Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

October is here and once again pumpkin flavored products have flooded the market. You can find everything from coffee and espresso drinks, to pumpkin muffins, pancakes, cookies, and even poptarts (Trader Joes). Though they contain pumpkin (a nutritious  harvest vegetable) many of these foods and beverages are sugar bombs in disguise. Most of these products don’t have nutrition labels and you have to search to find the nutrition facts. If unaccounted for, these types of treats in your diet can lead to unintended weight gain. For example, a medium Dunkin Donuts pumpkin latte will run you 350 calories and 54 g of carbohydrates (most of those coming from added sugar). As unhealthy as the latte is, it is actually a good choice compared to the Dunkin Donut pumpkin muffin which runs 550 calories, 24 g fat (5 g saturated fat), and 78 g carbohydrates (41 of those grams from added sugar).  


Instead of reaching for a pre-sweetened coffee beverage, consider a brewed pumpkin flavored hot coffee and use a small amount of milk/creamer and your preferred sweetener.


This pumpkin pie smoothie recipe is a healthy option for a meal replacement or post-workout treat. Best of all, you can drink it and know that you are making a healthy and filling choice for a healthy diet. I use a sugar-free protein powder, but ¾ cup of Greek yogurt would do the trick as well!


Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

½ cup canned pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie filling) or cooked pureed pumpkin

1 scoop sugar-free vanilla protein powder

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 cup ice cubes

½ banana

½ cup water, skim milk, or dairy alternative (almond, soy, coconut milk)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.


Nutrition Facts  

1 smoothie (made with water/sugar- free protein powder)

200 calories, 2 g fat, 26 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pumpkin Everything. Curry Pumpkin Soup

The past two days started to feel like fall in Vermont. The air is crisp, the apple orchards are ripe, and some of the leaves are starting to change their colors. I love autumn and like many, pumpkin flavored anything. Sure carving jack-o-lanterns is fun, but pumpkins are also edible and delicious! This year I grew pie pumpkins in my garden and roasted the first pumpkin this week. It was so big I had enough for pumpkin soup and a fresh pumpkin pie (I’m not much of a pie person, but it’s my boyfriend’s favorite).  

Pumpkins are chock full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are wonderful to incorporate into soups, breads, or stews. Pumpkin soup is a classic dish, and depending on how it is made it can be a healthy, or a not-so-healthy soup. I avoid using cream and butter in my cooking and will instead go with evaporated milk or canned coconut milk, depending on the flavors I want to use. Pumpkin soup can be traditional, with flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, but my favorite is a spicy curry soup. I let it simmer longer than I usually do and the result was a thicker and more intensely flavored soup, which I loved.


Cooking Fresh Pumpkins

Cooking pumpkin is easy! You want to make sure you have a pumpkin variety that is good for cooking. Popular varieties include pie pumpkins, or sugar pumpkins and they tend to be on the smaller side (4-8 pounds).


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove stem and bottom of pumpkin and slice in half. Remove the seeds and set aside.
2. Place in a baking dish with 1 inch of water and bake for 1-2 hours until soft. Cool and scrape out flesh with a spoon.


Stovetop version:

1. Half and peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds.
2. Cut into 2” cubes and boil over medium to high heat for 30 minutes or until soft.


For a smoother texture (which I recommend) puree in a food processor with a small amount of water.  

Don't toss the seeds! They can be baked and are a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber! Add to salads, baked goods, or as a snack. To bake the pumpkin seeds: Rinse well and pat with paper towel. Place in a bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper and evenly distribute on a baking sheet.Bake at 350 degrees for ~20 minutes or until crispy

Curry Pumpkin Soup

Makes 6 servings



1 Tbsp canola oil

1 tsp chopped garlic

½ tsp minced ginger

½ cup onion, diced

~2 cups fresh pumpkin or 1- 14oz canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 can of coconut milk

3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1-2 Tbsp curry powder

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)



1. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and onions and sauté for 1-2 minutes until soft.
2. Add pumpkin, coconut milk, broth and spices and simmer over medium heat, uncovered for 30-60 minutes.
3. Serve hot, as an appetizer or with a salad for a light meal.


Nutrition Facts: 1 cup

180 calories, 16 g fat (13 g saturated), 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein, 130 mg sodium

Friday, August 8, 2014

Western Egg "Muffins"

We have all heard the saying "breakfast is the most important meal of the day". Yes it gets your brain and body ready for the coming day as well as breaking the "fast" from sleeping through the night. Though we know it is important, many go without or just survive on coffee (sorry, but doesn't count as a breakfast). Typically there are one of two reasons that my clients don't eat breakfast. Either they don't feel hungry/feel like eating or they don't have enough time (aka not making enough time). This recipe can be made ahead of time and cooked in less than 1 minute, making it a quick and healthy option and pretty portable.

Too often breakfast is high in refined carbs and lacks protein (cereals, toast, muffins, bagels, donuts, pastries). Sure it tastes good in the moment, but since they are digested quickly they don't leave you satisfied for long. Protein and fats are more satiating (meaning they fend off hunger) than carbohydrates and most American's fall short of protein at breakfast. New research has shown that 30 gram of protein per meal can be beneficial in keeping hunger in check and can aid in weight loss. Lots of my clients use hardboiled eggs as a quick protein in the morning, but that can get old and some people don't care for them. Canadian bacon is a lean meat that adds a lot of flavor without adding too much fat.

Of course this recipe can make a great lunch or light dinner as well. If following a low carb or paleo lifestyle have a few muffins. Need a carbohydrate with breakfast? Pair one muffin with whole grain toast, English muffin, or oatmeal.

Western Egg "Muffins"
Makes 12 muffins

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1/4 cup sweet onions, diced
8 eggs (may substitute egg beaters if desired)
1/2 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup low-fat shredded Mexican cheese
4 pieces of Canadian bacon, diced
1/2 cup salsa
pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat oil over medium heat in small frying pan. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until soft.
3. Scramble up the eggs, mix in the milk well. Add salsa, sautéed vegetables, and ham/Canadian bacon.
4. Spray muffin tin with non-cook spray and fill each muffin tin about 3/4 full. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp shredded cheese on top.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until egg is fully cooked.

Nutrition Facts: 1 muffin
95 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g carbs, 10 g protein, 250 mg sodium

Mango and Cilantro Quinoa

Quinoa is a quick cooking whole grain (well technically it is a seed) that packs a nutritional punch. Nutritionally it is a complex carbohydrate that is high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. And yes, is gluten free. I prefer it over brown rice (cooks in less than half the time) and captures the flavor of the ingredients it is paired with better. This summery dish is ready in less than 20 minutes. It is versatile in flavor and can be served as a side to meat or as the main entrée in a vegetarian dish. One day I had it for breakfast and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have any mid-morning hunger pangs.

Mango and Cilantro Quinoa
Serves 8

1 cup dry white quinoa
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 mangos, diced
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to boil and cover, reduce to medium heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Fluff with a fork.
2. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and combine the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve hot or cold.

Nutrition Facts: 1 1/4 cups
260 calories, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated, 40 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein

Braided Veggie Pizza

This braided pizza is reminiscent of a calzone (though without the ricotta cheese because the significant other doesn't care for it). It is a bit more time consuming than hand tossing a pizza, but it is kind of fun to eat and can be served as an appetizer. Of course you can stuff the pizza with many fillings and flavors. I happened to have mushrooms, onions, and an abundance of kale from the garden, so that's what went into this one. With the hot weather on its way for the weekend you might decide to throw it on the grill instead of baking in the oven. I have not tried it with this recipe, but I would suggest using a grill-safe baking sheet or sturdy tin foil so you don't lose the shape of the pizza. 

The school year is right around the corner and dinners can be hard to juggle with sports and afterschool activities, This can be made a day in advance and placed in the oven right before dinner instead of relying on frozen and processed foods. Make your own dough and freeze in advance or pick up a prepared pizza dough at the store (most stores have a local company that they order from). Pair with a side salad for a complete meal.

Braided Veggie Pizza
Makes 8 servings

1 whole grain pizza dough
1/4 cup corn meal
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup pizza or marinara sauce
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 cups of kale, sliced
1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella or pizza mix cheese
Marinara sauce, for dipping

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
1. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator and set out for 15 minutes (will make it easier to work with)
2. Meanwhile heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes. Add kale and cover, cook for 3 minutes or until kale and mushrooms are soft.
4. Spread corn meal on a clean counter surface. Stretch or roll the dough into a large rectangle. 

5. Making the "end flaps": Using a sharp knife make a 2 inch slit about 4 inches in from each side and pull center of the dough out a few inches. (see picture above for assistance).
6. Making the "side flaps": Make slits about 4 inches long, 1 inch apart down the long end of the dough.
7. Spread the sauce down the center of the pizza dough, Add vegetables on top and sprinkle with cheese.
8. Fold the bottom "end flap" up to cover the filling. Starting on the right side, fold the bottom "side flap" over the fillings. Then fold the left bottom "side flap", then repeat alternating the right and left side flaps until to the last "end flap". Fold that one down to close the pizza. 

9. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool a few minutes before slicing into 8 pieces. Warm up some marinara in the microwave and serve with pizza for dipping.

Nutrition Facts: 1 slice
205 calories, 6 g fat (2 g saturated), 30 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 350mg sodium