Chicken, Quinoa and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

chicken enchilada casserole | confections of a dietitian

The week of Thanksgiving always seems to be packed full of grocery shopping, prepping, cooking and baking. This year is turning out to be no different, with the added stress and fun of taking a trip to Tokyo this past weekend. We’re not hosting this year so one of my biggest challenges, and one I’m sure many people also face, has been trying to come up with healthy meals for the rest of the weekend. With Thanksgiving day being such a food-centric holiday, I never want the other meals to be heavy or time consuming and I certainly do not want to go out and eat unhealthy restaurant food.

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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

pumpkin pie smoothie | confections of a dietitian

Pumpkin pie has always been one of my favorite desserts. It’s no surprise since everyone in my family seems to love it too. I have numerous memories of eating pumpkin pie throughout my childhood. Whether it was Thanksgiving, a family gathering or just lunch with my great grandpa on a Sunday, if it was fall, then you could expect pumpkin pie for dessert.

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Japanese Pumpkin and Ricotta Toasts

confections of a dietitian | japanese pumpkin and ricotta toasts

Japan loves Halloween. It’s a fairly new holiday here, as it used to only be celebrated by foreigners before it became popular among the locals too. Every store and restaurant has displays and decorations (some will even give a discount if you show up in costume this weekend) and all of the typical treats and candies have special Halloween packaging. There are costume contests and other Halloween type events at the local malls and trick or treating on base for all of the military and local Japanese kids. Since pumpkins are so iconic in America surrounding Halloween, Japan has also adopted this specialty flavor for the month of October. As exciting as this may sound, it’s not the typical pumpkin spice flavor that Americans know and love. In Japan, their “pumpkin” is what we know as kabocha squash. You can imagine how this has become very disorienting when buying, for example, pumpkin Kit-Kats and having them taste like raw squash, and not like the warm fall flavors that we are accustomed to. (My apologies again to my siblings and everyone else that I convinced to try the “pumpkin” Kit-Kats I brought back with me.) The pumpkin ice cream that I found was better, probably because it was made by Häagen Dazs, but the best thing I’ve had was the pumpkin ramen from one of our favorite ramen shops. To summarize my taste testing experiences so far, pumpkin specials in Japan are much better when they are savory rather than sweet.

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Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars

salted caramel apple pie bars | confections of a dietitian
In most places I’ve lived, October brings gold and red trees, crisp nights, cozy scarves and sweaters and lots of apples. Okinawa, on the other hand, is still in summer mode. The highs have dropped a mere two degrees and the “feels like” temperature is still well into the 100’s (122 degrees yesterday, to be exact). My social media accounts and favorite blogs are all abuzz about pumpkin spice this and fall everything else, making me homesick for anything to remind me that it is, indeed, fall. An overcast and rainy day plus an invitation to a get together with friends this past weekend gave me the perfect excuse to bake something to make it feel like the wonderful season it is.

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Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwiches

blackened mahi mahi sandwiches | confections of a dietitian

Colin loves to go fishing. It is, without a doubt, his favorite hobby. He grew up in Wisconsin and, I’m pretty sure, spent most of his summers, and winters, fishing. Moving to Okinawa posed a little bit of a challenge to continue this hobby. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of fishing in Okinawa, but deep sea fishing is much different than lake fishing (from what he’s told me, of course). Being the fisherman that he is, he was up for the challenge and our freezer has never been empty since. (His favorite “excuse” to use to go fishing is when we are down to only 2-3 meals of fish in our freezer.)

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Nutella Banana Bread

nutella banana bread | confections of a dietitian

Most people have a go to banana bread recipe. That’s probably because most people have had overripe bananas sitting on their counter that they don’t want to go to waste. Our house is no different. I always have bananas in the fruit bowl to eat before my morning runs, grab on my way to work or throw into a smoothie. Plus, I know if I don’t use them in time, I can just put them in the freezer for banana “ice cream” or make banana bread. In my mind, it’s a win, win situation.

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DIY Cold Brew Iced Coffee

cold brew iced coffee | confections of a dietitian

My coffee addiction started later than most. Somehow, I made it through my undergraduate degree without drinking much coffee. Grad school, on the other hand, was a different story. During my year off between degrees, I worked in a hospital’s nutrition department and spent a decent chunk of that working in the on-site cafe. Fortunately for me, that meant a lot of free coffee drinks. An added bonus was that my sister, whom I was living with at the time, was working as a barista at a really good coffee shop in Boulder. I frequently visited her at work for more discounted coffee. It’s no surprise that after a year of free coffee, I was officially addicted. Moving to Washington didn’t help either. I couldn’t drive more than two blocks in Spokane without passing a cute coffee stand on the corner. As much as I wanted (probably, needed) to get coffee every day, I didn’t want to spend extra money on it (I was in grad school, after all). It wasn’t a big deal in the winter, when I could make hot coffee at home, but in the warmer months, when all I wanted was an iced americano, it was a different story. Brewing hot coffee and cooling it the fridge was a good, quick fix, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. I started making this iced coffee recipe instead and I haven’t strayed from it since.

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Roasted Broccoli

roasted broccoli | confections of a dietitian

As a dietitian, I am always trying to find ways to get people to eat more vegetables. The problem is, usually these people do not eat a lot of vegetables because they do not like the taste. Depending on how vegetables are cooked, I’d have to agree with them. Mushy, overcooked carrots, green beans or broccoli are not high on my list of delicious foods. This post isn’t going to tell you how to make every vegetable taste good, but I am going to share how one vegetable went from “meh” to “I want to eat this every day” in our house. That vegetable is broccoli.

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Purple Pastel Birthday Cake

purple pastel birthday cake | confections of a dietitian

Every July brings the agonizing decision of what kind of cake to make for my birthday. I make cakes, cupcakes and cookies for friends here, so everyone was asking me if I was making my own cake this year. My answer? “Of course I am!” This is my one chance to make exactly what I want, instead of what everyone else wants. The problem is that there are so many options. One of my favorite things to do is read cake blogs and cookbooks. (What? That’s not normal?) I would love nothing more than to bake and eat every cake I read about, but I’m a dietitian and always have a nutrition tally running through my head. Plus, I don’t even want to know how many miles of running with Archie that would require. It’s way too hot here for that and even he doesn’t have that much energy.

purple pastel birthday cake | confections of a dietitian

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Cashew Caesar Salad Dressing

cashew caesar salad dressing | confections of a dietitian

Colin loves to remind me that “the lowest calorie salad is the one you don’t eat.” It’s not that Colin does not like vegetables, or salad for that matter, but he thinks a salad is not worth eating if it does not taste good. To his credit, salad can easily fall into the “not worth it” category. Think back to all of the salad bars you’ve ever been to at buffets or dining halls: tasteless iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, croutons, ranch dressing. It’s really not that appealing. But, being a dietitian and someone who grew up eating lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers grown in my mom and grandpa’s gardens, I love salad. As you can imagine, telling Colin that we are having salad for dinner does not always go over well. Luckily, he knows that pretty much anything I make will be good, so he doesn’t complain too much.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t tell Colin what was in this dressing the first time I made it. He was wary enough about chicken Caesar salads for dinner and I didn’t want to scare him off completely by telling him that the salad dressing was made with cashews. I have to admit, I was even a little hesitant myself. I’ve always looked for healthier options for creamy dressings, I love them, just not the calories, but I wasn’t sure if cashews would significantly change the flavor. Plus, I couldn’t find raw cashews (of course) so my only option was roasted.

cashew caesar salad dressing | confections of a dietitian

As predicted, Colin and I both loved the dressing and the salad for dinner. I had warned him it was not a traditional Caesar dressing, but he didn’t comment on the “apparent” cashew flavor until after I told him what was in it. (I think if I had been able to use raw cashews like the recipe calls for, he would not have noticed.) To me, this dressing tastes exactly like Caesar dressing should: creamy, tart, slightly salty and nutty. It’s excellent on a traditional Caesar salad, but we love it for side salads or any random salads we come up with using leftovers in the fridge. Using cashews in the dressing makes it lower in calories than it’s traditional creamy counter part and it has lots of healthy fats from the cashews, rather than egg yolks or mayonnaise. I’m happy to say I finally have a creamy salad dressing I can feel good about eating.

Cashew Caesar Salad Dressing

Servings: About 3/4 cup, or 12 servings

cashew caesar salad dressing | confections of a dietitian

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews (roasted will work too if that is all you can find)
  • 3 oil-packed anchovies
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Place cashews, anchovies, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder in a food processor or blender.
  2. Pulse until cashews are broken up, then process until nuts are finely ground. Dressing will have a creamy consistency.
  3. With the processor on low speed, gradually stream in the olive oil and then water. You may need to add additional water until dressing has reached desired consistency.
  4. Season with black pepper, to taste.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with your favorite salad.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

Nutrition Panel: Serving Size: 2 tablespoons Calories: 103kcal Carbohydrate: 1g Fat: 11g Protein: 1g

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