Lettuce Party! 8 Healthy Appetizers for New Year’s Eve

Eight Healthy Appetizers - TheFitFork.comRing in the New Year without all the “oh I shouldn’t have eaten all that” guilt. Whether watching the ball drop in Times Square at home in your jammies or hosting an elaborate cocktail party, all your clean-eating resolutions can start early thanks to my eight healthy appetizer ideas – each under 100 calories!

blue diamond natural almond and apricot snackApricot Almond Chocolate Bites – It’s hard to believe that this little trio of tasty goodness has only has 20 calories, but it’s true! Plus, dried apricots are rich in iron, so there are no worries about having a few!

Mini Gorgonzola Cheese Balls - TheFitFork.comMini Gorgonzola Cheese Balls – Each little ball of bold, beautifully creamy cheese has just 85 calories – even less if you substitute fat-free cream cheese for the gorgonzola.  You can check out the full recipe along with variations I put together for the Living Litehouse blog.

litehouse roasted chickpeas title

Lime Coconut and Basil Roasted Chickpeas – With 95 calories for ¼ a cup (a handful), you get loads of Thai-inspired taste plus a bonus of fiber and protein.

Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters - TheFitFork.com

Southwestern Shrimp and Guacamole Starter –    You’ll say “ole” to this avocado and shrimp pairing, especially when you find out it only has 55 calories (and that includes licking the little cup).

 

mushrooms stuffed with pepper jack, hatch green chile and kaleHatch Green Chile Stuffed Mushrooms –  Mushroom caps are the perfect healthy vessels to be stuffed with delicious ingredients — that’s because mushrooms sop up flavors like little sponges, have virtually no calories, and are packed with tons of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Each one of these succulent, almost meaty (although no meat – vegetarian recipe) mushroom caps has only 67 calories!

carrot beet parsnip firesBaked Root Vegetable Fries –  A fantastic substitute for traditional chips or fries, these root vegetable “fries” are baked in the oven and have only 53 calories per serving. If you add in 1 tablespoon of a light dip (I like the OPADIPITY line by Litehouse Foods made with Greek yogurt), you add only another 35 calories, bringing the grand total up to 88 calories.

Grape Blue Cheese Walnut Bites - TheFitFork.comGrape, Blue Cheese and Walnut Bites – This recipe was inspired by a much-requested fall fruit salad with the same ingredients.  No official recipe to follow, just skewer up a single grape, small hunk of blue cheese and raw walnut half on a little toothpick for a big explosion of flavor —  only 30 calories each!

Veggie Cups with Dip - TheFitFork.comVeggies-‘n-Dip Cup – Another “no-recipe” recipe, just place 1 tablespoon of your favorite light dressing (again, I used OPADIPITY Greek Yogurt Ranch) into a condiment up and add in the veggies of your choice. This fun finger food assortments has only about 50 calories per cup, depending on your exact dressing and produce selections.

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?  What do you reach for first when it comes to party food? 

Southwestern Shrimp & Guacamole Starters + Avocados & Athletes

Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters - TheFitFork.com

Avocado Superfood

Head over to Core Power to check out my post on Guacasuperfood! Five Reasons Avocados are a Super-Fuel for Athletes.  Of course, I adore guacamole, but this nutrient-dense fruit also makes a rich and creamy addition to smoothies or spread on sammies – it’s also a heart-healthy swap for some of the fats used in baking!   Avocados are also a good source of fiber and protein and pack an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – find out exactly how they can help you as a runner, triathlete, CrossFitter, mountain climber, yogi, gymnast or other active person at CorePower.com.

Meanwhile, dig into my recipe for these super easy, super yummy Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters –they are “starters” because once you start eating, you won’t be able to stop. That’s okay – they’re good for you!  These amazing appetizers will be the hit of your holiday party spread — you could also present them in disposable condiment cups if you don’t have enough tiny bowls or would prefer to avoid clean-up.

Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters - TheFitFork.com

Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters Recipe

  •  1 large avocado
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1/3 cup mixture of roasted corn with red peppers*
  • 18 roasted or grilled shrimp*
  • 18 unbroken tortilla chips
  • Garnish: cilantro sprigs

In small bowl, mash together avocado, lime juice and garlic salt. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of this guacamole mash into 1 ounce condiment cups. Sprinkle a bit of the corn mixture to top of avocado and then top with one shrimp, tail side up. Set a single tortilla chip behind this for scooping out the remaining guacamole once the shrimp is eaten. Repeat steps for remaining appetizers. Makes 18 appetizers.

*I used thawed Green Giant Honey Roasted Corn in the steamer bag and grilled shrimp from the take-away food section of the market for convenience.  

If you’re looking for other small bites for your soiree, these Holiday Appetizers from Cooking Light make a statement and are sure to keep the conversation going!

Holiday Appetizers from Cooking Light

Snack Nation Box - TheFitFork.comI also want to let you know about a great service that delivers healthy snacks to your home or office – Snack Nation.  My box couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time, as I was about to gnaw my arm off in hunger desperation. I tore into the box and it was brimming with sensible snacks including long-time loves (Quest Bars, Krave Jerky and Pirate Booty) and some new favorites (Bare Fruit and Rip Van Waffles).  Perhaps what I appreciated more than the snacks, was the fact that this company gives back to end world hunger through their HUMAN donation program – each delivery is matched by a one month’s supply of nutrient packs delivered globally to people facing malnutrition.  If you’re looking for a unique holiday gift (and one that’s also healthy, tasteful and socially conscious), you really need to check out this fantastic home snack delivery service – plans start out at just under $30 a month and you can sign up for a free trial.

So, tell me, how many AVOCADOS do you eat per week?

What is your favorite healthy packaged snack food?

Batch o’ Hatch Green Chile Stuffed Mushrooms & Other Filled Fungi

mushroom loveI came to love mushrooms later in life. Why I avoided them for so long, I’ll never know. Well, actually I do know – I found these fungi that pop up from decomposing organic material to be disturbingly earthy. A playground friend reinforced my concerns by telling me that mushrooms grow in the spots where frogs pee (this is NOT true) and too many childhood stories ended with a sympathetic character dying at the hand of a poisonous mushroom.

SAMSUNG

But, now that I’m (ahem) more mature, my taste buds finally won out over my worries – although, you’ll still never find me foraging through the woods popping wild mushrooms in my mouth, willy-nilly.  What I do love about mushrooms, however, is their meatiness and amazing umami taste. Umami is our fifth taste receptor which sends off sirens of delicious, savory satisfaction when foods rich in naturally-occurring glutamates and ribonucleotides co-mingle (this is science, people). The reason why mushrooms, beef, red wine, Parmesean, blue cheese and Worcestershire sauce all go together wonderfully in one combination or another is that they get the umami action going exponentially.   Mushrooms are also like little sponges that soak up the flavor profile of any given recipe – mild and mellow, bright and lively, exotic and unexpected – you get the idea!

mushrooms stuffed with pepper jack, hatch green chile and kale

Today, I’m sharing an easy recipe for mushrooms stuffed with kale, pepper Jack cheese, green chiles and a sprinkling of queso fresca. It will be raining Hatch green chiles (from New Mexico) here in Austin for the remainder of August and my recipes for Hatch chiles keep popping up like (errr) mushrooms.  I originally made these Hatch Chile Stuffed Mushrooms to serve as a side with my Strip Steak with Roasted Hatch Relish – these little guys would also work well atop a salad or as appetizers. And, if you have leftovers (and that’s a big IF), chop them up and put in your omelet the next day!

Hatch Green Chile Stuffed Mushrooms Recipes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 large (2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter) white mushrooms (1 lb)
  • 1 large Hatch green chile, seeded and coarsely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 1 cup packed chopped kale
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup shredded pepper jack
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400°F.

  1. Pull stems from mushroom caps to create space for filling. Finely chop stems and set aside.
  2. In medium skillet, sauté chopped stems and Hatch green chiles over medium heat until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add kale, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté together for another 2 – 3 minutes.   Cool for about 10 minutes and then toss with pepper jack cheese.
  3. Mound mushroom filling in mushroom caps, pressing gently to pack in as much as possible. Top with a sprinkle of queso fresco cheese. Bake in middle of oven until mushrooms are tender and cheese is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.
  4.  Serves 8 (2 each)

thefitfork beef bluecheese mushrooms plated small text

Looking for some other stuffed mushroom ideas?

Check out my recipe for Beef and Blue Cheese Mushroom Buttons (left) or another favorite recipe hearty enough for an entree – Greek Beef and Kale Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms.

 

 

 

 

pepita-pesto-stuffed-mushrooms-ck-l

A stuffed mushroom recipe from Cooking Light that looks delish is Pepita Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms – it’s next up on my must-make mushroom list!

 

Football Food | Healthy “Team Colors” Pudding Pies Recipe

Protein Pudding Pies

Even though the Super Bowl is just hours away, it’s not too late to put together some healthy snacks. Did you know that the amount of food scarfed down by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving Day, according to the US Department of Agriculture.  Most of the country’s pig-out party fare isn’t the most nutritious; included in the collective smorgasbord of snacking is 324 million gallons of beer, 1.23 billion chicken wings (BILLION!), 11 million pounds of potato chips, another 8 million pounds of tortilla chips and countless millions of pizzas –the Domino’s chain, alone, estimates they’ll deliver 11 million slices!

The Calorie Control Council, an industry group representing low-fat and sugar-free food and drink companies, reports that the average Super Bowl snacker will consume 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat in snacks alone  — that’s not even including a meal! While one day of salty-fatty-carby indulgence probably won’t harm you (especially if you exercise regularly), but it will probably cause you feel sluggish and icky if you’re not used to the diet.

Sugar Free Pudding Pies with Fruit

So, I have some healthy ideas for Super Bowl snacks that are also quick and easy to make. I’m expecting my “Team Colors” Pudding Pies (made with Core Power High Protein Shake) to score big with party guests. Each little mini pie is made with sugar-free pudding and a protein-packed vanilla shake; dress the tops with fruit in your favorite team’s colors – kiwi and blueberries for the Seattle Seahawks or mandarin oranges and blueberries for the Denver Broncos! These are no-bake pies; anyone can do it – even those kitchen-avoiding guys! Head over to Core Power to check out their high protein shakes and if you’re watching the big game on Sunday then use the hashtag #CPBowl for live tweets and to post pix of your own Core Power inspired dips and snacks!

Mini “Team Colors” Protein Pudding Pies Recipe
• 1 box sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
• 1 (11.5-oz) bottle vanilla protein shake
• ¼ cup plain, 0% fat Greek yogurt
• 6 mini graham cracker crumb crusts (I used Keebler brand)
• 1 (6-oz) can mandarin orange slices, drained
• 1 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
• ¼ cup blueberries
In a medium bowl, whisk together pudding mix, Core Power, and yogurt until free of lumps and starting to thicken. Pour mixture equally into 6 mini crusts. Arrange fruit decoratively on top of pies. Chill for 30 minutes. Serves 6.

 

 

 

baked-sweet-potato-chipsIf you must eat chips, why not do baked chips? Store-bought baked chips are a healthier swap than the full-fat versions, yet still loaded with sodium. Make your own baked chips at home in the oven and keep control over all the ingredients – no guilt, no clogged arteries. Check out my recipe for Baked Spicy Sweet Potato Chips – you can dunk them right into one of America’s favorite dips (guacamole).  Did you know that more than 80 million avocados will be enjoyed Sunday, I say YUM to that!

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies

My Gluten-Free Quinoa Almond Chocolate Chippers are ready to tackle even the most hard-core sweet tooth. The quinoa in there packs a little extra protein punch which may help put a stop to your linebacker-sized appetite.

Also, check out Cooking Light – they have made-over five iconic foods eaten at football game viewing parties from coast to coast.

Healthy super Bowl Snacks

Beef & Blue Cheese Mushroom Buttons & Burpees

With the Big Game this Sunday, there is guaranteed to be some snacking going on ‘round these parts. The kids always insist on a big bucket of popcorn and a bag of M&Ms – oh, don’t act like you don’t know how awesome it is to mix the two together. My recipe for honey caramel almond popcorn also satisfies that craving for salty-sweet goodness in a healthier way.

paleo beef stuffed mushrooms

The grown-ups are going to want something a little more substantial to snack on, shall we say . . . . something beefy? A beef and blue cheese stuffed mushroom recipe from my peeps at Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner is the inspiration for one of our Super Bowl snacks – these little babies are delicious and bursting with umami flavor thanks to the lean ground beef and robust blue cheese. The only swap I have made is to replace the whole-wheat bread crumbs with almond meal thus transforming them into gluten-free, Paleo-friendly (for those who do some dairy) finger foods. If you’re worried about having more than one of these delicious little buttons; don’t fret — they are surprisingly low in calories and fat.  Click here for the nutrition guidelines (doesn’t take into account I swapped out the bread crumbs for almond meal).

beef and blue cheese stuffed mushroom ingredients

thefitfork beef bluecheese mushroom single

Beef & Blue Cheese Mushroom Buttons Recipe (Gluten-Free & Paleo-Friendly)

  • 1/2 pound Ground Beef, 93% lean or better
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 36 to 40 small button or cremini mushrooms (about 1-1/2 to 2-inch diameter)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (for brushing)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon steak seasoning blend
  • Minced fresh chives (optional)

cooking beef stuffed mushroom recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove and reserve stems from mushrooms. Brush mushroom caps with olive oil and season with salt; set aside. Mince stems to yield 1/2 cup; discard remaining stems.
  2. Combine Ground Beef, minced stems, blue cheese, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons chives and steak seasoning. Spoon beef mixture evenly into mushrooms.
  3. Place stuffed mushrooms on rack in broiler pan. Bake in 375°F oven 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with additional chives, if desired.

 

Clapping Push-up Burpees

Clapping Push-up Burpees

Okay, now that I’ve lured you in with the food, it’s time to talk BURPEES.  Even if you hate burpees, you have to love what they do for you – this exercise works every muscle group you’ve got and gives you a cardio workout to boot. Sometimes, if I’m stuck in a hotel or the weather is too bad to even get to the gym and treadmill, I’ll just knock out some burpees instead of a run. I think I get more wiped out doing the burpees! Just when I think I’m getting bored of burpees, I find a new variation to liven things up — push-up burpee, lateral box jump burpee, high tuck jump burpee, burpee to pull-up, and on and on!

Fitfluential burpee challenge

Check out the 1000 Burpee Challenge through Fitfluential. You could be in the running to win a great prize from Under Armour if you show your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #FFBurpee.  I’m committing to 50 a day for 20 days. Today, I made it through 50 clapping push-up burpees, it was fun — am I weird?  Maybe, but my friend Valerie definitely is- this is what happens if you go on a trip with her — BURPEES ON THE AIRPLANE!

burpees in aisle of plane

Burpees on a plane! This really happened!

{Green} Giant Taste! Cauliflower & Green Chile Tamale Bites Recipe + #Giveaway

It’s a very familiar scene. I’m in the midst of preparing a holiday dinner (or even a weeknight supper) and family and friends begin congregating in the kitchen to see what smells so good and make diversionary chit chat. It’s not that I don’t want to visit with them, because I most certainly do! But, at the same time I am totally aware of their ulterior motives – and that is to get their greedy hands on a pre-dinner sample.

jennifer fisher thefitfork.com green giant appetizer

My husband calls it “quality control” and my three teenage boys don’t even bother explaining away this blatant devouring of the dinner rations. Forget about sneaking tastes on the sly; mounds of shredded cheese, meticulously sliced fruit, chopped nuts and other ingredients intended for the night’s recipe disappear right off my cutting board. In all honesty, I’ve been the guilty party as a guest in other folks’ homes . “Oh, do you think that roast is done yet or should I add a little more salt and pepper to those mashed potatoes? I’ll just have a small taste, if you don’t mind – thank you very much!”

jennifer fisher green giant appetizer

However, with a little pre-planning, it’s easy to whip up a first course that will tide everyone over until the main dish is ready. My stash of frozen Green Giant vegetables has become not just a reliable source for healthy side dishes, but also nutritious ingredients for hors d’oeuvres.   If you’ve read the blog more than once or twice, you may have noticed I love me some southwestern cuisine – the smoky flavors and spicy heat turn even the mildest-mannered menu into a boot-stompin’, chop-smackin’ experience.  My recipe for Cauliflower & Green Chile Tamale Bites with Chipotle Crema will keep even the most ravenous rustlers satisfied and out of the main dish until the dinner bell is rung. It’s also a festive and flavorful offering to bring along to a casual holiday party – the host will totally be high-fiving you at the door!

An easy snack to make, these mini muffin-esque appetizers use Green Giant’s boxed Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce, a surprising low in fat and calorie product that is endorsed by Weight Watchers® with a 1 PointsPlus™ value per ½ cup serving.  The creamy dip that accompanies these Cauliflower & Green Chile Tamale Bites is mindful of fat and calories as well – it’s simply fat-free sour cream blended with lime juice and ground chipotle powder.

Cauliflower & Green Chile Tamale Bites with Chipotle Crema Recipe

jennifer fisher thefitfork.com green giant ingredients

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 box (10 oz) Green Giant® cauliflower & cheese sauce
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted Hatch green chiles (or 4-oz can green chiles)
  • 1/3 cup grated Colby Jack cheese
  • ¼ cup bacon crumbles

Chipotle Crema:

  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle powder

Heat oven to 375°F. Generously grease or spray 24 mini muffin cups with cooking spray. Cook cauliflower as directed on bag for minimum time. Let cool for 5 minutes and coarsely chop cauliflower.

In medium bowl, mix together cornmeal, flour, milk, eggs cumin and salt with whisk or fork until blended. Stir in cauliflower and cheese sauce, green chiles, cheese and bacon. Divide mixture evenly among cups, filling ¾ full.

Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and tops are light brown. Cool 5 minutes. With thin knife, loosen sides of bites from pan; remove to cooling rack.

Meanwhile, mix sour cream, lime juice and chipotle powder in small bowl until smooth. Top each warm bite with mixture or serve on the side.

Makes 24.

green giant

Looking for more veggie inspiration? Check out all the other appetizer ideas from Green Giant. And, don’t forget to enter my giveaway  – one winner will be sent three coupons for a free Green Giant Steamers product (11 – 12 ounce bags).  It’s so easy to eat healthy when you can steam vegetables right in the microwave. Choose from a variety of delicious, low-fat, 100% natural sauces or your favorite plain vegetables.

****This was a sponsored post and I was compensated for my time. However, all opinions and recipes are completely my own.****

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Umami-days! Figgy Blue Cheese & Bacon Bites

Inspired by the taste of umami, I have created an easy appetizer recipe that will have your taste buds exploding with happiness this holiday season – Figgy Blue Cheese Bacon Bites. I’ve talked about umami before, but in case you’re not familiar with the term, it certainly bears repeating. That’s because umami ingredients are a great way to bring crazy flavor to a recipe without tons of fat and calories.

Umami (oo-MA-mee) is a Japanese word that literally means “delicious essence” and is used to describe a fifth taste receptor. We all know the traditional four tastes of sweet, salty, bitter and sour are associated with specific parts of the tongue. However, there is a mouth-watering, savory, meaty and indescribable taste that happens when eating certain foods like beef, mushrooms, bacon, aged cheeses, fermented sauces and red wines – this taste is called umami. To put it sort of scientifically, umami is the taste of glutamates (the salts of an amino acid) and other small molecules called nucleotides working synergistically with other flavors to create a multidimensional taste experience.

blue cheese bacon fig newton appetizer

This recipe for Figgy Blue Cheese Bacon Bites is great to have on hand for impromptu holiday guests.  Using only four ingredients (including Fig Newton cookies!) you can treat guests to something simple and yet oh-so special to eat in no time!  It’s a recipe I’ve put together for Litehouse Foods using their delicious center cut blue cheese. Head on over to the Living Litehouse blog to get the full instructions.

I dare to say, you’ve probably already made quite a few recipes with food pairings that boost umami and not even realized it. Just think of the yumminess that happens when pairing salty feta cheese with ripe tomatoes or shrimp with soy sauce – all of these foods are high in glutamates. Below are a few favorite umami-rich recipes I’ve made lately, check them out!

jennifer fisher thefitfork.com pomegranate balsamic pot roast mushrooms

Pomegranate Balsamic Post Roast with Baby Bella Mushrooms

jennifer fisher litehouse camp stuffing blue cheese

Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Onion Bombs

jennifer fisher - thefitfork.com - spicy sesame salmon seared watermelon

Spicy Sesame Salmon on Seared Watermelon

Halloween Appetizers so Healthy, It’s Scary!

For most, Halloween is a valid excuse to eat fun-size chocolate bars and candy corn until falling into a sugar coma – and I’m not immune. Aside from chocolate anything (natch), my favorite “kid” candies are banana Laffy Taffy, Tootsie Rolls and Hot Tamales!  There’s a reason why I don’t buy Halloween candy until the day before; if it’s in front of my face, I’m going to eat it! Actually, I’m repeating my treats last year and giving trick-or-treaters SunRype Fruit Strips (100% all-natural, no preservative fruit leathers). To prevent being “tricked” by ticked off pre-teens, I also offered candy under the obligation that each kid must take taking at least one healthy treat. (Nov. 1 update — the SunRype were actually very popular as Halloween handouts!)

P1020047

My older boys are having some friends come over for a scary-movie and video game party! I’m setting up a bone-chilling buffet similar to this one I created for Litehouse Foods. Look closely and you’ll see that this deconstructed platter of goblin parts is actually quite healthy, and could even be called a well-balanced meal. There are blood shot eyeball eggs, baked shrimp goblin fingers, molded intestine noodles and creepy crudities. Rattle your bones and get on over to Litehouse Foods to get the recipes for the Bloodshot Eyeball Eggs and Shrimp Goblin Fingers – your family will be screaming . . . with delight!

goblin platter no product large

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jennifer fisher litehouse goblin platter whole eggs

Make these bloodshot eye eggs by gently tapping them to crackle shell and soak overnight in beet juice.

 

 

 

 

Now, I’m not that mom who refuses to serve something sweet and sinful. I’ll also be making this Halloween Trash recipe I found floating around on Facebook – it certainly looks to die for! So, for whomever is keeping score out there, this one is NOT as healthy! But, enjoy!

halloween trash

Here’s my take on throwing it together (plus I’m adding m&ms and pretzels) — 8 cups popped corn using my microwave brown paper bag method, 2 cups mini pretzels , 1 cup fall-colored M&Ms, 1 cup candy corn, 1 pound vanilla bark, Halloween sprinkles. Mix popped corn, pretzels and candy together on wax-paper lined, rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with vanilla bark melted according to manufacturer’s directions. Toss to coat evenly. Finish up with Halloween-colored sprinkles.