Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

As promised, the recipe for Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts that I mentioned in my Thanksgiving Menu post. This has been adapted a bit from the Forks Over Knives cookbook.

I grew up HATING Brussels sprouts as I did most vegetables. I am one of the pickiest eaters you will ever come across. And yet, somehow, these babies are soooo good, even I can’t pass them up. Now, I really did want this up before Thanksgiving so you all could share this treat with your families (my bad), but they are amazing any time of the year!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
1/4 finely minced shallots
1/4 coup maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce or coconut aminos or tamari
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

  1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Cut the stems of the Brussels sprouts and discard, then cut the sprouts in half. Cook the sprouts in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a nonstick saucepan, sauté the shallots in a small amount of water or vegetable broth for 2-3 minutes. Add the boiled sprouts and sauté for 4 more minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the maple syrup, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, and cornstarch together. Pour the mixture over the Brussels sprouts and cook for about 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Garnish with nuts as desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

The first step of cooking the Brussels sprouts can be done in advance. That is what we did the day before Thanksgiving to cut down on some work the day of. You can also mix the sauce together ahead of time and keep it in the fridge overnight but we actually ran out of time Wednesday due to the arrival of family that day. But the sprouts came out AMAZING! We made a little extra sauce for some extra flavor. The only thing I’d do differently next time is quarter the sprouts instead of halve them, especially for the bigger sprouts.

Apologies for not having a better photo of this amazing dish. It was too delicious to not dig into right away! This is an old photo that really doesn’t do it justice.

maple glazed brussels sprouts

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Stayed tuned for some exciting news I am sharing next week! xoxo

What’s On My Thanksgiving Menu

With just over a week away from Thanksgiving, it is time to start planning the menu for the big day. This is my first Thanksgiving on a whole foods plant-based diet. It’s about to get interesting. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is centered around processed meats, lots of fat and butter, and sugar-laden desserts. Any vegetable on the table is typically baked into a casserole with cheese or butter. The only semi-healthy item is the salad (which wasn’t a common option on Thanksgiving in my family for what I can remember) but any health aspect was negated by the cheese and fatty dressing poured on top.

And then the stomach ache and drowsiness would set in.

Ever wonder why you get so tired after a big meal? On Thanksgiving, many blame the turkey because it contains tryptophan. However, this myth was dispelled over a decade ago by a study done at MIT. Turkey only contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid, in small quantities. What happens is that tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids for transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. Since it is found in animal proteins in a smaller ratio, it is typically last in line for transport. So if anything, consuming turkey actually lowers tryptophan levels. When tryptophan is consumed as part of an animal protein meal, serum tryptophan levels rise while brain tryptophan levels decline.

Lower tryptophan levels are associated with depression so being able to have it cross the blood-brain barrier is key. On Thanksgiving day, what’s more likely happening is the refined carbohydrates and fat are increasing the release of insulin, which causes the muscles to take up the non-tryptophan amino acids as fuel and allows the tryptophan to be first in line for brain access. Once in the brain, this leads to an increased production of serotonin–the “happy hormone” and some of it gets converted to melatonin, a chemical associated with helping sleep.

The reason you feel so much sleepier than usual on Thanksgiving is because of the sheer amount of calories you’re consuming–>not only does that surge of serotonin production lead to melatonin, but your body has to use so much energy just to digest all of that food. Also, being dehydrated can exacerbate your lethargy, so make sure to drink plenty of water!

An alternative is to eat a plant-based meal that will not cause the sugar high and subsequent crash. Whole plant foods are nutrient dense and fill you up sooner with less calories. It is REALLY HARD to over eat on a whole foods plant-based diet. And those complex carbs break down slower which means a more gradual release of insulin rather than a spike.

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And when consuming foods with a high tryptophan-to-total protein ratio such as pumpkin seeds, pistachios, or roasted soy beans, tryptophan levels in the brain increase. This may be why studies show that those eating plant-based diets have superior mood states. You heard that right–I’m happier than you omnivores!

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This is what they meant by better mood, right?

This year Daniel and I are hosting my family for Thanksgiving so I have been getting pumped up to plan the menu. There will be a total of 6 people. Although I am trying to stay as close to whole foods as possible, it is a holiday which calls for some rules to be broken. Don’t worry, I’m not eating animal products. But I’m okay with adding some processed foods to mix against what I just blabbed on about. You’re welcome. (Dr. Michael Gregor said what you eat on holidays and special occasions won’t affect your long term health sooo…..)

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The Menu:

And here’s a teaser photo of those sprouts:

maple glazed brussels sprouts

You haven’t lived until you’ve had maple glazed Brussels sprouts. Even a picky eater would gobble these up.

I hope you’ve found some inspiration for your own Thanksgiving meal from my menu. The turkeys will thank you! xoxo

turkeys

How to Indulge Wisely on Thanksgiving

With only a few days before Thanksgiving, I thought it was time I figured out my “game plan” for the day. The day of over indulging. I want to share with you a few of my tips and tricks on how to enjoy all of the delicious food without feeling like you just gained 10 pounds in one sitting.

How to Indulge Wisely on Thanksgiving

As with any meal, the key is portion control when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal.  It allows you to sample everything and still feel satisfied.  Instead of taking a large spoonful of everything on the table, try putting half of that on your plate. Your plate may not look as full as usual, but you’ll thank yourself later. Plus, if you’re still hungry after the first plate you can always grab seconds, just allow time for your first plate to settle.

Here’s an example plate from years past. You can see I didn’t have too much of one thing on there, though I still think I should have done smaller servings. I’m sure I overate this year.

thanksgiving meal

Going a little out of order, but I also make sure to eat as much of the healthy stuff first, like salad, before I dig in on the rest. That way I at least get in some nutrients for the day. And it fills me up more so I have less room for the mashed potatoes and casseroles.

thanksgiving salad Another tradition I like to do is hold off on the dessert. WHAT?! I know, it’s crazy. But I’m usually so full afterwards that I can’t possibly fit in anymore. What my family likes to do instead is go on a walk! It became a tradition with my sister, cousin Megan, and I. We’d walk to the closest trail and enjoy the outdoors. We’d also take lots of photos (with some silly poses):

Being Charlie’s Angels… (warning these are a little outdated from my high school years, oddly couldn’t find any of the most recent)
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Throwing me off of the hill…
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Behaving for once…
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I wish I could find some photos from the first Thanksgiving we started the tradition on–they were pretty hilarious. These walks have always been my favorite part of the holiday. Making memories!

Our walks were for at least an hour. After that we were typically ready to go home and warm up– warm up to some pie that is! Now that our stomachs had processed some of the food, it was time for dessert! With dessert, there are really no rules. It is a holiday after all! But I do try to limit myself to only a couple slices of pie. I need pecan and pumpkin pie and then I’m satisfied. If you want to try all the desserts available that day, I would take the same approach as with the main meal– tiny portions to sample everything.

thanksgiving dessert

Don’t go in over thinking it though. That will make it harder on you to resist overeating. Just enjoy the day with your friends and family and know what you’re thankful for. There’s always tomorrow to get back in the game. I’m sure you’ll be burning some calories during the Black Friday shopping, right? 😉

So basically have a salad first, less is more when filling up your plate, and walk it off afterwards. Then, enjoy your dessert!