Falling in love with fall… quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

Fall is by far my favorite season. A little biased? Maybe. But some of the tastiest and most complex food comes from this season. The squashes, root veggies and cruciferous plants!! All some of my faves. The common theme between all of these is that they taste absolutely incredible when roasted. Each different veggie has such a unique flavor that develops during the roasting process. Yams become sweeter, cauliflower becomes earthy-er and spaghetti squash becomes.. spaghetti (another post on that later this month)!

Roasting these veggies on their own is good… but stuffing them with some other awesome ingredients… even better!!

Acorn squash has a super ridiculously low glycemic load (4 on a scale that goes up to 250) which is good because it won’t give you high insulin spikes that cause a crash later on. It’s also known to be packed with magnesium, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium and vitamin C. Plus, only 56 calories for a cup of the stuff.

Quinoa, as we know, is a complete protein which will help make you fuller faster.

This is a great side dish to meat, or a main meal if you pair it with some cooked veggies. Try it out!

 

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Baked quinoa and pine nut stuffed acorn squash

ingredients

1 small acorn squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

 

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut the acorn squash in half. Once you’ve cut it in half, take each part and cut about 1/2 inch off of the end so that it can stand up.

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3. Scoop the seeds out of the squash and drizzle the inside of both halves with olive oil. Then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt into both halves as well. Put this into the oven for 25-35 minutes, depending on how big your squash is. Mine was really small so it only took 25 minutes.

4. While the squash cooks, put your quinoa into a pot with 1 cup water. Cover and turn the heat to medium high until it starts to boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes.

5. When the quinoa is done cooking, sprinkle the garlic powder, remaining salt and butter into the pot with the heat off. Stir to combine.

6. Next, toast the pine nuts. Take a small, dry sauce pan and put it over medium high heat. Pour the pine nuts into the pan and constantly stir the nuts by shaking the pan. These burn VERY quickly so you can’t walk away from them. It should only take about 45 seconds to get properly toasted (if the pan is hot enough when you put them in).

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This is how the pine nuts will look when they are done.

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A shot of how the pine nuts and the acorn squash look when they are both done cooking.

7. Stir the toasted pine nuts into the quinoa.

8. Flip the acorn squash over so that the cut side is now facing up and put it onto your serving plate. Scoop the quinoa out of the pan and equally fill each half of the squash with the quinoa and you are ready to eat!

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**This also tastes great with some finely chopped and sauteed veggies mixed in with the quinoa, like broccoli, zucchini or cauliflower.

**Feel free to add a meat into the quinoa mixture as well. Just make sure it’s already cooked when you add it in and that it is chopped into small pieces!

 

 

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The oh-so-Paleo butter in coffee thing. What, Why and how it tastes

My friend, Christine, actually was the first one to tell me about butter in coffee. We were laying out on the beach one day over the summer when she told me about it. It sounded so bizarre and disgusting that I disregarded it as a rumor and we went on with my day. It wasn’t until last week when I was reading The Skimm (awesome daily emails about world news) and it mentioned “bulletproof coffee” being a thing.

1 cup coffee+2 tablespoons (or more) grass-fed butter+1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil=Bulletproof Coffee (of course, blended up in a blender… or else it’s just a goopy mess of butter sitting on top of your coffee)

This drink is supposed to replace your breakfast… just saying.

After I saw it mentioned by a pretty reputable site, I looked more into it. I found a bunch of videos about how to make it and the benefits of it. I also found other websites saying it was a terrible idea and no one should be doing this. Basically, the whole idea behind it is to create a drink that contains the essential fatty acids your body needs from the grass-fed butter and coconut oil in order to have lasting energy as well as caffeine to give you a little boost without a crash. Here’s a little summary of both sides from my research:

The Butter Lovers Argument:

With “Bullet Proof Coffee” you’re using grass-fed butter which has the “best” ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. Having an optimal omega 6 to 3 ratio can decrease your risk of many lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Butter also contains Butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, which used to be considered bad for you. Now, this fatty acid has been found to be anti-inflammatory and reduce your risk of CVD. Because of the addition of fats from the grass-fed butter and coconut oil, bullet proof coffee provides lasting energy (about 6 hours worth) without the crash often associated with regular coffee.

(If you want to read more about this argument, check out Women’s Health Magazine’s article on Bulletproof coffee)

The Anti-Greasy Coffee Proponents Argument:

Replacing your meal with this coffee means your missing out on a lot of essential nutrients. In fact, 1/3 of your essential nutrients if you’re used to eating 3 meals a day. You don’t get any fiber, only 1 gram of protein and the rest is fat. Yeah, eating this much fat will satiate you (it IS about 400 calories per cup of this stuff…), but it won’t satisfy your daily nutrient needs. Another point is that even though saturated fat has been found to not be linked with heart disease, it doesn’t mean you should be drinking a liquid concoction of it in place of your regular meal. No studies have been done on eating excessive amounts of saturated fat so no one really knows what could happen at such mega-doses. For example, just because you find out that broccoli decreases your risk of cancer, it doesn’t mean you should be consuming it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The body requires many nutrients from a variety of foods and when you don’t supply it of that, you’ll find yourself in a diseased state.

(if you want to read more about this argument, check out Authority Nutrition’s article about Bulletproof Coffee)

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After reading up about it, I had an idea of how I felt about the health benefits, but I wanted to taste it first before I set my mind to my opinion on the whole matter.

So I brewed up some organic coffee beans (freshly ground minutes before I made it), I pulled out my Vitamix and blended all that fat and coffee together. It looked just like a regular latte, minus the foamy top. Then the moment of truth came… and I tasted it.

At first, it didn’t taste that bad. It definitely was rich and “buttery”, but it mostly just tasted like coffee with excessive amounts of cream. But then I kept drinking it. My mouth had such a gross, coating all over it halfway through drinking the coffee that I couldn’t even finish it. I’m used to eating a higher fat diet with butter and coconut oil, but this was just too much. My stomach felt… icky. I mean, I did have energy but I also felt like I wanted to vomit.

I gave it a fair shot, but it wasn’t for me. Personally, I don’t believe that eating excessive amounts of anything in a normal diet is a good idea. I’ve learned way too much from all my nutrition research classes about how high amounts of almost anything, even the really “healthy” stuff, can cause your body to enter into a diseased state of some sort for me to believe that this drink is good for you. Your body needs a variety of nutrients in order to function and when you replace a healthy meal (not a bowl of coco puffs with milk… an actual healthy MEAL) with a drink that has only a few types of nutrients, your missing out on a lot. But who knows? Maybe if you make up for it throughout the day by eating really well all across the board, you’ll be fine. I personally would rather give myself a high fat, high protein smoothie with a clean latte. I mean, it doesn’t leave that coating inside your mouth and still gives you the high quality fat your body needs as well as that caffeine boost that you sometimes require.

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And it just looks prettier..but I might be biased 🙂

“Clean” iced vanilla latte sweetened with dates

I get by with a little help from my French press….

I’m in my last semester of college and I definitely rely on coffee to get me through those tough days and nights of studying and writing papers. It’s just a necessary evil sometimes. When I was a freshman in college, I had a friend who was 24 years old and he was coming back to school to get a second degree. We were both in science major classes that had three hour labs twice a week and tests that averaged out at 55%. I was struggling with my transition from high school studying to college binge studying and he was my study partner. I didn’t really drink coffee then but he was addicted and always had an ice coffee whenever I saw him. One day, he came to study with and had brought me an iced vanilla latte. I wanted to seem cool and pretend that I drank coffee all the time, so I downed it. All of the sudden, my mind was focused, my heart was racing and my head was determined to memorize the genus, class and species of every damn animal that we needed to know for our animal bio class. Needless to say, I got hooked on the beneficial effects on productivity that coffee provided me. I spent my first three years of college guzzling down pumpkin spice, vanilla and hazelnut lattes. All that junky crap that you’re not supposed to have on the daily because of the added sugar and processed carbohydrates.

Now that I’m much more health conscious but still in need for that caffeine boost, I’ve started making my occasional habit a little healthier. And I introduce to you the clean iced vanilla latte!!

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clean iced vanilla latte
ingredients
1 cup black coffee (preferable from freshly ground and organic beans)
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or less if you like your coffee stronger)
2 dates, pitted
Ice optional

1. Combine all of the ingredients other than the ice in a blender and blend for about 30 seconds.
2. Pour over ice in a cup and enjoy!! If you prefer it sweeter, just add more dates to the mixture.

**you can also blend in cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices for a little extra kick! Enjoy!

Quinoa for breakfast?!?!

When I was at the Tone It Up Retreat last week, I ate a lot of quinoa. I mean a LOT of quinoa. I’ve always been a fan of quinoa because it’s a complete protein and a good grain alternative (because it’s actually a seed, not a grain). I have quite a few recipes on my blog already that use quinoa as a staple but I’ve never really used quinoa for breakfast before until this morning.

Well, actually, technically I tried it for the first time at the retreat. I was definitely skeptical when I saw “oatmeal” made of quinoa. It seemed like an odd pairing, quinoa and breakfast. But I gave it a whirl and I’m glad I did! Having quinoa for breakfast really helps fill you up and keep you satisfied throughout the day (probably because it’s high in protein). Plus, it doesn’t really taste like anything, so it’s extremely versatile and you can add whatever you want to it.

I pre-made the quinoa last night so that it wouldn’t take as long to prepare. I suggest everyone do it that way too since most people don’t have ample time in the morning to leisurely cook quinoa for breakfast.

Try it out and let me know how you like it!

**OH and by the way… along with this quinoa oatmeal dish this morning, I made a “clean” latte. And holy mother of all delicious food… it was incredible. Don’t you worry though, I’ll be posting THAT recipe soon enough!**

Don’t forget to follow me on instagram at @healthyfoodylifestyle for more recipes, fitness and health updates. And be sure to post your creation and tag me in it so that I can see how yours turned out!

So what are you waiting for… go eat some quinoa for breakfast!

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Superfoods and Strawberries Quinoa Oatmeal

serves 3

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1.5 cups almond milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

3 tablespoons cacao nibs

3 tablespoons goji berries

3 teaspoons honey

1. Pour the quinoa, almond milk and cinnamon into a pan. Raise the heat to medium high until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Let this cook for 20 minutes. If the quinoa dries up before it is cooked all the way through, just add 1/4 cup more almond milk to moisten it again.

*This step can be done the night before. Once the quinoa is cooked, just wait for it to cool off and put it into tupperware and into the fridge. When you are ready to reheat it, take out the desired amount, put it into a pot, add 1/4 cup almond milk and put it over medium low heat while you prepare the other ingredients*

2. Separate the quinoa out into three bowls. Sprinkle the strawberries, goji berries, cacao, and honey on top of each bowl. Serve hot!

Coffee: evil devil worshiper or angel of all that is wonderful?

We’ve been hearing some mixed messages lately on whether or not coffee is good for you. Plenty of people are praying to all that is holy that their addiction will some how prove beneficial to their health. But then there are also those that swear off coffee and blame it to cause a variety of diseases ranging from insomnia to stroke.

So what’s the deal? Is coffee good or is it bad?

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Unfortunately, there’s not really a straight forward answer. But let me give you some facts and you can decide for yourself…

Things that make coffee a pretty healthy drink…

1. Coffee can boost your metabolic rate by 3-11%, helping you lose weight.

-However, this diminishes the more often you drink coffee. Like anything, you can build up a tolerance and I          have yet to find a study regarding whether or not your metabolism slows down to even lower than you were before drinking coffee once you’ve stopped drinking coffee altogether.

2. Coffee contains a decent amount of vitamins B2, B3, B5 and Magnesium, Manganese and Potassium.

-And that’s just in one cup of coffee (8 oz). If you were to have about 16 oz, which is what most Americans have, you can get up to 1/4 of your daily RDAs for those vitamins and minerals.

3. Coffee may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.

-Observational studies have found that coffee drinkers have up to 65% lower risk of developing the disease.

4. A cup or two may help increase endurance during your workout making it feel easier.

– There may be up to a 5% increase in endurance during your workout following a cup of Joe.

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Why coffee should be avoided like the Plague…

1. Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops.

-Lots of pesticides is not good. Its a bunch of chemicals that kills bugs. Some even cause the buggies to explode after ingesting the pesticide and those pesticides have been found to have similar effects on stomach and intestinal cells. So… you might want to avoid that.

2. Coffee is a diuretic.

-This means you pee a lot and lose water. Most people don’t even get enough water to start with so dehydrating yourself further is never a good idea.

3. Coffee depletes your body of Potassium,

-This causes muscle cramps (which hurt like a mother, especially if you’ve ever gotten a leg cramp that wakes you up in the middle of the night.. not fun), digestive upset, irregular heart beat and lack of energy.

4. Surprise, surprise… it can also cause insomnia and anxiety.

-I don’t think this one is much of a shocker, considering most of us drink it to wake ourselves up anyway. But it can also cause anxiety or increase anxiety in those who already experience it.

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My opinion

If you’re going to drink coffee, try to limit it to only a couple of times a week and drink it without any sugar. If you can get your hands on it, buy some organic coffee beans and freshly grind them yourself each morning. It tastes more fresh and it causes the beans to not go rancid. Just don’t go making a habit of getting the sugary dessert lattes from Starbucks, Coffee Bean or where ever else you go. Just read my girls article about the Pumpkin Spice Latte and maybe that will help you get over your addiction.

When I have coffee (and it’s a very rare occurrence), I get organic beans, freshly grind them in the morning, make it in a french press and I only add a little bit of organic almond milk and maybe some cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices. It’s an acquired taste but once you’re used to it, it’s actually pretty tasty! Trust me, it’s worth getting used to instead of risking your health drinking sugary 300 calorie drinks everyday.

A quick side story…

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**The picture above was of a coffee I was drinking in Florence, Italy while writing in my travel journal. Those were most of the places that I visited and wrote on the back of my journal. Everyone should travel!!! But I digress..

When I was in Italy this summer studying abroad, I drank a LOT of coffee. However, I was drinking straight espresso without anything added to it so I tried to tell myself it wasn’t that bad. Through my 5 weeks of traveling and drinking espresso, I experienced 6 excruciating muscle cramps that woke me up in the middle of the night and caused me to lose a lot of sleep… which ended up with me drinking even more coffee the next day. I attributed my muscle cramps to the excessive amounts of coffee that I was drinking and the potassium that I was losing. So, If you choose to drink coffee, try to limit it to just a few cups a week of sugarless coffee.

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(Above) Me drinking my 1,115th coffee (roughly give or take) while in Nice, France.

References:

1. http://authoritynutrition.com/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee/

2. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/07/11/6-coffee-pre-workout-benefits.aspx

3. http://www.livestrong.com/article/519356-coffee-potassium/

Trying something new: Celery Root Fries

Every seen Harry Potter? Do you remember the Mandrake Root? The little plant that when you pulled out of the ground it would scream its head off? Well, celery root almost looks like that. Just in the fact that they both look so gnarly and inedible. It doesn’t scream when pulled out of the ground though, so no need to worry.
Celery root is actually very edible and rather tasty. Plus, with fall approaching, it’ll be in season so you’ll be seeing a lot of it at your grocery store. The first time I cooked with celery root was three years ago when I lived in Santa Barbara with a house full of five other girls. I don’t remember how I came across it or even how I knew what to do with it, but I do remember my roommates acting very intrigued.

“You’re going to EAT that thing?!”

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They all sat around and watched while I removed the outer layer and started slicing the root into fry sizes. Once I had finished cooking them, the little fries were unrecognizable from the original form it took. I offered my roommates to try some. Needless to say, they were a little wary to try it after seeing the original gnarly, root-y shape, but once they got up the courage to try it, they ended up taking seconds, thirds, and fourths!

Try something new this fall and buy a celery root! I swear, it’s waaaay tastier than it looks!

Celery Root Fries

serves 1

Ingredients:

1 celery root (you lose a lot while trimming off the outer edges, so try and get a larger one)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional–for those who like a little spice in their life)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut the top of the celery root off. This will be used as your starting point for cutting off the outer edges.

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3. Using a sharp knife, slice off the fibrous-y outer layer until it resembles a peeled potato.

4. Cut the root into thin, french fry shaped strips and put onto a cookie sheet. Add the remaining ingredients and toss until each fry is coated.

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5. Put in the oven for about 25 minutes or until its reached your desired crispiness. Serve with a chicken burger or maybe even a steak! I paired mine with a nice big steak and some green beans 🙂

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Some days, you just need a little bit of pasta… garlic veggie pasta over whole wheat spaghetti

Does anyone else have the extreme issue of attempting to make pasta for just yourself and ending up with enough pasta to feed a family of five? It happens. Thank god for tupperware. Or hungry roommates.

I’m not a big pasta eater, mostly because when I eat a lot of it, I start to feel bloat-y and overly full. But every now and then, a nice big plate of pasta is the only thing I can imagine eating. An occasional carbo-load never hurt anyone.

I especially like this pasta dish because there’s no cheese and it mostly just consists of vegetables. I like to imagine the pasta as a grain replacement (like quinoa or rice) and it makes me feel better about it. That, and when it’s whole wheat, organic, nongmo, etc….

For those days when you just need to fill your belly with some comfort food… try this out!

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Garlic Veggie Pasta over Whole Wheat

serves 1

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked whole wheat spaghetti

1/2 cup chopped cauliflower

1/2 cup chopped zucchini

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

1/8 teaspoon dried chili flakes

3 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

OPTIONAL: a tablespoon of parmesan (for a little extra flavor)

**Note: for this recipe, it’s easiest if you have the pasta already cooked and all the vegetables chopped before you start.

1. Put a pan over medium heat and add 1/2 teaspoon. add in the cauliflower and saute for about 5 minutes. After five minutes, add in the zucchini and tomatoes. Sprinkle the salt on top of all of the veggies and saute for 5 minutes.

2. Remove the veggies and add in the garlic and the rest of the olive oil. Saute until you can start to smell the garlic or until it starts to turn slightly golden. Sprinkle in the chili flakes and add the cooked pasta. Turn off the heat and toss the pasta until it is fully coated in olive oil. Add the vegetables back in as well as the thinly sliced basil. Toss to combine everything. Add parmesan on top at the end if you like!

Enjoy!