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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Overnight Slow Cooker Cinnamon Apple Steel Cut Oatmeal

When I first started training for endurance sports, I made the mistake of eating flavored instant oatmeal for breakfast. Just add boiling water and a tasty bowl of sugary oats was ready within minutes. I’ve since learned that steel cut oats (also known as Irish oats) is much healthier.

  • Steel cut oats contain no sugar, unlike flavored instant oatmeal which is loaded with sugar. Some rolled oats also contain sugar.
  • Both steel cut oats and rolled oats have a lower glycemic index. Glycemic index (GI) measures how carbohydrates in foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower the GI, the slower the glucose enters the bloodstream. Because steel cut oats are denser, they will take longer to digest and be absorbed. This causes a steady rise in blood sugar rather than a sudden spike. Foods with a lower GI will also make you feel full longer. (For more information on glycemic index: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/glycemic-index-good-versus-bad-carbs)
  • Steel cut oats undergo less processing than rolled oats and instant oats.

The problem with steel cut oats is that it takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare. I tried soaking steal cut oats in water overnight. Although that helped to reduce the cooking time, it still wasn’t fast enough for me. So I tried preparing the oatmeal the night before, storing it in the refrigerator, then warming it up in the microwave the next morning. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy how the oatmeal congealed into a mushy glob. Finally, I tried cooking the oatmeal in a slow cooker overnight. That was a huge success!

I mixed all of the ingredients into a slow cooker before I go to bed and then voila, I wake up to warm, cooked and delicious oatmeal.

Since it’s important to refuel within 20 minutes after a workout, I will pack another serving of oatmeal to bring to work. I’ll either eat it cold or warm it up in the microwave. Yes, this means that on the mornings I workout, I have 2 breakfasts. In addition, I like to consume a protein along with a second serving oatmeal, such as a hard boiled egg or Greek yogurt with fruit and/or granola.

Serving size: 4 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel cut oatmeal (also called Irish oatmeal)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 apple, pealed and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 cup Almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 (pinch) of ground nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
  • Unsalted roasted chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)

Note: Ideally, if you can do without the dark brown sugar, that is the healthiest option, but I personally prefer to have a small amount of it in my oatmeal. Since this recipe is a serving size for 4, one tablespoon isn’t so bad. The apples also help to naturally sweeten the oatmeal.  If you prefer your oatmeal on the sweeter side, you may want to add up to another tablespoon full, however I encourage you to try to savor the natural sweetness from the apple and avoid adding more sugar.

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients and pour into crockpot.

I used a 6.5 quart slow cooker with a non-stick insert but a smaller 4 quart slow cooker is all you need. If the insert is not a non-stick surface, you will want to spray it with oil.

Cover and cook on a low temperature for 7 hours.  If you prefer, serve with chopped walnuts or almonds.

I recommend you test this recipe out during the daytime, to determine if you can achieve the desired results with your slow cooker.  If the oatmeal is too dry, you may need to add more liquid at the beginning. You may also want to experiment plugging your slow cooker into a timer and cooking the oatmeal for fewer hours. My slow cooker does not work with a timer, so I need to leave it on for at least 7 hours.

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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.

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