Overdid It on Thanksgiving? Recovery Advice From a Personal Chef to the Stars

In rural New South Wales, Australia, where Amy Chaplin grew up, Thanksgiving was a non-event. But at the vegan institution Angelica Kitchen, where she was executive chef from 2003 until 2010, it was a very big deal. “It was the biggest day of the year for us,” she said, adding that she and her staff would work for days roasting and stuffing squash, preparing homemade chutneys, heirloom beans, pickled vegetables, flatbreads and their signature nut-and-seed brittle for a five-course feast.

Today, Ms. Chaplin, 37, works with large food companies to help them develop recipes featuring whole grains and legumes, and cooks privately for clients like Natalie Portman, whose spindly figure she helped maintain throughout the filming of “Black Swan.” An East Village resident since 2000, she seemed like just the person to tell us how to recover from the turkey-day binge.

Ms. Chaplin places a premium on seasonality, local farming, and organic and biodynamic growing practices, and has studied macrobiotics extensively. She usually buys her groceries from Norwich Meadows Farm at the Tompkins Square or Union Square Greenmarkets.

Last year was her first Thanksgiving off, so her holiday traditions are of recent vintage. For the past two years, she has celebrated with friends and family. To prevent eating too much the day of, she encourages people to tune in and listen to their bodies.

“The more body awareness you have, the less likely you are to make yourself completely sick,” she said, suggesting yoga and meditation as ways to sharpen that awareness. On the other hand, she said, “It’s not the end of the world if people let themselves go for one day.”

Here are her five recommendations for bouncing back from the holiday feast, followed by her recipe for miso soup:

  1. Don’t head straight back to the fridge the next morning. “The best thing is to wait,” Ms. Chaplin said. “Your digestion needs a break. The body is working really hard to process heavy things, so even though you might feel hungry, wait until you’re genuinely hungry.”
  2. Start your day with warm water with the juice of half a lemon and a sprinkle of cayenne, which Ms. Chaplin says will stimulate liver detoxification. “The liver is swamped down with toxins,” she said. “Even if you haven’t been drinking, sugar really affects your liver too.”
  3. If you can sneak away from the family, do yoga, go for a run, or do something to make you sweat and jump-start the digestive process. “Your body can get a bit stuck,” she said. “When your stomach is completely full, there’s no way the muscles can digest.”
  4. In the recovery phase, it’s even more important to listen to your body. “What is it really craving?” she suggested asking. “It’s probably not ‘more pecan pie,’ even though that’s what’s right in front of you.”
  5. Once you’re truly ready for food, prepare a cleansing miso soup with squash and greens. Miso aids digestion and the green leafy vegetables have an alkalizing effect.


Miso soup with ginger and kale (by Amy Chaplin)

Naturally fermented miso is full of live, active enzymes, making it helpful for maintaining general health and vitality. Miso is excellent for stimulating a sluggish digestion and helps alkalize your blood after too much sugar, meat and alcohol. Kombu infuses the soup with minerals and the shitake mushrooms help lower cholesterol.

The flavor and strength of the soup will depend on the brand of miso you use. My favorite brand is South River Miso Company, which is made in Massachusetts.

8 cups filtered water
4 inch piece kombu seaweed
3 dried shitake mushrooms
1 ½ cups winter squash, cut into ¼ inch slices
5 kale leaves, touch stems removed and thinly sliced
2 inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons dark miso, either brown rice or barley miso
3 tablespoons light miso, either sweet white or chickpea miso
4 scallions, finely sliced

Combine water, kombu and shitake mushrooms in a medium sized pot and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until shitakes are tender and hydrated. Remove shitakes from pot; cut off and compost stems. Finely slice shitake caps and return to pot. Add squash, raise heat and bring the broth back to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until squash is tender and soft.

Stir in kale and simmer for 2 minutes. Squeeze grated ginger in your hand over the pot to extract juice, compost the pulp.

Remove 1 cup of broth from pot and pour into a small bowl. Add both misos and stir to dissolve. Pour back into soup and stir well. Once soup has returned to a simmer (do not boil) remove from heat. Taste and add more miso if needed. Divide scallions into 4 bowls and fill each bowl with soup.

Serves 4 people