5 Easiest Ever Almond Ideas for Holiday Party

Blue Diamond Almonds on treeTime to get serious about last minute holiday preparations; it’s the final countdown to Christmas! I still have some shopping and wrapping to do, cookie baking with the kids, and prepping for my contributions to the huge family feast on Christmas Eve — oh and the brunch I’m hosting on Christmas Day.

Enjoy family movie night with Pop Secret popcorn and this genius container hack for serving up the snack!In between all this, we’re squeezing in a Star Wars movie marathon of past prequels and sequels – even though we’ve seen these classic flicks numerous times, it’ll be good to be fresh for the new Star Wars – The Force Awakens.

So, we’ll need snacks – lots and lots of snacks, and preferably healthy things to nosh and nibble on that won’t make a mess in my media room! Almonds are one of my go-to choices for healthy appetizers and snacks – they punch a nice little pack of protein and are great source of other nutrients, especially iron, vitamins A and C, and dietary fiber. Another great thing about almonds (Blue Diamond Almonds are my favorite) is just how easy they are to incorporate into entertaining.  Today, I’m sharing five fun and easy ways to crunch and much on almonds this holiday season – and into the New Year, too!

  1. Simply eat almonds straight out of the can (or fancy serving bowl). I’ve never seen a soul walk past delicious almonds and not stop to pick up a few! A one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) pairs perfectly win a light cocktail or glass of sparkling water.Almonds for Holiday Entertaining
  2. This idea is for the kids (of any age) – Almond Lover Gingerbread Men! To keep it easy, use store-bought cookies and simply melt a chocolate chip on one hand (or pipe a dot of frosting) and press down gently with an olive. Use a piping bag filled with frosting to decorate with a little edible bow!Almonds for Holiday EntertainingEasy Almond Lover Gingerbread Men
  3. This is one of my favorite snacks with almonds — Almond Chocolate Apricot Bites! Just layer up the three ingredients (melt the chocolate chip if you want to be fancy so that all the ingredients stick together) and, viola, a yummy 20-calorie treat in mere minutes.20 Calorie Apricot Almond Chocolate Bites
  4. Chocolate Almond Popcorn – could this be easier?! Air pop some kernels and then, while still warm, top with your favorite flavor of Blue Diamond Almonds and chocolate chips. Toss together so the chocolate slightly melts – it’s like being at the movie theater and dumping candy into your big tub, but healthier!Popcorn with Chocolate Chips and Almonds makes a healthy salty-sweet snack!
  5. Almond Lover Cookies are a favorite with my boys and only take a few minutes to whip up a batch and 12 minutes to bake – if short on time, double up a batch the week before and keep in the freezer!jennifer fisher- thefitfork- almond lover cookies

What are your stress-free ways to enjoy almonds, aside from straight out of the can?! Oh, and have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet — just a thumbs up or down, no spoilers! Let me know in the comments below — XOXO, Jennifer 

This post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. However, all comments, ideas and enthusiasm are my own. 

Life of Party! 5-min Blue Cheese and Orange Gingersnap Appetizer

Blue Cheese & Orange Gingersnap BitesInvited to a holiday party, you dutifully ask “can I bring anything,” fully assuming the host will not want you to risk ruining her celebratory spread of nibbles and noshes. But this time (gasp) you to “it would be so lovely for you to bring an appetizer or dessert . . . if it isn’t too much trouble.” 

sweet treat personalityYou’re thinking –

“It really IS too much trouble, why’d I have to open my big mouth.”

 

 

 

As I see it, you have several options to this potluck-ish predicament. First, you could skip the party and save yourself the trouble. Second, you could show up empty-handed and blame it on the dog or dropping your dish on the way to the car. Third, you could attempt a fancy recipe seen in a gourmet cookbook and spend precious free-time hours in the kitchen with no guarantees of the results. Fourth, you could grab anything left on the store shelf like a bag of chips and onion dip and end up looking like an uninspired slacker. Or, fifth, and the obvious winning choice – make this proven to be insanely delicious app in a snap  — Gingersnap Blue Cheese & Orange Bites.

Gingersnap Blue Cheese Orange Bites

So many things to love about Gingersnap Blue Cheese & Orange Bites – the taste is insane with “pows” of sweet, spicy, pungent, salty and zesty citrus tastes with every bite. You also get pretty much every texture in the textbook too – crunchy, smooth, juicy and chewy. But, drum roll, one of the most amazing things about this appetizer recipe with a complex flavor profile yet simple presentation is that it can be made in 5 minutes or less. You don’t need a culinary school certificate to make this easy and elegant appetizer recipe — in fact, you don’t even need to know how to cook!

I originally made this hors d’oeuvre recipe for Litehouse Food as a way to feature their deliciously rich and creamy Artisan Reserve Center Cut Blue Cheese.

cooking light appetizer gallerLooking for more quick, easy and healthy nibbles for your party? Check out Cooking Light’s gallery of Top Rated Party Appetizers!

What is your favorite 5 minute appetizer? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

 

 

Gingersnap Blue Cheese Orange Bites
Blue Cheese and Orange Gingersnap Bites
Print Recipe
Razzle dazzle holiday guests with this 5 minute appetizer that mixes and mingles orange segments, blue cheese, honey and crunchy ginger cookies into a festive flavor experience worth celebrating any time of the year.
Servings Prep Time
36 appetizers 5 minutes
Cook Time
0 minutes
Servings Prep Time
36 appetizers 5 minutes
Cook Time
0 minutes
Gingersnap Blue Cheese Orange Bites
Blue Cheese and Orange Gingersnap Bites
Print Recipe
Razzle dazzle holiday guests with this 5 minute appetizer that mixes and mingles orange segments, blue cheese, honey and crunchy ginger cookies into a festive flavor experience worth celebrating any time of the year.
Servings Prep Time
36 appetizers 5 minutes
Cook Time
0 minutes
Servings Prep Time
36 appetizers 5 minutes
Cook Time
0 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: appetizers
Instructions
  1. Lay gingersnaps out on serving platter. Top each with an orange slice and chunk of blue cheese. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with mint.
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Rock a Lunchbox |Caramel Banana Protein Cereal Bars

Even though I try to eat with my health in mind, I don’t always say “no” to sweets – but I do try to clean them up a bit. For example, instead of a bowl full of cold, creamy ice cream topped with crumbled cookies, I eat plain Greek yogurt that I’ve sweetened with stevia and topped with a crunch protein-based chocolate cereal (Power Os from Love Grown Foods). I also top that with mini-chocolate chips, it’s my go-to bedtime snack – it’s still sweet, but more balanced with protein to boost my workout recovery and make muscles while I sleep!

Caramel Banana Protein Cereal Bars make a healthier lunch box treat.

I also like to implement my “protein-hacks” in my kid’s lunchbox desserts as well. A study has shown that children ages two to 18 years old get 40 percent of their daily calories from junk foods like sugary sodas and fruit drinks, cookies, donut, candy, fried foods and more – that’s unconscionable. Kids of all ages want sweets, I get it – believe me I GET IT! I would try and trade the raisins my health-nut mom would pack in my lunch for a friend’s Hostess Cupcake – she never would trade, but started bringing me an extra cupcake on the sly.

So, as a parent myself now for more than 18 years, I’ve allowed my kids to eat sweets so that they don’t feel deprived but talked about limits and the effects of eating too much “less than quality food” – but that a small amount also be fine occasionally in the context of an overall healthy lifestyle. I also like to make our cookies and cakes at home, so I know exactly what is going into the recipe and into our bodies – choosing more nutritious alternatives when possible. Like heart healthy fats, sugar swaps, no chemicals or preservatives, organic when possible – you get the drift.

Caramel Banana Mighty Cereal Bars made with Love Grown Mighty Flakes make a healthier lunch box treat.

Caramel Banana Cereal Bar Today I’m sharing a healthier version of classic crispy yet chewy cereal bars. They are perfect for lunch boxes, backpacks, after school snacks, picnics, and pot lucks and bake sales! I used less butter and marshmallows than the traditional “crispie” recipe and supplemented with a reduced-sugar caramel and dried fruit for sweetness. For long-lasting energy, I threw in some nuts and a bean-based cereal for extra protein. Enjoy!
Caramel Banana Cereal Bars using Reduced Fat Caramel from Litehouse Foods makes a healthier lunch box treat.

What was your favorite treat to find inside your lunchbox as a kid . . . or today? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

Caramel Banana Cereal Bar
Caramel Banana Protein Cereal Bars
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
18 servings 15 min
Cook Time
0 min
Servings Prep Time
18 servings 15 min
Cook Time
0 min
Caramel Banana Cereal Bar
Caramel Banana Protein Cereal Bars
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
18 servings 15 min
Cook Time
0 min
Servings Prep Time
18 servings 15 min
Cook Time
0 min
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Add banana chips and walnuts to medium bowl and lightly break up into coarse chunks with mallet or back of spoon.
  2. Add cereals to bowl with banana walnut mixture; toss to combine. Set aside. In large microwave-safe bowl, add marshmallows, caramel dip and butter. Microwave on 50% power for one minute, stir until creamy. Return to microwave and cook at 50% power for additional 1 minute; stir until creamy. If marshmallows aren’t completely incorporated, continue and stir in 20 second blasts.
  3. Add dry cereal mixture to caramel mixture and stir with spatula until everything well coated.
  4. Line 8” x 8” baking pan with wax paper or spray with oil.
  5. Press mixture down firmly into pan. Let cool for 5 minutes and then cut into 9 bars, or size of your preference.
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Spring (Cookie) Break! Outrageously Delicious, Gluten-Free Treats

Spring Cookie Break - Organic Gluten Free GinnyBakes.comGluten-free baking, it can be a beast. If you’ve ever attempted your own gluten-free adventures in the kitchen, you know the oh-my-gawwwd-this-is-disgusting ogre of which I speak. This monster might eat dense bread, flat cakes and cookies that could double as hockey pucks, but none of my kiddos will come near the majority of my initial gluten-free experiments. Not that I’m trying dissuade you from doing your own gluten-free baking – it can be done up right if you have a reliable recipe and know the tips for success.  I have a couple tried-and-true gluten-free goodies in my repertoire, Baked Honey Pistachio Donuts and Chocolate Chip Cranberry Pumpkin Bread , but many other recipes (like gluten free cookies) are not at all luscious and, frankly, lackluster.  I’ve got a tough crowd to please with my three teen boy taste-testers – you’d think that they’d eat ANYTHING to fill up those hollow legs, put they’re surprisingly persnickety.

cookies from ginnybakes.com

So, I’ve decided there’s no shame in buying cookies, no shame at all. Especially if they are OUTRAGEOUSLY DELICIOUS cookies— enter GinnyBakes.com into my life! Ginny Bakes creates outrageously delicious and certified organic, certified gluten-free, non-gmo cookies, bars and goodies that the whole family can enjoy. Ginny puts a lot of love and mindful attention into her products– all ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms and ionizing radiation. I appreciate that she’s treating my family with the same care and concern that she gives to her own brood.

Lucy stole our Ginny Minis!

Lucy stole our Ginny Minis!

Cookies fanatics are going to appreciate the wide variety of flavors available, included are Chocolate Chip Love, Chocolate chip Macadamia Love, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bill, Coconut Oatmeal Bliss, Double Chocolate Happiness, Buttercrisp Love, Dreamy Vegan Delight and “Ginny Minis,” little bags of bite-sized cookies that are perfect for lunchboxes or purses.

chocolate macadamia nut cookie ginny bakes

gluten free organic brownie mixOh, and if you do have the time to bake but are worried about getting “gluten-free” right or just want to make sure you have quality ingredients, GinnyBakes.com also makes several unbelievable baking mixes.  I tried Lovely Brownie Bliss Baking Mix – let me just say between the organic dark chocolate chips, coconut oil and rich cacao powder, these decadent gluten-free brownie had to HIDDEN from the family for my own personal enjoyment.

I have a couple fun ideas for using the cookies – other than eating straight out of the  box. Crumble them up on Greek yogurt, sandwich two around ice cream or decorate the buttercrisp cookies for whatever reason or season is at hand.

Ginny Bakes Crumbled on Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt, my homemade chia seed and strawberry sauce, and Ginny Bakes Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie crumbled on top!

Ginny Bakes products are available online at GinnyBakes.com or at many of your favorite retailers like Target, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers – you can even print off a coupon. Time saved, better tasting, nutritious ingredients, kids happier, mindful munching –you MUST join me at winning at this healthy mom thing!

What is your favorite flavor of cookie?

This post was sponsored by GinnyBakes.com and Sverve

Moreo Blondie Bars Loaded with Yum + Cookie Recipes

Moreo Kitchen Sink Blondies - TheFitFork.comIf MORE means “a greater or additional amount,” then my Moreo Blondie Bars have more MORE! This delicious treat is overflowing with a greater amount of good things than I typically eat at once – like Oreo cookies, M&Ms, chocolate chips, lots of butter and sugar.  Even though I preach clean eating most of the time, the holiday season is not the time to say “NO” to festive, frivolous and nourishment of dubious (yet delicious) quality – Halleluiah!  You HAVE to read on after the recipe to see my brother’s awesome idea of MORE – it’s a Cherblumpkin!

Moreo Blondie Bar Cookies with Oreos and Candy - TheFitFork.com

So, if you’re making Christmas cookies at home, these Moreo Blondie Bars are very easy to make – just mix up the ingredients and plop in the pan. I highly recommend lining the baking dish in foil before adding the batter. When baked and cooled, simply lift out the by the foil edges and then neatly slice into bars. If you don’t want to go whole hog, check out my recipe for The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie – it’s a classic.Moreo Blondie Cookie Bar with Milk - TheFitFork.com

Moreo Blondie Bar Recipe

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 15 double stuffed chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely broken
  • 1 cup broken pretzel pieces
  • ½ cup M & M candies
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. Melt butter in microwave safe bowl. Add sugars and stir until combined and then mix in eggs.
  3. Stir in baking soda, salt and flour until combined, but don’t over mix.
  4. Mix in crushed cookies, pretzels, candies and chocolate chips until evenly incorporated.
  5. Line 9” x 13” baking pan with foil; spray foil with cooking spray.
  6. Add dough to pan, patting down with fingers or spatula.
  7. Bake on center rack for 25 minutes or until edges and top turning light golden brown and center looks set.
  8. Let cool completely in pan.  Remove contents from pan by lifting foil. Peel sides of foil back and cut into 12 bars.

Cherblumpkin Cake - Cherry on Blueberry on Pumpkin

Here it is . . . .the Cherblumpkin! It’s a cherry pie stacked on a blueberry pie stacked on a pumpkin pie – frosted to look like a layer cake. The contest was for Cherpumpple (cherry-pumkin-apple),but my little brother shook up the system with his heart stopper of a pie-cake hybrid, so proud of him.

Cherblumpkin - Cherry Blueberry Pumpkin Pie Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual-Cookie-Exchange-recipes-galoreIf you need more holiday goodie ideas, the Fitfluential ambassadors having a Virtual Cookie & Treat Link Up. Lots of goodness here, recipes to suit both sensible and sinful cookie bakers!

What’s your favorite holiday baked item — please share?

Seven Days of Sweet & Savory Things

Aug 24: Ran the epic Hood to Coast Relay for the second year,  on a team called Cherry Limeade sponsored by the always awesome, always refreshing Nuun Hydration.  This Seattle-based maker of electrolyte tabs is focused on creating a take-along product that keeps runners and other athletes hydrated flavorfully – in fact, they have so many flavors, it will make your head spin.  My favorites are Kona Kola and Strawberry Lemonade, oh yea — and ½ a Banana tab with ½ a Watermelon tab!  I appreciate the fact that I’m not sucking down a bunch of sugar with this product, goodness knows I’ve been the poster child for losing time on a race course due to GI distress.

hood to coast van two getting ready

I was so inspired by the women runners in my team’s van 2, that I just have to shout them out —  Allison, Tanaya and Tere from Arizona, Emily (now) from Oregon and Paige from Washington. I’m already looking at the upcoming race calendars to cherry pick (or, should I say ‘cherry limeade pick’?) a few for reunion visits! BTW, all the women I met on the Nuun teams rocked; however, these particular ones though had to put up with me for 40 straight hours with no sleep. There was no do-it-yourselfing on this trip, well except the running. We had the luxury of being chauffeured around on this 200-mile race by our fearless, amusingly foul-mouthed and seriously funny van driver Vishal, a Nuun employee who also made sure that we had our Starbucks, Diet Mountain Dew, and never-ending food and pit stops expertly arranged.  Thanks to Megan Fay for organizing the chaos and chief hydrator and company president, Mason Reay, for another year of gracious hospitality. Random side note: I knew Mason lived in Austin for a while, but found out that our children attended the same preschool at the same time! Now that I think of it, he might have been the dad at the Thanksgiving Pow-wow who offered to bring beer.

August 25: Traveled the entire day, plane had mechanical problems and I wasn’t in bed until 2:30, and shortly thereafter greeted my 5:30 alarm clock. That was neither a sweet nor savory thing. But, while waiting at the airport, I did order a “personal mix” of granola from MixMyOwn.com.  The site is so cool, you choose a base cereal, other grains, fruits, nuts and add-ins and then bag it up and ship it straight to your door! On the back of the bag, the nutrition label reflects the exact mix that you made. And, it tastes really fantastic on my Greek yogurt.

mixmyown

August 26: School started, enough said. Sweet! Okay, I’ll say more – and I don’t usually dump out this much mushy personal information, so here you go! My three sons have entered 11th, 8th and 5th grades, so proud of them and it’s going to be a great year.  Got a sweet kiss from each this morning!

my three boys

August 28: Finally read my September Cooking Light magazine and made a recipe for Quinoa-Granola Cookies that I will share on the blog tomorrow. Love to put healthy cookies in my kid’s lunches. Sneak peek:

quinoa-granola-chocolate-chip-cookies-ck-l

August 30:  Brought a post-practice treat to football practice, Jamba Juice smoothies! Seeing as it was 105 degrees, I had no trouble passing off every last one of the Strawberry Surf Rider smoothies to those hot, sweaty boys. This is one of the reasons why I love being a Jamba Juice Whirl’d Ambassador (disclosure).  If you sign up to receive Jamba Juice news and specials via email, you’ll receive a coupon for a $2 16-ounce smoothie. That’s a sweet-sweet situation!

SAMSUNG

August 31: Celebrated National Bacon Day by wrapping a piece of cured pork around a club cracker and rolling it in brown sugar – then baked at 400F until bubbling with greasy-salty-sweet goodness. This sweet-and-savory sin was not my own doing – inspired by the Pioneer Woman.

national bacon day

September 1: Shared my love for beef and why it is great fuel for an athlete at the Tri-Rock Triathlon Expo in Austin, Texas.  Looking for a delicious dinner idea that’s healthy and fast? Check out my recipe for Spice Crusted Tenderloin with Street Fair Corn, hurry and make it before grilling season slips away.

jen and jackie tri rock