Transitioning to Fall with Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms, Tomatoes & Spinach

Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms, Tomatoes & Spinach

As sad as I am to say goodbye to summer, I’m equally excited to welcome the flavors of fall, my all-time favorite food season. This is the time of year when summer produce still lingers at the farmer’s markets (tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.) while the bounty of fall is just ripening: hearty root vegetables, dark leafy greens and best of all winter squash.

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My favorite varieties of winter squash are the delicatas and buttercups which are small and sweet, but it’s during this transitional time of the year that I crave spaghetti squash. I find it to be the perfect crossover vegetable providing a canvas for combining summer and fall flavors.

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In this case I mixed cooked spaghetti squash with sauteed garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach, making for a hearty, delicious and super healthy meal. The entire dish takes less than 20 minutes to make and the microwave does half the work. And it’s a fantastic as a vegetarian entree or side dish to chicken or fish.

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Here’s the recipe:

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Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Chickpea Quinoa Salad

Yummy superfood.

I’m so tempted to leave this post with just those two words that sum up this dish so succinctly, but then you’d miss out on what makes it so delicious AND healthy.

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Back story: I went hiking last weekend with a group of friends. Yes, us city girls escaped for a weekend and traveled south to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL. We left Saturday morning and planned to have a picnic outside the park, then hike, and maybe picnic again. I wanted to make a dish that would travel well, offer much needed protein and carbohydrates to give us energy for the hike without being heavy, and suit the needs of my vegetarian friend.

This chickpea quinoa salad turned out to be the perfect solution. Not only is quinoa itself incredibly healthy and nutritious (and gluten-free), but the addition of fiber- and protein-rich chickpeas, along with summer vegetables like red peppers and corn, balance it out for a delicious and light grain salad.

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Oh, and did I mention it tastes great, too? Health and nutrition are important but so is flavor and this salad is a winner in all categories. Also, note that I call this recipe a “salad” because it can be served at room temperature but it’s also fantastic warm.

Here’s the recipe:

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Minted Grape Couscous

Minted Grape Couscous

Minted Grape Couscous

When you cook as often as I do it’s easy to forget a favorite recipe. Luckily, I have people in my life who remind me of these on occasion, as was the case last week when a client asked for the mint couscous that I had made for her a year and a half ago. I hate to admit it but I didn’t immediately remember the recipe so I dug through my files and eventually found the one she requested: minted grape couscous.

Minted Grape Couscous: toast couscous Minted Grape Couscous: minced red onion Minted Grape Couscous: toast almonds

It’s a refreshing combination of flavors with fantastic textures: sweet grapes, cucumber, red onion, lemon and lots of fresh herbs mixed with crunchy almonds and filling Israeli couscous.

I prefer to use English cucumbers because I find the skin more palatable and enjoy the color contrast, but regular cucumbers will also work.

Minted Grape Couscous: dice cucumber

As with most recipes I’m inspired by, this one was tweaked to fit my tastes and is quite different from the original, most notably that it has mint instead of cilantro, the addition of almonds, and calls for toasting the couscous prior to cooking. Sadly, I didn’t record the source in my notes to give credit so please let me know if you’re familiar with it.

Here’s the recipe:

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Black Bean Brownies, Welcome to My World!

Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean Brownies

I’ve officially been living life in a bubble, one that hasn’t included black beans. What on earth was I thinking? They rock! I’m actually a little ashamed that I’ve been avoiding them for so many years (read: my entire life), but also excited about the possibilities.

For starters, black beans are incredibly healthy (hello protein and fiber). They also taste delicious, are quick and easy to prepare, and can be used in everything from rice to soup to salads to even desserts!

Yes, you read that right. Black beans are great in sweet desserts.

I discovered beans on my recent trip to Costa Rica where I ate them everyday, usually with rice, a protein (chicken or fish, or eggs if breakfast), and a vegetable. And they were delicious, not to mention filling and nutritious.

Black bean brownies: eggs and beans in blender Black bean brownies: puree everything

Now that my eyes and stomach are open to black beans I’ve begun to notice them more in everyday life back at home. For example, the other day I heard someone talk about black bean brownies made from a brownie mix, simply substitute a can of black beans for the eggs and oil and bake according to package instructions.

This idea piqued my interest, but I wanted to take it a step further and make the brownies completely from scratch, no box mix needed. This recipe turns the idea around a bit, using the black beans in place of flour and liquids and pureeing them in a blender with eggs, flavorings and sugar.

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These were decadent, relatively healthy and gluten and dairy-free, although I have to note that they’re not for everybody. The flavor is rich with a fudgy texture and you can’t taste the black beans at all, but your waistline will sure be able to tell the difference.

Here’s the recipe:

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