New Beginnings and Best Nutritionist Nomination

I have waited way too long for my first post of 2015! In my defense, I have already had a busy month. My husband and I bought and moved into our first home, and have been decorating and painting up a storm. I can’t wait to whip up some new recipes in our new kitchen! I also co-ran an advising institute at Bucks for new faculty advisors, and have had several new work opportunities too. Since it is MLK Jr. day, I thought I would share a quote that drives my career and personality on a daily basis:

photo 1 (1)I am in the field of nutrition not only because I enjoy eating healthy food and staying active. I am always promoting real food and good health because I want everyone to have an understanding of how the daily choices they make impact not only their own health, but also the health of others, food production and cost, and the environment. Ignorance is not bliss. Lack of knowledge, whether intentional or not, will often come back to someone, making them wish they had made changes sooner to prevent the consequences of their actions. No matter how old we are, we should never stop learning or stop evolving our knowledge, beliefs and actions! I hope in 2015 to be able to educate more individuals than ever before so they can make the best decisions for themselves, their families, communities, and our world.

2015, as I mentioned above, is off to a busy, but great, start. I have several new clients and am getting ready for another semester of teaching (which starts Wednesday) at Bucks County Community College. While my best work friend has taken a position at Temple University, and I will miss him dearly, the Exercise Science program we created is really kicking off this semester and I can’t wait to see students benefit from it. I am most excited however, for a new opportunity that begins next week at the Newtown Athletic Club. I have been a member at the NAC for several years now and am thrilled to join their team part time to provide free nutrition seminars to members and other inspiring health programs in the near future. What I love about the NAC is that membership is all inclusive (spinning, group ex, yoga, pilates, pools, etc) and that the owner really wants the nutrition information provided to members to be of no added cost. While I have been reaching and educating community college students and local athletes for over four years now in Bucks County, I am ready to reach another group in the community!

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That brings me to another honor/opportunity. I have been nominated for Best Nutritionist in the Bucks Happening 2015 competition. Thanks to anyone who nominated me to get into the contest, I am flattered! I am in the running with some other well established local RD’s such as Kristie Finnan of Eat Right Bucks and Jennifer Lynn Pullman of Nourished Simply. A couple of younger RD’s working under Kristie in Doylestown have been nominated too, including Heather Pavlik. I would love your support in the contest! While I wish I could encourage you to vote daily for me like some contests allow, your email address is able to be used for only one vote, which I suppose is much more fair! You can vote here whether you live in Bucks County or are being counseled or following my blog from afar: http://bucks.happeningmag.com/happeninglist/2015-people-nutritionist/.

I know it has been a while since I have gotten a recipe up here, so once we are more settled in the new house, I promise something new and exciting will be up!

Forget the Resolutions and Set Some GOALS!

Lists are a big part of my life that help me stay on track with my goals. They help me on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to get everything I need done, done. My “results & meeting daily and weekly planner” called “Action Day” helps with this tremendously. I found it at staples early in 2014 and while I am big on not wasting paper and keeping things electronic, this was a huge piece to my organizational puzzle. I take the lists and tasks from my amazing planner and each Sunday write important points/events on another weekly list (that I purchased at target) that merges with my husband’s important to-do’s. This way we are always on the same page. In anyone’s life this can reduce a conflict that may occur if one forgets something big the other had going on or if one may forget to tell the other.

Action Day 2015 - Best Planner Ever!  Weekly To-Do's   .

Regardless of how you decide to come up with goals, the most important thing is to always write them down! A goal is just an idea until it is on paper; then it is a commitment. I know in our technology driven world a pen and paper sounds like ancient history, but it is much more meaningful to physically write down a goal that to have it/them in a computer file or in your phone’s notepad. It also enables you to put the goal(s) in a place you will see it/them daily. My husband and I chose to keep our 2014 goals on our refrigerator this past year so we could not avoid them.

Before I get to my method of goal setting for the New Year (or at literally any time), I want to highlight that goals are easier to attain when they are SMART:

Here are examples of common goals one might set for nutrition versus ones that are SMART and well thought out:

smart goals

Sample Goal: Lose weight.
Sample Unrealistic Goal: Lose 10 pounds this month.
SMART GOAL: Lose 3 inches off of my waist circumference by July 1.

I I have one tip for everyone related to the above examples: STEP AWAY FROM THE SCALE. Don’t let it define you. In the US we easily let pounds on the scale and BMI define us, when in reality those number often don’t correlate with health.

Many times the “realistic” is the part we forget when setting well thought out goals. Last year my husband had a goal to “always pack lunch for work”. This was completely unrealistic since he has many lunch based meetings and he therefore did not accomplish it. “Bringing lunch to work 4 days per week” is likely a more attainable goal.

Now for my approach to goal setting…

After reading a bit, attending a conference session, and listening to a great RD role model Chere Bork in 2013, I had a discussion with my husband and we decided to take a new approach to the whole “New Years Resolution” thing for 2014. I am ecstatic to say we reached almost all of our goals. The only mutual goal we did not meet was making it to church every single Sunday. The only personal goals I did not achieve were doing my physical therapy exercises twice each week (for my hip and knee from running), and making it to yoga twice every week. I could easily look at this and say I failed at those goals. However, it is much better to focus on what we DO not what we don’t. Looking back, I am able to say we made it to church very frequently and never skipped just to sit around, I ran a half marathon injury free this year (first time in 4 years) and I made yoga a priority any time I was feeling stressed or out of balance. I’d say those are all positives!

Hopefully you are getting motivated to set your own goals. Here is how Tim and I create ours. First, we have determined that we will always set goals together. These goals are for our home, time together, faith, travel, and time for family and friends (you can set others too!). We then set our own personal goals. I believe, at minimum, personal goals should cover the following areas:

-Personal Growth
-Spirituality or Religion
-Career
-Health
-Home/physical environment (can even be your office!)
-Family and friends (including significant other)
-Fun and stress relief

As one of the songs in the movie “Frozen” tells kids (love that movie), we too as adults should remember that we are all a “fixer-upper”. No one is perfect and will always have something to work towards. Just because you don’t want a new job or you think you are as healthy as can be does not mean there is nothing to work on. For example here are a couple of goals in these areas for 2014 and this coming year:

Example 2014 Goals

Career:
-Finalize and have the exercise science POS approved
-Help students start a nutrition club (spring semester)
Health:
-Complete my 3rd half marathon (fall 2014)
-Go to yoga classes twice each week

Example 2015 Goals

Career:
-Reach out to local colleges to research a new nutrition program for Bucks (Spring 2015)
-Volunteer in the area of kid’s health and food insecurity (once/month)
Health:
-Complete an olympic distance triathlon (by august 2015)
-Eat my lunch without distractions, away from computer/work (daily)

For those of you who have struggled with the same goals in the past, ask yourself why. Maybe losing weight hasn’t happened for you because you keep going on fad diets or skipping meals. Maybe a better approach is to have small action plans each month that support healthier habits. In January you can eat breakfast every day. In February drink an extra glass of water a half hour before each meal. In March, add a serving of vegetables to your lunch and dinner. If time management is a constant struggle, you may be trying to multi-task too much. The planner I mentioned above may help with that but maybe you also need to find ways to manage stress, prepare meals for the week, or to sleep more. Another tool I recently learned about is found at Em.todolist.com. The program allows the user to create categories and priorities, set reminders, share lists, and set recurring dates.

No matter what approach you decide to take in order to become the best version of you, remember that achieving goals and building new habits will always take time. Finally, stay positive – it makes everything easier!

glass full

Healthy Stocking Stuffers and Last Minute Gifts

tree

Non-Candy Stocking Stuffers and Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

While I do like a good piece of dark chocolate, I definitely don’t need a stocking full of candy on Christmas morning. By that morning, I’ve had a good month of holiday parties in and out of work encouraging excessive sugar consumption via cookies, cakes, candy, candy canes, candy corn… now I am just quoting “Elf”, but you know what I mean! Come New Year’s Day, if I give in to all of this (as I did in my teens and through college) my body feels awfully tired and bloated and is craving vegetables as if I haven’t had them in a year. So, having said that, when you think the best way to show love is through giving baked goods, truffles, or just Reese’s Christmas Trees, remember there are gifts to give that last a lot longer, and are a lot better for you too!

In terms of other healthy holiday gifts, we do need to be careful. I am all about giving gifts that support fitness, fun, and healthy cooking, but we need to be sure those gifts have no chance of offending someone. It may seem obvious, but here is a list of things I don’t recommend giving unless the person specifically asked for them: gym memberships, FitBit/JawBone/calorie tracking systems, workout DVD’s, or gift certificates to fitness classes they may not enjoy. Even if a loved one is trying to be healthier, you never know psychologically how a gift like that may make them feel.

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Toss & Chop Salad Scissors

Herb Cutting Scissors Love mine for herbs like cilantro but not so great for larger herbs like basil

Tubby Olive Mini Set: State St. Newtown, PA & Reading Terminal in Philly

25 Fitness Stocking Stuffers for $25 or less via Be Well Philly

Citrus Spritzer Great for salads

Smart Wool brand running socks I can’t run outside in the winter without them!

Burt’s Bees Lip Balm or Cuticle Cream Because no amount of water or omega-3’s can keep lips and hands from being chapped in the dry winter

Eco Tools Makeup Brushes and Bath Tools: Eco-friendly skin & body care, available at target!

Justin’s Nut Butter Squeeze Packs Great for travel or your lunchbox; found in most grocery stores, target, etc.

Handheld Spiralizer Turn carrots, zucchini, eggplant, and more into pasta!

Have to have that candy?
Choose a Fair Trade chocolate brand. Fair Trade certified products ensure the cocoa and sugar your candy comes from was farmed and harvested by workers who are in a safe working environment, paid a fair wage, and have food available in their community despite growing luxury cash crops for us. In the season of giving, spend a little extra to support those struggling to make ends meet in other countries!
http://fairtradeusa.org/what-is-fair-trade

Gifting

Tubby Olive
-Get delicious and naturally infused olive oils and vinegars right here on State Street in Newtown. If you mention getting their newsletter, you get 15% off on Wednesday’s this month! I highly recommend the Tuscan Herb Olive Oil and Lavendar Balsamic.

Yoga Mat
-Like this USA made, chemical free, natural rubber one by Jade brand

Teavanna Tea Infuser and Specialty Tea
Now in most malls!

Bento Style Eco Lunch Box

Slow Cooker
-BJ’s and Costco have double crockpots at a good price now

Yonana’s “Ice Cream” Maker
-Use that Bed Bath & Beyond coupon and transform fruit into ice cream at home!

Polar Brand Heart Rate Monitor
-Great for a runner, cyclist or triathlete; great savings at pedometersusa.com

SodaStream brand Seltzer Kit
-Perfect for someone trying to stop drinking soda; many people just love the carbonation!

The Dream Pad Pillow
-I can’t confirm its claims to help you let go of stress and sleep better yet, but I may be adding it to my Christmas list right now

A high quality blender
-Like vitamix, ninja, etc.

A Foam Roller or “The Stick”
-Athlete or not, I promise these will help with muscle stiffness anywhere on your body!

At home canning system
http://www.freshpreservingstore.com/

I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday!

Practicing Moderation during the Holidays

You can enjoy yourself and maintain health this season!

Not only is it a busy time of year, but its also the time when there are multiple social events on your schedule each week. Plus the treats at work and cookies at home. Here is how to stay healthy with all the holiday parties on your calendar.

Eat Healthfully Before the Party
Have a balanced healthy breakfast and lunch, and a serving of vegetables before the event. Restriction leads to consuming excess food and the alcohol will get to you more quickly, too.

Drink Enough Water
Being well hydrated helps to regulate your hunger and appetite signals. This means being poorly hydrated leads to not only eating when you aren’t truly hungry, but also to overeating. Drink enough water throughout the day. (FYI: The recommended 8 cups of water per day is not enough for most people!)

Bring A Healthy Appetizer or Dish
Potluck or not, most hosts really appreciate you offering ahead of time to bring food or just surprising them with some. You can bring a healthy dish to balance out the unhealthy ones that may be there. It can be as simple as a vegetable tray or fruit salad. There are pictures of some ideas below, but you can go to my Holiday and Kids Pinterest Boards for many more fun and festive ideas!
cheeseandgrapestree  applesaucereindeer

Pick One Dessert
You’ll be much more likely to enjoy your dessert if you pick which one you really like, and if you are mindful of flavors and texture that you enjoy while eating it.

Use Fruits and Vegetables to be Festive Instead of Food Dye and Frosting
For Christmas colors: grapes, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes, red & green peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, celery etc.

Hanukkah/celebrating the season (white and blue/purple foods are healthy too): Baked potato latkes, cauliflower, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, purple sweet potatoes (have them at Organnons – delicious!), blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, etc.

Really want colored frosting for treats? Try making your own or purchasing a natural food dye (I have seen several brands at Whole Foods this year!). Artificial dyes (like red 40, blue 1, yellow 5 etc) have been linked to hyperactivity and neurological problems, and are banned in some countries. The EU requires a warning label on processed foods that contain artificial dyes.
Here are recipe ideas:
Blue: http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/natural-blue-food-coloring-dye-just-in-time-for-easter/
Yellow, blue, pink, green: http://healthymamainfo.com/2012/02/natural-food-coloring/

Limit Intake of Alcohol and Sugary Beverages
First, you can set limits before the party or event. Decide ahead of time how many beverages you will allow yourself.
Remember that “moderate” drinking is 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men. 1 drink is equal to about 12 ounces of light beer, 4 ounces of wine, and 1-1.5 ounces of liquor, so beware of martini’s and large wine glasses!
Make a rule that you will have a glass of water before your first alcoholic or sugary drink, and that you will have a glass of water in between each alcoholic or sugary drink.
Reduce sugar content by using flavored seltzer waters instead of soda.
Enhance flavor and color with fruits and herbs (like mint or basil) instead of with juice or sugar.

Here are a few festive and slightly healthier drink options:

pom_spritzer-3

Pomegranate Rosemary Spritzer (pictured left): http://ahouseinthehills.com/2014/11/04/pomegranate-rosemary-spritzer/Use real peaches instead of peach schnapps and some maple syrup or honey instead of sugar

Honeyed Beet Sparkler:http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/honeyed-beet-sparklers

Clementine Crush Cocktail:
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/clementine-crush-sparkling-cocktailEliminate the sugar and use club soda + powdered ginger instead of tonic or ginger ale


Most importantly, remember the reason for the season!

No matter what you are celebrating this holiday season, remember that family and friends and the precious time we have together are much more important than the cookies, excess food, and drinks. Give Presence!

Too busy? What a Dietitian Eats with No Time and an Empty Fridge

Too busy to make healthy meals & exercise?

Suggested activity:
Make a list of things more important to you
than your health and the health of your family.

Have you been using the “I’m too busy” excuse a lot lately? I could be too… but I know I would feel more stressed and even more tired if I was eating poorly and not making time to exercise. In this post I want to help you tackle 2 barriers to healthy eating: busy schedules and running out of fresh food (cause you’re too busy to get to the store, of course).

I know you’re all busy right now… so am I. I’m actually writing this post at 9:00 PM on the train ride home from a Junior League of Philadelphia meeting in the city (yay for multitasking). Between teaching, advising, office hours with students, meeting with clients, grading diet analysis projects, holiday volunteer work, exercise and attempting to relax, it can seem there isn’t much time to cook healthy meals.  But then I remember my slow cooker!

This past weekend after traveling to New England for the Thanksgiving holiday, I didn’t return home until Sunday evening. This meant I had no time to prep food for the week and for Monday and Tuesday, Tim and I were relying on pantry and frozen items before I could make it to the grocery store later today. For us, because we stock our pantry & freezer with the right things, this doesn’t mean microwave meals and take out! We use the ingredients at hand and pull out the trusty slow cooker. It’s one of my best friends during the holidays and when I have an overly busy week. Here is a sample of how it was used to make healthy meals Monday and Tuesday, as well as other ideas when your pantry is looking bare and you’re pressed for time.

Monday & Tuesday breakfast: Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Pumpkin and Peanut Butter.

Simply add the following ingredients to the slow cooker and set on low for 6 hours:

1 cup of steel cut oats (aka old fashioned oats-rolled/quick won’t work)
4 cups non-dairy milk or water
1 can puréed pumpkin
6 tablespoons peanut butter (or other nut butter)
Optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Tip: less will stick to the sides if you put all ingredients in a glass bowl and fill the crockpot up to 1 inch below the top of the bowl.

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Monday lunch: Lentil Wrap

Leftover lentils were in the freezer that I thawed overnight with some frozen spinach. I added some seasoning (garlic powder, cayenne and black pepper) and put them in an ezekiel brand tortilla wrap for lunch and added an apple and some carrots as snacks (they keep in the fridge for a while).

Monday Snack: Smoothie

Frozen banana, and frozen strawberry/mango/pineapple mixture with a ½ cup of almond milk

Monday dinner: Pasta & Veggies

I am loving black bean pasta right now! If you haven’t seen it yet, I first found it at Organnons on Durham road in Wrightstown, but have since seen it at Giant and recently got a bulk package at Costco! It is a great pasta replacement with the same calories as normal pasta but 25 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, many minerals, and one ingredient: black beans. I threw sauce together with garlic, a large can of organic diced tomatoes*, a can of tomato paste*, and dried basil, oregano and crushed red pepper. I sautéed up some frozen kale and broccoli and there you have a balanced dinner!
*When buying canned tomatoes I choose Muir Glen or Trader Joe’s as they are not lined with BPA. Low sodium is best!

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Tuesday lunch: leftover black bean pasta & veggies

Tuesday Snacks: Apple, Roasted Soy Nuts, Clementine

Tuesday dinner (and lunch today!): Slow-Cooker 3 Bean Vegetarian Chili (modified from my original recipe).

My husband and I always have dried beans and lentils on hand. They are less expensive and don’t have tons of sodium, or a risk of BPA lining the cans. When I woke up in the morning I boiled 1 cup each of dried black, pinto, and kidney beans and let them sit while I got ready. Before leaving for work I threw the following in the crockpot and set on low for 8 hours.

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 chopped onion
Beans (drained)
½ – 1 additional cups water
1 large can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup frozen corn
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp: oregano, cumin, black pepper

When I got home I added half a bag of frozen spinach, stirred and it was ready for dinner!

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If you don’t have one, a slow cooker is a great addition to your Christmas list… or something to treat yourself to while you are shopping for everyone else :)

Still nervous to try one? Here are 7 answers to common slow cooker questions from Real Simple Magazine!
http://www.realsimple.com/m/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/slow-cooker-tips

What are your favorite healthy recipes when your low on time and resources? I am always looking for new ideas!

2014 Thanksgiving Food & Wine Picks

Hopefully you have gotten all of your Thanksgiving shopping done by now. If not, you can build your list based on some of my favorite foods/recipes below, and if you already have, maybe you can make a couple of alterations to normal recipes to make them slightly healthier than in years past. Regardless, I hope you had or have a less stressful shopping experience than I did today! Mark my word, I will never do Thanksgiving grocery shopping the Sunday before ever again!

Below are some recipes of my own and others I have found on blogs or Pinterest in years past or recently. I have many more ideas for appetizers, side dishes and desserts listed on my Pinterest page if you are still looking for a new and exciting addition to your traditional holiday spread.

Appetizers:

This year we will be spending Thanksgiving with Tim’s family at my sister in law’s, north of Boston. Since we can’t get there until early Thursday, I will be contributing as much as possible by prepping ahead! Wednesday I am going to make both my spicy sweet potato hummus and maple chia candied pecans and walnuts. They will be great for snacking throughout the day while everyone is preparing food in the kitchen!

spicy sweet potato hummus   maple chia candied pecans walnuts
Sweet Potato Hummus                 Maple Chia Candied Nuts

The rest of the family decided to make bacon wrapped blue cheese filled dates for an appetizer too, which Tim and I won’t be having. As an alternative, I decided I will make pistachio stuffed dates that I had pinned on Pinterest a long time ago and never got to trying. I hope they turn out great!

The Bird

While I follow a plant based diet most of the time all year long, I do still eat pasture raised organic eggs regularly and will have some turkey on Thanksgiving! I am very particular though and recommend everyone to purchase a pasture raised or free range bird, preferably local. By now, most of the local birds have probably been claimed at the farmers markets, farms, or small local markets, but Whole Foods still had a wide variety of brands and sizes when I stopped in today. Plus, many were already brined! Localharvest.org can help you find a local farm for future holidays.

Why choose pasture raised? It isn’t just lack of hormones, antibiotics, and fillers. It means that you are supporting a healthier and more humane way of life for poultry, as well as a better environment. Every purchase we make counts towards the type of world we will have in the future. On top of that, you are supporting smaller family run farms that are likely not owned by a larger food corporation making more money than the farmers themselves. Finally, an added bonus is that animals raised in this way taste better. I am not just saying this because I support organic and sustainable practices. The flavor of the meat is fuller and when cooked properly also is more tender. This could mean you’ll be more satisfied from a smaller amount of the meat, reducing your chances of overeating, and then having more leftovers! :)

Delicious Side Dishes

My mother in law will be making her german potato stuffing that she has been making my husbands whole life. Making stuffing from scratch is a treat to begin with over the bagged stuff Americans are accustomed to, but adding some potatoes makes it even better! She will also be making some whole grain bread, cornbread, and cranberry relish.

Don’t go forgetting your veggies though! We will also be having green beans with shallots and almonds, peas, and my contribution will be my Maple Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels & Cranberries that I have been making for a few years now. It is a hit with my family all fall long, not just on this holiday of thanks!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Cranberries

While I won’t be making it this year due to the cranberry relish that we will have, I highly recommend this homemade pineapple cranberry sauce recipe I found a few years back at wellnessmama.com. I usually make it on Thanksgiving but also for other occasions. It doesn’t use any granulated sugar but is still delicious and balances the tart with sweet by adding pineapple juice, a little maple syrup, and elevates the flavor further with orange zest.

If we didn’t already have so many delicious recipes, I would be making these Rosemary Garlic Hasslebeck Potatoes (vegan, gluten free, paleo) for sure!

Desserts

My mother-in-law will be making her pecan pie, and my sisters-in-law found a great recipe for a maple sweetened slow cooker apple crisp. I can’t wait for both! Here is a baked apple crisp recipe I tried earlier in the fall that is gluten free and vegan if you’re looking for a lightened up version. I used double the cinnamon listed, and for the crisp part, used 1/2 cup quick oats, 1/2 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 3 T maple, 3 T coconut oil, 1/4 C coconut sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Follow all of the directions they list though and it will turn out great!

I will also be making some peanut butter ginger cookies ahead of time that are from the dessert blogger, Chocolate Covered Katie. Both times I made them I used coconut sugar for the sugar and the stevia part of the ingredients. For the flour, once I used whole wheat pastry and the other time used oat flour. Both worked well! I use frontier brand ginger and enjoy life brand allergen free chocolate chips (1/4 cup) since both times I made these I was bringing them to events. The first was a nutrition talk for parents and the second was to the holiday health challenge kick off I am helping to run at work. Everyone loved them!

While we won’t be making them for Thanksgiving, I have made these Pumpkin apple muffins by Minimalist Baker several times this season already, including for the nutrition talk and holiday health challenge kick off mentioned above. They were a hit both times even though they aren’t super sweet. I have used applesauce instead of canola oil each time I have made them. You can make them into mini-muffins easily by cutting the baking time in half too!

Sustainably Harvested Wines

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We recently found the brand Vegan Vine at our local liquor store in the sustainable wine section. Tim proclaimed the Cabernet Sauvignon we picked up as his favorite wine ever. While I could describe the wine as rich, fruity, and delicious, I am not as much of a wine expert as I would like to think and instead of pretending to review it, will just give you the description of tasting notes: Aromas of bright berry fruits. Plums, tobacco and a subtle floral note. Full and rich flavors of blueberries, blackberries and dried cherries. Dried plums and a little anise spice round off the wonderfully smooth finish. Moderate tannins. You can learn a lot more about their sustainable practices and see their other wines at theveganvine.com.

The “Cono Sur” Malbec above was also good but almost too smooth. I would recommend it to anyone new to wine and think it would have been perfect when Tim started to drink wine instead of beer! The “Santa Julia” malbec above was really good too, more sweet with a slightly tart taste as well.

Again, I am not an expert here and while wine is my beverage of choice for a special meal, I only like red wines and cannot give the best food pairing advice!

Southwest Spaghetti Squash

Two things I love: Spaghetti squash and mexican food. So why not mix them together? Everyone thinks of spaghetti squash simply as a traditional spaghetti replacement but there are endless possibilities. The mild flavor of spaghetti squash allows it to be prepared in so many different ways and some spice and black beans can really elevate this food! Not in to Mexican dishes but want to try spaghetti squash? Check out my Italian Style Spaghetti Squash w/ a Roasted Seed Recipe and my Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Avocado Walnut Pesto (the latter is my personal fave). This meal was even more delicious because we were enjoying the last of the jalapenos and tomatoes we had grown in our harden this season. So sad to say goodbye to super fresh tomatoes for the winter. :(

Southwest Spaghetti Squash

Southwest Spaghetti Squash (GF, V, DF)

Ingredients (see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients):

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash (3-4 lbs)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cloves minced organic garlic (about 2 Tbsp minced)*
2 jalapenos, minced
1 habanero, minced (optional)
2 Medium organic red onion, chopped
2 large bell peppers, chopped
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
2-3 Cups black beans prepped from dry or canned
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

*Purchasing tips: Trader Joe’s sells bags of organic onions for next to nothing! Bulk garlic, organic spinach, and all the spices with * can be purchased at BJ’s and likely other clubs like Costco.

Directions:

Cooking the squash:
This can be done while you prep the rest of the ingredients, or you can cook the squash ahead of time so its easier to throw this meal together during a busy week

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
-Take your spaghetti squash and carefully cut in half lengthwise. The first cut may seem difficult but once the knife is in its a lot easier to cut the rest of the squash.
-Dig out the seeds & pulp (pictured w/out seeds on left below)
-Save the seeds for the roasted seed recipe.


-Set the squash cut side down in a large glass baking dish or on a baking sheet
-Place in the oven and cook about 30-40 minutes (may vary depending on size of squash & oven)

While the squash is cooking, you can prep the rest of your ingredients and get them cooking.

-Heat oil in a large sauce pan, or even stockpot, over medium
-Add the garlic and hot pepper, stir, reduce heat slightly and let cook for about 2 minutes
-Add the onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers, stir and cover. Let cook about 5 minutes, stirring on occasion.
-If using canned black beans, be sure to rinse and drain them well. Add beans to mixture and again stir and cover about 3-5 minutes.
-When the squash is done you should easily be able to stick a fork in through the skin
-Remove it from the oven (or fridge if you prepped ahead) & carefully flip so the flesh side is up
-With a fork, you’ll basically want to “rake” from one side to the other to remove the “spaghetti”


-Add the squash to the bean and veggie mixture and stir well until incorporated. Toss some chopped fresh cilantro and black pepper on top to serve!

Since I don’t/can’t eat cheese, I added some homemade guacamole and cashew “parm” but you could also sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top if you are dairy free too. Tim added Organic Valley pasture raised raw sharp cheddar to amp up the southwestern flavor in his.

Southwest Spaghetti Squash // Eatreallivewell.com

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Spaghetti Squash isn’t going to provide you with tons of one specific nutrient but it will contribute a balanced amount of most vitamins and minerals to your diet especially Vitamins C & B6. What shines for spaghetti squash is the fiber & healthy carbohydrate content as well as the carotenoid antioxidants.

Black Beans are a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, potassium, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, iron, copper, magnesium & manganese. They also provide calcium. Phytochemicals include lutein, epicatechin, quercetin and proanthocyanidin – these benefit your eyes, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.

Bell Peppers provide you with tons of Vitamin C (even more per serving than citrus!), lots of Vitamin A and fiber as well as Vitamin E, B6 and potassium. Phytochemicals include lycopene (associated with reduced risk for prostate cancer & heart disease) and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for eye and cardiovascular health.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. But people forget that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Red onions are a good source of Vitamins C & B6, folate and even provides potassium & magnesium. Onions are packed with phytochemicals  known to promote cardiovascular and respiratory health.

Garlic provides a lot of the same benefits as onions including the phytochemical allicin as well as sulfides. Research on garlic links it to an improved immune system.

Jalapeno peppers contain capsaicin which has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation. Oh and you aren’t the only one who gets a runny nose from spicy food – these peppers can all help clear your sinuses!

Cilantro may be an herb but herbs have fantastic nutrient profiles too. Cilantro provides vitamins A & K and many antioxidants, especially quercitin. Quercitin is a flavonoid linked to respiratory (great for asthmatics and athletes) and heart health.