Browsing Thanksgiving

Kitchen Think: Have (a bit of) A Guilt-Free Thanksgiving


At this time every year, I promise myself I’m not going to do it… and then, of course, I do it anyway.

That little statement could go in so many directions… but in this instance, I’m talking about over-indulging at Thanksgiving.

Did you know that the average Thanksgiving plate, piled high with deliciousness, could come in at more than 3,000 calories? And that’s not even taking into account the snacking before the main event. Yikes!

If you’ve ever tried to be more conscious of what you’re eating, you know you should pile on the veggies, use a smaller plate, and skip the gravy… blah blah blah blah. We all know this isn’t going to happen.

So… what’s the answer?

Have a little of everything you’ve been waiting all year to eat. Don’t deprive yourself… but don’t pig out. Be conscious of your portions and of what you’re eating.

Yep, I’m talking about moderation. (Such a good word… but so hard to put into practice).

Here are a few suggestions to help you along the way:

• How much stuffing/sweet potatoes/mashed potatoes do you usually put on your plate? When you’re standing there getting ready to scoop it on, cut the amount in half AND THEN serve yourself. Just try it.

• Look at the palm of your hand and put that amount of turkey on your plate… that’s anywhere from 5 to 6 ounces. Try to eat the lean, white meat. Don’t eat the skin. (I know that’s a tough one.)

• Drizzle on about 2 Tablespoons of gravy. Yes, you can have gravy, but remember this is one of the most fat/sodium/calorie packed items on the menu. Remember the key word is drizzle, not ladle.

• Have some pie, especially if it is a pumpkin pie, but make it a small piece. That way you won’t feel bad when you sneak back into the kitchen for another piece! (But, make that one small, too!)

If you are doing the cooking, have some celery and hummus (or cut up apples) nearby, so you can munch on that while you work. If you’re going to someone’s house, don’t starve yourself beforehand… eat breakfast and lunch. In other words, have something to eat or you’ll over-eat when you get there.

When it comes to eating at Thanksgiving, don’t worry about making big promises to yourself…or anyone else. That’s a recipe for failure…

It’s all about moderation. Keep that in mind and you CAN do it!


Extra Helpings: Making Thanksgiving A Tribute Not A Trial


Have you started freaking out yet?

Yup, Thanksgiving is exactly two weeks away and if you haven’t started planning on what (or how) you’re going to feed the crowd, don’t worry… too much. Mama’s here to help you make it through unscathed… and I’ve brought in reinforcements.

Tribute's Chef Jared Case

Chef Jared Case of Chicago’s acclaimed Tribute Restaurant is used to cooking delicious comfort food for hundreds of people every night, so he could probably whip up a Thanksgiving dinner for 25 with his eyes shut… and one hand tied behind his back (he needs the other one for chopping!).

But he’s such a great guy (great chef, great guy… what a combo) he’s offering up some basic tips every cook should know before launching into holiday meal-mode.

Besides friends and family, food is the star of the holiday, so Chef Jared says make sure you have enough of it for everyone to enjoy that day… and a little more for the day after, too. Also, consider who’ll be at your table. Teenagers? Increase the amount of protein (a lot). Vegetarians? Up the vegetables. You get the picture.

• Turkey – A 30 lb. turkey will be enough for 25 guests if everyone gets an average 6 to 8 oz. portion. If your crowd has big eaters, you might consider making a smaller turkey the day before, slicing it and putting it in the fridge. On Thanksgiving Day while the Mega-Turkey is being sliced, your guests can start filling their plates with the re-heated “early bird.”

• Starches (like potatoes and stuffing)—You’re going to need a lot of them… like almost 20 to 30 cups of each if everyone takes a 6 oz. to 8 oz. portion (that’s about a cup per person). But does anyone really measure out what they’re heaping on their plate? No. They just take a huge spoonful. And another. So again, consider who you’re feeding and scale up or down.

• Veggies—Chef Jared says about half a cup (4 oz.) per person, so about 7 lbs. of your favorite fresh vegetable. Double that if you want to serve more than one.

• Gravy— Besides the turkey, this is the one thing you don’t want to run out of. Some guests like it on everything… turkey… vegetables… pumpkin pie. If a portion size is half a cup, you’re going to want to make at least a gallon of gravy for 25 people. I’d make more (you can always freeze it).

And Chef Jared offers up one more bit of advice: Do what you know and don’t try something you’ve never done before. Make your new dish for the family first and see what you like… and don’t like… and make it again.

“Food is undeniable,” says Chef Jared. “Either it tastes good or it doesn’t… just hope your family tells you the truth!”

I’ll have more tips, recipes and words of advice from Chef Jared throughout the holiday season. If you’re in Chicago, check out Tribute Restaurant, on Michigan Avenue. Order “The Big Nasty.”

Trust me on this one.

Tribute Restaurant
800 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois



I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: