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.

Do You Know What Paleo, Vegan, Mediterranean and Macrobiotic Diets Have in Common?

Assortment of High Fiber FoodsDo you ever look at all the diets out there and think, who is right? Paleo, vegan, Mediterranean, macrobiotic and the raw foods diet all make a case as to why they are the healthiest choice for you. Some of their arguments make a lot of sense and others give me pause. I have a hard time believing all grains are bad for me but if it makes you happy to skip them, rock on.

They all actually do have their good points. They’re full of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean protein and low on refined sugars and packaged foods. Their common ground is that they are based on whole foods.

It’s easy to twist some of the principles of the various eating plans. Vegans may find themselves buying “fake meat” products and Paleo may be relying a bit too much on less healthy cuts of meat. But if you stick to the basic principles you get a pretty decent eating plan.

Another part of what makes this work is finding an eating plan that you can live with long-term. I’m very happy with a more Mediterranean style eating plan; I love fish, vegetables and salads. I can eat that way pretty much for the rest of my life. I can’t see myself living without having any type of grain, it doesn’t feel good to me; neither does eating a lot of wheat.

You may find that you are happiest without animal products. Or, perhaps, you really don’t care for grains and find the Paleo diet works for you. You are the only one who knows how food makes you feel.

My challenge to you is to pay attention to how you feel during the next week. Did your meal and snacks leave you feeling happy and satisfied? Were you grumpy or looking to pick afterward? Did you reach for certain foods when your mood was good and others when you were in a bad mood? How did you feel after you ate the foods you were craving?

These are clues that will help you find what foods best sustain you. The trick is listening to your body and then nourishing it in the best way possible for you.

Do you need help in figuring out which foods work best for you? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up a consultation. We will create a plan that works specifically for you and your busy life.



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.

My Favorite Sneaky Dessert

chocomoleI am obsessed with fat this week, it was the topic of my April newsletter as well. I think too many of us are brainwashed by the low-fat diet crazed and we’ve become afraid of fat. Our bodies need healthy fats, it’s one of the macro-nutrients that we require to function.

The other thing I’m obsessed with is how much processed and junk foods we eat. I like snacks and sweets too but I want to be able to enjoy the foods without worrying about the ingredients and what they could be doing to my body.

So I’m going to share a recipe for Chocomole with you. It’s a raw chocolate pudding that doesn’t have dairy, refined sugar or unrecognizable ingredients. It does have healthy fat. It does taste just like chocolate pudding and has that creamy mouth-feel. I use it in place of pudding regularly and no one ever realizes what they’re eating. I’m sneaky like that.

This is a good blend of healthy fat and carbohydrate, making it a perfect snack for runners.


Adapted from Jason Mraz’s recipe

2 ripe avocados, pitted and skin removed

10 – 12 medjool dates, you may need a few more if you prefer it sweeter. (You can use stevia if you are on a low sugar diet).

1/2c raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder will work)

1Tbs coconut oil, warmed so it’s liquid

1 cup of room temperature water

1 tsp vanilla

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. The food processor gives it the best consistency.  Add additional dates if needed and blend again.

Do you want to start eating better but just don’t know where to start? Tired of trying to figure out what food plan is the “right one?” I can take the leg work out for you. Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to schedule a complimentary 40 minute strategy session. Together we can come up with a plant that works just for you.