Watch CBS News

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many traditional dishes such as candied yams and mashed potatoes aren't exactly healthy and worse yet, are unpleasantly outdated.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.

Ryan Scott

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


  • 2 medium butternut squash, about 2 1/2 pounds each
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and chopped (about 6 lightly packed cups)
  • 2 teaspoons refrigerated garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (plus additional for roasting squash)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (plus additional for roasting squash)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Zest of 1 orange, plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup reduced sugar dried cranberries


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


  • 2 medium heads of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white end diced and thoroughly washed (greens washed and saved for stock)
  • 1 teaspoon refrigerated garlic paste
  • 4 stalks thinly diced celery (leaves removed)
  • 3 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
  • ½ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 2 ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


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
hasselback sweet potatoes

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


  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 4 tablespoons garlic oil
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra herbs for garnish


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.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.