Pumpkin Granola

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Pumpkin-Quinoa Granola

Here’s a recipe for a nutrient-packed granola that can be eaten alone as a cereal or snack, mixed in with other cereal, or sprinkled on yogurt, ice cream, or baked apples.

It has the flavors of fall because it’s made with cranberries, canned pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice. The flaxseed and quinoa add healthy fats and protein, making it more filling than traditional granola. Note that you don’t cook the quinoa. Also the flax should be ground, not whole seeds. Enjoy!

Pumpkin and Quinoa Granola
6 cups whole rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup real maple syrup
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 oil
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Mix together oats, quinoa, flax, walnuts, and cranberries in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, combine syrup, pumpkin, oil, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Whisk until combined, then pour over oat mixture. Mix until everything is well coated. Spread mixture out on a large four-sided cookie sheet or similar shallow baking sheet. (if it won’t all fit on one, use two). Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes, taking out every 10 minutes to stir the mixture. Remove from oven and let cool, then store in an airtight container (I like to store it in Mason jars).

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Football Party Recipes

Fresh Homemade Salsa Recipe

Party Time Salsa

I was at the Iowa Hawkeyes game yesterday and it inspired me to share some recipes for football parties. Whether you’re tailgating or just having a party at home, here are some better-for-you recipes from around the web (as well as my famous salsa recipe from here on Foodnuti).

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Black Bean Nacho Pizza
Chile Con Queso
Party Time Salsa
Black Bean Salsa
Creamy Ranch-Style Dip
Edamame Avocado Dip
Fudgy Chocolate Brownies
Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Fudge 

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5 Ways to Kick the Soda Habit

For years I drank diet soda almost every day. Everything I read or heard on the news said it was perfectly safe and a good option if you wanted something other than water. But how safe could it be when you read the label and find that it’s water mixed with a bunch of chemicals? I’m sure the safety debate will go on forever and will never be fully resolved. Like anything, it’s a personal decision whether you want to drink it or not, but a few years ago, I made the decision to cut way back on diet soda and now I hardly ever drink it. But it was hard to give up, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to break the habit. If you’ve been wanting to cut back on regular or diet soda, here are some things to try.

Go Gradual. Some people can cut out soda completely on day one, but most people can’t, especially if they’re used to drinking it every day. If that’s you, then cut back gradually. If you drink three 20-ounce bottles a day, commit to cutting back to two a day for a week, and then one a day for the week after that. Write out your plan and put it where you’ll see it when temptation strikes. For example, if you get your soda from the vending machine at work, place a reminder note (“only 2 sodas today!”) on your computer or desk.

Limit the Occasions. Set limits on when you’ll drink soda. For instance, you could decide that you only drink soda between noon and 2; or only on Saturdays; or you never order soda at restaurants. Doing this takes the temptation away because there’s no decision to make. In fact studies have shown this type of mental trick works really well when you’re trying to break a habit. So saying something like “I don’t drink soda at restaurants” works better than “I’m trying to cut back on soda.” Try it and see!

Savor it. Many people drink soda out of habit. It comes with your value meal at a fast food place so you just drink it. Or maybe you always drink soda with dinner and don’t even think about. Break those habits and only drink soda when you’re actually going to savor the taste of it rather than using it as something to satisfy your thirst. Maybe you really love the taste of soda when you have it with a certain food. In that case, turn it into a special treat and have it only on those occasions. My husband likes soda with pizza so that’s his splurge, but then he doesn’t drink it at other times. Along this same idea of savoring, on those few occasions you drink soda, make sure to only drink soda you like. How many times have you ordered your favorite soda at a restaurant and they tell you they don’t have it so you settle on something you don’t like as well? Don’t do it! If you’re going to drink soda, it should at least be your favorite and not some replacement!

Try Alternatives. There are plenty of non-soda alternatives besides water. The gas station I go to recently added flavored iced teas next to their fountain drink station. And when I say flavored, I don’t mean a sugary mix. They just brew it with black tea leaves mixed with dried mango. You can do this at home with any type of tea bags you have on hand. You could also try naturally flavored waters or if you like carbonation, try a naturally flavored sparkling water. Several brands make these now and sell them in cans or bottles. Or you might consider getting one of those machines that carbonate water. You can mix the carbonated water with iced tea or fruit juices.

Take a Soda Vacation. If the thought of quitting your soda habit cold turkey is too much for you, just cut it out for one week. The first day or two could be rough but stick it out for at least a week (or two if you can do it!). During the week note how you feel. Do you have more energy? Do you feel better? I noticed my skin looked better when I cut out diet soda. You also might have a flatter stomach since the carbonation fills your stomach with gas. And make sure to call it a soda vacation. It sounds better than quitting cold turkey.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

 

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Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Here’s an easy main dish salad recipe that’s packed with flavor and holds up well for leftovers.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad
6 ounces dried medium shell whole wheat pasta
1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese
15 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing (I use Newman’s Own)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, snipped into strips or small pieces

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, then drain again and place in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve right away or chill before serving.

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Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

Yesterday I was looking through the fridge trying to figure out what to make for a side dish. I ended up with this easy and fresh salad that goes well with grilled meats or a simple sandwich. July and August are watermelon season so load up while it’s at its peak. Watermelon is loaded with lycopene as well as other antioxidants.

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad
4 cups chopped seedless watermelon
1 English cucumber, peeled and diced (or 2 regular cucumbers, seeded)
3 tablespoons diced red onion
1/3 cup feta cheese
Coarse ground black pepper

Combine watermelon, cucumber, onion, and feta cheese in a bowl and mix to combine. Season to taste with black pepper. Best if eaten right away.

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3 Ingredient Lunch

Three Ingredient Lunch

Eating out for lunch every day or even just a few times a week can drain your wallet and expand your waistline. So here’s an easy lunch idea that’s affordable, super healthy, and very filling. All you need for a week of lunches is three cans of black beans, three avocados, and a large container of fresh salsa. I recommend the fresh, chunky kind that’s refrigerated and sold in the produce section, not the jarred kind. Amounts for each daily lunch are below.
A few tips: Rinse and drain the beans and place in a big container so you can scoop out what you need each day. You’ll use half an avocado per day–keep the other half in a sealed container so it doesn’t turn brown.

So why did I choose these three ingredients? Because together they provide a good mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats. The salsa provides a lot of flavor so you don’t need to add other spices. One serving (as directed below, without the optional add-ins) has about 350 calories and 14 grams of protein. It also has a whopping 17 grams of fiber! The protein, fat, and fiber make it very filling–far more filling than a 350 calorie frozen meal. Give my 3-ingredient lunch a try and let me know what you think!

For one serving, combine:
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup fresh-style salsa (sold in the produce section, not the jarred kind)
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
Layer in a to-go container if taking to work; keep refrigerated until lunch. Or if eating it right away, just toss everything in a bowl.

Optional add-ins
For more variety and an even more filling lunch, toss in one or more of the following…
1/2 cup corn
5-10 tortilla chips, lightly crushed
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato
1/2 cup peeled and chopped jicama

 

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Edamame Hummus

snack dip and sandwich spread

Edamame Hummus

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything because I was busy developing recipes for a new diet book that comes out in January. It’s being published by Hyperion so will have mass distribution in bookstores nationwide. It’s very exciting! I’ll let you know more about the book the closer we get to the release date.

Now back to today’s post…It’s an easy recipe for hummus that I came up with a few weeks ago. You can buy hummus at most any grocery store but it’s cheaper to make your own. Plus you can control the ingredients. If you’ve never tried hummus, you should. It makes a good sandwich spread or dip for vegetables or pita chips. It’s usually made with chickpeas but I tried making it with edamame (green soybeans) instead. It turned out great! And you get 7 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving. Try it and let me know what you think!

Edamame Hummus
1 cup shelled frozen edamame, thawed
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Place everything in a small blender or food processor and blend or process until mixture is combined and smooth. Add additional water, if needed to reach the consistency you prefer.

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A Chosen Destiny, Book 3 in The Samantha Project series

If any of you have been following along on my journey into fiction writing, I’m happy to announce that I’ve just published A Chosen Destiny, book 3 in my young adult series, The Samantha Project. It’s technically the end of the trilogy, although if there’s interest I might write a follow up book that shows the characters a few years into the future. All three books are available in different formats (Kindle, Nook, paperback) so check the My Fiction Books tab for links.

For those who don’t know about this series, the books are suspense thrillers that involve the genetic enhancement of a teen girl (Samantha) by a global corporation with the financial backing of a secret society. It’s good for older teens or adults interested in science fiction, technology, genetics and/or paranormal romance. The description for book 3 is below. Please pass it along to anyone who might be interested! Indie authors, like me, really appreciate it. If you’ve read the books and want to learn more about the science behind it and the characters, check out my author blog. I also just started a Facebook fan page, which could use some “Likes” for those of you on Facebook. Thanks again!

A Chosen Destiny
Samantha’s destiny was chosen long ago. At least that’s what she’s told by the people who created her. Her enhanced genes and genetic software were meant to do everything from mold her personality to pick who she falls in love with.

But can destiny be changed? Ever since Samantha learned the truth about herself, she’s struggled to figure out who’s really in charge of her life. Can she make her own choices? Or is her future determined by her genes?

Old enemies reappear and new ones emerge as Samantha and Erik use their powers to fight the people who are after them. But it’s getting harder to figure out who’s good and who’s evil. The enemy they’ve been fighting may not be the one who’s truly after them.

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Vegetable Macaroni Soup

vegetable and pasta soup recipe

Vegetable Macaroni Soup

Before the weather gets warm, I wanted to share another soup recipe. I whipped up a big batch of this last week so I’d have quick heat and eat lunches. With the beans and the whole wheat pasta, it’s actually very filling! Enjoy!

Vegetable Macaroni Soup
3 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups vegetable broth*
2 cups frozen green beans
2 (16-ounce) cans navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
3/4 cup dry whole wheat elbow macaroni
4 cups (packed) baby spinach

Combine everything except spinach in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach. Simmer another 5 minutes. If desired, top with fresh grated Parmesan before serving.
*If you’re not a vegetarian, you could also use chicken broth.

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Food Additive to Watch For: Carrageenan

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of news stories about carrageenan, an ingredient used in many processed foods. It’s been in the news because there’s a movement to get carrageenan out of organic foods.

The reason people are concerned about this ingredient is because research shows it causes inflammation in the body. In fact, one scientist even said that researchers have used carrageenan to cause inflammation so they can test anti-inflammatory drugs! Research has also shown that carrageenan causes glucose intolerance and impaired insulin response–which could lead to diabetes.

If you’re not sure if you’re consuming this ingredient, check the ingredient panels on some of the foods currently in your refrigerator and freezer. You’ll be surprised how often carrageenan is used, even in organic foods. You’ll find it in a lot of lowfat or nonfat foods, especially lowfat dairy products. You’ll see it in ice cream, deli meats, dairy alternatives (soy milk, almond milk, etc), and prepared meals (frozen dinners, canned soups).

Since this ingredient is in so many of the foods we eat every day, you can see how the amounts we consume could add up quickly. Check out some of the links in this article to learn more about carrageenan. This report provides a good overall summary.

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