I used to be a pretty terrible cook. After a long day of work, my go-to recipe was pasta with red sauce. If I was feeling particularly healthy, said pasta would be whole wheat. The red sauce always came from a jar, and was usually whatever was cheapest or on sale. It’s no wonder I usually ended up going out to eat in those days! Nowadays, I love cooking healthy meals at home. I’m still not a fantastic chef, but by sticking to simple recipes with high quality ingredients, I have fooled a few people. Today’s winter squash recipe includes a spaghetti that is a veggie – not a pasta – and a healthier version of red sauce. Here are the three healthy highlights from the ingredients in this dish:
- Red Sauce: This version is packed with fresh veggies and is healthier than most jars of sauce from the store which can be highly processed, loaded with sugar or high fructose corn syrup and high in sodium.
- Spaghetti Squash – This winter squash is high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which helps protect against heart disease and certain cancers. The omegas also help promote healthy brain function, which is one reason why everyone should be taking a high quality fish oil supplement!
- Navy Beans – These legumes are an excellent source of cholesterol lowering fiber, and minerals such as phosphorus, copper, magnesium and iron.
Baked Spaghetti Squash with Red Sauce
Ingredients – 4 to 6 servings:
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (mostly drained)
- 1 14 oz. can of navy beans (drained)
- 1 large carrot
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2-4 fresh basil leaves – optional
- salt & pepper
- Pour in the navy beans and keep on low until squash is ready
- Pour in diced tomatoes and oregano and keep on medium high heat until it starts to simmer, then turn to low
- Pour into saute pan and heat on medium for about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper
- Chop the carrot, red pepper and onion into pieces small enough to fit into your food processor – throw it all in there along with your garlic and pulse until everything is easily chopped
- While your squash is roasting – make your red sauce
- Roast for 40-60 minutes, checking and turning every 15 minutes; it is done when you can easily slice a knife all the way through it
- Place in baking dish with about 1/8 inch of water
- Pierce the squash several times on all sides with a fork or knife
- Set oven to 350 degrees
- Once squash is cooked and cooled enough for you to be able to handle it, slice off the end with the stem, then slice in half length-wise
- Use a fork to gently pull out any seeds
- Then, use a fork to scrape out the flesh of the squash – it should come out as strands and look like spaghetti noodles
- Place the squash into a casserole dish and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper
- Pour red sauce over squash
- Sprinkle cheese evenly across the top
- Bake for another 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted, garnish with fresh basil then enjoy!
Health Coach’s Tips:
- The squash process is a little time-consuming, so start roasting it as soon as possible in the evening in advance of dinner. It helps to have help with the seeds and scooping, so tackling that with 2 sets of hands makes it go faster.
- The easy red sauce is a great replacement to store-bought sauce that often contains a lot of added sugar. You can sneak in extra veggies; try different combinations and see what you like best.
Questions for you: What was your go-to dish when you first started cooking? What is it now?
My local Farmers Market is bursting with squash of all shapes, sizes and colors right now. One of my favorites is acorn squash. Slice it in two, scoop out the seeds and you have an edible bowl that you can stuff with something tasty for a very filling meal. For this recipe I stuffed my squash with a quinoa, veggie and Greek yogurt mixture – here are 3 reasons why the Greek yogurt is a great addition to this recipe:
- The Greek yogurt helps hold all the ingredients together, which makes this a little easier to eat when you want to taste a scoop of both the squash and the quinoa mixture
- Greek yogurt has twice the protein as regular yogurt; this helps you feel full, even when cooking a meatless dish.
- Greek yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics to promote healthy digestion;
Acorn Squash Quinoa Bowl
Ingredients / Nutrition Information:
- Roast the squash:
- Set oven to 305
- Pierce the squash several times with a fork or knife
- Put about 1/8 inch of water in a baking dish, place acorn squash into the dish
- Roast for 20 minutes, rotate and roast another 20 minutes
- Once you can cleanly slice through the squash, it is done baking
- While squash is roasting, prep the quinoa mixture:
- Cook the quinoa accordingly
- Dice the pepper and onion’
- Add the peppers, onions and cranberries to the quinoa and stir everything together
- Next add the Greek yogurt and stir together
- Once the squash is cool enough so you can easily handle it – slice off the end with the stem
- Slice in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and stringy parts of squash, so you are left with a clean bowl
- Spread the coconut oil (if you don’t have coconut oil, a little butter will work just fine) across the flesh of the squash to add moisture and flavor
- Scoop the quinoa mixture into the bowls and enjoy!
Question for you: What is your favorite winter squash and how do you like to prepare it?
As I transition from my “Salads in September” to a focus on “Winter Squash in October” I will start with this tasty cross-over recipe that is still a salad, but includes the seeds from a favorite winter squash for the month of October, thanks to Halloween, the Pumpkin! In addition to making a festive holiday decoration, pumpkins boast several nutrition benefits. For this post, we will focus specifically on their seeds – here are 3 reasons to snack on pumpkin seeds today:
- Zinc – Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc that help support your immune system – a natural way to fight cold and flu season. If you are deficient in zinc, you are also at greater risk of osteoporosis.
- Magnesium – This can help with your blood pressure and help your heart health.
- Tryptophan – While I normally associate Thanksgiving Turkey with tryptophan, this amino acid is also found in pumpkin seeds, and having these seeds as an evening snack will help promote a restful night of sleep.
Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seeds
Ingredients & Nutrition Details:
**also the juice from 1 lemon
- Dice the red onion and set aside
- Measure out the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries and set aside
- Wash the kale in cold water
- Tear the leafy part from the tough stems in bite size pieces
- Spin dry in a salad spinner or pat dry with towel
- Place in a large bowl
- Slice the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the insides and place in the bowl with the kale
- Squeeze the juice from the lemon over the avocado and kale
- Using both hands, massage the lemon juice and avocado into the kale – the avocado should be spread to evenly coat all the kale
- Add the onions, pumpkin seeds and cranberries and hand mix again
- Divide the contents into 2 salad bowls for serving
- Wash your hands, sprinkle a few extra pumpkin seeds on top to garnish and enjoy your salad!
Question for you: Have you ever roasted your own pumpkin seeds? Do you have a favorite recipe? If yes, please share in the comments section!
Another great salad with ingredients readily available at your Local Farmers Market! One of the main ingredients of this salad is Cucumbers. Here are 3 reasons why you should be eating more Cucumbers:
- Hydration – Cucumbers are 95% water! So eating them regular helps you stay hydrated and provides the benefits of hydration, like feeling full for weight management and having more energy.
- Skin Care – Thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties, cucumbers can help reduce skin puffiness – that is why you see spa patrons with cucumber slices over their eyes.
- Bad Breath Remedy – I haven’t tried this yet, but apparently holding a cucumber slice to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for bad breath.
Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Lemony Dressing
Ingredients / Nutrition Info:
- Combine the vinegars, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk together
- Cut the cucumber lengthwise and slice
- Chop the tomatoes into halves
- Chop the red onions
- Chop the parsley
- Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and parsley into the bowl with the dressing and mix everything together well
- Let marinate in the fridge for about an hour before serving
Question for you: What are your thoughts on cucumber water?
I was able to get all the produce for this salad at my local Farmers Market today to whip up dinner – talk about fresh! A little chopping, and quick whisk for the simple, homemade dressing, and viola! I am truly working to get the most out of my local market for the next month or so while it is still around… Here are 3 reasons to hit up your local Farmers Market before the season ends:
- Cheaper Organic Fruits and Veggies. I was able to get big beautiful red bell peppers for $1 each, and green peppers 2 for $1. My grocery store is currently charging around $3.99 each.
- Stock up for the colder months. I love my morning smoothies with fresh, local berries. I plan to buy in bulk and then freeze what I won’t eat in the next 2 days so I can enjoy my Oregon berries well into winter.
- Supporting my local Farmers. I want them to succeed and to come back next year so I can keep buying amazing locally grown goodies at a good price just steps from my front door.
Late Summer Seasonal Salad
Ingredients / Nutrition Info:
Easy Lime Vinaigrette Dressing:
- Wash all your produce
- Add all the dressing items into a bowl and whisk
- Remove the tough stems and roughly chop the chard
- Place chard in the bowl with dressing and stir to evenly coat – divide into 2 serving bowls
- Chop the cucumber and peppers into bite size pieces – divide evenly and place on top of the greens
- Slice all the cherry tomatoes in half and place even amounts on each salad
- Sprinkle almonds evenly across the 2 salads
Questions for you: Have you been getting in any late summer trips to your local Farmers Market? What did you buy?
Have you ever had a salad that was primarily Carrot based? This was new to me. Salads should be based with some sort of leafy green, right? Not necessarily! So here is why you should consider a salad with more Carrots:
- While we often think of carrots as being orange – they also come in shades of purple, white, yellow and red. I can’t wait to try this recipe with different carrot colors.
- They are rich in anti-aging and disease-fighting phytonutrients.
- Carrots are very high in vitamin A due to their beta-carotene, which helps with healthy vision, bone support and strengthening your immune system.
Carrot Salad with a Kick
Ingredients / Nutrition Information:
Other spices include:
- Chili Powder
- Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl
- Add olive oil and spices to the bowl – whisk to combine and make the dressing
- Add the carrots, cilantro, and garlic into a food processor – pulse until the ingredients are roughly, but evenly chopped
- Pour the carrot mix into the bowl and mix with the dressing until it evenly coats the salad
- Store the bowl in the fridge for a few hours before serving to let it marinate
- This will make a BIG / Filling salad for 2, or you can serve smaller portions as a side and have leftovers
Question for you: Do you have a salad that isn’t based with leafy greens?
While September often brings the first signs of fall, I’m hanging on to late summer and want to enjoy all the fresh produce at my local Farmers Market by eating lots of fresh and flavorful salads. Perhaps my salad cravings are a result of doing a 3 Day Cleanse after Labor Day to kick start some new healthy habits.
Here are my 3 highlights from the cleanse:
1) Personally, I lost 5 pounds. While weight loss wasn’t my main goal with the cleanse, I was pretty psyched to shed a few.
2) I got to eat real food! I’ve blogged about my juice cleanses in the past, and how I missed eating and the process of cooking and preparing food. This cleanse eliminated animal protein, dairy, gluten, caffeine and alcohol, but it included nutritional smoothies, fruit, veggies and healthy fats (like avocado and hummus). Every night for dinner I got to prepare and eat a big salad using new recipes I’d never tried before, which was super fun (and I’ll share the recipes this month on my blog).
3) I got to coach a group of fellow-cleansers and was inspired by their dedication and enthusiasm! They lost 32 pounds (across 9 people) and adopted some healthy habits, like drinking more water, doing yoga at night before bed, eating more raw veggies and benefited from feeling more energetic and positive in general.
Here is an example of one of my lunches:
And a dinner:
Full disclosure, not everyone lost weight. And not everyone liked the cleanse drink options. I respect that, given my understanding of bio-individuality – what works for one person might not work for another. But the majority of the feedback is positive and I’m looking forward to doing this cleanse in the future and hosting more on-line group coaching. If any of my blog readers are intrigues, post a comment and I can add you to my waiting list for my next cleanse, or I can tell you about my next on-line fitness and nutrition challenge group starting 9/22.
Stay tuned for more salads this month!
Questions for you: Have you ever tried a cleanse? Do you have a favorite fall veggie?