FALL RECIPES- Acorn Squash and Chicken Chili

So, fall is here in Southern California…even though it doesn’t particularly feel like it. Today the forecast says it will get down to a chilly 70 degrees, only to get back up to 91 degrees on Saturday. I am dusting off my UGGS as we speak…haha!

Anyhow, even though it hasn’t cooled down a ton here, the fall vegetables are out in full force at the grocery stores, so I picked up a few of my favorites last week. I always buy spaghetti squash, but one of my other favorites during the fall is acorn squash. This little green and orange nugget of joy has a sweet flavor when baked. One cup has only 56 calories and 25% of your daily Vitamin C!

One of my favorite acorn squash recipes is to just cut one in half, bake it in the oven for about 25-30 minutes and drizzle it with coconut oil, a little cinnamon and brown sugar. But today I decided I wanted to do something a little more filling and put together a delicious chili that will last for a few days in my refrigerator…which is a good thing, because I have a busy week. Any time I can make a healthy and hearty meal that I can put in tupperware and carry with me to work for lunch is a good meal.

This chili was a little different. It called for a cup of pilsner, which is a light beer. It also called for unsweetened cocoa powder, which has become a staple in my chilies, because it adds a rich but subtle dash of flavor.

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ACORN SQUASH AND CHICKEN CHILI

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 acorn squash seeded, cooked, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices
1 cup pilsner/light beer
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Navitas Naturals)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 15 1/2 ounce can black beans, drained
Juice of 2 limes (about 3 tablespoons)
Cilantro, for serving

Feel free to add sour cream, greek yogurt or sliced avocados as well!

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, garlic, five-spice powder and chili powder and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the squash pieces, chicken pieces, tomatoes, beer, cocoa powder and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir in the black beans and lime juice and cook for 5 minutes. Let the stew cool slightly, then ladle into bowls and top each serving with some cilantro.

ENJOY!

Have A Healthy Cinco De Mayo? It Is Possible…

Today is Cinco De Mayo. This day is actually meant to commemorate the Mexican Army’s 1862 victory over France at the battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. It is not Mexican Independence Day, which some of you may not know. What it has become for many Americans however,  is a day where we excessively chow down on greasy Mexican fare and margaritas.

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I do happen to LOVE Mexican based foods…however, the grease, heavy meats and cheese don’t always agree with me, or my hips. Here are some of my thoughts on how to have your Cinco De Mayo and eat it too…still delicious…and healthy!

-Use guacamole instead of extra cheese and sour cream. Guacamole (check on how it is made if you go to a restaurant!) is made with avocado, which is good fat; make it with onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime and pepper.

 -Grill some chicken seasoned overnight with lots of garlic, onion powder, black pepper, Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes.

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-If you are at a restaurant, choose fajitas. This should be chicken, steak or some sort of fish grilled with bell peppers and onions. This is one of the healthiest restaurant items, because you can mandate whether or not you use the tortillas and it is easy to share with a friend. Ask for black beans instead of refried.

-Carbs will be hard to avoid. If you are trying your best to do so, nix the chips (good luck with that!!) and order black beans instead of refried as your carb option. These are high in fiber and protein and a good choice provided they are not cooked in a ton of lard, which they usually should not be.

 -Make or ask for grilled vegetables-Asparagus and poblano peppers are great grilled with a little lemon pepper and lime.

-Pico de gallo, your new best friend– Salsa in general is a good idea over buttery, creamy sauces. Chose the variety made with fresh tomatoes (that are high in lycopene, which fights off certain cancers!), yellow onion, cilantro, jalapeños,  and lots of lime.

 -Caramelized onions-Cook the onions on top of your meats/chicken to get all those flavors until they are brown and juicy.

 -Use a whole wheat tortilla (sprouted brand like Ezekiel or gluten free) when you have the option. Corn tortillas are another gluten free option.

-Grilling is a great method that locks in all flavors without the need of using excess oils. Grilling or pan “frying/sautéing” are healthier methods.

 -Use a lot of lime. Lime’s citrus properties will help you use less salt and all the spices mentioned above will compliment eachother.

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Greatist.com has a few “healthier” margarita recipes for if you are doing your celebrations at home. At a restaurant, my best advice is to stick to either one drink of your choice or sip on a tequila shot. Those sugary frou-frou drinks can have up to 800 calories in ONE GLASS. That could add up to more than your ENTIRE MEAL. Not to mention the sugar…yikes!

Enjoy yourself and be safe!!

Quinoa “Enchilada” Casserole

One of the things I know for sure. Some people love burgers. Some people love pizza. One of my favorite “guilty” pleasures is Mexican food. I love chips and guacamole and could eat them all day. One of the things I don’t like about Mexican food, however, is how GREASY and FULL of CHEESE it can be. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a little cheese here and there, but I don’t like my food covered in it. It’s way too congestive for my system to handle in massive quantities.

That being said, I am often looking for ways to make food dishes that are “Mexican-inspired” without all the cheese and grease. There are quite a few quinoa bakes on the Internet with turkey and black beans, but mine I did with NO cheese and used bell peppers and tomatoes instead of corn, which I find a totally useless vegetable to eat, unless its grilled on a cob from time to time.

This dish can also be made meatless. If you chose to go meatless, I would use a full cup of black bans in the dish instead of 1/2 cup so you get a little more protein in there. I was really impressed with the flavor in this dish and I really don’t even miss the cheese at all!!

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Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

1 cup of organic quinoa

1 cup of organic ground turkey meat ( I used kosher)

1/2 cup black beans

1 large organic red bell pepper, diced

2 roma tomatoes, diced

1 large avocado, diced

1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup of Frontera Red Enchilada Sauce (feel free to use whatever brand you chose, I liked this brand because it was lower in sodium than others)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F

Cook the quinoa (boil in 2 cups of water for 12-15 minutes)

Cook the turkey meat (sauté for 5-7 minutes until cooked through)

Once cooked, combine all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl

Pour into a greased or sprayed square baking pan

Bake approximately 15-20 minutes

Top with more avocado and tomato, or add a favorite salsa if you chose.

Enjoy!!

Rainy Day “Comfort Food”-Chicken With Spicy Tomato Sauce, Kale Salad and Garlic Green Beans

A rainy day Sunday in Los Angeles definitely means I am going to be cooking something. Not only am I in the mood for something warm but I really do love making a big meal on Sundays. That way I don’t have to scramble for lunch the first few days of the week because I will have leftovers from a meal like this.

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Making food from scratch doesn’t have to be tough. This recipe has very few ingredients and the ingredients it does use are simple. You could also technically use fish instead of chicken if you wanted.

Fun Fact-There are tons of vitamins and minerals in this delicious and healthy dish. The tomatoes have vitamin A, C, lycopene and beta-carotene, among other vitamins, that are more readily absorbed when cooked healthy fats like the avocado oil used below. One cup of kale is equivalent to nearly 20% of the daily recommended dietary fiber intake and also contains powerful antioxidants that protect our cells from free radicals that can cause oxidative stress.

Broiled Chicken With Spicy Tomato Sauce, Kale Salad and Garlic Green Beans

In a bowl, combine:

4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (organic preferred)

1/4 tsp.sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

In another bowl, toss together:

3-4 cups of lacinato kale, chopped

1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 and 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

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In a large pot, bring to a boil:

3 quarts of water, and once the water is boiling, add 1 lb of fresh green beans, trimmed

When the green beans are al dente (just slightly cooked), drain and toss them with

While the green beans cook:

Preheat the oven to BROIL and line a baking pan with foil.

Place the chicken breasts that have been soaking in the lemon juice and spices onto the foil and broil for 12-15 minutes.

When the green beans are al dente (just slightly cooked), drain and toss them with:

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

a dash of sea salt and lemon pepper

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While the chicken cooks:

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and coat with non-stick pan spray, add:

2 tbsp. oil of choice ( I used avocado oil)

3/4 cup yellow onion, diced

3-4 garlic cloves, diced

When the onions are soft (about 2 minutes), add:

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

4 roma tomatoes, diced

2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1/4 tsp. sea salt

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Simmer the tomatoes until they begin to soften. Serve the tomato mixture over the chicken with the sides of the green beans and kale salad.

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