Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lemon and Cumin Dressed Roasted Acorn Squash and Avocado over Greens

Check out the salad at the bottom of this post. It is one of the best I have made in a while. It has a ton of flavor and not many calories.

I am not sure what was happening here yesterday in terms of my diet. It wasn’t until I was writing the post late last night that I realized that almost everything I ate yesterday was soup. Clearly the weather is changing. ;-) Soup is one of my favorite things to make when the weather is cool or cold. You will probably be seeing a lot more soup on my blog soon.

Today started like always with me making fresh juice for Dan to take to work. For those of you that are old enough to remember I feel a little like the man in the Dunkin Donuts commercial the one that started with “time to make the donuts” where he was doing it practically in his sleep. The only difference at our house is that it is “time to the make the juice” and yes I am half awake while I am doing it.

Dan had his usual breakfast of oatmeal with cinnamon, powdered ginger, wild blueberries and walnuts. For lunch I packed him a big salad with shredded romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, salsa, roasted red pepper hummus and raw sunflower seeds. To go with that he is having the lentil soup from last night because he liked it so much. I think the fresh salsa on top is what took the soup over the top.

For some reason I was not too hungry this morning again. I suppose it was the protein content in the soup last night which we had reasonably late. Dan has two more deadlines coming up in addition to three days out of the office next week. Also I really don’t like to eat before I exercise. I prefer to wait until afterwards and then grab something to eat.

Breakfast: Tropical Smoothie with Kale, Mango, Lime, Ginger and Cardamom

Today I made myself a smoothie late morning which contained: ¼ cup oatmeal (uncooked), 1 mango seeded peeled and diced, 2 cups shredded kale, 1 lime zested and juice, ½ inch piece of ginger root, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, and green tea and ice. I also added cardamom to taste. Instead of water I used green tea in my smoothie today and I have to say I have no idea why I haven’t done that before. That is going to be a regular part of my smoothies from now on. The stats were good on this smoothie too. I made two large glasses (all for me) and the numbers were:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 339.22
Calories From Fat (11%) - 38.84

Total Fat - 4.64g
Saturated Fat - 0.65g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 66.97mg
Potassium - 1140.19mg
Total Carbohydrates - 76.69g
Fiber - 14.48g
Sugar - 32.08g
Protein - 9.72g

Additionally the smoothie contained 22,225IU of vitamin A, 245mg of vitamin C, 289mg of calcium (mostly from the kale), 1,104mcg of vitamin K. This is why I love to add greens to my smoothies.

If was such a gorgeous day outside I decided to go for a nice walk to clear my head and enjoy the weather. I like to take every opportunity I can to get in extra activity in addition to my planned exercise. In my mind humans were built to move so anytime you can you should. I try to run as many errands as possible by foot to keep my activity level high. Being a bit of numbers geek I also keep a spreadsheet that tells me how many steps I am getting on a daily basis. Do any of you track these things and try to exceed your prior results? I am very competitive with myself so keeping records and charts work for me.

Lunch/snack: Falafel, salsa and salsa

Lunch today was more of a snack than I meal. I was feeling like I needed a bit of protein so I grabbed 5 falafel out of the freezer and popped them into the microwave. The falafel are softer when they are microwaved but I like them just as much crunchy or softer. To accompany the falafel I had a dollop of salsa in the center topped with the fresh salsa from last night’s soup. Are you starting to notice that I would starve without salsa?

Tonight is the finale of Top Chef DC which means Bravo is running a marathon today. You don’t have to wonder what has been on the background at my house today. I like to watch chefs work and see the combinations they come up with. While it is almost never vegan I do get ideas watching the show for things I can make both vegan and healthy. I think inspiration can come from anywhere. In fact most of my recipes come from things I ate or made that were omni. How many of you watch Top Chef? Did anyone else expect a different person to win?

Afternoon snack: Trail mix

For some reason (probably hormonal) I was craving chocolate this afternoon. Since I know this happens every month and that the craving demands to be satisfied I just went with it. I grabbed a small amount of Dan’s trail mix with some dry roasted edamame added in. Just those few chocolate chips (maybe 5 or 6) were enough to satisfy my craving. I washed the trail mix down with some cold brewed green tea.

I did something to my lower back yesterday. Have I mentioned lately how much fun it is getting older? Since my back is not quite right I have spend quite a bit of time stretching and trying to work the kinks out. I feel much better now but earlier today it was bad enough I actually took a Tylenol and I hate taking meds. The idea of putting something toxic into my body doesn’t sit well to me.

About our food philosophy:

I wanted to spend a few minutes discussing my food philosophy today to answer a lot of questions that I get by email. The reason my food is “so clean” as many of you have mentioned is that we are eating to keep cancer under control. That requires not only a vegan diet but a very healthy one. It is easy to make vegan food that tastes good if you aren’t concerned about health. I see examples of that type of vegan food every day on other blogs. If you throw enough fat, sugar and salt into/onto anything it is probably going to taste good. The problem is that won’t be good for you. It may help the animals but the humans will still suffer. My approach is a vegan diet that tastes as good as it is good for you. To accomplish those goals I have imposed the following restrictions on our diet:

• maximize our consumption of vegetables, fruit and beans
• our fats come from a variety of seeds and nuts with a concentration on those sources that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
• minimize our consumption of flour (even whole wheat)
• don’t eat too many whole grains since that results in less room for veggies, fruits and beans
• no sweeteners unless absolutely necessary to make a dish work
• no coffee or espresso unless I can’t function (this is harder for me than you know since I am a recovering Italian espresso addict)
• minimize our sodium consumption (another very hard one for this oil cured olive lover)

Our diet didn’t start this clean in fact it was far from it. Dan and I were both consummate foodies prior to our life changing event (that is how I refer to the cancer). This uber clean diet came about after I read “Eat for Life” which made so much nutritional sense to. If you feed your body the most nutritious food possible it has to have an impact on your overall health. Do all doctors agree with me? Heck no. But then again doctors aren’t trained in nutrition so I can’t worry about what they think on this topic. We do have one oncologist that did a stint at National Cancer Institute that told us to keep doing what we are doing because it has to be making a difference. Is it a coincidence that he is the youngest doc? Probably not. The younger docs seem to be much more open to the idea that nutrition plays a role. Maybe one day all docs will be there but they aren’t now so you need to do your own research and decide what changes you are willing to make.

I hope that gives some of new reader’s insight into why my food is “so clean” as someone so eloquently put it in an email to me today. Both Dan and I truly believe that our diet has had a big health impact. If nothing else we both feel great and all the blood tests show we have achieved excellent results. If any of you are facing a serious health challenge I think diet and lifestyle (by that I mean the ugly e work, exercise) can have a significant impact on your health. It would help me to know what to mention in my posts if I know why you are reading the blog. Are you interested in health, weight loss, vegan food or all three?

Dinner: Salad with Acorn Squash and Avocado

Not having any salad today or yesterday I am craving a big green salad. As you probably expect it isn’t going to be a standard salad since mine usually aren’t. All I knew today was that I wanted to roast acorn squash. So that they had more possible leftover uses I cooked 3 acorn squash of them cut into halves so they could be stuffed tomorrow if the mood strikes me. To do this I roasted the acorn squash halves (which were cleaned) and the seeds in a 400 degree oven until the squash halves were tender and the seeds crispy. Here is what I made for dinner:

Lemon and Cumin Dressed Roasted Acorn Squash and Avocado over Greens
Serves 2


1 acorn squash, roasted, cooled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 head of romaine shredded
¼ cup parsley leaves
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon roasted squash seeds


Whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, garlic, and Dijon together. Taste for seasoning and add black pepper as desired.

Place the greens on the base on the plate. Top the greens with roasted squash and avocado. Drizzle half of the dressing over each salad and finish with roasted squash seeds and parsley.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 329.53
Calories From Fat (43%) - 142.14

Total Fat - 17.08g
Saturated Fat - 2.43g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 139.62mg
Potassium - 2134.55mg
Total Carbohydrates - 48.34g
Fiber - 18.9g
Sugar - 4.11g
Protein - 9.69g


We loved this salad. In fact both Dan and I think this might be the best salad I have made in a long time. If you like big bold flavors you should give this a try. It is sweet from the roasted squash, crunchy from the squash seeds, fatty from the avocado and fresh from the parsley. If there is a way to make this better I can’t think of it. You may see this again tomorrow since we both enjoyed it that much.

It is getting late now so I need to turn in soon. I hope everyone had a great Wednesday. Talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. I read your blog because it gives me ideas on what to eat (newly transitioned from vegetarian to vegan) and everything is so simple. Plus, I like certain ideas like the kale in the smoothies and chia seeds to add fats to fruits. I've gotten a lot out of my short time reading your blog. (Actually, your blog inspired me to start my own vegan blog!) I didn't realize the "why" behind your blog either (the life-changing event) so now it all makes sense. By the way...who is the author for "Eat to Live"? I'd like to read it.

  2. Hi Stephanie nice to meet you. :-)

    Good for you transitioning from vegetarian to vegan! Thank you very much for the nice compliments. Clearly you are health minded and that makes sense given the focus of my blog. ;-)

    Dr. Joel Fuhrman is the author of "Eat to Live" and "Eat for Health". If you are going to get only one book get "Eat for Health" is it more recent.

    I will check out your blog tomorrow. Thanks for letting me know you have one.

    have a good evening,

  3. "But then again doctors aren’t trained in nutrition so I can’t worry about what they think on this topic"

    lol i gasped when i read this, just thinking about what a docs face would look like reading it, lol I LOVE IT! hahaha i read your blog for all dif reasons, i mostly like it because you dont use oil and its vegan...and you push me and you are a good example:) but i love it for a lot more reasons than that!

    i cant believe its getting cold over there so early, its still blazing over here...107.

  4. Michelle,

    You are right doctors would be horrified to read that but it is true. They are doctors not nutritionists so why would we expect them to give good nutrition advise? Yet we all do for some reason. *shakes head*

    Awww, thanks for saying that I am good example. You could not have given me a better compliment. Thanks for making me smile!

    It was 64 degrees this morning if you can imagine. We are definitely heading into fall quickly. ;-)


  5. Thanks for the book info, Ali!

    And by the way, "The China Study" says that "physician error, medication error and adverse events from drugs or surgery kill 225,400 people per year...[making] our health care system the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind only cancer and heart disease" so should we really be listening to what doctors say, anyway???

  6. Stephanie,

    I read that in the China Study too. I was a hospital controller for a long time and had to report hospital errors. I have to say I never saw anything even remotely that high so I do wonder where he got those statistics.

    But I agree with you in principle that doctors are not perfect. As a very good friend of mine likes to say, "50% of all doctors finished in the bottom 50% of their class." ;-) There is definitely a big difference in the quality of doctors. I can attest to that from my limited experience.


  7. The squash with avocado looks really beautiful (and delicious!) I'm loving this fall cooking! My first fall as a vegan! I'll definitely make this.

    Hadn't occurred to me to add green tea to a smoothie. Clever!

  8. Ali that salad looks gorgeous! I actually have everything on hand to make it- if not today then for sure on Saturday.


  9. JL,

    Thanks! Congratulations on your first fall as a vegan. I find it gets easier and easier to cook this way the longer I do it. I hope you like the salad as much as we did.

    I have no idea why I never put green tea in my smoothie before. But yesterday I was looking at the tea and wanted a smoothie but it was going to be a lot to drink so I put them together. Sometimes ideas come from the oddest places. ;-)


  10. Lea,

    The ingredients for the salad are in my kitchen often this time of year too. I hope you like this as much as we did. I was practically doing the happy dance last night when I was eating it. Thanks for the compliment! ;-)


  11. That is an excellent sounding oil free dressing! I have some beautiful acorn squashes, will definitely be trying this.

  12. Sarah,

    Thanks, we both really liked this. It has a bit flavor punch but I love that so it worked for me. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. :-)


  13. I love the bottom salad the best, you were right! I never thought of putting squash on a salad!!!

  14. Brandi,

    This salad was really goodb(pats self on back, LOL). I was practically doing the happy dance when I tasted it. I think you will like it too. The crunchy little seeds on top and fresh herbs added a lot. ;-)

    talk to you later,

  15. I've missed so many of your posts. Probably for the best considering what I was eating on my trip ;-) I must try that acorn squash (minus avocado for me).

  16. Heather,

    Glad you made it back home safely. :-) I hope you at least got to go into work late today since you got in so late.

    talk to you later,

  17. I do watch Top Chef, but the most recent episode is on my DVR so I don't know who won. My favorite this season was Tiffany and she's already gone.

    I think your food always looks good and is varied and healthy. I try to be healthy and I'm getting better and better, and I like seeing how you show how people can be super healthy and also enjoy good tasting food. I also like your book reviews and I want to read more on this topic to find out things for myself.

    I have been vegetarian for 12 years and haven't always been healthy. As I'm getting older, it's tougher to eat whatever I want and at the same keep looking trim and fit. It's not just about weight loss (although I sheepishly admit that is a concern for me) -- I want to be healthier in general. As I eat more healthily, I find my tastes changing, too. I used to find strawberries too tart when I was a soda drinker, but now I appreciate that delicious fruit! The best news is that I think I have finally lost my cheese craving...

  18. Jessica,

    I really liked Tiffany too. I was very surprised when she was sent home I expected her to make it to the finals.

    Thank you for your kind words. I think people imagine that healthy food has to be bland or boring and it really doesn't you just need to get a little creative. I am glad I can give you some ideas.

    As you probably have guessed I love reading about nutrition and health and have many books I have purchased on the topic. Like you I want to know for myself what the research shows. ;-)

    I don't think there are many people who have always been healthy eaters. In my mind nutrition is a process and we can all always do better, me includded. I am always tweaking our diet to make it just a little more healthy based on new studies.

    My taste buds have changed dramatically too, it isn't just you. Yay on losing your cheese craving. That is huge! Congratulations!


  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. I've been reading your blog for a long time but have never commented. I read your blog because I am a health conscious vegan and your recipes are always so inspiring. I just made your falafel the other day. I am not looking to lose weight, as I am only twenty and not overweight but was wondering, did you lose any weight when you switched to your current diet? I typically eat more fat and just more food in general than is shown on your blog to avoid losing any weight I wish to keep.

  21. Hi vlp nice to meet you,

    Thank you for commenting. Nice to know you are there.

    Yes I did lose weight when I started eating this way. Also I am much older than you are (I am 48) as well as being short (5'2"). I have noticed the older I get the less I need to eat, or want to eat. Also my apetite changes day by day some days I eat much more than others. Yesterday (this post) I wasn't very hungry. I hope that helped.

    If you ever have any questions or just want to comment please don't hesitate to write. I like knowing who is out there reading.


  22. That is so funny that you put green tea in your smoothie yesterday! I only say funny because, yesterday I was wondering what it would taste like to use green tea in the place of the milks or juices when making a smoothie. I wonder what it would taste like with pineapple, mango, banana, spinach and green tea. Of course maybe some cinnamon and ginger in their too.
    Your salad does look delish, but everything you make always looks delish!!!
    I hope your back is better today. I also hate taking meds, but there is always a day or two out of the month where I have to take something. :o(

  23. Michelle,

    I say try the green tea, why not. I normally use water in my smoothies and since tea doesn't have a lot of flavor I thought it worked great. ;-)

    Thanks for the compliment. I loved this salad. There was just something about the combination that appealed to me. Of course I also liked that it was uber healthy. ;-)

    My back is better today thanks for asking. :-) I probably average less than 10 Tylenol a year. I really hate taking meds and my best friend is a pharmacist. How crazy is that? LOL

    talk to you later,

  24. Ali I agree with Michelle I like your blog because you are a good example; even though I'll never live up to it, lol. You motivate me to do better and you are always so gracious in your comments.

    I am going to try that dressing. I am always looking for new salad dressings that are rich and tasty as well as healthy. Unfortunately I have an intolerance to cashew nuts so that one is out for me even though it sounds yummy.

  25. Carol,

    Thank you for the nice compliment but not that long ago I didn't live up to me either, if that makes any sense. I didn't always eat this way. You can do it if you want to is what I am trying to say. I really believe nutrition is a process we all do what we are capable of doing at the time. Some people can make huge changes all at once and others need to ease into things.

    If you can have macadamia or pine nuts try those in place of the raw cashews. I have not tried it but it should work. They are both mild tasting nuts and will get creamy is they are soaked and processed with water in a blender.

    If you have any other questions (like the cashews) don't hesitate to ask. I am happy to offer suggestions or substitutions if I can think of them.


  26. I used to love the “time to make the donuts” commercial, lol! I can just see you making Dan's juice half awake :-)

    Have you thought of going to the chiropractor for your back? I go to one whenever my sciatica flares up, and it really does help. I used to have a lot of back and neck problems, and he really helped me with that a lot.

    I love the flavors of your salad--cumin and lemon go together so well. Combine that with the sweetness of the squash and it is sure to be a hit, lol!

    I hope you are having a good day :-)


  27. Courtney,

    I am glad you remember that commercial I was starting to feel really old with that reference. ;-) Yes I am half asleep when I am making the juice. It is quite a sight, LOL.

    My back is much better today, almost good as new actually. But I am not opposed to a chiropractor. I need to ask around and see if any of my friends can recommend one.

    I am happy to hear you like the sound of the salad. Needless to say we really enjoyed it. Dan thought it it was one of my better salad combinations and he isn't even a big fan of avocado which is really saying something. ;-)

    Thanks for asking, I am having a great day. I hope you are as well.

    talk to you later,

  28. That salad looks so yummy. I'll be making it this weekend. Been doing the vegan "thing" for about 6 months (vegetarian for over a year now) and I love your recipes. I try to eat "clean" as much as possible and try to get my husband to eat healthy too -- he's a little more stubborn about making changes but he's getting there. We both turned 50 this year and good nutrition has become more important than ever. Thanks for your blog.

  29. estolle,

    Congratulations on making such huge and positive changes for your health. I know what you mean about how stubborn men can be, I have my own. Dan has not always been as cooperative as he is now. ;-)

    Thank you for your compliment regarding my recipes. I love that I can help you find healthy dishes that you enjoy. Thank you for sharing that and making me smile. :-)

    Dan and I are 55 (very soon 56) and 48 so hear you on nutrition becoming more important. This whole getting old thing is for the birds. ;-)

    If you ever have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to write.


  30. Re: your comment about growing old: I saw a funny T-shirt a few years back bearing the words:

    Growing old is not for the faint of heart


  31. Mom,

    Cute shirt slogan, I would buy that if I saw it.

    My best friend likes to remind me "that growing old beats the alternative" and by that he means death. A morbid thought but very true. ;-)

    hope you have a good Friday,


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