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Our Thanksgiving Table: Roast Turkey … the holiday centerpiece

We’re getting closer to the big day and as we do, our thoughts turn repeatedly to the centerpiece of our table — the roast turkey!

There really isn’t much that compares to the aroma of a golden brown turkey roasting away in the oven on Thanksgiving morning. And then there are the leftovers! The possibilities are endless … turkey sandwiches with gravy, turkey pot pies, turkey and stuffing casseroles are just a few of our favorites.

Gather round our table where the turkey is the Thanksgiving day main event. But sadly, the centerpiece of our meal can inflict a heavy dose of fat and calories on the holiday dinner. The typical roast turkey prepared in the traditional manner supplies about 400 calories per serving with 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat and 994 mg of sodium.

Did the pilgrims actually include a turkey in their original Thanksgiving feast? The jury’s out on this one. It appears that in Massachusetts in 1621 there were plenty of wild turkeys keeping the colonists company. So it would certainly seem natural that a bird would be part of that original dinner thanking God for the harvest and for the colonists’ survival in the new world (which was not an easy feat). The pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving for three days – so we’d have to assume that more than one wild turkey was included. That was quite a feast!

While we love the roast turkey, we also love the rest of the meal and want to enjoy it in its entirety without worrying about compromising our healthy lifestyle in order to do so. That can become difficult when most of the side dishes we love so much are very high in calories and fat, as well as sodium. So what can we do about keeping our turkey at reasonable fat and calorie levels, without sacrificing any of that marvelous flavor? We’d also like to make sure that we keep our favorite, old-fashioned aromas wafting through our homes in the morning hours of Thanksgiving day.

This healthier recipe will ensure both the flavor and fragrance of a winning roast turkey. The apples and onions help to keep the bird from drying out, so that you’ll achieve that moist texture that’s so important.

Here’s what you’ll need:

• 1 10- to 12-pound turkey
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus a few sprigs
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus a few sprigs
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 1/2 pounds small onions, peeled and halved lengthwise, divided
• 1 tart green apple, quartered
• 3 cups water, plus more as needed

Directions
• Position rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 475°F.
• Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity.
• Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan; pat dry with paper towels.
• Combine oil, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture all over the turkey, under the skin and onto the breast meat. Place herb sprigs, half of the onions and apple in the cavity. Add 3 cups water to the pan.
• Roast the turkey until the skin is golden brown, 45 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven. Cover the breast with foil, cutting as necessary to fit. Add remaining onions to the pan around the turkey. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting a thermometer registers 165°F, 1 to 1 3/4 hours more. If the pan dries out, add more water.
• Transfer the turkey to a serving platter (reserve pan juices and onions for gravy) and tent with foil.

This will make for a great turkey day experience for everyone. Flavorful and moist for less than half the calories and fat of a traditional recipe. The apples really add to the flavor and aroma of the bird. We love adding this healthy option to the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table and can’t wait to sit down to this year’s better-for-us feast!

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