The holidays are perfect for catching up with friends and family over delicious food, and meal planning and prep can be half the fun. To help you serve up perfect Thanksgiving dishes—and stay on a healthy-eating path—we asked our sister publication Clean Eating to share some simple spins on classic holiday staples. Each side, appetizer, and dessert is a cinch to put together and delivers on flavor without leaving you overstuffed or sleepy. For the vegetarians in your life, there’s ample protein and healthy fats—in case you were considering skipping the bird (or Tofurky) this year. And because we don’t believe that you should spend an entire dinner party in the kitchen if you’re hosting, each recipe includes make-ahead tips to help you get started up to five days ahead of the big day. Do the bulk of the work in advance to minimize stress and maximize the meaningful time you spend with your loved ones.
5 Make-Ahead Holiday Meals
Endive Bites with Goat Cheese, Figs, and Honey
When you’re hosting, it’s helpful to have a quick, no-cook appetizer on the menu. Fresh, crisp endive leaves with creamy goat cheese and sweet honey come together seamlessly, and they’re sure to be a crowd pleaser.
MAKE AHEAD Prepare through Step 1 up to a day ahead. Cover the filled leaves with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before serving.
4 large heads white and/or red endive (about 30 leaves), trimmed and separated
2/3 cup soft goat cheese
5 unsweetened dried figs, each cut into 6 pieces
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp raw honey
1. Fill the bottom end of each endive leaf with about 1 tsp cheese and a piece of fig. Arrange filled leaves on a platter.
2. Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle with honey.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 12 calories per serving (3 endive leaves with toppings), 5 g fat (3 g saturated), 12 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 7 g protein, 129 mg sodium
Wild Rice Stuffing with Whole Wheat Dressing
Wild rice adds depth of flavor to this veggie-packed stuffing. To achieve the best texture, choose a bread with a thick, crunchy crust.
MAKE AHEAD Prepare through Step 3 up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Remove from fridge 30–60 minutes before baking. Serve within 1 hour.
1/3 cup wild rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks or coarsely shredded
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ tsp ground black pepper
12 oz whole-wheat bread, cut or torn into ¾-inch pieces (about 12 cups)
1½ cups low-sodium vegetable or
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add rice; reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally until very tender, about 50 minutes.
2. Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, stirring, 2 minutes. Add celery, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes. Add carrot, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, 2–4 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add thyme and pepper. Stir in bread, then add broth and gently stir to evenly moisten. Remove about 1/3 of bread mixture and transfer to another bowl.
3. Coat a 2 – to 2½-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Drain rice and stir into bowl with remaining 2/3 bread mixture. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly. Top with reserved 1/3 bread mixture, spreading evenly.
4. Heat oven to 400°. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, 20–30 minutes. Uncover and bake until browned on top, 20–30 minutes.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 93 calories per serving, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein, 440 mg sodium
See also Mushroom Stuffing
Sour Cream & Chive Mashed Potatoes
Imagine a baked potato topped with velvety sour cream and fresh chives—infused into family-style mashed potatoes.
MAKE AHEAD Prepare ingredients up to a day ahead, storing perishables covered in the fridge (store the potatoes in a container of water). Prep recipe within 1 hour of serving.
2½ lbs russet potatoes, peeled (optional), cut into 1½-inch chunks
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
½ cup whole milk, room temperature
½ tsp sea salt, plus additional to taste
¼ cup fresh chives, chopped
1. In a large saucepan, add potatoes and cover by 1 inch with cold water; bring to a boil. Continue to boil until potatoes are very tender, 15–18 minutes.
2. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add sour cream, milk, and salt. Mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. If desired, stir in chives and additional salt.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 39 calories per serving, 4 g fat
Lemon Cranberry Sauce
Tart with a hint of sweetness and a twist of lemon, this homemade cranberry sauce can be made entirely in advance.
MAKE AHEAD Prepare up to 5 days ahead. Garnish just before serving.
2½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
¾ cup whole cane sugar (such as Sucanat)
¼ tsp sea salt
1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from half of lemon. (Remove yellow part only, avoiding white pith.) Cut peel crosswise into thin slices. Save remaining lemon for another use.
2. Reserve ½ tsp lemon peel. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining lemon peel, cranberries, sugar, salt, and ¾ cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until most cranberries burst, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a resealable container or serving dish to cool. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve garnished with reserved ½ tsp lemon peel.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 3 calories per serving (3 tbsp), 0 g fat, 18 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 16 g protein, 57 mg sodium
See also Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce
Apple and Pecan Crumbles
These elegant, single-serve apple crumbles topped with crème fraîche taste just as sweet as your standard slice of apple pie.
MAKE AHEAD Prepare through Step 3 the morning of. Cover and refrigerate ramekins (with fruit) and crumble topping separately. Remove ramekins from refrigerator 30–60 minutes before assembly. Leave crumble in the refrigerator until just before baking. Complete within 1 hour of serving.
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
½ cup white whole-wheat flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
½ cup rolled oats
2 tbsp unsalted pecans, chopped
1⁄3 cup evaporated cane juice, plus 2 tbsp, divided
¼ tsp sea salt, plus pinch, divided
2½ lbs sweet-tart apples (about 5 apples, such as McIntosh), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup crème fraîche
1. Mist 10 half-cup ramekins with cooking spray and arrange on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
2. Prepare crumble topping: In a medium bowl, combine flour and butter, working butter into flour with a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingertips until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in oats, pecans, 1/3 cup cane juice, and ¼ tsp salt.
3 In a another bowl, combine apples, lemon juice, remaining 2 tbsp cane juice, and pinch of salt. Transfer fruit to ramekins.
4 Heat oven to 375°. Sprinkle crumble topping over apples and bake until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown, 60 minutes. Let cool, 10 minutes. Top each crumble with crème fraîche.
NUTRITIONAL INFO 180 calories per serving, 5 g fat (3 g saturated), 32 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 2 g protein, 66 mg sodium
See also Apple Butternut Squash Soup