Hey, my lovelies!

For those of you new around here, I thought I’d share a little foodie talk since the holidays are growing closer everyday. I’m vegan. I’ve been plant-based for over six years now, and I incorporate that in some way into every novel I write. I do that for a variety of reasons – a) it’s close to my heart, and b) I love to introduce the concept to my readers.

Plant-based lifestyles have been growing by leaps and bounds in the past few years. I personally have found that millennials are embracing plant-based diets in droves; for us Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, we’re a little more confused.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to clarify what I eat – nope, no meat, no turkey or chicken, no fish, no eggs, no butter. If it’s not plant-based, I don’t eat it.

Overall, vegan diets have grown to 6 percent of the US population over the last three years. People are doing it for a variety of reasons: a healthier lifestyle and animal cruelty are two of the most popular.

I’ll tell you it’s easier to incorporate a plant-based diet at home where you can control what you eat. When you head out to a restaurant, or even travel to someplace else away from your home, it gets a little more difficult.

However, that’s changing too. Pinterest says it has seen a near-200 percent spike in searches for vegan food travel guides since last year.

I started caring about what I put into my body when my dad passed away of a massive heart attack at the age of 54. He ate what I call the “Midwest diet” – he stuck to his roots and thoroughly enjoyed his meat and potatoes. I started doing research not long after he passed away, and discovered food plays a big part in the major diseases that impact us today. What Gen Xer or Baby Boomer do you know that hasn’t been impacted by heart disease, cancer, diabetes … A lot of that stems from what we put into our bodies.

I also have a daughter that declared herself vegetarian at the age of 3. Yes, 3.

All of that has made me do a ton of research on this subject. I honestly can tell you I have studied nutrition for hundreds of hours over the last 25 years. I’ve taken more classes, read more books, studied under many of today’s top doctors who understand food and how it impacts health. So I share whenever I can.

I thought I’d share with you what I’m making for Thanksgiving this year. It’s not a big holiday in my household. Frankly, I don’t really cook differently than I do the rest of the year. But this year I wanted to cook using local ingredients. And we had a local farmers market this past Saturday in which I bought a lot of fresh ingredients. So I based my holiday meal around what I bought. And with acorn squash being just 50 cents a piece, it just made sense to incorporate that into my meal..

Here’s what I’ll be serving:

Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash
½ cup quinoa
1 green onion, chopped
1 apple
½ cup hazelnuts
2 cups spinach
¼ cup fresh mint
2 T apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cut the top stems off the acorn squash and cut into half. Scoop out the seeds, then place cut side down on a roasting pan covered with parchment paper. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Set aside and cool.
  • For the quinoa stuffing, place quinoa and green onion in medium pot over medium heat about 5 minutes, or until the quinoa starts to “pop.” Add 1 cup of water and cover. Reduce and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.
  • Remove from heat, fluff, and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Place the hazelnuts in 425 degree oven 10 minutes or so, until slightly darkened. When they are cool enough to handle, roll them in a towel to remove the skins. Then roughly chop hazelnuts.
  • Core and dice the apple. Add apple cider vinegar and coat the apple well. This helps prevent apple from browning.
  • Roughly chop spinach and mint.
  • Combine the quinoa, hazelnuts, apple, mint, spinach, scooped-out squash, and salt. Stir well to combine.
  • You can either serve in an elegant dish, or return to acorn squash skin to provide natural bowls.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

1 large orange zested and juiced
¼ cup maple syrup
12 oz of cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon

  • In a medium saucepan, add all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, or until the cranberries pop and the sauce begins to thicken.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour.