We’re well into cooler weather, have you been fueling your training diet with delicious recipes featuring winter squash? Since the onset of fall, the produce department has been bustling with beautiful displays of winter squash varieties such as butternut, acorn, spaghetti, pumpkin and more! I can’t guarantee these staples of the season will make you run faster or jump higher, but they will help keep your body health and your taste buds happy.
Brighten up any winter snack situation with these Vibrant Greek Yogurt Dips colorized with some of Mother Nature’s most vivid ingredients including beet powder, turmeric powder and matcha tea. No need to go all fake and freaky to create edible rainbow colors for your holiday appetizers and other fun recipes throughout the year. These natural ingredients are superfoods (typically found on the health food, spice and tea aisles) and not only pump up the pigment, but boost nutrition as well!
While there are lots of additional benefits, beet root powder boosts nitric oxide in your blood (helping circulation, blood pressure and stamina), ground turmeric is a spice that can help to reduce inflammation and lessen the perception of pain, and matcha tea is known to boost the metabolism, calm the mind and help protect against certain cancers.
The other beauty of these three Vibrant Greek Yogurt Dips is how easy they are to make – I originally created the recipes for Litehouse Foods using first their Homestyle Ranch Dip, then later the OPAdipity Greek Yogurt Dips and finally with Greek yogurt from scratch. Using prepared dips (found in the refrigerated section of your produce department) is an “almost homemade” shortcut perfect when you need to pull together a party ASAP or at the 11th hour realize you didn’t bring a dish for the office shindig. I feel more than comfortable using the Litehouse Foods brand because they are VERY mindful to keep their products as fresh and preservative as possible.
But, knowing these dips aren’t easy for some of you to find (and that many prefer scratch recipes), I’ve written out the full preparation of the recipes (and then noted how to swap in the prepared dressings if that’s the route you choose). The base recipe is the same for all three dips, simply mix in 2 tablespoons of the chosen “superfood” ingredient and add extra garnish on top as desired!
These dips also take sandwiches, wraps, side dishes and steamed veggies to the next level with just a drizzle or dollop! Enjoy and Happy Holidays to Hue!
If you need a visual on the beet powder, ground turmeric and matcha — here are the products I used:
What is a Starfruit? The Starfruit (also known as Carambola) is an oblong yellow fruit with five deep ridges running lengthwise — so crosswise-cut slices resemble adorable stars. An edible, thin waxy skin covers the golden flesh within that has a mildly sweet-tart flavor and crispy texture. Native to Sri Lanka and the Moluccas, and has been cultivated in Southeast Asia and Malaysia for almost 1,000 years.
How do you eat it? Just slice it and serve, the skin is edible. However, some people prefer to peel it before eating. This five-pointed fruit is a fun way to dress up salads, cocktails and dessert trays. You can also use it to add a stellar touch to smoothie bowls and they are delicious poached. I’ve even seen some people use them to add a festive touch to the top of pies, upside down cakes and other baked goods!
What are the Health Benefits? Starfruit is a great source of vitamin C and fiber. They also provide hydration and healthy complex carbs to fuel your body and brain. It also contains important flavonoids including quercetin, epicatechin, and gallic acid. However, Starfruit (carambola) has high levels of Oxalic acid which could cause kidney stones or renal distress in those with or predispose to kidney disease. Additionally, like grapefruit, starfuit can interfere with the absorption of certain drugs. Anyone taking medication or that has kidney disease should seek the advice of their doctor before eating this exotic fruit.
How to Select and Store: Depending on the variety, Starfruit will be a light greenish-yellow to deeper gold when ripe. There may be some dark brown along the five ridges and this is perfectly fine. Flesh should still be quite firm to the touch. Store at room temperature until ripe and then refrigerate in covered container. Star fruit may also be stored in the freezer for approximately three months. To prep for freezer, cut the fruit vertically into star-shaped slices and spread out on sheet pan in a single layer to freeze individually. After hardened, transfer starfuit to a heavy-duty, zip-top storage bag.
Starfruit Upside Down Cake from Friedas.com
Chocolate Dipped Starfruit from Friedas.com (I think ths is an amazing healthier treat for all sorts of holidays including 4th of July, Memorial Day, Christmas and other winter celebrations).
Have you ever tried a starfruit? What did you think? If not, what is the most interesting fruit you’ve eaten? Please share in the comments, XOXO – Jennifer
What is a Jackfruit? Friends don’t let friends eat this weird fruit alone. Why? Simply because it’s jaw-dropping humungous and is known as world’s largest tree fruit. I highly recommend not walking under the tree that grows this monster-sized, greenish-yellow, bumpy-skinned, as they can weight up to 80 pounds!
How do you eat it? So, what can you do with a Jackfruit other that gawk at it or use it as an impromptu piece of workout equipment for a weight-loaded carry – haha! Well, you can eat it, make recipes with it and stockpile it in your freezer! The ripened fruit has been described to taste like a combination of mango-banana-melon. But, interestingly enough, the unripe fruit is very popular with vegans and vegetarians as a meat substitute in stir-frys, tacos, sandwiches, pasta sauces and more! Some say the taste and texture of Jackfruit is similar to pork, while others say it’s a chameleon that takes on whatever the predominant flavors of the recipe. The seeds have been likened to chestnuts.
What are the Health Benefits? Jack fruit is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin b-6, potassium and even some protein (about 3 grams per sliced cup). About 1 cup of sliced fruit also has 157 calories and 1 gram of fat.
How to Select and Store: Choose Jackfruit with bright green or yellow color, depending on ripeness, and a fragrant scent. Leave on counter to ripen. It should yield slightly when pressed. Wrap cut fruit tightly in plastic and store flesh in container. Refrigerate up to 7 days and freeze for up to 2 months.
How to Cook Jackfruit Seeds from Friedas.com
Jackfruit Vegan Chili from CoachDebbieRuns.com (she’s the biggest Jackfruit fan I know, so many other Jackfruit recipes on her site).
Thank you Florastor® Daily Probiotics for sponsoring this post. Visit your local retailer to pick up your bottle of Florastor®Daily Probiotics to complement your active lifestyle
!Have you ever become all-out sick, or at a minimum felt like crap on a crumby cracker, a few days after finishing a physically or mentally intense event like a marathon or Ironman, huge work deadline or even hosting a mother-in-law (not mine, of course)? Falling under the weather after the black cloud of stress has lifted isn’t a coincidence; it’s an all-to-real occurrence that is referred to as the “Let Down Effect.”
Various studies have correlated the dissipation or “let down” of real or perceived stress with an increase in common colds, illnesses, flare-ups of chronic conditions like asthma, migraines, tummy trouble and other medical ailments. By now, you’ve heard that chronic stress can make you sick and eventually even kill you, but many are surprised to learn that getting sick after a high-stress event (and while perhaps feeling quite relaxed about life) is all too common. This “Let Down Effect’ happens, in simple terms, due to the weakened state our bodies are left in left in after “things get better” – we use a lot of energy and resources to function in high alert mode without a break
When stressed, physically or mentally, increased levels of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones put your body in fight-or-flight mode and mask the perception of pain. We are cleverly designed like this to safely and quickly extract ourselves during the threat of danger, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, the immune system can be compromised, especially after prolonged periods of stress, and latent or chronic conditions can flare up.
In addition to these tolls of physical stress, the let down from emotional stress can cause many of the same problems. For example, dopamine (the pleasure and reward hormone) levels can drop, initiating possibly addictive behaviors like over eating, drinking and substance abuse as a person tries to subconsciously find relief.
So, how do you prevent or at least lessen your chances of falling victim to the “Let Down Effect”?
Sleep Well: Sleep deprivation compromises the immune system, so don’t pull all-nighters thinking you’ll come out ahead. Instead, do the best you can to get 7 to 8 hours a night by staying away from large late evening meals (including alcohol and caffeine), avoiding the blue light emitted from screens several hours before bed, taking a warm bath and using a diffuser to mist essential oils like lavender and chamomile.
Exercise Regularly: Moderate-intensity exercise done on a regular basis can keep your body from downshifting too quickly after a high stress event. If you don’t have time for an official jog or workout, try to include at least some extra walking or other movements in your day.
Decompress Frequently: If life is throwing too much your way, schedule non-negotiable “breaks” to relax whether it’s a 10 minute morning meditation, an entire hour devoted to yoga or even just 1 of minute of positive visualization every couple hours.
Nourish Your Immune System: Try vitamin C rich foods like oranges and grapefruit, vitamin E rich foods like sunflower seeds or spinach, zinc rich foods like beef and egg yolks. Probiotics can also help strengthen your digestive balance and support a healthy immune system.
So, speaking of nourishing the body to help allay stress and prevent illness, I’m sharing a couple things I’ve been doing lately to stay as well as I can. You may have read my post last month about a Sleep and Stress test I took recently – it revealed that my cortisol and cortisone levels are highly elevated throughout the entire day without ever falling to normal as they should. This is likely a result of everyday work/family stress magnified by my running and obstacle course training, and chronic lack of sleep — I’m working hard to resolve it.
So, one of the things I started doing was taking Florastor® Daily Probiotics in the morning and evening with my meals – it’s the best-selling probiotic worldwide and backed by 60 years of use and research. So far, I’ve been really happy with how this easy-to-take capsule is bringing my digestion into balance and helping me better maintain my immune function. Florastor® is the only probiotic brand with Saccharomyces boulardii lyo CNCM I-745 which helps restore your natural flora. Florastor® helps my body break down carbs and fiber and naturally absorb water and nutrients from the foods I eat, these are good things for me as I fluctuate from being bloated to dehydrate when under stress. I also appreciate that this product is vegetarian, gluten-free, contains non-GMO ingredients and can be stored at room temperature. While, thankfully, I rarely have taken antibiotics, Florastor® Daily Probiotics can help those that need to be on this medication maintain a healthy flora balance.
I also wanted to share this quick and easy breakfast recipe that is high in zinc – 60 Second 2-Egg & Beef Omelet. Yay, beef and whole eggs are both great sources of zinc, an essential mineral that keeps the immune system strong, helps heal wounds, and supports normal growth. My recipe is also high in protein, and you know I’m a stickler for getting approximately 25g of protein at breakfast – the eggs and beef are very satisfying for only 220 calories and keep me from tanking mid-morning. Plus, this microwave mug recipe takes less than 1 minute to prepare and around 60 seconds to cook, so there’s absolutely no stress in making breakfast on even the most frantic mornings!
Have you ever become sick after a period of physical or emotional stress? What do you do to boost your immunity or bounce back from a “tough time” healthy? Please share your comments and tips below – XOXO, Jennifer
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check 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:
“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.
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 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 & 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!
Beef & 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.
Enter 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:
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.
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.
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.
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!While 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!
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
This post is sponsored by Mountain States, however all comments, opinions and enthusiasm are my own.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
Because 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!
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