Make This: Delicata Squash Rings

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While I love the flavor and creamy texture of starchy winter squash (not to mention the nutrition punch in the form of fiber and vitamin A), it feels like such a chore to hack at that tough outer skin to get to the good stuff. 

Until I discovered Delicata squash, the squash that requires NO PEELING! The skin is super thin and very edible. 

You'll recognize it as the oblong light yellow squash with green or dark yellow stripes running longways. Wash it well, then cut it in half, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp. Slice it into half-inch thick rings, and it's ready to bake.

Set the rings on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and season with a sprinkle of sea salt, and take things up a notch with one or more seasonings, like cinnamon, garlic powder or onion powder. You can add a small swizzle of olive oil if you like to help the seasoning stick, but by putting the rings on parchment they won't stick, and by giving plenty of space on the pan, they'll brown nicely. Pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes and then flip them. If you’re feeling super fancy, swizzle a scant teaspoon of pure maple syrup at the halfway point, but again, that's optional. Roast for another 15 or so minutes (depending on their thickness). 

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For a quick and balanced weeknight meal, serve them as the starchy component of your meal: They're great over wilted kale or collards, or with roasted green beans or Brussels sprouts. Add your protein, or some rinsed and drained canned beans and a handful of raw pumpkin seeds, and you're set. Leftover squash rings (if you have any!) make tomorrow's lunch salad really special, too, or enjoy them with yogurt for breakfast or a snack.

Recipe: How to pumpkin spice without derailing your fitness goals

I do not have enough fingers and toes on which to count the number of times the term "Pumpkin Spice" has come up in conversation with clients this fall. Lattes, cookies, cake and fudge spiked with artificial pumpkin spice flavoring, cheap soybean oil and loads of sugar are ridiculously tempting this time of year, but they're cinnamon-y landmines if you're trying to eat more healthfully. For example, the ubiquitous Grande (16 oz) Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, even with non-fat milk and no whip, contains a whopping 49 grams of sugar—that’s 98% of your daily allotment of added sugar in a 2,000 calorie diet (based on a the American Heart Association recommendation of max of 10% of calories from added sugar).

Is it possible to enjoy the autumn joy that is pumpkin spice without consuming a day's worth of sugar? And could you even--dare I say it--find a way to make pumpkin spice a healthy choice? I say YES! and the proof is below...

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Pumpkin Spice Dip

Makes 1 serving but is easily multiplied

  • Make the Pumpkin Spice by shaking up these spices in a small jar (you could also use a commercial mix, but why would you?!):
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • Pinch of cloves
    • Pinch of allspice
  • Make the yogurt dip by blending these ingredients with a whisk or spoon:
    • 2 Tablespoons of unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (I used Anita’s Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative, or you could use Kite Hill Plain Unsweetened Almond Yogurt Alternative) OR an excellent quality Greek or Icelandic plain yogurt
    • 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin (make sure it's plain pureed pumpkin, not canned pumpkin pie filling)
    • Prepared pumpkin pie spice to your liking: Start with about a teaspoon and add more to your taste
  • Add a topping if you choose:
    • Drizzle a teaspoon of natural peanut or almond butter
    • Sprinkle a Tablespoon or two of muesli (I used Michele’s Toasted Muesli--made locally in Baltimore!)
    • Add a Tablespoon of raw seeds or nuts
  • Slice up some apples or pears and enjoy as a tasty dip, or eat it with a spoon for breakfast or a snack.

"But what do YOU eat after a tough workout?"

I've been making the rounds to running groups and talking to runners about eating well to fuel their workouts. One of my favorite topics is what to eat before and after a workout. I'm always surprised at just how few people make a consistent habit of eating after their tough workouts and long runs.

Eating a nutritious snack after workouts an hour or longer helps you gain strength and recover more quickly. Skipping that snack could lead to poor recovery and an out-of-control appetite. Following a workout with greasy or sugar-loaded foods doesn’t help you recover, either. A broadly accepted ratio for a perfect long run snack is about 3 or 4 to 1, carbohydrate to protein. That means a nice chunk of carbs and some protein, and the next meal should be rich in quality protein to speed recovery.

I often suggest a home-blended smoothie with frozen fruit and nuts; or whole wheat toast with banana and natural peanut or almond butter; or a loaded sweet potato with yogurt and almond butter. Even with these great suggestions, I often get the follow-up question, "But what do YOU eat after YOUR workouts?," as if I'm hiding a big secret, like I've got some supplements, or commercial shake powder (sorry, Shakeology--I ain't buying your crap), or I'm hitting up a smoothie shop and getting kooky, expensive boosters. 

I'm revealing all today and sharing one of my favorite homemade post-workout treats: The Hot Pink Smoothie Bowl! It's got plenty of carbs from bananas, berries and dragonfruit (sounds exotic but easy to find), and who needs protein powder when I've got the real deal from seeds and nut butter! And with the bright colors in the fruit, I know I'm also getting plenty of antioxidants to aid in recovery. Here's my formula...

  • 1 giant handful of frozen banana chunks, maybe a couple bananas worth (check my freezer any day of the week, and I've always got a container of frozen bananas)
  • 1 packet of unsweetened, frozen dragon fruit (I like Pitaya Plus, available at Wegmans or MOMs)
  • A splash of unsweetened almond milk
  • A tablespoon of chia seeds
  • A heaping tablespoon of chunky almond or peanut butter
  • A handful of fresh fruit

Blend the bananas and dragon fruit with just enough liquid to make the blender work, using a tamp down thingy to keep, well, tamping it down so the blade can do its work. When it's blended, pour it into a bowl and add the toppings. Enjoy! 

Light + Refreshing Cucumber Salad

Have I mentioned in the last 10 minutes that I love summer? Because I do--for far too many reasons than I have time to list here. One of the best parts of summer is the amazing variety of produce that grows locally in and around my fine home state of Maryland. Last week, we got about a zillion cucumbers in our CSA share from One Straw Farm, providing the perfect opportunity to whip up my favorite, super-fast summer side. It's less a recipe than a concoction; somewhere between a light pickle and a salad, you can enjoy this as a condiment on a sandwich or salad, or as a side dish at your next barbecue:

Refreshing Cucumber Salad

  • Cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds or half moons
  • Sweet onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • Fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • Rice vinegar (plain, not "seasoned," which contains added sugar)
  • Coarse salt + pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients except for the salt + pepper in a flat-bottomed dish so everything can marinate well. Allow to sit at least 4 hours or overnight. Add salt + pepper to taste  Make as much or as little as you like, adding more or less of any ingredient to your preference. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more delicious this gets!

Need support in shopping and eating seasonally? Please get in touch!

 

Recipe: Easy Black-Eyed Pea Salad

I hear from clients and would-be clients, "I don't have time to plan or prep meals." I counter that with this simple, flavorful salad that uses simple pantry ingredients, is loaded with flavor AND nutrition, lasts for days in the fridge, and actually becomes more delicious as flavors meld:

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Whisk together the dressing in a small bowl (or shake them together in a jar), then pour over the rest of the ingredients in a serving bowl. Refrigerate a couple hours or longer.

  • 1 x 14-oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, washed and cut into about a half-inch dice
  • 1 bell pepper of any color, cut into about a half-inch dice
  • 1 bunch of scallions, green and white parts chopped 
  • Dressing:
    • About a couple Tablespoons of rice vinegar (not seasoned)
    • About a Tablespoon of dijon mustard
    • OPTIONAL:
      • A teaspoon of honey for palates that love sweet
      • A teaspoon of organic olive oil for oomph
  • Salt + pepper to taste

Makes about 4 servings.

 

Your new favorite potluck dish: Whole Grain Taboule

Holiday picnics and potlucks are landmines for those of us trying to eat healthfully. One of my best strategies is to bring a healthful dish, but I don't want to be that guest; you know, the one who brings a sad, soggy casserole full of weird ingredients that sits untouched. I'm going to share one of my favorite picnic dishes, and despite being loaded with healthful ingredients, it always gets raves. Plus it's super easy to put together--it's less a recipe and more of a put-some-stuff-in-a-dish-and-let-the-ingredients-do-the-work.

Whole Grain Taboule

  • 1/2 cup of your favorite whole grain, dry (great options include bulghur wheat, quinoa, or a whole grain blends like those from truRoots
  • A pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 1 big bunch of scallions, washed and chopped, both green and white parts
  • A big bunch of parsley, leaves washed and chopped (avoid woody stems, but thinner stems are fine)
  • Juice of one big lemon (or a couple smaller)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • OPTIONAL: A handful of fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • OPTIONAL for serving: 
    • Hummus
    • Chickpeas (canned are fine, just drain & rinse)
    • Fresh lettuces or other leafy greens
    • Lemon wedges

Cook whole grains according to the package using water or stock. BONUS: For really delicious grains, before you cook them, toast them in a dry pan. Just add grains to a pan with no oil or liquid over medium heat, and toss them them till they are lightly brown and emit a nice, toasty smell. Toasted grains have a nutty flavor that really adds to any dish.

Combine the cooked grains with all ingredients (excluding the optional ingredients for serving) in large bowl, adding plenty of ground pepper and some coarse salt. 

Let this sit several hours overnight so the flavors really develop. Serve as is, or with the optional serving options.  Makes 4 entree-sized servings, or 6-8 (or more) side dish servings.

Prep this easy meal: Whole grain + edamame salad with dill & mint

I want to eat healthy, but I am busy and don't want to spend my life in the kitchen, so preparing one dish and getting several meals out of it is a huge win. Enter big beautiful whole grain salads, loaded with fresh herbs for big flavor, lots of vegetables and tasty vegetarian protein so they can last for a few days in the fridge! 

The recipe I'm about to share is a big hit among many of my clients (although a caveat: If you dislike dill, don't make this!). It comes together quickly, and is a delicious, complete meal on it's own, or bolstered by additional sources of protein or vegetables. Let me know if you give this one a try...

Quinoa & Edamame Salad

Serves 4 as a main course or more as a side

  • 1 cup dried quinoa or other whole grain (I used 1/2 cup of truRoots Ancient Grain Medley which is a very voluminous mix of quinoa, millet and buckwheat)
  • 12-16 oz package of frozen edamame WITHOUT shells, thawed (either by microwaving or by sitting on the counter for an hour or longer)
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • A handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn
  • A big handful of fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions, greens and whites, chopped
  • 1 large lemon or 2 small, juiced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Cook the grain according to the package in water or stock, or for SUPER FLAVORFUL GRAINS, toast the grains:  Simply add the grains to a dry pan over med high heat, and gently shake the pan to keep the grains from burning. Keep shaking the pan for 2-3 minutes, and the grains will emit a toasty warm smell when they’re done. The color may be a shade or two darker, but not browned. Then cook the grains according to package.

Toss all ingredients together with cooked grains and let sit minimum 4 hours in the fridge. This salad will become more flavorful as it sits. I'm not sure where I found the original recipe that I adapted into this version, but please pipe in if you recognize it!

Need support in coming up with easy + delicious recipes to support your health and fitness goals? Get in touch!

Savory Start

Oatmeal with raisins & brown sugar and smoothies made of flavored yogurt & fruit sound like better choices than, say, a visit to the doughnut shop, but they're loaded with sugar, coming perilously close to maxing out the daily recommendations for added sugar. Have you tried a savory start to the day?

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Recipe: Cold-Fighting Lentil + Coconut Stew

You know that feeling. Just a little soreness in the back of the throat. Extremely tired. I've got something brewing, but before I start cramming down the over-the-counter cold and pain meds, I'm gonna come at this thing with a big bowl of soup! Specifically soup with loads of fresh garlic (with a strong cold-fighting reputation), ginger and turmeric (two more powerful allies  in the fight). 

 

This recipe is also full of leafy greens, protein & iron-filled lentils, and it's delicious! Let me know if you give it a try:

Lentil + Coconut Stew

Makes 6 servings. Adapted from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook by Robin Robertson

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, minced and allowed to sit for at least 10 minutes before cooking
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
Optional: ¼ tsp cayenne or ground chipotle chile
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon mustard seed OR prepared mustard
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon turmeric
3 cups of water or vegetable stock
1.5 cups of brown or green lentils, rinsed
1 large yam, chopped roughly into half-inch chunks (I used a Japanese yam with a purple skin and white flesh)
A few big handfuls of baby spinach
1 cup (1/2 a can) coconut milk (this is the stuff in the can in the International aisle, not “Coconut Beverage” found in the refrigerated dairy section)
Ground black pepper to taste (important to help the turmeric do its job!)

Add a teaspoon or two of water to a large soup pot, add the onion, carrot, garlic and ginger, cover and cook for about 10 minutes till softened, stirring occasionally and adding another teaspoon or two of water if needed to prevent from sticking or burning. 

Add the spices, stirring well for about one minute.

Add the stock, lentils and potato and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes. 

Add the coconut milk and spinach and cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables and potatoes are very soft. 

Season with black pepper and serve.