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AARP Rewards Healthy Twist to Turkey Day Dish Contest 2021

Community Manager
Community Manager

AARP Rewards Healthy Twist to Turkey Day Dish Contest 2021

Hello and welcome to the AARP Rewards Healthy Twist to Turkey Day Dish Contest 2021.  To enter, reply to this post with a recipe that gives a healthy twist to the Thanksgiving dinner!  Share your favorite dishes served at Thanksgiving including how to make it a little healthier.  Our contest will be open for participation on Monday, November 15, 2021 through Sunday, November 28, 2021.


Sharing your recipe enters you in for a chance to win one of five $50 gift cards along with 50 AARP Rewards Points just for posting!  A panel of judges appointed by AARP will select the top recipes.


Trusted Contributor

Hi Teri, please let us know if you are able to disclose winning recipes for this contest.

 Thank you 

Community Manager
Community Manager

Our winners have been chosen!  Congrats to @a170938b@lj9807492 @nanjmanley@Vexed and @Kruppy !!

Community Manager
Community Manager

Yes, we will do so after voting completed and winners are notified, anticipated sometime next week.

Trusted Contributor

@AARPTeri, can you provide an update for us?

 Thank you 

@AARPJanelleM    Hello Janelle, hoping maybe you are able to update status of this contest?  Thank you in advance for a reply.


0 Kudos
Trusted Contributor

Hi Teri, thank you 

Trusted Contributor

Hi Teri, I noticed that for the new contest on tips for games you have detailed when and how winners are notified, however I do not find that information for this contest.  I would like to know which recipes were chosen if you can share that information with us.  Thank you

Bronze Conversationalist

Green beans salad!

Green beans are a Thanksgiving tradition on many tables. However they often appear as a green bean casserole, sometimes soggy, always full of unhealthy fats and loaded with salt. (See AARP video “Are you favorite holiday foods healthy?”)

This past Thanksgiving, a colorful,crunchy, healthy and festive salad graced my table to the joy of my guests. Many asked for the recipe and I will share it with you as well.

  • 2 lbs. of green beans, trimmed
  • ¼ lb. of baby carrots, slivered
  • A handful of walnuts
  • A handful of dried cranberries
  • 2 avocados (sliced just before serving)
  • Lemon vinaigrette (juice from ½ lemon, Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil,1 garlic clove, grated, ½ teaspoon of honey, a pinch of salt, )


Boil the green beans until tender but still firm.

Meanwhile prepare the lemon vinaigrette by mixing Dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic, honey, lemon juice and salt.

Place the green beans, the baby carrots, the walnuts and the cranberries in a large bowl.

At dinner time, add the vinaigrette and the sliced avocados to the bowl of green beans; toss, serve and enjoy!

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Regular Contributor

Maple Sweet Potato Casserole

6 medium sweet potatoes

2 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 c butter

1/2 c maple syrup (suggest using the real thing, not sugar-free)

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Boil potatoes 20 minutes or until tender. Cool, peel and cut into 1/2” thick slices and place in single layer in greased 9” x 13” pan. Toss sliced apples with the lemon juice. Place single layer of apples over potatoes. Alternate layers until all is used(Ideally 3 layers potatoes and 2 layers apples; be sure you reserve enough potatoes to completely cover the top layer; it’s ok to skimp on the bottom 2 layers). Melt butter and stir in nutmeg and syrup. Pour over layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.


0 Kudos

Broccoli/Stuffing Casserole


1 10 oz frozen broccoli florets, chopped, partially thawed

1 small (8 oz) can cream-style corn (low sodium if you can find it)

1 slightly beaten egg

1T grated onion (either fresh or onion flakes)

1/4 t salt (I use lite salt or salt substitute here)

dash pepper

3T butter or margarine, melted

1 c herb-seasoned stuffing mix (I like the crumbled kind better than the cubed)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Mix egg, broccoli, corn, onion, salt and pepper together in large mixing bowl.


Melt butter or margarine (microwave or stovetop); add stuffing mix, tossing to coat.  


Stir 3/4 c of the buttered stuffing mix to the broccoli/corn mixture.

Turn into ungreased 1-quart casserole.  Sprinkle with remaining stuffing mix.


Bake uncovered for 35-40 minute in a 350 preheated oven.


Serves 4 to 6.

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Trusted Contributor

Make Ahead Healthier Holiday Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes


9 large Idaho potatoes (about 5 lbs.)

1 8 oz. package light cream cheese (softened)

1 cup light dairy sour cream

2 tsp. onion salt

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. pepper (I use white pepper, but black pepper is perfectly fine)

2 Tbsp. Margarine

Cook peeled potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain, mash until smooth (If you need to, add 1/4 cup of the sour cream to help mash). Add the cream cheese, sour cream, onion salt, salt, and pepper. Beat until light and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To use, place in greased casserole dish, dot with the 2 Tbsp. margarine, and bake at 350° until heated through, about 30 minutes. (Optional, can sprinkle with paprika before baking) Serves approx. 12, Calories: 197, Carbs: 29g., Fiber 3.4g., Sugar 1.5g., Fat 9g. 

(Sorry, should've taken the picture right after it came out of the over. This is what's left!)


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Periodic Contributor

Roasted Honeynut Squash



2 medium honeynut squash, halved lengthwise & seeded

4 teaspoons butter

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon



Step 1

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.


Step 2

Arrange squash halves cut-side up on a baking sheet. Place 1 teaspoon butter in each cavity. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cinnamon. Roast until tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Periodic Contributor

I have been making this healthy and different cranberry chutney for years. Everyone loves how it adds variety to our Thanksgiving meals. It's easy


Cranberry Chutney


4 tangerines (or 3 oranges) – cut them up without peel

½ C orange marmalade

½ C cider vinegar

½ C water

¾ C sugar (or a bit less)

½ tsp ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

1 T curry powder

½ tsp cloves

1 diced apple

2 C fresh cranberries

½ C. raisins


Combine all and bring to boil, then simmer for 30 mins.  Cool.

and delicious.






Social Butterfly

Hold off from that fourth helping of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy.

Regular Contributor

I've found that when mashing my potatoes I can use the "potato water" instead of milk or half and half as I used to do. I still add butter, but it really doesn't take a lot. Use a "no salt" spice to cut down on sodium. When I make my gravy I do use the turkey fat, & some of the broth, as well as chicken broth, but always use corn starch as the thickener. Not only is it (my opinion) healthier, but I believe it is gluten free. I could be wrong, but I love the lighter gravy. I don't think it's a real twist, but certainly saves calories over the usual mashed potatoes and gravy, and helps those with dietary needs.

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Social Butterfly

@AARPTerithis is my take on a twist.


Cornish Game Hen
This is for smaller gatherings or those that want something different.  Choose to fix a Cornish Game Hen instead of turkey (or large chicken). Since they are smaller and younger than chickens, they have less fat. They cook fast, you can plan better for how much to feed and you won't have a ton of leftover waste (won't be tempted to overeat). Two can split one or have one each and so on accordingly to how many to feed. This isn't an exact recipe because I don't know how to cook that way.  ‌‌
Most of the time, by not eating the skin (I love the skin) is what makes any bird a bit healthier. And this recipe uses olive oil instead of butter for the baste.

Frozen Cornish Game Hen(s) - How many is according to your needs.
 - Thaw safely in a bowl of water overnight  in the refrigerator ( water covering how many you use) with a tablespoon and a half salt in the water (per bird). Leave in fridge until ready to prepare.
- When ready to cook, remove from fridge. Rinse and pat dry.
- Not all cornish game hens come with the giblets inside. You will have to open the cavity and remove them if they are there when thawed. You can use them in your other meal items if you wish.
-  Prepare a roast pan or large enough pan for all bird(s) , and a rack and a little water under the rack.
-  Have aluminum foil ready to tent.
- Have a meat thermometer ready to test the bird(s).
- The cook time is short, so you can plan this out and concentrate your efforts on the other elements of the meal.
Preheat oven to 425°. Then turn it down to 400° when putting it/them in the oven.

Rub (exact amount per your taste and how many birds are used)
   Lemon Pepper
   Whatever other spices you prefer
    Mix the spices in a bowl to make it easier to apply.
   Olive Oil to drizzle and rub over hens
Drizzle and rub olive oil around the bird. Sprinkle spices all over.

Stuffing   (not traditional )
1/4 onion wedge per bird ( or whatever size will fit )
1 pat of butter per bird (or a little olive oil )
Put the small piece of onion and pat of butter or olive oil inside the bird.


Put bird(s) in pan on a rack ( breast side up ). Put in a little water just under the rack. Tent the bird(s). Put in oven. ( Remember to turn down to 400° ).
Cook for 45 minutes and remove tent (check temp for 180°). If not there, cook about 15 more minutes and check with meat thermometer for 180°. Cook longer if still not up to temp. For crispier skin, place under broiler watching until it is good for you.
Remove bird(s) and let sit with tent over it/them for a few minutes or until you are ready to serve. Cut in half to serve or serve whole.

I don't use the drippings because I use fat free and low sodium broth for the other things I would use drippings for and I needed to use them earlier due to the short cooking time as opposed to a turkey. This is the first time I ever wrote it down. Forgive the jumble.

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Periodic Contributor

A holiday meal staple in my family is creamed spinach.  While the spinach is good nutritionally, the bechamel sauce is not.  Not only is this healthier, but it is easier to prepare and can be made ahead and warmed up.


I take 2 boxes of Green Giant creamed spinach and one 10oz. boxed chopped spinach (or up to a 16 oz. bag of frozen spinach).  Cook as directed until just warm.  Take the plain spinach and press the water out using a mesh strainer and spoon.  Empty the Green Giant creamed spinach into a microwave safe bowl, add the drained spinach, sprinkle in nutmeg to taste (about 1/4-1/2 t.).  Mix well making sure to incorporate the plain spinach well.  Microwave until hot when ready to eat.


Has a fraction of the fat traditional creamed spinach has, but good flavor.


2- 10 oz. boxes Green Giant creamed spinach

1- 10 oz. box plain chopped frozen spinach (or 16 oz. bag if you like a less saucy creamed spinach)

Nutmeg (ground) to taste

0 Kudos

Carrot Salad


2 packs of orange or lemon jello

1 can crushed pineapple with juice

3 carrots shredded 

1cup boiling water

1 cup cold water


Disolve jello in hot water

 Add cold water, pineapple, and carrots.

Refrigerate until set and enjoy.

Info Seeker

I tried a couple months ago and it’s a MUST this Thanksgiving.

1 head of Cauliflower 

1to 2 heads of broccoli ( same amount of cauliflower and broccoli)

1 cup of frozen green peas

8 oz of sour cream

1 small package of Real bacon bits or pieces

1 cup of mayonnaise 

1/2 cup sugar

1 package of Ranch Dip seasoning

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 large package of grated cheddar cheese ( it’s better if you grate your own cheese)

wash broccoli and cauliflower and cut it up in small chunks.

put in mixing bowl add the peas and cheese.

min separate bowl add Mayo, sour cream, sugar, salt, dip mix, bacon bits. Mix well add to broccoli and cauliflower and peas and cheese.

Mix well and put in bowl or container with lid overnight .  Serve cold!   Enjoy

Info Seeker

I forgot add about 3 green onions to the above recipe.

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Regular Contributor

Just tried this about a week ago:


  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic, smashed

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat cream cheese

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat; cook and stir garlic until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. Transfer half the cauliflower to a food processor; cover and blend on high. Add remaining cauliflower florets, one at a time, until vegetables are creamy. Blend in garlic, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, salt, and black pepper.



Simple dish I enjoy sharing with Turkey Day dinner:

equal amounts of carrots, turnips and rutabagas pealed (or scraped as I do carrots), cut up and boiled until cooked enough to mash together. Add butter and seasonings as desired and that's it!


Believe it or not I'm beginning to like this "substitution" better than my original mashed potatoes...microwave one head of cauliflower 20 to 25 minutes on high - then pulse in a food processor with salt, pepper, laughing cow cheese wedge, and some low fat cream cheese to your desired consistency. It will keep in the fridge several days and just heat in the microwave to serve.  It's GREAT!


Since childhood my favorite Thanksgiving dish was fruit salad. Now I switch the canned "Fruit Cocktail" that Mom used to healthier frozen mango, blueberries, cherries, preferably organic. I add chopped semi firm pears (you may use apples), chopped orange, chopped pineapple (frozen substitute well), and, at last minute, sliced bananas coated in lemon juice to keep from browning. Ideas to offer on the side: coconut flakes, chopped walnuts, whipped cream or coconut cream, cinnamon. Enjoy!  

@AARPTeri wrote:

Hello and welcome to the AARP Rewards Healthy Twist to Turkey Day Dish Contest 2021.  To enter, reply to this post with a recipe that gives a healthy twist to the Thanksgiving dinner!  Share your favorite dishes served at Thanksgiving including how to make it a little healthier.  Our contest will be open for participation on Monday, November 15, 2021 through Sunday, November 28, 2021.


Sharing your recipe enters you in for a chance to win one of five $50 gift cards along with 50 AARP Rewards Points just for posting!  A panel of judges appointed by AARP will select the top recipes.

Periodic Contributor

Being Italian, there is always a pasta dish in the holiday Turkey-thon. This in my Mom's recipe.

  Tina Farina's Linguini with Broccoli 

    5 TBLs EVOO

     3 TBL butter

     1-2 TBL minced garlic

      2 cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)

       1 1/2 cups Chicken (or vegetable) broth

       1 8oz can Tomato Sauce

        1/4 cup chopped onion

         1 lb Linguini

          oregano, basil, parsley, salt, pepper to taste


         -cook Linguini per instructions

         -melt butter in EVOO

         -add garlic and onion (do not burn garlic)

         -add broccoli and seasonings

         -cook over medium heat to reduce sauce

         -add 4 TBLs pasta water to sauce (to thicken)

         -drain Linguini and put into big bowl

         -add broccoli sauce and toss

         -serve with garlic bread and Parmesan cheese


            ENJOY !!!




Periodic Contributor

This recipe is taken from the Half Baked Harvest Blog by Tieghan Gerard.  It is easy, healthy, absolutely amazing and can largely made ahead of time.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Bacon Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette.

Periodic Contributor

You need to peel off two oranges, two bananas, one pineapple and two apples in a bowl. Get an instant lemon pudding from the market and prepare it according to the directions given on the back of the box (prefer to use sugar-free pudding) as it will make you desserts even lighter. Mix all the fruits in the dessert. Refrigerate and serve. This will make a quick and easy fruit plate for friends that don't want the cakes and pies after the meal Enjoy!!


Great Healthy Dish 

-32oz Frozen Bag Broccoli Cut Flowers thawed 

-2 Cups 16oz Sharp thin Shredded Cheddar Cheese

-1 Can Condensed Mushroom Soup

-2 Large Eggs

-1-2 Cups Breadcrumbs

”Other ingredients can be added if you choose such as sliced black olives”


Turn oven to 375 while preparing

Mix Condensed Mushroom soup with shredded cheese and fold in 2 whipped complete eggs in medium to large casserole bowl.

Blend in Broccoli folding mixture until Broccoli is throughly covered.


Take small saucepan and melt enough butter so the 2 cups breadcrumbs are lightly browned.

Spread Breadcrumbs using all lightly over the top of the mixed items.  
Put into oven on middle rack and back for 60 minutes.

Wait about 5-7 minutes serve when hot.  This is a great dish, easy and quick to prepare.  Leftovers as well only need to be heated and Broccoli is a great substitute for Chicken

Enjoy and Thank you!

Trusted Contributor



                                                Spinach, Apple and Clementine Salad


This is an easy, quick, light and heathly salad that will be sure to please everyone at your holiday feast. It will be a nice, refreshing addition to the heavier dishes served. 6 Servings, Enjoy!


6 cups baby spinach (or baby arugula, red lettuce, butter lettuce or a mixture)

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds

3 clementines (pieces separated and halved, seeds removed if any)

1 large apple (any kind, seeds removed and thinly sliced and slices halved)


Toss with olive oil dressing below:


Olive Oil Dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard

salt and pepper to taste


Thoroughly wisk together all ingredients and add to the salad. Serve immediatly after adding salad dressing. This salad dressing recipe is enough for a lightly dressed salad. Double the recipe if you prefer a heavier coated salad.



Regular Contributor

The classic green bean casserole has never been a favorite of mine since I was a child but my family loves it.  I made it every Thanksgiving for them but never ate it until I reworked the recipe. Using fresh cremini mushrooms, fresh green beans, nondairy milk, very low sodium vegetable stock and no oil or fat.  Here you go!  

Healthy and delicious green bean casserole


1C French’s brand fried onions

10 ounces cremini mushrooms cut into 1/4 thick slices

4 cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp dried thyme

3 Tb flour of choice

1 1/4 C very low sodium vegetable broth ( always check, often store brands are lower in sodium and price)

1 C non dairy half and half milk - look for one that is without flavor or added sugars

2 pounds fresh green beans, washed, and cut to 1 inch pieces


whir the fried onions in a food processor until finely ground, mix with the flour and set aside.

heat a large non stick skillet on medium high and add half of the mushrooms, cook on one side until brown, then the other without stirring about 5 minutes total, remove and do the rest of the mushrooms the same way.  Add back the first mushrooms, give them all a stir and add the garlic off heat for 30 seconds.  Add the fried onion/flour mixture, a pinch each of salt and pepper and cook on medium high until golden, about a minute.  Slowly stir in broth, whisking or using a fork to break up any flour clumps, and the non dairy half and half. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until sauce has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.   ( This can be done a day in advance and refrigerated if you like then warmed in the microwave carefully before proceeding) 

Place green beans in slow cooker, stir in the sauce until well coated and cook on LOW 5 to 6 hours. 


Most green bean casseroles have the fried onion topping and if you like, you can whir the rest of the container of fried onions with a cup of fresh bread crumbs in your food processor then toast in a pan and top after plating.  


I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone!

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