Healthy & Festive Holiday Dinner Ideas for Senior Living

When we think about autumn, about the approaching holiday season, and about Thanksgiving, we most often think of turkey, stuffing, casserole, pumpkin pie, naps, and repeat!  While this is a yearly tradition at almost everyone’s house, there can be more to Thanksgiving dinner than just the staples. As we look to move forward after the very challenging last couple of years, health and nutrition is in the limelight more than ever.  Folks stuck at home, working remotely, or just utilizing delivery apps more than grocery shopping has given way to farmers markets returning with an increased focus on using local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible.

Healthy Doesn’t Mean Bland or Boring

All that being said, while we look at healthier options to present and prepare our Thanksgiving meal, it’s not solely just about our residents and the many levels of care we provide every day across Compass Community Living. It is also about our families, friends, and colleagues and how we connect during this festive season to build community.

Your holiday dishes don’t have to be boring or bland just because they are healthy. Cooking healthy food can actually bring so much more creativity and spark some amazing dishes and utilization of ingredients long since forgotten.  I firmly believe that cooking and eating healthy starts with where you get your food.  Acquiring your food as locally as possible is paramount in the start of a healthy meal followed second by it being seasonal, which goes hand-in-hand in most cases. How you treat these products after you have procured them is third on the list.  If you start with good quality, local, and seasonal ingredients, the rest of the process is pretty simple. This includes developing and bringing out the natural flavors of any ingredients while still maintaining a heathy and nutrient-rich dish.

The Beauty of Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is one of the more underutilized ingredients we often see this time of year. Similar to pumpkin, acorn squash and other hearty fall vegetables, butternut squash can be treated in a ton of different fashions to be sweet or savory. It can be served hot, or cold, whipped like potatoes or spiralized into a pasta or pasta salad. The options really are limitless.  My team and I make a butternut squash casserole with a steel cut oat & walnut crumble topping every year that is a great side for your roasted turkey or even a great dessert with a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt or ice cream!

One of my personal favorite Thanksgiving dishes that has become a staple with my family and now at the Friends’ Homes senior living community where I am Executive Chef is our roasted butternut squash and apple bisque.  This hearty, rich and delicious-with-a-sandwich soup is easy to make, very price-friendly and gets better every time you reheat the leftovers.  Sure to be a crowd pleaser, this soup recipe can be vegan, vegetarian or with the addition of cream, butter, crème fraiche on top or chicken stock a richer/hardier soup if desired. My family and I love this soup because we can add our leftover turkey or roasted vegetables like diced carrots or Brussels sprouts the next day to enjoy Thanksgiving in a soup!  And, if you’re on the go or just don’t want to cook everything, this soup is a one-pot, better the next day soup that can feed you for days or be a great accompaniment with a sandwich, salad, or fresh baked bread.

Butternut & Apple Bisque

(Yields 2.5gal)

1.5 gal                             Halved/scooped/roasted butternut squash

4 ea                                 Peeled/rough chopped Granny Smith apples

2 ea                                 Rough diced yellow onions

2 cups                             Rough chopped celery

5 ea                                 Peeled/chopped jumbo carrots

1 cup                               Roasted garlic

2/3 cup                           Roasted garlic oil

1 bunch                          Fresh thyme

6 ea                                 Bay leaf

1 tsp                                Cinnamon

1 cup                               Calvados or brandy

As Needed                     vegetable broth


Sauté the apples, garlic, onion celery, carrots, and bay leaf in roasted garlic oil in large pot until tender.  Deglaze the vegetable mixture with the brandy.  Add the squash, thyme and cinnamon and incorporate.  Add vegetable stock just to the top of dry ingredients and mix, stirring occasionally until simmering. Blend with a stick/immersion blender until smooth, adding stock until desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then run through a heavy-duty blender in small batches until velvety smooth.

With the holiday season upon us, I look forward to seeing the festive decorations displayed at the community my team and I serve as we prepare this and many other holiday recipes to celebrate the season. Learn more about our culinary services here at Morrison Living and how we can help you build community one meal at a time.

Did you try this recipe for yourself? Share your holiday recipe creations with us on LinkedIn and Instagram!