Curry Spaghetti Squash with Spiced Greek Yogurt Sauce

The first big snow of the season in Chicago means winter is here (wah, wah) and it’s COLD!

Coldness

Coldness2

When the weather gets cold, there’s nothing like a spicy curry dish to warm you up. Typical curry dishes can pack on the calories, however, because of heavy coconut milk and lots of butter. So I figured, why not make a lightened-up recipe using curry? This spaghetti squash dish is vegetable-based (vegetarian, in fact), gluten-free and full of flavor. Enjoy!

Curry Spaghetti Squash with Spiced Greek Yogurt Sauce

Curried_spaghettisquash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked spaghetti squash (about 1/4 large squash)
  • 1/2 cup kidney beans (preferably organic, no salt added variety — Whole Foods has a great version)
  • 1/2 cup 2% or full-fat organic (from grass-fed cows) Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp organic raisins
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp organic honey
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

Cook spaghetti squash by halving and roasting in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Use a fork to shred squash into “spaghetti.” Mix spaghetti squash with remaining ingredients until well-blended. Serve warm.

Note: you can make the spaghetti squash ahead of time and then heat once you’ve mixed the ingredients (this is what I did)

Curried_spaghetti_squash

Enjoy!

What other cold-weather dishes do you love?

Protein Pasta, Made with Black Beans

Here’s a tip from a foodie dietitian (me!): ALWAYS check out the ethnic food aisle at your grocery store. There are so many amazing, unique products bursting with flavor and often, nutrition. I recently used this advice during a visit to Plum Market, a new grocery store in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. Though Plum Market is smaller than some grocery stores, it is brimming with up-and-coming brands and products that you never knew you couldn’t live without.

This brings me to the discovery of a true ethnic food gem: black bean pasta (made by Explore Asian Authentic Cuisine) or as I like to call it, PROTEIN PASTA. First off, check out this amazing ingredient list (clean eaters rejoice!):

Black bean pasta ingredients

But more importantly, the nutrition is unheard of. Just goes to show that nature creates foods that are far superior to processed foods. To compare, Barilla Plus Pasta (touted as having protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids) – for the same size portion – has 210 calories, 4 g fiber and 10 g protein. Plus the Barilla has 15 ingredients compared to two ingredients for the black bean pasta – with one being water, which barely counts. Oh, and check out all of those certifications — gluten-free, USDA Organic, Vegan.

Black Bean Pasta Nutrition

So what to do with this glorious protein pasta? Even though it’s made by the company Explore Asian Ethnic Cuisine, when I think black beans, I think Mexican. This pasta dish is loaded with veggies – tomatoes, corn, kale (lots of it all) and topped with salsa instead of tomato sauce. The high fiber and protein content of the pasta makes it extremely filling. IMPORTANT: if you’re not a big bean/lentil eater, you need to start with a small serving of this pasta, or suffer the GI consequences.

Veggies simmering away (just saute with olive oil):

Colorful_Veggies

Add cooked black bean pasta to your plate, drizzle with olive oil, and top with veggie mixture, salsa and avocado (Since I live in Chicago and we don’t have “local avocados,” I like to buy California Avocados since they’re at least farmed in the U.S.). Such a delicious, satisfying meal that took all of 20 minutes to make.

Black_Bean_Pasta_with_Veggies

Stay tuned for another faux veggie pasta, made with squash and the coolest kitchen gadget (the spiral slicer). Though I’ve never been a big pasta lover, I am completely loving these veggie- and bean-based versions.

Cauliflower and Black Bean Burgers

Another cauliflower post, I know. I apologize…it’s just that after so many years of hating cauliflower, I have somehow fallen fast and hard for it (I attribute to better cooking methods). Alas, my cauliflower kick lives on; this time in the form of a “burger.” Something else you should know about me – specifically my cooking – is that my inspiration comes from my fridge. I take inventory over its contents (I HATE wasting food) and think of how I can prepare the almost-bad veggies in the drawer or re-purpose my leftovers into something new and delicious.

So, when I saw a head of cauliflower in my fridge alongside a big container of black beans I had just cooked up, I figured I should combine them. And whenever I have random ingredients that I want to meld into one dish, I generally start to think of a burger/fritter concoction. It is one of the easiest ways to incorporate lots of different foods (and sneak in veggies) into something delicious that can be served on a bun, over a salad, with a side of veggies or just on its own.

Quick tangent: I have found a revolutionary way of cooking beans, thanks to the Paupered Chef blog. I kid you not, they have discovered a method for cooking beans that requires no pre-soaking and takes 90 minutes start to finish. 90 minutes!! I used to think two hours was good (not including the overnight soaking). Check out the Pauperd Chef’s extreme ingeniousness here.

If using canned beans for this recipe, just make sure you rinse them well to remove all the slimy stuff they’re canned in (or if cooking dried beans yourself, be sure to rinse them when they’re done). That “slimy stuff” contains raffinose and stachyose, two complex carbohydrates that are difficult to digest, and thus cause gas. Rinsing the beans not only makes them less gas-inducing, but also removes about 1/3 of the salt from the beans. And we all could use less salt in our diets.

Cauliflower_Burger_with_Ketchup

Yes, that’s ketchup on top. And yes, I still love ketchup like a 5 year old.

Cauliflower and Black Bean Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated cauliflower (about 1/2 head) – I used a box grater for this
  • 3/4 cups cooked or canned black beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (for cooking)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients through chili powder in bowl and mix until clumpy (mixture will still be somewhat loose, but will still stick together). Heat olive oil in large pan. Form cauliflower mixture into patties and transfer to pan (again, they will fall apart a little but you can re-shape them into patties once they’re in the pan). Cook for 4-6 minutes on each side, or until browned.

Pictured above with a kale salad with mustard vinaigrette and topped with…ketchup. Don’t judge. I just love ketchup.

Would also be good with salsa and avocado, or even crumbled into a taco.

 

Vegan Pesto Made With Farmed Here’s Sweet Basil

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Farmed Here‘s vertical farm – a magical place sprouting with delicious basil and arugula. Their indoor aquaponic and aeroponic growing systems are extremely innovative and I feel truly are the future of farming.

The trip left me craving more basil, especially their delicious Sweet Basil variety. And what better way to honor basil than to make it into pesto. When life gives you basil, make pesto?? For the best pesto recipe, I went to my biggest (and best) cooking influence: my Mom. I tweaked her tried and true recipe just a bit to make it vegan, substituting nutritional yeast for Parmesan cheese and adding in the juice of a lemon to freshen it up and counteract the yeasty taste.

Next on my list is to make this recipe using Farmed Here’s Lemon Basil, which has the most amazing and bright lemon flavor.

Vegan Sweet Basil Pesto

Vegan_Pesto

Farmed Here’s box actually keeps the basil extra-fresh. I used it as a house for my jar of pesto.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoon pepitas, toasted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and consistent.

 

Tasted scrumptious on roasted cauliflower…

Roasted_Cauliflower_with_Pesto

 

 

Tandoori Tempeh Kabobs with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Tempeh is hands-down my favorite soy product. Pronounced temp-ay, tempeh is a fermented soybean product that also contains whole grains (I love the Organic 3 Grain Tempeh from Trader Joe’s, which includes millet, barley and brown rice), giving it a nice texture and crunchiness. High in protein and fiber and with mostly unsaturated fat, tempeh is a wonderful vegan/vegetarian protein.

What I like most about tempeh, however, is its versatility. I can cut it into strips, cube it, halve it and even mash it to incorporate it into various recipes. Tempeh originated in Indonesia and naturally pairs well with Asian flavors, however, I love using it for other types of cuisine: rustic, with carrots and onions and earthy herbs like rosemary, “down-home,” with BBQ sauce, corn and greens and even sweetened up with roasted acorn squash, nuts and dried fruit. Here’s my latest concoction: tempeh skewers (who doesn’t love food on a stick??) with peanut dipping sauce. You can also see some of my other tempeh creations below (blog posts to follow).

Tandoori Tempeh Kabobs with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce:

Tandoori_Tempeh_Kabobs

Ingredients:

Tempeh Kabobs:

  • 1/2 block of tempeh (I used the aforementioned TJ Organic 3 Grain Tempeh), cubed
  • 1 cup sliced carrots, preferable organic
  • 1 Tbsp tandoori spice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Sriracha sauce, to taste
  • 2 skewers (can you tell I used chopsticks??)

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp low sodium teriyaki sauce (I like the Island Teriyaki version from TJ, which contains yummy sesame seeds)
  • Sriracha, to taste

Directions:

In medium saute pan, heat olive oil for 1 minute. Add carrots and saute 5 minutes. While carrots are cooking, toss tempeh with tandoori spice (or if you’re lazy, sprinkle tandoori over tempeh) and skewer. When carrots are done, transfer from pan to plate and add tandoori tempeh skewers to pan. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until you get a nice sear on all sides of tempeh. Serve skewers over cooked carrots and garnish with Sriracha sauce.

For dipping sauce, heat peanut butter for 20-30 seconds in microwave, or until the peanut butter is nice and melty. Add teriyaki sauce and Sriracha to taste.

 

More tempeh favorites:

Tempeh and Eggplant “Ratatouille:”

Tempeh_Eggplant_Ratatouille

 

Tempeh-Stuffed Acorn Squash:

Tempeh_Stuffed_Acorn_Squash

 

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cauliflower Pizza “Crust”

I will admit to being a total girl and getting the idea for a cauliflower-based pizza crust from Pinterest. I mean, let’s be honest though, Pinterest is amazing! What else would I spend my time on? Something meaningful and productive? I think not.

I had recently seen lots of pins about a cauliflower pizza crust and/or cauliflower “bread sticks.” After making Tandoori Cauliflower a couple weeks ago, I became cauliflower’s biggest fan (never really liked it before). I knew I had to test out the crust idea. Plus, at least half of my coworkers are allergic to either gluten and/or dairy. So I am always looking for recipes that they can also enjoy.

Most of the recipes I found on Pinterest contained mozzarella cheese, so I adjusted to my needs (dairy-free, gluten-free). I was skeptical as to whether this would taste great or gross, and must say that my expectations were blown out of the water! This was absolutely delicious. My only problem was that I didn’t make enough of it. I can’t wait to try it with different toppings and maybe a little cheese (I don’t have an intolerance, so why punish myself — cheese is delicious).

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower_Pizza_Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head raw cauliflower, riced (using potato ricer) or grated (should look like little cheese-like crumbles)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast*
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat olive oil in pan for 1 minute. Add minced onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until well incorporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread cauliflower mixture onto parchment. Shape into 8″-9″ circle. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until top is browned and crust is crisp.

Top with your favorite pizza ingredients. I spread mine with tomato paste, sweet pepper jam, crunchy kale and kalamata and green olives and baked an additional 7 minutes. With the pepper jelly and an extra sprinkling of chili pepper flakes, it was the perfect sweet/spicy combo!

*Since the original recipes I saw called for 1 cup shredded mozzarella, I replaced with 1/2 cup nutritional yeast to give a cheesy taste without actual cheese. If you’ve never used nutritional yeast, it has a cheesy taste, is vegan and gluten-free and contains protein (6 g per 1/4 cup), phosphorous (supports bone health) and potassium (helps regulate blood pressure among other things). Not to mention that 1/2 cup (the amount used in the entire recipe) contains only 90 calories (plus 12 grams protein). You can find nutritional yeast at Whole Foods and/or at your local health food store.

 

 

 

Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough eggs. Fried or poached eggs, when placed over any food, create the most unctuous, delicious, satisfying meal (in my opinion at least). Seriously, what is better than a perfectly runny yolk? They’re just so creamy and wonderful and smooth and they really complete any meal….

Whoa, just had a little egg moment…I’m back now. One of the many reasons I love eggs is because of their versatility. Sweet and savory applications plus so many cooking preparations! Even with all the cooking options, I tend to rely on fried and poached eggs, along with omelets. So I felt that I should explore another egg cooking method: baked eggs. You can bake them in different sauces or even bake them in potatoes, tomatoes, avocados – really anything! I decided to try mine baked in a marinara sauce, because I also can’t get enough marinara.

Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce:

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs per person (I made this for myself only, so I capped it at 2)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, or if you don’t have any, mix 1 cup canned tomatoes with 1/2 tsp each garlic powder, oregano, basil and black pepper
  • cooking spray
  • For serving: 2 cups arugula (preferably organic)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 2 ramekins with cooking spray and fill each with 1/2 cup marinara sauce. Crack an egg on top of both. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until yolk is set.

baked_eggs

Serve over arugula (spinach or kale would also be good).

baked_eggs_over_arugula

Did I mention how wonderful eggs are for you? Only 70 calories/egg with 6 grams protein. Yes, there is saturated fat and cholesterol in the yolk (though there is nothing wrong with 1-2 eggs a day…anything more than that and I recommend supplementing with some egg whites), but the yolk is also high in lutein and xeazanthin, two compounds that may reduce your risk for macular degeneration. The yolk also contains vitamin A, choline (may help improve brain functioning and reduce inflammation) and even some protein (it’s not all in the white!).

As far as choosing eggs at the store, I recommend Organic, Free Range eggs from chickens that have been fed a vegetarian diet. While these are the most expensive, you are getting what you pay for: higher quality eggs from more ethically-treated chickens, sans the pesticides and antibiotics.

Inside_baked_eggs

New Year’s Resolution to Eat Better

Happy New Year! Does this ^^ sound familiar? At the beginning of every new year we all make promises to ourselves to eat better, exercise more, etc. The real problem with these resolutions (and the reason why they ultimately fail) is that they are extremely vague. “Eating better” and “exercising more” leave lots of room for creativity and excuses.

As a dietitian, I am always working with my clients to help them define what it means to “eat better.” One of my biggest suggestions is to eat more fruits and vegetables and to determine how much is “more.” The USDA recommends around 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day (for most adults). A better way to think about it, though, is to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables. This will ensure that a) you are eating enough produce and b) you are replacing the higher calorie, higher fat, higher carb, etc. foods with lower calorie fruits and veggies.

Don’t let the five cup recommendation scare you. There are LOTS of delicious and different ways to prepare vegetables! Enter Tandoori Cauliflower from Sarah B of My New Roots. Wow! Looks amazing plus made with Tandoori which has a slew of good-for-you spices: tumuric (anti-inflammatory and promotes cognition and improved blood flow), chili powder (boosts metabolism, promotes heart health), paprika (anti-inflammatory, promotes heart health) and cumin (boosts immune functioning) among many others.

I made this twice: once with Greek yogurt and once with almond milk yogurt (needed it to be dairy-free). Both were delicious and the latter, which I made for a party, was a hit. The first time I made it (with Greek yogurt), I single-handedly devoured the whole thing in two sittings – and I don’t even like cauliflower!

Don’t let the color (white) of cauliflower fool you – it’s FULL of great nutrition. Only 25 calories for 1/6 of the cauliflower with 2 grams of fiber and 100% your daily needs for vitamin C plus close to 20% your daily need for folate.

Tandoori Cauliflower with Mint and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce (see link above for recipe).

Tandoori Cauliflower

The yogurt marinade forms a delicious golden crust. Looks dramatic but it’s super-easy!

 

Tandoori Cauliflower with Mint Chutney

Spicy, herbacious mint and cilantro chutney on top.

 

Extra mint chutney? Stay tuned for my next post – I found a delicious new recipe in which to use it.

Butternut Squash Tastes Like Butta

Butternut squash, with its creamy texture, is the perfect comfort food. Like butta, some might say. Plus, because it has both sweet and savory notes and is extremely versatile; not to mention it is loaded with nutrients. Nutrition breakdown: half a cup of butternut squash is only 50 calories and provides a whopping 260% your daily need for vitamin A, plus 40% your daily need for vitamin C (vitamins A and C boost immunity, can decrease inflammation and contribute to healthier skin, eyes and an overall healthier body). You’ll even get a little iron and calcium in that 1/2 cup serving, though you’ll probably want to eat more than half a cup!

My one issue with butternut squash, however, is that can take 45-60 minutes to cook. Thus, I had a butternut squash sitting on my counter for several weeks before I got around to making it. Did I mention I made it in 30 minutes? The key is to cut it up small. With a VERY sharp knife. Butternut squash doesn’t play around…you have to put major – at least for me – muscle into cutting that baby up. That expression, “no pain, no gain,” can absolutely be used here. Completely worth the minor hassle to get a deliciously cooked butternut squash, though. Check out how I used it several ways!

Butternut Squash and Arugula Salad

Arugula, White Bean and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash*
  • 1/2 cup white beans
  • 2 Tbsp roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cracked pepper

Directions: Toss all ingredients together. Yep- it’s that simple!

*To roast butternut squash, peel it and cut it into 1.5″ cubes. Drizzle with olive oil or use cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Note: the smaller the pieces you cut, the faster it will cook.

Butternut Squash-Stuffed Portabellas

Butternut Squash and Tempeh-Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash, mashed
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 oz tempeh (uncooked), finely chopped
  • 4 portabella mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt (smoked salt, if you have it, works really well)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1 oz cheese (parmesan would be ideal, but I didn’t have any, so I used light cheddar instead)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove stems from washed/dried portabellas. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Mix all remaining ingredients (excluding cheese) together and stuff into the prepared mushrooms. Top with shredded or thinly sliced cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until mushrooms are thoroughly cooked and cheese is browned and bubbly (and thus, delicious).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast Dilemma Solved

Banana Pumpkin Omelet

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The Sweet or Savory Breakfast Dilemma

I’m sure you’ve had this happen. You’re at a restaurant or at home trying to decide: do you want the sweet pancakes, waffles or French toast? Or are you in the mood for a delicious omelet (e.g. the savory breakfast option).

I believe I solved this issue today when I made a Banana-Pumpkin-Cinnamon Flourless “Crepe.” This is basically a sweet omelet. I was inspired by the egg mixture that you dip bread into whilst making French toast. Why couldn’t I make an omelet like this? And before you get grossed out thinking about an omelet with fruit in it, let’s review all of the sweet applications for eggs: the aforementioned French toast, souffl√©, meringues, any baked good…

Is it making sense now? Trust me, this was absolutely delicious with just the right amount of natural sweetness from the bananas and cinnamon, yet not overly sweet, which is usually what you find with a waffle, French toast and the like.

Protein Breakfast

Banana-Pumpkin-Cinnamon Flourless “Crepe”

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole egg + 1/3 cup egg white
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (or about 2 “shakes”)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Directions:

Beat egg and egg white with vanilla and cinnamon until fluffy. Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in a small omelet pan. When oil is melted, add egg mixture to pan. Distribute slices of banana evenly in egg/omelet mixture. Put a lid on it and cook until omelet sets. When omelet is fully cooked, fill it with half of the pumpkin puree. Fold the omelet in half and drizzle remaining pumpkin puree over the top. Sprikle with cinnamon if desired. You can also add a drizzle of honey on top, though I didn’t feel it was necessary.

Pictured with a piece of Manna Cinnamon Date Bread (this stuff is amazing!).

This protein-rich breakfast will keep you full and also satisfy your sweet tooth. Plus it also contains potassium (banana, pumpkin), vitamin A, vitamin C and even a little iron – all from that delicious, fall-like pumpkin.

Banana Pumpkin Omelet