Healthy Cookie: Sweet Potato & Squash Brown Rice Medley

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Sometime last year, the Sweet Potato Bug bit me. And ever since, I just can’t get enough sweet potatoes to combat the fierce cravings that seize hold of me. The Sweet Potato Bug is known for leaving strong addictions in its victims, and I got hit hard. I could eat a sweet potato for every meal and never get sick of it. Curse you, Sweet Potato Bug!

But I guess this new addiction’s not all bad because sweet potatoes are unbelievably good for you. In fact, they say sweet potatoes are the most nutritious thing for you in the produce section. It just happens to be a major plus that they taste delicious too. If you haven’t been bitten by the sweet potato bug yet, then I have a feeling it’s only a matter of time. On their own, sweet potatoes are awesome. But even better yet is adding them to other things, and there isn’t much that doesn’t go well with a sweet potato. You might have noticed this from all the sweet potato recipes I’ve posted lately (see: Sweet Potato & Spinach Balls, Sweet Potato & Squash Marinara Skillet, and Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole).

With Sweet Potato Bug venom pulsing through my veins, I need as many sweet potato fixes as I can get. So, I whipped another tater-themed recipe to curb my cravings: Sweet Potato & Squash Brown Rice Medley. For me, this hearty sweet potato-packed dish was the perfect meal, but it makes a great side too.DSC_3125

The tender brown rice, fiber-rich squash, and endlessly nutritious sweet potatoes make this one very filling and satisfying dish. But there’s a difference between the kind of full you feel after devouring a bowlful of this beneficial medley and scarfing down 4 slice of pizza; this makes you feel good and content, whereas filling up on junk just makes you feel gross and uncomfortable. If both options are delicious, why wouldn’t you pick the one that’s going to make you feel as good after as you did while you were eating it?

I can’t even begin to describe the bountiful flavor of this comforting dish, especially considering the short and simple list of ingredients. Don’t you just love when that happens? No need to get fancy here; you can make this marvelous meal loaded with chunks of tender sweet potato, fresh zucchini and summer squash, hearty brown rice, a light sauce, and a hint of tangy parmesan cheese in about 30 minutes. That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Butternut squash can easily be subbed in for sweet potatoes.
  2. And, if you don’t like zucchini/summer squash, try using broccoli, spinach, Brussels  sprouts, or just about any veggie you desire.
  3. The leftovers are just as delicious as the fresh stuff.
  4. Reduced-fat mozzarella can be subbed in for the parmesan.DSC_3091

Sweet Potato & Squash Rice Medley
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 medium summer squash, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moon
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook the rice according to boxed directions, replacing water with vegetable stock. If all the stock does not absorb, but the rice is fully cooked, then drain the excess stock.
  2. Meanwhile, place the potato on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels. Poke holes in the top of the potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes then flip and poke holes in the other side with the fork. Microwave for another 3-4 minutes until tender (stick a knife through the center to test).
  3. Slice potato in half so it will cool faster. Let sit until cool enough to touch. You should be able to squeeze it right out of the skins. Discard skins (or save for a snack). Chop potato into small chunks. Set aside.
  4. Bring a medium skillet to medium heat. Add the chicken stock, onion, and garlic and simmer for 5 minutes. Add squash and zucchini. Cover and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Removes from heat and stir in rice, potatoes, and cheese. Serve immediately.DSC_3137

Sweet Potato & Squash Marinara Skillet

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If every person over the age of 18 got together and compiled a list of why growing up stinks, we’d have a list long enough to circle the globe ten times at least. Here are just a few to skim the surface:

  • Exponentially increasing responsibilities as you age
  • Bills
  • Free time? What’s that?
  • No more cartoons
  • People no longer think it’s cute when you screw things up.
    And the one I’ve had the hardest time coming to terms with:
  • Your diet can’t consist of just chicken nuggets, Dunkaroos, pizza, and cereal anymore.

Seriously, who decided it would make sense that, as our palate matures to a wider spectrum of foods and our passion for eating grows, we should have increasingly worse metabolisms? It’s a sick joke, one that makes for a very difficult life as a food blogger and general food lover.

I have to try really hard to eat healthy, and I very rarely do so as strictly as I should. I’ve found the key is combining healthy ingredients I love so I can trick myself into thinking I’m eating indulgently.

A perfect example is my Sweet Potato & Squash Marinara Skillet. I took nutrient-packed veggies I love – sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, and zucchini – and served ‘em up in a kickin’ marinara sauce, made with fresh herbs and topped with a generous layer of mozzarella cheese. It looks too good to be healthy, right?DSC_9409

Here’s the secret: all those delicious veggies are full of vitamins and other good stuff, plus they’re really filling. Then, I made my own sauce instead of using jarred stuff that’s packed with gobs of hidden calories and sugar. I topped it all with my favorite kind of light mozzarella cheese that’s s a compromise between full-fat cheese, which is crazy high in calories, and fat-free cheese, which tastes like feet. You still get great flavor and protein with this light cheese, but for fewer calories. Lastly, spaghetti squash is a special star of the show since it makes us feel like we’re eating pasta with marinara sauce, when really, we’re cutting carbs and calories without cutting flavor.

This dish is hearty and full of multidimensional flavors that will make your tongue sing with joy. Eating healthy is a hard pill to swallow as an adult, but think of this delicious meal as the spoonful of sugar to help it go down.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. If you’ve got picky eaters who are skeptic about spaghetti squash, trade half the squash for regular whole wheat spaghetti so you can ease them into it.
  2. Can’t find the light Sargento mozzarella cheese sticks I used? You can use fat-free instead, or use a 1/2 cup grated parmesan.
  3. You’re looking at less than 200 calories per serving here. Yay!
  4. Fresh veggies + fresh herbs = a MUST.
  5. Sweet potatoes can easily be swapped with butternut squash.DSC_9377

Sweet Potato & Squash Marinara Skillet
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield – 4 heaping servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
  • ¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ a medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. zero-calorie sweetener
  • 4 light mozzarella cheese sticks (like Sargento), chopped to resemble the size of shredded cheese

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels. Poke holes in the tops of the potatoes with a fork. Microwave on high until fork tender, flipping halfway through, about 10 minutes. Slice open and let cool slightly. Squeeze the potatoes out of their skins and discard skins (or snack on ‘em). Roughly chop potatoes and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the spaghetti squash in half. Place in a microwave-safe casserole dish, skin side down, and fill halfway with water. Cover and cook in microwave on high for two 5-minute intervals, or until tender enough to scoop out innards. Discard the seeds then scoop the innards into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large oven-safe skillet to medium heat. Add chicken stock and onions and sauté until onions are tender, about two minutes. Add the entire content of the can of tomatoes including the juice, 3/4 of the herbs, and garlic. Use a hand blender to puree, or if you don’t have a hand blender, puree tomatoes in a food processor or blender before adding to pan.
  4. Stir in red pepper flakes, salt, and sweetener. Add zucchini and spaghetti squash and reduce to medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender.
  5. Turn off heat and gently stir in potatoes. Sprinkle cheese over top and bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Garnish with remaining fresh herbs and serve immediately.DSC_9447

Healthy Cookie: Roasted Squash & Cauliflower Soup

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Oh soup, you know just how to sooth me. Even the roughest week is no match for you. You taste so creamy and comforting, then glide down my throat and into my stomach where you warm me from the inside out like an edible heater. How do you do what you do? You give me a happy tummy like no other food can. You just get me, soup.

And just when I think you cannot get any more perfect, you find a way to be nutritious and downright delicious all at once. With this Roasted Squash and Cauliflower Soup, you’ve truly outdone yourself. I can eat spoonful after heavenly spoonful, and not feel an ounce of remorse.

You are so delicious, brimming with caramelized flavor from oven-roasted butternut squash and cauliflower. Plus your fresh sage is so enticing and warm, as if someone fused pure comfort into a spice. You’re hearty, velvety, and filling, yet low-cal and packed with vitamins and fiber. Oh soup, you are too good to me.

This Roasted Squash & Cauliflower Soup is quite simple to make. You too can fall in love with your soup tonight, no effort required.

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A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Fresh veggies and herbs are essential to make this soup truly delicious.
  2. I do, however, recommend getting the pre-cut and peeled squash from your produce section to save yourself some pain. B-Squash is a pain in the butt to chop and peel.
  3. Just about any cheese would be delicious in this soup, but I chose parmesan because a little goes a long way.
  4. If you must have meat, serve with grilled chicken or mix in some turkey bacon.

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Roasted Squash & Cauliflower Soup
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 1 20-oz. package pre-chopped squash
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup veggie stock
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Lay cauliflower and squash out in an even layer and bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until golden brown and tender.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and sage to a large pot then pour stock over top. Turn burner on to medium heat, cover, and let simmer until onions are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the roasted veggies and simmer for another 10 minutes. Use a hand blender to puree until it reaches your desired consistency. If you don’t have a hand/immersion blender, you’ll have to use a blender or food processor.
  4. Stir in salt, pepper, and cheese. Serve immediately and garnish with more fresh sage if you’d like.

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Healthy Cookie: Butternut Squash Sage Pancakes w/ Mozzarella

In the aftermath of the diet-destroyer that is Thanksgiving, I think we’re all in need of a healthy fall meal with the delicious flavors we love from Thanksgiving, but without all the calories. After you eat such enormous quantities of rich, indulgent food, it makes it even harder to get back on track. In order to do so, you need something really good, like these Butternut Squash Sage Pancakes with Mozzarella cheese.

The pancakes are tender yet golden and crisp around the edges. They’re packed with sweet butternut squash and savory fresh sage for a wonderful pairing of fall flavors. Top off the delectable pancakes with gooey mozzarella cheese and sweet, juicy cherry tomatoes, and you’ve got yourself a delicious, satisfying meal to quell your cravings and give you the nutrients you need.

What makes these pancakes light? There’s no flour or butter; the p-cakes rely on low-calorie, high-protein Egg Beaters to bind them together. Plus, we use light mozzarella cheese instead of full-fat. These little changes still give you BIG flavor, but one whole cheese-covered pancake clocks in at under 200 calories. Score!

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I use light mozzarella cheese sticks because the fat-free shredded mozzarella tastes like feet. These sticks give you less fat and calories than full-fat mozzarella while still retaining flavor. It’s a great compromise.
  2. Fresh sage is essential in this recipe.
  3. Grating squash is a pain, I won’t lie. But it’s well worth it in this recipe!
  4. Also top with spinach, kale, or anything else your heart desires.
  5. Easily double or triple this recipe to feed more mouths.

 

Butternut Squash Sage Pancake with Mozzarella
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated butternut squash
  • 1/3 cup Egg Beaters or 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 2 light mozzarella cheese sticks like Sargento (about 5o calories each)
  • 1 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together grated squash, Egg Beaters, salt, pepper, and sage until well-combined. Divide in half and flatten out to 1/4-inch thick pancakes on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until they start to turn golden on the edges.
  3. Meanwhile, pull the cheese stick into strings then roughly chop. Sprinkle over the cooked pancakes and top with parmesan and tomatoes. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with more fresh sage if you’d like and enjoy.


Caramelized Onion & Butternut Squash Burgers

If you’re not a fan of fall and its associated foods, then you probably haven’t enjoyed Smart Cookie in the last few weeks. Between the Little Owl Cookies, Candy Corn Golden Oreo-Stuffed Pumpkin Cookies, Halloween Monster Cake Balls, Roasted Cauliflower Asiago Soup, Jack Skellington Cake, Pumpkin Alfredo Tortellini, and more, we’ve got fall coming out the ears here. I won’t apologize though; I love the season and all the delicious foods it brings. I intend to milk the month of October  for all it’s worth!

Today, we’re breaking out my favorite fall food: squash, sweet butternut squash to be exact. These Caramelized Onion & Butternut Squash Burgers are bursting with fall flavors. They’re slightly sweet thanks to the squash and those succulent, golden brown caramelized onions. Plus, these burgers are savory and hearty with quinoa, brown rice, and eggs to bulk it up. You’ll find yourself just as full and satisfied, if not more so, than if you ate a hamburger, but you’re getting three times the flavor and nutrients.

Let’s all take a moment to jump into a pile of leaves with glee, for these burgers are extremely delicious AND nutritious. You can always count on squash to take good care of you, much like how you can always count on caramelized onions to bring flavor gold to the table.

Thank goodness we have food to look out for us.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Butternut squash is a pain the you-know-what to peel and chop, so I recommend getting the pre-chopped stuff.
  2. Sage would be delicious in here in place of parsley.
  3. You can use about 1/4 cup of flour as a binder instead of the breadcrumbs if you prefer.
  4. I used jalapeno cheddar cheese on these, which was fantastic. Sharp cheddar or muenster would also be a great pairing.
  5. I recommend preparing these ahead of time. The patties can chill for up to 2 days before you bake them. In fact, they’re more flavorful if you do so.
  6. If you can’t find the quinoa/brown rice mix, you can use strictly one or the other.

Caramelized Onion and Butternut Squash Burgers
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield: 6-8 burgers (depending on how big you make them)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 whole butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
  • 2 cups quinoa & brown rice blend
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute, like Egg Beaters (or 2 eggs)
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp. flour, optional
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Bring a medium skillet to medium heat. Melt the butter. Add the onions and cover. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, tender, and sweet, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the squash in a microwave-safe casserole dish and fill 1/2-inch deep with water. Cover and microwave on high until squash is tender, about 8 minutes. Drain. While the squash is cooking, cook the quinoa and brown rice blend according to box directions.
  3. Place the squash and chickpeas in a food processor and process until smooth, but still slightly chunky.
  4. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until well-combined. See if you can form a patty. The mixture will be sticky, but should still hold together. If not, add the flour. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 2 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Use your hands to form the mixture into round patties, making them bigger or smaller to your liking (I went bigger). Place the burgers on the baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and hot in the middle (time will vary depending on the size of your burger). If adding cheese, place it on top of the burgers during the last few minutes of cooking so it can melt. Serve with whatever fixings you like, or enjoy plain.