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Almond Cocoa Coconut Bars

It’s the eve of Christmas Eve! Tomorrow evening we’ll all be surrounded by friends and family enjoying long-standing traditions, exchanging gifts and devouring holiday treats. Head to your family get-together armed with these delicious cookie bars. Their crunchy texture and creamy topping will surely be a hit. Set them next to the sugar cookies and watch them disappear!

Happy baking!


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Fresh as the Farm Thanksgiving Meal

We don’t mean to jump on the “eat healthy during the holidays” bandwagon, but really, we should. We’ve got nothing against mashed potatoes and stuffing, the treats we expect and desire when the weather turns cold; but allow us to offer a tasty suggestion. Enjoy your conservative helpings of Thanksgiving favorites, and try something new with our amazing cornish hen dinner, complemented by a beet salad and sweet walnut acorn squash. As usual, Tina has completed plenty of research and hours or experimenting to come up with a snack that will thrill the tastebuds and avoid that post-turkey stupor by fueling your body in a healthy way.

These items together contain all the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. For those of you who haven’t yet tried a recipe with cornish hen, let’s just say you’ve GOTTA do it. It’s absolutely delicious. The flavor is subtle, a little sweeter and more dense than chicken, and is simply delicious with the garlic and rosemary and in this recipe. The beet arugula salad packs a punch for your senses, a surprising contrast to the gentle cornish hen. We absolutely loved the sharp flavor of the greens with goat feta cheese sprinkled on top (quite liberally, in Stephanie’s case). The benefit here is a decent amount of vitamins C and K, along with iron and beta carotene, but let’s not focus on that stuff during Thanksgiving. Along those lines, Tina includes an absolutely amazing sweet acorn squash that’s sure to please. In addition, we’ve included a recipe at the end for a gluten-free pie that features coconut and pumpkin.

Enjoy these elements together in a well-rounded meal, or bring one thing with you to the family party. Either way, you can wow your loved ones with the idea that healthy can taste good! Use this holiday season to begin a new era in your life involving wellness and healthy living- you’ll be sure to have some company in that once your friends give this recipe a try.

Cornish Hens:
(you’ll need a dutch oven.)

2 cornish hens
buttery olive oil
rosemary – 2 sprigs
thyme – 1 sprig
1 onion chopped
4 garlic cloves
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the cornish hens. Pat dry. Pour 1 tablespoon of the buttery olive oil on each cornish hen, then salt and pepper. Stuff each cornish hen with 1/2 of the onion and 2 garlic cloves. Add 1 sprig of rosemary and thyme to each hen. Place in a dutch oven and bake, covered, for 1 hour.

Coconut and Walnut Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup coconut sugar or truvia
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tablespoons light Kerrygold butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place acorn squash on a pan and bake until you can put a fork through it, about 30 minutes.

Split the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in each half of the squash. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Place the coconut and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are minced. Add coconut sugar or truvia and continue to pulse. Add 1/4 cup of coconut mix to each squash. Place squash in a baking pan that has about 1 inch of water. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until squash is soft, about 20 minutes.

Goat Cheese Arugula Beet Salad

1 package of fresh arugula
2 beets cooked and sliced
1/2 cup goat feta
Salt and Pepper to taste

Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
Maple Balsamic Vinegar – I use Taproom…..

Place arugula on a platter. Top with fresh beets. Add the feta/goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over the salad mix first followed by the Maple balsamic vinegar.

Coconut Pumpkin Pie

1/2 cup flax seed partially ground
1 cup teff flour
1 cup almond chopped
1/2 cup sorhgum flour
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) coconut oil melted

1 can organic pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut milk chilled for at least 2 hours (use only the firm part of the coconut milk, discard the water)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup truvia for baking

Put the pumpkin, truvia and spices into a food processor and blend well. Add the coconut cream and continue to blend. Add 2 eggs. Blend well. Pour into crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving!

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Butternut Squash, Borecole and Pomegranate Salad

Kale is the new superfood, full of flavor and nutrients. Also called “borecole,” it’s closely related to wild cabbage in the way it grows. Kale has iron, vitamin K, and is loaded with antioxidant nutrients. Couple this veggie with pomegranate seeds and you have a powerhouse salad!

Compounds found in pomegranates are called punicalagins and have been shown to aid heart and blood vessel health. Punicalagins are the major component in the pomegranate that have health benefits. Some of the benefits include helping to lower cholesterol.

This salad is a delightful combination of savory and sweet flavors with the added joy of a crunchy and robust texture. Enjoy it as a quick lunch or a side to your main protein at dinner.


Butternut squash
4 cups curly purple kale (also known as borecole)
1 pomegranate
1 cup chopped pistachio nuts
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil


Place butternut squash in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Slice the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash and cube.

Place kale in a pan with a inch of water and cover and steam about 1 minute.

Remove pomegranate seeds and place in a bowl. Add chopped pistachios. Add to the kale and add butternut squash to the mix.

Mix together olive oil, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Add to the kale mixture and mix well. Can serve with any protein dish including fish, chicken, pork or tofu.


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Pumpkin Pie Vegetable Soup

The local grocery stores in Richmond and across the country currently feature a healthy array of squash and pumpkins in myriad shapes, sizes and colors.   What inspiration for the healthy chef!  This month, we are focusing in on different kinds of squash and the recipes that we think complement them best, allowing our readers (and cook-along-at-home-ers)  to enjoy the taste and color of the fall season.   This week enjoy a pumpkin variety that is usually used in pie, but turns out to be delightful in a savory and spicy soup.

Pumpkin is full of nutrients including potassium pantothenic acid, magnesium, vitamin C and Vitamin E; and let’s not forget fiber!

2 cups broccoli chopped
2 cups cauliflower chopped
1 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
3 zucchini chopped
1 pumpkin baked, peeled and half of it cubed and the other half will be pureed
chicken stock (I used Trader Joe’s 32 oz. carton organic chicken stock) or you can use it from scratch
1 teaspoon dried jalepeno (I use Penzey’s spices)
1 teaspoon oregano
Smoked salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Pumpkin seeds (I used the pumpkin seeds in the pumpkin)  or store bought

Head of time, prepare pumpkin seeds by spreading them out on a pan and allowing them to completely dry.  Add coconut oil to a saute pan and place over medium heat.  Add pumpkin seeds and allow to toast.

Add olive oil to a soup pan and place over medium heat.  Add broccoli, cauliflower, onion, garlic and zucchini to the olive oil and continue to cook until soft.  Add the chicken stock.

In a blender add 1/2 of the pumpkin and the vegetables along with the stock and puree. (I leave some of the vegetables in the soup pan to add texture).

Add the cubed pumpkin and season with dried jalapeño.

Top the soup with the pumpkin seeds and if dairy is okay for your diet add a dollop of greek yogurt or use coconut cream.


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Nut and Spinach-Stuffed Kuri Winter Squash

Fall’s a-comin’!

Kuri squash is similar to pumpkin but with a thinner skin.  It has a sweet taste to it, and when paired with savory sausage and walnuts rounds out to become a perfect fall dish.  Together, the ingredients provide all types of nutrients that will keep your immune system healthy throughout the change in seasons as the days become shorter and cooler.

Any winter squash is a decent source of cartenoids which are key antioxidant nutrients.  Three key antioxidants found in winter squash are zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin and lutein.  Antioxidant nutrients are important to neutralize free radicals.  Also present are vitamins A and C, manganese, B6, potassium and folate.  Winter squash is also very high in fiber.

Kuri Squash
Sausage (I used Trader Joe’s!)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 cups baby spinach
olive oil
maple extract
Kerrygold light butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add the squash to a baking pan that is filled with about a inch of water and bake until soft.

While squash is baking take a saute pan and place on stove on medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic, red onion and saute until soft. Add sausage and as it begins to cook slice it so it will begin to eventually crumble. Add the walnuts to a side of the pan and allow to toast in the oil. Once sausage is cooked through mix all ingredients together and then top with spinach. Allow spinach to cook through and blend into the sausage mix. Add nutmeg.

Take squash out of oven and slice in half and remove seed. In bottom of half of the squash add 1 tablespoon maple extract and 1 teaspoon of light Kerrygold butter. Then add sausage mix to each squash and place in oven and cook for about 10 minutes.

Squash 1

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Nutty Gluten-Free Peach Cobbler

This is another yummy summer dish that comes with all the taste and zero guilt, guaranteed.  It’s low in sugar and high in fiber, while the gluten-free flours are gentle on your stomach and easy to digest.  This treat also contains healthy fats, including monounsaturated fat from grape seed oil and omega 3′s from the sunflower seeds.  Sweet, juicy peaches meet crunchy oats in this dessert, and whether you bring it to family event or enjoy it on your porch during these last hot and sunny days, it’s sure to please.


5 large peaches, pealed and sliced
1/2 cup truvia for baking
1 cup gluten free oats
1/2 cup teff seed
1/2 cup flax seed lightly ground
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almonds chopped
2 tablespoons butter or grape seed oil
1 tablespoon maple extract
2 tablespoons honey


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice peaches and place in the bottom of a 8X10 glass baking pan. sprinkle with truvia for baking.

In a bowl mix together oats, teff, sunflower seeds, flax, almonds and then add the melted butter or grape seed oil.  Add truvia for baking, honey and maple extract.  Mix together and then add as a topping to the peaches.

Bake covered for about 20 minutes, then remove cover and let toast for about 10 more minutes or longer depending on whether or not the peaches are cooked through.

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Buckwheat Noodle Shrimp Saute

Tina absolutely loves this dish because it’s gluten free and full of fiber from the buckwheat noodles.  Buckwheat noodles and shrimp offer a good amount of protein as well. If you prefer to go vegan, add tofu or tempeh instead of shrimp.

Buckwheat noodles originated in Japan in the late 1800s.  Also called soba noodles, they’re made from buckwheat flour.  Buckwheat noodles are fat and cholesterol-free, and are a good source of manganese and thiamine.  Since buckwheat does not contain gluten, these noodles are a good choice for people following a gluten-free diet.


Tomato Sauce:

You can either pick up your favorite tomato sauce from the store or try and make your own.  If you do decide to go with grocery-bought sauce, pick one where sugar is NOT listed in the first four ingredients.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic chopped
1 sweet onion sliced and chopped
1 pound medium or large shrimp (shell removed, keep the tail)
1/4 cup fresh basil chopped
4 cups baby spinach
buckwheat noodles (1/2 cup to 1 cup per serving)

Sauteed shrimp and basil: a fresh and delicious flavor.

Add buckwheat noodles to boiling water and cook for about 5-7 minutes or until al dente.

Turn stove top on medium heat. In saute pan add olive oil and heat then add chopped garlic and saute until toasted followed by the sliced onion. Continue to saute until wilted. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp turn pink. Add basil and continue to sauté and then add baby spinach, once spinach is cooked remove from heat.

Add noodles to a bowl or a plate and top with spinach/shrimp sauté then add tomato sauce.



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Gluten-Free Very Berry Cobbler

Summer is the time of year we welcome family to our homes on a weekly basis, where cook-outs and campfires abound.  It’s not the time of year to slave over a hot stove with your family surrounding you in the kitchen.  In July, we want to be outside laughing by the pool or watching the kids run through the yard.  It’s the perfect time to impress guests with this fuss-free dessert.  Your family will love it and your body will thank you, all while fooling your mother-in-law into thinking you’ve spent the better part of an afternoon on this, and fooling your tastebuds into thinking there’s no way this can be good for me.

2 cups gluten free oats
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
1/2 cup coconut
4 tablespoons either coconut oil or Kerrygold light butter
2 teaspoons maple extract
1/4 cup maple syrup

Simple filling:
4 cups blueberries
1/2 cup Truvia for baking

(Ridiculously Simple) Directions:
Mix together above ingredients and then crumble on top of blueberries and Truvia mixed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes covered and then remove top and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Enjoy!

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Quick Chicken Swiss Chard Quesadilla

Here’s a delicious twist on the leftover.  We all know what it’s like to have leftover chicken and think, I really am not in the mood for chicken salad or chicken sandwich or anything else that involves cold chicken.  Tina prepares hormone-free chicken for dinner often, as it less fatty than red meat while maintaining a good amount of protein, and that invites the opportunity to invent leftover recipes!  This quesadilla is a quick recipe that takes no more than ten minutes, and is definitely a family favorite.  (Who doesn’t love a crispy, cheesy, tasty quesadilla?!)

1/4 red onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups chopped swiss chard
2 oz. of leftover roasted chicken
1/4 cup grated organic cheese
1 rice, whole wheat, or sprouted tortilla

Add olive oil to a pan and turn heat on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until toasted.

chix quesa 1


Add swiss chard and saute until wilted.

Add tortilla to a pan that has been sprayed with olive oil. Layer tortilla starting with chicken, then swiss chard and onion sauté then top with organic grated cheese.

chix quesa 4

chix quesa 5

Turn heat on medium and allow the tortilla to begin to heat. Fold half of the tortilla over the chicken mixture and let brown on the bottom. Flip the quesidilla over and allow to brown until crispy on the other side.


Enjoy this quick summer dinner!

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Crunchy Pistachio and Swiss Chard Quinoa

The quinoa dish we prepared at My Manakin Market was a hit, and as promised, here is the recipe!

We were excited to give folks a chance to try something beyond the standard pasta or rice dish.  Quinoa (“KEEN-wah”) is not a grain, but actually a seed; you’ll find it in the spinach family, believe it or not.  Quinoa loaded with fiber, magnesium, manganese and copper, and is considered a complete protein which means it has all nine of the essential amino acids the body requires to repair muscle.  It has double the protein that a grain would have (6 grams versus 3 grams per half of a cup), but  Tina still suggests combining it with either a meat, seafood, poultry, tofu or beans to increase your protein for the day.



2 cups red and white quinoa
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 sweet onion sliced
5 garlic cloves chopped
6 stalks celery chopped
2 cups shittake mushrooms sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of red or white swiss chard
1 cup roasted pistachios
2 teaspoons Penzey’s Orange Peel
1 teaspoon Penzey’s Szechuan salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme chopped

Swiss chard has a more substantial texture when sauteed than spinach, and has a bit more kick than kale.

Market Quinoa 4

Mushrooms cut into larger pieces add flavor and body to the quinoa.


Bring chicken stock to boil and add quinoa, turn heat to low and cook for about 20-25 minutes until fluffy.  (Stephanie recommends using a rice cooker if you have one: combine one cup quinoa and two cups water, increasing accordingly, and walk away.)

Start up a little oil in the saute pan with burner on low heat.

Celery, garlic and onion sauté.

Celery, garlic and onion sauté.

Add garlic first, allowing it to turn golden-brown.  Throw in the onions and continue to saute until completely cooked.

Add celery and continue to saute until celery is soft.

Include now the thyme and szechuan salt and pepper mix, and chopped mushrooms- continue to saute until soft.

Add swiss chard, allowing it to wilt like kale.

When veggies are good and done, combine them with quinoa and mix it all up.  Top with roasted pistachios for some crunch.

Add Penzey’s orange peel then adjust seasonings by adding Szechuan salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is just as tasty when re-heated, so make plenty for the family and lunch the next day.

Lighten Up, Inc. would like to give a special thanks to Lisa Dearden and ChicknEGG Productions for the opportunity to enjoy the market, and to the guys at Real Country Sausage who donated delicious, local, gluten-free sausage to the mix.


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