Nov 292012

Have some extra pureed pumpkin lying around from that pumpkin pie?  Or pecans from the pecan pie you wish you hadn’t had that extra slice of?  Or dried cranberries from, well, whatever you used cranberries in?  Well you are in luck because this recipe will use up all of those without making you feel the miserable sugar hangover that the pie did last week.  You may think you’re pumpkin-ed out, but once you try this amazingly healthy and delicious Pumpkin Spice Granola, I guarantee you won’t be.

Granola is one of those foods that can be deceivingly unhealthy when you buy the store bought kind, but when you make it at home you see exactly what’s going in.  This version has oats, quinoa, tons of nuts/seeds (pepitas, almonds, pecans), dried cranberries, and is flavored with maple syrup, pumpkin, and spices.  This might just be my new favorite granola recipe…well at least in the fall.  Also, did I mention that this is super easy to make?  Well, it is.

Nutritional Highlights:  After the eating free for all that was Thanksgiving week (for me at least) you may be looking for a healthy change.  This granola has tons of protein and fiber so it will keep you full all morning.  I had never used quinoa in granola before, but was excited about the nice crunch it added and of course a ton of protein.  Compared to store bought versions, this granola is significantly lower in fat and sugar.  Still, try to keep serving size between 1/4 and 1/2 cup because even though it’s super healthy, it still has a decent amount of fat and calories from the nuts.  Serve over fruit with greek yogurt or skim milk for a healthy fall breakfast!

Plus, granola makes a great homemade holiday gift that everyone will love!  You can also get a little fancy lik I did and serve the granola over a scooped out pear half filled with greek yogurt and a little dab of cranberry sauce on the side for color :)

Pumpkin Spice Granola
adapted from Skinny Taste 


  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and pat dry with paper towel
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not all oats are gluten free so if you want gluten free granola make sure to pick your oats carefully.
  • Optional: 1/4 cup ground flaxseeds and/or 1/4 cup wheat bran 
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (or other seed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp oil (coconut or canola)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 325° F. 

Spread oats* and quinoa out on a parchment lined baking pan. Toast in the oven 10 minutes, stirring once.

Remove the oats from the oven, pour the toasted oats into a medium bowl and addthe ground flaxseed/wheat bran, pepitas, almonds, pecans and dried fruit.

Reduce oven to 300° F.

In a second medium bowl, combine maple syrup, pumpkin puree, oil, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Pour over oats and stir together with a spatula.Spread back onto a baking sheet and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until golden.

If you want to serve it in the pear boats, simply cut pears in half vertically, scoop out some of the center and fill with greek yogurt.  Top with pumpkin spice granola and enjoy.  If not, a bowl will do the trick!

Nov 202012

Last night was a very important holiday, in case you didn’t know.  Friendsgiving.  It occurs the Sunday before Thanksgiving and consists of a potluck with a few friends and lots of amazing food.  This year was the second annual Friendsgiving and the meal may have even topped last year.  I obviously had to stick with something semi-healthy, but still full of comforting fall flavors, so I made a quinoa risotto with mixed mushrooms, roasted butternut squash and lots of parmesan cheese.  This is one Thanksgiving side that you won’t feel guilty eating again on day two. 

Sorry for the terrible photos here…this is what happens when you don’t take pictures during daylight.  Had to take a picture of this plate and tell you a little bit about it.  We had phyllo wrapped asparagus (a la Paula Dean…no shame here), pancetta-gruyere sweet potatoes (probably MVP of the meal and also most likely to give you a heart attack but totally worth it), sourdough bread stuffing, brussel sprouts with pancetta (yes, that’s the second time I’ve said pancetta…again, no shame), and my creations, pear-pomegranate-goat cheese-pecan salad (duh), and my quinoa risotto.  Oh, and Jeff would never forgive me if I forgot to mention the dish he slaved over all day…rotisserie chicken from whole foods.  Close enough to turkey, right?  

Nutritional Highlights:  Thanksgiving isn’t really a time of the year I believe in counting calories, but I also don’t mind having a few options on the Thanksgiving spread that aren’t going to add to your food hangover.   This side dish is also gluten  free, for all you glutards of the world!  Try a side like this with healthy grains and vegetables or a salad with fall fruits and nuts.  Because the more vegetables you eat the more room there will be for pie.  Fact.  

Wild Mushroom and Butternut Squash Quinoa Risotto


  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms (cremini, shitake, etc), cleaned and sliced
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, kept warm (but not boiling) in a sauce pan
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 shallots, small dice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan or other sharp cheese (I used mix of parmesan, reggiano, and asiago and it was great!)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus additional for garnish, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Preheat oven to 425.  Toss butternut squash in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper.  Spread in one layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through, until squash is slightly browned and soft.  
  • While the squash is cooking, cook the mushrooms.  In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add half of the shallot and half of the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until golden and soft, about 10 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
  • Over medium heat, add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining garlic and shallot and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add the quinoa and 1 tablespoon thyme and stir for about 3 minutes until quinoa is coated with oil and slightly toasted.  Lower the heat to medium-low and add the white wine and stir until absorbed.  Pour about 1/2 cup of warm broth into the quinoa and continue to stir and simmer until it is completely absorbed.  Allow pan to almost dry out between additions of broth.  Keep stirring in broth 1/2 cup at a time until the quinoa is creamy and the quinoa germ has burst, about 30 minutes.  
  • Once the last addition of broth is almost absorbed, stir in the parmesan cheese, remove pan from heat, cover with a lid and let stand for 2 minutes to help develop the creamy texture.  Stir in the mushrooms and butternut squash.  Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and fresh thyme leaves.  
  • Enjoy as a healthy component of your Thanksgiving feast or for dinner any night in the fall/winter!
Nov 102012

Yes, yes, I’m late again…I know.  This week has been absurdly busy.  First there was that whole hurricane thing, then a trip home to meet my new nephew Owen, then an a cappella concert, then a blizzard, then a midterm, and last but not least, a killer cold.  When I woke up today, barely able to breathe, I knew chicken soup was exactly what I needed.  But at the same time I was craving something super spicy–something that would make me feel/taste something again.  I decided there had to be a way to combine the two, and that’s when I stumbled upon this Buffalo Chicken Soup recipe.  Let’s just say I’m feeling better already!

This soup is filling and healthy, and still has all the flavors (and kick) of buffalo chicken.  The other great thing about this recipe is that it literally took a total of 30 minutes to make.  Perfect when you’re sick and lazy.  

Nutritional Highlights:  This buffalo chicken soup will satisfy your cravings without all that fried chicken-wing goodness.  This recipe uses lots of vegetables (onion, carrot, celery), chicken breast chunks, and whole wheat orzo.  Sure, there’s some blue cheese on top, but a little bit won’t hurt and is completely necessary for this recipe.  Not only is this the perfect soup to help kick your cold, but would also be perfect for Sunday night football (or is it monday? it feels like every day these days…).

Buffalo Chicken and Orzo Soup
adapted from Bake Your Day


2/3 cup uncooked whole wheat orzo pasta (or other mini pasta of your choice)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, roughly chopped

3 celery ribs, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons ranch dressing seasoning mix (like hidden valley)
3 Tbs. fresh cilantro, divided
32 ounces chicken stock
2/3 cup Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce
4 ounces low fat shredded cheese (I used a cheddar/jack mix)
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (I used grilled chicken strips from Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup green onions, chopped and divided
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles


Cook orzo according to package directions until about half-way done. Save 1 cup of pasta water, drain remaining water, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or large soup pot. Sauté yellow onion, garlic and half of the green onions in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until the onions are opaque and fragrant. Add carrots, ranch dressing seasoning and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Stir to combine and sauté until the carrots begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes.

Add chicken broth, buffalo sauce, and shredded cheese. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the carrots are tender, but still have a slight bite.
Bring the soup to a boil, add the chicken, cup of reserved pasta water, and underdone orzo and stir frequently until orzo is al dente.
Serve with sliced green onions, additional cilantro and blue cheese crumbles.