Getting Back in the Kitchen in 2017 with Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash

After indulging a little too much this holiday season, I made a resolution to get back in the kitchen more in 2017. I have way too many cookbooks. So my plan is to try a couple new recipes each week. I use recipes as inspiration. I take from them new cooking techniques and ideas and then modify them to create my own delicious dishes. The following recipe was inspired by the acorn squash recipe in the Racing Weight Cookbook. It is a hearty, nutrient rich, high volume meal and a great way to enjoy acorn squash. It not only tastes great but is super easy and will impress your guests with its presentation. I like to pair it with a spinach salad and crusty whole grain bread. After I posted the pic of this dish to Instagram, the recipe was requested by a few people – so here you go. Enjoy!

Allison’s Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squashsquash

Ingredients:

1 acorn squash

1 lb. ground turkey

1-2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 medium onion

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/3 cup shredded mozzarella

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the squash in half from stem to root and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle cut-side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  2. Place the squash halves cut-side-up in a baking dish and pour in enough hot water to fill the pan by about 1/4 inch. Place in oven.
  3. Roast the squash until soft and tender when poked with a fork, 30 to 50 minutes. Exact roasting time will depend on the size of your squash.
  4. While the squash roasts, sauté turkey, onion, mushrooms and seasonings until cooked.
  5. Once the squash is tender, remove from the oven and set oven to broil. Carefully poor liquid out of pan. Stuff squash halves with turkey mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
  6. Remove from oven and serve!

Nutrition Information (1 serving = 1/2 acorn squash; 1/2 turkey mixture): 420 calories, 16g fat, 28g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 40g protein

 

 

Advertisements

Chicago Flower and Garden Show Recipes

fg 1
Post presentation selfie from the Garden Gourmet stage

Today I had the awesome opportunity to share two of my favorite recipes and my top tips to help you shop, live and eat well with Chicago Flower and Garden Show attendees. I was the featured ‘chef’ at 11:30am on the Garden Gourmet stage. All I can say is despite being super nervous before hand, I had a blast sharing my knowledge and food with this audience. Since I had a bunch of inquiries for the recipes – I wanted to re-share them here so you all could easily reference as well as a couple of my tips. Enjoy!

Carrot Pecan Energy Bites

These are actually my coworker’s recipe – that I’ve adopted and modified many times. They may a great snack pre- or post-workout and are easily stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I love making a big batch and sharing with friends after long runs. My other energy bite recipe is a bit more indulgent – but also delicious. Check it out here: https://runningrdn.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/peanut-butter-energy-bites/.

fg 2Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp agave nectar or honey
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup ground pecans

Directions:

  1. Blend together in a food processor: oats, pecans, cherries, grated carrots, and flax seed.
  2. Pulse in the almond butter, agave or honey, and cinnamon until combined.
  3. Spray hands with cooking spray and roll mixture into balls – about 1 Tbsp/bite.
  4. Role bites in ground pecans then place in air tight container. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Bites keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week. Makes about 20-30 bites.

Nutrition Info per Bite: 50 calories, 3g total fat, 0.3g saturated fat, 3 mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein

Farro, Kale, Citrus and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

I love this salad. It contains all my favorite winter fruits and veggies and really adds a punch of citrus flavor to the plate. Serve along side salmon, chicken or other protein and you’ve got a complete meal. Or have alone as a main course (as I often do for lunch). As a side, this serves about 4-6 or on its own – about 3-4.

Ingredients:farro salad

  • 3 cups kale, cleaned well and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cut into wedges (a regular orange can be used if blood oranges are unavailable)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)

Directions:

  1. To cook farro, place ½ cup uncooked farro in about 2 cups of water (to add more flavor, you could use vegetable or chicken broth).
  2. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain any excess water.
  3. Assemble dressing (see separate recipe). In a large bowl, pour half of the dressing onto the kale and toss/massage well to coat the kale.
  4. Toss the sliced oranges and grapefruit with the kale along with 2/3rd of the toasted hazelnuts, avocado and cooked farro. Make sure everything is combined.
  5. Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over additional dressing, if desired.

Basic Citrus Vinaigrette

(makes just enough for salad)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small jar or medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. If using a jar, shake to blend. If medium bowl, whisk until combined.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made/stored for 1 week. Cover and chill. Shake before using.

Nutrition Info (1/5 of recipe with dressing): 304 calories, 6.6g protein, 18.9g fat, 31.8g carbohydrate, 7.7g fiber, 9mg sodium

My Latest Breakfast Obsession: Overnight Oats

One of the things I emphasize with clients and strive to do personally is get a good breakfast every day. My criteria? It must contain protein – at least 15g – as well as a source of complex carbohydrate (like oatmeal, whole wheat toast, or whole grain cereal), a decent amount of fiber (5 or more grams) and a source of healthy fat. Why? Besides starting your day off on the right foot, this combo is sure to help bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch without feeling the need to snack or visit the vending machine.

My current breakfast obsession is overnight oats. I’ll admit, I’m a little late to the overnight oat party. I’ve seen pics and recipes from friends and colleagues posted to Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for years without actually trying it myself. But once I did, I was hooked. What could be better than waking up, opening your fridge and having a no fuss, already prepared breakfast ready to go? And it meets all my criteria for a good breakfast! Here are 2 variations that I’ve created and love. They are also the perfect post- AM workout or pre- long run fuel. Enjoy!

Almond Butter Banana Overnight Oats

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/4 cup of low or nonfat vanilla yogurt (I prefer Siggi’s because it has more protein/serving than sugar)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat/skim milk (suggest Fairlife for an extra dose of protein)
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp almond (or other nut) butter
  • 1 medium banana, sliced
  • 1 tsp sliced almonds

Instructions:

  1. Mix together oats, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, and almond butter in a bowl then pour into glass or jar (suggested vessel: mason jar)
  2. Top with sliced banana
  3. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  4. In the morning, remove from fridge, mix and add additional milk, if desired
  5. Top with sliced almonds and serve

Nutrition Information*: 485 calories, 18g protein, 15g fat, 74g carbohydrate, 10g fiber

Lemon Berry Overnight Oats

Makes 1 servingovernight oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/4 cup of low or nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat/skim milk
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Juice from about ½ a lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ cup frozen berries (like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.)
  • 1 tsp sliced almonds
  • Drizzle of honey, agave or sweetener of choice (to taste/as desired)

Instructions:

  1. Mix together oats, yogurt, milk, chia seeds, lemon juice and zest in a bowl then pour into glass or jar (suggested vessel: mason jar)
  2. Top with frozen berries
  3. Cover and place in the fridge overnight
  4. In the morning, remove from fridge, mix and add additional milk, if desired
  5. Top with additional thawed berries, almonds, sweetener (if desired) and serve

Nutrition Information*: 353 calories, 17g protein, 6g fat, 61g carbohydrate, 10g fiber

*Nutrition information obtained using: US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. Version Current:  September 2015.  Internet:  http://www.ars.usda.gov/nea/bhnrc/ndl

 

Celebrate Citrus with My Farro, Kale, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad!

Citrus fruits are at their peak right now — so what better time to find new and unique ways to use them. My all time favorite? Juicy, red grapefruits from Texas. I literally can not get enough of these when they are in season. I eat them like an orange and devour them in a matter of minutes. Rich in vitamins A and C, I love their sweet, tart flavor. Grapefruits from other parts of the country are also great right now – but after biting into my first Texas grapefruit when I lived there a few years ago, I’ve been a convert. So to celebrate my grapefruit obsession, I created this recipe featuring a variety of other citrus fruit and a couple of my other favorite super-foods (avocado, kale, and farro). I’m also rather obsessed with this citrus vinaigrette dressing. I like to make a big batch and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days and use to top salads or to marinade chicken or fish.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

Farro, Kale, Citrus and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

farro salad

(serves 4-6)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups kale, cleaned well and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and cut into wedges (a regular orange can be used if blood oranges are unavailable)
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cooked farro
  • Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)

Instructions

  1. To cook farro, place ½ cup uncooked farro in about 2 cups of water (to add more flavor, you could use vegetable or chicken broth).
  2. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain any excess water.
  3. Assemble dressing (see separate recipe). In a large bowl, pour half of the dressing onto the kale and toss/massage well to coat the kale.
  4. Toss the sliced oranges and grapefruit with the kale along with 2/3rd of the toasted hazelnuts, avocado and cooked farro. Make sure everything is combined.
  5. Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over additional dressing, if desired.

Basic Citrus Vinaigrette

(makes just enough for salad)

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small jar or medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. If using a jar, shake to blend. If medium bowl, whisk until combined.

Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made/stored for 1 week. Cover and chill. Shake before using.

Nutrition info (1/5 of recipe with dressing): 304 calories, 6.6g protein, 18.9g fat, 31.8g carbohydrate, 7.7g fiber, 9mg sodium

Hitting Reset in the New Year: Why I did a Juice Cleanse

I despise resolutions. And the first two weeks of the New Year. The gym becomes over-crowded and everyone is on a diet, detox or cleanse–trying to right the wrongs of the last month (or year). I don’t believe in diets (for more about my philosophy about food, nutrition, health and life, check out this interview I did for Lux and Concord: Dieting 101 – Game Changing Tips from a Dietitian) — so why then, would I choose to go on a 3-day juice cleanse? In the middle of a big training push to prepare me for an upcoming half marathon? Because if there’s any question I get more often than others it’s what are the benefits of juicing, smoothies and cleansing/detox diets. I wanted to be able to relate to what my clients and customers go through. I also wanted to dive a little deeper into the SCIENCE – to see if there’s any truth to the benefits often touted like improved mental clarity, increased energy, and better sleep. And let’s be honest — I spent most of December stuffing my face with Christmas cookies and holiday beers. I could use a reset button in the New Year as well. So here’s my overall take on how I felt before, during and after; a brief overview of what the science says; and my general take on the experience overall (you may be surprised). What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!

Pre-Cleanse: What am I thinking??

I decided to go with a juice cleanse that took out all the guess work out of it by signing up for the Real Good Juice 3-day Juice Cleanse. Why? I never had to guess at the quantities, proportions, or ingredients. I knew my juices would taste great having had a few of their awesome blends prior to the cleanse and it just made life easier.

IMG_4916.JPG
1 Day’s worth of Juice

Each day I picked up my juices for the next day. Six in total – including one smoothie for breakfast. This was another reason I was drawn to this cleanse over others. Smoothies include some fiber – which is usually lacking in most juice cleanses. Fiber is important for digestive health and helps keep us fuller longer.

A couple days before I cut back a bit on processed foods and focused on staying well hydrated to prepare myself for the next 3 days. To be honest, the only thing I really was concerned about was the lack of caffeine (a valid concern I would soon find out). I went to sleep the night before excited and nervous for the next 3 days.

Juice Cleanse Realization: I’m Addicted to Coffee

Day 1 started out great – I had a big cup of hot water and lemon, drank my smoothie and did my easy workout and actually felt great. I wasn’t even hungry. Every two hours you drink another juice. Each is about 16 ounces which really does fill you up if you are also drinking a decent amount of water as well. The only real side effect I experienced at this point was a lot of trips to the ladies room since I was taking in much more fluids than normal. As the 12pm slump rolled around, the lack of caffeine set in. I was dragging. I’m used to close to 4 cups of coffee/day (before you gasp in shock – this is 4, 6oz cups – that’s like two tall coffees from Starbucks). I could not stop yawning and thinking about a nap. Fortunately, I powered through. By the last juice of the day, I missed chewing. Having calculated out the caloric intake/day, I knew I would need to supplement the cleanse with some solid food to ensure I could also get my workouts in. I spoke with the helpful folks at Real Good and they suggested organic fruits, veggies and raw nuts. I grabbed a large handful of almonds and carrots and a cup of ginger tea. Day 1 was done – and I was beat. I was asleep by 10pm (much earlier than my usual 11:30pm bedtime).

Day 2: woke up at 8am. I slept 10 hours. I haven’t slept that good or soundly in years. I wanted a cup of coffee – but didn’t want to give up just yet. I grabbed my smoothie, a cup of hot water with lemon and did some work. Today was going to be tough. I had a hard 9 mile speed workout planned. After about an hour I tied on my sneakers and made my way to the treadmill for  my workout. About 1/2 way through I had to stop for a bathroom break. On my way back to the ‘mill I started seeing spots. I knew I needed to take a longer break. I was determined to get through the workout though. Fortunately I live in a building with a gym so I went back to my apartment, grabbed the next juice for the day and downed it along with an apple and almond butter. I immediately felt better and an hour later, completed the workout. I wouldn’t recommend this. If you are planning to do a cleanse – definitely cut back on your exercise plan. The rest of day 2 was easier than expected. I taught a cooking seminar where I had to make and sample food. I surprisingly wasn’t hungry and continued to drink the juice every two hours. I still felt exhausted though and it was another early to bed evening.

IMG_4923
End of Day 2 and my Favorite Juice of the cleanse: Juicy Liu – a blend of almond and cashew milk

Day 3: OK. I miss food. But it’s day 3 – the last day. I can do this. Oddly enough – I found myself craving things like oatmeal and kale salads – and NOT burgers, pizza and French fries. It’s like my body was craving healthy food. I still struggled with caffeine withdrawal but this day was definitely easier than the previous two. I had a short, easy run that I finished with no problems. Another early to bed evening – and 3 of the best nights of sleep I’ve had since I was a probably a teenager. 

Post Cleanse: What I Learned

Following the cleanse I woke up and made my now go-to breakfast: oatmeal, sliced banana and a spoonful of almond butter. I also made my usual pot of coffee but found I could only stomach 1/2 of what I normally would consume – and even that caused the caffeine jitters. I laced up for an 8 mile progressive run that went better than expected. I ran faster than I have in months. I felt invincible. My energy level was through the roof. I also felt lean. I checked the scale – about 3 lbs down. I didn’t do this to lose weight – and know that much of the weight I likely lost was water weight – but still, important to note.

IMG_4934.JPG
First meal post cleanse

The cleanse taught me to rely less on caffeine during the day and I’ll sleep better. It helped me feel a little better about the last month of over-indulging and it just felt good to fill up on super foods for 3 days. I felt inspired and since have eaten better, had much more control over my appetite and cut back my coffee consumption to just 2 cups/day (12 oz total). Would I do it again? Yes – it’s something my body needed and craved and following big training pushes and/or leading into a new training plan, I think it’s a good way to really reset and focus on getting my body ready for the work to come. 

What about the Science?

I know many of my dietitian friends will question my sanity in choosing to do something like this. Yes, we have livers – and their primary function is to detoxify our body on a daily basis. I know – I get this. But I also know what my friends, colleagues and family do and I want to make sure I’m as knowledgeable as possible about what real people are actually doing. And to be honest – I kind of think there is a place for cleansing if done right. The juice cleanse is a small, 3 day sacrifice that can lead to huge transformation if done right. Case in point: I no longer drink 4 cups of coffee, have cut my alcohol intake in half, and my appetite is much more tame now. It caused me to look at my habits – and make changes. Breaking the cycle of consistently eating a diet too high in saturated fat, refined carbohydrate, processed foods, excess caffeine and alcohol can and will cause you to look at what you are doing and make positive changes – even if small – that will have lasting impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

A brief pubmed search found virtually no scientific evidence or studies looking specifically at cleansing and long term outcomes. One study, published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, came close – found that individuals placed on a very low calorie, vegan diet  plus regimented supplementation for 21 days had improvements in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. This wasn’t juicing, per se but the change of caloric intake and diet composition is as close as I could find to what I was getting when I did the Real Good Juice cleanse.

IMG_4944.JPG
First workout post cleanse – feeling super energetic

So, while the jury may still be out in the scientific community on the benefits, in general, I think that there might be a place for a cleanse if done right and under supervision/with the guidance of a dietitian/nutritionist and/or doctor. I can only share how I felt after (great) and how it changed me personally. A special word of caution – a juice cleanse isn’t recommended for certain populations (e.g., Diabetics, those with eating disorders or immunocompromised) so if you are considering one – please consider talking to your doctor – or even reach out to me!

Recipe Inspiration: Stuffed Zucchini Parmesan

Yesterday I had a request for a recipe using zucchini that was a little more ‘unique.’ Something that wasn’t zucchini bread or simply roasted. I didn’t actually have a recipe written out – but an idea for a dish that I really enjoyed – combining lean protein and zucchini that makes great leftovers and weekday lunches. So I put my creative juices to the test – and developed the following. I tested it out last night and in my opinion, it was a delicious success! Make sure to use ground turkey breast – not just ground turkey – to ensure you have the leanest protein source. You could also use ground chicken breast. I used diced, no salt added tomatoes to keep the sodium in check. Enjoy with a big side salad and you’ve got a lean, low carb, high protein, high fiber meal that satisfies.

zucchiniYield: 4-6 servings

Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 large or 4 small zucchinis
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper (or more as desired)
  • 1, 15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained 3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Slice washed zucchini in half the long way and then slice off about 1/8″ of each bottom so it can lay flat on the baking sheet or pan.
  3. Scoop out the inside of the zucchini.
  4. Place those zucchini in a 13×9 pan that has been brushed with olive oil or sprayed with cooking spray.
  5. Roast at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.
  6. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté onion until tender, approximately 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
  8. Add red pepper, oregano, salt, pepper and ground turkey. Cook until browned.
  9. Stir in basil and canned, drained tomatoes and remove from heat.
  10. Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella cheese at the bottom of each zucchini shell.
  11. Top with meat mixture.
  12. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and all of parmesan.
  13. Place pan back in the 350° oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes until thoroughly heated, and cheese is melted/starts to brown.
  14. Remove from oven, garnish with fresh, slivered basil and serve.

 

 

Satisfying my Sweet Tooth: Apple, Oat and Tart Cherry Cookies

IMG_4123Growing up, and even now, I have quite the sweet tooth (another reason why I run!). I’m a little better at controlling it now – but when I was younger it was a very common occurrence for me to get home from school, throw my bag on the floor, and head straight for the cookie jar. Over time, I’ve replaced that habit with fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy snacks, but every now and then, I really want a cookie. And nothing really beats a homemade cookie fresh out of the oven.

This past weekend I was invited to a friend’s place for dinner. It was a rainy, cold, dreary fall day, so the last thing I wanted to do was trek to the store to get something to make and take. I dug through my cabinets and found a variety of ingredients that somehow came together in the recipe below. They were a hit!

A couple tips: I like my cookies on the softer side – so if you wanted a crisper texture, I’d recommend melted butter vs. the canola oil I used. Also – this is a basic recipe – if you don’t have dried cherries, substitute another dried fruit – like raisins, dates, or even mangos. Swap diced pear for the apple. Want to make it more of a tropical flavor? Add coconut and dried pineapple and omit the cinnamon. You could also toss in some chopped nuts, chocolate chips, whatever you like! Just go easy on the add-ins. Too much and they won’t stick together. Try to stick to no more than 1 cup of raw fruit and 1/2 cup dried and/or nuts. For a true taste of fall though, try these just as they are and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • ¾ cup flour (whole wheat if you have it)
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax meal
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil or unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup agave (you can also use honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 cup finely diced apple (about 1 medium)
  • ½ cup dried, tart cherries
 Directions:
  1. Whisk together the oats, flour, flax meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil or butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the agave. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Fold in the apple and tart cherries. Chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  3. Drop the cookie dough into about 12-15 rounded scoops (for larger cookies) or 20-24 smaller scoops (for more bite size cookies) onto the prepared sheet, and flatten slightly with the back of a fork.
  4. Bake at 325°F for 13-15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container. They should keep for about a week – if they last that long!