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!

How To Enjoy Thanksgiving…One Step At A Time…

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for family, great friends and good food. But we should not forget one other major item we are thankful for at this time of year…HEALTH…and overdoing it during the upcoming holiday season can impede those feelings of gratefulness because we feel sluggish and achy from eating too much junk, or just eating TOO MUCH…PERIOD.images-14

According to the Caloric Council Control, the typical holiday meal can contain more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat. That is MORE THAN THREE DAYS WORTH OF FOOD for most of us!! White flours, refined sugars and heavy creams seem to be lurking in every dish and some of these meals seem to NEVER END.

For those of us who are trying to lead healthier lifestyles, mindful, healthy eating is just as important on Thanksgiving as it is any other day of the year. Fortunately, it is possible to eat healthier and enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving. Here are a few tips I have created. Some are only really helpful if you are the person cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but you can use many of these tips as the person eating this meal as well. Or perhaps if you are concerned about packing on pounds during Thanksgiving, you might take the initiative and make or bring some dishes if you are attending another’s feast?? Just a thought…

1. Start with a soup. images-12A homemade one would be best. I just created a fantastic vegan acorn squash soup that is on my website. There are also a few recipes for pumpkin or a carrot ginger soup all found on google. Most use little if any oils and fill your stomach up with fiber and other vitamins and minerals to keep your digestive system up and running during the holidays. This way you can still eat your favorite goods, but you will probably have room for less!

2. Eat the light meat instead of the dark meat. We all know the light meat is healthier, has less fat and calories, etc. If you absolutely MUST have the dark, just try to watch your portions. I guarantee there will be more tomorrow, and if not, another time. This is not the last time you are eating in life!

3. Watch the gravy. Depending on who is making it (at least in my house), the gravy is typically the leftover oil from the turkey, giblets, etc…and if you use a ton of it, it can add a lot of unnecessary calories. Use this sparingly or look up recipes for gravies that cut the fat, like this apple cider gravy. Or use cranberry sauce, which tends to be lighter in calories and again like the vegetable soups, high in vitamins and minerals.

4. Cut the green bean casserole. images-15Ok, so I don’t have any statistical facts on this, but I can guarantee from my own experiences that if you don’t have this casserole at your Thanksgiving table, no one will be sad. Who wants to get a bunch of excess calories from a fatty cream sauce infused vegetable dish anyhow? I would rather get mine from pumpkin pie, thanks!! Try a dish like sautéed green beans with roasted onions and garlic. You can just chop up a load of green beans, onions and garlic, sauté them in a pan with grapeseed oil, a little salt and pepper and maybe some lemon juice or balsamic and have a cleaner vegetable at your Thanksgiving table. Another recipe I adore and make for my family at Thanksgiving is Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Keep the veggies clean!

5. Do mashed sweet potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes. Sweet PotatoesThey are sweeter, have more fiber, a lower glycemic index and make a great holiday recipe with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and roasted pecans or walnuts mixed in.

6. Make your own stuffing. I don’t have a special recipe, but I have seen some great ones that use quinoa and/or root vegetables. Take the initiative and look one up on google to make. Your digestive system will thank you

7. Don’t skip dessert. no-bake-pumpkin-pie-with-gingersna-crust-rpBut don’t gorge either. Dessert is one of my Thanksgiving favorites. I always have a sliver of pecan and pumpkin pie, but I don’t go crazy. Be mindful, eat it slowly and savor every bite. If you are afraid of what all the sugar at dessert will do to you, your mind and body, again, there are a million and one raw vegan pie recipes or other healthier desserts. Take the initiative and make a fruit bowl or bring one to a dinner if you are a guest at someone’s house.

8. As I said in tip 7, be mindful, eat slowly and savor every bite of your food. Talk to friends and relatives as you eat, let yourself digest. If it is an all day affair, you can go back for seconds later. Remember, you will get to eat again. Be grateful that you have so much food you don’t know what to do with it, or you will have leftovers for days! Be grateful for the friends and family you get to share this food and this holiday season with.

9. ENJOY and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!images-9

 

 

Hearty And Healthy Soup Recipe Just In Time For Fall…Acorn Squash Soup!!

As luck would have it, I got back from the Natural Products Expo last week and started to develop a cold. I am not one to get sick, but over the past few days I have surrendered to the ugly fate and tried to let my body rest and sweat out what appears to be a nasty sinus infection.Image 3

I woke up this morning and was craving soup. I don’t crave soup often, but when I do its either because it’s cold outside, or I am feeling under the weather. I would usually drive over to Jerry’s Deli in Marina Del Rey and get a huge chicken matzo ball soup to go, but I didn’t feel like driving, nor did I feel like ingesting the amount of sodium I know is in that soup! I looked on my counter top at the lone acorn squash and decided I would create a delicious and healthy soup using that as my base. I have to be honest with you. This soup took about an hour to make, because I had to cook the acorn squash a bit so I could peel the skin first. It is also kind of a pain to grate up 3-4 inches of ginger root, but let me tell you, when it was all said and done, this is probably one of the best tasting soups EVER.

The ginger root gives it a kick and is great for your digestive system, the onion and garlic make it a little more savory, the coconut oil adds a touch of sweetness and carrots add not only sweetness, but also extra beta-carotene. This soup is high in vitamins A and C, not to mention a ton of fiber and other nutrients. Did I also mention that this soup is vegan and gluten-free? So what’s not to like about it?Image 7

 

 

VEGAN ACORN SQUASH SOUP

1 organic acorn squash, chopped

1 cup of chopped carrots

1 cup of chopped onions

4-5 cloves of chopped garlic

3-4 inches of grated ginger root

2-3 tbsp coconut oil

3 cups of low sodium vegetable broth

sea salt and pepper to taste

First, I believe it is best to cook the acorn squash so that you can peel the skin off. For this you will need to slice it in half, place each half face down in a cooking pan with 1/2 inch of water for about 30 minutes.

While this is happening you can put the coconut oil, carrots, onions and garlic in a pan and saute them for a few minutes, then place them in a pot. Once the squash is done, peel it and add it to the pot as well with the ginger and the vegetable broth. Simmer all the ingredients (it should look like the above picture) for about 30 minutes.

Then you will take this mixture and pour it into a food processor or Vitamix if you own one, and blend it until it is pureed to your desired amount of thickness. Then you can pour some in a bowl and get fancy with a sprig of parsley, like I did in the first picture.

Another awesome thing about this soup is…there is leftovers! That is when my handy dandy mason jars get to come out and play. These are a great investment (only about 10-15 dollars at your local hardware store) and great for storing/freezing leftovers. Image 6

Fall Is Here! Time For A Hearty Veggie Recipe…Lentil And Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Getting tired of the whole spaghetti squash craze and having had my share of butternut squash, I was at the grocery store this past week and came across an acorn squash. At $1.79 a squash, I thought I would take my chances and bring one home and figure out what to do with it later. Image 3

Acorn squash is a winter squash, which means it is best eaten when the skin has hardened into a tough rind. It is also best to eat it cooked ( I can’t imagine eating it NOT cooked!) This squash is low calorie, only 56 calories for one cup! It is high in complex carbohydrates, potassium vitamin C and dietary fiber. Acorn squash is also high in beta-carotene, and the darker the skin, the higher the beta carotene content.

This recipe I came up with was based off of another recipe, but I made it my own. It is probably best for a chilly winter night, but can be eaten at any time, packed in a to-go tupperware and paired with your favorite lean protein if you feel like you need it.

Lentil And Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

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1 acorn squash, chopped in half

1 cup quinoa

1/2 cup lentils, red or green

1 red bell pepper, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons of coconut oil

1/4 tablespoon cumin

1/4 tablespoon tumeric

sea salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 350F. Cut squash in half and place in a baking dish filled with 1/2 an inch of water. Place flesh down and bake for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, cook 1 cup quinoa and 1/2 cup lentils together in a pot of water (about 2 cups of water) for 10-12 minutes or until fully cooked. In another pan, sauté the garlic and red pepper in the coconut oil. When the red pepper and garlic are soft, combine them with the lentils and quinoa. Then add the turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper. Drizzle a little  more coconut oil if necessary.

When the squash is done, take it out and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Drain the water from the pan and place a baking sheet in the pan. Put the squash back in the pan and pour the quinoa and lentil mix into each squash half. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes. Take them out and enjoy!!