When I found out that today (February 22nd) was National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, I got really excited. It’s about time this delicious, nutrient-packed tuber got some attention other than in November. Packed with healthy carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients, sweet potatoes are perfect for your plate year ‘round. With at least 16 varieties grown in the U.S., including one of my favorites, the Stokes Purple Sweet Potato, I can’t imagine ever get tired of this vibrant veggie.
Bake, microwave, roast, saute, grill, fry and boil are just some of the ways to cook a sweet potato. Eat them “as-is” with simple seasons or mash flesh to use as an ingredient in soups, side dishes, smoothies, baked goods and more. So, are you wondering just exactly how to COOK a SWEET POTATO? Read on the find out the basic methods and get some of my favorite recipes: Continue reading →
Thank you Florastor® Daily Probiotics for sponsoring this post. Visit your local retailer to pick up your bottle of Florastor®Daily Probiotics to complement your active lifestyle
!Have you ever become all-out sick, or at a minimum felt like crap on a crumby cracker, a few days after finishing a physically or mentally intense event like a marathon or Ironman, huge work deadline or even hosting a mother-in-law (not mine, of course)? Falling under the weather after the black cloud of stress has lifted isn’t a coincidence; it’s an all-to-real occurrence that is referred to as the “Let Down Effect.”
Various studies have correlated the dissipation or “let down” of real or perceived stress with an increase in common colds, illnesses, flare-ups of chronic conditions like asthma, migraines, tummy trouble and other medical ailments. By now, you’ve heard that chronic stress can make you sick and eventually even kill you, but many are surprised to learn that getting sick after a high-stress event (and while perhaps feeling quite relaxed about life) is all too common. This “Let Down Effect’ happens, in simple terms, due to the weakened state our bodies are left in left in after “things get better” – we use a lot of energy and resources to function in high alert mode without a break
When stressed, physically or mentally, increased levels of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones put your body in fight-or-flight mode and mask the perception of pain. We are cleverly designed like this to safely and quickly extract ourselves during the threat of danger, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, the immune system can be compromised, especially after prolonged periods of stress, and latent or chronic conditions can flare up.
In addition to these tolls of physical stress, the let down from emotional stress can cause many of the same problems. For example, dopamine (the pleasure and reward hormone) levels can drop, initiating possibly addictive behaviors like over eating, drinking and substance abuse as a person tries to subconsciously find relief.
So, how do you prevent or at least lessen your chances of falling victim to the “Let Down Effect”?
Sleep Well: Sleep deprivation compromises the immune system, so don’t pull all-nighters thinking you’ll come out ahead. Instead, do the best you can to get 7 to 8 hours a night by staying away from large late evening meals (including alcohol and caffeine), avoiding the blue light emitted from screens several hours before bed, taking a warm bath and using a diffuser to mist essential oils like lavender and chamomile.
Exercise Regularly: Moderate-intensity exercise done on a regular basis can keep your body from downshifting too quickly after a high stress event. If you don’t have time for an official jog or workout, try to include at least some extra walking or other movements in your day.
Decompress Frequently: If life is throwing too much your way, schedule non-negotiable “breaks” to relax whether it’s a 10 minute morning meditation, an entire hour devoted to yoga or even just 1 of minute of positive visualization every couple hours.
Nourish Your Immune System: Try vitamin C rich foods like oranges and grapefruit, vitamin E rich foods like sunflower seeds or spinach, zinc rich foods like beef and egg yolks. Probiotics can also help strengthen your digestive balance and support a healthy immune system.
So, speaking of nourishing the body to help allay stress and prevent illness, I’m sharing a couple things I’ve been doing lately to stay as well as I can. You may have read my post last month about a Sleep and Stress test I took recently – it revealed that my cortisol and cortisone levels are highly elevated throughout the entire day without ever falling to normal as they should. This is likely a result of everyday work/family stress magnified by my running and obstacle course training, and chronic lack of sleep — I’m working hard to resolve it.
So, one of the things I started doing was taking Florastor® Daily Probiotics in the morning and evening with my meals – it’s the best-selling probiotic worldwide and backed by 60 years of use and research. So far, I’ve been really happy with how this easy-to-take capsule is bringing my digestion into balance and helping me better maintain my immune function. Florastor® is the only probiotic brand with Saccharomyces boulardii lyo CNCM I-745 which helps restore your natural flora. Florastor® helps my body break down carbs and fiber and naturally absorb water and nutrients from the foods I eat, these are good things for me as I fluctuate from being bloated to dehydrate when under stress. I also appreciate that this product is vegetarian, gluten-free, contains non-GMO ingredients and can be stored at room temperature. While, thankfully, I rarely have taken antibiotics, Florastor® Daily Probiotics can help those that need to be on this medication maintain a healthy flora balance.
I also wanted to share this quick and easy breakfast recipe that is high in zinc – 60 Second 2-Egg & Beef Omelet. Yay, beef and whole eggs are both great sources of zinc, an essential mineral that keeps the immune system strong, helps heal wounds, and supports normal growth. My recipe is also high in protein, and you know I’m a stickler for getting approximately 25g of protein at breakfast – the eggs and beef are very satisfying for only 220 calories and keep me from tanking mid-morning. Plus, this microwave mug recipe takes less than 1 minute to prepare and around 60 seconds to cook, so there’s absolutely no stress in making breakfast on even the most frantic mornings!
Have you ever become sick after a period of physical or emotional stress? What do you do to boost your immunity or bounce back from a “tough time” healthy? Please share your comments and tips below – XOXO, Jennifer
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
60-Second 2-Egg & Beef Mug Omelet
Got a minute? Then you've got a healthy, balanced breakfast packed with protein thanks to this super speedy egg recipe that cooks up in 60 seconds.
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.
This blog post has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Pure Protein. All opinions are mine alone. #KeepOnTrack #CollectiveBias
Summer has been busier than a gym in January but I’m not letting my hectic schedule sabotage my good intentions. I’m keeping on track with my higher-protein diet by keeping my pantry, purse, gym bag, and mobile snack station (haha, the car) stocked with the new Pure Protein Plus Bars. Considering I’m out of the house most of the day working, running errands, shuttling my teen boys to their sports practices, and finding time for my own fitness routine, having a few of these insanely delicious protein bars at the ready has kept me from getting so hangry that I have the mother of all mother meltdowns. In addition, the bars can be used to make quick nutritious desserts, like my recipe for Clean Apple Pie on Protein Bar Crust that I’m sharing in this post.
To make this nearly sugar-free pie, I used one of the NEW Pure Protein Plus Bars that I purchased at Walmart. When you shop Walmart for Pure Protein Plus Bars, be sure to use Ibotta to earn $1.50 back.
For more Pure Protein Plus Bars inspiration, visit this website. Make sure to enter the sweepstakes below too for a chance to win prizes to help #KeepOnTrack!
These bars are available in four flavors (Cookies and Cream, Mocha Brownie, Apple Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough) that all sound ultra-decadent, but after checking the nutrition label, I found they actually make a quite balanced and sensible snack solution. I’ve been grabbing one for a quick breakfast, bedtime snack or for post workout recovery.
The preferred amount of protein I look for in a nutrition bar is around 20 grams with low sugar content and, ching-ching-ching, this new product delivers. Additionally, the NEW Pure Protein Plus Bars have that soft and pleasantly chewy texture I crave plus they are GMO-free, gluten free, have no artificial sweeteners and are high fiber (15 – 16g).
Oh, and the super delicious flavors are worth shouting out again (and again!) Hello, Cookies and Cream, Mocha Brownie, Apple Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough — welcome to my life. But, unlike the real deal desserts, these bars are mindful of my mission to #KeepOnTrack with a higher protein, lower carb diet.
So, ready for that apple pie I mentioned earlier?! My recipe for Clean Apple Pie on Protein Bar Crust takes all of five minutes and is made with an Apple Pie Pure Protein Plus Bar. It’s a super speedy, protein-packed and no-sugar-added version of my favorite, all-American summer dessert. It’s almost magical how, after the bar is soften for a few seconds in the microwave, it becomes malleable enough to roll out or break in bits and press into the bottom of a pan.
While “making” the crust, slicing and softening your favorite variety of apple tossed with a sprinkling of cinnamon in the microwave takes just mere minutes. No added sugar required – apples are a great source of naturally sweet, complex carbohydrates that can be quickly accessed by the body as fuel for running, workouts or the relentless demands of a hectic life.
Go ahead and pin or print out this protein dessert recipe to #KeepOnTrack and satisfy your sweet tooth at a moment’s notice.
Clean Apple Pie with Protein Bar Crust
All-American and all good for you, this cleaned up apple pie is packed with protein and real fruit -- the perfect healthy dessert or post workout snack.
Unwrap one Apple Pie Pure Protein Plus Bar and set on microwave-safe plate. Microwave on “defrost” setting for 20 seconds, or until warm and malleable but not too hot to handle.
Break up warm bar into bits and place in the bottom of an approximate 6” diameter tart pan, skillet or ceramic dish. Using fingers or back of spoon, press down until formed into a crust that covers bottom of pan. Lightly coat fingers or spoon in coconut oil if beginning to stick.
Cut medium apple into thin slices and place in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave apple slices on high for three minutes, stirring halfway through. Drain off any excess liquid.
Drizzle with coconut oil, sprinkle with cinnamon and stir until coated.
Place apples on top of protein bar “crust.” Sprinkle with pecans and top with yogurt.
I’m on this mug muffin kick lately. I have a zillion iterations, from Lemon Raspberry Protein Muffin Mug to this Blueberry Pecan Oat Protein Mug Muffin that I’m sharing today. I usually mix up this protein-packed breakfast scoop by scoop in the morning, but I love this one so much that I big-batched it! Meal prep, y’all – I can’t believe I’m so organized. Haha.
So, come morning, when I’m not feeling human, all that’s left to be done with my breakfast is add two liquid ingredient (egg white and almond milk) to my mix and stick in the microwave. I tried to use an egg white powder in the mix to make even more convenient, but I didn’t like that so much – plus, how is cartoned egg-white not convenient?! Other things to love about this Blueberry Pecan Oat Mug Muffin recipe in addition to the homey taste is the wholesome nutrition – it’s gluten-free, sugar-free, low-cal and packed with protein (32 grams protein and about 240 total calories per serving).
When I say that this is a Master Mix Recipe, it means you can swap out the blueberries and pecans for the other dehydrated fruit and nuts of your choosing — bananas & peanut, pineapple & macadamia nut, raspberries & almond are just some ideas!
I ran the nutritional info for you tracker types!
Instead measuring out the oats, chia seeds and pecans separately, I like to just use Love Grown FoodsSuper Oats with Chia & Nuts – that stuff ROCKS my world.
Here’s a run down on most of the products I used in this recipe:
What is your go-to easy meal in the morning? If you were swapping out the fruit and nuts, what would you choose? Please share in the comments — XOXO, Jennifer
1 1/4 cupegg whiteparceled out 3 tablespoons per serving
To make master mix, add protein powder, baking mix, oats, chia seed, pecans, stevia and dehydrated blueberries to large mason jar or storage container and shake to blend.
To prepare individual serving, add approximately ½ cup mix into large mug or microwave-safe bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of egg white and 5 tablespoons of almond milk. Microwave on high for between 1 and 2 minutes – exact time will vary by microwave strength (the magic time at my house is 90 seconds). Mug cake will rise dramatically while cooking and then settle back down and is “done” when no longer wet and has consistency of a bread pudding.
*In lieu of these three ingredients, you can swap out with just a little skosh more than 1 ¼ cup of Love Grown Food Super Oats with Chia & Nuts