Easy, Healthy Thanksgiving Sides

Side dishes may be the best part of Thanksgiving dinner, but with the average person consuming 4,000-6,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day, they’re not the most waistline-friendly. Luckily, celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito has a solution – three simple Thanksgiving sides you won’t feel guilty about eating.

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Cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving staple, and Rocco insists it doesn’t have to come out of a can. His version can be done in the microwave and uses the whole berries for maximum flavor. “They’re tart and delicious and can take on a lot of different flavors,” Rocco says. “And instead of having to cook it for hours on the stove, it’s going to be five minutes in the microwave.” His sugar-free sauce also has a miniscule 20 calories per serving, compared with the normal 110.

Take one cup of fresh cranberries, place in a plastic bag and using a meat tenderizer, smash the bag to release natural pectin. Add orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon, agave nectar, stevia, and microwave. Remove from the microwave, add an extra bit of powdered pectin. Then return to the microwave for another 90 seconds, allow to cool, and enjoy.

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Rocco also has a few other side dish ideas, including savory Brussels sprouts with pancetta that has half the calories of the traditional dish, and pureed sweet potatoes with zero grams of fat. The best part? They taste so good, your guests will never miss the butter.

To watch Rocco demo No Sugar Added Cranberry Sauce tune into this episode of Easy Does It, and watch Rocco on “Restaurant Divided” Thursday nights at 10pm on Food Network.

No Sugar Added Cranberry Sauce

Yield: 4 turkey dinner condiment servings
Prep time: approximately 3 minutes, cook/rest time approximately 5 minutes

1. 1 cup fresh cranberries
2. Juice from 1 orange (2 tablespoons) plus 1/4 teaspoon of zest
3. 1 teaspoon raw agave nectar
4. 5 packets of stevia powder (such as Stevia In The Raw)
5. 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6. 1 teaspoon citrus pectin (such as Pomona)***

1. Add the cranberries to a large zip-close bag, seal and pop the berries by hitting them with a flat meat mallet or the bottom of a small pot. Add the mixture to a microwave-safe bowl with 3/4 cups of water, agave, orange juice and zest, stevia and cinnamon and cook on high until the simmering, about 3 minutes.
2. Remove the bowl and carefully sprinkle in the pectin while whisking to dissolve with no clumps. Cook the mixture until simmering, about 1 and a half minutes.
3. Scrape the cranberry sauce into a stainless steel bowl placed over another bowl filled with ice and cool. Once cool the sauce will be thick and ready to serve.

*** most pectins come with a packet of calcium powder, this recipe does not require it so just use the pectin pouch. If using Sure-Gel, double this amount of pectin

Sweet Potato Puree

Yield: 4 side dishes
Prep Time: about 1 minutes Cook Time: 13 minutes

1. 2 large sweet potatoes
2. Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prick the skin of the sweet potatoes with a fork. Place the potatoes in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high until they are completely tender, about 13 minutes, turning them once halfway during cooking.
2. Split the sweet potatoes in half, scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.
1. You can make the recipe ahead, chill the puree over an ice bath or in the freezer and simply reheat in the microwave as needed.
2. Try adding a little fresh grated nutmeg in the fall!

Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

2 ounces pancetta
2 pints of Brussels sprouts, cleaned, cut in half from top to stem
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pink of crushed red pepper flakes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Place the pancetta in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the pancetta is brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the browned bits of pancetta and reserve. Turn off the heat. Lay the Brussels sprouts cut-side-down in the pan. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the Brussels spouts start to sizzle. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the Brussels sprouts are tender and nicely bowned, about 8 minutes.Add the lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and reserved pancetta bits, then season with salt. Stir to combine.
Divide among 4 serving dishes and top with the pancetta.