Countdown to the Throwdown: Planning a Thanksgiving Feast

I so love preparing a feast of epic proportions for my family and friends to enjoy.  I went to get a pad and pen to jot down my plan to keep from spending all day Thanksgiving in the kitchen this year.  Instead, I’m here, sharing my thoughts with you.  There will be four courses and lots of wine, and I want to partake in the festivities while I throw down in the kitchen.  As always, every single dish will be fresh and home made by me, except the pie crusts (total pains in the ass last year), the macaroni pasta, and whole grain cornbread, made from the Hodgsen Mill mix.  This will take some strategic planning.

The Branscomb Thanksgiving 2010 Menu:

1st course

Butternut squash soup

Green salad with grapes, pecans, and gorgonzola

Main course

Herb roasted turkey

Cornbread and crab dressing

Wild mushroom gravy

Roasted garlic red smashed potatoes

Macaroni and cheese

Old fashioned mixed greens

Sautéed green beans with shallots and almonds


Apple pie

Sweet potato pie

The plan:

Sunday – make herbed olive oil

Tuesday – make cranberry sauce and refrigerate.  Mix brine and refrigerate. Make butternut squash soup and refrigerate.

Wednesday – take frozen greens out and refrigerate.  Put together macaroni and cheese and refrigerate.  Put together sweet potato pies and refrigerate, make apple filling and refrigerate.  Bake cornbread. Saute dressing stuff and refrigerate. Soak the turkey in the brine.

Thanksgiving  day- Roast turkey, make mashed potatoes, saute green beans, toss salad, bake dressing, macaroni and cheese, and pies.  Fellow kitchen superheroes, what’s YOUR plan?


Nutritional Density: Let me break it on down (Part 3) Forget it, Just Eat Twinkies

Of course you have heard about the Kansas State University human nutrition Professor Haub, who lost 27 pounds eating Twinkies, donuts, candy bars, and other jank.  It was an experiment to test his theory:  “In weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food.” So, that’s all folks, let’s just all stuff ourselves with ultra-processed snack cakes and live happily and skinnily ever after, Yay!


I absolutely hate these types of stories because in a society where the average viewer had the attention span of a flatworm, inevitably people will take this and run with it the wrong way.  So put the donuts down, I’m gonna break this on down for you right now.  Please share it with any over-zealous cake eaters in your life.


Every person is not fat for the same reasons.  Professor Haub expressed that pre-Twinkie diet, despite eating whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and occasional treats he wasn’t what he considers healthy, simply because he ate too much.  Too many calories, portion sizes too large.  So he was fat because he just ate too much.  On his Twinkie experiment he limited his caloric intake to less than 1800, instead of his normal intake of 2600 calories per day and lost weight.  However, not everyone is fat simply because of portion size/high caloric intake.  In many cases the culprit is an imbalance of the types of nutrients: fats, protein, and carbohydrates, which is directly related to nutritional density.  Take Judy (not her real name) for example.  Judy is from Georgia and grew up on some good old fashioned soul food, and you know what I’m talking about.  Fried chicken, greens with hamhocks, fried pork chops, and macaroni and cheese that would make you smack your mama.  Guess why she was fat.  She consumed way too much fat.  She did cut calories and portion sizes and would lose a handful of pounds and would very quickly plateau.  She wasn’t fat because she ate too much, she was fat because she ate too much fat.  Don’t get me wrong, she did have to reduce her overall caloric intake to achieve and maintain her healthy weight.  But the process went easier, faster, and lasted longer when she added more high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at the same time as her moderate overall calorie reduction.

On his nutrient deprived junk food diet the professor must have been starving, both literally and figuratively, and here is why.  Nutrient dense foods may have fewer calories but the comparatively higher water and fiber content makes these foods much more filling and satisfying.  For example, many years ago I used to eat Jiffy cornbread.  Jiffy is made with refined flour, is high in sugar and low in fiber.  [ 1/4 cup (1/6 package), 170, 4.5g, 27g, 2g Fiber: 1g]  I could eat the entire thing by myself, yes it is delicious!  But I switched to Hodgson Mill cornbread, which is slightly less sweet, tastes better, and is made with mostly whole grain, with [Serving size 1/4 cup (1/6 package), Calories: 130, fat: 1g, Carbs 27g, Protein: 4g, Fiber: 3g].  But the biggest difference is that I can’t eat another bite more than one or two slices of the Hodgsen Mill cornbread which adds up to about 130-260 calories, much less than the whole pan of Jiffy cornbread at whopping 1020 calories!

According to the highly respected Discovery Health expert, Dr. Mehmet Oz,

Since more than 40% of the calories in the American diet are derived from sugar or refined grains, both of which are nutrient depleted, Americans are severely malnourished.  Refined sugars cause us to be malnourished in direct proportion to how much we consume them.  They are partially to blame for high cancer and heart attack rates we see in America.

Nutritional density is extremely important to not only weight loss, but to overall wellness and disease prevention.  We didn’t even go into the disease discussion.

Families who live in food deserts, usually in very impoverished urban or rural communities, have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so they often rely on the kind of food Haub was eating. I also took offense to Professor Haub’s statement,

These foods are consumed by lots of people,” he said. “It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal. I just think it’s unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits. It may be healthy, but not realistic.

While I do agree that it is unrealistic (and unnecessary) to expect people to eliminate junk food entirely from their diets, I can not throw my hands up and say to hell with the fact that some communities basically get all of their food from convienience stores, and are suffering from obesety and various serious ailments as a result.  We will cover this important issue in a later post.

No Fake Ass Food and (New Rule) No Real Food Faking as Other Food

I saw this “healthy mac and cheese recipe” and my foodilicious panties got all in a bunch!  I am all for taking a classic dish and making it a little healthier.  Like greens, nowadays I use smoked turkey neck to season them if I’m using meat at all, instead of the traditional pork.  Or using whole grain pastry flour to make my pizza crust.

I saw this on the site of a totally cool healthy foodie but she lost major points on this one.  Here’s what’s in the fake ass healthy “mac and cheese”:

Looks delish huh?

spaghetti squash
nutritional yeast
Arrowroot starch (just for thickening)
lemon, juiced
dry mustard
sesame seeds or tahini
miso paste
sea salt

WTH!!!!  Does your macaroni and cheese normally taste nutty?  Lemony?  There’s no cheese nor anything remotely cheese-like!  I wanted this to be a good dish when I saw the spaghetti squash.  It has the shape of pasta but not the texture.  If you’re okay with that then mo’ power to you.  But one of the major attractions to mac and cheese is its TEXTURE!  It’s just not acceptable.  I’m being closed minded.  I’m not gonna even try that crap.  I may have been a little more understanding if this were not even offered as a mac and cheese alternative, but as spicy, lemony, nutty squash crap.  I’d try it then.

I have a better alternative to mac and cheese that won’t piss you off, cheesy quinoa.  Although quinoa is technically a seed it has a starchy mouthfeel.  And when you add some real cheese–badow!  you’ve got something your family won’t stage a violent mutiny over.  And oh, so simple:

Prepare quinoa as the instructions say.

Add a little milk or soy milk, stir in some mild cheddar cheese, and salt to taste.

Trust me!  I wouldn’t try to pull the wool over your foodie eyes.

It’s fine to substitute or make things similar to others but the nutty-lemony spaghetti squash trying to pass as macaroni and cheese is simply perpetrating a serious fraud.  Remember, everything tasty won’t kill you.

Nutritional Density: Let me break it on down (Part 2) Whole Grains

Whole Grains

What is a whole grain?  A whole grain is a starch with the entire kernel left intact.  A refined grain is the starch that has the hull or coarse outer bran removed.  The problem is, the bran contains most of the fiber and nutrients, so when it is removed you are left with the endosperm, which is just a starch, a starch that is very rapidly converted to pure sugar, even before it reaches the stomach or bloodstream.  In high school we did an experiment where we took ordinary processed white wheat saltine crackers and chewed them up.  We spit the chewed cracker into a test tube to measure the sugar level.  The change was significant.  Processed starch turns to sugar before it is swallowed.

So, food manufacturers can be pretty tricky when trying to get us to buy their products and will say anything to confuse about the whole grain issue.  Here is a quick guide to what exactly you get when buying grain products at the market:

  • Made with whole grain – probably processed grain (endosperm) and perhaps a touch of bran added.  Usually unclear about how much of the grain used was whole.
  • Multigrain – has nothing to do with the wholeness or unwholeness of the grain used.  Multigrain means that more than one type of grain was used, such as wheat and oats.
  • 100% whole grain – this is the best one.  Indicates that the entire kernel was used–bran, endosperm, and germ.
  • Wheat bread – means nothing.  Most bread is made from wheat, but if there is no indication of what percentage of that wheat is whole, assume that is not.

Generally, though not always, when looking for whole grain products they are more brown in color and less white.  The higher levels of fiber in the food slows down its conversion to sugar, causing a slower spike in blood sugar in addition to the higher nutrient level.  Examples of whole grain products are brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread, whole grain rye bread, 100% whole wheat pasta, 100% whole wheat couscous, and oat bran.

Nutritional Density: Let me break it on down (Part 1)

In a previous post, I declared that I am going to lose 10 pounds of fat in 30 days by eating nutritionally dense foods and fun activities.  I told a very good friend about it and by her response, I discovered that she does not quite get the concept of eating for nutritional density, rather than being on a diet.  This made me wonder if there are lots more of you out there who are having trouble with this brilliant idea of eating nutrient dense food.  I’m going to fill you in on what it is, how to do it, and the super-fabulous effects.  I’ll do this in 3, 4, oh maybe 10 bite-sized entries.

So, what does nutritionally dense mean?  It is similar to nutritious, except that it does not stop at simply the amount of essential vitamins, minerals, and other complicated nutritional components.  Nutritional density takes into consideration the number of calories in the food in relation to the nutritional value.  Ideally, we would choose to eat an item that has a lower calorie count and full of vitamins and minerals over a higher calorie item with fewer vitamins and minerals.

There is a handy list of common foods that are nutritionally dense here.

There are unlimited numbers of creative ways to incorporate these foods into your diet.  Most people who are not health nuts or foodies prefer to slowly introduce these foods.  I found it particularly pleasing to incorporate sensuality into these food adventures.

Generally, berries are nutrient dense.  If you wind up with a batch of not super sweet berries, warm a little honey in a small glass bowl and dip them.  Ok, the bowl needn’t be glass, that’s just one of my crazified foodie obsessions (I promise to tell you about that later)  I know the sweet honey will ramp up the calories but remember, we’re easing into this.  Generally these foods are whole (close to thier natural state–minimally or  not processed), beautifully colorful, and inexpensive. More guidelines to come.

10 Pounds, 30 days, and No Boring or Nasty Crap

I decided on September 5 that I want to lose 10 pounds of fat, not water or muscle in 30 days.   I lost weight and felt great in June of this year but much of that belly pooch has crept back again (which also lets me know that a lot of the original weight loss was water because the body can not put on that much fat so quickly).  I allowed the super hot weather influence me to stay inside in the air conditioning and drink my friend Reba’s home made rum punch and eat jank just a few times too many.

Fake Wax Food by


Now I want it all back, the fabulous feeling, the super high energy and the cute outfits.  So here’s my fool-proof plan.  I am not going on a diet.  I never do because they suck.  Right now I am focused on eating nutrient dense food (if anybody is interested I can provide more complete details on this, just let me know).  I’m not having any nasty fake processed food.    Only fresh, colorful, delicious, whole, gastronomic delights.  I have recipes.

Autumn is the absolute best time for this because of the bountiful harvest at the farmer’s markets.  There is such a variety of fresh, whole, delicious things to eat.   Honeycrisp apples will be available soon!  These are the most delicious apples I have ever had in my life.  I can’t get enough of them and my daughter will scarf down 2-3 of them in a day.  I get mad when she eats the last one and leaves me none.

Play is exercise.  I’m not buying a gym membership or an expensive  boring machine.  I am going to play. I have a big heavy hula hoop, a jump rope, Francie’s yoga class, my bellydance class, Wii Fit, Dance Dance Revolution, some good (crazy fast) soca music, and a bike.  That’s it: fun and play.

Anybody care to join me on the 10-pound 30-day adventure?

Man on Rat Wheel


This is not an ad for the yoga or bellydance classes although you are invited to join.  But you could also just dig in your own closet and find some toys to play with or even better, throw a huge fun soca dance party every weekend and invite me!  We can share ideas and experiences to help make this a non-painful, non-boring experience.

I must warn you though, there is actually more to this plan.  Balance is key.  For example, I know I want to go out with friends this weekend for wine and tapas.  I hate going out with (or being) one of those “I’m on a diet so I’m gonna have the salad and water at this great restaurant”-type people so I must offset this moderate indulgence with something–more activities, or decreased caloric intake.  There is a science to this.  Not rocket science, but a little bit of brain work is required.

Ok?  Let’s go!

Raw Vegan Thursdays and Chocolate Cake Fridays

I decided to take on a new challenge, and inevitably drag my friends, family, and coworkers into it. Raw vegan Thursdays. It may get me over the last 5 lbs to lose plateau as well as train my palate to enjoy more healthy, natural fruits and vegetables.

Meemo's Kitchen blogOn raw vegan Thursdays we will eat only raw foods, and no dairy, meat, or other animal products. Now, unlike some raw vegan extremists, I will not be purchasing any expensive kitchen gadgets, growing sprouts in my kitchen, or using enzymes to make the food into something it is not. I’m not eating any raw vegan fake meat or bread, because since I am an omnivore, I can eat real meat and bread when I feel like it. Anything that was not intended by nature to be eaten raw will not be eaten by me on raw vegan Thursdays.

It will be challenging, a little fun, and unconventional but I am sure there will be benefits. Want to try it? We start this Thursday.

One coworker suggested that we chase raw vegan Thursdays with chocolate cake Fridays. Sounds like a plan!

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