fire & flavor

Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes and Tips

818_ff web recipes / recipes + portraits

With Thanksgiving only a few days away and the Holiday Extravaganza weigh-ins going on, a lot of excitement and energy is in the air. To ensure that you have the best, and healthiest, holiday possible, I wanted to share a few tips and recipes that I use to stick to my goals and hold myself accountable.

Top Three Tips for a Healthier Thanksgiving

  1. Load up on veggies! Turkey is an ideal dish to compliment with delicious vegetables. Fill your plate with kale, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, asparagus, cabbage, onions, brussel sprouts, green beans, and mushrooms for some guilt-free goodness. Try to steam as many of the vegetables as possible to ensure their nutritional value is maintained, or roast them with high quality oil. 
  2. Limit your alcohol intake choose water instead! With alcohol dehydrating the body, zapping energy, and providing excess calories, keeping tabs on the amount you consume is a good idea. Try to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day to reduce cravings for other beverages, and consider bringing your own beverages to a party so you won't be tempted to drink a sugary concoction. 
  3. Steer clear of refined sugar. One of the main sources of calories over the holidays is refined sugar. It can damage the immune system, cause mood swings, and contribute to ailments such as tooth decay or heart disease. Stay away from processed, packaged foods over the holidays and stick to consuming lots of fruits and veggies!

Three Thanksgiving Recipes for a Well Balanced Meal

Finding recipes that are kid-approved and healthy can be a bit of a challenge, especially since I like to shoot for a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, as well as lots of veggies. Luckily these three recipes fit the bill perfectly. Brined Turkey provides lots of protein, Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes provide some delicious carbohydrates, and then Green Beans with Pomegranate and Toasted Walnuts provides necessary fiber and nutrients.

Brined Turkey

Fire & Flavor’s Apple Sage Brine infuses your bird with delicious holiday flavors like dried apples, cranberries, sage and other holiday herbs. Apple Sage Brine and Herb Brine are my favorites, and I have used them the past four years! This ready-made brine mix is for those busy cooks that don’t have time to mix their own and is so juicy and flavorful!

I place my turkey in a brining bag (large, leak-proof zipper-top bag), which you can purchase at stores like Whole Foods Market, Bed Bath & Beyond or

Serve a brined turkey at your holiday table this year, and I can assure you that your guests will keep coming back for more!

Photo by: The Food Network

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes


  • 4 small sweet potatoes (or 2 large), peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup  maple syrup, divided
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl add the sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Mix to evenly coat the potatoes and arrange on a sheet tray. Roast until caramelized, golden brown and soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Be sure to check them after 15 minutes and stir, if needed.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the sliced shallots and saute until they start to caramelize, about 5 minutes Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Lower heat to medium and cook until golden brown and caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the pan becomes dry.
  4. Add the roasted sweet potato cubes to the caramelized shallots and transfer to a warm serving dish.

Green Beans with Pomegranate and Toasted Walnuts



  1. Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • 1 pomegranate, seeds only
    • 1 1/2 pound green beans (haricots verts or traditional green beans). Fresh is preferred, but frozen green beans work great too.

    Vinaigrette Dressing

    • 2 tablespoons flax oil, or olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons coconut vinegar or apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped or 1-2 teaspoons onion
    • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


    1. To toast walnuts, heat a saute pan over medium heat and add walnuts. Set timer for three minutes. After three minutes, stir and watch until crisp and fragrant. This takes about seven minutes total. Transfer to a bowl so they do not continue to cook.
    2. Seed pomegranate or buy pomegranate seeds.
    3. Rinse green beans. Take a small handful and align the ends by tapping them on the cutting board. Cut the tips off all at once and repeat to the opposite end. Do this until all beans are completed. Do not cut beans into pieces; this will make them mushy once cooked.
    4. Pour 2-3 inches of water into a pot with steamer. Once the water is at a rapid boil, turn the heat to medium, add beans and cover. Steam 5-6 minutes until bright green and tender-crisp. Don’t overcook.
    5. In a two-cup glass measuring cup or medium bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk until oil is incorporated well. Toss the beans with vinaigrette. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Just before serving, sprinkle the salad with pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts.



Fun and Healthy Businesses in Athens- THANK YOU!


As many of you know, we are gearing up for the Holiday Extravaganza! GAME ON!! Last week's post showcased how the competition works and some of the cool prizes everyone has the opportunity to win. Many of these prizes wouldn't be possible without the help from some amazing local businesses, so I'd like to take a moment and thank the community for all its support! Some people only know Athens because of the University of Georgia, but I've been blessed to discover great companies and people who make Athens a fun and healthy place to live.

Athens Running Company- A locally owned, non-franchised store that carries shoes, apparel, and accessories for runners of all sizes and speeds. They professionally fit runners for shoes using video gait analysis so everyone can find the best pair of shoes for their needs.

Big City Bread Cafe- A family owned and operated restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday-Saturday, as well as brunch on Sunday. Or swing by and pick up some of their freshly baked breads and pastries. Yum!

Canopy Studios- A flying aerial trapeze studio which offers camps and classes on the art of the trapeze, aerial yoga, and aerial fabrics. Instructors also offer private lessons for any level. Too scared to take to the skies? Canopy also has year end performances that are fun for all ages to watch.

Fire & Flavor- An Athens based store selling a variety of cooking products from cookbooks to turkey brine. Products can also be ordered from the website.

Glenn Alex Dentist- Dr. Glenn Alex and his caring staff provide great preventative, general, and cosmetic dental care. A healthy smile is an important part of a healthy body!

Journey Juice- A store offering a collection of all natural, local, cold pressed juices perfect for snacks, meals, or juice cleanses. Each bottle contains at least 2.5 pounds of raw vegetables & fruits, adding important vitamins and nutrients to daily diets.

Lululemon- Lululemon provides high quality yoga and running clothes for men and women. They also have accessories like bags, scarves, yoga mats, and water bottles.

SPARC Athens- A sports performance a rehabilitation center that provides training, massages, nutrition consulting, and performance evaluations. SPARC offers science backed, customized programs to maximize training and improve performance.

Spin Revolution- Spin Revolution offers cycling classes with unique combinations of music and choreography for fun workouts. Classes are scheduled at different times every day with different instructors, ensuring that you can find a class that fits your needs.

Two Story Coffee- A local coffee-house that offers more than just a delicious cup of coffee; Two Story also has art, music, and open mic nights.

YMCA- An extensive network of gyms, with one located in our very own Athens. The Athens YMCA has a great facility with state of the art fitness equipment, as well as amenities like a pool. Camps for children are also available, to make this a great, family friendly center.

If you would like to add in a prize for the gift baskets - it is not too late--please email me at

Also, it is not too late to join the challenge! Weigh-in's will be going on until Wednesday at 12pm! The Holiday Extravaganza is the best way to keep you accountable over the holiday season!