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DIET DETECTIVE

Nutrition advice: Celebrate Thanksgiving with these healthy recipes for chocolate chip-pumpkin bread and more

Monday, November 19, 2012 - 12:01 am

It's Thanksgiving time. And once again there will be no calorie lecture or list of forbidden foods from me just a few wonderful, healthy recipes from health-conscious chefs.

Acorn squash stuffed with walnut-apple Basmati pilaf

Healthy recipe by Mollie Katzen, author of “Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen” (William Morrow Cookbooks ; 2009). Makes 8 servings

1 cup brown basmati rice

1 3/4 cups water

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium acorn squash (about 2 pounds apiece) halved and seeded

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1/2 medium onion, minced

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (about half a small clove)

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 medium apple, chopped

1/4 cup dried cherries (halved or quartered, if overly large)

Combine the rice and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to the lowest setting, cover and simmer undisturbed for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil and coat it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the squash cut-side-down on the tray and roast it in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until it is tender enough on the bottom to easily insert a fork or a sharp knife. Remove the tray from the oven, and let it sit while you prepare the filling. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees.

While the squash is roasting, place a small skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon (that's 1 1/2 teaspoons) olive oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the butter and swirl until it melts. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, or until the onion becomes very soft and is beginning to turn golden. (If it appears to be browning too quickly, turn the heat to medium-low.) Add half the walnuts, and cook them with the onion, stirring frequently for 5-8 minutes, or until the nuts begin to toast and give off a lovely aroma. Stir in the garlic and salt, if using, and cook 5 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat. (Meanwhile, lightly toast the remaining walnuts and set aside.)

After 40 minutes of undisturbed cooking, fluff the rice with a fork. Give it a taste. If it is a little too crunchy, add another 3 tablespoons water and, without fluffing or stirring it further, put the top back on and let it steam for another 10 minutes with the heat turned off. It will steam itself a little further and become more tender.

Transfer the rice to a medium-large bowl. Add the onion-walnut mixture (using a rubber spatula to scrape in all the delicious essence that might otherwise be left in the pan) and toss with a fork until well combined. Add the apple and cherries, and mix until thoroughly combined.

Turn the squash over, so their cavities face up. Divide the rice mixture among the squash, using a soup spoon to fill the cavities, packing down the filling, and then mounding the top.

Cover the filled squash loosely with a tent of foil, and return the tray to the oven for about 10 minutes — just long enough to heat through. (You can also skip this step and just serve it warm, as is. It's good either way.) Serve topped with the remaining toasted walnuts.

Please note: You can include the squash in the stuffing as well. Simply roast it as directed, peel it and cut it in chunks. Add the squash chunks to the rice mixture.

If you can't find dried cherries, substitute dried cranberries.

Nutritional information (per serving): 290 calories; 10 g fat; 23 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 5.5 g protein; and 10 mg sodium.

Cranberry balsamic green beans

Healthy recipe from “The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook: 125+ Delectable Plant-Based Vegan Recipes for a Fit, Happy, Healthy You,” by Melissa Costello (HCI Books, $18.95). Makes about 4 servings.

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

1-2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup dried cranberries

Zest and juice from 1 medium orange

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons pomegranate juice or cherry juice (not from concentrate)

Steam or blanch the green beans until fork tender, 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the beans. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Turn up the heat slightly and caramelize the onion until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar and pomegranate or cherry juice. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the green beans and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Nutritional information (per serving): 150 calories; 6 g fat (4.5 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 15 mg sodium; 25 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; and 4 g protein.

Chocolate chip pumpkin bread

Healthy recipe from “The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition,” by Julieanna Hever, MS. RD, CPT (Alpha, 2011) ( www.PlantBasedDietitian.com). Makes 12 servings.

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

3 tablespoons water

1 cup date syrup (or date paste)

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups oat (or other whole-grain) flour

1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 1/2 cups grain-sweetened chocolate chips (or raisins or other dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl gently mix the flaxseeds with the water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add the date syrup, pumpkin, maple syrup and vanilla extract and combine until smooth. Gently stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Mix until there are no more lumps. Add in the chocolate chips and distribute evenly throughout. Pour the batter into a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Allow the bread to cool before cutting and serving.

Nutritional information (per serving): 312 calories; 6 g fat; 62 g carbs; 4 g fiber; and 3 g protein.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.