Let’s Lunch! Smart Meal Prep Tips & Recipes #ReynoldsHeatandEat

Lunch, you gotta eat it no matter where you are – home, work, school, errands, gym, airplane. The issues getting in the way of my healthy lunch life are meeting up with friends who don’t have the same concerns about eating “food for function” as I do, finishing a workout that went well past noon and being so hangry that I could eat the entire Shake Shack on my way home, or being stuck on travel and having the only option be airport food. Note – I have a $25 Gift Card Giveaway at bottom of post. 

Lunch Meal Prep

However, I’ve found that with a little bit of front in effort I can prep my lunches in nice little containers for the week on Sunday – the payoff is obviously a healthier meal with ingredients approved by me, less crazy mornings gathering my grub up, and saving money – yes, saving money is good! It means I can pay all the high dollar fees for getting to and entering the races I love doing.

Meal Prepping Tips & Recipes for Lunch!

These are some basic tips that I use every week when putting together my meals and packing them up in to-go containers . If you’re a pro meal prepper, these tips may sound simple. But, if you’re new to the game of big batch cooking and assembly line prep, these useful ideas will help you get started!

Prep your protein.  The slow cooker and grill are my two go-to ways to prepare large batches of beef, chicken and pork for lunches (and dinners) through the week.   On Sunday morning, it’s so easy to stick huge roast or brisket in the Crock Pot and then walk away to enjoy the day. I use darn-big slow cooker (8-qt) so that I can make the most meat possible and have even been known to have two going at the same time! For the grill, Costco-sized trays of chicken or steaks not only are more economical to buy, but will hook you up for the entire week or month – depending on your family size. For fish, fill a rimmed, oiled baking sheet with your favorite filets or one huge piece of salmon and bake in the oven ‘til done!

Get your whole grains, beans & legumes going.  Brown rice, quinoa, and ancient grains hold up really well to making ahead of time and reheating later. Often, I find that pasta gets mushy during its second showing- not always though, whole wheat pasta holds up pretty well.  Use a large stock pot or rice cooker to get the job done efficiently – mine has a 20 quart capacity!   Another benefit of cooking a week’s worth of grains at once, less mess to clean up.

Switch up the sauces & mix-ins.  Often eating meal-prepped lunches can seem monotonous, choking down the same bland thing day after day. However, adding a small serving of sauce or handful of mix-ins is an easy way to transform the same old lunchbox staples into a wider range of flavorful meals – try pestos, Asian-inspired sauces, marinaras, salsas and so on! Even some fresh, no preservative salad dressings make a good option on hot and cold dishes. As for mix-ins, the little “extras” I rotate through include nuts, seeds, cheeses and dried fruits.

Use the right container.  If taking a salad for work, a large mason jar can be layered with ingredients. Keep the dressing on the bottom and delicate ingredients up higher, leaving a little headroom at the top so that you can shake it up right before eating.  I also like to take my soup in a mason jar, placing a layer of plastic wrap over the opening and under the lid to both help prevent leaking during transport and to serve as a splatter guard when reheating in the microwave – you don’t want to put that metal lid in there!  Hot meals can be reheated in a variety of containers, but I am partial to the Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers  (more deets below)– they hold a generous portion, are a great alternative to plastic and can be tossed in the trash so no messy containers to take home.  Store small portions of dressings, nuts, and cheese in baby mason jars, cleaned baby food jars, small plastic containers or snack-sized zip-bags.

Know your food safety rules.  When meal prepping for a week of lunches, remember most pre-cooked proteins and grains will only stay fresh for about 3 to 4 days in the fridge—I prep for Monday through Thursday and then do actually treat myself to lunch out on Friday! You can also prep your “plated” meal, or bigger bags of “ingredients” for assembly later, cool and place into appropriate freezer-storage containers – in the freezer, you can keep the quality for about 6 months.   I refer to this handbook of food storage safety tips from Real Simple magazine often.  If you can’t keep your lunch in the fridge at work, make sure you’re using icepacks than keep your food chilled until chow time.

Reynolds Heat and EAt disposable containers

As I mentioned, I am digging these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers (I purchased mine at Walmart on the food storage aisle where you find foil, plastic bag, wax paper, etc.).  Available in two sizes, these toss-away lunch tubs are a great alternative to plastic and are made with plant fibers.  The clear lids allow you to see what you’re grabbing from the fridge, but need to be set aside during the reheating process. Reynolds Heat & Eat disposable container at Walmart

Reynolds Heat & Eat disposable ContainersCheck these out for yourself by picking up a pack of new Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat Containers at your local Walmart – found on the food storage aisle. They are very reasonably priced and you can even save an additional $1.00 on one pack of Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers with this coupon.

Here are some recipes to get you going:

roasted-tomatoes-in-turmeric-sauce“Go for the Gold” Turmeric Hummus  can be tossed with pasta or zucchini noodles for a healthy option to a creamy sauce – another perk is that there is also added protein.

 

 

Beef Blue Cheese Date Jar Salad is full of protein and Iron Super Iron Boosting Beef, Blue Cheese and Date Salad relies on pre-prepped sliced steak from the freezer (or freshly cooked) and layers up nicely in a jar for on-the-go lunching. I’ve even eaten this one in the car!

 

Maple Pecan Raisin Butternut Squash Quinoa - thefitfork.comMaple Pecan Butternut Quinoa is a delicious fall-inspired salad that can be taken to work or school and eaten warm or cold.  Here’s a little tip, double up when cooking the quinoa for this recipe and bag the rest in the freezer for easy dinners later.

 

Shrimp & Sugar Snap Pea SAlad with Lemon Gremolata easily packs into a lunchbox served cold.Shrimp & Snap Pea Pasta with Lemon Gremolata – This is another dish that is just as good cold as hot. If meal prepping for lunch, I always leave the delicate veggies raw so that when I reheat, they don’t become mushy!

 

 

 

 

15 minute Beef & Veggie Fried RiceBeef & Veggie Fried Rice: I typically use sirloin or flat iron steads for this one, but prepping to eat several days in a row, I will swap up the meats with chicken, shrimp or just simply extra scrambled eggs for protein variety.

 

Don’t forget to GET YOUR $1 OFF COUPON for Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers!

walmart-25-giveawayEnter giveaway for a change to win a $25 Walmart Gift Card so you can try Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers yourself! Ends 10/20/2016 at Midnight CT.

Enter via Rafflecopter app below:

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Less Stress, More Sleep! 25 Cortisol-Busting Foods + In-Home Test

This post is sponsored by EverlyWell.com, however all opinions, experiences and enthusiasm are my own.

Turn on the television or flip through a magazine and you’ll be bombarded with the news that stress and lack of sleep causes health problems. Honestly, these reports stress me out! With three kids, a full-time job (I’m self-employed and typically work from home . . . flexible but often frantic) and a never-ending email inbox, I sometimes feel like my head is going to explode. Add to that a heavy training schedule to stay competitive in the sports I have a passion for, and I am often worn down at the end of the day. And the more tired I get, the less I sleep – it’s a cruel joke that being a middle-aged woman compounds even further.

jen and lucy grassLearning to treat stress more like my dog — if you can’t eat it, play with it, pee on it . . .then turn around and walk away!

I’ve been fighting with this sleep and stress problem for several years now, it’s a constant issue.  Often, I wonder just how bad off I’d be if I didn’t already eat well and exercise. I recently look a Sleep & Stress Test from EverlyWell.com a convenient medical testing company where you perform the tests on yourself in the privacy of your own home and then mail off the data (which things such as urine samples, finger-prick blood draws, vital signs, etc.) to a lab – the results are then delivered in about a week.

sleep funny

I recently received my results via email. It wasn’t surprised to learn that my sleep and stress hormones were elevated, I just had no idea that they would come back “sooooo” off the charts. Yeah, I’m an overachiever – haha!  So the EverlyWell Sleep & Stress Test examined four hormones and how they relate to each other (cortisol, cortisone, melatonin, and creatine) throughout the course of a 24-hour period.

everlywell results collage

So, this is a screen grabs of one of my test results, mainly I am sharing so you can see how the results are super-simple to interpret – an easy “visual” chart approach rather boring, confusing columns of black and white numbers.  So, as you can see, I’ve gotta problem – out of 4 tests with 4 measurements each (for a total of 16 data points), I’ve got 14 data points in the “high-risk category”  (most at the top of it) and 2 data points at the ceiling of the “elevated risk” category.

So, what does this mean and what does Everlywell.com say I should do to bring these numbers down? So, first off, let me just focus on the Cortisol today, it may be the most important. While cortisol levels do fluctuate throughout the day (and can be affected by exercise), they should come back down to a normal level by the next testing period. Sustained elevated cortisol levels have been shown to impair cognitive performance, dampen thyroid function, cause sugar imbalances, decrease bone density, disrupt sleep, decrease muscle mass, elevate blood pressure, lower immune function, slow healing and pack on fat around the abdomen. Oh, yippee – said no one ever!everly woman computerWhile EveryWell.com doesn’t make diagnoses (just the lab facts, ma’am), all test results are reviewed by a board-certified medical doctor and they do advise that I consult with my own personal physician. While I wait for an appointment, I can peruse medical articles that they’ve provided for me that address whatever my pressing issue might be – in this case, Cortisol & Adrenal Function and Cortisol: It’s Role In Stress. I also have the opportunity to ask their Chief Medical Officer a question by filling out a web-based form.

I’m also dialing in my already pretty healthy diet to focus on cortisol-reducing foods, pretty much anything considered “anti-inflammatory,” or high in zinc, folate, Omega3s, vitamin C, theanine, lyphenols, flavonols and all sorts of other soothing and stress-busting nutrients.  Here is a list of 25  Stress-Busting “Comfort” Foods if you want to get some of these on your shopping list – but, hey, don’t stress out about it!

25 Stress Busting Comfort Foods - a healthy shopping list to help reduce inflammation, cortisol levels  and issues with sleep.

Thanks to EverlyWell, it was simple and convenient to get the info I need to put together a plan to get the sleep and stress relief I need. They have all sorts of other regulatory-compliant home tests including Food Sensitivities, Cholesterol & Lipids, Heavy Metals, and more. I’ll be posting a full review and the findings from my Sleep & Stress Test in a week or two – but, in the meantime, if you want to save 10% use the code EVERLY10 at checkout. #KnowYourNumbers #EverlyWell

Another thing I just did to help improve my sleep – ordering these Anti Blue Ray Reading Glasses that obliterate the blue rays emitted by electronic devices (like computers, phone screens, television) that experts say can disrupt your ability to sleep. So far, I love them and I think they are helping! Available in a huge array of magnifications (I take a 2.0x) and frame colors.

***EverlyWell offers lab testing for wellness monitoring, not to diagnose or treat disease, or replace a physician’s consultation. Testing not available in NY, MD, RI, or NJ due to regulatory restrictions. EverlyWell does not provide medical advice and suggests sharing results with primary care physician. 

Do you have trouble managing your stress or sleeping enough? How do you get relief?  What is your favorite food from my Cortisol “Comfort” Food List? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer

Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Gremolata #GoForTheBOLD

This post is sponsored by Mountain States, however all comments, opinions and enthusiasm are my own. Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Gremolata -- a tangy sauce and grilled lemon slices will lift this lamb dish to the top of your favorites. Grills in less than 10 minutes and an excellent source of lean protein.

I had a wonderful weekend with my family cooking up new memories – well, grilling them up, to be exact! Sitting down together to a simple yet super flavorful lamb dinner was the perfect exclamation point to the end of our summer together (as school started back up Monday and our oldest left the nest again for 2nd year in college). Until recently, my three teen boys didn’t have many memories centered on lamb, but I sure had some recollections – and they mostly involved around stuffy Sunday dinners of yore at a relative’s home wearing uncomfortable clothes, shoes that pinched and being forced to “politely” clean my plate of mushy vegetables and an old-school prepared lamb roast.

Grilling lamb for our last summer weekend together!

Grilling lamb for our last summer weekend together!

After hearing various friends, from Paleo diet devotees and flavor-centric foodies, rave about the virtues of this red meat that’s been enjoyed across various cultures for century upon century, I penciled lamb onto my “things to grill sometime” list – oh, you how I like to grill everything! When Mountain States (producers of Shepherd’s Pride and Cedar Springs lamb, raised right here in the U.S.) sent some delicious looking lamb loin chops my way, they were bumped to the top of the to-do list – it was time to give ‘em my modern, fit foodie spin. If the speed at which my guys devoured dinner is any indication, you are going to LOVE my recipe for Grilled Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Spinach Gremolata Sauce. #GoForTheBOLD

Grilled Lemony Lamb Loin Chops are a quick and healthy meal solution, only 8 minutes to grill and packed with lean protein and other important nutrients.

Lemony Lamb Loin Chops

After marinating for 1 hour, lamb loin chops are ready for the grill!

The loin chops couldn’t have been any easier to prepare with a simple marinade, less than 10 minutes on the grill, and an easy no-cook sauce. When meal-making is a no-brainer, there is more precious time to spend with family and friends – mine will be seeing this lamb recipe again soon at my backyard Labor Day cookout.

Wow, my lamb chops and lemons grilled up in 7 to 8 minutes!

Wow, my lamb chops and lemons grilled up in 7 to 8 minutes!

If the weather turns too cool this fall season to barbeque al fresco, these lamb chops easily translate to an indoor grill or stove top grill pan. And, the bright lift of lemon will remind you of a beautiful, never-ending summer! You can see them here served with grilled Shishito Peppers (that recipe posted tomorrow).  Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Shishito peppers

While these lamb chops are delicious served unadorned, I prefer to drizzle them with a gremolata sauce prepared with olive oil, lemons and spinach (another twist on tradition).  I get so excited when this tangy, flavorful gremolata runs off my chops and into my grilled veggies, potatoes or pasta– it’s a versatile sauce to dress nearly every main dish, side dish, pasta and salad.

Protein-lovers, let me tell you a little more why lamb should make it onto your menu weekly rotation.  First of all, a 3.5 ounce serving contains approximately 25g protein, the optimal amount for your body to process at any one “eating experience.”  How many times have you heard me stand on my soapbox and tell y’all to eat 25g to 30g of protein at every meal – you need this amount for sustained energy, muscle management, healthy aging and more! Mountain States lambs roam pastures, grazing on grass, herbs and alfalfa, making it a great source of omega 3s (especial alpha-linolenic acid) and is also rich in iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin B-12 and niacin. If you want to try cuts other than lamb loin, every choice (which the exception of ground) is classified as “Lean” or “Extra Lean” by the USDA. Get more lamb nutrition information here. Mountain States Lamb Loin Chops - a lean, grass-fed protein choice

Shepherd's Pride Lamb - Raised without antibiotics or hormonesBecause I love feeling connected directly to the ranchers, I will keep getting my lamb from Mountain States. Mountain States (sold as the brands “Shepherd’s Pride” or “Cedar Springs American”) is a co-op owned by more than 150 hardworking families across the US who have been ranching for generations. These Shepherd’s Pride ranchers are committed to producing a clean, complete protein given no hormones or antibiotics, raised just the way nature intended. Additionally, it is the only lamb that carries the third-party Where Food Comes From ® source-verified label.  This means, with a scan of the label, I know exactly where my food comes from, where it was raised, and who handled it. Now THAT is some detailed data that will satisfy even the cleanest of clean eaters! Wondering where to buy lamb from Mountain States? When I used their Store Locator, I discovered (yay) my neighborhood H.E.B. grocery store carries it – or, you can ask your butcher!

For additional details on cooking and food safety information regarding lamb, please visit MountainStatesRosen.com.Go For the Bold US Lamb Giveaway

Check out this sweepstakes and enter for a chance to win US lamb and a patriotic dinner wear set perfect for your Labor Day party! #GoForTheBOLD

When is the last time you’ve tried lamb? Do you grill year-round? Any exciting Labor Day plans? Please share in the comments below! XOXO, Jennifer

Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Gremolata -- a tangy sauce and grilled lemon slices will lift this lamb dish to the top of your favorites. Grills in less than 10 minutes and an excellent source of lean protein.
Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Gremolata
Print Recipe
1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves ½ teaspoon white pepper ½ teaspoon salt
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 40 minutes
Cook Time
8 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 40 minutes
Cook Time
8 minutes
Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Gremolata -- a tangy sauce and grilled lemon slices will lift this lamb dish to the top of your favorites. Grills in less than 10 minutes and an excellent source of lean protein.
Lemony Lamb Loin Chops with Gremolata
Print Recipe
1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 cup packed baby spinach leaves ½ teaspoon white pepper ½ teaspoon salt
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 40 minutes
Cook Time
8 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 40 minutes
Cook Time
8 minutes
Instructions
  1. Add lamb chops, oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper to heavy-duty plastic zip-top bag. Move the chops around in the bag until well-coated with marinade. Marinate for 1 hour to overnight in the refrigerator, no longer than 12 hours.
  2. After marinating, remove chops from marinade and discard remaining liquid. Season to preference with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat gas or charcoal grill to approximately 400F degrees. Grill chops with the lid up, flipping once, for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees (medium-rare).
  4. While lamb is grilling, also grill lemons for several minutes per side, or until beginning to lightly char. Transfer chops and lemon slice to platter and rest for at least three minutes before serving or slicing.
  5. While lamb is resting, place all ingredients for gremolata in food processor or blender and pulse until partially smooth but with small spinach pieces.
  6. Serve chops with a grilled lemon sauce and drizzle of gremolata.
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Good Morning! Plantain and Lentil Coffee Cake (gluten free)

Plantain Lentil Coffee Cake  Today I’m sharing a mouthwatering and marvelously moist (apologies haters of that word) cake that’s approved (by me) to eat along with your cuppa Joe at breakfast . . . or at lunch or dinner, for that matter. It’s a Plantain Lentil Coffee Cake! No, I’m not pulling your LEGume, but I did use legumes (that is, lentils from Farmer Direct Co-op) to keep my quick-to-fix cake tantalizing tender as well as boost up the nutrition.

Plantain and Lentil Coffee Cake is free of refined sugar and the lentils add extra protein and fiber!

This yummy, quick-to-fix cake is a healthy solution for those sweet breakfast or snack cravings. Free of high-gylcemic sugars and overly-refined flours and grains, this recipe relies on the wholesome goodness from plantains, lentils and a gluten-free baking mix. I used a one-to-one measure sugar replacement to keep the calories and carb count down – my go-to is Ellyndale Naturals™ Sugarless Sugar™ from NOW Foods. But, you can also swap in a different sweetener, like coconut sugar, if you prefer.

Farmer Direct Co-op Lentils

I use Farmer Direct Co-op as my source lentils, these little green gems are organic, non GMO and fair trade.  In the past, I had a hard time thinking of uses for lentils past soups or stews . . . or keeping a jar of cooked lentils in the fridge to sprinkle on my salads. But then I had a light bulb moment –why not use pureed lentils (or beans) in recipes for baked goods to add moistness with less oil – plus more fiber and protein!

slice plantain lentil cake toes

I knew my kids would be suspicious if I told them we were eating a cake made of plantains and lentils – so I didn’t say a word. When they gobbled it up and asked for more “banana bread,” I knew this recipe was a winner! While I have cooked it in a 10” pie dish, it also bakes up well in an 8” x 8” brownie pan or as 12 standard-sized muffins.

farmer direct logoWhen it comes to being organic, farmer-owned and fair-deal, Farmer Direct Co-op is 100-percent all of the above and more. Their mission is to promote their co-op farmer’s organic products while building and promoting a healthy environment and socially just food system. When you purchase from Farmer Direct Co-op, you’re buying more than a pea, a lentil or a bean . . you’re buying into part of an evolution of eating aimed at truly nourishing the mind, body and soul.

Head on over to Farmer Direct Co-op to learn more about their awesome company and products like 1lb. shelf bags of Pinto Beans, French Green Lentils, Split Green Peas, Regular Rolled Oats and Quick Rolled Oats. STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY!  They also have a nice collection of healthy recipes on their blog made with whole foods.

Have you ever used beans or lentils in a a baked recipe, how so?! Please share in the comments, XOXO — Jennifer 

This post is sponsored by Farmer Direct Co-Op, however all opinions, comments and enthusiasm are my own.

Plantain Lentil Coffee Cake
Plantain and Lentil Coffee Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
9 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings Prep Time
9 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Plantain Lentil Coffee Cake
Plantain and Lentil Coffee Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
9 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings Prep Time
9 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
35 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Cook lentils in water according to package instructions, let cool to room temperature. Drain cooking liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  3. Add cooked lentils to food processor along with chopped plantain and almond milk. Process until reasonably smooth. Pulse in one egg oil and coconut oil until combined.
  4. Remove work bowl from processor and add sugar substitute, stirring in to combine. Add baking mix and mix until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula, as needed.
  5. Pour batter into baking 10-inch round or 8" x 8" square baking dish coated with coconut oil spray. Sprinkle top of batter with shredded coconut and sliced almonds (or tiger nuts).
  6. Bake at 350 F degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center pulls clean. Let cook and cut into nine slices served with a drizzle of honey over the top.
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Brazilian Beef and Plantain Breakfast Bowl

Brazilian Beef and Plantain Breakfast Bowl

One bite of my Brazilian Beef & Plantain Bowl (with egg, honey and toasted coconut) and you’ll happily say “Tchau” to a tower of pancakes, waffles or buttered toast in the morning!  Loaded with protein, quality complex carbohydrates, iron, potassium and other essential nutrients, this easy breakfast made with leftover steak will fuel you for a full morning of demanding activities! The flavor combination may sound weird, but trust me, it’s so delicious! Pra caramba!

Brazilian Beef & Plantain Breakfast Bowl is a healthy way to start the day, packed with 28g protein and quality complex carbs for energy.

The protein in the recipes is a combination of 3-oz. left over lean steak (like top sirloin, strip, tenderloin, flat iron, etc.) and a single, sunny-side up egg. Along with a little bit from the plantain, you’re getting about 28 grams of protein with this meal – the ideal amount to consume in a single sitting.

Each Day is a New Start! It’s the perfect morning meal for a Protein Challenge!  Each day is a new start, so beat yourself up if your diet wan’t exactly “on point” yesterday — you get a new chance to eat well today!

I always feel best when I’m eating 25g – 30g protein evenly spaced at each meal. Plus, it helps prevent snacking!

 

 

If you’re not familiar with plantains, you can typically find them in most grocery stores in the “exotic produce” area. This “vegetable-banana” is a less sweet and a little more starchy tasting than a regular banana – but so yummy when baked, microwaved or sautéed! They are a common ingredient in the cuisine of Mexico and Central / South America and in Brazil go by their Portuguese name of “banana-da-terra.”

Oh, and now for something crazy beef & bananas that isn’t actually food! It’s me planking until failure the other day before teaching a Grilling 101 class at the Texas Beef Council. 

pinners conference pic 1I’ll teaching a class on “Empowered Meal Prep – Protein for Fitness”  at the Pinner’s Conference in Dallas on Sept 9 & 10th. I’ll be sharing this Brazilian Beef & Plantain Breakfast Bowl along with a delicious Molasses & Pepper Flat Iron Steak recipe and Super Iron-Boosting Steak Spinach Salad. Sign up for my class, I’ll also have beef swag and lots of tasty samples!  Use the discount code FITFORK at online registration to save 10% on the very reasonable cost that allows you access to 100+ classes on food, fitness, crafts, home décor and more! Or, if you just want General Admission to shop and see the sights (no classes), you can get a free pass ($7 at door) using FREESHOPPING. RESISTER HERE

Have you ever used plantains in a recipe? Do you have a planking hashtag for me?  Are you watching the Summer Olympics? What has your favorite moment been so far? Please share in comments, XOXO – Jennifer

 

Brazilian Beef and Plantain Breakfast Bowl
Brazilian Beef and Plantain Breakfast Bowl
Print Recipe
Power up your day in savory-sweet South American style with this hearty, protein-rich steak breakfast bowl featuring plantains, coconut, honey and an egg!
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Brazilian Beef and Plantain Breakfast Bowl
Brazilian Beef and Plantain Breakfast Bowl
Print Recipe
Power up your day in savory-sweet South American style with this hearty, protein-rich steak breakfast bowl featuring plantains, coconut, honey and an egg!
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Add coconut oil to medium skillet and bring to medium-high heat. Sauté chopped plantains and yellow peppers for approximately 6 to 7 minutes, or until plantains turning golden brown and peppers softening.
  2. In the last 90 seconds or so of cooking, stir in steak chunks to gently reheat without overcooking. Slide the steak mixture into 4 cereal-sized bowl and set aside.
  3. Immediately poach or fry eggs to your preferred level of yolk “doneness.” Slide a cooked egg on top of each bowl of beef mixture and season with salt, pepper, sprinkle of coconut and a drizzle of honey!
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Keep Austin Weird Beef, Veggie and Watermelon Stir-fry

Beef Veggie and Watermelon Stir FryI have been waiting all summer to share this recipe – Beef, Veggie & Watermelon Stir-Fry!  –It’s steak “meats” watermelon (and loads of fresh veggies) atop of a plate of slightly chewy, insanely satisfying udon noodles. Earlier this year, the Texas Beef Council asked me to come up with my personal take on a Texas food tradition. “Focus on pasta,” they said, and “make it your own.”

Most of us know by now what happens when I’ve been let off the proverbial leash like that – I can go a little wild. But, my creativity isn’t random; it makes sense – to me, anyway!  My jam is merging together seemingly unlikely ingredients to make a beautiful recipe that not only comes together easily but also optimizes nourishment to support an active lifestyle.

watermelon carrots beans peppersYou might be wondering how my Beef, Veggie & Watermelon Stir-Fry a Texas “thang” – there’s no BBQ sauce in sight!  The Texas spirit is found in the local lean beef and farmer’s market produce sourced from these here Central Texas parts. It also has that far-out, Far East fusion flavor going on that’s so popular with some of the food trucks found down in the hip and happening parts of Austin that do their best to Keep Austin Weird. Heck, I do my best to Keep Austin Weird!

jen vw bus

I’m especially excited how this fit and fresh dish pairs up BEEF with WATERMELON as these are two of my all-time favorite foods ever in the history of all time, period.

Beef Veggie and Watermelon Stir Fry

This 30 minute dinner recipe features Top Sirloin, a super-lean cut of beef that has only about 5g fat and 150 calories per 3-ounce serving (along with about 26g protein)! Eating a protein portion approximately this size (25 – 30g), three to five times a day, gives me the power to feel fuller longer, stay active longer, and maintain a leaner muscle-to-fat body ratio. Of course, my meals aren’t always beef (variety is the spice of life, ya know), but lean beef is an AWESOME, nutrient-dense (think ZIP: Zinc, Iron, Protein) go-to choice that works beautifully in my life several times per week (or more).

profile facebook beef protein challengeIf you want to join the free Protein Challenge to learn more about how tweaking the protein intake in our life can help you feel and look better, sign up here.

 

 

 

 

 

What about the watermelon? Well, first off – it just screams summer in Central Texas.  I can’t think of a picnic, river tubing trip or day at the lake spent without sharing a huge watermelon with family and friends. If you’ve not ever tried watermelon warm and spiced up a bit, get ready to live on the wedge! The sweet heat flavor is fantastic and the high water content of this juicy fruit (92% water) helps keep you hydrated on most blazing hot days. Plus, watermelon is low in calories and a great source of electrolytes and antioxidants that help support my lifestyle as an athlete. Oh, and you’re going to LOVE the sprouted watermelon seeds sprinkled on the to — despite what your mama may have said, you CAN eat watermelon seeds (they’re very nutritious)!

Summer Squat Challenge -- Do 100 squats per day from this mix an match list!Learn much more about Watermelon for Fitness (uhh and don’t miss my Watermelon Workout Videos) at Watermelon.org. Here’s a little Watermelon Squat Workout I dare ya to try!

Note on the noodles: You don’t necessarily have to use the Udon noodles, I like to incorporate them when I need a little more carb energy in my life for long runs and endurance events. A great gluten-free option would be Soba noodles (made of buckwheat which is gluten free) or rice noodles . . . or just rice. I’m also going to make this dish in the future and try it totally grain-free by using spiralized zucchini or summer squash!

What have you been stir-frying lately? Favorite Fruit? Favorite type of Squat? Noodles, rice or nothing?  Please share in the comments  – XOXO, Jennifer 

This post was sponsored by The Texas Beef Council and the Beef Check Off, however all opinions, comments, enthusiasm and weirdness are my own. 

 

Beef Veggie and Watermelon Stir Fry
Beef, Veggie and Watermelon Stir-fry
Print Recipe
This fit and fresh dish features top sirloin, my favorite cut of lean beef, paired with farmer’s market-fresh produce, flavors of the Far East, and some funky South Congress food truck fusion. Keep Austin weird!
Servings
4 servings
Servings
4 servings
Beef Veggie and Watermelon Stir Fry
Beef, Veggie and Watermelon Stir-fry
Print Recipe
This fit and fresh dish features top sirloin, my favorite cut of lean beef, paired with farmer’s market-fresh produce, flavors of the Far East, and some funky South Congress food truck fusion. Keep Austin weird!
Servings
4 servings
Servings
4 servings
Instructions
  1. Toss together beef with garlic, water, soy sauce and sesame oil. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, stir together hot water with cornstarch until dissolved. Stir in watermelon juice, lime juice, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 to 2 tablespoons Sambal Oelek according to personal preference for spicy heat.
  3. Drain and discard marinade from beef. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over high heat. Add one-half of beef to skillet and brown for 45 seconds without stirring. With tongs, quickly turn beef and cook additional 30 seconds or until barely browned. Take care not to overcook. Transfer to a warm plate immediately. Repeat browning with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and beef.
  4. Add final 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet and bring to medium-high heat. Add green beans and peppers and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add matchstick carrots and ginger and stir-fry an additional 1 minute. Add cooked beef and watermelon juice-chili sauce mixture and stir-fry another 1 minute, or until slightly thickened. Remove from skillet from heat and stir in watermelon.
  5. Garnish with chopped green onions and sprouted watermelon seeds. Serve immediately with prepared udon noodles.
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Habanero BBQ Almonds + Giveaway for #YogaLovers

buddhi box yogaI recently hinted at a delicious spicy-sweet almond snack I made with local products in my Active in Austin post. My recipe for 5-minute Habanero BBQ Almonds is a great hunger-squashing snack that you absolutely must make for all your on-the-go summer activities. And, if one of your summer activities is YOGA — then check out the bottom of my post for a Buddhi Box giveaway!

5 minute Habanero BBQ Almonds make a healthy snack  -- protein, fiber and other important nutrients.

Not only is this snack super easy to make in the skillet in about 5 minutes, it’s packed with flavor and the satiating nutrition from almonds. Almonds are such a great snack for athletes and everyone — the are definitely the superfood they are cracked up to be!  This nutrient-dense nut is packed with good monounsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins such as riboflaven and trace minerals such as magnesium.

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Get recipes and wellness tips to help you boost daily intake of protein!Almonds are also a great snack choice if you are on the #ProteinChallenge. If you’re not participating in this free challenge, sign up today here. It’s a great way to learn how to slightly readjust your eating patterns to include adequate protein spaced throughout the day. In turn, you should have more energy, a desire to snack less on unheathy carbed-out, processed foods and be better able to achieve or maintain a lean body mass.

Also, you’re going to laugh, but I think that this Habanero BBQ Almond recipe helps you stay hydrated. Say what? That’s because the spicy habanero pepper is one of the hottest peppers in town and it will encourage you to drink more water

buddi box logo

I also want to tell you about a new box I am loving right now — the Buddhi Box. It’s “The Monthly Subscription Box that will Kick Your Asana into Gear”. This ultimate yogi care package is filled with deluxe samples and full-sized products that will appeal and delight those just starting a yoga practice or that have been on the journey for some time. You can learn more about the products and the services HERE.

Buddi Box is a specially curated monthly subscription box for the yoga enthusiast.

My recent Buddhi Box included a full-sized book packed with every imaginable yoga pose (I’m still trying them all out), daring ballet sock with gripper feet (feet stay covered in class, but no slipping and sliding), a scented soy candle and sample of hemp seeds (ooh, love those).

One of you lucky readers will win your own Buddhi Box by entering the giveaway below. What’s in the winner’s yoga subscription box? I don’t know! That’s the fun element of surprise that comes with these specially-curated collections of products — even though I don’t know whats coming, I always LOVE everything!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5-minute Habanero BBQ Almonds
Print Recipe
This slightly smoky-sweet and definitely spicy almonds make a great protein-rich snack to fuel your active lifestyle. They are made in less than 5 minutes in a skillet -- low mess, low fuss!
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 1 minute
Cook Time
4 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 1 minute
Cook Time
4 minutes
5-minute Habanero BBQ Almonds
Print Recipe
This slightly smoky-sweet and definitely spicy almonds make a great protein-rich snack to fuel your active lifestyle. They are made in less than 5 minutes in a skillet -- low mess, low fuss!
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 1 minute
Cook Time
4 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 1 minute
Cook Time
4 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. To make, heat skillet to medium- high over stovetop.
  2. Stir in 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, 2 teaspoons habanero sauce, 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Cook over medium-low for 4 minutes to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until sauce is carmalizing and sticking to almonds.
  3. Remove from skillet and let cool a few minutes. Eat warm or at room temperature. May be stored in an air-tight container.
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Protein Timing for Endurance Athletes + Thermos® Shaker Bottle

Thermos Brand Shaker Bottle
Before I get on my soapbox about protein, let me tell you this post is sponsored by Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle.  Of all the shaker bottles that have come and gone (quickly) my life, this one is a keeper and hands-down the best!  It’s made of safe materials, shatter-proof (important if you’ve seen some of my workouts), and resistant to leaks – the lid screws on tightly and there is actually a push-button release cap on the spigot!

Breaking up with these old shaker bottles wasn't hard to do!

Breaking up with these old shaker bottles wasn’t hard to do!

As one whom has spilled time and time again, over the front of my shirt, on the car upholstery and all inside my gym bag, this “leak proof” feature is a huge selling point with me. Anyway, Thermos®  is holding a giveaway for 10 of these very-impressive vessels – go here to enter! And read down to the bottom of the post where I have more deets on this must-have nutrition gear for the athlete. Now, onto the protein . .

PROTEIN TIMING FOR ENDURANCE ATHLETES — RUNNERS, TRIATHLETES, SWIMMERS, ULTRA MARATHONERS, OBSTACLE COURSE RACERS, MOUNTAIN BIKERS, ECO ADVENTURE TYPES, MUD RUNNERS, ROWERS, SKIERS — I’M TALKING TO YOU!

Timing IS everything, especially when it comes to protein and the endurance athlete. Not only does adequate protein consumption provide sustained energy for the day’s routine activities, it helps to rebuild muscle taxed by strenuous exercise, and makes it easier to maintain a lean body mass, even as we age.  I’m excited to share with you what I’ve learned over years of listening to and working with various experts on the topic and sharing the personal protein strategy I use to keep a low body fat percentage and fuel my performance as a runner and obstacle course athlete.

Jennifer Fisher - Beef Sirloin Steaks

What? Is this too much protein for one meal?

How much protein is enough or too much and how much do you eat? I get this question all the time. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound – that’s about 56 grams per day for the average non-active man or 46 grams per day for the average non-active woman. This RDA calculates out to about 10% of suggested daily caloric intake. You might be surprised to find out that the 45 to 56 g protein just mention is the equivalent of 6 to 8 ounces of a lean animal-based protein like chicken, fish or beef! However, the modest RDA was set a long time ago, during a time food rationing during war, and is widely considered by most nutritionists to be the minimum amount needed to keep from becoming malnourished and sick!  Today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that we should be taking in from 10% to 35% of daily calories from various forms of protein, depending on our needs and activity levels.

Jennifer Fisher - Beef Team Elite Runner

Endurance athletes like marathon runners and triathletes need more protein than the average couch potato, and calories as well. Our busy bodies need protein to more efficiently process carbohydrates into quick fuel and to rebuild (and even grow) muscle. You can’t really eat too much protein, many dieters have had success on a high-fat, higher protein Keto diet. However, when it comes to protein, there is a point of diminishing returns for an athlete. Remember, the body can only process about 25 – 30 grams per meal or snack, regardless of your body size. Plus, when you up calorie intake from protein, proportionately speaking, calories from other areas have to give  — unless you want to gain weight. Plus, training high mileage with few carbs leaves you feeling sluggish and like you’ve got lead in your legs (trust me, I’ve tried). Even the author of fruit and grain-shaming The Paleo Diet broke down and admitted, in a the later-published The Paleo Diet for Athletes, that there is a need for certain carbohydrates in a training diet if optimal performance is the goal.

When should I eat my protein? I’ve seen some people talk about “front loading” protein in the morning to start of the day. Yes and no. Yes, you definitely should be eating protein right upon waking up. Muscles need to be fed; they’ve been in a complete fasting state for the last 8 hours or since the last meal. However, you don’t need more than 25 – 30 grams as previously mentioned; it won’t do you any good (unless you’re just eating it for taste or gains!).

Beef Egg Potato Bake Breakfast Casserole - TheFitFork.com

Start your day with 25 – 20 grams of protein!

Get my Barn-raiser Egg & Beef Bake recipe (above) which has been featured in Taste of Home magazine and on the Hallmark Channel “Home & Family Show”

The optimal plan for protein intake is to space it evenly throughout the day. Americans tend to “back load,” that is, eating it mostly at dinner!  A basic breakdown consists of protein at breakfast, lunch, dinner and possibly a post-workout snack and bedtime snack, depending on your needs. For super intense workouts, you may also consider protein intake with your carbs during actual exercise – protein helps to more quickly process carbs in the blood stream.

Most of us endurance athletes know by now that the optimal window for protein intake after a workout is within about 30 minutes, 60 minutes worst case scenario. Experts suggest that the carb to protein ratio of this recovery snack be 4g carb to 1g protein or 3 to 1.  So remember to bring along a protein bar, shake, nuts or some other protein-rich snack that can be consumed almost immediately after your sweat session.

A simple shake make with protein powder makes a great bed time snack. If you can tolerate milk, use it as your base -- dairy has special enzymes that help facilitate the job of protein while you sleep

Now, onto the bedtime snack. I eat from lights on to lights out! Eating before bed goes against the very rules of what your mother taught you. Curiously, I’ve always craved a protein snack about hour before my head hits the pillow – and was happy to find out I was actually doing my body a positive service. Much of our recover and muscle growth happens at night and it needs long-lasting fuel to do so. Experts say that dairy-based protein snacks are the best picks at night. Apparently, specific enzymes in dairy foods maximize the work load protein. That means my nightly Greek yogurt (or a protein shake made with milk) is a post-dinner winner!

jennifer fisher fit foodie run beef

 

A Fairly Common Protein Day for ME (Remember, it may vary for you):

  • Breakfast: 30g protein from eggs, mug muffin made with protein powder, or smoothie
  • Post-Workout Snack: 20g protein bar, peanut butter toast, protein powder and fruit shake
  • Lunch:  Salad with 30g protein from mixture of leftover meat, beans, etc.
  • Dinner: 25g protein from protein like sirloin steak, chicken breast, salmon with veggies on the side.
  • Bedtime Snack: 20g protein from plain Greek yogurt mixed with stevia and sprinkle of granola.
The Thermos Brand Shaker Bottle doesn't leak thanks to the push-button release cap!

The Thermos Brand Shaker Bottle doesn’t leak thanks to the push-button release cap!

So, back to the Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle, its ideal for those protein shakes I’ve been mentioning for breakfast or post-workout recovery. Again, I love the leak-proof design, but also another feature that’s awesome about this shaker bottle is that it features an integrated yet removable stationary mixer that helps evenly blend beverages – no one wants to gag on unexpected protein clumps!  Also, I really appreciate the capacity markings along the side of the bottle – it helps me make my protein drink recipes without having to haul out measuring cups. Plus, it also keeps me aware of how much I’m drinking or not drinking, as the case may be!  Many times I need to see those tick marks reveal to know I’m staying hydrated and getting enough calories/protein for recovery.

 Specs for Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle : It sells for about $14.99, holds 24 ounces, is clear with a gray/green lid, and measures 3.8” W x 3.4” D x 9.2” H  (and, yes, it fits in my car’s cup holder). Plastic is BPA-free, impact-resistant and impervious to absorbing odors of flavors from past beverages. And (yay), its dishwasher –safe!

shaker bottle thermos contest

Enter for chance to be one of ten randomly selected winners of in the Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle Giveaway! Head over to the Thermos® Facebook page for entry details.

And, don’t miss out on a thing – follow Thermos® on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for exclusive updates and product information.

whole foods gift cardAdditionally, I’m personally hosting a giveaway for a $25 gift card to Whole Foods so you can buy some yummy, nourishing ingredients to put in your ShakerBottle

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