Hi Friends,

In celebration of national Food Day coming up this weekend I’ve got a fun Cooking Challenge for you. But first, in Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, he advised: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Wonderful words of advice that have resonated with many people around the world. However, with no disrespect to Mr. Pollan, I’d say instead, “Eat whole-foods. Mostly plants. Prepare them at home”.

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Did you know that cooking your meals at home is one of the best things you can do for your health? Evidence shows that people who cook at home eat a more healthy diet. Mostly because the quality of food is often much better and, you’re less likely to eat junk foods if you’re doing the cooking. For example, who’s really going to make homemade french fries and donuts everyday?

We’ve all heard that obesity is an escalating public health problem in the U.S. and in many other countries. This is of great concern because obesity contributes to so many other serious health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Part of the problem is the increased frequency by which people eat outside of the home. A lot of people no longer cook meals at home anymore. A few barriers include time and financial constraints, as well as the fact that many people simply just don’t know how to cook. No, microwaving a frozen pizza doesn’t count!

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I know, it can be hard to find the time and energy to cook. Even I, who loves to cook, find it challenging at times. But it’s kind of like exercise, even though it’s not always convenient to do it, we’re better off when we do. A friend once told me that she likes to consider her health as a two-year old child. You know how two-year-olds need a lot of time and attention? Well, just as you would never leave a two-year-old to fend and care for herself, likewise, you should never just leave your health to take care of itself. It needs time and attention.

When we cook most of our meals at home, we end up consuming less fat, less sugar and fewer carbohydrates than those who cook less or who don’t cook at all—that’s regardless of whether or not you’re trying to lose any weight. Some primary benefits to preparing healthful food at home are chronic disease prevention (lower incidence of gastrointestinal cancers, strokes, obesity and diabetes), longevity, and a greater sense of well-being and happiness.

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In celebration of Food Day on October 24th, 2015, I’d like to invite you to join PWC’s first Cooking Challenge. To enter, choose one healthy PWC recipe below to prepare at home and then post a pic of your version on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), with the hashtag #HealthyPWC and that way I won’t miss it! Also, please send a comment (here below on blog or via social media) to me, just to give me a heads up when you post your pic. If you enter this Cooking Challenge you’ll have the opportunity to win a copy of the best selling Forks Over Knives Cookbook. Only residents from the U.S. and Canada are eligible to win.

Here are a few simple PWC recipe options to choose from:

Coconut Golden Lentil Soup
Mediterranean Farro Salad
Quinoa and Edamame Salad
Mung Bean Soup
Ribollita: Classic Tuscan Soup
Rustic Parsnip Soup
Roasted Delicata Squash with Lemony Pasta (recipe below)

If there’s another healthy dish you’d like to prepare from the Recipes section, let me know. The cooking challenge will run from today, October 20th-25th. The winner will be announced on Monday, the 26th. Participants can enter as many times as you like. If you end up joining this Cooking Challenge, please post pics or links and tag them. This way I won’t miss them, use hashtag #HealthyPWC.

On another note, feel free to join our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge if you can!

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Roasted Delicata Squash with Lemony Pasta

10-12 ounces pasta (any kind is fine, I used gluten free macaroni)
1-2 delicata squashes, halved lengthwise and seeded and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 lemons (or more), zest and juice
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme), optional
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss squash with a little olive oil and salt and place half rings in a single-layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, turning them over halfway through roasting. The squash should be fully cooked and lightly browned on each side.

Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with a tablespoon olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, parsley and lemon thyme, if using, and salt and pepper. Gently toss roasted squash. Taste, adjust seasonings and serve.

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