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

 

 

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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

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!

Buffalo Chicken Chili: Flavors that Remind me of Home

This past weekend I participated in a chili cook off. It was a lot of fun – we had entries in both the traditional and non traditional categories – and all were delicious. I decided to go non traditional with my take on a healthier version of a chicken wing in chili form. Not only is it a great way to enjoy this typically not-so-good for you sports-watching bar food – but it reminds me of home. Being from Rochester, NY–which is just under an hour west of Buffalo–and having lived in and traveled there most of my life to visit family–this chili brings back memories and flavors of home. Turns out others enjoy the flavor as well as it came pretty darn close to winning – just one point away from 2nd. 1st place was disqualified as the secret ingredient turned out to be a Rick Bayless chili starter kit (note to self – must try this for a quick weeknight meal)! Since I’ve had a couple of requests for the recipe – here it is. Enjoy!

Allison’s ‘Awesome’ Buffalo Chicken Chili

Every now and then, I get a serious chicken wing craving. This chili satisfies while saving you some calories, fat, and clean-up, too (no need for hand wipes). Top with crumbly blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Chicken wings in a bowl!

Makes about 4-6 servings.

Ingredients: buffalo chicken chili

  • About 1 lb chicken breast
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head of celery, diced, leaves set aside
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • about 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1, 15-ounce can or about 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1, 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1, 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s RedHot)
  • Garnish: crumbled blue cheese and/or leaves from the celery

Directions:

1. Poach the chicken. Place in a pan, cover with water or broth. Add a pinch or two of salt and some black pepper. Bring to a boil then let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, shred.

2. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot or dutch oven, add about a tbsp of oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.

3. Add the broth and stir. Add the shredded chicken and the cumin through the hot sauce and let simmer – about 15-20 minutes. You can also transfer the onions/celery/carrots/garlic to a crock pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn up to high and bring to a boil. Then turn down to low and simmer until ready to serve.

4. When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and top with crumbled blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Get ready for some kick!