Dairy-Free Butternut Squash Soup

In the past, I didn’t like winter squashes, but over the last year I have come to love all squash. I especially love squash soup!

To get in the mood for fall, I decided to make some butternut squash soup. I tried my own variation by using cashews as the creaminess in the soup, and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk or cream. I actually prefer this recipe since it has more depth of flavor from the nuts and coconut! But, if you prefer regular milk, then you can substitute it equally for the coconut milk, and substitute in some yogurt or cream for the cashews.

Dairy Free Butternut Squash Soup

Get your ingredients ready:

squash soup ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 cup raw cashews (I buy them in the bulk section of the grocery store)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. dried cumin, ground
  • 2 tsp. dried coriander, ground
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock) Note: To make this gluten free, make sure to buy a gluten free stock (most store brands contain gluten)
  • 1 cup coconut milk (make sure it is unsweetened, plain, not lowfat)
  • honey (I always use local honey) for drizzling on top of soup upon serving (omit to make this vegan friendly and try maple syrup instead)
  • rosemary for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. In an extra large saucepan (one large enough for a lot of soup), heat olive oil on medium-low and add onions with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until they soften and turn a little golden (about 7-10 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, peel the outer skin of the squash, like so:
    how to peel butternut squash
  3. Next, cube the squash. Remove the seeds. Tip: I simply cut out the parts of the squash that have a lot of seeds.
    how to cut butternut squash
  4. In your saucepan, add the cashews and all seasonings, and garlic. Stir and cook about 5 more minutes.
  5. Add your cubed squash to the saucepan. Stir to combine.
  6. Add 4 cups of stock to the saucepan, and cover on medium-low. Cook at a simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
  7. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a standard blender, but be very careful because your soup will be HOT!
  8. Stir in your coconut milk. Check consistency. If you would like a thinner consistency, add water or more coconut milk.
  9. Serve with a drizzle of honey on top!

dairy free butternut squash soup

Daiya Cheese Review

I have always been a skeptic of non-dairy cheeses. I always just thought they were frankenfood. Daiya recently contacted me to see if I would be interested to try their “cheese”, and I happily agreed because it would be a great way to test out the product and see if I can stop calling it “frankenfood”. I was especially interested in Daiya cheese since it is gluten free, dairy free, and soy free–perfect for those with allergies and/or food sensitivities.

Daiya cheese review

You may ask, well what could it be made out of? Tapioca flour, oil, and pea protein mainly.

Ingredients: Filtered water, tapioca and/or arrowroot flours, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and /or non-GMO expeller pressed safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, vegan natural flavors, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, citric acid (for flavor), titanium dioxide (a naturally occurring mineral).

I don’t have a problem with any of these ingredients. So far, so good.

Nutrition Facts: (1/4 cup serving) 90 calories, 6 g fat, 7 g carbohydrate (1 g fiber), 1 g protein, 280 mg sodium.

I would categorize this product as 1 fat serving.

Taste and Texture

I tested out the cheese on top of some broccoli and cooked it right next to real cheddar cheese (picture on top). The middle cheese is the Daiya mozzarella shreds, and the bottom is the Daiya cheddar shreds. You can see how real cheddar cheese sinks into the vegetable. The other melts right on top.

Daiya cheese review

But, yes, it does melt! It melts pretty well, too. I would say it melts much better than fat free cheese. I would prefer this non-dairy cheese over fat free cheese any day.

The taste is pretty darn good for a fake cheese product. It almost reminds me of the taste of nutritional yeast. I would say that Daiya did an excellent job creating a healthier cheese analog for those who can not eat dairy and are looking for something that reminds them of cheese.

I prefer the “cheese” not fully melted. When it completely melts it almost starts to taste slimy because of the oil, but that is understandable. So, I just make sure to add my Daiya at the very end of cooking so that it does not fully melt.

non-dairy cheese

I also recommend nut “cheeses” for those who can not eat dairy, but can eat nuts. Cashew “cheeses” are super tasty. I love to make cashew cream sauces for pasta and other dishes. I would rate nut cheeses as my number one favorite cheese alternative, and then Daiya would be number two!

Have you tried Daiya yet?

Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken with a Kick!

I call this Mexi-chicken because I don’t really know what to call it! Haha.

It is very simple–mostly a can of Rotel, seasonings, and chicken! Super easy and great for weeknight meals.

slow cooker chicken

healthy slow cooker chicken

I added my chicken on top of a bed of lettuce and added avocado. But, you could also use a tortilla and make tacos. Whatever you prefer!

Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 small-medium chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)  TIP: It is OK if your chicken is still frozen; it will cook perfectly
  • 1 can of Rotel
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced (I forgot to add to mine this last time!)
  • 1-2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. chili pepper seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. of your favorite hot sauce if you like it extra spicy OR add 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (minced)
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Turn your slow cooker on high.
  2. Add all of your ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook for about 30 minutes, then turn to low, and continue to cook about 5-6 more hours.
  3. Shred your chicken with two forks. Turn down to the keep warm setting. Serve when ready!

So easy!

Cilantro Pesto Black Bean Pasta

black bean pasta nutrition

I discovered this amazing black bean “pasta” at Costco the other week, and I cooked it up for the first time yesterday! I love it! It tastes great, holds its texture nicely, and is packed with excellent nutrition.

Black Bean Pasta Nutritionblack bean pasta

Per 2 oz. serving

Calories: 180

Fat: 2 g

Carbohydrate: 17 g

Fiber: 12 g

Sugar: 5 g

Protein: 25 g

As you can see, 2 oz. will give you 25 grams of protein! This is great for those who are trying to eat more plant proteins. And, it is loaded with fiber as well. Plus, 2 oz. gives you 36% of your daily value for iron–again, a great nutrient to look for when eating less meat.

Well, I was trying to decide what kind of sauce to make with this black bean spaghetti. So, I came up with my own recipe. I created a pesto in-between and Italian pesto and something with a more Latin flavors.

black bean pasta recipe

Cilantro Pesto Recipe

with black bean pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 cup fresh spinachcilantro pesto recipe
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro, rinsed and some stems removed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 3 gloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup raw/plain almonds
  • Juice of 1 lemon, and 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (possibly more as you blend)
  • 2 tsp. coriander
  • 1-2 tsp. cumin
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 8 oz. black bean pasta (I only cooked about 2-3 oz for myself, and then had extra sauce leftover. So, you could cook however much pasta would be good for you. This recipe will make enough pesto for 6 people approx)

cilantro pestoDirections:

  1. Add all of your ingredients except the olive oil and pasta to a large food processor.
  2. Pulse the processor until you have chopped your ingredients to combine them. Next, drizzle in your olive oil while you let the food processor run. It will become creamier and combine better.
  3. Take the top off, and stir the pesto. Then, blend once more.
  4. Next, prepare your black bean pasta according to package directions (cooks in about 7-8 minutes).
  5. In a saute pan, add your pesto, heat for about 2 minutes, then add your cooked pasta and combine while on a low heat for 2 more minutes. Serve warm!

black bean spaghetti

An added benefit of this recipe is that is friendly to food sensitivities as it has no dairy, no gluten, no soy, no corn, no wheat, no egg! And it’s delicious!

Healthier Spice Mixes

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends was kind enough to send me 4 seasonings to try.

I received a salmon with dill seasoning, herb crusted tilapia seasoning, encrusted haddock seasoning, and a burger seasoning.

healthy solutions spice blends

They are comparable to Mrs. Dash seasonings, except I would say they have more spices in them, and even more flavor. Most of their seasoning mixes has no salt added! So, if you like to monitor how much sodium is in your diet, these would be great. Another positive is that the seasonings are all natural and contain no filler or MSG!

I enjoyed the tilapia seasoning which had excellent lemon flavor. I used the burger seasoning in a turkey burger to add flavor. The spice mixes make my job easier cooking in the kitchen.

Here is the salmon I tried with the dill salmon seasoning:

healthier spice mixes

I enjoyed it, but next time I would not poach the fish with this seasoning. I think I would cook it over the stove-top with some olive oil, and it would be even tastier!

The only thing I would say is that there is no allergen information on the packets, so if you have any sensitivities, be cautious. However, most seasonings appear to be free of gluten.

What are your favorite spice mixes?

Healthier Slow Cooker Frittata

I was surprised how well this recipe turned out! I didn’t think it would work well in the crock pot. I managed to take an unhealthier recipe and turn it into a healthier slow cooker frittata!

Healthier Slow Cooker Frittataslow cooker frittata

Ingredients

  •  1 bag frozen hash browns (I used the Alexia brand). *You will use half the bag if it is a smaller crock pot, and you will use the whole bag if it is a large crock pot.
  • 7-10 oz. approx of a breakfast chicken or turkey sausage (I found one with no nitrites)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers (1 orange, 1 red), diced
  • 9 eggs (for a smaller crock pot) OR 12 eggs (for a larger crock pot)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup skim/nonfat milk
  • 1 cup smoked part skim mozzarella or provolone, shredded
  • 1 cup 2% shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to season

Directions

  1. I recommend baking this overnight (plan on it cooking on low for 8 hours). Or, you could make it in the morning to have for a dinner!
  2. This is a layered frittata. Layer the bottom of the crock pot with half of your hash browns (about a quarter of the bag if your slow cooker is smaller). Then, add half of your peppers and onions, and half of your sausage. Add your mozzarella. Then, begin the next (and last) layer. Top with the cheddar cheese.
  3. Whisk your eggs and milk together. Add salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over top of the frittata. I know this will look odd, but it will all soak and combine together. Don’t worry!

healthier slow cooker frittata

What makes this recipe healthier are the more natural ingredients, and I doubled the amount of peppers that I put in. In addition, I used less cheese, and a few lighter options. And the sausage was natural, and contained less fat!

crock pot breakfast casserole

New Nana’s Nola Granola

Nana’s Nola sent me a few packs of their new granola to try! Of course I gladly accepted because I love granola–but usually will make my own before I go out and buy some.

Nana's Nola

They came in these little 2 oz. snack/meal packets convenient for travel. I enjoy the taste–not too sweet tasting, and it’s crunchier like a cereal would be.

Each pack is 270 calories, so you could possibly eat this for a snack, or add some milk and fruit and eat it as a meal. If you are watching your calories, this is a little over the recommended 200 calorie snack guideline I give patients. Nana's Nola nutrition

The fact comes from coconut oil which is the main ingredient. Coconut oil is considered to be one of the slightly healthier fats. The only negative is that the next ingredients are sugar sources: brown rice syrup and agave. However, the entire packet only has 12 grams of sugar which is what I would recommend as the upper limit for this calorie level snack. If you continue to read through the ingredients, you will notice healthy whole grains and no preservatives or unnatural ingredients–always a plus!Nana's Nola ingredients

Overall, this granola would be a great option for those with food sensitivities because it contains no gluten, no soy, no dairy which tend to be triggers for those who are sensitive. I would recommend this for those who are not watching their weight due to sugar ingredients being at the top of the ingredient list. Nana’s Nola would be a great option for those who are at a normal weight (or need to gain weight), or are athletic.

Easy Summer Squash Recipe

One of my favorite side dish recipes in the summer is this yellow squash recipe with caramelized onions, basil, thyme, and goat cheese. I could probably eat 4 squash and make a meal out of it. That is how much I love it!

easy summer squash recipe

Before the squash has been fully cooked.

Easy Summer Squash Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 medium size yellow summer squash
  • 1 large yellow onion, or 2 small-medium sized onions
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or about 2 tsp. minced jarred garlic)
  • 1-2 tsp. ground dried thyme (or fresh if you have it)
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Thinly slice the onions, and add to a large saute pan with the olive oil on medium heat. Cook on low-medium for about 10 minutes until slightly golden, and softened.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the squash on a mandolin (if you have one–or just slice medium thickness by hand).
  3. Add the squash to the pan with onions and cook covered for about 5-10 minutes. Add your garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper as well.
  4. The squash will cook down some. Stir, and cook uncovered about 10 more minutes until fully softened.
  5. Add the fresh basil with about 2 minutes left of cooking time, and save a little basil for garnish.
  6. When serving, top with goat cheese.

summer squash recipe

This recipe (pictured above) does not have the basil and goat cheese–just a different variation with a little tomato!

Now Scheduling Nutrition Consultations in Buckhead

Exciting announcement: Now scheduling nutrition consultations in Buckhead (Atlanta, GA).

I will have a new location opening August 18th. The office will only be open on Mondays, but hours will be flexible.

Location: 3495 Piedmont Rd. (The Fountains at Piedmont Center)

Building 11

Atlanta, GA 30305

Now Scheduling Nutrition Consultation in Buckhead

If you have other appointment requests, please feel free to e-mail me (nicolesnutrition@gmail.com) your availability and more information about you!

Why see a Dietitian? A RD (Registered Dietitian) is the number one authority on food! We have to meet specific credentialing qualifications, complete an internship, continuing education, are considered healthcare professionals, and we are the ones who order medically therapeutic diets in hospitals.

A Dietitian can help you achieve any nutrition goal (within their scope of practice). I specialize in weight management, eating disorders, vegetarian and vegan diets, and other nutrition therapy for preventative health such as lowering cholesterol.

Maybe you need help eating more mindfully, or would like advice for healthy grocery shopping? Or perhaps you just have a few key questions that you want the answers to once and for all!

Have a question? Just ask!

nutrition appointment Atlanta

Quest Bar Nutrition Review by an RD!

Quest Bar Nutrition ReviewBack in 2010, I reviewed some of my favorite picks for healthy granola and protein bars. But, 4 years have passed and there are many more new favorites that I will share with you! I will start off this series with one of my favorites: the Quest Bar!

*I have not received any type of compensation in writing this post.*

Quest Bars

These are definitely my number one pick at the moment. Why? They are packed with protein (20 grams of quality whey protein). They are lower carbohydrate since they are an excellent source of fiber, you can subtract the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrates to get your net carbohydrates. Check out this label from below.

Cookies and cream quest bar nutrition facts

What the heck is an isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO)?

Isomalto-oligosaccharides are natural for the body to digest, but we don’t use this type of fiber for energy (meaning we actually can’t break it down to fully digest it, but it is normal for our body to pass it through the digestive system). Many protein bar companies add a lot of sugar alcohols or harsh gas-forming fibers to their bars, but IMOs are the least “gas-forming” and much more gentle on the digestive system.

An IMO is also classified as a prebiotic fiber which means they are a beneficial type of fiber that we need in order to produce healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. Probiotics are different–they are actual healthy bacteria that help increase they number of healthy bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics help to nourish the healthy bacteria that already exist.

I recommend that you don’t eat more than about 30 grams of IMOs per day (one Quest bar contains about 16 grams). So, try not to eat more than one Quest bar per day. If you do, you will be right around the threshold for maximum IMO fiber intake for the day and may experience some digestive discomfort. However, the more you weigh (and the taller you are), the more you are likely to be able to digest them.

Erythritol

One Quest bar contains about 2 grams of erythritol. This is a sugar alcohol that is generally harmless. It can actually be found naturally occuring, and does not likely cause digestive discomfort like other sugar alcohols are notorious for doing. The benefit is that this sugar alcohol tastes sweet without causing blood sugar spikes!

Stevia

A natural, zero calorie sweetener. Stevia is natural and generally harmless. I try to keep intake below 4 mg/kg BW (recommendations according to WHO) just to be on the safe side. What does this mean? A 50 kg female should not intake more than 200 mg of stevia per day. I estimate this to be no more than 4 servings of stevia per day just to make sure it is safe.

Sucralose aka Splenda

I try to avoid Splenda because I have a no-artificial sweeteners policy. Not for safety reasons, but because why do I need them when there are so many other natural options? Anyways, you can find many Quest bar flavors without Splenda in them. But, there are a handful of flavors that do contain Splenda (but, it is such a tiny amount, I don’t think it is cause for concern in my book).

There you have your ingredients run-down! Now, what about flavor?

I love the taste of Quest bars, and I know many other people feel the same way I do. If you don’t like the chewy texture, try microwaving them to make them soft and warm! I think you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. I will pretty much eat ANY flavor (except I try to chose more of the natural flavors).

Overall, I give Quest Bars a rating of A (not A+ because of the Splenda).

Don’t you love Quest Bars?