CarbSmart Lesson #30: Complete Low Carb Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

CarbSmart Lesson #30: Complete Low Carb Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

Low Carb Cooking 101: Low-Carb Thanksgiving

Preparing a Low Carb Thanksgiving dinner can make any cook want to swoon. There’s so much to do, so little time to do it in, and people’s expectations are extremely high. Everybody wants more food on the table than they could possible eat. They want the food to be “fancy.” They want the food and table to look beautiful. They want all the children to be attractive and well-behaved. They want all the adults to be attractive and well-behaved, too. (It’s more likely that the children will behave more than the adults.)

And, most importantly, they want you to accomplish all this with minimal help from them, without any sign of stress, and with a smile on your face. The expletive “Bah humbug!” did not actually originate from Scrooge’s mouth and Charles Dickens’ pen; it really doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas at all. It was first uttered by a Victorian housewife as she washed the last greasy Thanksgiving plate.

Since people also want traditional foods at Low Carb Thanksgiving more than any other holiday, it’s hard for some families to “buy into” having a low carb Thanksgiving meal. My family is one of these, and while I haven’t given up the war, I’ve conceded a few battlefronts. I will make the mashed potatoes, although I won’t have any. (Luckily, I have my stepmother’s terrific make-ahead mashed potato recipe.) But I will buy the soft rolls from the grocery, since I won’t eat them. The gravy for the potatoes will come from a jar. (I use Heinz, which is pretty low carb and darned good.) And I will hit the freezer cases at the grocery for pumpkin and cherry pies. My family swears that it’s illegal to have Thanksgiving without them, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to make the darned pies from scratch. I will concentrate my time and energies on healthy low carbohydrate choices that we all enjoy – including me. (I am, after all, a member of the family, too.)

So here’s what we’re having for Low Carb Thanksgiving dinner this year:

  • Zesty Roast Turkey
  • Molded Gazpacho Salad
  • Cranberry Treat
  • Company Cauliflower Casserole
  • Decadent Spinach Casserole
  • Holiday Spaghetti Squash Casserole
  • Di’s Chocolate Mocha No-Bake Cheesecake

Here’s the shopping list for the meal: (You may very well already have some of these things on hand.)

Here’s the game plan:

First and foremost, allow plenty of time for the turkey to thaw! Don’t think you can take it out of the freezer on Thursday morning! See the directions for thawing that are included in the Zesty Roast Turkey recipe.

Know what serving dishes and serving utensils you are going to use and make sure that they are available (in other words, not left at the last church or school potluck), and clean. If you’re in a tizzy about this kind of thing, use post-a-notes to label them with what goes in them after you’ve washed them. Sneer at anyone who laughs at the labels; they know nothing, and wouldn’t help you out if they did.

The Molded Gazpacho Salad, Cranberry Treat, Company Cauliflower Casserole, Decadent Spinach Casserole, Holiday Spaghetti Squash Casserole, Di’s Chocolate Mocha No-Bake Cheesecake can all be made ahead of time. Do this! It will save your sanity. I generally make two dishes on Monday, two dishes on Tuesday, and two dishes on Wednesday.

Breakfast on Thanksgiving morning is anything the family can scrounge from the pantry or the refrigerator (barring the food for the holiday meal). I do not cook on Thanksgiving morning.

On Thanksgiving morning I get the turkey ready and begin roasting it, then set the table. To know when to start the turkey, check the timetable in the Zesty Roast Turkey recipe below. I plan the “announced” dinner time based on how long it will take the turkey to roast if I put it in the oven at a reasonable hour. For me, this is between 7 and 8 in the morning; it may differ for you. The point is that no one should have to get up at 4 in the morning to get the turkey going if they don’t want to.

I take the vegetable and fruit casserole out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature about an hour and a half before the turkey is due to be done. (Obviously, I leave the Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake in the refrigerator.)

When the turkey is done, I put the vegetable casseroles in the oven to heat while the turkey rests and is then carved. (The mashed potatoes for the Philistines is heated in the microwave, as is the gravy.)

At this point the kids are responsible for filling the water glasses with ice and water and putting a pitcher of ice water on the table for refills.

I pop the rolls for the Philistines in the oven while everything is being ferried to the buffet for serving, and they’re the last thing I put on the table before I sit down to enjoy a rare meal with all the family in attendance.

And, finally, here’s the recipes:

Zesty Low-Carb Roast Turkey Recipe

Zesty Roast Turkey Recipe

Low-Carb Molded Gazpacho Salad Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar free tomato juice
  • 1 small package lemon-flavored sugar free gelatin
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped bell red pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • nonstick spray

Bring the tomato juice to a boil in a small saucepan. Completely dissolve the gelatin in the boiling tomato juice. Chill until slightly thickened.

Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well. Stir into gelatin mixture. Pour into individual dishes or a medium serving bowl or mold. (If using a mold, spray lightly with nonstick spray first.) Chill until firm, a minimum of 3 hours.

Makes 3 2/3 cups or 7 servings @ 4 grams of carbohydrate per serving.

Low-Carb Cranberry Treat Recipe

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • water
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 4 packets Splenda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Konjac Glucomannan Powder
  • 1/2 cup walnuts chopped

Put washed cranberries in a pan with enough water to cover; add the rest of the ingredients except the walnuts. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to simmer until it is thick. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts. Can be served warm or cold.

Total carbs with fiber removed is 18.

4 servings at 2.5 carbs per serving.

***Note: Recipe can be doubled. Cranberry Treat reheats will and can be frozen. I often eat it with a little whipped cream as a dessert.

Low-Carb Company Cauliflower Casserole Recipe

  • 5 cups fresh cauliflower, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 6 green onions, chopped (separate white and green parts)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 slices cooked crisp bacon, crumbled

Cook cauliflower until tender but firm. Chop into pieces about the size of hash browns. Mix in sour cream, 1 cup of the cheddar, white part of green onions, salt and pepper. Stir in cauliflower. Place in a greased baking dish and sprinkle rest of cheddar on top.

Bake at 350º for 20 minutes or until heated through. Crumble bacon on top and sprinkle on the chopped tops of the green onions.

Serves 10 @ 4.4 carbs per serving.

*** Note: Recipe can be doubled. Reheats well, but does not freeze well.

Low-Carb Decadent Spinach Casserole Recipe

  • 3 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and with excess water squeezed out
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 envelope dry onion soup mix
  • low carb bread crumbs (optional)

Thaw spinach and press out excess water. Mix with sour cream and dry onion soup mix. Sprinkle with low carb bread crumbs, if desired.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Serves 8.

Note: Recipe can be doubled or tripled for a crowd. Reheats well.

Low-Carb Holiday Spaghetti Squash Casserole Recipe


  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar Twin (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt (or to taste)

Streusel Topping:

  • 1/2 cup pecan meal
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • pinch of cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoons Splenda
  • 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar Twin
  • 2 tablespoons low carb bake mix (any brand)
  • nonstick spray (optional)

Mix all the casserole ingredients together and put into a medium-sized casserole, which has been lightly sprayed with nonstick spray or greased with butter.

In a small bowl, mix the pecan meal, 2 tablespoons softened butter,
cinnamon, Splenda, and low carb bake mix together. Cut together to form small crumbs. (You can use a pastry blender, two knives, or a fork to do this.)

Sprinkle the streusel topping on top of the vegetable mixture in the casserole.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until warmed through and the streusel sets a bit.

Serves 6.

Low-Carb Chocolate Mocha No-Bake Cheesecake Recipe

I make this crustless, although you could put it in either a coconut or nut crust if you wish to. Another alternative would be to serve it in tall parfait glasses.

This recipe can be made a day or two ahead of time.

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee crystals
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 packets sugar free hot cocoa mix (*** See note.)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 packets Splenda
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Dissolve the gelatin into the water and stir in the coffee. Put the mixture in the freezer for 5 minutes to cool down.

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream cheese, Splenda, and cocoa mixes together. Add the cooled gelatin mixture and continue whipped until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Fold in the whipped cream gently and pour the mixture into a pie plate.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time.

***Note: Diet Swiss Miss (NOT Sugar-Free Swiss Miss) is the instant cocoa with the lowest carbohydrate count.

Optional Low-Carb Thanksgiving Garnish Ideas

Using a pastry bag, apply rosettes of artificially sweetened whipped cream around the circumference of the pie. Place a sugar-free chocolate-covered espresso bean at the peak or each rosette. If you don’t have any of the espresso beans, you can dust each rosette peak lightly with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Freeze a sugar free, low carbohydrate chocolate bar and use a vegetable peeler to peel thin chocolate curls onto the top of the cheesecake. Or you could melt the chocolate bar and drizzle chocolate over the top of the cheesecake.

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