Today, I’m sharing some of the things that are gearing me up and fueling me through the fun! Continue reading
Getting more avocados in your life is a good thing! Avocados are an excellent source of fiber and protein and pack an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – they are a super star in the world of super foods and are so beneficial in the diet of a runner, stand-up paddle boarder, CrossFitter, mountain climber, yogi, gymnast, obstacle course racer or other active person. Oh, hey, I just described myself!
This nutrient-dense fruit regularly stars as guacamole at my house, but also makes a rich and creamy addition to salads, soups, and even baked goods. Plus, have you ever had avocado in a smoothie? It’s soooooo good! I’m totally loving the new Veggie Avocado Pineapple Smoothie from Smoothie King, more about that in a second – let me tell you about these Avocado Hacks that will make dealing with the sometimes fragile, fussy and fake-out ripe avocado.
1) Avocado Dicing for Dummies – Simply cut in half crosswise, remove seed and, key point, leave the skin on! Use a paring knife to make cuts across and down, without piecing the peel. If fairly firm, the avocado will “pop” out of the skin when pushed, or if riper, use a spoon to coax the dices out. This is sooooo much less messy than peeling and then cutting.
2) Use Avocados Instead of Butter: Swap out avocados for butter in your baking at a 1:1 ratio, you’ll save lots of calories and get all of the nutritional benefits of avocado. Of course, you can also spread on your toast too – apparently that’s a thang!
3) How to Freeze Guacamole – It’s a rare day that leftover guacamole is left at the bottom of the bowl, but it can happen. More likely, there’s a big sale on avocados and something need to be done with them before over ripening – make a huge batch of guacamole and freeze it! Yes, you can do that – just smash it up with a little lemon juice and freeze in a zip-top plastic bag. When ready to use, just thaw in the fridge! And, the same concept goes for avocado slices – find out How to Freeze Avocados!
4) Prevent Avocado from Oxidizing Overnight – Coating with lemon juice is a popular method, but what if you don’t want that tart-puckery taste to linger around? Simply pour a layer of milk on top of your avocado slices or guacamole and then chill (literally and figuratively)! When ready to get your guac on, simply drain of the milk and stir or mash. Or, you can also set an avocado half cut-side down on a big slice of onion and keep airtight in plastic wrap! These methods will keep your avocado looking pretty good for a day, maybe a little longer.
5) How to Ripen an Avocado in 10 Minutes: Turn a rock hard avocado into creamy, edible goodness by slicing and tossing with lemon juice and baking at 300 F degrees for 10 minutes or until just softening.
6) How to Ripen an Avocado Overnight: If you don’t need to eat your avocado ASAP, then stick it in a brown paper bag with a banana or apple and leave on the countertop. Overnight, the fruit’s ethylene gases will soften your avocado to perfection.
Okay, back to the avocado in smoothies? Have you ever tried it? It sounds weird, but blended beverages are blessed with a super creamy taste. In fact, nearly everything from the produce section is good in a smoothie – when I don’t have time to make my own, I swing by Smoothie King for one of their Veggie Blends – these veggie-packed smoothies are deliciously blended to help fuel my health and wellness goals and I love the fact they are so transparent with their nutrition details, so I can pick and choose which one is going to work the best to optimize my “fuel” needs for the day.
I’m not on a calorie-restricted diet. In fact, as an athlete, I’m often looking for ways to get filled up without scarfing down junk foods. The new Veggie Avocado Pineapple Smoothie has more calories and fat content than the other Veggie Blends (Carrot Kale Dream, Berry Carrot Dream, Apple Kiwi Kale) – but offers a long-lasting, satiating boost of nutrition is what I need to power me through an intense workout without making me feel bloated and filled up with a heavy meal. A 20-oz drink has 6 grams of fiber to fill me up and is naturally hydrating, providing me the electrolytes I need for a sweat session.
In fact, all the Veggie Blends at Smoothie King are hydrating and healthful – some even have a “Make it Skinny” option. You can check out the nutrition info on all the green smoothies and other menu choices either on the Smoothie King web site or in the store.
I’m hosting a $25 Visa Gift Card giveaway so one of you readers can load up on veggie smoothies or whatever your heart desires at Smoothie King or anywhere!
Time 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.
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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
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.
Fall baking season is upon us! While I strive to eat nutritiously, I can still enjoy a little lovin’ from the oven thanks to a few healthy recipe swaps. My recipe for Skinny Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins will satisfy any sweet tooth but without nearly as much sugar as bakery shop treats. Because these healthy muffins are sweetened with just a bit of Stevia and the natural sugars found in bananas, the only real naughtiness is in the chocolate chips. But then, who ever said chocolate is bad for you? Quite the contrary with the company I keep. Also, to keep these muffins light, I omitted oil for Greek yogurt (extra protein) and unsweetened applesauce.
Tips, I like to use “mini” chocolate chips because they spread out better in the batter and also allow fewer to be used with still the same indulgent effect. Also, you’ll want your bananas to be as ripe as possible – I’m talking so ripe that the banana peel is black. When the bananas on my counter get to this state of super sweetness, I just peel them and toss them in the freezer for future baking and smoothie recipes. Another tip, if you’re using paper liners, set the liner in the muffin tins and then spray the paper with a mist of baking spray – the muffins will fall out effortlessly when ready to eat.
Skinny Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe
- 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
- ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
- ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt (6-oz carton)
- ¼ cup milk of choice
- 10 packets Stevia (or 1 tsp. liquid Stevia)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup egg whites
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips*
*Save extra chocolate chips in bag to sprinkle on top before baking, if desired.
- Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
- In large bowl, mash together bananas. Mix in applesauce, Greek yogurt, milk, stevia vanilla and egg whites until combined.
- In separate bowl, stir together salt, baking soda, baking powder, all-purpose flour, and whole wheat flour.
- Beat dry ingredients into wet ingredients a little at a time. Once combined, pour in chocolate chips and stir in by hand.
- Spay muffin tins with baking spray or use paper liners. Fill muffin cups 2/3s the way up and sprinkle top of batter with a few extra mini chocolate chips, if desired.
- Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until tops are turning lightly golden brown and center is set with prodded with a toothpick. If using mini muffin pans, reduce baking time 5 – 7 minutes.
- Makes 2 dozen.
If this recipe appeals to you, you’ll probably like my “Better For You” Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, a delicious take on everyone’s favorite quick bread. I had this one published a while back in Country Woman magazine.
Did you know today, February 16th, is National Almond Day? Roasted, raw, spiced, salted, covered in chocolate; you probably don’t need any additional encouragement to snack on these delicious little nuggets from nature. But, just to bring more cred to the crunch, here are my top five reasons that eating almonds is good for you. Plus, I’ve also included my Almond Lover Cookie Recipe below.
- Almonds are a super source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many runners and other athletes lack, primarily because there are so few good food sources of it. Plus, research has suggested the type of vitamin E, called gamma-tocopherol, found in nuts helps to fight cancer. And, apparently gamma-tocopherol isn’t found in supplements, you have to get it straight from the food source.
- Almonds are chock full of other nutrients (besides vitamin E) beneficial to runners and athletes including magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium. One handful of almonds can help reduce muscle damage, strengthen your bones, and boost energy to power through a workout.
- Other research has shown that munching on nuts several times per week reduces circulating cholesterol levels, particularly the artery-clogging LDL type, decreasing your risk for heart disease.
- Almonds are packed with both protein and fiber, meaning a snack incorporating almonds will keep you feeling fuller longer. A serving of almonds is one ounce (about 24 almonds) and has 170 calories, 3 grams of dietary fiber and 6 grams of protein.
- There are so many delicious things you can do with almonds. Gobble them straight from the bag, sprinkle in salads, mix with dried fruit or grind up and use as a coating of fish or chicken. Almond meal (a fancy way to say “ground almonds”) also makes a great substitute for flour in baking, especially if you are following a gluten-free, low-carb or Paleo diet. Check out this yummy Almond Lover Cookies Recipe I came up with that takes advantage of almonds in every way!
Almond Lover’s Cookie Recipe
- 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
- ½ cup almond butter
- ½ cup Splenda (or preferred sugar alternative)
- ¼ cup egg white
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cup almond flour
- 24 chocolate covered almonds
Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
In medium mixing bowl, add butter, almond butter, Splenda and mix together until well-combined. Beat in egg white until mixture is fluffy. Next, mix in baking soda, salt and almond flour, stirring until incorporated.
Let mixture sit in refrigerator for a couple hours (or freezer for 30 minutes). With hands, shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate-covered almond into the top of each. Let cool on sheet for 1 minute and then spatula off to wire rack.
Makes 2 dozen.
Nutrition per cookie: Calories 103, fat 9g, sodium 24mg, potassium 96mg, total carbohydrate 2.8g, dietary fiber 1.5g, sugars 1.0g, protein 2.5g
Over the last couple months, I’ve developed an Olympic-sized appetite which I am attributing to my twice-a-day workout schedule. Run in the morning; CrossFit in the late afternoon. Today, mindlessly influenced by the fact that there is a McDonald’s in the Athlete’s Village at the London Olympics, I headed on over to my local golden arches for lunch. No, I didn’t woof down a gut-busting Big Mac, fry and milkshake meal and I hope our USA athletes aren’t either! I responsibly ate the Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken which is actually quite good with a roasted corn, tomato and black bean salsa and sprinkling of cheese and tortilla chips. However, with only 290 calories (yet supplying a decent 27 gram serving of protein), I was fiercely famished a few hours later.
Today, to address the needs of my rumbling stomach, I whipped up a batch of No-Bake Chocolate Chip Protein Bars. Ready in no time, my afternoon treat was ready just in time to kick back on the couch and enjoy seeing the women’s marathon. Sadly, I realized that my favorite event isn’t until Sunday, August 5th. Oh well, table tennis and badminton will have to do today!
No-Bake Chocolate Chip Protein Bars Recipe
- 2 cups minute oatmeal
- 4 scoops vanilla whey protein powder (my 4 scoops measured 1 ½ cups)
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 1 tablespoon stevia sugar substitute
- ½ cup natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup chocolate chips
Line loaf pan with plastic wrap. In large bowl, add oatmeal, protein powder, flaxseed and stevia; mix these dry ingredients together until well-combined. Next, add peanut butter and water; knead with clean hands until incorporated (you can try to use a spoon, but my wooden one busted right in half). Sprinkle in chocolate chips, knead a bit more. Press mixture into prepared loaf pan and firm up in freezer for 20 minutes. Pull mixture out of pan by plastic wrap; slice into 12 equal sized pieces. Store in the refrigerator. Serves 12.
Nutritional info (per serving): calories 221, total fat 10g, sodium 99mg, potassium 94 mg, total carb 22g, dietary fiber 3g, sugars 10g, protein 11.g