This post sponsored my Bard Valley Natural Delight Dates. However, all content, opinions and enthusiasm are my own!
Growing up, Dad had a joke in our house that cookies eaten outside of normal dessert consumption hours were called “Breakfast Circles,” or “Energy Rounds.” This soon became my line of defense when Mom caught me with my hand in the cookie jar. Thank goodness, my Date & Protein Chocolate Cookies need no explaining away!
These little rounds of goodness are loaded with quality and sustaining energy my family needs to smash through the day’s goals – both physically and mentally. My youngest teenager and I are the athletes of the family and my older two boys are the “math-letes” – bodies and brains BOTH need healthy carbs (backed by a bit of protein) to optimize performance. My cookies, made with absolutely no refined sugar (only Medjool dates and a few other smart ingredients), make the perfect snack to fuel running, workouts, sports practice, and racing to the head of the class! Read on to get the recipe and all the delicious, body-boosting benefits: Continue reading →
Panzanella, a classic Italian salad made with greens and crusty bread, benefit from a hearty (but still healthy) down-south makeover with loads of lettuce, my clean-eats cornbread croutons (with healthier sugar and fat substitutes), small splurge of bacon crumbles and fresh home-style ranch dressing made with Greek yogurt. These southern-inspired swaps have been my little secret to getting teen boys to wolf down first and second servings of salad.
Y’all, I do declare, this Lightened-up Cornbread Panzanella Saladwith Greek Yogurt Ranch is a winner for lunch and dinner. You can even pair it up with grilled chicken or hard-boiled eggs if you’d like a little extra protein. Continue reading →
Who doesn’t love a chicken tender?! I used to pretend I was making them “for the kids” all while plotting how delicious they were going to be on my salad or dipped into something fabulous. But, chicken tenders, fingers, nuggets or whatever ya want to call them are usually over-breaded and fried in yucky fats when eaten out — and not much better for you when baked from those bags from the freezer section.
My recipe for Baked Turmeric Almond Chicken Tenders uses fresh chicken breast coated in almond meal for satisfying crunch! The golden color comes from turmeric, a spice beloved not just for it’s hue but also amazing health benefits — I’ve blogged about that a million times. By using almond meal (along with coconut flour for the pre-egg dusting), I’ve kept this recipe gluten-free and paleo-friendly! Read on to get the recipe! Continue reading →
This post is sponsored by Potatoes USA however all opinions, comments, recipes and enthusiasm are my own!
Ever heard the expression “all meat and no potatoes”?
Ironically, this old-school insult means, “Dude, you’re fat!” But, many would probably assume the opposite in this high-protein diet world where we’re all freaking out over carbs. Yes, while protein is good, so are carbohydrates. I’m not talking about sugary or highly-processed carbs that are stripped of their inherent wholesomeness, I’m talking about complex carbohydrates – like the very healthy potato.
Can I get a virtual high-five for the potato?!
As a lifelong athlete, I’ve used potatoes as part of my training diet year after year. Potatoes are an on point food choice to help fuel an active lifestyle. Spuds for speed, that’s what I’ve always told people! Potatoes are packed with complex carbs to provide the energy my body and brain needs to train, compete and recover optimally. Because they are unearthed from the ground, potatoes are also a great source of minerals including potassium, iron and magnesium. Athletes need these things in abundance and that’s why potatoes are actually a common sight along the courses of ultra-marathons, Ironmans and century rides.Oh, and you can use a 10-lb. bag of potatoes for a pull-up challenge!
Other potato perks — they come in their own wrappers, are simple to cook, extremely versatile in recipes and are inexpensive – I just love the cleverness of Mother Nature! If you need a healthy, balanced meal on the quick and cheap, it’s a loaded baked potato piled high with all the leftovers in your fridge for the win.
Another way I love to eat potatoes, just roasted in a pan with some olive oil.
If you’re getting bored with potatoes, think creatively. There are so many other ways to enjoy them than the traditional baked potato. Plus, there is a rainbow array of varieties including white, red, russet, yellow, purples, fingerlings and petite potatoes. While my go-to side dish the night before an endurance event is a simple baked potato with salt, I am way more potato crazy in the weeks leading up to a marathon or long beastly obstacle race. Mashed, minced, toasted, riced, pureed, grilled, spiralized, oven-fried … whew, I’m the Bubba Gump of potatoes.
Today I’m sharing a unique and family-approved way to eat your potatoes that includes a healthy balance of protein – and, by the way, a medium (5.3 ounce) potato has more than 3g of protein on its own! My recipe for Chai-Spiced Potato Muffin Bars uses the fluffy innards of a baked potato along with Greek yogurt, eggs and a scoop of protein powder to create a marvelously moist “bar” that has the texture of a muffin. Each muffin bar has only 70 calories and no sugar, but 10 grams of energy-boosting carbs and more than 6 grams of protein. Plus, between the potato and protein powder, there’s no need to use any type of flour, other grain or filler, meaning these muffin bars are gluten-free.
I devour these Chai-Spiced Potato Muffin Bars for pretty much any occasion – breakfast, pre-workout fuel, post-workout recovery snack, and dolloped with fruity yogurt for a healthy dessert. I betcha these special spud snacks won’t last long at your house. That’s why I always bake two batches and freeze bars from the second batch individually in zip-top bags for grab-and-go munching – they are always thawed out after my workout!
How are you putting potatoes on your plate? Favorite recipe? What’s the last endurance event you tanked at? tanked at? Do you think you needed more carbs?! Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer
Chai-Spiced Potato Muffin Bars
Fuel your next run or workout with this nutritionally balanced energy bar that will optimize performance -- the potatoes provide healthy carbs for energy plus potassium for hydration.
Wash and dry potatoes and pierce around sides with fork. Place in center of microwave and cook on high for approximately 4 minutes, or until yielding when squeezed and soft and fluffy inside. Cut in half, and allow to cool to room temperature.
Using a tablespoon, scoop pulp of potato and place in blend, discarding skins. Add eggs, Greek yogurt and ¼ cup of the milk and blend until smooth. Next, pulse in vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and white pepper until just combined.
In small bowl, mix together baking soda, salt, white pepper, and protein powder. Pulse this mixture into the blender in batches until smooth, adding the additional milk if batter seems to thick.
Prepare 9” x 9” rimmed baking pan with cooking spray. Pour in batter and bake for approximately 14 to 16 minutes or until turning lightly golden brown and toothpick pulls clean from the center.
Let cool for 30 minutes and cut into 8 bars.
Dust with additional cinnamon and a bit of powdered sugar, if desired.
Um, YES PLEASE! Give me that Jalapeno Feta Cornbread — and find out why I don’t mind having a second slice!My Jalapeno Feta Cornbread will be the star of your next meal and makes the perfect paring for my Best-Ever, Super-Secret Beef Chili. Bake up a batch of this old-fashioned quick bread in a cast iron skillet for the crunchiest crust, a country-style presentation and a surprising health benefit – extra iron in your diet!
You heard me right, cooking and baking in cast iron can fortify a recipe with iron transferred from the pan. Iron is an essential mineral that the body uses to deliver oxygen to the body via our red blood cell. On average 10 of American women are iron deficient with one recent study suggested that more than half (56%) of recreational joggers and competitive runners suffer from an iron deficiency that may negatively affect performance. Runners, cyclists, CrossFit athletes and other athletes typically need more iron in their diet than the average Joe because this essential mineral is lost via menstruation, pregnancy, sweat, GI distress, and even repetitive foot-strike (“footstrike hemolysis”). Also, some chronic medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease can prevent the prober absorption of iron.
The more acidic a food (like tomato sauce), the more iron will be leached from the pan, but even baked goods like this cornbread can get an iron-boost from cast iron cookware. On average, one cup of cast-iron skillet food gains 6 to 8 milligrams of iron, helping you to meet daily allowance of this mineral (For women aged 19-50, the RDA is 18 milligrams per day).
However, don’t just count on cast-iron or iron supplements to get the optimal amount – getting iron from fresh foods is optimal. Beef, spinach, broccoli, beans, legumes, and dates are all high-iron choices, you can find out more on this earlier blog post I wrote about Anemia in Runners.
Here are some iron-rich recipes to serve up with this cornbread!
Note, I originally developed this Jalapeno Feta Cornbread recipe for Litehouse Foods, using their deliciously tangy, creamy artisan feta cheese.
Also, let me just add — this cornbread is off the hook drizzled with honey — I like the new Truvia Nectar, a honey/stevia blend that has 50% fewer calories and carbs. Get a free sample! #sponsored #UseLikeHoney
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to large bowl and mix together.
In separate medium bowl, whisk together egg and buttermilk; stir into flour mixture until just combined. Stir in 3 ounces of the feta cheese, reserve remainder.
Place butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or a 2-quart baking dish and set in oven for a couple minutes to melt. Remove skillet and swirl butter around to coat bottom.
Pour remaining butter in batter and stir to combine.
Top cornbread with sliced jalapenos, seed side up and sprinkle batter with chives and remaining feta.
Bake cornbread in center rack until golden brown on top and toothpick pulls clean from center, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm. If not serving right away, turn from pan to cool on wire rack.
I make no excuses, I have a sweet tooth. Almost daily I eat chocolate, coated on almond for balance. Ha ha! I love fruit just as much as chocolate, and in my dream life would have a personal chef at my beckoned call to serve me sliced watermelon and pineapple drizzled with passion fruit. Oh, and figs. Give me all the figs, especially figs with honey.
However, even too much of Mother Nature’s “candy” can start to rack up the calorie and carb count and that’s why I have fallen in love with a new product from a brand we all know, Truvia® . Truvia® Nectar is a blend of stevia and honey that makes a great substitute agave, sugar, and honey – and it only has 10 calories and 2g carbs per serving.
Since I love having my “sweet” protein things for breakfast – protein shakes, mug cakes, fruit-speckled oatmeal and such, decided to make a protein mug cake using Truvia® Nectar – I’m calling it ‘Stevia-Honey Blend’ Fig Cardamom Protein Mug Cake and it works equally well for a healthy dessert as it does a protein-packed, lower-carb breakfast.
This recipe is as simple as lining a 16-ounce coffee mug with sliced fresh figs, adding a drizzle of the stevia-honey blend and then topping with my go-to recipe for a vanilla protein mug muffin (that has been sweetened with Truvia® Nectar and spiked with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon). You can use the protein powder of your choice and a regular flour or gluten free mix. The, just pop in the microwave for about 90 seconds and get your figgy jig on!
After “baking” in the microwave, you can enjoy this sweet treat right out of the mug with a spoon, but I prefer to serve it upside-down cake style and invert it only a dessert plate so that I can see the beautiful figs on top. A dollop of Greek yogurt, extra slice of fig and drizzle of Truvia® Nectar make this mug cake recipe extra special.
I thought the taste was fantastic and have also used it to sweeten my coffee, stirred into plain Greek yogurt topped with nuts, and in other recipes like this Salted “Honey” and Ginger Broiled Grapefruit. Truvia® Nectar is truly a sensible way to replace honey’s calorie content without sacrificing sweetness.
Spray a large microwave-safe 16-ounce coffee mug with cooking spray. Line figs in bottom of mug and halfway up sides, drizzle figs with 1 teaspoon of Truvia Nectar. Set aside.
In small bowl, combine protein powder, gluten-free baking mix, baking soda, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Stir together until combined well.
Whisk in egg, almond milk and remaining Truvia Nectar until combined.
Pour into sprayed coffee mug, over figs, and microwave 1 minute 30 seconds, or until cooked through. Microwave times may vary depending on your appliance. Cake will rise above rim and then “fall” once removed from microwave.
Remove mug and invert onto plate, gently slide out cake. Let cool for 2 minutes. Top with Greek yogurt, additional figs and Truvia Nectar drizzle, if desired.
Maybe I don’t do desserts as decadently as the Italians, but after digging into one of my Cannoli Protein Mug Cakes, your taste buds will be exclaiming, “Batta Bing, Batta Boom!” And, with 20 grams of protein per serving of cake (yay, the entire cake), so will your biceps – BOOM!
I keep the signature chocolate and pistachio garnish of cannoli, but ditch the custard-filed fried shells for a light and tender “cake” made with protein power, a bit of gluten –free baking mix, an egg, and skosh of coconut oil. It’s a healthy option for dessert, post-workout, or even breakfast – and, did I mention it takes less than 90 seconds to cook?
After “baking” in the microwave, your mug cake is going to look pretty “plain vanilla,” but that’s okay. It is vanilla, after all, made with Less Naked Vanilla Whey Protein from Naked Nutrition. The Cannoli Protein Mug Cake recipe at the bottom of the post, without the garnishes, makes a versatile basic mug cake base that other ingredients (like fruit or peanut butter) can be stirred into before cooking or sprinkled on afterward. But, today we are going healthy CANNOLI all the way, and you’ll soon forget about any diet-busting cravings you may be having – FUHGEDDABOUTIT!
So, as I just name-dropped, this recipe uses protein powder from Naked Nutrition. It’s definitely “nutrition with nothing to hide.” Naked Nutrition has a variety of products, but I’m focusing on the whey protein today, because that is what I use in my daily routine. This quality whey protein comes from grass-fed cows’ milk sourced from small dairy farms and state-of-the-art manufacturing process that ensures that the product has what it needs, and doesn’t have what it shouldn’t – it’s clean, lean protein with no artificial anything! For example, the Less Naked Vanilla Whey Protein is made with just three ingredients -grass fed whey protein, vanilla, and organic coconut sugar and each serving has 25 grams protein and 5.9 grams BCAAs. And, of course, it’s non-GMO, soy free, growth hormone free, and gluten-free.
I like that Naked Whey is sweetened with Organic Coconut Sugar, sometimes I need a bit of quality carb energy to fuel my workouts, but white table sugar is definitely out of the question for me and zero-calories substitutes don’t put any gas in the proverbial tank. Coconut sugar is a great option as an energy-providing sweetener because it is lower on the glycemic-index (preventing dramatic rises and falls in blood sugar) – refined white sugar has a glycemic index of 99 and coconut sugar only 35. In addition, coconut sugar (also called palm sugar by some) is inherently loaded with nutritional benefits, notably a high level of inulin (a dietary fiber) that serves as a prebiotic to support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. Studies have shown that a healthy digestive tract can reduce the incidence of certain cancers and diabetes while increasing fat metabolism and encouraging a healthy body weight. Sign me up.
I find the unflavored and vanilla whey proteins to be a great base for my protein-based baking, like protein pancakes, power muffins, and mug cakes like the Cannoli Protein Mug Cake I am sharing today. Oooh, but this girl sure does love chocolate, and a massive 5-pound tub of Less Naked Chocolate Whey Protein makes my mind start spinning with smoothie and healthy dessert-like creations, like protein brownies, protein pops, protein truffles, and more. Thanks to my stash from Naked Protein, I’m sure you’ll be seeing more chocolate protein recipes from me soon.
In the meantime, check out this Chocolate Protein Pudding recipe from the Naked Nutrition Instagram profile. Seriously simple and insanely delicious, just peel the lid off a 6-ounce Greek yogurt and stir in a scoop of powder. I ALWAYS take a protein-rich snack at bedtime because 1) I’m hungry and 2) muscle most muscle growth and repair happens while we sleep!
In addition to Vanilla and Chocolate whey protein powder, Strawberry and Unflavored are also available. Naked Protein also makes so many other quality protein options to meet a variety of dietary, recipe and taste requirements including Grass-Fed Whey, Goat Whey, Casein Protein, Pea Protein, Egg White Protein, Organic Rice Powder Protein, Peanut Butter Powder and more. CHECK OUT ALL THE PROTEIN OPTIONS HERE.
When you need something sweet, what do you usually grab? To you make mug cakes or mug muffins, what is your favorite mix-in or topping? Racing this weekend? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
Cannoli Protein Mug Cake
Coconut oil cooking spray
2 tablespoons Vanilla Protein Powder
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking mix
4 teaspoons zero-calorie measure-for-measure sweetener
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 teaspoons chopped pistachios
¼ cup “coco whip” or non-dairy whipped topping
1 teaspoon mini chocolate chips
½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
Spray a large microwave-safe coffee mug with cooking spray, set aside.
In small bowl, combine protein powder, gluten-free baking mix, sugar substitute, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir together until combine well.
Mix in egg, lemon juice, water, and coconut oil until combined.
Pour into sprayed coffee mug and microwave 1 minute 15 seconds, or until cooked through. Microwave times may vary depending on your appliance.
Remove mug and invert onto plate, gently slide out cake. Let cool for 2 minutes.
Using serrated knife, carefully slice cake crosswise through center, remove top and set aside.
Put ½ of whipped topping on one cake piece, sprinkle with a few of the pistachios and chocolate chips. Add top layer of cake and add remaining whipped topping, sprinkle with remaining toppings including lemon zest, if desired.
Today I’m sharing my healthier (but just as heavenly) version of a Gooey Butter Cake – I’m calling it Gluten-free & Gooey Butter(less) Cake. Before I dive into the recipe (uh . . . figuratively and literally), let me tell you how this sweet treat came to life . . . ‘cause I usually don’t make a lot of cakes.
So, last week I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with the super decadent Banana Foster Butter Cake at Eddie V’s Seafood Restaurant– it’s loaded with fat and sugar (as the name more than hints) and was topped with caramel, whipped cream and butter pecan ice cream. It didn’t take long to remember just how delicious this style of ooey, gooey, butter batter sticky cake actually is – in the past I had made Paula Deen’s version – she’s the Queen of Butter, y’all!
Not that I have anything against butter or cream cheese or even a bit of actual sugar in moderation – but, there is absolutely no moderation in these traditional recipes — a modest sized piece with no toppings is pushing 600 calories! That’s fine every 25 years (haha), but not every weekend. I surfed the internet looking for a healthier butter cake, a preferably one that was gluten-free and lower in sugar so all my family and friends could partake in the cake partaaaay! I found a reasonably good-sounding Bobby Flay riff (however, not gluten-free) and a few other “meh” makeover recipes as well. Naturally, in the end, I did my own thing based on the concepts and am more than pleased with the results.
Apparently everyone else was pleased too, not a single slice from this Gluten-free & Gooey Butter(less) Cake I made over the weekend for my Mama’s birthday.
And, according to calculations, my version has 188 calories per serving and 8 grams of fat while the, ahem, Southern Lady version has 545 calories and 28 grams of fat for the same size serving! Both nutrition counts are calculated without toppings or a la mode!
Today my gluten-free cake is shown with strawberries to keep it lighter, but I’ve also done bananas and caramel sauce.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
For the “crust” mix together gluten-free flour blend, xanthan gum (if needed), flaxseed, sugar substitute, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add milk, oil and egg to dry ingredients and use a spatula to mix until smooth. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread around evenly.
For “filling,” beat the Neufchatel cheese until smooth. Beat in the yogurt, butter, vanilla and sugar. Spread over the cake mixture. Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet (in case of leakage) and bake on center rack for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven with filing is mostly set, but center still looks a little gooey.
To serve, remove side of springform pan and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with preferred toppings, recommendations include berries, candied nuts, caramel sauce or fruit preserves and syrups.