Thanksgiving Grain Bowl

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving food? I’m not sure I could pick just one. If truly pressed, I might say mashed potatoes, but there are SO many other tasty options: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and more. (And let’s not even START on desserts.)

Fortunately, this healthy Thanksgiving Grain Bowl offers the flavors of several turkey day favorites all in one! This easily modifiable recipe works well for throwing together a bowl full of leftovers–or for when you just want something a little lighter. Roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and feta come together with high-fiber, protein-packed quinoa and a sweet-and-tangy olive oil dressing.

Sounds just about right for the day after Thanksgiving, yes?

And while we’re talking Thanksgiving, let me pull out my nutritionist hat with a little dietary advice. It’s all too easy to overdo it at Thanksgiving dinner, but this year, try to remember that how much you eat is up to YOU. Just because it’s a tradition to down every single item in the family buffet, it’s not actually required. You can enjoy a great meal without getting to the end of it feeling like you’re about to burst. Choose what you really want to eat and let the rest go. And just say no to food pushers! If Grandma or Aunt Carla says you absolutely must eat her marshmallow-sweet potato concoction, indulge her with a bite, not a giant scoop. It’s your body, your meal, your decision.

Here’s to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! And check out my post on 10 Ways to Have a Healthy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Grain Bowl

All your favorite flavors of Thanksgiving in a healthy grain bowl! Great for day-after-Thanksgiving leftovers or any time you want a satisfying vegetarian meal.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the grain bowl:

  • 1 c. brussels sprouts, sliced in half
  • 2 1/2 c. butternut squash, diced into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. quinoa
  • 3 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3 c. pepitas

For the dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, spread brussels sprouts and butternut squash in two separate groups. Drizzle both with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle butternut squash with nutmeg and thyme. Roast about 30 minutes, stirring once.
  • While veggies roast, cook the quinoa. In a medium pot, bring quinoa and veggie broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Make the dressing: In a small measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients, or blend with an immersion blender.
  • Assemble the whole thing: In a large bowl, combine roasted vegetables, cooked quinoa, cranberries, feta, and pepitas. Stir in dressing and toss to combine.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

Last weekend, while I was out at the toddler cooking class I teach once a month, my husband got together with a group of guys for a Sausage Festival. I’m not being gross. They literally hung out for several hours making sausage. I kinda wish I could have been there, because this is one aspect of food production I have never personally experienced…and, though it’s not terribly glamorous, it’s pretty interesting! So before I dive into this tasty Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale–which, of course, uses the sausage from the Sausage Festival–here’s a little glimpse into the process.

Apparently it all starts with pork shoulder, cut into chunks.

Then the pork goes through a grinder…


And gets mixed with a blend of spices–in this case, parsley, garlic, fennel, and red pepper flakes.

 

And finally, the part everyone knows and loves: filling the casings with the meat to make links!


Pretty floral apron optional.


As far as I’m concerned, the best part about the Sausage Festival is that we now have homemade sausage to last until Kingdom Come. The guys made both links and bulk sausage, so I was only too happy to use some of the bulk kind up in this hearty, Mediterranean-style Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash.

It all starts with yourr basic giant yellow squash, baked and scraped to get those signature squiggly strings so reminiscent of pasta. In the meantime, you’ll brown some sausage and wilt some kale in a bit of garlic-infused olive oil on the stovetop. Toss these yummy goodies–plus some sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, and cannellini beans–with the squash strings. Refill the shells, top with a sprinkle of mozzarella, and bake one more time for the finished product!


As a one-dish meal, this Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash is full of nutrients from the kale, beans, tomatoes, and squash, makes a ton, and reheats well. I think you’ll enjoy it, even if you don’t have the luxury of homemade sausage.

Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

A hearty, mostly veggie dinner with flavors of the Mediterranean. Leave off the sausage for a vegetarian version!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Servings: 6 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 2 large spaghetti squash
  • 3/4 lb. mild sausage
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick both spaghetti squash all over with a fork and microwave each one for about a minute, to soften.
  • Slice squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Place squash halves cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes.
  • While squash bakes, prepare the rest of the filling. In a large pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned and crumbled. Remove from the pan and place on paper-towel lined plate.
  • Using the grease left behind by the sausage (or supplementing with olive oil), saute garlic and kale until kale begins to wild and garlic begins to brown. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add cannellini beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan and cook an additional minute or two. Place mixture in a large mixing bowl, along with cooked sausage.
  • When squash has finished baking, remove from oven and scrape most of their contents into the mixing bowl, leaving a small border of flesh. (Be careful, squash will be hot!) Mix squash strings, sausage, and kale mixture thoroughly.
  • Divide the mixture among the four squash halves and sprinkle with mozzarella. Place back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted and filling is warmed through. One serving equals half of a squash boat.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Thai Peanut Chicken Pasta

I’ll level with you. Although this recipe calls itself “Thai” Peanut Chicken Pasta, I’m really no expert on determining what defines Thai food. I’ve never been to Thailand, and my experience with Thai cuisine has been limited to a few very tame menu choices at a local chain of Thai restaurants. For all I know, people in Thailand don’t even eat chicken. Or pasta. Or peanuts. (In fact, according to the Internet, peanuts are more of an Indonesian ingredient.)

You’ve probably heard how, when Asian people come to the U.S., our “Asian” food is unrecognizable to them. I can attest that the two times I’ve eaten truly authentic Chinese food, it was NOT your run-of-the-mill sweet and sour pork. We’re talking beef tendon, tilapia peppercorn soup, and basically a real-life version of this scene from A Christmas Story. Truth be told, probably the only reason I finished was to not be rude to my gracious hosts.

So, again, an Asian food expert I am not.

What I do know, though, is that this recipe is a winner of a chicken dinner. With whole grains for fiber, chicken for protein, carrots and cabbage for veggies, and a sweet peanut sauce, it’s the whole package. It came to the rescue this past Monday night when our family was running around like crazy with various busy-busy December activities. A one-dish meal that gets on the table in 30 minutes? Exactly what I need this time of year–don’t you?

So whether it’s truly Thai or just truly tasty (and easy and quick), I’m a fan. I think you will be, too.

Thai Peanut Chicken Pasta

An Asian-inspired one-dish meal perfect for busy weeknights, this recipe boasts whole grains, veggies, and chicken in a tasty peanut sauce.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. thin spaghetti
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 c. carrots, cut into 1/8-inch by 2-inch matchsticks
  • 2 c. cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 8 green onions, sliced
  • 2 c. cooked diced chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 c. peanut pieces (optional garnish)
  • 1/4 c. sesame seeds (optional garnish)
  • 1/4 c. green onions, sliced (optional garnish)

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • While pasta cooks, make the peanut sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and ginger.
  • Drain pasta and toss with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil to keep from sticking. Set aside.
  • Wipe out pasta pan and heat the other 1 Tbsp. sesame oil on medium heat. Add carrots and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and green onions and saute another minute or two until the cabbage begins to soften.
  • Add the pasta back to the pan, along with the chicken and peanut sauce. Stir well to combine and continue cooking on low until heated through.
  • Garnish with additional green onion slices, peanut pieces, and/or sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Notes

Adapted from Dinner, Then Dessert.

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken

Remember those Arby’s commercials that ran awhile back promoting roast beef sandwiches on the premise that they were “Good Mood Food”? These ads always drove me nuts, because even before I was a nutritionist, I could tell you that eating processed red meat on a processed white bun slathered with overly sugary barbecue sauce was not going to be put me (or anyone else) in a good mood. In fact, the opposite is true.

Basically every time I eat fast food–no matter how tasty it sounded when I was really hungry–I always end up feeling super gross afterward. It’s one big reason why, in our family, fast food restaurants have become a last-resort destination reserved primarily for road trips. In the words of my husband, “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s.” (Then again, I totally get that for some families, eating out at more expensive restaurants isn’t financially feasible. We all have to make the best choices we can with the resources we have.)

Thankfully, the American people apparently also saw right through this ad campaign, naming it one of the worst of 2011. (Luv’s diapers’ “Poop! There is is!” topped this list–though I find this one kind of disgustingly charming, don’t you?) We all know that, except under certain circumstances like after a REALLY rotten day at work or a beloved cat dying, junk food leaves us full of regret, not good vibes. So thanks but no thanks on the feeble attempt at deception, Arby’s.

Healthy food, on the other hand, does actually have the power to lift our spirits. Research around the Mediterranean diet shows that this eating plan centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood is linked with lower risk of depression. And I for one can say that I feel far better about myself when I’ve made healthy food choices.

That’s where this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken comes in. My kids and I had this for dinner the other night as an easy, light meal while my husband was out of town. Often, without my husband to feed, I go easy on myself by heating up something frozen or getting pizza. But once this salad was made, I realized it had hardly taken any time and, with its bed of greens, lean chicken, crunchy almonds, pops of juicy pomegranate, and olive oil-based dressing, I actually felt really good about eating it. Plus, I had some awesome healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. I’d say that’s the REAL Good Mood Food.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this shaved Brussels sprout salad could also make a nice healthy side dish (without the chicken, perhaps) for the main event. I’d love to hear how eating it makes YOU feel!

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken

A delicious, colorful salad that serves as a light dinner or hearty side dish.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings: 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 green apple, diced
  • 1/2 c. pomegranate arils
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded chicken
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon

Instructions

Make the salad:

  • In a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, shred Brussels sprouts. (I like to leave some larger bits for textural variety.) Pour into a large serving bowl.
  • Add diced apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, almonds, chicken, and goat cheese to Brussels sprouts and toss to combine.

Make the dressing:

  • In a small measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

Notes

Adapted from Spend With Pennies.

Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes

Do you eat eggs at dinner?

Though I almost never eat eggs at breakfast–I’m more of a grains gal to start my day–I am weirdly, unaccountably loyal to them at dinner. I suppose it’s partly because I grew up eating dinner quiches on a regular basis, but partly because eggs have so much going for them. They’re cheap, first of all, and relatively easy to purchase locally. Then there are all their nutrition benefits. With 6 grams of protein, a sizable dose of vitamins D and B12, and only around 70 calories, a single egg packs plenty of nutrition.

Also, the health concerns that used to plague most consumers about eating too many eggs have been shown to be largely unfounded. Whereas in decades gone by, the medical establishment believed that high intake of dietary cholesterol led to high blood cholesterol, we now know that saturated fat and fiber play a far more important role in blood cholesterol levels. So the days of avoiding eggs for the sake of your HDL and LDL are past.

Which is really good news for this amazing Mediterranean Baked Eggs with Croutons and Tomatoes.

This delightful breakfast-lunch-or-dinner dish comes from America’s Test Kitchen’s Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, a fabulous resource I’ve been working my way through since receiving it for my last birthday. If you like Mediterranean flavors (or dig the health perks of a Mediterranean diet), you’re going to love this unique combination of crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs. Something about the match of blistered, tender tomatoes against the crunch of croutons and the heft of the eggs has made this one of my new favorite meals.

Made step-wise by baking the croutons and tomatoes at the same time, assembling, and baking again, this recipe may look slightly daunting at first, but ultimately is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Plus, the baking time involved gives you a few extra minutes to toss a light salad–True Food Kitchen’s Kale Salad, perhaps?–to complete the picture of an unforgettable Mediterranean-style meal.

Bring on the eggs for dinner!

Mediterranean Baked Eggs With Croutons and Tomatoes

A breakfast-lunch-or-dinner standout full of Mediterranean flavor: crunchy croutons, garlic-herb roasted tomatoes, tangy feta, and baked eggs--yum!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Main Dish, vegetarian
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 5 c. French or Italian bread, sliced into 1/2-inch chunks--preferably a savory loaf like rosemary or garlic-infused
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 20 oz. cherry tomatoes
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the bread chunks with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and spread the bread into it in an even layer. Set aside.
  • In the same large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add cherry tomatoes and stir to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pouring any additional olive oil mixture over tomatoes.
  • Place both the dish of croutons and the baking sheet of tomatoes in the oven. Bake the croutons for 10 minutes and the tomatoes for 20 minutes.
  • Once both tomatoes and croutons have baked, pour tomatoes over the croutons and gently stir together, adding an additional 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Using a large spoon, make six shallow indentations in the mixture. Crack one egg into each indentation. Season with salt and pepper. Return the baking dish to the oven for another 12 minutes or until eggs are just set.
  • Let cool for about 5 minutes, then sprinkle crumbled feta over the top and serve.