Acorn Squash Stuffed with Spicy Vegetable Ragout

Inspired by the picture on the front page of my Vegetarian Times Magazine this month, and by the Acorn Squash I received from my Bountiful Basket Co-op this week, I made something delicious!!!

By the way, whether we are Vegan, Vegetarian, Flexetarian, or Ominivore, I hope that we can all agree that most of us need more vegetables and plant based foods in our diets! But often times we get in a rut, eating the same old salad or steamed veggie on the side. I find that Vegetarian Times offers up some great ideas! I almost never follow a recipe exactly, because either I don't have all the ingredients on hand or because I just like to give things my own twist. I encourage you to do the same, get inspired and make it yours!


4-6 acorn squash

Ragout filling:

4 garlic cloves (chopped)
1" piece of fresh ginger (chopped)
2 tsp corriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 small onion (diced)
1 bell pepper (diced)
2 large zucchini (chopped)
20 oz grape tomatoes (blended in food processer)
2 large ripe necatrines
2 cans organic red kidney beans
salt to taste


Cut the tops off the acorn squash, and clean out the seeds and fibers inside. Also cut a small piece off the bottom of the squash so that it sits flat in the baking pan. Rub the outside of the squash with olive oil.

In a saute pan, over high heat with a little bit of coconut oil, start adding ingredients, in the order listed above and saute for about 5 min.

Stuff your prepared acorn squash with the ragout and bake in the oven @350 for 60-90 min or until a fork can easily pierce the squash.

I only had 4 squash but there was enough ragout filling for 6. I put some of the extra tasty ragout over rice and had it for lunch and my husband put his in a wrap.

You could use any kind of squash or even Bell Peppers for this. Or just prepare the quick and easy Vegetable Ragout by itselfand eat it as is or over rice, quinoa, or pasta...I hope you get the idea by now?! Get inspired to create your own dish and don't just eat your veggies but ENJOY them!

I would love to hear from you, what vegetable dish has inspired you lately?

Curried Garbanzo Bean Salad

Chickpea or garbanzo bean, is there any difference? No, it's the same thing, so call it what you like. This is super easy and fast to prepare. I prefer freshly cooked garbanzos for texture and flavor, but that takes some planning ahead. So, feel free to use canned, rinsed garbanzos if need be.

Garbanzo beans are an excellent source of molybdenum and manganese. Molybdenum is an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. They are also a very good source of folate and a good source of protein, fiber, copper, phosphorus and iron.

Interesting tidbit: The Latin name for garbanzo beans, Cicer arietinuram, means "small ram," reflecting the unique shape of this legume that somewhat resembles a ram's head.

2 cups garbanzo beans
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tbsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp yellow curry
1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional for extra heat)
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Can be served warm or cold, with rice or as shown here with spinach (see the 'spinach with pine nuts and raisins' post for this recipe). Enjoy!

Berry Cobbler

Fruit for dessert! In this cobbler there is very little sugar added and in fact, you could omit the sugar completely and it still tastes great. This can be eaten as is or with ice cream or yogurt on top, you decide how sinful or healthy you want to make it. One of my favorite things about this dessert, is that I don't have to plan ahead. Because the fruit is frozen, it doesn't go bad and all the other ingredients are things I usually just have on hand. Feel free to cut this recipe in half, as this easily serves 15 people. This is one of my favorite desserts to make, because it's healthy enough to have for breakfast the next day with some Greek yogurt.

6 cups frozen berries
2 whole apples, chopped
2 tbsp orange zest (could also use lemon or lime)
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar

Preparation:Mix the above ingredients in a large bowl. If you do not have a zester, I didn't until Christmas last year (Thank you GranPaul!), then you can use the smallest grate setting on your cheese grater.

Topping Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup granola
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cardamom
3/4 chopped pecans or walnuts

Preparation:In a separate bowl, cut the butter into small pieces and add the sugar and flour and mash with a fork. Add all other ingredients and use your clean hands to combine.

Spray the pan with oil. Layer your ingredients.

Bake at 425 for 35-40 min

Modifications: If you do not eat dairy, substitute the butter for Earth Balance or some other non-dairy fat. And if you do not eat wheat, the flour can be substituted with any other gluten free flour.

Try using fresh or frozen peaches, cherries, or any other fruit. Remember there is no one way to prepare this, no right or wrong. Just have fun, be healthy and enjoy a little dessert!

Black Bean Brownies

Yes, you read that right, Black Bean Brownies! These are naturally gluten free, as there is no flour of any sort used. Black beans are a good source of folate, protein and heart healthy fiber and flavonoids. And the dark chocolate used in this recipe, is also rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids act as antioxidants to inhibit free radical damage. Flavonoids have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and anti allergenic properties. They also have a vasodilatory effect, thus helping to lower blood pressure. I have been playing around with the recipe for a few weeks now and have finally come up with one that I am pleased to post. Please, as always, feel free to tweak this however you like!

8 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate (70-100% cocoa content)
1/3 cup oil
3 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well (canned is fine)
2 tsp. cardamom
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (granulated) instant coffee
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fig jam (or any other)

1/3 cup egg whites
1/2 cup shredded coconut

6 tbsp peanut butter, spread throughout the middle of batter

Other Options:
1 cup walnuts, pecans or almonds, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line an 13- by 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper and lightly oil with spray, or just spray with oil if you do not have paper.

Melt the chocolate over low heat, while stirring, 1 to 2 minutes until chocolate is completely melted. Place the beans, vanilla extract, whole eggs, sugar, jam, cardamom, coffee and chocolate into the blender. Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth. The batter should be thick and the beans smooth.

In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the egg whites until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the coconut and beat well. Set aside.

Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Mix well.

Pour 1/2 the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the Peanut Butter over the brownie batter.

Then pour the remaining batter over the top. And sprinkle with chocolate chips and/or coconut as desired.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the brownies are set. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares. They will be soft until refrigerated and should be stored in the refrigerator.

Makes about 20 brownies.

I like to prepare them when I have time and then freeze. When I have guests, I can quickly thaw them in the microwave 2 minutes at 50% power. I hope you will enjoy this rather healthy dessert!

Kale Chips

Who out there loves kale? Anybody? Bueller? Yea, that's what I thought. I am not to fond of it myself. But kale, along with many other greens are super nutrient dense! So, when I saw kale chips online, I thought,'I have to try these!' I went to the store to buy some kale and there were two varieties, red leaf and green leaf. And next to the kale were collard greens, mustard greens, and chard. I think, 'why not?' If you can make kale chips, why not chard chips or mustard green chips??? I picked up one of each kind of green. On the way to check out, I passed the beets...and yes, you know what I'm thinking...beet green chips?! I am really excited now! When I got home, I Googled the recipe, and found a few variations, all with different oven temps and cooking times. I will give you the instructions that I think worked best. I am not an expert at these yet, only made them twice, but I am loving it and am so excited to pass along the idea. When else are you and your family going to eat this many greens?! Get excited people, even my kids loved them!

Wash the greens and dry the leaves in salad spinner or with paper towel. Tear the leaves into big chunks. Mix the greens with the olive oil and whatever other ingredients you choose. You could add garlic or chili powder also. See the variations I made below.

Sour Chip
Greens, kale or otherwise
Olive oil
Lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

Simple Chip
Greens, kale or otherwise
Olive oil

Cheesy Chip
Greens, kale or otherwise
Olive oil
Parmesan Cheese

Spread the greens out over a cookie sheet. I put aluminum foil down and sprayed with olive oil. For all varieties, Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. The lemon chips took a little longer and did better on the lower rack in the oven. The greens that crisped up the best was first the kale, followed by collard greens and beet greens. The kids loved the lemon ones the best and the adults liked the cheesy variety. We served ours with homemade salsa! (see the Salsa blog post for recipes)

Let me know if you try them and what worked best for you! Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts, Beets and Halibut

You either love em or hate em. Whatever you do with them, try not to overcook the brussels sprouts because that's when they release natural sulfur compounds that give off that offensive odor. When cooked right, they have a nutty flavor and the sulfur smell is avoided. In 4 Brussels Sprouts there are about 40 calories and 3 grams of fiber.

1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, cut into 1/4's
2 cloves Garlic (crushed, or chopped)
1/2 Onion (thinly sliced)
2 tbsp. Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste or Everyday Seasoning

Toss the ingredients in a bowl and roast on a cookie sheet in the oven at 425 degrees, for about 30min.

You can also pan roast the ingredients or saute them on top of the stove, which I think gives you a little more control of how well they are cooked and they tend to dry out less.

Tonight since the oven was already hot, I also roasted some beets with goat cheese.

I served my veggies tonight with Halibut. I cooked the Halibut stove top with onion, garlic, chile paste and amino acids, in my favorite Le Creuset pan! It turned out perfect!

Why did I serve my veggies with Halibut tonight? Just for the Hal-ib-ut...haha! Sorry, but I love that corny Halibut joke, it is a great memory from my childhood! My mother, who never ever ever says a 'bad' word, told me once when I was about 8yrs old that she was cooking Halibut...Why?...for the Hal-ib-ut! I remember that I was so shocked, and that I wanted to laugh, but didn't know if I should. Then she started cracking up, and I did too. I learned that clever use of language, any language, was ok, it was the ignorant use of a word that kept my Mother from using 'bad' words in her vocabulary, she just never had any use for them. I did not like fish when I was a kid, but I ate it that night with a sense of pride, because my Mom felt that I was 'adult' enough to understand her cleverness.

I know that typically fish is served with a white wine, but I love my reds. And the Ballbuster Shiraz is one of my favorites in it's price range. Keep being creative with your veggies, and try something new every once in a while. Bon Apetit!

Guacamole and Salsa Fresca

Someone asked for some more Latin flavors. Oscar, this one is for you! I like to make these two salsas at the same time, because they have similar ingredients and once I start choppin, I might as well keep on choppin...Nobody complains on meatless dinner night when these two salsas are on the plate! Let's start with the Salsa Fresca.

Salsa Fresca Ingredients:
5 Roma Tomatoes (diced)
1/2 Onion (small dice)
2 Garlic cloves (chopped or crushed)
1-2 Serrano or Jalapeno pepper (small dice)
1/2 bunch Cilantro (chopped)
1 Lime
Salt to taste

*Tip: After washing the cilantro, dry it off with a paper towel so it doesn't stick to the knife when you chop it. Also use mostly the leaves and discard the stems.

Use a serrated edge knife to cut tomatoes without fuss.

In a bowl mix together tomatoes, onions, chilli pepper, cilantro. Squeeze juice of one lime over the top and salt to taste.

Moving on to the Guaca-MOL...e (pronouncing the the MOL part of the word like the Spanish soccer announcers do when someone makes a GOAL...) Now avocados might be one of the fattiest fruits out there, but it is all good healthy fat! Good for your heart; avocados contain 76 milligrams beta-sitosterol in a 3-oz serving. Beta-sitosterol is a natural plant sterol which may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals and other phytonutrients such as, carotenoid lutein, which studies show may help maintain healthy eyes. With that said...let's make some GUAC!

Guacamole Ingredients:
4 Avocados
4 Roma Tomatoes
1/2 Onion (or Shallots are a nice alternative)
2-3 Serrano or Jalapeno pepper
2-3 Garlic cloves (crushed or chopped)
1 bunch Cilantro (chopped)
1 Lime (fresh squeezed juice)

Cut the avocados in half and spoon out the inside, removing the seeds and placing aside. Mash the avocados with a spoon or a little plastic cup. Then add tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilli peppers and cilantro. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the top, salt to taste and stir.

*Now if you are knife savvy, after the avocado is cut in half, you can hit the avocado seed with the sharp edge of the chef knife, then with a little twist of the wrist...voila, the seed pops right out. But please be very careful with that move, cuz blood will ruin the guacamole ;-)

*Tip: to keep the guacamole from turning brown, add back the avocado seeds. And for storage, squeeze a small amount of lime juice over the top and cover with saran wrap, placing the saran wrap right on top of the guac, leaving no room for air.

Both Guacamole and Salsa Fresca are great in place of salad dressing. Tonight, for meatless dinner night, they are served along side Red Beans with Queso Fresco and Brown Rice. Yummy! I hope you all will enjoy these as much as I do!

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins

This is a deliciously simple side dish or snack. I love how the buttery flavor of the pine nuts and the sweetness of the raisins contrast with the slightly bitter taste of the spinach!

Nutrition Facts:
Spinach packs a powerful nutrition punch! 3.5 oz of raw spinach contains over 300% RDA of Vitamin A, 460% RDA of Vitamin K, 49% RDA of Folic Acid, and 47% RDA of Vitamin C, all for 25 calories! It is also a rich source of Vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, iron, vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids (ALA).

8 oz spinach
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves (chopped or crushed)
1 cup mushrooms (chopped)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins (I used golden raisins here)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a dry saute pan toast the pine nuts and raisins until golden. Set aside.
By the way, just a side note, the toasted pine nuts and raisins make a great snack as is or as an addition to any trail mix you may already have on hand!

In another hot saute pan with olive oil add garlic and mushrooms, cook on high until they start to brown. Turn the heat down to medium low and start adding one handful of spinach to the pan at a time until it starts to wilt, and then keep adding spinach until it is all in the pan and wilted. Add the toasted pine nuts and raisin and salt and pepper to taste. *Another option is to sprinkle feta or goat cheese over the top.

I used the everyday seasoning in a grinder from Trader Joe's. The ingredients are sea salt, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, coriander, onion, garlic, paprika and chilli pepper. It's a nice way to enhance flavor without too much slat.

This can be served as side dish or by itself as a snack. I have also put it in my hummus veggie wraps. Yummy! Enjoy this wonderfully nutritious dish totally guilt free!

How are we doing with our first nutrition challenge of the year? If you haven't started, it is never too late! Aim for 5 handfuls everyday of fruits and vegetables! This is a positive goal. Instead of focusing on what you can't have or shouldn't eat, focus on what you can have!

Fresh and Tangy Fruit Cocktail

Fresh and Tangy is how I chose to describe these fruits and veggies served with lime, salt and chili (toppings optional of course). In Mexico these are, 'cocktails de fruta.' Growing up as a teenager in San Diego, one of my favorite things to get when we crossed the border into Baja was a fruit cocktail! mouth waters just thinking about it! If you haven't been south of the border, let me describe it for you.

Now for the sake of making this sound appetizing, I will leave out the part about the flies, bees, lack of running water to wash anything in and basically the whole lack of cleanliness period! When in Rome...or Mexico in this case, sometimes you have to close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears and say, 'lalala.'

Okay, so there are these little carts in the streets, usually at the street corners, attended by one, sometimes two people if it's a busy spot, and they are full of watermelon, other melons, pineapple, coconut, cucumbers, and jicama....options vary depending on the cart you get. Everything is picked ripe, it is not picked green, put on truck and driven hundreds of miles to the grocery store like it is here in the U.S., so it all tastes AMAZING!

They slice the fruit into chunks or rajas (long slices) and there is a choice of toppings, basically lime, chili and salt. So you choose the fruit you want and they put it in a plastic cup and squeeze fresh lime all over it and sprinkle (or in some cases dowse) with chili powder and salt. And there you go...Fresh Tangy and Spicy Cocktail de Fruta! The first couple of years that I ate these, I did without the lime, chili and salt. After all, I didn't want to ruin the flavor of my sweet delicious fruit! Then after a while I would get two separate cocktails, one sweet and fresh with watermelon, melon, and pineapple and the other tangy and spicy with coconut, jicama, and cucumber dowsed in lime, chili and salt. Later, I got more adventerous, and I started to mix the sweet, sour and spicy and learned to LOVE IT!!!

So time to make your own! Here is our home variation:

Jicama peeled and sliced:

Squeeze lime over the top of whatever fruit or vegetable you have. Here we have jicama, cucumber, shredded carrots, watermelon, and pineapple:

Then sprinkle the salt and chili:

Now even if you don't like the lime and/or chili powder on everything, I hope this at least inspires you to chop up some fresh fruit and make whatever fruit cocktail you enjoy. The honey dew melons and cantaloupe are good right now! Cherries are great too. Be creative, mix it up a little and Enjoy!

My Vegetable Picadillo

I have always referred to this dish as vegetable picadillo, but as I proceed to blog on this, I googled the word picadillo just to see what I would get...Well, it almost always seems to include ground beef mixed with various things (depending on the Latin decent), which is not what my recipe is at all! I remember my Ex mother-in-law cooking the ground beef picadillo with peas and potatoes (which was also very good) but I also remembered a vegetable picadillo, which in my mind basically means, 'a mix of whatever vegetables thrown together with garlic, tomato, cilantro, and chile peppers.' And at this point, I don't care anymore if the terminology is right. It has been in my head for all these years as such and so it is...My Vegetable Picadillo! (This is the kind of thing that happens when you become fluent in foreign language without ever actually taking a class.) I called a friend of mine whose first language is Spanish and she confirmed that there is no such thing as 'Vegetable Picadillo,' and that the dish I am referring to is actually called 'Calabazas a la Mexicana.' So, call it what you will, but this recipe is easy and delicious!

Olive Oil
Garlic (crushed or finely chopped)
Tomatoes (chopped)
Cilantro leaves
Serrano chiles (finely chopped or whole)

Your choice of the following vegetables:
Chayote squash
Yellow squash
Green Beans
Sugar snap peas
Snow peas
Corn (frozen or fresh)
Peas (frozen or fresh)

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop garlic, tomatoes and your choice of veggies into bite size pieces.

Pull the leaves off the cilantro stems.

*I like to leave the chiles whole so that those who do not like spicy can easily see and avoid them and those of us who do enjoy spicy can cut off as much of the chile as desired to eat with our vegetables.

Heat olive oil in frying pan and add garlic and chiles first, then add your chopped veggies. (I put the vegetables in the order they should be added in the ingredient list, due to how fast they cook.)

Finally add tomatoes, cilantro leaves, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Serve as a side to fish, chicken, beef, eggs or by itself as a warm veggie snack on a cold winter day. Feel free to tweak this recipe...maybe add oregano or thyme instead of cilantro? Make up your own version of 'My Vegetable Picadillo!' Enjoy your veggies, they should be a treat to eat not a boring chore! And as always, let me know what you think, I would love to get your feedback!


Chayo...who? Pronounced: chai-(like the tea)-o-tay. Chayote squash is my very favorite non-starchy squash! Well, it is techniqually a fruit, but so are tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and countless other fruits that we call vegetables. I dare you to Google that one! What is a fruit and what is a vegetable? Depends who you ask. The answer is not black and white, that much is clear. Many nuts, beans and grains are also fruits. However, in the nutrition/cooking world, we classify many of these fruits by how they are prepared, the role they play on your plate and thier nutrional value.

Nutritional Value of Chayote: 1 cup = 25 Calories and has 2 grams of fiber

Remember fiber is a good thing! And is just one of the reasons why our first nutritional challenge is to eat 5 handfuls of fruits/vegetables everyday. Many whole wheat slices of bread have over 100 calories with only 2-3 grams of fiber. That's only a 1/4 of fiber this little chayote provides per 100 calories! So you can see why can see why fruits/vegetables are our best shot when it comes to getting enough fiber in your diet.

Okay, so let's eat some chayote!

Oven Roasted: Just cut in half, spray with olive oil, cover and cook at 375 for about 40 min. This one is topped with queso fresco and makes a great snack.

Sometimes chayote is boiled. And I like the way it turns out when you boil it, but just make sure to use your chayote broth in soup, rice or quinoa, so you don't throw out those nutrients that are left behind in the water.

Here it is served with dinner: Pollo Pipian (see the Going Green recipe) and quinoa (red and white). Delicious!

Chayote is a must try, if you haven't already. Chime in...I would love to hear your thoughts!

Bell Peppers: Raw, Roasted, Fajita style

Bell Peppers are so versatile...and packed full of nutrients! Plus they are eye candy; making any plate tempting, especially when you use a variety of colors!

Nutritional Value:

Bell peppers are a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and folic acid. Bell peppers also contain antioxidants; chlorogenic acid,zeaxanthin, and coumeric acid. Studies show that red bell peppers seem to have higher levels of these nutrients than green. The red peppers also contain lycopene which is a carotene that protects against cancer and heart disease.

They can be used raw, roasted, or sauteed (fajita style). Dip them in hummus, use in salads and soups, on tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches and wraps. The possibilities are endless!

Raw; peppers have a great watery crunch that burst in your fresh!

Fajita style:
Saute sliced peppers over high heat with sliced onion and finely chopped garlic (ingredients shown in picture above). Feel free to add a hot poblano or jalapeno pepper for some kick!. The trick is to get the pan HOT first and don't cook too long. These peppers are great with fish, chicken, beef, eggs or tofu. They can be served with tortillas, rice, guacamole or salsa...And the smell of this cooking up makes your mouth water!

Fire Roasted:
This is my personal favorite! The pictures below show the process. Place washed peppers over an open flame, either outside on the grill or on a gas top range. Here I used one red, yellow, orange and one poblano (because I love spicey). Blacken, turning when needed to get all sides. Sweat the blackened peppers (Yes, I said sweat...not by taking them on a run, but more like putting them in a steam room) by placing them into a plastic bag and sealing. After about 15 minutes, they can be cleaned under running water, removing most of the burnt skin. Remove seeds and slice or chop as desired. Fire roasted peppers are great as a pizza topping, on a sandwich or wrap, in a salad or soup. I love to put them in a wrap with hummus, spinach and mushrooms. Enjoy!

Vegetables can be fun and delicious! Please share your ideas for getting more fruits and vegetables in your day! I would love to hear from you!