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Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

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It’s hard to believe Halloween is already here.

It seems like I just packed away all of my Christmas decorations, and now it’s already time to start planning a Thanksgiving menu. I’d have to say, though, my absolute favorite months are among us. September, October, and November are my favorite time of year. The weather is starting to get chilly, but still sunny enough to allow for constant comfort. Football games, mums, changing leaves, crackling fires…I could go on and on.

This past weekend I got to do something I look forward to every year come October: pumpkin carving. This activity can only truly exist while watching Hocus Pocus, of course. There’s something nostalgic about celebrating a fun holiday with candy, scary movies, and jack-o-lanterns that takes you back to childhood.

Something else I love about this season as the cold weather comes in is the endless options of soups. I recently bought a beautiful acorn squash from Trader Joe’s. I was so intrigued by the cute little acorn shape and the vibrant green and hints of orange that made up the outside of the squash. I had never cooked an acorn squash before, so I was really excited to roast it for enchiladas, stuff it with quinoa, or even bake it with cinnamon and sugar for a festive dessert. Despite all of my great plans for the little guy, the squash sat on my counter for a good week without being touched. I think I was a little intimidated!

So then came my craving for soup. I wanted something substantial without tons of heavy cream or even meat. And I’m so over chicken noodle and vegetable soup. Our freezer is still loaded beyond capacity with these gems. Cue the squash.

This little acorn squash made an incredible velvety soup with rich hints of warm spices and white pepper. We’ve eaten this for lunch and dinner multiple times. It’s definitely a meal I’ll be whipping up again once I have another acorn squash to grace my kitchen countertop.

Here’s what you’ll need:

(Adapted from Oh My Veggies)

One large acorn squash 

Coconut oil (or olive/canola) cooking spray

1/2 teaspoon of course ground salt

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 tablespoon of olive oil 

1 tablespoon of butter

1 shallot, chopped

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

2 teaspoons of sugar

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups of unsweetened almond milk

2 cups of vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon of white pepper

Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

 

For Croutons:

3 thick slices of stale bread, cubed

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely minced

 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Carefully cut the squash in half (length-wise) and discard the seeds with a spoon.

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 Spray the squash with coconut oil spray and sprinkle with salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place both squash halves on a foil-lined baking sheet, cut-side down. Roast for 45-50 minutes. Allow it to cool before using a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Discard the skin.

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While the squash is roasting, heat butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Helpful Trick: Adding oil to butter protects the butter from burning. 

Add the chopped shallots and onions. Toss them around in the hot oil to coat evenly. Once they become soft, after about 5 minutes, add sugar and sautee for about 15 minutes to caramelize. Lastly, add the garlic and stir continuously for another minute. Remove from the heat once everything is caramel in color and set aside.

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Add the squash, onion mix, almond milk, and vegetable broth to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Season with white pepper and a dash of salt to taste if necessary.

For the croutons, slice bread into large cubes. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Broil for 5-6 minutes, turning over every minute or so to make sure all sides are golden brown.

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Serve the soup warm with a dollop of plain greek yogurt (or sour cream) and a handful of croutons. Garnish with a sprig of parsley if you wish.

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The flavors of this soup will warm you up from head to toe. The buttery squash, sweet caramelized onions, tangy yogurt, and savory croutons make for the perfect bowl of fall comfort.

Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Sweet Treats

 

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Coconut Cake Donuts with Chocolate Glaze

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The middle of a donut has zero calories.

I really love donuts. They make me happy, but the nutritional content, not so much. That’s why it’s all about moderation, right? There’s a fabulous old fashioned donut place down the street from our house. The first time I ever had their angel cream donut, I’m pretty sure I had tears in my eyes. Only a close second to the sour cream cake donut, which literally melts in your mouth as soon as you take a bite.

I could probably go on for days about these sweet treats. It’s not always easy recreating something so delicious as a donut into something a little healthier with less fat and processed ingredients. Changing just one ingredient can completely take away from the entire reason why donuts taste good in the first place. Thankfully when I ran across this recipe on Tasty Kitchen, I was intrigued. Of course I love coconut flour (you can’t beat the health benefits of grain-free desserts!), and in my opinion, chocolate could make dirt taste delectable.

Just as a side note, we all know cake donuts are delicious. The bakery near my house knows I think cake donuts are super delicious. However, the difference between this recipe and the chocolate coconut cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts is HUGE. One of DD’s donuts has 550 calories and 39 grams of fat. One of these delicious grain-free donuts has only 180 calories and 6.8 grams of fat. This means you’ll just have to treat yo’ self to more than one :)

Last night my husband and I decided to have an “at home” date night :) We cooked a fancy dinner, learned how to Salsa (thanks, YouTube!), and shared a lot of laughs while baking these donuts together. When we first started dating, my donut pan got a lot of use in our little college kitchens. Baking donuts is something that brings back a lot of fun memories for us. As I’ve said before, I think the best memories are those made in the kitchen. What is your favorite kitchen memory?

Here’s what you’ll need:
(recipe from Faith on Tasty Kitchen

1/2 cups of honey

6 eggs

1/2 cups of coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

3/4 cups of coconut flour

3/4 teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

For the Glaze:

1/2 cups of milk chocolate chips

1 tablespoon of coconut oil, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, blend the eggs and honey. Then add in the coconut oil and vanilla until frothy.

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Add the coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Blend until smooth.

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In a greased donut pan, fill each circle with the batter. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove to cool completely.

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For the glaze, melt the chocolate and coconut oil until smooth. Heat in the microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring well after each interval, until completely melted.

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Once the donuts are cooled, dip one side into the glaze and place in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.

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This recipe will make 12 standard size donuts.

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If you’re anything like us, you won’t be able to wait for the chocolate to harden.

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Enjoy!!

 – Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Sweet Treats

 

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Lemon Pepper Zucchini Kabobs

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The best meals are those shared with the best of friends.

I love zucchini because of the versatility it offers to countless recipes. I’ve baked with it, roasted it, dehydrated it, even turned it into noodles (or “zoodles” if I may). For this recipe, I grilled it.

Honestly, zucchini doesn’t take much. Don’t you love vegetables like this? You can peel it, or not. You can slice it, or not. You can marinade it, fry it, season it with fresh herbs, or you can even stick to the sure-fire simplicity of salt and pepper. No matter what you do, it’s pretty much always really tasty…especially when you grill it with lemon pepper!

Whenever I mention something like lemon pepper chicken, lemon pepper pasta, or lemon pepper shrimp, peoples’ eyes get really big. “Wow!” they’ll say in awe, “I would have no idea how to make something that fancy.”

Today I’m here to tell you the hidden reality behind lemon pepper. A common seasoning that perfectly accents vibrant veggies, poultry, or rich seafood. Here’s the thing – it is just what it is: lemon + pepper. Shocking, right?

Two ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen can come together to make this incredible flavor combo of citrus and spice without any fuss or much effort at all.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 zucchini squash (skin on), cut into inch-wide sticks

Canola oil (or olive oil) spray

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of course ground pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

In a quart size zip-top bag, spray oil for about 3 seconds onto zucchini pieces. Add lemon zest, juice, pepper, and salt.

Seal the bag and thoroughly mix all of the contents to evenly coat the zucchini.

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Put the bag in the fridge for about 30 minutes (up to an hour) to marinate all the flavors.

Once the grill is hot, skewer the zucchini pieces and grill for a minute or two on each side until grill marks are visible and the squash is tender.

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I served this dish alongside grilled sesame chicken and grilled corn with citrus dill butter.

My husband and I were so privledged to have my best friend Logan come stay with us this past weekend. She makes life so much fun. When we asked her what she wanted for dinner, she requested everything from the grill. If you know Logan, you know she calls the shots. So…we grilled!

We had the best weekend with Logan. We played tennis, visited an awesome science museum, and had some serious late night Mario Kart battles.

Here she is awaiting her “grilled” feast.

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Hope you liked it, Logan! Come back soon :)

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Sides and Salads

 

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Fall Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash and Kale

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Fall flavors are so heartwarming.

It’s just now starting to get chilly here in NC. I love having a fire in the fireplace, apple cider on the stovetop, and pumpkins on my doorstep.

When the season of cozy sweaters and heavier blankets rolls in, so can the extra calories. It’s hard to avoid classic cool-weather recipes. Rich pastas, heavy sauces, creamy casseroles, and breads galore, Pinterest is filled with mouth-watering comfort classics that may satisfy your carb craving, but not your waistline. If you’re trying to stay fit for longer than just bikini season, have no fear. You can definitely enjoy the same comforting flavors and satisfying meals without the guilt.

I decided to experiment with this recipe a few nights ago when I knew the upcoming week was going to be a little hectic. I needed something that could hang out in my fridge, ready to eat and ready to go for a quick meal. A meal that wouldn’t feel like a “snack” – I wanted something hearty and delicious, and boy did I find it!

Just a brief recap on the supergrain that is quinoa:

- It’s one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat, containing all nine essential amino acids

- It contains almost twice the amount of fiber as most other grains

- It contains iron, which helps keep your blood cells healthy AND boosts your metabolism

SCORE!

Quinoa is also really delicious. It’s a fun ingredient because it will take on the flavor of whatever liquid you use to cook it in. This means quinoa can be savory, sweet, spicy, or citrusy. The options are endless! It’s good for side dishes, casserole bases, or even as a breakfast cereal. I like this particular recipe because it’s a quick and easy one-dish meal that doesn’t leave you feeling hungry an hour later. It’s also only 245 calories with 6 grams of protein per serving :)

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups of cubed butternut squash

Olive or canola oil spray

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, minced

1 teaspoon of course sea salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 cup of quinoa 

2 cups of organic low sodium vegetable broth

1/4 cup of chopped pecans

1/4 cup of dried cranberries 

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 tablespoons of honey

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

1 1/2 cup of raw kale, roughly chopped

1/3 cup of feta cheese crumbles

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

On a sheet pan, lightly spray the squash with oil making sure to coat all sides. I love using spray oil (olive or canola) instead of drizzling oil when roasting vegetables because I know I’ll use a lot less and still get what I need.

Make a seasoning salt by combining the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Rub the mix between your fingertips to release the oils and flavors of the rosemary into the salt.

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Coat the oiled squash with the salt mix and bake for 20 minutes, turning the squash over after ten minutes. Make sure the squash is in one layer.

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While the squash is roasting, bring the quinoa and broth to a boil, and then simmer covered on low for 15 minutes.

Toast the chopped pecans to intensify their flavor and to add a little extra crunch to the salad. In a dry skillet over medium heat, shake the nuts around until they become fragrant and slightly darker in color.

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, honey, and cayenne pepper for about a minute to emulsify the oil. Add the dried cranberries allowing them sit in the liquid to plump them up a bit.

Let the squash, quinoa, and nuts cool slightly before tossing them together in the vinegar dressing. Once everything is combined, toss in the kale and feta cheese.

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This tasty salad is filled with warm flavors of fall from the smokey cayenne pepper, the caramelized undertones of the roasted butternut squash, the sweet tart cranberries, and the buttery toasted nuts. I added feta cheese for extra creaminess that really brings all the ingredients together.

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This salad contains about 6 generous servings and can be enjoyed hot or cold. Keep it stored in an airtight container in your fridge. It’ll last up to a week, but I can’t make any promises that it will stick around for more than a couple days.

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Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Sides and Salads

 

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Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

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I think shepherd’s pie gets a bad rap.

Often referred to as “the poor man’s meal” shepherd’s pie is definitely not a fine dining staple or sought after menu item. That’s perfectly fine, because some of my favorite foods can only be made in the comfort of a home kitchen. Shepherd’s pie is one of those cozy meals that reminds me of coming inside with rosy cheeks after playing in the yard on a cool fall day. A one-dish dinner that leaves the whole house smelling like a warm hug from grandma. I love it.

I also love taking dishes like this and replacing the not-so-great-for-you stuff with healthier alternatives. Let’s look at a traditional shepherd’s pie:

white potatoes + ground beef (or lamb) + butter + gravy + half and half or heavy cream

At least 360 calories and over 17 grams of fat per serving. Yikes. No wonder it’s so comforting and delicious!

Now let’s look at changing things up a bit:

sweet potatoes + lean turkey breast + olive oil + yogurt

Around 260 calories and only 3 grams of fat per serving – without sacrificing flavor! 

I had fun making this the other day before I left for my night classes. The schedule is tough getting used to, but I’m finding it nice having some time during the day to cook, blog…and study, of course! Meal prep is a really important part of eating well and living healthy. After a long day of work (or classes) it takes a lot of effort and self-control to avoid the convenience of ordering from a take-out menu or making a quick run through the nearby drive-thu. Prepping your meals will save you unnecessary calories, stress, and money – I promise!  It just takes a little time, patience, and creativity.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Potatoes

2 pounds of sweet potatoes

1/2 inch of grated fresh ginger (peeled)

1/4 cup of nonfat plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup of organic vegetable broth (low sodium)

1 egg

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of cumin

 For the Filling

Head of garlic

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound of 99% fat free ground turkey breast

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/4 teaspoon of cumin

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks of celery (with leaves), chopped

1 cup of carrots, chopped

1/4 cup of red wine

2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour

1 cup of organic vegetable broth (low sodium)

1 cup of frozen peas

1 can of green beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon of dried sage

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 teaspoon of worcestershire sauce

In a large pot of salted water, boil the sweet potatoes until they are fork tender. Allow them to cool until they are safe to handle and peel.

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In the meantime, roast a whole head of garlic in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. If you’ve never done this before, you are in for a HUGE treat. Roasting garlic removes the bitterness and intensifies the sweet flavor of garlic. Once it’s roasted, the cloves will turn into paste that is perfect stirred into soups, sauces, and shepherd’s pie :) 

Just cut off the top of the garlic head so all of the cloves are exposed. Drizzle with a little olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Wrap in a tin foil pouch and bake for 40 minutes.

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In a medium skillet, brown the ground turkey breast. I had to add a little olive oil since the 99% fat free turkey sometimes needs some extra (healthy) fat to brown nicely. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Set aside.

In a large oiled skillet over medium high heat, sweat the onion until it is semi-translucent (about 5-6 minutes) and then add the celery and carrots. Sautee until tender. I like adding the celery leaves because they have so much flavor that adds to this dish. 

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Deglaze the pan with any red wine you enjoy drinking.

Once the wine has reduced (after about a minute or so in the pan) stir in the flour until everything is evenly coated. Add the vegetable broth and mix well. Bring to a boil.

Add the peas, green beans, tomato paste, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cooked turkey. Squeeze in the entire head of roasted garlic. Stir well and remove from heat.

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In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked sweet potatoes (without skins) with grated ginger, greek yogurt, vegetable broth, salt, cumin, and egg. Blend for 3 minutes, or until smooth.

Transfer the turkey mixture into a large oven safe dish. Top with sweet potatoes and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

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Enjoy this delicious dish full of comfort and satisfying flavor – without all the guilt! This is a great meal to prepare the morning of, keep it in the fridge, and pop it in the oven right before dinner time.

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- Kelsey

 

 

 

 
 

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Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

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Tis the season for pumpkin everything!

Ever since Starbucks came out with an early release of the PSL (don’t get me started on those things!), fall has been in full swing – and pumpkin has taken over just about every menu item and grocery aisle. There’s just no escaping it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of pumpkin. I tend to prefer warm apple and cinnamon flavors in the fall, but as I’ve said many times before, my tendency to hop on the fad ingredient bandwagon typically gets the best of me.

I did a little nutritional investigation and was very pleased to discover all of the great health benefits of pumpkin. It’s packed with tons of Vitamin A (helps with vision among other things) and Vitamin C (boosts immune system function), is full of fiber (keeps you feeling full for longer), and is a great source of beta-carotene (super antioxidant which can help prevent cancer). Love that!

If you want to make sure you’re getting all the great nutrients and health benefits from your pumpkin purée, take time to read the ingredient label. Skip out on any products that have added ingredients or preservatives. Great rule of thumb – if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. 

After making these pancakes, I went back to the store and bought a few more cans of purée to satisfy my pumpkin fix until Thanksgiving. Maybe one day soon I’ll be ambitious enough to make my own. If that happens, you’ll be the first to know!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or non-stick cooking spray)

2 eggs

1 ripe banana

1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use Warrior Blend raw vegan protein)

2 tablespoons of organic pumpkin purée

1 sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to combine all of the ingredients until very smooth.

Spoon batter onto the hot skillet and flip with a spatula once bubbles have formed on the surface. Cook for an additional minute, or until both sides are golden brown and firm to touch.

This recipe will make 3 generous pancakes.

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Each pumpkiny pancake has about 100 calories and 10 grams of protein. You’ll be happy you started your morning off with something this delicious and nutritious :)

What’s your favorite pumpkin recipe?

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Morning Glories

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies (Grain-Free)

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I’m not one to settle for a healthy cookie. 

There’s a pretty clear distinction between indulging in a warm, gooey, buttery, chocolate chip cookie and “treating yourself” to a sugar-free, negative calorie, “made with fruits and veggies” impostor cookie.

When I want a cookie, I want to really enjoy it.

And typically, I really want to enjoy more than just one.

I was ecstatic when I found this killer recipe from The Detoxinista. I was even more pleased when I discovered how decadent and truly delicious these cookies turned out to be, even without the grains and all the sugar.

How could it be? A guilt-free cookie that actually tastes like heaven? Yup. 

Lately I’ve been baking here and there with coconut flour. Like I said, I quickly latch on to fad ingredients. Here are a few reasons why I love coconut flour:

- It’s ground from dried, defatted coconut meat (no chemicals! no additives!) 

- It’s naturally gluten-free

- It’s super high in fiber

- It’s low in carbohydrates 

- It’s really delicious, and a tiny little bit makes a lot of good eats

I promise you’ll find plenty of your own reasons to love these cookies. Give them a try and see for yourself.

(Adapted from The Detoxinista)

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/3 cup of coconut flour

1/4 cup of virgin coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup of agave nectar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 eggs

1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. I love coconut oil cooking spray from Trader Joe’s! 

In a mixing bowl, combine the coconut flour, coconut oil, agave, vanilla, salt, and eggs until a smooth batter is formed. Stir for a couple minutes – the batter will thicken to cookie dough consistency. 

Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula until they are evenly distributed.

Use a cookie scoop or a large tablespoon to scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. With the back of a spoon or your clean hands, slightly press the dough down to flatten. These cookies will not spread on their own so shape them the way you want them to look! 

Bake for 12-14 minutes until the cookies just start to turn golden brown. Allow them to cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring them to a cooling rack.

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Don’t fret if you’re not a coconut lover! These cookies, surprisingly enough, do not have a coconut flavor. They’re light, fluffy, and melt in your mouth like any good gooey chocolatey freshly baked cookie should. With only 100 little calories and 7 grams of sugar per cookie, I think I’ll have two…or three more.

Enjoy!

- Kelsey

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Sweet Treats

 

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