TURKEY TIME IS FAMILY TIME! ~ Vicki’s Flavorful Healthy Turkey with Gravy

By Vicki Y. November 18, 2011

TURKEY ~ Vicki’s Flavorful, Healthy Turkey with Gravy (gluten-free or not) ~ I love fall and winter because they signal the coming Holidays…Thanksgiving, Christmas, a New Year, and all of the festivities in between; family, love and laughs – the best times of the year. Many people are concerned about the Holidays, the food and getting fat but this is unnecessary! Turkey is light but fulfilling and a tiny bit of gravy is not going to destroy your regimen if you use herbs to make the flavor instead of fat and wheat flour.

1 – 13-14lb turkey, thawed, with neck and giblets removed and set aside (I always brine the turkey just before I go to bed the night before – in a large container, add 1 cup sea salt, 1 cup organic blackstrap molasses, and enough water to cover the entire turkey. Place into your refrigerator, or if the bird is too big, you can cover with as much ice as you can in a cooler, cover and keep changing ice as often as needed to keep the mixture cold. Brining makes the turkey extremely moist, even if you over-cook it a little! Got this idea from Alton Brown on FoodTV – www.foodtv.com); now go to bed and dream of family, love, food and many Thanks to Our Heavenly Father!

Stuff turkey cavity with 1-2 large Fujis or other red apple, quartered, 1 medium peeled onion quartered, whole sprigs of fresh rosemary, sage and parsley (reserve and mince some of the herbs for broth for basting, below). Separate the turkey liver, heart and neck, if included with your turkey, and place in a large saucepan with a carton of organic low sodium chicken broth, or about 2 cups homemade broth or stock, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove the neck, liver, heart and/or any other parts you just cooked and set aside. Set the saucepan of broth aside for use in the gravy after the turkey is finished and resting.

About 4 hours before serving:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees; place oven rack on lowest level; place a cookie sheet on rack.
Dry exterior of the turkey and brush with olive oil or melted butter, then season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper; place in a roasting pan designed for high heat. Stuff turkey with apple, onion and all (except reserved) herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme), then place roasting pan on cookie sheet. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes at 500 degrees; turkey will brown nicely. After 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and remove the turkey in pan from oven.

Cover with broth for basting turkey: Mix 2 cups chicken broth or chicken stock with 1 tsp freshly minced  Parsley,  1 tsp fresh Sage minced and  1/2 tsp fresh Rosemary minced and 1/2 tsp minced Thyme. Stir thoroughly, then pour mixture over the turkey and baste every half hour or so throughout the cooking process. This mixture will be poured into the saucepan of broth you used for the giblets later.

Finish cooking turkey: After pouring the basting mixture (above) over the turkey and basting initially, return turkey in pan to the oven until the breast meat is 165 degrees; remove from oven. Drain the drippings from the turkey roasting pan into that saucepan you set aside earlier (from cooking the giblets), then cover the turkey with the roasting pan lid OR parchment paper, then foil, and seal tightly around the roasting pan/turkey. Set the roasting pan/turkey aside and let rest until serving time (there will be carry-over cooking to internal temperature of about 165-168 degrees); the resting time also aids with making the turkey falling-off-the-bone tender.

As far as I am concerned, no turkey is complete without gravy, so splurge if you wish! You can use flour; however, I also understand some people are gluten intolerant, so we are using gluten-free starches to thicken this gravy and it only needs to be thickened a bit; gravy does NOT need to be heavy or thick to be awesome! Further, if you prefer not to add any starches to thicken the drippings, there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply using the drippings from cooking, after draining off excess turkey fat; this broth is loaded with flavor and cooking down most of the juices enhances the flavor more.

Remember the neck and liver (giblets) we simmered, then set aside? While the turkey is resting, remove as much of the neck meat as you can and finely chop up with the liver. Set aside for adding to the gravy once it is finished (optional, of course – you could always give the liver and heart to the dog and cat – NEVER the neck because there are too many brittle bones, unless you fed it to them while raw! If you never use the liver and heart in your turkey prep, feel free to give it your pets as a snack RAW).

Now it is time to actually make the gravy, using the pan drippings from cooking the turkey and in the large saucepan in which you cooked the neck, heart and liver (giblets). Strain off all excess turkey fat. Add the starch you like to the drippings (optional, but healthier choices are organic arrowroot, a small amount of glucomannan, or whole-grain brown rice flour), turn on the heat and melt the starch into the broth, preferably with a whisk. Add the leftover herbs and the chopped giblets. Let simmer until the starch is fully cooked. NOTE: I always keep extra cartons of organic chicken broth, or chicken stock from previous recipes, as the gravy cooks and thickens, if needed to thin. You do not want the gravy to be thicker than the consistency of cream. Cover and set aside.

Hint for people who think they cannot make gravy (it’s easier than you think): Heat up the drippings in the pan and add about 2 more cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Pour about 1 cup of the heated liquid into a Pyrex measuring cup. While hot, add whatever starch you chose to use, sprinkling in small amounts while whisking with a wire whisk or stick blender to quickly mix the contents together thoroughly (they should meld and melt into one another immediately) until thick, then add back into to the drippings as they simmer. Use whisk to continue mixing well; add more liquid as needed. Continuing the cooking process uncovered will thicken the gravy to your desired consistency. I love to add just a pinch or two of curry powder to this too but remember, not everyone can tolerate curry.

Homemade Cranberry Relish

I am a purist, so canned cranberry jelly and relish are out of the question. Besides, it is so simple to make fresh relish that tastes so much better. I do not add orange zest and other stuff to my relish but you may do as you wish.  To one bag of Ocean Spray or other cranberries, add just enough water to cover. Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup local organic honey, or 1/2 cup organic brown sugar, or 1/8 – 1/4 cup LoHan (depending upon the size of the bag of cranberries). Boil until the cranberries have popped; mash down with a spoon, pour into a Pyrex bowl and cool in the refrigerator. This can be made a day or two in advance; extra may be frozen in a vacuum-packing bag or well sealed Pyrex too!

Counting Calories? ~ WeightWatchers points
Turkey breast cooked with skin, 3oz = 2 points (6oz = 6; I reserve 3 oz for my sandwich below!)
Gravy 1/4 cup = 1 point
Other Thanksgiving favorites and points
Homemade cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup = 3 points
Sausage, walnut and herbed stuffing, 1/2 cup = 9 points
Traditional Green Bean casserole, 1/2 cup = 3 points
Creamed onions, 1/2 cup = 1 point

Early-Evening-After-It’s-All-Over Turkey Sandwich (3oz sliced turkey breast, 3 tsp Canola, Safflower or Sunflower Oil Mayonnaise (soy-free), 2 slices whole wheat bread and 1/8 cup homemade cranberry sauce) = 9 points OH YUM!

Snacking on this throughout the day, you can easily remain within your daily points and enjoy all of your favorite traditional Thanksgiving day foods. I love to put out a relish tray of celery (actually burns calories), carrots, pickles (dill = 0 points; sweet gherkins = 1 point per ounce), olives (6 large = 1 point), green onions, radishes; you can put out any veggies you love! Little to no points, so eat as much as you like!

DID YOU KNOW: If you are not interested in the neck or giblets, you can give them to your dog or cat as a treat? Just do not cook them! Cooking the neck makes the bones brittle and they can get stuck in your pet’s throat. Raw bones give your pet’s calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamin D and collagen; don’t be afraid. Dogs and cats are carnivores; their stomachs are highly acidic, so there is no danger with raw, fresh meats. If we humans were not feeding them, would they not be eating rabbits, squirrels and other small animals raw? Read more about your pet’s nutritional needs HERE.

I like to prep the turkey after everyone is asleep and there is some quiet time. Why? Because prepping some meals for the next week or so saves time and money! So, whether you do it the day you cook the turkey or prep it up over the weekend, there are lots of great meals you can prepare in advance, then refrigerate or freeze for another day. So, first thing to do is debone the turkey and toss the carcass. Now you can  decide whether to prep some meals or store the turkey for another day.


Cut up white meat into small cubes in a bowl and add onion, celery, carrots, broccoli, homemade cranberry relish, then add just enough gravy from above to moisten. Pour into a buttered or Pam’d casserole dish, then cover with parchment paper, then foil, and store in the refrigerator or freezer for another meal. You can also save some cranberry relish to go with it! When ready to cook, bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, including warm-up time. If frozen, thaw before baking.


Cut up white and dark meat into small cubes and place in a large bowl and add finely chopped raw onions, chopped raw celery and finely chopped raw carrots, pre-steamed broccoli from dinner. Add in sufficient gravy to coat all. Pour into a casserole dish and cover with pie pastry (for double-crust, place pie crust in buttered or Pam’d pie-pan, add turkey mixture, then cover with second pie crust; if on a gluten free diet, use gluten free pie crust). Cut slits in crust and press down around the pie pan to seal well. Serve with extra gravy and cranberry relish on the side. Add a nice salad for fresh, raw veggies.

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