September 29, 2017

4 Ways to Make Fall Flavors Healthy

Cinnamon, Apples, Pumpkin, and Squash What do these foods have in common? They are all great for bringing fall into your meal plans. These foods add a lot of seasonal flavor without derailing your diet!

I dont know about you, but my Pinterest feed and grocery store are bombarded right now with pumpkin everything! The problem with all these pre-packaged fall foods is they are usually crazy in calories, full of sugar, and a lot of processed snacks.

But guess what there are plenty of recipes and snack ideas that are smart, healthy, and nutrient dense!
Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Spice it UP with cinnamon.
Cinnamon can be a flavor game changer for things like coffee, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and apples. Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., cinnamon can not only help regulate your blood sugar, it’s particular flavor can also help you cut back on added sugar when you’re making holiday treats. 

When I cut the dairy from my coffee, I sprinkle cinnamon in it. This will get you right in the fall mood! Try this tasty apple crisp recipe with cinnamon, maple syrup, oats, and sliced apples. It is super simple too!

Fall in love with apples.
We may eat apples all year, but they seem to just taste better in the fall. One medium apple contains about 14 percent of your RDA for vitamin C and just over 4 grams of fiber. This is just the right amount to keep you full. 
Here are five quick and easy ways to jazz up your apples!
  1. If you’re short on time, peel and slice an apple, add a few teaspoons of water, sprinkle with cinnamon, and microwave for 30 60 seconds. Relish!
  2. Chop apples into cubes, mix with a few other ingredients and make this homemade applesauce recipe.
  3. Shake it up with a nutritious apple pie smoothie.
  4. Add apples like Ambrosia or Honeycrisp for sweetness and a pop of color.

Get creative with pumpkin...and not just carving them.
Pumpkins are versatile and packed with nutrients like fiber, vitamin C and A, and potassium. Its seriously low in calories (were talking only 30 per cup of cubed pumpkin). This makes it ideal to use as a substitute for butter when baking savory dishes.

Try these pumpkin muffins with maple cream cheese, instead of artificial pumpkin-flavored pastries. This recipe relies on pumpkin puree instead of sugar for the sweet flavor. Of course, these are healthier alternative but still count as a treat!

Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious. I remember carving pumpkins for Halloween in kindergarten (omg, how long ago was that?!) and then roasting the seeds.

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We cant forget about oatmeal, a quintessential fall breakfast or snack. Swirl a scoop of unsweetened pumpkin puree in your oatmeal, along with nutmeg and vanilla.

Bring on the butternut squash.
Just a short few years ago, I had never even tasted butternut squash. Im not quite sure how I made it, this squash is that good. It isnt only tasty but rich in fiber and important vitamins and minerals.

Craving comfort food? Try this recipe for butternut squash mac and cheese

Or whip up a savory butternut and ginger soup under 200 calories. 

And who doesnt love an all-in-one sheet pan meal? Add this pan roasted chicken and vegetable dinner with butternut squash to your next meal plan!

Hope these ideas and recipes help you keep your nutrition on track without missing all the fall flavors. Let me know if you need help with other nutritional recipes and meal planning! 

Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger

This butternut squash soup recipe gets maximum flavor from ginger, curry, and coconut milk. Freeze individual portions for quick meals anytime. That will for sure help with meal prep this fall and winter!

1 Tbsp . olive oil
1 medium onion , chopped
2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
1 thin slice fresh ginger , peeled, grated
10 cups cubed butternut squash (about 31⁄2 lbs.) 1 tsp . sea salt
2 tsp . yellow curry powder
6 cups low-sodium organic vegetable broth
1 cup coconut milk

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add onion, garlic, and ginger; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. 3. Add squash, salt, and curry powder; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes.
4. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until squash is soft.
5. Place soup in a blender or food processor, in small batches; cover with lid and kitchen towel. Blend until smooth.
6. Place blended soup back into saucepan. Add coconut milk; cook, over medium heat, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through.

Tip: Blend small batches of hot liquids in blender or food processor since they expand during the blending process, therefore increasing the chance of overflowing. 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

There are few comfort foods that I love as much as macaroni and cheese. Traditional mac and cheese is a diet wrecker, no doubt. Not only is it a comfort food, but I have never met a kid that doesnt love it!
Butternut squash puree is the newest ingredient to hit the mac and cheese scene.

This recipe has less than 300 calories per serving and 15 grams of protein! The recipe makes 10 servings, so it can feed a hungry family or make several servings for healthy meal prep. Add some chicken or beef, and you are set with an all-in-one meal!

1 lb. dry whole wheat macaroni
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 medium red bell peppers chopped
3 cups cubed butternut squash
13⁄4 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth
1 cup low-fat (1%) milk
2 Tbsp. low-fat (1%) plain Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional) Nonstick cooking spray
Finely-chopped fresh parsley (for garnish; optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Add onion and bell peppers; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 6 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Set aside.
5. Combine squash, broth, and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; gently boil for 22 to 25 minutes, or until squash is tender.
6. Place squash mixture in a blender or food processor; cover with lid and kitchen towel. Blend until smooth.
7. Combine squash mixture, macaroni, onion mixture, yogurt, and cheeses. Season with salt and pepper if desired; mix well.
8. Place macaroni mixture in a 13 x 9-inch ceramic or glass baking dish that has been coated with spray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling.
9. Garnish with parsley if desired. 

Pumpkin Muffins with Maple Cream Cheese

Pumpkin, muffins, cream cheese...perfection! These pumpkin muffins with maple cream cheese are a surprisingly healthy treat from Autumn Calabrese’s FIXATE cookbook. Pay close attention to the recipe calling for PURE maple syrup. Make sure you arent buying maple-flavored syrups with artificial sweeteners and colors.

This recipe also includes almond flour, which is gluten free and lower in carbs compared to traditional wheat flour. You can also use any other gluten free flour like coconut or blending baking mix. 

2 oz . cream cheese

1 Tbsp . pure maple syrup
1 large egg , lightly beaten (or flax egg if you have allergies) 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
11⁄2 cups almond flour
3⁄4 tsp . baking soda , gluten-free
1 dash sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
2 Tbsp . pumpkin seeds (purchased or
roasted at home)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Prepare nine muffin cups by lining with muffin tin liners or coating with spray. Set aside.
3. Combine cream cheese and maple syrup in a small bowl; mix well. Set aside.
4. Combine egg and pumpkin in a medium bowl; mix well. Set aside.
5. Combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; mix well.
6. Add almond meal mixture to egg mixture; mix until just blended.
7. Spoon batter into each prepared muffin cup, filling a little less than 1⁄2 full.
8. Spoon about 1 heaping tsp. cream cheese mixture into the center of each muffin. Evenly fill muffin cups 3⁄4 full with remaining batter.
9. Sprinkle muffins evenly with pumpkin seeds.

10. Bake 18 to 22 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
11. Transfer muffins to rack; cool. 

Homemade Applesauce

My son is crazy about sauceaka applesauce. If thats the case for your little one, try this homemade applesauce recipe that will be ready in less than an hour.

4 lbs. quartered apples (like Golden Delicious, Gala, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, or Jonathan) cored

1 cup water
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 to 4 1-inch strips lemon peel

1. Place apples, water, cinnamon, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; gently boil, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until apples are soft.
2. Remove lemon peel. Mash until applesauce is desired texture. 

Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds – 6 Ways

If youre carving a pumpkin this fall, dont throw away those seeds!
I remember roasting pumpkin seeds for the first time in kindergarten. I was truly amazed that we could eat the seeds. Can't wait to do this with my little guy soon!

Seeds are filling, nutritional powerhouses packed with healthy fats, fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins. They are also a great alternative for people with nut allergies.

Per each half cup of seeds:
Ranch Pumpkin Seeds: 1 tsp oil, 1⁄2 tsp sea salt, 1⁄4 tsp onion powder, 1⁄2 tsp parsley, 1⁄4 tsp garlic powder, 1⁄4 tsp dill, 1/8 tsp dry mustard, 1/8 tsp celery seed, 1/8 tsp paprika, 1/8 tsp black pepper

Pizza Pumpkin Seeds: 1 tsp oil, 1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, 1⁄2 tsp basil, 1⁄2 tsp oregano, 1⁄4 tsp sea salt, 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Dill Pickle Pumpkin Seeds: 1 tsp oil, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1 tsp dill, 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder, 1⁄2 tsp sea salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper

Salt & Pepper: 1 tsp oil, 1⁄2 tsp sea salt, 1/8 1⁄2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

Cinnamon Sugar: 1 tsp oil, 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar), pinch of salt
Sweet & Spicy: 1 tsp oil, 1 Tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar), 1⁄2 tsp sea salt, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/8 tsp black pepper (leave out the black pepper for less heat)

  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. When you start carving that big ole jack-o-lantern for the porch, remove the seeds and clean
    them. Remove as much of the pumpkin gutsfrom the actual white seeds. Then fill up a large bowl of warm water and transfer the seeds. Loosen any remaining guts from the seeds. Let the seeds stand for 5 minutes. When the seeds begin to float. Now, you can use a slotted spoon or hands to remove the seeds from the water.
  4. Place the seeds on a dish towel and pat dry.
  5. Transfer seeds to a clean bowl.
  6. Per half cup of seeds, toss with 1 tsp avocado oil (you can also use olive oil, grapeseed oil, or
    coconut oil).
  7. Immediately toss in a bowl with the spice combo of your choice. Make sure each seed is coated
  8. Spread the seeds on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
  9. Bake for 20 30 minutes, stirring two to three times while cooking.
  10. Seeds are ready when they begin to brown. As they cool, they will become crispy. 

Apple Pie Shakeology

Craving apple pie but working on your fitness goals? No problem. Unsweetened applesauce and cinnamon make this Shakeology smoothie taste like apple pie with whipped cream. Not familiar with Shakeology and want to try it? Let me know!
1 Serving

1 cup water
1 cup ice
1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Splash of unsweetened almond milk

1. Place water, ice, Shakeology, applesauce, almond milk, and cinnamon in blender; cover. Blend until smooth. 

Apple Crisp

This savory dish includes apples, walnuts, oats, and a touch of maple syrup. 

4 Servings

4 cups peeled sliced apples
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup divided use
1 tsp. ground cinnamon divided use
1⁄2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free oats if desired) 1⁄4 cup finely chopped raw walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Combine apples, 2 Tbsp. maple syrup, and 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon in a medium baking dish; mix well. Set aside.
3. Combine oats, walnuts, remaining 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, and remaining 1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon in a medium bowl; mix well.
4. Top apple mixture with oat mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until apples are soft. 

September 16, 2017

3 Day Refresh Details and Results

Until earlier this year, I never had a desire to do a cleanse. Primarily because of the name in the of itself sounded terrifying. My perception changed after I researched the 3 Day Refresh and did it. Let's all agree that calling it a Refresh sounds a lot better than a cleanse!

First things first, what is the Refresh? The Refresh is a healthy alternative to the traditional cleanses that don't provide nutritional values. Team Beachbody created a stratight-foward, 3 Day program that will give you a clean break from bad nutrition habits, feel immediately cleaner, lighter, and more healthy without starving yourself! So think about it like this - If you have fallen off the healthy eating wagon and want to ump right bac
k on, the Refresh will help. 

So what comes with the Refresh? The Refresh kit provides you with three packets of Shakeology, three Fiber Sweeps, six packets of Vanilla Fresh, and nutritional guides. There are not artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, caffeine, or preservatives.

How do you Refresh? You have Shakeology and fruit for breakfast. Mid-morning, you have Fiber Sweet as a snack. For lunch, you have veggies, fruit, and a healthy fat from the list in the nutrition guide, as well as Vanilla Fresh. Another snack mid-afternoon that is more veggies and another healthy fat. For dinner, you choose a meal from the nutrition guide and a second Vanilla fresh shake.

What is not part of the Refresh is living in the bathroom for 3 days. You also do not starve. The Vanilla Fresh shake has 20 grams of plant-based protein, as a well as nutrients and probiotics. It is actually very filling!
Ok, so what kind of Results does it provide? The first Refresh I did in June served multiple purposes, including weight loss. Fast forward a few months to this week, and I just finished my second Refresh with my only focus being Non Scale Victories (NSVs). 

Lately, I have been snacking on my son's food even when I'm not hungry. When I got home from the office, I was immediately thinking about what snack to sneak from the pantry. I was bored with my food and not following the portions that I plan each week. 

I already know the Refresh will provide weight loss results from my experience. In June, I lost 4.6 pounds and 3.875 inches in 3 Days. So yes, there is weight loss with Refresh! 
June 2017 Before and After
This time, my only weight comparison is from the last time I stepped on the scales mid-August. According to the scale today, I lost 2 pounds. I haven't been perfect in my nutrition overall this past month, so I will give 3 Day Refresh credit for those 2 pounds.

Back to my real reasons for doing this - NSVs!
  • Gratitude: I was sincerely grateful to God for each piece of food I ate during the Refresh. Not because I was starving at each snack or meal, but it shines such a perspective on how I take for granted the availability of food and the quantities I have available to me.
  • Snacking: I caught myself multiple times reaching for my son's food when I wasn't even hungry. Each time, I stopped myself and recognized this impulse. I realized this has become such a natural tendency and by Day 3 wasn't reaching anymore. 
  • Bloating: This can be a NSV and weight result, but I am focusing on the NSV piece of it. In 3 days, I lost all bloating in my belly, and my fingers were smaller. This tells me something in my normal diet is causing bloating. Now, I can work to identify what that is as I reintroduce meat, other veggies and fruit.
  • Mindset: Realizing the Portion Fix nutrition program that I primarily follow is AMAZING and SIGNIFICANT portions. Going back to these balanced portions seems like a gift. 
How often can you Refresh? You can do it monthly, responsibly. I plan to Refresh quarterly around holidays, vacations, or when I may have gotten way off track in my nutrition.

If you are interested in doing the 3 Day Refresh, I can help you! If you would like more long-term support, you can join my upcoming September Sweat Sesh 30 day challenge to kick-off our new Fall Boot Camp. We will focus on clean eating with Shakeology and fitness programs to match your personal goals. I provide resources and teach all that I have learned! 

Fall is a cray time of year, so join me! I will help you get back or stay on track!

Fill out my online form.
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September 12, 2017

Instant Pot Chili - Whole 30, Paleo, Low Carb

I can eat chili no matter what season. Who is with me?
But you better believe the first chance I get as the season turns from summer to fall, chili is on.

About five years ago, I really started paying attention to how food is either helping my body or hurting it. A dear friend shared this protein packed, low carb chili recipe with me. She is such a brilliant cook and made it up herself! And when my husband tasted chili with smoked sausage, it was a game changer!

Fast forward a few more years, and I paired that new food knowledge with portion control and balanced nutrition to lose weight. During that time, I learned that you have a darn good bowl of chili without the beans. Yes, there are nutrients in beans. However, eating beans on the regular doesn't settle well with my tummy.

Here is an article with a view from the Paleo diet that goes into detail on various beans. I do eat beans occasionally. However, I found my chili tastes as delicious without them, so why bother adding them.
Of course, if you think life will turn upside without beans in your chili, by all means - add them to this recipe.

So you know, I can't handle a lot of heat. If you love extra heat, increase the chili powder, add 1 tsp of cayenne pepper, and maybe serve with jalapeño.

These instructions include cooking the recipe in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop.
Instant Pot is not only quicker but makes a thicker chili, which I love!!

1.5 lbs lean ground beef
1.5 lb smoked sausage
1 lb choice of beef (sirloin filet, left over roast, etc.)-OPTIONAL
1 medium to large white onion
1 28 oz can whole or crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (fire roasted for extra heat)
8 - 15 oz can of tomato sauce
2 tsp chipotle smoked chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
4 tsp garlic powder, divided
Himalayan salt and pepper to taste

- Cook ground beef with 1/2 chopped onion, 1 tsp garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste. If cooking chili in the Instant Pot (IP), brown ground beef in the IP on sauté setting.

- If using fresh sirloin or another cut of beef, but into small pieces, cook with 1 tsp garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste, just until browned on the outside and rare in the center. If using leftover beef from earlier in the week, that is a bonus of one less protein to cook at this time!

- Slice sausage in small circles. Add sausage and 1/2 onion to cast iron skillet and cook on medium-high heat until sausage is crisp on the outside.

- Combine all cooked meat, onion, tomatoes, and remaining seasonings. Stir until mixed well. Take a quick taste to see if you think the flavors will meld to your preferred heat for chili. You can always adjust the amount of seasonings.

- If cooking in the Instant Pot, press the Stew/Meat button instead of Chili/Bean button. The difference is Stew/Meat cooks at High Pressure for 35 minutes instead of 30 minutes with Chili/Bean setting. Since you used the sauté setting for the ground beef, the IP usually takes around 10 minutes to get to High Pressure.

- When the IP beeps and is finished cooking, leave on Warm setting for 10 - 20 minutes letting it depressurize naturally.

- If cooking on the stove, I use a large stock pot. Bring to low boil.

- Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours covered, maybe even 2 hours to let the chili thicken. Stir occasionally.

I even tossed in some roasted purple cabbage steaks that I diced up fresh out of the oven. This added texture instead of using crackers, added to my veggie intake for the day, and introduced a whole new flavor. Another idea to add veggies and texture is putting a base of riced cauliflower in the bottom of your bowl, then topping with the chili. What other veggies do you pair with chili?

Let me know what you think and if you adjust the recipe to make it your own!

September 9, 2017

Cleaned Up Tailgate Recipe Round Up

Let’s talk Game Day!! Hooray! Roll Tide for me and my fam!! How about you?

For a lot of us, fall festivities revolve around our favorite football team’s schedule and kick-off times. Some may think that is sad. Others of us wait for it all year long!

Football season also means tailgating at the game and watch parties at friends and family member homes. Some of my all-time favorite tailgate recipes will bust a girl’s meal plan like two flat tires. Wait – I should say blow a girl (me) up like a new tire around my hips!

For the longest, I pretended like weekend calories and ooey-gooey cheesy dips didn’t count against me during football season. All the way up until the end of the year when I would try on my clothes and accuse my husband of shrinking them with hot water and dryer. Ok, I knew it was me, but it’s always easier to blame someone or something else, right?

I finally took responsibility for my actions (aka splurging during football season) and learned how to clean up a tailgate menu! Now, I teach other women how to do the same through online health and fitness accountability groups.

This week, I asked Challengers in my current Fit Life group to share a cleaned up tailgate recipe and their favorite Game Day memory. Women football lovers are passionate, I tell you!
Here are a few of my Challengers' favorite game memories and recipes shared.

Add these to your next tailgate menu for a clean-up version of a traditional recipe. Remember that even too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing! Portions are key to staying on track. So that means, you can't stress eat the entire dish even if your favorite team is behind at the half!

Recipe links are below each picture and listed at the end of the post. Enjoy and GO TEAM!

Tera - GO DAWGS!!
April - GO TIGERS GO!!
Wedge Salad Dip
Spaghetti Squash Pizza Nest
Bacon Cheeseburger Meatballs

Do you need help cleaning up your diet or getting started with a fitness program that will help you work on your individual goals?

My next online fitness challenge begins September 18th! I'm kicking off a Fall Fitness Boot Camp with a plan to take you all the way through football season!

Check out details HERE or complete the application below!
Fill out my online form.
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