add extra.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and the onions are brown on top. I swear it makes you feel like you need to put on the thanksgiving stretchy pants, but without the guilt. I’d love to know if you try it, what you think, and if you make it your own. Enjoy!
Can't Wait for Thanksgiving Casserole
A lightened up family meal for a busy household.
- 3 cups brown rice, cooked. (1 cup dry)
- 3 large parsnips (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
- 3 large carrots (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
- extra virgin olive oil, evoo, (for drizzling)
- 1 package ground turkey, 96% lean (about 1.3 lbs)
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1.5 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- a splash deglazing liquid (dry white wine, water, or chicken/turkey stock (low sodium)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1 10.5 ounce can cream of chicken soup (healthy request)
- 1 cup dried cranberries (no sugar added)
- 1/2 cup french fried onions
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a casserole dish (I use a 13×9 glass dish), combine carrots and parsnips, a drizzle evoo, salt, and pepper (to taste, about 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper). Roast in the preheated oven for about 25 min or until the edges brown and they soften. Remove from oven and set aside in the roasting dish. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
- While the vegetables cook, brown the turkey, onions, and a drizzle of evoo in a skillet on the stovetop until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper (to taste, about 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper), sage, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, and turmeric and stir to evenly distribute.
- Add a splash (about 2 tablespoons) of the deglazing liquid of choice while using a spoon or spatula to scrape any browned bits or seasoning off the bottom of the pan. Add the apples. Cook for about 2 minutes, allowing the alcohol to cook down and mixture to reduce slightly.
- Add the turkey mixture to the existing carrot mixture in the roasting dish. Fold in the cooked rice, dried cranberries, and can of soup. Once everything is evenly distributed, top with the french fried onions.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.