Quinoa, Apple, and Onion Stuffed Squash (gluten free)

photo: A Couple Cooks

photo: A Couple Cooks

I love this stuffed acorn squash as a main course for a weeknight meal. In less than 30 minutes, including any chopping time, you have a delicious, filling, and healthy dinner. Top it with nuts or crumbled Gorgonzola for a non-vegan dish. I like to serve this with a side of greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

This recipe is both gluten-free and vegan, however it makes a great side dish to serve along with chicken or pork.


  • 1 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts or pistachios or crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush squash with 1/2 tablespoon oil. Roast cut side down on a baking sheet until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Shut heat off, leave cover on and let steam for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  3. While quinoa cooks saute garlic in 1 TBS olive oil over medium-low heat. Then add in diced onion and apple, saute until softened. Keep warm.
  4. When quinoa is cooked add onion and apple mixture. Stir in parsley, maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Divide mixture equally between two squash halves. Top with pistachios or walnuts if desired.

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie

DSCF0406I love a good cinnamon roll. Warm, chewy, sweet and gooey – what’s not to love there? Oh, right – the 300+ calorie count of a small roll that has no nutritional value or the unspeakable 880 calories in a Cinnabon classic cinnamon roll. (Not to mention it has 37g of fat and 59g of sugar, that’s 15 teaspoons)!

I’ve recreated the flavors I love in this Cinnamon Roll Smoothie. It’s full of spicy cinnamon, it’s sweet and it’s creamy. I did not think chewy was really a good idea for a smoothie, I can live with the modification.

It’s healthy, it is satisfying enough to double as breakfast and it’s delicious. It doesn’t break the calorie bank and it has nutritional value. (and this depends on your protein powder so choose a clean one)!

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie


  • 1 c Silk unsweetened cashew milk (I like the creamy texture)
  • 1 c water
  • 1 scoop vanilla Shakeology (you can use another protein powder – adjust liquids as necessary)
  • 1/2 small banana
  • 1 medjool date
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon (it has a strong flavor, you may need more of regular cinnamon).
  • 3 ice cubes
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee (optional)


  • add liquids first
  • add protein powder and instant coffee if using
  • add cinnamon
  • add fruit
  • add ice
  • blend and enjoy

Nutritional info: 295 calories, 45 g carbs, 17g protein, 6.5 g fiber, 29g sugar (mostly from fruit).


You are Better Than the Free Cone

DQ2Dairy Queen was giving out free ice cream cones last week and I mentioned to a past client that I didn’t like their ingredients. She commented leave it to a nutritionist to suck the joy out of a free cone. Ouch. I was going to apologize but I really wasn’t sorry.

I stand by it and own it. There are way better choices out there. Just because something is free doesn’t mean I need to go have it. (If Van Leeuwen wants to hand out free ice cream I will definitely wait in line). Read the labels on your ice cream, do you know the ingredients and do they belong in your food?

It reminds me of super-sizing an order. We go for it because it seems like such a good deal without regard to what it does to our bodies.Do you really need a jumbo soda, double burger and enough fries to feed a family for yourself? Do you need the Venti Mocha Frappucino from Starbucks with whip? (My friend had one of these every day and asked me what I thought the calorie count was. FYI: it’s 520 calories with 80 g of sugar. That is 20 teaspoons of sugar).

I love ice cream, it’s one of my favorites. My advice is to try to be mindful about the ingredients and make the better choice. Keep your portions manageable and enjoy every bite or sip of your treat.

Want a quick and easy treat? It’s not really a recipe because it’s ridiculously simple. No ice cream maker needed.

Banana Soft Serve

Freeze a large very ripe banana (peeled). Let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes and put it in your blender or food processor. Instant banana soft serve. You can add cacao, peanut butter, coconut or another frozen fruit if you like. I like mine with 1 – 2 TBS of cacao powder and a little almond butter. It’s satisfying, fun. and easy.

Need help in making better decisions in your eating plan? Not sure what portions should look like? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and we can come up with a plan that works for you.



Did I Start Training Too Early and What’s With the Sweet Potato Fries?

sweet potato friesApparently I started training earlier than I need too. In truth I would have started in December whether I realized that or not. I tend to be a bit of a worrier and I would have been thinking about the longer distances. Now I have a pretty good base on which to start building.

Is it high mileage? No but I’d rather train smart for my first marathon. Saturday was another 7 mile run with my teammates. I kept an even pace and felt pretty good afterward. I felt it was my own pace or a tiny bit slower than usual. I run into problems when my pace feels too fast.

I was crazy hungry though after running. I took my own advice and had a small protein and carbohydrate snack. I then had a veggie burger, red rice and Brussels sprouts for lunch. It felt good, filling and it wasn’t full of bread. I know I need the carbs but want to stick with whole grains rather than bread. (I did have multi-grain gluten-free bread with almond butter for breakfast. One serving is enough).

I seem to have picked up a new post-run craving. I want french fries. I make my own from sweet potatoes so I don’t feel guilty about eating them. I think I’m really craving salt so I had some olives and sure enough I stopped thinking about fries.

I did make baked sweet potato fries for dinner. They are my favorite and they are full of potassium as well as beta carotene, perfect post-run food! Just slice them thin, mist with olive oil, salt, pepper & rosemary (optional) and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Stir half-way through and keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.


Chocolate Cranberry Green Smoothie

2014-07-22 13.13.05Need a quick and energizing pick me up? This tastes way better than it looks and it uses seasonal produce. I don’t love the taste of fresh cranberries on their own but they are tasty when blended with a smoothie! This is an excellent superfood smoothie!

Chocolate Cranberry Green Smoothie

  • 2 large red kale leaves (or any kale leaves)
  • 1/2 c fresh cranberries (or frozen
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 2 Tbs raw cacao
  • 1.5 tsp maca
  • 1 Tbs greens powder
  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or add another 1/2 c water)
  • ice

Rip kale into pieces, discard hard stem. Add ingredients to blender and top with water & almond milk. Blend until smooth.

Why is this so healthy? Cranberries, kale, maca and cacao are all considered superfoods and have a ton of nutrients. It’s a powerhouse of nutrition.

Cranberries are a very good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese, as well as a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, and pantothenic acid. They are anti-inflammatory and offer anti-oxidant.

Kale is an excellent source of vitamin K, A and C plus has manganese, copper, vitamin B6, fiber, calcium, iron, magensium, vitamins E, B1, B2 and B3, folate, protein and Omega 3 fatty acids. It is also high in anti-oxidants and is anti-inflammatory.

Cacao has magnesium, iron, cromium, Phenethylamine (PEA) – the adrenal-related chemical that we produce in our bodies when we fall in love, vitamin C, tryptohpan, seratonin, manganese and zinc. It too has a host of anti-oxidants.

Maca – An ancient Mayan superfood rich in plant sterols and a good source of iron, magnesium, selenium, and calcium.


Warm Quinoa, Kale & Pomegranate Salad

kale saladI love seeing my friends and family at potlucks and parties but it can be tricky to figure out what is safe for my husband and me to eat. Neither of us eats wheat, I don’t eat dairy and we both love food. So I bring along something that will please most of the crowd.This salad is filling, nutritious, quick and delicious. So who says healthy can’t be delicious? If it’s not tasty there’s no point in making it.


  • 1 bunch lacinato (dinosaur) kale
  • 2 c cooked quinoa
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin or diced
  • 2 minced cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 pistachio nuts (optional)
  • 1 Tbs olive or coconut oil


  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbs tamari (or gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 3 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste (if needed with tamari)


  • Cook quinoa with a ratio of 1 c quinoa to 1 c water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, cover with lid, cook for 8 minutes, shut heat off and let sit 10 minutes longer. (it will be fluffy this way)
  • Make your dressing, mix ingredients well and set aside
  • Heat oil over medium-low heat and add onions, saute until soft (about 2 -3 minutes).
  • Add garlic, saute 2 minutes
  • Add sliced kale, hard middle rib removed, saute 2 minutes. Kale should still be bright green.
  • Add kale, onion & garlic to cooked quinoa. Pour dressing over and stir thoroughly. Top with pomegranate seeds and pistachios.

I get my inspiration from a few places, recently I’ve found some new recipes on the Aloha.com site. (There is an acai breakfast bowl that’s insanely good). Recipes to me are more of a guide, I like I figure out ways to change it up and make it into exactly what I want. Dried cranberries (not craisins, they’re too sweet) would work well in this with walnuts. Feel free to sub ingredients you prefer to make this dish exactly what you want!

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Local CSA Haul & Using Up that Zucchini

zucchini with coconut milkIf you read my newsletter you know that I was lucky enough to have a friend’s CSA share while she was on vacation. I had the most amazing vegetables that were grown locally and delivered fresh from the farm. Lettuce, zucchini, rainbow carrots, kale, eggplant, chard, onions, herbs, fennel, cabbage, cucumbers were among the haul.

I had fun making stuffed pattypan squash, various green juices, salads and dish that I made up out of eggplant, zucchini and the onion. After I mentioned to another friend what I had made she asked for the recipe. I didn’t actually have one, I realized that over the years of cooking I had become like my Grandma.

It was a huge moment of connection and I felt really proud. My gram made some of the best dishes but could never tell you the measurements of anything. She cooked by what she thought would go together and how it tasted along the way. More often than not the first works and the second always makes it turn out right.

So for my friend I back tracked what I did and I’m sharing the recipe with all of you as well. The thing is I use what I have on hand and I encourage that for you as well. Don’t like an ingredient, substitute one you prefer.

Zucchini, Eggplant & Lentils in Coconut Milk


  • 1 c red lentils
  • 2 c vegetable broth
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 small eggplant, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste


Cook lentils in 2 cups of vegetable broth (about 20 minutes)

In the meantime, saute onion until softened (about 3 – 4 minutes). Add garlic and saute 2 minutes. Add in zucchini & turmeric, saute another 3 – 4 minutes and then add in eggplant and saute another 4 minutes. Add in tomato, coconut milk.and drained lentils into pan and let simmer until heated ( 2 – 3 minutes).

I served mine over brown rice and with a salad.

Are you having energy crashes mid morning and mid afternoon? Are you relying on coffee and sugar to keep yourself going? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, for a free strategy session. You will get at least 1 – 2 tips that you could immediately start implementing.

Quinoa Salad Recipe

quinoa saladGoing to a barbecue this weekend? Quinoa salad makes a great potluck dish, it’s quick, full of protein and fiber, and you can add whatever vegetables you enjoy. If you want a heartier salad you can either add in cubed chicken or chickpeas. It also makes a great weeknight dinner.

Quinoa Salad

  • 1C dry quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2C water
  • 1C chopped broccoli
  • 1C chopped cauliflower
  • 1C chopped green beans
  • 1C cherry tomatoes (cut in half if large)
  • 3/4C chopped zucchini
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1/4C slivered almond (or almond pieces)


  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 – 3 TBS white vinegar
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 TBS minced chives or 1 Tsp dried chives
  • 1 Tsp honey to sweeten if needed


Boil the quinoa with the 2 cups of water and turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, steam or blanch the broccoli, cauliflower and green beans for 2 minutes. Plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process.

Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

When quinoa is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain again, put quinoa into a large bowl and add in all of the vegetables and almonds.  Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat evenly.  You can eat this at room temperature or chilled.

Looking for more healthy recipes? Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Every weekday I post a recipe, an exercise tip and a health tip.

Are You Starting Your Day With a Sugar Bomb?

latte2I meet some of my clients at Starbucks, it’s convenient and a neutral place to meet. I generally order a soy latte, a decaf iced coffee or an iced unsweetened green tea. While I wait I can’t help noticing what people are ordering and how many of the patrons are kids and young teens.

I understand the appeal of a sweet creamy treat. What makes me crazy is how many kids are starting their day with a sugar laden drink, topped with whipped cream and a pastry. It’s a lot of mostly empty calories, but it’s also a lot of sugar. (between 8 – 10 teaspoons on average for a medium size latte drink).

Yes, there are better choices available but they aren’t generally being ordered. Again as a once in a while treat it’s not bad but when the barista knows your name and your order it’s not a once in a while treat.

A balanced breakfast that’s low in sugar is a better option so that kids (and adults) can be alert and focused throughout the day. A homemade smoothie (get the ingredients into the blender the night before to minimize morning chaos), sunflower or nut butter with fruit on 100% whole grain toast, oatmeal or yogurt “sundaes” are some great ways to start the day.

Yogurt Sundae

  • 4 or 6 oz plain yogurt
  • berries
  • almond or sunflower butter
  • honey
  • toppings: unsweetened coconut, nuts/seeds, cacao nibs

Place yogurt in a bowl or container and let your child choose his topping to custom make his own yogurt sundae. I like this for breakfast or a snack too.

Need help with making better food choices? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up a complimentary 30 minute strategy session.




Something Sweet & Green for St. Patrick’s Day

MintShakeSt. Patrick’s Day brings out some weird foods, I’m not a fan of green beer or bagels. I do like a Harp or a nice Irish Oatmeal Stout without any funky food coloring. I’m pretty partial to Irish soda bread and Irish breakfast tea as well. Corned beef is okay and I like cabbage but I can do without boiled potatoes.

I’m pretty sure I had the original Shamrock shake as a kid, I really don’t remember. I’m not going to tell you this shake recipe tastes exactly like it, it does not. But it is minty, sweet and made with ingredients I feel good about. I drink this for breakfast fairly often and even the husband likes it. You don’t taste the spinach at all.

Minty Green Shake

  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 banana, frozen works best
  • 1.5 c fresh spinach or 1/2 c frozen spinach
  • 1 – 2 dates or 2 tsp honey
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Shakeology or Garden of Life)
  • 1 – 2 drops peppermint extract
  • ice if not using frozen ingredients

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

You can add chocolate protein powder instead of vanilla for a mint chocolate variation.

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