Thanksgiving 2021: healthy meal planning

It’s almost midnight on Sunday night as I write this out. It’s been a full day of cooking, cleaning and eating. And I couldn’t be happier – even though I totally broke my daily calorie limit by a lot. But you know what? Thanksgiving only comes once a year. And Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for what you have and sharing it with those you care about.

By the end of the week, I had decided to opt out of our family dinner. I was not in the mood nor the headspace to be in a room full of people, even if those people were my family. It’s not even just being around people for me. It’s a combination of everything. I guess maybe over stimulation? It could be tied to the hypermobility. I have to look into it more. But I find that when I’m in a room full of people, I become extremely tired that much faster. And so, I decided to keep things simple this year. I bowed out of family dinner and chose to have a small dinner with my best friend.

And it was delightful.

I don’t know why we hadn’t done this sooner. Sure, we’ve gone out to eat before and we’ve shared meals at home. But not for special occasions. So to honour the occasion, I decided to go all out and cook a full feast. And even after she took a container of food home, there is enough leftovers to last me a few days.

And the ham. Oh man. I mean this ham, might be the best thing I have ever made. I was a little apprehensive about cooking a ham. I’ve eaten plenty of ham in my life, I prefer it over turkey. But I’ve never actually cooked a full ham with a glaze. Throughout the week, I turned to YouTube for inspiration.

My sister and I joked yesterday that turkey was too much work. It’s why she started bringing ham to family dinners. She said, “let’s just leave up to mum and S.” My mum made the BEST turkey dinners. For leftovers, she would make chicken tarts that were delicious.

At last minute I turned to my sister D for help. She gave me her recipe and explained what she did in a way that it all clicked in and I knew what to do. Sometimes you just need a good teacher to explain it the right way. She said she used crushed pineapples with her sauce and that’s what made it so good.

I even put a table cloth on the table. I’m kicking myself for not putting my fall decorations in the middle for the pictures. Oh well.

Can you tell I love blue? These are all dishes from my mum’s kitchen. They’ve heled up well over the years.

Honey glazed ham

I used a combination of recipes I came across online and my sister’s suggestions. I had purchased a 1 litre jug of pineapple juice just for the ham. But I cracked open the lid and as I was about to pour out the juice, I realized that the lid was not sealed. I gave the juice a taste and it seemed off, so I wound dumping the whole jug down the drain. In this day and age, you just don’t want to chance these things. So, I had to improvise.

For the ham, I purchased a 1.5kg precooked ham. The advice I found online suggested cooking a ham 20 minutes for every pound. For this ham, that worked out to about an hour. I started the process at 4:45 and it was done by 6:00 pm.

I popped the ham in the oven to heat it up for 25 minutes. Then it came out for the first glaze. The glaze was made up of brown sugar, honey, butter, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and some apple cider vinegar. It was delicious. Every 20 minutes, I took the ham out and added a layer of sauce. By the final coat, the sauce had thickened up so much and it was a delicious gooey mess. I’ll definitely make this again. I’m afraid to broil in my oven. Some people do this as a last step to really harden the glaze. I’ve also seen some people use torches but that scares me.

I wanted to use some of the sauce for a gravy and what I did was added about 1/2 cup of water to the bottom of the roasting pan. This made clean up a lot easier too. All the juices from the ham and the glaze dripped into the water. If you want to make a thick gravy, transfer the juice to a frying pan and add some cornstarch or flour to it. Bring it to slow boil. Voila. You have gravy.

I think adding water to the pan really was the key here. Some people add pineapple juice instead. That was the plan, but I blame Walmart for selling me a faulty product. The ham cut open so easily and it was one of the juiciest hams I’ve ever had.


Unfortunately, my vegetable casserole didn’t turn out so well. I think I put in too much water in the soup mix. Or I cooked it too much. There was a lot of flavour but the texture was just not one of my best. Maybe it was because I precooked the onions and mushrooms earlier in the afternoon. I’m really not sure what went wrong. Noted for next time.

But this casserole was loaded with vegetables. Simply mix all the vegetables together in a casserole dish. Bake at 350F for about 40-45 minutes.

  • 2 cups of broccoli
  • 2 cups of cauliflower
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms sliced
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 can of cream of celery soup
  • 1/2 can of water or cream
  • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs for the topping

I also boiled about 2 cups of baby carrots. That’s easy to do. Boil some water, add salt, add in the carrots. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Easy! I need to do this more too.

Side dishes

I kept things simple for side dishes. A can of cranberry sauce. A pack of dry stuffing mix. Gravy from the ham. There are some things where it just makes sense to take shortcuts. And boxed stuffing isn’t all that bad.

For drinks, we had this delicious fruity sparkling drink and some coolers later on in the evening. And more importantly, for dessert, we had pumpkin pie. My friend made the whipping cream and it was perfect.

I don’t have a picture of the pie. But trust me when I say it was good.

All in all, dinner was a great success even if the casserole wasn’t perfect. I’m just grateful it was edible. And while there is a twinge of guilt for not going to the family dinner – I did try to explain to them that I just wasn’t up to being around a lot of people right now.

For me, it’s just easier getting together in smaller groups. Or at my house where I can relax and feel comfortable.

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