Ask a San Francisco Chef: Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – In a matter of days, millions of Americans across the country will gather around the dinner table to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast. However, many traditional dishes such as candied yams and mashed potatoes aren’t exactly healthy and worse yet, are unpleasantly outdated. For a healthier and certainly more appetizing take on the Thanksgiving meal, Chef Ryan Scott offers three of his specially chosen yet easy to use recipes.

Chef Ryan Scott
Finn Town
2251 Market St.
San Francisco, CA  94111
(415) 626-3466

Ryan Scott is a San Francisco-based chef, restaurateur and an Emmy-Award winning food host. He appears regularly on national television, including the Today Show and Rachael Ray, and is the host of The Ryan Scott Show, a weekly local radio show on KGO 810. A graduate of the Culinary Academy of California, his impressive resume includes work with Michelin-Award winning chef and famed San Francisco restaurateur Gary Danko and as a very popular contestant on season 4 of Top Chef. More recently, Ryan was chef and owner of Finn Town Tavern in San Francisco’s Castro District. Last October, he unveiled his first cookbook One to Five, which explains how to transform a simple recipe into five easy dishes. Learn more about Ryan at

Related: Foodie Chap With Chef Ryan Scott of Finn Town Tavern

Quinoa & Kale Stuffed Butternut Squash With Cranberries
Serving Size: 8 servings
Time To Prep:  10 – 15 minutes prep time / Time To Cook 1 hour, 15 minutes cook time

Kitchen Equipment Required: fine mesh strainer
Technique Tip: Rinsing quinoa prevents it from becoming soggy
Swap Option: Substitute low sodium vegetable broth for chicken broth
Why He Loves This Recipe: it is a hearty dish that can be a meal on its own or a side



Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the  oven to 425 degrees F. Halve the butternut squash, scoop out the seeds, then arrange the halves on a baking tray, cut sides up. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 45-55 minutes, just until the squash is fork tender. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the squash is baking, place the broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. While broth is coming to a boil, rinse quinoa for 30 seconds in a fine mesh strainer. let drain to remove as much water as possible. Add the quinoa to broth, return to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 12 minutes, until most of the broth is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon olive over medium. Add the kale and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium low. Add the garlic paste, sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook 30 additional seconds, until is fragrant. Stir in the chickpeas, orange zest, orange juice, cooked quinoa, and cranberries.

Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick border around the sides and a 3/4-inch border along the bottom. Reserve the flesh for another use (or if you don’t mind a super duper stuffed squash, mix it in with the rest of the filling). Stuff the kale quinoa filling into the squash halves, then return the squash to the oven. Bake at 375 degrees until hot, about 10 additional minutes.

Related: Ask A Bay Area Chef: Top Mouth-Watering Meatloaf Recipes

Cauliflower Rice Stuffing With Celery, Leeks & Pecans
Serving Size: 6 – 8 servings
Time To Prep:  15 – 20 minutes prep time / Time To Cook 20 minutes cook time

Kitchen Equipment Required: food processor or box grater
Technique Tip: When slicing a leek, cut the tough green top off and save for later. Chop the white parts and wash multiple times to get all dirt off, dry, and then cook.
Swap Option: Substitute onions or shallots for leeks
Why He Loves This Recipe: it is a great alternative to the bready dressings we are used to for Thanksgiving



Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until “rice” consistency is reached. (Alternatively, you can use a box grater)

Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks, garlic, and celery and sauté for 5 mins. Add in cauliflower and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until fully cooked. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and continue cooking until they’ve begun to sweat (about another 5 mins).

Top with pecans, sage, poultry seasoning, vinegar, remaining salt and pepper, and cook for 1 min. Serve warm.

Related: Ask A Bay Area Expert: 5 Traditional Chanukah Recipes

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes With Rosemary & Thyme
Serving Size: 4  servings
Time To Prep:  10 minutes prep time / Time To Cook 60 minutes cook time

Kitchen Equipment Required: brush
Technique Tip: slicing the potatoes will allow theme to cook evenly and not have “mashed” sweet potatoes.
Swap Option: Substitute softened butter for olive oil
Why He Loves This Recipe: They look beautiful on a plate and taste amazing



Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking tray/sheet with aluminum foil; set aside.

Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes; pat them dry with paper towel. Carefully slice each sweet potato 1/8-inch slits (or slices) along the tops, stopping 1/2-inch from the bottom. (Be careful not to apply too much pressure or you may cut straight through.)

Mix olive oil, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper, to taste.

Place potatoes onto the lined baking tray/sheet; brush with olive oil mixture (about 2 tablespoons) and roast until the center of the potatoes are beginning to soften, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with another 2 tablespoons olive oil mixture and fan the wedges out lightly with a fork to open up the slices. Return to oven and continue baking for a further 30 minutes, or until soft and tender in the center and crispy on the outside.
*Use remaining oil mixture to season chicken or turkey!

By Randy Yagi
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University.


We and our partners use cookies to understand how you use our site, improve your experience and serve you personalized content and advertising. Read about how we use cookies in our cookie policy and how you can control them by clicking Manage Settings. By continuing to use this site, you accept these cookies.