Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt

The alluring pink scoops of my Frozen Strawberry Lemon Yogurt may win the heart of your Valentine. This light and refreshing dessert is easy to prepare, naturally sweet and contains only four ingredients.

The key to a simple and delicious recipe is to use good quality fresh ingredients. I happen to have lots of fresh strawberries from the Carralitos Farmers Market given to me by an ultra runner friend who came over last weekend to watch the Super Bowl. Knowing I would not be able to consume all those fresh strawberries before they perished, I decided to freeze most of them. Since my friend ran a 100K the day before delivering the strawberries, I felt it was only appropriate to use them to make something special and healthy.

Serving size: 6-8

Tools: Food processor or blender and ice cream maker

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of whole strawberries, hulled & frozen (about 2 pints)
  • 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt (full fat)
  • 1/3 cup juice of Meyer lemons*
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • Sprig of mint (optional)

Note: Standard supermarket lemons may be substituted however I recommend using Meyer lemons if you can find them. Meyer lemons are sweeter which helps to cut the tartness of the yogurt. Otherwise, you may want to add more honey when using other varieties of lemons.

Directions:

Freeze the ice cream container according to instructions.

In a food processor or blender, puree the frozen strawberries. Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and honey. Continue to process or blend the strawberry mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Taste the yogurt. If you find it too tart, you can add more honey or lemon.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and use as instructed. It should take only 15 minutes or less for the yogurt to start to freeze up.

Transfer into freezer container and freeze for at least 1 hour. Scoop out and add a fresh sprig of mint if you like.  Alternatively, this Strawberry Lemon Yogurt can be poured into popsicle molds and enjoyed frozen on a stick.

DSC_6860

Asian Pasta Salad

My Asian Pasta Salad is one of my go-to recipes when I need a dish that can be prepared in advance and left sitting at room temperature for a few hours without refrigeration. I make this dish for picnics, to bring to work for lunch and most recently at this weekend’s Super Bowl party.

This recipe includes one of my favorite vegetables, the sugar snap pea. Developed in 1979, the sugar snap pea is a relatively new food, and a hybrid of green peas and snow peas. They are sweet, crunchy, easy to chew, and a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin C.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces whole wheat angel hair or spaghetti noodles, cooked (optional gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups sugar snap peas
  • 5 scallion (green onion) stalks, green and white parts finely diced
  • ¼ cup light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili oil (add more if you like it spicier)
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (can substitute with white vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (optional)
  • 3 cups of grilled chicken (optional)

Cook the pasta noodles in salted boiling water, stirring frequently during the first couple of minutes, then occasionally to ensure the noodles do not stick together. Cook it until it is “al dente”. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place in large mixing bowl.

Add carrots, peppers and sugar snap peas to the pasta bowl. Reserve a tablespoon of scallions to use for garnish later and add the rest of the scallions to the pasta bowl.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, chili oil, vinegar, grated ginger, canola oil and sesame oil. Reserve 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds to use for garnish later and add the rest to the soy sauce dressing.

Add the dressing to the pasta bowl and toss thoroughly to ensure all the pasta and vegetables are coated with the dressing. Sometimes it’s easier to use clean hands to toss the pasta. The pasta can be served immediately, however I like to cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours to give the pasta a chance to absorb the dressing. Toss the pasta after removing it from the refrigerator. Sprinkle with reserved scallions and sesame seeds before serving.

DSC_4929

DSC_6848 DSC_6843

Curry Spiced Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup

My Curry Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Soup, with a little heat from cayenne pepper, warms the soul on cold winter days. This soup is made with two nutrient dense vegetables, which are low in fat, low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber.  Winning!

Technically a fruit, the butternut squash has a particularly high level of vitamin A and also has a high level of vitamin C. It has more potassium than a banana and its color indicates an abundance of carotenoids, which is believed to protect against heart disease.

When buying butternut squash, select the fruit that feels heavy for its size with a matte and unblemished skin. A glossy skin indicates that the squash was picked too early and will not be as sweet. Stored in a cool dry place with ventilation, not in the refrigerator, this fruit has a storage life of up to three months!

In an effort to increase the nutritional value of my recipes, I like to incorporate a variety of vegetables.  For this soup, I paired the butternut squash with cauliflower.  Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin C and contains folate. It is also a good source of minerals, including iron, calcium and potassium.

I prefer to roast the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple rather than boiling them to make this soup.  Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables and allows the flavors to develop and intensify.

I used a Dutch oven and an immersion blender to make this soup however you can use a blender too. I do recommend investing in an inexpensive immersion blender.  They are easy to clean up and you can use it while the soup is still in the pot.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cups of cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • 1 cup finely diced sweet onion (half of a large onion)
  • 1 Granny smith apple, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves or 1 large clove)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (use a pinch of cayenne to start if you do not like it spicy)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 6 tablespoons crème fraiche (optional)
  • fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

When preparing the butternut squash, use a very sharp knife. Cut a thin layer off the top and bottom to create a level surface. Then remove the skin using a vegetable peeler and scrape the seeds out with a spoon.

DSC_6746

When cutting the squash, cauliflower and apple, try to create even pieces. This will ensure even roasting.

Toss butternut squash, cauliflower and apple in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season with salt and pepper and roast in 400F oven for about 25-30 minutes until tender. Turn the fruits and vegetable over at least once to ensure even roasting.

DSC_6753

You may need to remove the apple cubes before the butternut squash or cauliflower is finished roasting.

DSC_6762

In a Dutch oven, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil until tender and translucent.

DSC_6752

Add garlic cloves, rosemary, curry powder, salt, cumin and cayenne pepper and sauté for another couple of minutes. Remove the onion mixture from heat if the fruits and vegetables are not done roasting to avoid burning the onion and garlic.

DSC_6750
Minced garlic and rosemary.

Once the butternut squash, cauliflower and apple are done roasting, add them to the onion mixture. Add vegetable broth and honey.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. You can also use a blender. If using a blender, add only a couple ladles full of soup at a time. Place a kitchen towel over the lid and hold down with your hand. This is to prevent the hot liquid from pushing out of the lid and burning your hand. Gently pulse to start, then blend until smooth.

Taste soup and adjust seasoning to your liking. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche on top and garnish with fresh parsley.

DSC_6754

Garlicky Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Pesto

Leftover roasted vegetables are great ingredients to have in the refrigerator when you need to cook a fast and healthy weeknight meal. I had extra roasted zucchini and bell peppers left over after making my Vegetable Lasagna. The day after I made the lasagna, I used some of the roasted vegetables as a topping for homemade pizza. A couple days later, I used the remaining roasted vegetables in this Garlicky Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Pesto. The basil pesto used in this recipe can also be made in advance and stored frozen up to 3 months. I am not ashamed to admit that I used store bought basil pesto; in addition, I used store bought garlic paste since I like my pesto garlicky. This healthy and delicious dinner was ready in 20 minutes.

Serving size: 2

Ingredients for Basil Pesto:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (I like mine garlicky)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for Pasta:

  • 2 cups of cooked pasta (use your favorite pasta; gluten-free if you pefer; I used whole wheat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic paste (optional and used only because the store bought pesto was not garlicky enough)
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup roasted bell peppers, sliced*
  • 1/2 cup roasted zucchini slices*
  • 1 cup miniature heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

* Note: For directions on how to roast bell peppers and zucchini, follow the instructions on the Vegetable Lasagna recipe.

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse basil, garlic and pine nuts a few times until just combined. Then, while the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. It’s important to do this slowly to ensure it will emulsify. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. If you are using the pesto immediately, stir in the cheese. Otherwise, store and freeze without the cheese. You can add freshly grated cheese once you are ready to thaw out and use the pesto.

Cook pasta in salted water and drain. Add the pasta back to the same pot. On medium heat, add the garlic paste, red chili pepper flakes, roasted peppers, roasted zucchini and tomatoes. Stir together and heat until vegetables are warmed through. Combine pesto and heat for 2 additional minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

DSC_6710

Left over roasted zucchini and bell peppers were also used  to make pizza.
Left over roasted zucchini and bell peppers were also used to make pizza.

Simple Granola

Who doesn’t like granola?  My favorite way to enjoy granola is over Greek yogurt for breakfast. Sometimes I’ll add milk to a bowl of granola for a great alternative to cereal; sprinkle it over ice cream as a yummy crunchy topping; or add 1/3 cup of dried fruit, such as cranberries, cherries, raisins, dates or apricots, and eat it by the handful as a snack. The type of nuts or seeds can be swapped out. I sometimes use more walnuts and omit the pecans or use pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead of sunflower seeds. Choose your favorite nuts. Just make sure the nuts are unsalted.  The granola can be stored up to 1 week in an airtight container.  Placed into a mason jar wrapped with a bow, fresh homemade granola makes a nice little gift.  Who doesn’t like granola?

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick oats)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped, unsalted & roasted cashews
  • 1/2 cup chopped, unsalted & roasted pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped, unsalted & roasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped, unsalted & roasted walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F

Combine oats, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. In separate small bowl, whisk together oil, honey, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Pour over oat mixture and combine thoroughly. Spread out evenly over parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, stirring granola every 12-14 minutes to ensure even browning. Allow granola to cool on pan completely unless you forgot to line the pan with parchment paper. Clean up might be easier if the granola is transferred from an unlined baking sheet to a glass casserole dish to cool. Otherwise, the granola will cool to crisp little chunks and slide right off the parchment paper. I prefer to leave the granola in some smaller chunks to store.

Cool and store in airtight container up to 1 week, if it lasts that long.

image

granola parfait

DSC_6707

I like a variety of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, pecans and cashews, in my granola.  Choose the combination of you enjoy most.
I like a variety of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, pecans and cashews, in my granola. Choose the combination of you enjoy most.

DSC_6703

The granola can be stored up to a week in an airtight container.  They also make nice gifts.
The granola can be stored up to a week in an airtight container. They also make nice gifts.

Vegetable Lasagna

I was challenged this holiday to come up with festive meals that would satisfy both vegetarian and carnivore hungry athletes at the same table. When I developed the menus, I had 3 requirements: 1) Each of the main ingredients’ attributes should stand on it’s own. For example, I’m not a fan of tofurkey, chick’n or any food being doctored up to substitute real meat. If tofu is an ingredient, then it should be prepared in a way that it can be savored; 2) The dish should be worthy of special occasions, requiring a little labor of love and; 3) The dish should be comforting.

Voila. For Christmas eve, the main dish was Vegetable Pot Pie and for Christmas day, the main course was Vegetable Lasagna. Each of these recipes can be modified to include protein, such as meat or tofu.  The lasagna freezes well and is a fast and nutritious meal that heats up quickly after a workout or for a busy weekday dinner.  If you have extra mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, make a little extra tomato sauce and roast a little extra zucchini and roasted peppers.  You can use these ingredients to make a nice pizza the next day.

Here’s how I made the lasagna.

Serving size: 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 16 ounces shredded mozzarella
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick and roasted
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • 8 ounce package oven-ready, no boil lasagna noodle

Directions:

Preheat to 375F 

Sauce:

In 3.5 quart French oven, sauté diced onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes more. Add diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato paste, bay leaf, sugar, basil, oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.

Roast red bell peppers:

While the tomato sauce simmers, roast bell peppers. There are several ways to roast peppers. I like to blister the whole peppers over a gas flame.  Allow the peppers to cool and remove the charred skin.  I don’t bother to place them in a paper bag or cover with plastic wrap.  It’s not necessary for this recipe to remove all of the skin.

Core the peppers and cut into quarters. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place the pepper quarters skin side up and roast in oven at 375F for about 20 minutes or until softened.

Roast zucchini:

Using a mandolin, slice zucchini into 1/4 inch strips. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and roast in over at 375F. Turn over after 10 minutes and continue to toss until softened.

Building first layer of lasagna:

Remove bay leaf from tomato sauce. Coat the bottom of lasagna pan with tomato sauce. I used a 10.5 x 8.75 x 2.5 inch ceramic casserole dish. Place first layer of lasagna noodles over the tomato sauce, overlapping each noodle by ¼ inch. Gently spread ricotta cheese over the noodles being careful not to break noodles. Lay roasted zucchini strips. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and cover with thin layer of tomato sauce making sure to coat the noodles.

Gently spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese over lasagna noodles.
Gently spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese over lasagna noodles.

DSC_6684

Second layer of lasagna:

Place next layer lasagna noodles over the zucchini and tomato sauce. Spread thin layer of ricotta cheese over the noodles, lay roasted peppers, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and cover with another thin layer of tomato sauce.

DSC_6687

Third layer of lasagna:

Place third layer of lasagna noodles over roasted peppers and tomato sauce. Spread with thin layer of ricotta cheese. Squeeze out all the moisture from spinach and spread evenly over ricotta and noodles. Repeat layering with mozzarella and tomato sauce.

DSC_6690

Last layer of lasagna:

Place forth and last layer of lasagna over the spinach layer. Cover with remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan-Reggiano cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375F for 40 minutes.

DSC_6691

DSC_6701

 

Use the extra mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce, roasted zucchini and roasted peppers to make a pizza the next day.  Enjoy it with champagne like I did here.
Use the extra mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce, roasted zucchini and roasted peppers to make a pizza the next day. Enjoy it with champagne like I did here.

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili

How do you feed 30 athlete friends a vegetarian friendly meal, which you can prepare in advance and serve warm with minimal fuss? My Butternut Squash Chili was the winning answer, setting a PR* in my kitchen for nourishing the largest gang of hungry athletes in my house to date. Like an endurance athlete, the chili finished strong, held up to being kept warm for hours and with plenty to go around for seconds, thirds and eh hem, fourths.

A variety of beans keep it interesting; frozen corn kernels add a nice contrast of texture and sweetness while cornmeal is the secret ingredient to thicken it all up.

The chili freezes well and is also vegan and gluten-free.

* In case you are not familiar with the term PR, it’s short for personal record.

Serving size: 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ½ cups vegetarian broth
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 diced green bell pepper
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 4-ounce can dice green chili
  • 2 16-ounce can black beans
  • 2 16-ounce can garbanzo beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn (roasted frozen corn adds a nice smokey flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder (add more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Optional Ingredients: 

  • sour cream
  • chopped green onion
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. With a very sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the butternut squash to create a level surface for it to stand on either end and cut crosswise into 2 halves. Cut each half lengthwise into 2 more halves. Scoop out seeds and stringy parts with a spoon. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes and place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, tossing once, until tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a large 6 quart Dutch oven, heat remaining olive oil. On medium heat, sauté chopped onion until soften.

Add ½ cup vegetable broth, onion, garlic, and chopped bell peppers. Stir over medium heat for another 5 more minutes.

Add remaining vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, green chili, beans, corn, beans, Worcestershire sauce and spices. Simmer for at least 1 hour but 2 hours is recommended.  Even better if prepared the day before and reheated. Season with salt to taste. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and sliced green onion. My favorite way is with a dollop of sour cream and green onion.

 

 

Acorn squash stuffed with Curry Mustard Quinoa, Butternut Squash, Spinach, Cranberries and Toasted Almonds

Thanksgiving kicks off one of my favorite times of year. As immigrants, my family was slow to embrace the American tradition of Thanksgiving. We really didn’t know much about eating or cooking turkeys. My mother made Peking Duck instead. It is one of my most favorite culinary guilty pleasures. Peking Duck is quite a laborious venture in the kitchen. The chore begins with my mother meticulously rigging a duck on a wire hanger and suspending it from a kitchen cabinet. Then over 2-3 days, the duck is basted and dried before it is roasted. The end result is the crispiest and tastiest skin that covers moist duck meat. However, one year, on day 2 of project Peking Duck, my mother went into labor with my sister. After giving birth, my mother asked my father what he did with the duck. He fried it. The story always makes me smile thinking how my mother went through all that effort to prepare the duck, only to have it deep fried. I suppose it’s no different than frying a turkey.

Fast forward to 2014, and now I’m in a relationship with someone who also has never had a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. He’s a vegetarian athlete and his only request was that I not prepare Tofurky. I wanted to create something nutritious, packed with protein (like a turkey) and Thanksgiving-y.   Like my sister, my Acorn Squash stuffed with Quinoa, Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach, Cranberry & Toasted Almonds was born on Thanksgiving day. Served with vegetarian side dishes, this main course satisfied my hungry athlete.

Serving size: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 acorn squashes* (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons of butter (substitute 6 teaspoons of olive oil for vegan)
  • 3 cups of butternut squash* (about 1 ½ pounds), peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed well according to instructions)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon Coleman’s English mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (about 2 small shallots)
  • 3 full packed cups baby spinach
  • Juice of 1/2 large lemon (about 2 tablespoon)
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions:

Preheat over 400F.

Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. With a very sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the butternut squash to create a level surface. Then carefully cut into ½ inch cubes.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Toss the butternut squash in 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until tender, tossing once.

Microwave acorn squashes for 1 minute. Cut in half crosswise, dissecting the top and bottom. If necessary, slice a small piece off the top and bottom so that it sits level when served on a plate. Scoop out seeds and stringy parts.  Spread 1 tablespoon of butter (or 1 teaspoon of olive oil) inside of each acorn squash half, then season with salt and pepper. Wrap each half in aluminum foil**.

Noting the amount of time left to bake the butternut squash, bake the acorn squashes for 50-60 minutes or until fork tender.  The butternut squash will finish cooking and will need to be removed from oven while the acorn squash packets remain in the oven for it’s remaining baking time. The timing will ensure the acorn squash is still warm when served. Once the acorn squash are cooked and tender, keep them wrapped in aluminum foil to retain heat until the quinoa is ready to be served.

Bring vegetable broth to a boil then stir in quinoa.  Stir in dry mustard and curry powder.  Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed or according to the package directions.

While quinoa is simmering, toast the almonds in the oven, on a baking sheet until lightly toasted and fragrant for about 5 minutes.   Allow it to cool, chop coarsely and set aside.

Once quinoa is cooked, remove from heat and toss in cranberries and stir in lemon juice. Taste the quinoa and season with salt if needed. I find that if the quinoa is cooked in vegetable broth, no additional salt is necessary. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.

With remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sauté shallots until softened. Add butternut squash, quinoa and spinach.  Sauté spinach until wilted. Toss in toasted chopped toasted almonds just before serving. Spoon quinoa into acorn squash and serve.

Note:  You may prefer not to include both butternut squash and acorn squash in this dish.  I found there wasn’t enough flesh to enjoy inside the acorn squash I picked up.  Butternut squash added nice contrast in color, flavor and texture to each bite of the red quinoa.  Alternatively, this dish can be served without the acorn squash as shown in the photo below.

** Note:  The acorn squash can be baked without wrapping in aluminum foil however, creating individual packets of acorn squash makes it easier to find space for them when other side dishes are competing for oven space on Thanksgiving day. Here are other alternative ways to cook acorn squash:

  • MICROWAVE:  Lay acorn squash cut side down and microwave and cook at 5 minute intervals until fork tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  • BAKING UNWRAPPED:  Place unbuttered and unseasoned acorn squash, cut side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Add enough water to slightly cover the sides of the squash.  Bake at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.  Flip over, add butter & seasoning.  Continue to bake until fork tender, 5-10 minutes longer.

IMG_7480

IMG_7459



J’Wow’s Salsa

I had the pleasure of training for my first Ironman with Jerrold, a good friend and triathlete known as J’Wow.  He’s like a little brother to me.  He’s rescued me when I was suffering from heat exhaustion during a long training ride and encouraged me to run with him when I was suffering from stomach pain during our first Ironman.  And like any little brother, he thoroughly enjoys annoying me with his teasing.

I joined J’Wow at Lake Tahoe this summer when he came up to train with his coach.  This is when I discovered J’Wow’s delicious fresh salsa.  Fresh salsa is a very healthy snack.  Tomatoes, onions,  jalapeños and lime juice contain vitamin C.  Jalapeños contain capsaicin, which generates heat, increases the heart rate when consumed and naturally raises the metabolic rate.  Avocados contain healthy fats, mostly oleic acid, which helps reduce bad cholesterol.  In addition, avocados contain protein, fiber and is an excellent source of potassium.  What a delicious way to consume raw and nutritious fruits and vegetables.

J’Wow prefers chips with a hint of lime flavor to serve with the salsa.  I’ve used the salsa with fish tacos, burritos and a variety of chips.  Although you can serve the salsa right away, it tastes even better the next day after all the flavors have had a chance to marry.  We had 6 people in the house and this recipe made enough salsa for us to enjoy for 2 days.

Serving size: 12

Ingredients:

  • 10 tomatoes on the vine diced
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 3 ripe avocado diced
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 – 2 1/2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and minced
  • ½ cup of lime juice (4 medium fresh limes)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large bowl, dice the tomatoes, onion, green bell pepper and avocado.  Add finely chopped cilantro and minced jalapeno peppers.  I removed the seeds and was careful to wash my hands well after handling the peppers.  Add more or less peppers depending on your taste and how hot the peppers are.

Add the lime juice. One fresh medium lime should yield about 2 teaspoon of juice.  If the limes are small or dry, you may need more than 4 limes to yield ½ cup.  To get the most juice out of a lime, I put pressure roll it on the cutting board while putting pressure on it with the palm of my hand. I then use a reamer.  You can also put it in the microwave for 20 seconds before squeezing.

Toss all of the ingredients together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_6022

IMG_6004

IMG_6006

IMG_6018

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

One of my dearest friends, Nicole, who I love to train and eat with, requested a vegetable side dish that would accompany the ham and pulled pork she was serving at her holiday party.  She asked if I could make some sort of Waldorf style salad that was easy to eat buffet style.   My Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with grapes, dried sweetened cranberries and candied walnuts was born out of this request.  Nicole’s husband Mark, requested I toss in crispy bits of pancetta in the future, although he did say this was the best Brussels sprouts he ever had prepared without bacon or pancetta.

I have to admit.  Until now, I thought they were called “brussel” sprouts.  They are called “Brussels” sprouts.  Brussels sprouts are the buds of wild cabbage.  They are nutritious and a good source of fiber.  For more nutritional information on Brussels sprouts, check out this article:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=10

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

Servings size: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds of Brussels sprouts (about 5 cups) cut into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (for roasting Brussels sprouts)  + ¼ cup olive oil (for dressing)
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes cut into quarters
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • ½ cup candied walnuts (optional)
  • ¼ cup cooked chopped pancetta bits (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut Brussels sprouts into quarters and toss in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Spread on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (because I hate scrubbing the pan after).  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes.  With a spatula, flip Brussels sprouts to ensure even browning.  Sprinkle with Balsamic vinegar and bake for additional 10 minutes or until lightly brown and tender.

While the Brussels sprouts are cooling, prepare dressing by whisking together ¼ cup of olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper.

In mixing bowl, toss Brussels sprouts in dressing.  Toss in grapes, cranberries and candied walnuts.   Serve warm or cold.

Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and toss in olive oil.
Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and toss in olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

DSC_6600