By Jessica Wasik

Comforting home-cooked meals are one of the most anticipated parts of the holiday season, and it all kicks off with the biggest food-focused celebration of the year: Thanksgiving. Unfortunately the rich recipes coupled with the delectable desserts and calorie-laden cocktails that cover the Thanksgiving table are one of the top contributors to dreaded holiday weight gain. Roughly 75 percent of annual weight gain takes place during Halloween and New Year’s Day. While the average American only gains one to two pounds during the season, there are healthy, easy and, most importantly, delicious ways to beat the bloat and ward off the weight.

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Rania Harris, the caterer and food aficionado of Rania’s Catering, shares three of her favorite healthy Thanksgiving recipes that will leave you feeling satisfied and coming back for seconds of these fresh, wholesome entrees.

Rania Harris
Rania’s Catering
100 Central Square
Pittsburgh, PA 15228
(412) 531-2222

For more than 30 years, Rania Harris has generously shared her love of food through cooking and teaching classes at Rania Catering, her locally renowned catering company. Even if you’re never tasted her amazing catering, you’ve likely seen her popular segment, Cooking With Rania, on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live, where she highlights and prepares a new recipe each week. Rania believes that food is the heart of the holidays, helping create meaningful meals and tasty traditions. She finds great joy in sharing her passion with others by offering cooking classes at her Mt. Lebanon location.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts With Autumn Fruits

Caramelized Brussels sprouts with autumn fruits combines the most delicious flavors of fall, including fresh pairs and apples. If you’ve never tried Brussels sprouts, this seasonal side dish is a nice introduction to them. This recipe serves 12 making it an ideal choice for a Thanksgiving side at a large family gathering.


  • 2.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1 medium to large onion, cut into one-inch chunks
  • 2 medium Honey Crisp apples, cored and cut into one-inch wedges
  • 2 firm ripe Anjou or Comice pears, cored and cut into one-inch wedges
  • 2 slices bacon, cut into one-inch pieces
  • 3 branches fresh thyme
  • 16 large fresh sage leaves, torn
  • 5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1 tight-packed tablespoon brown sugar
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 450 .
  2. Slip one large shallow pan into the oven to heat up.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together all the ingredients.
  4. Be generous with the salt and pepper.
  5. Pull out the oven rack with the sheet pan on it.
  6. Take care not to burn yourself while you turn the vegetable-fruit blend onto the pan.
  7. Spread the mixture out on the pan in a single layer and bake for 40 minutes, turning several times or until sprouts are easily pierced with a knife and everything is nicely browned.
  8. If necessary, run under the broiler for a few moments to brown.

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Goat Cheese, Chive, And Pistachio Spread

Most dips are rich in unhealthy fats and high in calories, but not Rania’s goat cheese, chive, and pistachio spread. Despite its flavorful finish, it is surprisingly healthy and an unexpected addition to your Thanksgiving dinner. Serve as an appetizer along with crudités and fresh crostini. Because this spread can be made up to two days before the holidays, it makes for a low-stress, easy treat. Once prepared, simply cover and refrigerate. When you’re ready to serve it, remove the spread from the refrigerator roughly 45 minutes before serving to allow it to reach room temperature.


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper


  1. Process the garlic and salt until the garlic is finely minced, using a food processor.
  2. Combine the goat cheese and butter and continue to process until the mixture is combined and smooth. Scatter the pistachio nuts and chives over the top. Include a few grinds of pepper to taste and pulse up to three times until combined. Remove your dip from the food processor and fold in 1/4 cup of chopped roasted red pepper.

Brussels Sprouts With Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is a favorite fall food for many, but between turkey, rich desserts and high-calorie sides, it is often overlooked as a Thanksgiving addition. Full of nutrients, squash makes a fantastic choice, whether you roast it, use it in soup or make it the highlight of a side dish, like Rania did when she paired it with Brussels sprouts in this scrumptious recipe.


  • 2.5 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 4 red onions, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Pinch fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Using a knife, cut off the top and bottom part of the squash and slice the skin off the sides.
  3. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.
  4. Cut the skinned squash into large pieces then slices these pieces.
  5. Continue cutting these slices into matchsticks then dice these matchsticks.
  6. Divide the squash between two baking sheets.
  7. Brussels sprouts should be trimmed before cutting them in half, if desired, or you may leave them whole.
  8. Arrange the sprouts on the baking sheets with the squash and add red onions.
  9. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder before tossing.
  10. Roast until browned, roughly 25-30 minutes.

Tip the vegetables into a serving dish. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and top with pomegranate seeds. Toss and serve immediately.

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