Kabocha Squash and Pinto Bean Soup

Want to know one of my secrets to conjuring up a delicious and nutritious meal? Always be prepared! Okay, so maybe it’s not that big of a secret, but having a stocked pantry and fridge makes healthy eating come together that much more seamlessly.

Being prepared especially comes in handy when it’s cold outside and a trip to the supermarket sounds far and frigid. This was the situation I was faced with about a week ago, but thankfully could pull together a few ingredients lying behind closed doors to create a dinner (and a few lunches). I encourage you to:

  1. Keep a running inventory of pantry, fridge, and freezer items- think dried and canned beans, canned fish, hearty winter squashes and potatoes, frozen veggies and fruit, and condiments and sauce ingredients
  2. Make a list of versatile fresh and perishable ingredients you need to pick up at the store at the start of the week- the magic word here is versatile (aka things you like and would eat in many forms)
  3. Become best friends with Google and Pinterest for recipe inspiration- type in a string of ingredients that may at first seem like a random assortment that could never turn out tasty and watch these sites turn out delicious recommendations

I ate this soup on what was also Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day and Pi Day (March 14th for all you math neRDs out there), so the only photos I have of this creation are of the soup, plus pie. Try to focus on the soup here, even though there is a chocolate circle of heaven staring at you from the opposite corner!

Kabocha Squash and Pinto Bean Soup- Serves 3-4


  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium sized carrot, diced
  • 1/2 large kabocha squash, or about 3 cups, cubed (skin left on)
  • 3-4 cups low sodium broth- chicken or vegetable
  • Cilanto Walnut pesto for topping- 2 handfuls cilantro leaves, 1/2 cup walnut halves, olive oil
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper, and other dried herbs or spices, to taste


  1. Cook dried beans- place beans in a pot and cover with a few inches of water; cover and let sit in fridge overnight. Alternatively, use the quick soak method by placing beans in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat- let sit for 30 minutes, drain, and continue cooking. To continue cooking after initial soak using either method, drain beans from initial water, then place in pot and cover with fresh water. Bring to a simmer and let cook 30-60 minutes. It’s okay if they don’t get totally tender after an hour, they’ll continue to soften in the soup. or skip this whole step and use low sodium canned beans if that’s what you have!
  2. Start to prepare the soup by heating a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onion and carrot and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. To pot add cubed kabocha squash. Saute for 2 minutes before adding broth. Once broth is added, toss in cooked beans. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  4. While the soup is cooking, prepare the pesto by blending cilantro, walnuts, and olive oil (use your judgement on how much, depending on how thick or thin you desire the sauce) in a food processor. I prefered this sauce a bit more chunky, but feel free to blend until smooth while using more oil as needed.
  5. After 25-30 minutes the squash and beans should have softened. Taste the soup for flavor and add a pinch of salt, a crack of pepper, and I think I remember adding in a shake of ground coriander too- the flavors are up to you!



Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies

I received free samples of Swerve mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsered by Swerve and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Are you celebrating National Nutrition Month and looking to go further with your food and health? Or are you anxiously awaiting the arrival of Girl Scout cookie order forms to purchase your favorite cookies? Maybe you’re observing the season of Lent and went down to New Orleans for a Mardi Gras celebration?

While these may seem like completely unrelated questions and themes, they actually come together in a sweet symphony for my latest recipe- Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies.

This March I am participating in a Recipe Redux Contest featuring Swerve Sweetener- a natural, preservative-free, and non-GMO sweetener product that hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. And since my husband and I always over order on Girl Scout cookies during the spring selling season, I figured I’d take this opportunity to create my own version of our favorite cookie- the Tagalong or Peanut Butter Patty- with a healthy twist for National Nutrition Month.

I discuss sweeteners with my patients often, but have never been a fan of the colorful packets myself, preferring to use a small amount of the real stuff and avoid the unpleasant aftertaste. Yet, when people I work with are working to manage their diabetes and weight in a more healthy, but still enjoyable way, I would like to put my money where my mouth is so to speak. This is why I love Swerve- it contains zero calories, does not affects blood sugar, and has quite a pleasant taste!

Artificial sugars can be scary to consumers for many reasons, but at the end of the day the most common concerns I hear are about what’s really in the product and what are the side effects to my health? Swerve answers these questions clearly; all of the ingredients for Swerve can be found naturally in select fruits and starchy root vegetables, and are sourced in North America and Europe from non-GMO crops. In terms of side effects, Swerve has another leg up on the competition here. Since it’s main ingredients is erythritol- a common sugar alcohol- Swerve has a high GI tolerance and does not cause tummy troubles like other sugars that end in “ol” and often send people running to the bathroom.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t one to use artificial sugars much- not in my coffee and certainly not in my baked goods- so this baking project was going to be a new challenge for me. Luckily, Swerve measures cup-for-cup like regular table sugar, and so it was with only the normal amount of baking trepidation that I set out to recreate a low-sugar version of a beloved cookie.

Sugar-free baking fears be gone- this recipe turned out to be a winner! The shortbread has a nice crumbly consistency, which I would expect from using the Swerve granulated sugar, and the peanut butter filling was just the right amount of smooth sweetness thanks to the confectioners sugar. To add to the healthy factor, I used whole wheat flour, and only a drizzle of dark chocolate instead of a dunking.

I can see many more uses for Swerve in my future and encourage you to satisfy your sweet tooth with Swerve Sweetner!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies- makes 36 cookies

Ingredients for the shortbread

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Swerve granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk

Ingredients for the topping

  • 1 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter or your favorite smooth nut butter (almond, sunflower, walnut, cashew)
  • 1/2 cup Swerve confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, either morsels or coarsely chopped (I used Enjoy Life chunks)


  1. Prepare the cookie base. Using electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar in a glass mixing bowl until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. In 2-3 increments, stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the milk and vanilla; stir only until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (separate it into two balls of dough if it is easier to handle that way) and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until it is very firm.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pinch off pieces of dough, and roll into approximately 1-inch circles. Lightly flatten each ball with your hand, trying to ensure that the edges don’t crack too much- I was very challenged by this, so my advice is to press gently. Place the rounds of dough on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving about an inch between (they will spread a little, but not too much).
  3. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they have a dull finish on top and are just golden on the edges. They will not look fully cooked, but they will continue to harden into the perfect shortbread while cooling.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet. As soon as they are not too hot, using a thumb or the back of a small spoon, make an indent in each cookie (they should still be fairly soft, so it should be easy to indent them without breaking them). Leave them right where they are for the moment.
  5. In a medium saucepan, melt the nut butter on low heat until it is a thick, easily stirred liquid. Add the Swerve confectioners sugar and stir until incorporated. Add the vanilla last, stirring in until incorporated. Remove from heat. Let it sit for about 10 minutes; the mixture will start to thicken a bit.
  6. Place a teaspoon (a little more or less, upon your taste) of the nut butter mixture in the indent on each cookie.
  7. Melt the chocolate by using the double boiler method (if you have one) or by melting directly in a saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning the chocolate.
  8. Rather than dipping the cookie completely in chocolate as traditional Tagalongs are, use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate over the top surface in a zebra-stripe fashion. Place the chocolate coated cookies on a sheet of waxed paper, nonstick silicone, or even aluminum foil, and let set for 2-3 hours before enjoying.

Stay Sweet!

Want to see more recipes using Swerve? Find them at the Recipe Redux page below!



Simple Steps to Soup

I may not be your typical meal planner cooking up beautifully crafted recipes for a few hours every weekend, packing them up for service throughout the week. Instead I operate in a more piecemeal fashion and prefer to have different components prepped and ready to go so that I can add them into a variety of meal types as the week goes by.

I recently created a quick and nutritious soup from ingredients already in my fridge and pantry, and I wanted to share my simple steps to getting goodness in a bowl. Cooking up a lunch or dinner packed with good nutrition doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or boring. I encourage you to get in your kitchen and start souping!

HeartBeet Smoothie for America’s Heart Month

From the months of October through April, it feels like we skip from one holiday or celebration to the next- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, and finally Easter. Naturally, with festivities come food, usually followed by guilt and despair. Wouldn’t it be nice to dedicate the days surrounding these holidays to health promotion, education, and changes in food and fitness lifestyle?

I certainly think so, which is why I’m happy that February is not only host to Valentine’s Day, but also proudly promotes itself as America’s Heart Month.

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Cast Iron Spaghetti Squash Bake

If you’re a dietitian who loves to cook, and lives in an “average” sized NYC apartment (we’re talkin’ no more than 600 square feet), I’m sure you feel my pain when it comes to kitchen space. When you only have 4 cabinets and 2 drawers, with about a 3 feet long by 1 foot wide counter work space, you learn how to minimize and become quite efficient. Many of my kitchen tools are collapsible (strainers, prep bowls, and yes, even my salad spinner folds into itself), it takes me about 3 minutes to pull out pans and cookie sheets before getting to the crockpot, and my larger appliances don’t even get to live in the kitchen- the large Cuisinart food processor sits in its box in the dining area. Let’s just say, of gadgets I have few. Rather my kitchen serves a practical purpose, and there’s some tools I just can’t do without.

It’s not much, but it’s my home kitchen.

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The Ketogenic Diet: does it work or is it the worst?

You’re two weeks into the New Year- have you checked in with yourself? For those of you who set goals or intentions, how are they going for you? If you chose a Word of the Year, have you seen any rewards from adopting this outlook yet? Mine is confidence, and I can say that I am slowly starting to approach business-related goings-on with an attitude filled with more of the Big C, but I know I’ve got an entire year to fully grow into it- thank goodness!
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Why You Should Choose Your 2018 “Word of the Year”

Welcome to 2018, everyone!

If you’ve scrolled through your social media feeds, or picked up any form of news this week, you likely have come across the words and phrases, “new year, new you”, “resolutions”, “goals”, or “I swear, this will be the year I XYZ (diet, lose weight, work out more, etc.)”.  Personally, I’ve never paid much mind to the grand entry of a new year. I’d been in school for many years, and so January 1st usually just signaled the middle of my Christmas break, rather than a pivotal time to reassess my life path. Last year was my first New Years as a working adult, but to be honest, I had just gotten married and started a new job that I loved so life was pretty great, why resolve to change it?

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Asian Inspired Spaghetti Squash Boats

Last week I did not enjoy my lunch. In an effort to conserve, cook with what I had on hand, and trust in my kitchen creativity, I created a butternut squash and carrot soup, spiced with miso, ginger paste, and black pepper, for a slightly Asian flair. Now, my stovetop tastes all led me to believe I had created a warming, seasonal soup that would pack up well for two days worth of work lunches. Yet, for some reason, as I got over halfway through my soup I stopped loving my lunch. Something was missing- or was it that there was too much of something else? The flavor simply did not carry over to the next day.

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