Thankful Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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Thanksgiving has been one of my most favorite days of the year since I was small. But as an adult, its significance really grew for me, as it now gives me a chance to bring together family and friends I love, in my own special home, and serve nourishing foods that we can all enjoy while we soak up the gratitude we feel for this moment in our lives. It’s a holiday about being present, nourishing our bodies, and feeling surrounded with love and friendship. I cant think of anything better. I created these delicious Pumpkin ‘Cheesecake’ Bars (the cheesecake-esque filling is actually made with cashews and pumpkin) last year for my Eat Pretty Together coaching group and have since made them several times— each to the delight of family and friends. They’ll be gracing my Thanksgiving table again this year, and I cannot wait for another bite!

Enjoy them for the delicious, perfect fall dessert they are, and know that they’re also anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic (won’t mess with hormones or skin), and filled with beauty nutrition. They also happen to be vegan and gluten-free for your guests that prefer those dietary choices. Enjoy, I’m grateful for you!

Thankful Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Makes 16 bars

INGREDIENTS

Crust:

  • 1 cup GF organic rolled oats

  • ½ cup pitted dates (about 12 small)

  • ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • Pinch of salt (only if nut butter is not salted)

Cashew cheesecake:

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked 4 hours or overnight, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted

  • ¼ cup coconut sugar

  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see my favorite recipe p. 137 in Eat Pretty)

  • 4 drops liquid stevia (or omit and increase coconut sugar to taste)

DIRECTIONS

In a food processor, mix crust ingredients until a fine mixture forms. Press firmly into a 9”x 9” pan and set aside. In a high-powered blender, combine all ingredients. Blend, using a tamper to push ingredients down to the blades and stopping to scrape down sides as needed, until you reach a creamy consistency with no lumps. Pour over crust, smooth top, and chill in the refrigerator 5 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator, cut into 16 squares and return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Stocking My Fall Smoothie Cabinet

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If the arrival of fall brings you a weather change, you’ve probably noticed that your body is starting to crave some different foods. By all means, DO switch up your diet with the seasons, as it helps keep your body in balance and your skin happy (see Eat Pretty for more on that!). Besides shifting my diet to include more warming, grounding, cooked and spiced foods this season (all varieties of squash, sweet potato, beets, carrots, garlic, and late season greens have been in heavy rotation in my kitchen), this is the time of year when I restock my smoothie cabinet with extra immune support and as many powerhouse sources of nutrition that I can to prevent cold weather illness. This year I thought I’d share the essentials that I have learned not to go without.

A quick note: smoothies in the fall and winter are kind of controversial. Lots of experts recommend skipping cold foods while it’s cold out, for fear of inhibiting digestion and assimilation. I think you really have to decide what’s best for you. I thrive on the ease, the concentrated nutrients, and the digestibility of smoothies, so I make a few adjustments to make them more cold weather-friendly in the fall and winter:

1) I use warm water or tea as my liquid, which results in a room temperature or slightly warm smoothie.

2) I minimize the number of frozen ingredients (sorry, frozen berries!). Adding warm or hot liquids can help balance this if you must use your favorite frozen ingredients.

3) I drink warm lemon water (often with ginger and turmeric) first thing in the morning, before my smoothie, which helps jumpstart digestion and warm my body.

4) I reach for more grounding ingredients in the cold weather months. This is the time that I break out the beet, pumpkin, sweet potato and squash smoothies, always with a good dose of healthy fat and protein as well, which are filling and super satisfying in the winter.

5) Sometimes I skip smoothies and have a morning soup, which is a little like a smoothie anyway.

The Goods

Here’s what I stock up on to keep myself healthy through the fall and winter. Battling late stage Lyme and coinfections, many of these have become year-round staples for me! Plus, they support glowing skin and energy all day. You’ll find links to many of the specific products that are my favorites on my Amazon page— just click on the Smoothie Essentials List.

 Fall & Winter Wellness & Beauty Essentials in my Smoothie Cabinet:

Astragalus. This renowned ‘qi tonic’ supports immune health as well as head-to-toe wellness. I get mine from Sunpotion and love the quality.

Marine Collagen. When I use collagen (my favorite source is well-absorbed marine collagen peptides, and I buy from Vital Proteins), I notice much greater hydration in my skin. I also notice healthier hair! This one is in my cabinet all year and I use it several times a week. For more on collagen, check out my in-depth post.

Immunity Mushroom Blend. I buy this one from Om every fall, and often stock individual containers of some of its components, like reishi and cordyceps, during the rest of the year. I also cook with immune-supporting mushrooms like shiitake and maitake all the time during the cool weather season!

Spirulina. Packed with beauty minerals and iron, plus a dose of plant-based protein. I like versions from Nutrex Hawaii and Pure Synergy.

Mucuna Pruriens. I’ve been using this superfood for its mood boosting and nervous system-soothing properties, and I find that it’s an excellent add to cozy drinks on dark fall and winter nights. Think dandelion root lattes or golden milk. I love versions from Anima Mundi and Sunpotion.

Ashwaganda. This adaptogen can boost energy in the morning, and help you wind down at night. I love it for helping me handle stress in the busy winter months while supporting my immune system. I use the powder made from the ground up root in smoothies and teas, but Sunpotion now offers this as an under-the-tongue tincture (and you can win it below!).

Plant-based protein powder. Protein is one of the building blocks of your beauty, and it’s essential for fullness and steady blood sugar. In smoothies, I prefer Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah hemp protein because it’s made from whole, organic hemp (also super high in filling fiber), as well as Four Sigmatic’s Superfood Protein, which is very well-sourced (organic pea, hemp. chia, coconut, and pumpkin proteins) and also includes a range of adaptogens and mushrooms (meaning that you dont necessarily need to add more when you use this product!). Sometimes I’ll use protein from organic tofu, shelled hemp seeds, and raw nuts and seeds.

Fresh turmeric and ginger roots. These two are must-haves for my morning lemon water in the winter months, and at times I also like to toss small frozen chunks into smoothies (just make sure your blender is strong enough to break it up) to add heat from ginger and extra anti-inflammatory properties.

Spices. I love these for anti-inflammatory antioxidants that support your beauty and immune health, as well as warmth and flavor in the cooler months. Make sure your cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, etc are fresh so you can add yours. Check out page 137 of Eat Pretty for the Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend that I use in so many of my smoothies, drinks, and desserts in the winter.

Raw/Manuka honey. Or better yet- Beekeeper’s Naturals B-Powered Raw Honey with propolis and royal jelly (I love a drizzle of this superfood on top of a think layer of tahini on gluten free toast!). These are powerfully antibacterial and soothing to throats.

You’ll find links to a lot of the specific products that are my favorites on my Amazon page— just click on the Smoothie Essentials List.


Other Cold Weather Immunity Essentials

I also keep these immunity essentials in stock in the winter months (in addition to lots of whole, fresh foods, which are themselves the top sources of key immunity nutrients!): 

  • Liquid vitamin D3

  • A range of herbal and medicinal teas- Traditional Medicinals Cold Care, ginger, Chaga Chai from my local Lancaster Farmacy, medicinal tea blends from Mountain Rose Herbs.

  • Whole turmeric capsules from LifeSpa

  • Elderberry Liquid from Mountain Rose Herbs

  • Zinc lozenges (I like zinc + elderberry)

  • Liposomal vitamin C

  • Fresh garlic (crush it and swallow it down in a spoonful of applesauce) and sometimes even garlic capsules for convenience

  • Fermented foods- homemade kraut and probiotic coconut yogurt

  • Beekeeper’s Naturals Propolis Throat spray


The Giveaway

One winner will take home a signed copy of Eat Pretty (perfect for referencing the top fall and winter beauty foods and rituals), AND the brand new, just-launched Ashwaganda Transcendant Elixir from Sunpotion! It’s part of the lovely new Transcendent Elixir collection of tinctures. This tincture is so powerful— and so versatile—because you can take a few drops under your tongue when you need its benefits (including better management of stress, immune support, and a mood boost) or add it to warm water, tea, or to a smoothie. To enter, comment with your most essential items for immune health and glowing skin during the fall and winter. Contest ends at midnight ET on Monday, October 28th.

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Wakeup with the Early Fall Blues Smoothie

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Fall starts as a season of highs and lows, making us shiver and sweat, pile on scarves and shed layers, over the course of a single day. It’s a reminder that our bodies and skin are adjusting — and that our diets should too. Like spring, fall is a season ripe for supporting detox in the body. It’s a time to support skin cell repair and cell turnover, and ensure that you’re getting optimal nourishment before the winter arrives.

With these goals in mind, I created this sweet, earthy, and satisfying Early Fall Blues Smoothie— named for the deep shades of blueberries and beets inside (but also for the touch of sadness I feel as summer wanes). It’s loaded with antioxidants and a combo of protein, healthy fat, and plant fiber that will keep you full for hours. It’s also excellent for supporting skin clarity. Hope you enjoy it as a transitional beauty breakfast as fall arrives!

Early Fall Blues Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 beet, roasted and skin removed

¾ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

¼ avocado

1 cup filtered water

3 Tbsp raw pumpkin seeds

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

 

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a high powered blender and blend until smooth. Top with additional cinnamon or pumpkin seeds if desired.

Images and recipe © Jolene Hart.

Eat Pretty with Less Time: Beans

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Beans may seem like a pretty bland topic, but take a closer look— they’re refreshingly budget-friendly, loaded with the fiber we all need for detox, packed with protein + mood-supporting, slow burning complex carbs, and there are just so many delicious ways to prepare them. Yeah, beans are kind of the best. I also think they’re an absolute staple for anyone short on kitchen time or in need of a quick recipe idea.

But even with this long list of pros, I find that there’s a lot of questions and concerns about eating beans— aren’t they bad for the gut? Too hard to digest? Filled with anti-nutrients?

The short answer: uncooked or not fully cooked beans contain plenty of compounds that are hard on the gut and will bind to other nutrients (preventing you from absorbing them) if you eat them— but when do you eat uncooked or partially cooked beans? Soaking and cooking your beans (especially with a speedy method called pressure cooking) eliminates those concerns for you. If you frequently have trouble digesting beans, you’ll definitely want to double check that they’re soaked and well cooked— and you may also want to pair them with a digestive enzyme supplement for a time.

Here’s what you need to know for the most beautifying beans, plus an quick and addictive recipe for those days with little time:

Soaking. Here’s where you eliminate so many of the compounds that make beans notoriously hard to digest. All it takes is a little water and time. Say you’re up at 8am and you are thinking ahead to that night’s dinner— cover your dry beans in water and by the time you get home from work, they’re ready to cook (pop them in a pressure cooker for the speediest prep). Better yet, do your soaking and cooking during the weekend and keep already cooked, chilled beans in the fridge or freezer so you can grab them for salads, soups, etc. Soaking removes indigestible sugars by about 75%, and removes the majority of anti-nutrients that otherwise block your absorption of beans’ excellent nutrition. Pre-soaking also helps your beans come out whole and plump instead of split and broken.

Cooking. I love that the easiest way to cook beans also happens to be the best for your digestive health— I’m talking about pressure cooking. Pull out your instant pot, toss in your soaked, drained beans and additional water or broth (about 3/4 cup for every 1 cup of dried beans you originally used), kombu seaweed (great for furthering their digestibility), herbs and/or spices and you’ll have perfectly cooked beans in 15 mins or less, depending on the type of bean. This cooking method dramatically reduces lectins, the anti-nutrients that are found in uncooked beans.

Cooking on the stovetop takes longer and leaves higher levels of lectins in your cooked beans; but it’s also an excellent way to cook them if you aren’t pressed for time. For stovetop cooking, cover your soaked beans with about 2 inches of water and simmer, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.

Canned Beans. Choose carefully here— the best canned beans come in BPA-free cans and aren’t loaded with sodium (you can always add your own unrefined salts and spices for flavor later). Trader Joe’s offers organic BPA-free canned beans that I stock in my pantry for last minute dishes. In my mind, there’s always a last minute salad to be made with beans and veggies, cooked grains, leafy greens, or whatever ingredients you have on hand!

Favorite bean salad additions:

Chopped crunchy vegetables like cucumber, celery, colorful peppers

Flavor pops like kraut, capers, olives, sundried tomatoes, brined artichokes, pickled veggies

Tomatoes

Pre-grilled veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, eggplant, asparagus

Vinegar-based dressing

Whole grain mustard

Digestion-supporting spices like cumin and fennel

 

Simple Marinated Beans

Marinated beans are so satisfying with their combination of earthy beans, crunchy veggies, flavorful herbs, and acidic vinegar. Acetic acid in vinegar also helps slow the digestion of carbs in beans, keeping you full and your blood sugar stable. I serve this as a side salad, or a quick main mixed with fresh greens and healthy fats like avocado, olives, or wild salmon.

Serves 4

  • 3 cups cooked beans (mix to your preference)

  • 1 stalk organic celery, minced

  • Packed 1/4 cup fresh herbs (try parsley, dill, basil, or cilantro), finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely sliced

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tbsp vinegar (try a mix of red wine and apple cider)

  • Salt to taste

In a serving bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or let flavors marinate up to 1 hour on the countertop, or longer in the refrigerator.

Text, images and recipes © Jolene Hart. All rights reserved.

 

Detox Smoothie: The Springtime Pear

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If you've ever felt that you just didn't have time or interest in following a detox plan or a mapped-out cleanse, I hear you. While some detox programs do have excellent benefits, it takes time and effort to seek out a good one, stock up on the ingredients or supplements needed, and to follow its guidelines carefully. So most of the time, you forget the idea altogether. But detox doesn't have to be all or nothing!

This season, commit to one easy nature-approved detox strategy: incorporate more naturally-detoxifying spring foods in your regular diet. The Spring Beauty Renewal chapter of Eat Pretty outlines the full list, including artichokes, asparagus, and a green favorite that I use in the below recipe— dandelion greens.

The benefits of supporting your body's detoxification include glowier skin, increased energy, shedding unwanted pounds, and an immune boost that will aid you in staying well even after spring has passed. This is the season to focus on detox, to keep your beauty and body in balance. But I promise, it's okay to take a simplified route.

To get you going, here's an easy detox recipe that works as a light, blood sugar stabilizing breakfast (it has the key combo of healthy fats + clean proteins + fresh veggies/fruits). Feel free to add your favorite superfoods to suit your unique beauty needs in any season.

The Springtime Pear

This light yet filling and nutritionally balanced smoothie offers a trio of detox superstars— fresh dandelion greens, pectin-rich pear that cleanses internally, and chlorella— that support beauty and health in the spring season and beyond.

Serves 1-2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ripe organic pear, cored

  • 1 medium handful organic dandelion greens

  • 1/4 ripe avocado

  • 1 cup coconut water

  • 1/2 cup filtered water

  • 1 serving collagen powder (I like Vital Proteins marine collagen) or your favorite plant-based protein powder

  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp chlorella powder (I like Sunpotion)

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and process until smooth. If needed, add more water to thin to your desired consistency. Serve immediately.

 

Holiday Pfeffernusse Cookies

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What are you baking this holiday season?

I love these festive cookies for their addictive spiciness, petite size, and pillowy texture. Pfefferneuse (‘peppernut’) cookies are traditional German, Dutch and Danish spiced Christmas cookies that I remember eating as a child. They have a licorice-like anise flavor that may be a bit polarizing, but that I find festive and perfect during this season. I recreated the traditional cookie in gluten free, egg-free, and refined sugar-free form— and the result is perfect! Bake them in your own home as you embrace the darkness of the winter season and the soon-to-be return of the light.

Holiday Pfeffernusse Cookies

These cookies can be easily frozen and ahead of when you want to serve them.

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  • 1 tbsp ground chia seed (+ 3 tbsp water)

  • 2 1/4 cups gluten free flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill GF 1-to-1 flour blend)

  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tsp ginger

  • 1/4 tsp cloves

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp allspice

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined salt

  • 1/2 cup unsalted organic grassfed butter

  • 2 tsp anise extract

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar

  • 1/4 cup molasses (use blackstrap molasses for a less sweet, more deeply flavored cookie)

  • 1/8 cup coconut sugar, blended into powder (can sub conventional powdered sugar if desired)

 

DIRECTIONS

In a small dish, whisk together chia seed and water and set aside to gel.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a large bowl, beat butter, anise extract, coconut sugar and molasses. Stir in the chia mixture, and then slowly incorporate the dry ingredients. Refrigerate, covered, for 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll 1” balls of dough, flattened slightly on the bottom, and place onto greased baking sheets. Bake until the cookies start to brown on the bottom, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack and cool slightly.

Pour powdered coconut sugar into a plastic bag and drop cookies into bag, one by one, to coat them with sugar.

The Vegan Dish Your Instant Pot was MADE for

For meals in minutes, the Instant Pot lives up to the hype. I added one to my kitchen about a year ago and right away I loved that it would effortlessly cook staples like dry beans and grains that would otherwise take a lot of time or attention on the stovetop.

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What DOESN’T live up to the hype, however, are Instant Pot cookbooks. Not to be overly critical, but without fail, Instant Pot cookbooks seem to be peppered with recipes that require you to turn on the stove, the oven, a blender, or a food processor to make other components of a dish while your Instant Pot is working. That, to me, defeats the purpose of the Instant Pot!

The best Instant Pot meals happen right inside the pot (meaning they don’t require you to cook anything else simultaneously), and significantly reduce the time you’d typically spend cooking the same dish on the stove or in the oven. That’s not too much to ask, right?

This is exactly why risotto is such a winner in the Instant Pot! It takes way less time, essentially zero minutes of attention or stirring (typically the aspect of risotto that intimidates most cooks), and even uses substantially less broth (saving more for another recipe!) to achieve the same creamy, comforting effect. If you own an Instant Pot and haven’t tried risotto yet, here’s a place to start. Once you see the basic formula, you can add your own favorite veggies and herbs to suit your cravings.

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Risotto

This dish makes a cozy side dish or vegan entree and it comes together so effortlessly in the Instant Pot!

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, halved, seeded, and roasted (this can be done several days ahead)

  • 2 tsp olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 Tbsp rosemary, minced

  • 2 cups arborio rice

  • 4 cups broth

  • unrefined salt

  • ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

First of all, if I’m planning to make this recipe during the course of a week, I roast the butternut squash ahead of time while I have something else in the oven. I usually do some roasting on Sundays (beets, sweet potatoes, etc.), so I halve and seed a butternut squash (no need to peel!), put it on a tray and bake at 350-400 for about 30 minutes, until you can stick a knife in it and it pierces easily. Roasting requires little effort or attention. Once the squash is done, let it cool and store it in the fridge until the day you need it for this recipe. You don’t even need to reheat it before adding!

When you’re ready to make your risotto, this recipe will come together in 30 minutes but requires less than 10 minutes of your attention.

Turn your Instant Pot onto the SAUTE function, heat the olive oil, and cook the onion and garlic until it becomes aromatic— just 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and 1 Tbsp rosemary and saute for 1 minute more. Pour in the broth (if your broth is unsalted, add a little unrefined salt), cover and lock the lid in place, and set the Instant Pot to 5 minutes at HIGH pressure (make sure your lid is set to SEALING). After your risotto is done with its 5 mins at high pressure, let the steam release naturally for another 10 minutes (meaning, don’t release the steam via the pressure release knob). Use this time to grab your butternut squash from the fridge and scoop the baked insides out into a bowl. After 10 minutes, turn the pressure release knob to release the rest of the steam, stir the butternut squash chunks into the risotto, and add another sprinkle of chopped rosemary. If desired, you can add a little more broth for looser texture and season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Spiced 'Skin Glow' Smoothie

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Autumn foods like sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, squash, and greens are packed with nutrition that just plain makes skin glow— which is a great thing because this season of detox and transition can be tough on our complexions. These autumn foods are particularly powerful sources of beta carotene that helps increase cell turnover for smoother skin, balance oil production, speed up skin cell renewal, and protect against UV damage. If you’re looking for a place to get more of this amazing beauty nutrient in your diet during the fall and winter, try this smoothie, which also balances blood sugar with that key combo of healthy fats, protein, and abundant veggies (but still tastes sweet!). This recipe can be made with roasted sweet potato, pumpkin, or winter squash— and it’s delicious in all of its forms.

Spiced ‘Skin Glow’ Smoothie

This antioxidant-packed smoothie delivers the protein and healthy fats necessary to stabilize your blood sugar in the morning, while also targeting your skin’s seasonal need for extra healing and repair with beta carotene-rich pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato.

Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (try coconut, almond or hemp)

  • 1/2 cup filtered water

  • 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin, sweet potato or winter squash puree

  • 1/2 banana

  • 1 serving plant-based protein powder (1 to 2 scoops)

  • 1/4 cup raw pecans

  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

  • 1 tsp Eat Pretty pumpkin pie spice (p.137 in Eat Pretty) - or sub cinnamon

  • 1 tsp blackstrap molasses (optional for depth of flavor) 

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender and process until smooth.

Nourish & Detox: Sweet Autumn Soup

Ready for a sweet and comforting fall soup that will supercharge your skin with its beta carotene content and support natural fall cleansing to prepare your body and beauty for winter? This simple soup is the recipe for you. Kabocha squash is one of the most delicious types of squash, and it’s naturally sweet. The addition of apples to this recipe lends it even more sweetness along with detox properties, making this soup perfect to complement a savory dish. Or you can eat light and fill up on the soup by itself—if you do, try adding avocado chunks for extra healthy fats.

Sweet Autumn Soup

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Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tsp coconut oil

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • 2 organic apples, cored and chopped

  • 1 tsp fresh minced sage

  • 1 quart broth (I prefer vegetable broth in this recipe, but you can use whatever you enjoy)

  • 1 cup pure water

  • 4 cups roasted kabocha squash (about 1 medium)

  • unrefined salt

  • ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot or dutch oven, melt coconut oil and sauté shallot over medium heat until golden. Add apples and sage and cook until apples begin to soften. If foods starts sticking to the bottom of the pot, go ahead and pour in a little broth to loosen it. Add remaining broth and water, as well as the roasted squash, and simmer 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a high-powered blender in small batches.

For more beautifying recipes, see the Eat Pretty books and my recipe page.

BEAUTY FOOD FOCUS:

Kabocha Squash. Kabocha squash is a perfect beauty food for your eyes, thanks to its fabulous content of healthy vision nutrients, from vitamin A to the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin. The major dose of vitamin A from this winter squash variety continues to support the skin cell renewal and growth that your skin needs this season, while balancing dry and oil spots. It’s a powerful food for radiance! You’ll also get B vitamins (key for gorgeous, strong hair) and iron in your kabocha squash. To roast, cut your squash in half, remove the seeds, and place on a rimmed baking sheet greased with coconut oil. About 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven gives you super-soft squash that you can use in smoothies, puddings, muffins, soups, or mashed as a side dish. You’ll want to eat it straight from the oven with a spoon.

Apples. The pectin found in apple flesh helps the body eliminate waste more effectively, making it a must-have food for natural detoxification and even lowered cholesterol. Apples support healthy digestion in other ways, by supporting a healthy microbiome, which is essential for clear skin, immunity, good moods, and maintaining a healthy weight. The skins of apples (try to eat them and leave them on in recipes as often as you can—and try to buy organic!) are concentrated sources of beauty nutrients, including one phytochemical that stops the formation of wrinkle-causing AGEs and another that reduces allergies.

The Eat Pretty Formula for Easy Packed Lunches

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For some of us, the arrival of fall means a return to the lunchtime grind. For others, that lunchtime grind goes on Mon-Fri, 365 days a year, making it easy to lose steam and creativity. Whether you’re packing lunches for your school-aged children or yourself, getting confident with a basic, Eat Pretty-approved formula for the meal you assemble is a key jumping off point for (no exaggeration) thousands of lunchbox variations. Once you know the formula, you can get creative and listen to your body, knowing that there’s pretty much no way to mess up! And heads up: this is essentially the formula I use for every meal, every day, and one that has helped me to rebalance my hormones, find my healthiest weight, and enable my skin to glow. It’s also helped so many of my clients to do the same. So, here we go!

My Eat Pretty-Approved Lunch Formula

Ready to make lunch?

Here’s the formula: veggies + protein + healthy fat + bonus foods.

No question, more than half of your plate (or lunchbox) should be colorful, antioxidant-packed veggies. Roast them, steam them, eat them raw, dice them, spiralize them— it doesn't matter what form they come in. This part of your meal is super nutrient-dense, delivering fiber and phytochemicals that keep you glowing. Rotate these ingredients according to color, season, and/or cravings.

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Your lunchbox also needs protein. It can be plant-based or clean animal-based, depending on your body and your preferred diet. Aim for at least 10-15 grams of protein to help you feel full, burn food slowly for sustained energy, and deliver the building blocks of skin, hair and nails that is essential to your body.

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Now make sure that your lunchbox has some form of healthy fat. Fat nourishes strong cell membranes (locking in youthful moisture), and is an essential building block of your hormones (hello, better moods and clear skin). Think avocado, raw seeds or nuts, a drizzle of olive oil or a healthy fat-rich dressing.

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As a bonus, you can add something special that brings it all together and makes the benefits even more amazing, like fermented pickles or sauerkraut, dulse flakes, gomasio (check out the recipe in Eat Pretty Every Day), nutritional yeast, etc. If you’re packing lunch for kids or you’re going to be in a crowded place where you want to make sure your lunch doesn’t stink too much, leave out the smelly stuff. But this category can be an important bonus on days when you want to feel and look extra amazing. And if you know your goal is to eat more fermented foods every day for better skin and overall health, pack some in your lunch!

If you’ve used the Eat Pretty, Live Well journal, you already know what an Eat Pretty plate looks like. If not, here’s the visual:

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Your Lunch Style

I find that everyone has unique preferences when it comes to lunch style (hello, bioindividuality). I prefer a salad to a sandwich. During the warmer months, I prefer greens over grains as the base of my lunch, but as fall and winter arrive I turn to grains and warm lunches that need to be reheated. What’s your style?

Foundations (start with these and then pile ingredients on top)

  • Greens

  • Quinoa, buckwheat or other GF grains

  • Shredded brussels sprouts

  • Beans

  • GF pasta— try chickpea or lentil pasta for extra protein

  • Lentils

Colorful Veggie Examples

  • Any roasted veggies you have on hand (I love broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, carrots)

  • Cooked beets

  • Chopped raw peppers

  • Tomatoes

  • Cucumbers

  • Radishes

  • Steamed green beans

  • Cooled cooked potatoes- white or sweet potatoes

  • So many more!

Clean Protein Examples

  • Hard-cooked pastured eggs

  • Wild salmon

  • Beans- lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans are all amazing

  • Shelled hemp seeds

  • BPA-free cans of wild salmon, sardines, naturally smoked oysters (I like the Crown Prince brand for sardines and oysters)

  • Clean animal proteins that fit your diet

  • Quinoa

  • Plant-based protein powder 

Healthy Fat Examples

  • Avocado

  • Raw seeds and nuts

  • Hemp seeds

  • Olives

  • Dressings (see below)

Dressing and Sauce Ideas:

  • Turmeric dressing

  • Classic Balsamic

  • ACV dressing

  • Green goddess dressing

  • Romesco- red pepper and almond, parsley

  • Lemon and olive oil

  • Persillade

  • Chimichurri

  • Olive tapenade

  • Pesto

Bonus Food Examples:

  • Fermented pickles

  • Kraut

  • Raw seeds and nuts

  • Gomasio

  • Dulse flakes

  • Nutritional yeast

 A few past recipes that fit the bill:

Seeing Beauty Salad

Chopped Chickpea-Kraut Salad

 Miso Broccoli Lentil Salad

Notes for success:

Keep track.

Along the way, you’re going to find meal combinations that you love (and some you don’t). Make sure you write down the combinations that are winners to your body and your palate. I keep a list on my fridge of meals that I want to remember because inevitably when it’s time to grocery shop my brain draws a blank. As the seasons change, it’s also easy to forget meals that you aren’t cooking because ingredients are not in season. So next time fall rolls back around, you’ll remember exactly what meal you loved to cook with your butternut squash, figs, pumpkin, etc.

Shift your mindset: Instead of ‘I have to,’ choose ‘I get to!’

This is big- changing the way you approach making lunches can make all the difference. Instead of “Packing my lunch is exhausting. I’m too busy to do this for myself. I don’t have time.”

Vs.

Think: “Cooking is empowering, strengthening, even a rebellious act to some degree. I can make a little time. A little investment can change the way I feel day to day, and the trajectory of my health and appearance.”

So, what’s for lunch today?