Spinach pasta with basil and feta.
Lisa M Baragiola

Thanksgiving with a Healthy Balance

Thanksgiving Tradition

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I absolutely love stuffing and pecan pie is a treat.  What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? My fondest memories are going to all four of my grandparents and celebrating with our immediate family. Mom made all the pies for both sides of the family from scratch and Aunt Jean taught me how to make stuffing. Maybe for you it’s a “Friendsgiving” or volunteering at a local soup kitchen.  Whatever the tradition, there is generally a gathering and plenty of good food. Is it possible to enjoy these foods without guilt and deprivation?  Let’s explore some alternatives and additions to the typical feast.


Offer a fresh vegetable tray with hummus or ranch dressing. If you want to wow your guests, create a turkey charcuterie board using meat, cheese, nuts and/or dried fruit. Avocadoes are available all year round and fresh guacamole is a tasty, healthy snack. You can’t go wrong with a variety of fresh apples and berries.

Thanksgiving Dinner

If you’ve been following my blogs, the trend is balance and moderation. Let’s modify or add healthy touches to our meal and leave our favorites alone for pure enjoyment. No concerns about the turkey since it’s usually baked or roasted. Substitute sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes. I know I’m partial, therefore stuffing needs no alterations. Steamed or roasted vegetables can replace the green bean casserole. If you’re feeling ambitious, mix up fresh cranberry sauce. Purchase or make whole wheat rolls and one suggestion for pies, scratch is best!!! If your meal is earlier in the day, take a brisk walk before football begins or have your own game in the back yard.

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

This holiday gives us the opportunity to reflect and be grateful. Studies suggest gratitude may increase happiness and decrease stress. Take a moment to experience appreciation and share it with those around you. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy Chef Ken’s Butternut Squash Au Gratin recipe.

Butternut Squash Au Gratin

Ken Foland, Executive Chef, Events by FSC
Sweet and Savory Squash
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Side Dish
Servings 8


  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2-3 lbs fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/4" pieces.
  • 1 lb sweet white onion, peeled and thin julienned.
  • 4 each thyme sprig, leaves removed
  • 8 oz gruyere cheese, grated/shaved
  • 4 oz avocado oil
  • 4 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 4 oz half and half creamer
  • 4 oz chicken stock


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Grease 9 x 13 baking dish and keep to the side.

Roasted Garlic

  • Slice garlic in half to expose the clove. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Wrap in tin foil and bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until soft.
  • Remove from oven to cool and squeeze clove out of paper and reserve.

Au Gratin

  • Combine half and half creamer and chicken stock together, keep to the side. In a large bowl, toss sliced butternut squash and onions together with roasted garlic, thyme leaves, 1/2 of the cheese, salt, and nutmeg. Coat with avocado oil and gradually add flour until combined.
  • Add the creamer/chicken stock to the butternut squash and toss. Place mix into the greased baking dish making sure to layer evenly. Pour excess liquid on top of squash. Top with remaining gruyere cheese.
  • Cover with parchment paper and tin foil. Bake 30 to 45 minutes. Remove foil and parchment paper and allow cheese to brown evenly.


To Serve: Allow au gratin to cool slightly before serving to allow the custard to set. 

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