Thanksgiving as a self-contained concept is a beautiful thing. We cook, we travel over the river and through the woods. We gather at table, we give thanks and ultimately, we eat too much. That's fine. I love every minute.
The problem is this: Thanksgiving is no longer a glorious eating event unto itself. Instead, it sets the stage for the great American eating season. With that first bite of turkey, we launch into a six-week-long feeding frenzy that includes Christmas cookies, yule logs, cheese balls, eggnog and a whole bunch of booze to ring in the new year.
Far be it for me to suggest counting calories; I enjoy food too much to pull out a calculator while chewing. But perhaps, as holiday menu planning gets underway, we could be a wee bit more mindful in the fat and cholesterol department.
Humor me for a moment, and do a mental scan of your Thanksgiving favorites. Is everything on the menu loaded with meat and/or dairy fat? (Come on, be honest, and don't count the Jell-O mold.)
There are ways to be nice to your heart while maintaining tradition as well as culinary integrity. Maybe that stuffing would be just as delicious without sausage this year? And would the world come to an end if those mashed potatoes were whipped with lower-fat buttermilk instead of the traditional stick of butter and slew of cream?
For dessert, I've got an easy fix (don't worry, it's not a bunch of grapes). Make pumpkin pie -- with tofu. Before you throw this column in the trash, hear me out. Silken tofu, when pureed with canned pumpkin, works seamlessly in pumpkin pie filling. I couldn't believe it myself, but the tofu version is just as creamy and pumpkin-y as the high-fat version. You'll save your party more than 600 grams of cholesterol, too.
But do yourself a favor: DON'T TELL A SOUL. For diehard fat lovers, a tofu pie will be hard to swallow. And what they don't know will help their hearts.
Tofu Pumpkin Pie
1 16-ounce package of silken tofu, drained
1 15-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 9-inch pie shell
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Blend tofu and pumpkin in a food processor until combined and looking orange. Add sugar and vanilla and blend until well-combined. With a rubber spatula, scoop mixture out of food processor bowl and into a medium mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir by hand until they are well-integrated. Pour into 9-inch pie shell. Place pie shell on a baking tray, which goes into the oven.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake for about 45 minutes, until filling is nearly set. You may also notice slight cracks, which is a good indication that filling is set.
Remove from oven and cool about 1 hour. Cover with foil and place in refrigerator until cold, at least one hour. Best served cold.