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.
Looking to keep it light and low-carb this summer? I have four fun “sandwich” ideas that offer a real blast of flavor without any bread or buns that will be a hit at your backyard 4th of July celebration, family picnic in the park or anywhere else you plan to do some outdoor entertaining.
First up is my Watermelon Grilled Chicken Capr-easy Sammie. I’m never run out of ways to eat watermelon (you know how I love #LivingOnTheWedge).
Simply take a juicy, grilled chicken breast, two strips of thick cooked bacon, and a slice of mozzarella or provolone and slide between two ½” planks of watermelon cut right from the sweetest, ripest “heart” of the melon. Top with basil and drizzle with some balsamic syrup if so desired!
I’ve been using Sargento® Ultra Thin® Cheese Slices this summer (the company was kind enough to send me product to try and review). Verdict – I love these paper thin slices of natural cheese that deliver 100% of the flavor I want for only 45 calories per slice (that means I can have a couple slices)! I also like how they are thin enough to roll up, fold up or “ruffle” like I did for a garnish on my sammie!
Do you have a favorite way to eat a sandwich without bread? Cheese or no cheese and why? Please share in the comments below — XOXO, Jennifer
Don’t you just love nectarines?! The sweet juicy goodness of this stone fruit is at a peak in the summer season — so I’ve celebrating with lots and lots of nectarine recipes. Nectarines salads, nectarine smoothies, nectarine salsa — you get the idea!
Yesterday, I confirmed a hunch that nectarines would go together awesomely with bacon and blue cheese – duh! What doesn’t go with bacon and blue cheese?! In order to get straight to the good stuff, let me present Caramelized Nectarines with Bacon & Blue Cheese:
Surprisingly, this decadent sounding summer fruit recipe isn’t all that much of a healthy diet bomb. Fist, you get all the luscious nutrients found in a nectarine like fiber, potassium and quick-sourced quality carbs to provide energy for workouts and life. Plus, the color of nectarines is a dead giveaway that they are loaded with Vitamin A and the antioxidant Beta Carotene.
Less than 125 calories (without the ice cream)! Get the full macros here.
Raise your hand if you can’t resist corn on the cob ! Not only is this vegetable fun to eat, it’s usually super cheap in the summer season – I just bought a dozen plump, juicy organic ones at Whole Foods for $3 total! Making corn on the cob on the grill is super easy; it’s a must-have at our house for backyard barbecues and casual entertaining. You know it’s on my menu for all the big summer celebrations including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and our big family reunion! There are three main ways to cook a whole ear of corn on the grill, and I’m going to run you through them. But, first, you’ll want to find the freshest corn possible for the yummiest result. Corn sugars undergo enzymatic reactions after ears are picked, slowly converting into less tasty, mealy starches. So, the fresher the corn, the sweeter – all the more reason to make friends with your local farmers.
Method 1 – Cook Corn in Husk
Grilling an ear of corn in the husk is so simple and mess-free – the end part of the cob serves as a handle as your peel back the husk dig into the steamed kernels. Notice how I said “steamed” – that’s because this method actually uses water from all the parts of the corn to steam it into tenderness – the grill just serves as the heat source. If the corn is fresh, it won’t need a pre-soak in water. However, if the husk looks a bit dried out, soak the entire ear of corn in water for about 10 minutes before grilling.
How to: Simply place corn directly on the coals or grates of your grill or campfire (heated to about 400F degrees) and cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until tender (peel back husk if needed). The outside will be blackened, but inside it’s pure perfection. Peel back the husks; remove the silks and butter and season to your preferences. If you want to get fancy, you peel back husks without taking completely off, remove silks, butter and season and then pull back up the husks before grilling. But, I think this makes it too complicated (and the butter tends to drip out!)
Method 2 – Foil-wrapped
Grilling your corn wrapped in foil is a handy-dandy way to prepare it if you don’t want family and friends to be dealing with charred, messy husks. Again, you are actually steaming it with this method. Plus, you can easily oil, butter or season your corn before cooking and the toppings won’t drip out . . . and you don’t have to deal with mess and logistics of setting out these perishable condiments if you have a large crowd.
How to: Shuck corn toss away silks and husk. Wrap the corn in heavy duty aluminum foil, with or without flavorings like butter, herbs, salt, pepper, grated cheeses, etc. Grill right on top of hot coals, or on a grill grate set, turning a few times, about 10 – 15 minutes
Method – Naked
This is my favorite way to prepare corn on the grill because I like the nutty, smoked flavor that a bit of charring on the kernels brings. However, this method is not “steaming” like the other ways to grill corn, so the final result is not quite as juicy and, it can’t be cooked directly on coals. But, I feel like this is how we do it down here in Texas and it tastes so good — yeehaw!
How to: Pull back husks and remove completely or braid and tie off for a decorative effect. Pull away most of the silks – the remaining will burn away on the grill! Cook corn over a medium-hot grill (about 400F degrees) for about 10 to 15 minutes, rotating frequently to prevent burning and encourage all-over light charring. In the last few minutes you can brush with a flavored olive oil and sprinkle with herbs or do that while still warm before serving.
I love serving my grilled corn with slightly spicy-sweet Ancho Vinaigrette – you can get my recipe here:
I’ve also been known to grill waaaaaaay to much corn and I’ll shear off the kernels and use in recipes like my Cali-Corn-ia Shrimp Pizza!
Also, check out Cooking Light’s collection of in-season ideas for Cooking with Corn.
So, how do you usually make your grilled corn – foil, husked or naked? Also, do you use those little stab-in handle thingies or just eat right out of hand? Got any corny jokes? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there! If you’re looking to surprise your mom with a gourmet treat my Blue Cheese & Walnut Stuffed Strawberries are a bold choice! I always see chocolate-dipped berries at the store, but this sweet-savory fruit option makes the perfect prelude to dinner, especially when paired with a glass of wine or sparkling water.
This fruit and cheese recipe is also a spectacular appetizer to bring to either a fancy cocktail party or casual backyard get-together. It can just be our little secret that this healthy recipe only takes 15 minutes or less to prepare, and no cooking! And, I’m partial to Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese Crumbles from Litehouse Foods, look for it in the gourmet cheese section of your market. Recipe at the bottom of the post!
And, speaking of healthy, yummy food, I want to announce that the Fit Foodie Race Weekend will be in Austin June 24 – 26, 2016. You DO NOT want to miss the epic event for the health-minded epicurean! I have been an ambassador for the race all three years it’s come to Austin, and it is absolutely my favorite 5k! Hosted by Cooking Light and Health Magazine, this is a food and fitness lover’s weekend dream come true – running, workouts and really good food! There are pre-race parties and post-race parties and yoga, workouts, cooking demos and an over-the-top expo area – as they say, calories burned, calories earned! The Fit Foodie Race Weekend really is amazing! Plus, this year, marathon superstars Bill Rodgers and Ryan Hall will be making appearance – I’m bringing my selfie stick! Early registration is only $35 for the 5k and entrance into the John Hancock Vitality Village. Plus, use my discount code FITFORK for an additional 10% off! Register HERE!
Do you have a favorite fruit appetizer? Have you ever run the Fit Foodie 5k (in addition to Austin, the race is also in San Diego, Fairfax and Tampa)? Or, tell me one of your top fun 5ks! Please share in the comments below – xoxo, Jennifer
Ever find it hard to decide between serving seafood or steak when making a romantic dinner or special date night? I say, why deny – the marriage of meaty, mouthwatering steaks with delicate, succulent seafood is a bond that shouldn’t be broken. In fact, I’m pretty sure SURF AND TURF are those three little words your significant other wants to hear on Valentine’s Day. And, maybe “I LOVE YOU” later! Here are a few favorites from my personal recipe collection and from friends at Cooking Light and Texas Beef Council. Pair up one from the beef list and one from the seafood list for a memorable meal your love will LOVE!
FAVORITE STEAK RECIPES FOR DATE NIGHT:
Spice-Crusted Tenderloin Steaks – I don’t know how many times I’ve made this insanely good beef recipe – you just can’t go wrong with tenderloin. Slice up your beef into filet steaks (or ask the butcher) and get grilling. If it’s still cold outside, this simple recipe works well on an indoor grill pan like this one XOXOX.
Pomegranate Steak with Quinoa – The additional of an ancient grain makes this strip steak super well balanced!
Pan-Seared Strip Steak – Smoky, savory and seemingly sinful, this recipe is made with a strip steak which is actually quite lean. I’d be inclined to sprinkle some blue cheese on top for an umami one-two!
Mojo Flat Iron Steak – Flat iron is a very tender cut of beef, slice thin and serve with some grilled shrimp for a tasty tropics-inspired treat!
FAVORITE SEAFOOD RECIPES FOR DATE NIGHT:
Cumin-Dusted Seared Sea Scallops – My simple recipe for scallops is super flavorful and can be made in mere minutes while steaks are resting!
Crab-Stuffed Lobster with Citrus Vinaigrette – I went coastal crazy when I tried this — this easy lobster (and crab!) recipe is so easy and elegant plated as a side dish with the perfect steak.
Sauteed Creole Shrimp – I originally made these quick Cajun-inspired shrimp to toss on a salad but found a few strategically placed atop a steak are spicy magic!
Lemon Grilled Bay Shrimp – Let shrimp soak up flavors in a 10-minute pre grill marinade of lemon juice, garlic and simple spices. I serve with the wedges, it looks so lovely!
So what are your dinner plans for Valentine’s Day? Do you love beef and seafood — are you more surf or more turf when it comes to life? Please share in the comments below — XOXO, Jennifer
Well, first of all, happy Mardi Gras – Laissez les bons temps rouler! This day of eating, drinking and overindulging that can take quite a toll so, I’m sharing a healthy salad to help keep you fit and fierce for Fat Tuesday . . . or get you back on track later in the week!
You’re going to love my Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons, it’s like a healthier version of a Po’ Boy sandwich that exploded with loads of lettuces and farm-fresh veggies. Instead of getting fried in oh-my-gawd grease, the succulent shrimp in this quick and easy recipe get a toss in Creole Seasoning before being lightly sautéed in heart-healthy olive oil.
Forget about bland Creole seasoning from grocery store spice aisle, kick up the taste and cut down on costs by making a big batch at home – in addition, making it from scratch lets you say au revoir to weird chemicals and preservatives and control the amount of heat. Often referred to as Cajun spice, this blend of peppers, paprika, thyme, oregano, garlic and onion powders creates the base of bold flavor on practically everything in my shrimp recipe – BAM!
I also use Instantly Fresh Herbs in my Creole Spice Mix, a generous recipe that makes plenty for the salad, dressing and croutons – store leftovers in an airtight jar for up to a year. Use this Creole Spice Mix in soups and gumbos, rub into catfish and tuna, mix into meatballs, and even sprinkle on grilled fruit – this Cajun food seasoning is crazy-good!
The dressing isn’t loaded in fat either; I used the deliciously creamy Greek yogurt-based Ranch and jazzed it up a bit with Creole spices.
If you are looking for some other Cajun, Creole or otherwise New Orleans-ish, check out this collection of Crescent City inspired recipes from Cooking Light
What are your Mardi Gras plans? What is your favorite Cajun or Creole recipes? Please share in the comments, XOXO — Jennifer
Invited 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.”
“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.
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.
Looking 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