Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash- with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans

 

IMG_1135

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash- with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans

This stuffed acorn squash recipe is both vegetarian and gluten-free. Inspired by the trend towards healthier plant-based eating this holiday recipe brings together quinoa, apples, cranberries, and pecans to become a new favorite holiday stuffing tradition.  Acorn squash is first sliced, then roasted and stuffed with healthy ingredients and holiday spices.  This recipe looks fancy but it is easy to prepare and can be served as a side dish or as a main entree.  It will certainly be the spotlight at your next holiday gathering and enjoyed by both your vegetarian and non-vegetarian guests.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays!

IMG_1138

Recipe for Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash- with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans

Ingredients

2 Acorn Squash, medium

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil or grape seed oil

1 stalk of celery diced into 1/4 inch pieces

1 medium honey crisp or granny smith apple peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup fresh cranberries sliced

1/2 cup chopped pecans

salt and pepper

Directions:

First prepare the Acorn Squash Slices

IMG_E1139

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse and pat dry the Acorn Squash. With a sharp knife cut off the top stem and bottom to create a flat edge.
  2. To make it easier to slice, soften each squash by first making several small slits through the skin with the tip of a sharp knife, place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.
  3. First cut the squash horizontally in half. Scoop out the membranes and remove the seeds. Lay the flat side down on a cutting board and slice one more time to make a total of 4 slices for each squash.
  4. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Brush each squash slice lightly with oil and place evenly on the cookie sheet. Then brush lightly with maple syrup and sprinkle with nutmeg.
  5. Roast squash slices for 30-35 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife.

IMG_1147

While the Acorn Squash is roasting prepare the stuffing

  1. In a medium sauce pan heat oil and saute the chopped apple and celery until softened about 6-8 minutes, add the thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vegetable broth and lightly simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  2. Mix in the cooked quinoa and sliced cranberries.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spoon stuffing equally among the 8 slices of roasted acorn squash. Sprinkle tops with chopped pecans. Turn the temperature of the oven down to 375 degrees F. Bake the stuffed acorn squash slices for 20 minutes or until heated through.

IMG_1132

 

 

Chai Spice Apple Zucchini Bundt Cake

IMG_1059

Chai Spice Apple Zucchini Bundt Cake

Welcome the flavors of Fall. This autumn inspired bundt cake highlights my favorite Fall baking ingredients.  The warm and comforting flavor of Chai spice blends well with grated honey crisp apple and zucchini to create a naturally sweet, moist bundt cake.

IMG_1081

This bundt cake includes the warm aromatic flavors of Chai spices a blend of ground cinnamon, allspice , ginger, and cardamom. Cardamom is an ancient spice from India, a very unique spice that is highly fragrant, a little spicy but also slightly sweet. It is known for many health benefits ; helps lower blood pressure, an antioxidant helping to prevent cancer, is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, aids in digestion, and helps to lower blood sugar.

IMG_1068.jpg

Chai Spice Apple Zucchini Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups all purpose flour sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 cup grated unpeeled zucchini
  • 3/4 cup peeled and grated honey crisp apple (approximately one large apple)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 10 cup or 2 small bundt cake pans with non-stick baking spray.

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice. Set aside.
  2. On medium speed with an electric or standup mixer beat butter and sugar until smooth, add grape seed oil and maple syrup and continue to beat until light and fluffy about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time until well blended.
  4. On slow speed add 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix just until until flour begins to disappear, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk blend well, then alternate again with 1/3 of the flour mixture, remaining buttermilk, and ending with remaining flour mixture.
  5. Drain the grated zucchini and apple and pat the excess water with a paper towel. Gently fold into the cake batter until well distributed.
  6. Spoon the cake batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan, bake 35 to 38 minutes or until top of cake is a golden brown and lightly springs back. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
  7. Once cooled, drizzle with a maple glaze and top with chopped walnuts if desired.

Maple Glaze: Mix together 1/3 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Gradually add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of milk or heavy cream mix until smooth and drizzle over cake.

 

IMG_1067.jpg

 

IMG_1051

Rhubarb and Lavender Muffins

IMG_0980

Rhubarb and Lavender Muffins

Lavender is an ancient herb from the mint family known for its sweet floral fragrance. The flowering buds are dried and can be used in essential oils, fragrances, and cooking. In cooking, culinary lavender is used in both sweet and savory recipes. Grinding the lavender helps to release the flavor. Lavender can have a very strong flavor and it is best used in just small amounts. For this muffin recipe lavender pairs well with rhubarb, lemon, and honey to make a moist, light, and flavorful muffin.

IMG_0991

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons culinary dried lavender
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups all purpose white flour (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/4 inch pieces

IMG_0955

I used a mortar and pestle to grind the dried lavender . A small food processor, herb or coffee grinder will also work.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle grind the dried lavender. In a small bowl stir the sugar and lavender together.
  3. On medium speed with an electric or standup mixer beat butter and lavender sugar until smooth, add the grape seed oil and honey and continue to beat until light and fluffy about 3 minutes.
  4. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time blending in between.
  5. Mix in lemon zest and lemon juice.
  6. On the slow speed of your mixer, in 3 additions, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately just until the flour disappears.
  7. Using an ice cream scooper spoon muffin batter equally among 12 muffin cups.
  8. Place on center rack of preheated oven and bake for 22-24 minutes or until lightly brown and the top of the muffin springs back.
  9. Allow muffins to cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  10. Once completely cooled drizzle with a vanilla glaze if desired. Recipe to follow.

IMG_0984

Vanilla Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons milk or half and half

In a small bowl mix together powdered sugar and vanilla, gradually add milk and stir to a smooth consistency

IMG_0981

Chai Latte Bundt Cake

IMG_0896

Chai Latte Bundt Cake

My new favorite bundt cake is inspired by the flavors of Chai tea. It is mildly spiced and slightly sweet, warm comforting flavors, this bundt cake is perfect for any occasion. Chai tea offers a variety of health benefits, is heart healthy, reducing blood sugar levels, aiding in digestion, and boosting the immune system.

IMG_0905

Chai Tea spices: cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, and allspice.

IMG_0938

My new Nordic Ware 5 cup Duet mini bundt cake pan

IMG_0891

Chai Latte Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chai skinny latte concentrate (I used Tazo)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 6 cup bundt cake pan  (or a 5 cup mini bundt duet pan) with baking spray.

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together, sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice. Set aside.
  2. On medium speed with an electric or standup mixer beat butter and sugar until smooth, add grapeseed oil and maple syrup and continue to beat until light and creamy about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time mixing between each addition.
  4. Add chai skinny latte concentrate and mix well, then add the freshly grated orange zest.
  5. On slow speed starting and ending with flour mixture alternate with the buttermilk just until flour disappears.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan, bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is set and lightly springs back. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Lightly dust with powdered sugar.

IMG_0931

IMG_0926.jpg

Mini No Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake Tarts

IMG_0807

Mini No Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake Tarts

Unlike traditional cheesecake recipes that are high in added sugar and fat, these mini cheesecake tarts have natural ingredients and very little added sugar. Instead of the traditional graham cracker crust I made a gluten-free crust using healthy ingredients like old fashioned oatmeal, pecans, maple syrup, and coconut oil.  In place of sour cream in the cheesecake layer the yogurt provides the additional nutrition benefits of protein, calcium and probiotics. This recipe is completely no bake and easy to make. The mini mason jars are also the perfect portion and add a beautiful presentation for any occasion.

IMG_0804

The inspiration for these healthier cheesecake tarts come from the Food & Nutrition Magazine Test Kitchen Recipe Contest. The goal was to create a recipe using Siggi’s yogurt, that was easy to follow with the Siggi’s theme- simple ingredients, not a lot of sugar.

Mini No Bake White Chocolate Cheesecake Tarts

This recipe makes 10 mini tarts

Crust

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  1. In a food processor , add pecans and roll oats and process until very fine.
  2. Add the melted coconut oil and maple syrup and process until blended and crust comes together.
  3. Spoon by tablespoon and press into the bottom of each desert cup.

Cheesecake layer

  • 8 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • one 5.3oz container of Siggi’s nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate chips melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer beat at medium speed the cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the melted and slightly cooled white chocolate, the yogurt,  vanilla, and espresso (if desired) and mix at medium speed until well blended.
  3. In a separate medium size bowl that has been chilled, whip the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks appear.
  4. Gently fold in the whipping cream into the cheesecake mixture in two batches.
  5. Spoon cheesecake batter evenly over prepared crusts.
  6. Cover with the lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours.  Top with fresh berries and chocolate chips before serving. Store cheesecake tarts in the refrigerator.

 

IMG_0809

 

IMG_0810

Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes

IMG_0775

These cupcakes have all the rich dark chocolate flavor and the color of red velvet cupcakes without the artificial food coloring. Recently I tasted a red velvet cupcake from a local bake shop. It was very sweet and the ingredients included artificial red food coloring. I started searching for recipes that would be healthier and not contain red food dye. I found many bakers have substituted beets for red food dye in their recipes. As a dietitian I know beets are a super nutritious food. I have added carrots and zucchini to my recipes but adding beets? I admit skepticism. The result was amazing, my cupcakes were moist had a beautiful deep red color and did not taste like beets at all.  My first time roasting beets was easy but a little messy. After a few tries I found the technique that worked best for me was wearing disposable gloves when peeling and slicing the beets  and using a food processor to puree the beets.

Happy Valentine’s Day !

IMG_0767Red Velvet Beet Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup roasted and pureed beats
  • 1 teaspoon of canola oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour sifted
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 ounces Ghirardelli 70% cacao bittersweet baking chocolate chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

IMG_0740

First prepare the beets. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. You will need 2 medium or 3 small red beets trimmed of their greens leaving about 1/2 inch of the stem.  Thoroughly rinse, clean, and scrub beets under running water. Place each beet on a piece of aluminum foil and brush lightly with canola oil. Seal up foil and place beets on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about one hour. Remove beets from the oven . Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely. Use a paring knife to peel beets. Place cooled beets in the bowl of a food processor and puree to a smooth consistency.

IMG_0742

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line  cupcake pans with paper liners. This recipe makes approximately 15 cupcakes.

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together sifted flour, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.
  2. In a small microwave-safe bowl slowly melt together chocolate and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Add espresso powder and mix well.
  3. Using a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on medium high speed, beat unsalted butter, canola oil, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.  Add maple syrup and continue to mix well.
  4. On medium speed add eggs one at a time mixing  just until yolk disappears. Add vanilla  extract and melted chocolate mixture and blend well.
  5. On slow speed of standing or hand-held mixer,  add the flour and buttermilk alternately to the batter beginning and ending with flour in 3 additions.
  6. With a spatula gradually fold in pureed beets until well blended.
  7. Fill each cup cake to 3/4 full.
  8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Allow cup cakes to completely cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter softened at room temperature

2 tablespoons cream cheese softened at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar

In small bowl with a hand-mixer beat butter until light and creamy, add cream cheese and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended. Gradually add powdered sugar until desired consistency.

 

IMG_0781

 

 

 

Carrot Blueberry and Pecan Bundt Cake with a Cream Cheese Glaze

img_e0671

I enjoy creating new recipes from traditional favorites.  In this variation on the classic carrot cake recipe grated carrots are combined with fresh blueberries and pecans to deliver a delectable and moist but not too sweet bundt cake.  A light cream cheese glaze is used in place of the traditional high sugar high fat frosting. Carrot Blueberry and Pecan Bundt Cake with a Cream Cheese Glaze  is my new favorite bundt cake recipe.

img_0668

Carrot Blueberry Pecan Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups all purpose white flour sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup finely grated carrots
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (plus additional pecans for sprinkling on top)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a non-stick baking spray, coat a 6-cup bundt pan.

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  2. Using a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on medium high speed, beat unsalted butter, canola oil, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.  Add maple syrup and continue to mix well.
  3. On medium speed add eggs one at a time mixing  just until yolk disappears. Add orange zest, vanilla  extract, and mix well.
  4. On slow speed of standing or hand-held mixer,  add the flour and buttermilk alternately to the batter beginning and ending with flour in 3 additions.
  5. With a spatula mix in the grated carrots.
  6. Gently fold in blueberries and chopped pecans.
  7. Pour and spread cake batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or cake is lightly brown and springs back.
  9. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes. Gently remove cake from pan by placing cake up side down on a cooling rack. Continue to cool thoroughly before glazing.

img_0644

Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cream cheese softened

Whisk together softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Gradually add 1 tablespoon milk or cream. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake. Top with chopped pecans.

img_0688