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.

I Did What I Tell My Clients Not to Do…

quick tacoToday I was wrapped up in work and let myself get to the point of stomach growling hungry. The kind of hungry that makes you go into the kitchen and want to eat the first thing you see. Which, in my case, happened to be a gluten-free chocolate babka.

I resisted the babka, as much as I wanted to eat it. Upon breathing and thinking a moment I also noticed I had some corn tortillas. I checked the fridge to see what I could throw on them. There was leftover ground turkey that had been seasoned with verde mole but I wasn’t in the mood for it. (Hungry and picky, no less). I did have mushrooms, broccoli slaw, avocado and daiya cheese. Perfect!

To keep the tortillas from falling apart I toss them on the stove and set the burner to medium. When the top of the tortilla starts to brown I flip it to the other side and let it char for about 20 seconds. I quickly heated the mushrooms, broccoli slaw with a sprinkle of Mexican spices and lunch was done. Though the picture is of one taco, I made 3 of them.

You could make these tacos with what ever you have in the house. Beans would be a good protein choice and I think olives would have went nicely in my mix. The point is to use what you have on hand and what you enjoy eating. It doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time.

Do you have a hard time figuring out an eating plan that works for you? I offer a complimentary 20 minute strategy session. Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up an appointment.

Why Is Gluten Free the New Darling?

WHEAT2You see this food is gluten-free in headlines, in ads and there are celebrities tweeting how they’re gluten fee and lost so much weight. Grocery stores touting products that are gluten-free and charging a pretty steep price in the process. But do you really need to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon?

It depends. Many of us do have a sensitivity to gluten, the proteins found in wheat which give baked goods their chewy texture. We’re not able to fully digest the proteins and it leads to symptoms such as upset stomach, bloating, inability to lose weight, brain fog, exhaustion, chronic pain and inflammation. Others have no problems digesting wheat or gluten and are fine eating a sensible amount of whole wheat based foods.

What we don’t need, however, are many of the products that are being marketed. What is the difference between eating a cracker made from sweet white rice, potato starch and tapioca flour and eating a slice of white bread? These foods are not giving you adequate nutrition. Potato chips are a gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan food, it doesn’t mean you should be eating them daily.

There are plenty of whole foods that don’t contain gluten. Brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, corn and amaranth are all naturally gluten-free and you’re not paying a premium price for them. There are some good gluten-free products on the market, made from whole grains and seeds but you need to look for them. Read your labels and know what it is that you’re eating.

How do you know if you have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten? Allergies can be detected via a blood test. Sensitivities can be determined by an elimination diet.

Not sure if you have a food sensitivity? Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to grab a free 30 minute power session to discuss the food issues that you are having.

Quit the Whining – It Could be Worse

curveballI had a curve ball thrown at me last week. I went to see my doctor and my liver function is still not completely normal. I’m on an elimination diet that is basically like a cleanse. I cannot have: wheat, dairy, sugar, corn, alcohol, eggs or fruit. I’m okay with no wheat, I can live without dairy. But dang I miss my eggs and fruit.

It really was not what I wanted to hear on a Friday night. The weekend was coming up and this curtails a lot of plans. My diet is fairly clean but I do have a weakness for sugar. It’s no secret that I like dessert and that I am generally careful about the portions of it that I consume.

On the flip side in looking at labels of some of the foods I enjoy I realize that while they were low in sugar maybe there were a few too many of them in my eating plan. The sugar does add up throughout the day and since sugar is metabolized in the liver it could be more of a strain than I need.

Still, it was pretty annoying on Fathers’ Day to watch everyone eat the ice cream cake that I love. I did make my own dessert, which was good and I enjoyed it. It tasted like a warm chocolate muffin and it was sugar, corn, egg and wheat free. A friend tasted it and liked it too. It was not ice cream cake but I didn’t feel deprived or left out.

I was annoyed with the list but I am happy that I have the knowledge and tools to be able to eat delicious meals that nourish me and still keep in these guidelines. I have had several people ask me what the heck I eat now. They’re surprised when I have a long list of foods that I eat.

So what do you do when life throws you a curve ball? Do you rail against it, ignore it or decide to make it work for you? Do you focus on what you can’t have or what you can have? I’d love to hear your response, so please leave me a comment.

Are you in a situation where you don’t know what to eat? Do you think your eating plan could use some fine tuning? Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and together we can come with a plan that works just for you.