Pumpkin Pilaf

Pumpkin Pilaf

Are you tired of plain brown rice and eating it just because it’s supposed to be better for you? With just a few additional ingredients you can be more creative and get more nutrients with that once plain brown rice. calabazaThis dish doesn’t have the pureed pumpkin we see prominently displayed in the grocery aisles right now.  What is used is the Caribbean Calabaza pumpkin or ‘West Indian Pumpkin’.  It is very popular in the Caribbean and Central and South America.  The seeds of the pumpkin, known as pepitas, are eaten as a snack when roasted and you will often find them added to Mexican cuisine.

I use this pumpkin quite often, especially in soups.  However, this is a great addition to meals on its own and I love it mixed in my rice as I had it growing up.  For added protein I include chickpeas and with minimal seasonings I have a great side dish.  I’ve had this with other side vegetables and even with my vegetarian chili.  The Calabaza pumpkin may not be easy to find but a great substitute is butternut squash.  You could never go wrong with that!

 Feed the wellness in you!


Pumpkin Pilaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

The Calabaza is usually cut in to large pieces but you will have to dice it into much smaller pieces. It has a tough skin so be careful and have a sharpened knife ready.


  • 1 cup diced Calabaza pumpkin (or butternut squash)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1 tbl tomato paste
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place diced pumpkin in a medium pot with one cup of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil for ten minutes.
  2. Add the brown rice and chickpeas to the pumpkin along with 1.5 cups of vegetable broth.
  3. Mix in 1 tbl of tomato paste.
  4. Cook according to the brown rice directions (approx. 20 minutes)
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

My Frozen and Prepared Favorites Part 1

I believe in eating ‘whole foods’ all the time, but it is helpful to have some ‘go to’ items that are healthy and can be prepared within minutes. Here are just a few of my favorites:

This Organic Spinach and Cheese Ravioli can be found at Costco. I usually top with a little marinara (note:  my favorite brand is Rao’s).  The Ricotta and Spinach filled Ravioli is from Trader Joe’s.  Both low in calories per serving and delicious.  Add a salad on the side and you have a great meal.



These already washed and chopped salads are fantastic!  The combination of veggies and toppings in each are wonderful compliments but I forego the toppings and dressing and use balsamic vinegar.  Both can be found at Costco.










Trader Joe’s has a wonderful variety of cuisines in their frozen section.  As a person that cooks and is discerning when it comes to flavor, they nail it for me in these dishes.  They taste like home cooked meals and I love that they are bold with their combinations.


I cook channa (chick peas) often so it’s a big deal for me to even give a frozen version a chance.  This does not disappoint and helps in a pinch at only 180 calories per cup with lots of protein and fiber.


Let me spell this out for you – white and red quinoa, sweet potato, and zucchini wonderfully seasoned and a little spice.  At only 220 calories per cup it is also packed with protein and fiber.




I’m not even a big risotto fan but I like this combination.  Plus one cup is only 160 calories without missing the flavor.  This is a winner.

Feed the wellness in you!


Green Curry Tofu and Vegetables


Green Curry Tofu.jpg

One of my dear, sweet aunts has been very curious about the vegetarian lifestyle.  She eats no beef or pork and follows a healthy diet but she just can’t imagine how one can follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet.  She says her wish is to primarily follow a more vegetable centric diet because it will make her feel better.  At 85, she has some general aches and pains and believes that perhaps this diet will help because the doctor’s aren’t coming up with any answers for her ailments (or maybe they’re not telling her what she wants to hear!).  Sometimes she embarks on eating as a vegetarian for a week, and she’ll start by going to Whole Foods on ‘Meatless Monday’s’ to get a platter that will last her a few days.  She was never someone who loved cooking, so that contributes to her inability to commit and be consistent with a vegetarian diet.  Nonetheless, she does give it a try.

So a few weeks ago when she arrived at my home with a case of tofu with one of the twelve packages of tofu missing I wasn’t surprised.    She bought the case at Costco and thought she would put tofu in her salad.  She ended up using very little of the 1st box, leaving the rest to spoil.  The idea of getting through the next eleven boxes seemed impossible to her.  I would also imagine that without prepping the tofu in any way left her with very little to be desired for using eleven more boxes of tofu.

Lucky me (and you!).  Now I have a lot more tofu on hand to get very creative with.  I started with my take on Green Curry Tofu and Vegetables.  I used broccoli and baby bok choy for my vegetables which provides the balance of crunch to the softness of the tofu.  I grew up on Yellow curry which is quite a different taste to the Asian Green and Red curries.  I love them all!

The green curry doesn’t give this dish its flavor, at least not all of it. It’s the marriage of the green curry with other ingredients – light coconut milk, ginger, and mirin, just to name a few.  What really gave this an unexpected boost was fresh basil.  Much like the tofu was gifted to me, as I was walking out of the house last week my next door neighbor asked me if I used basil and if I needed some just help myself to what she had on her porch.  She said they always have more than they can use!  What a win for me.  I told her to infuse olive oil with the basil to get more use out of it but I am also more than happy to take it off of her hands.  The basil coupled with the cilantro I planned for the dish gave it a burst of freshness.  I must be doing something right with these showers of food blessings!

This came together as a great meal served over jasmine rice and can stretch over a few days.  On that note, I will have to make some for my aunt so she doesn’t give up on tofu and perhaps this recipe will give my neighbor another way to use her basil.

Feed the wellness in you!


Green Curry Tofu and Vegetables

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4


  • 2 pkgs Extra Firm Tofu, cut in one inch cubes, drained, patted well between paper towels
  • 2 cups Broccoli Crowns
  • 2 baby Bok Choy, chopped
  • 1 can Light Coconut Milk
  • 2-3 tbl Green Curry Paste (I used one with no fish sauce but if you are not a vegetarian you can choose one to your liking)
  • 1 tbl Minced Ginger
  • 1/4 cup Red Peppers, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Yellow Peppers, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Red Onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tbl Mirin
  • 1/4 cup Chopped basil and cilantro
  • 1/8 cup fresh chopped garlic
  • 1 tbl red pepper flakes


  1. Preheat oven to 350 and roast the tofu for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large dutch pan, saute the peppers, garlic and onions in 1 tbl olive oil on a medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the broccoli, tsp of sea salt, and sautee for 5 minutes.
  4. Add another tablespoon of olive oil then add the bok choy, minced ginger, mirin, stir well then turn to low heat.
  5. In a small sauce pan combine the coconut milk and green curry paste, mix and keep on low heat until combined well for approx. 10 minutes.
  6. In the large dutch pan, add the tofu when done.
  7. Slowly fold in the Green Curry and Coconut Milk mixture.
  8. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  9. Add the chopped basil and cilantro.
  10. Serve over white or brown jasmine rice.

Weekly Wellness Tip – BCAA Benefits

Amino Acids

My trainer recently advised me to start taking the supplement BCAA, Branched-Chain Amino Acids. I asked why this was necessary on top of all the other grueling stuff and he said it would help with muscle recovery and reduce soreness. I then asked “Well what is it??”  All he said was that it is protein and it would be helpful, particularly on a vegetarian diet .  In other words, trust me and just do it.  Without any further questioning I went to my local GNC and got it in pill form.  The daily consumption is 6 gigantic pills a day!  With such a commitment I needed to learn a bit more about this supplement to my daily routine.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are needed to build the various proteins used in the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. Eleven of the twenty amino acids can be made by the body itself, while the other nine (called essential amino acids) must come from the diet or supplements. The nine essential amino acids are isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Another amino acid, histidine, is considered semi-essential because the body does not always require dietary sources of it. The nonessential amino acids are arginine, alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Foods of animal origin such as meat and poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products, are the richest dietary sources of the essential amino acids.

Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are the  three essential amino acids in BCAA which play an important role in protein synthesis. These three amino acids are considered essential because the human body does not produce any of them and human beings cannot survive unless these amino acids are present in the diet.  In fact, BPAAs make up about 35% of all muscle tissue.  Amino acids from food travel first to the liver, where they’re broken down for use as fuel or assigned to muscle repair. BCAAs bypass the liver and go directly to the muscles for fueling, building and repairing.

There is inconsistent evidence about the effectiveness of branched-chain amino acids for athletic performance. Many studies suggest that taking branched-chain amino acids does not enhance exercise or athletic performance. However, other research suggests that it might reduce tiredness and muscle soreness associated with exercising.

My conclusion is that taking BCAA supplements are a good addition to my routine, which includes a healthy diet and exercise.  My goal of gaining more muscle can be achieved with the protein in my diet, additional protein with BCAAs and resistance training.   However, I will let make my doctor aware of the supplements suggested to get her feedback.

Feed the wellness in you!

Vegetable Rice Bowl with Olive Pistachio Chutney

Vegetable Rice Bowl with Olive Pistachio Chutney

A few weeks ago I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network and the theme was ‘Messy’. If you watch this series,  you can imagine that due to the theme of ‘MESSY’, there were many sloppy, delicious, gooey foods. VERY MESSY! There was one dish that Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni exalted as his favorite messy dish, the Asparagus Rice Bowl from restaurant Revel in Seattle, that I found intriguing.

The dish lends itself to be so versatile that I had to give it a whirl but MY way.  I was fascinated by the Olive Pistachio Chutney.   The ingredients spoke to my taste buds.  There are a few things that need to be prepared a day in advance but worth the effort.  You have to pickle red onions and lemon peel separately.  The asparagus was grilled and straight forward to prepare.  I have never incorporated radicchio in anything so thought this was my way of using it but also added baby bok choy mixed with the radicchio with a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Revel Restaurant tops off their rice bowl with an egg yolk that I did not incorporate.  I wanted protein in my dish so I used roasted tofu and for my husband, baked chicken. The rice base at Revel appears to be white rice and I used brown rice with quinoa.

So here’s my version of this ‘Messy’ bowl once it was all ‘messed’ up!

Vegetable Rice Bowl with Olive Pistachio Chutney1

We loved it in our household – the Olive Pistachio Chutney is the key. Even with my own improvisations it was delightful so I can only imagine the Chef’s version being over the top.  Watch the video of ‘The Best Thing I Ever Ate – Messy’ episode for further guidance.  Be creative with your vegetable additions as you see fit.  The Revel version had no protein but I thought, why not?

What say you?

Feed the wellness in you!

Vegetable Rice Bowl with Olive Pistachio Chutney

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 2

The total time does not include prepping and cooking your protein of choice, and pickling the onions and lemons. The time documented here includes prepping and cooking the tofu. Pickle the onions and lemons a day ahead and depending on your protein you will add that process time to your preparation. Keep in mind you're doing several things in parallel. Enjoy!


  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock
  • 16 stems asparagus
  • 6 stems baby bok choy
  • 1 cup radicchio, shredded
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup kalamata olives
  • 2/3 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 2 tbl pickled onions
  • 1 tbl pickled lemons
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup of extra firm tofu or protein of your choice!


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. If you are using tofu as your protein drain the water out of the tofu. I wrap the tofu in paper towels and place in the refrigerator, changing the paper towels frequently.
  3. Once the tofu is drained slice it in even strips and roast in the oven with a little sea salt on a cookie sheet (I line it with parchment paper to brown evenly) for about 20 minutes.
  4. Cook your brown rice and quinoa in the vegetable stock.
  5. Slice your baby bok choy in long strips and add to the radicchio. Wash thoroughly and drain.
  6. Toss the vegetables in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar. Set aside
  7. In another bowl mix your olives, pistachios, pickled onions and lemons, rice wine vinegar, cumin and red pepper flakes.
  8. Roast your asparagus with sea salt and black pepper for about 20 minutes.
  9. In a serving bowl, layer the bottom with your rice and quinoa, then assemble your bok choy/radicchio, asparagus, protein and olive pistachio chutney.
  10. Cut up, mix up, blend all together to enjoy all the flavors!!

Weekly Wellness Tip – Sources of Vitamin C

orange with leaf


Waking up to single digit temperatures has been so unpleasant! The multiple layers required to stay warm is uncomfortable and is still not effective to combat this frigid weather. In addition, the risk of getting the common cold and influenza is increased because some of the viruses leading to these illnesses are seasonal, occurring more frequently during cold weather.  I guess Punxsutawney Phil was right!

No one leaves my house without taking Vitamin C but the best source comes from fresh fruit and vegetables.  Here is a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest amount of Vitamin C, per cup.  Incorporate more of this powerful antioxidant in your lifestyle.

  • Yellow Bell Peppers
  • Guavas
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
  • Papaya

Feed the wellness in you!


In Season Wellness – Papaya

In Season for your Wellness Papaya

Papaya is in season for your wellness from December through February. This is one of my favorite fruits eaten sliced with lots of lime.  They are very low in calories and is one of the fruits with the highest Vitamin C content.  It is also a wonderful source of Vitamins A, B, and potassium.

Try it ripe, use it in salsa or add to your smoothie.

Share your ideas.

For the wellness in you!

Weekly Wellness Tip – Sources of Protein

Whole Grains

How do you get Protein in your diet?

I am often asked this question. There are so many ways!  Although I don’t have a large source at one time such as a chicken breast that gives you approximately 23 grams of protein,  I eat whole grains throughout the day, even found in my snacks such as the Carrot Quinoa Mini Muffins I recently posted.

Many of you are looking to incorporate more protein in your diet even though you eat meat and fish.  I get a lot of my protein from whole grains and beans.  Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and natural nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions.  Unprocessed, they provide you with lots of protein and fiber.

Studies also show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases.  These benefits can only be realized as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.  So, in addition to you incorporating the usual Oats or Brown Rice in your diet, consider these great sources of protein.  The amount of protein listed is based on 1 cup of cooked whole grain.

Feed the wellness in you!

  1. Amarath            9 grams
  2. Black Beans      14 grams
  3. Bulgur                6 grams
  4. Chick Peas        12 grams
  5. Farro                  8 grams
  6. Kidney Beans   14 grams
  7. Millet                 6 grams
  8. Quinoa              9 grams