Tea is . . . my cup of tea! I love that there are so many varieties available that meet me my body where it is for the day, whether that’s requiring an instant pick-me-up, desperately craving better sleep, or feeling bloated and in need a diet detox. Plus, the world’s most popular beverage, is packed with an abundance of antioxidants (varies on the type of tea) to help boost immunity and optimize overall health and well-being. This month, I’ve been jump-starting my mornings with Lemongrass-Mint Matcha Chai Latte, it’s a exponentially more wholesome, herbal alternative the carbonated sugar-free energy drinks I sometimes guzzle prebreakfast (we all have vices, people). After just a few sips of this steaming green goodness, I know that the cold weather, shortened daylight levels, and lengthy to-do list are going to be so much more bearable.
I have a serious sweet tooth. It’s not a secret that I like to start (and end) my day with a little bit of chocolate goodness. Studies have shown that certain flavonoids in chocolate may decrease recovery time and improve endurance in athletes and, goodness, how I hope that is true! However, munching down on chocolate candy or ice cream isn’t really going to help me achieve my 2016 health and fitness goals – there’s a lot of extra sugar and fat I don’t need in those treats. When I eat less processed sugar, I have more room in my diet for protein, vegetables and healthy whole grains and that’s what keeps me fueled up to kick butt on a daily basis.
However, I’ve still been enjoying my daily chocolate but living life with less sugar thanks to Truvia® Natural Sweetener Spoonable. This zero-calorie, stevia-based sweetener is ideal for my healthy lifestyle and keeps me training smart for all my fitness goals – to get on the Spartan Race podium, to nail that next yoga pose, to bring my 5k road race time back down to freaking fast.
Aside from the great taste of Truvia® Natural Sweetener Spoonable and help it gives me to reduce the unnecessary sugar in my life, I also appreciate the product’s versatility. From a spoonful in my coffee or sprinkled on grapefruit, there are so many uses. Two favorite other uses revolve around my chocolate obsessions – the first is to stir right from the jar into unflavored, plain Greek yogurt (to avoid the added sugar that many brands have) and the second is to make a “better-for-you” chocolate syrup that can be poured on / into everything from hot almond milk, protein pancakes, fruit slices, and yogurt. When I stir this chocolate syrup into my Greek yogurt, it’s like eating ice cream – but with lots of protein and very few carbohydrates.
Today, I’m sharing the recipe for “Better-for-You” Chocolate Mint Syrup (which can easily be tweaked without the mint) and my favorite ideas for Greek Yogurt Parfaits. I could eat a chocolate Greet yogurt parfait at breakfast, post-lunch and as a bedtime snack . . . and sometimes have!
“Better For You” Mint Chocolate Syrup (Stevia)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or freeze-dried mint
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoons Truvia® Natural Sweetener Spoonable
- 1 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add mint to teaball / tea infuser and drop in small saucepan with water. Bring water to a rolling boil over medium high heat for 1 minute; turn off heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove and discard mint.
- Mix in Truvia Spoonable into hot water, stir until dissolved. Turn burner back on to medium low, whisk in cocoa powder until incorporated and smooth, cooking for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. If needed whisk in a tiny bit more water to achieve desired consistency if too thick.
- To make “regular” non-mint chocolate stevia syrup, simply bring water to boil in first step – but omit mint.
- May store in refrigerator for up to a month. Makes about 12 ounces.
As I mentioned, “Better For You” Mint Chocolate Syrup is the bomb drizzled over Greek yogurt, but even better STIRRED in! Check out these yummy ways, I used the chocolate syrup made with Truvia Spoonable Natural Sweetener:
As Chocolate Ombre Greek Yogurt Shooters — they are so tastefully trendy and good for you. Start with a big dollop of syrup in the bottom of glass and then spoon in yogurt that has been mixed with varying amounts of chocolate syrup to achieve gradient shades of chocolate brown.
It’s easy to find Truvia® Natural Sweetener Spoonable on the baking aisle at Walmart – it comes in a 9.8 ounce container, so there are plenty of scoops for your beverages, snacks and recipe ideas. Save SAVE $1.50 on any ONE (1) package of Truvía Natural Sweetener (excluding 7 ct.), Truvía Baking Blend or Truvía Brown Sugar blend – get the coupon HERE.
Do you have a health or fitness goal to share? OR, what would you drizzle chocolate syrup on? Please share in the comments below — 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
It is still smoothie time in the great ATX — it’s been in the high 90s this week! It’s so hot you can’t leave a bag of chocolate chips in the car for an hour — lesson learned. That being said, I’ll drink a smoothie (and eat deformed chocolate) pretty much anytime of the year . . . it’s such a quick and easy way to make a nourishing meal to take on the go.
Today, I’ve blended up a Chocolate Maca Mint Chip Smoothie for a slurpable, sweet and super healthy start to the day. Who doesn’t love a chocolate protein smoothie, it’s like drinking a milkshake for breakfast. I’ve added maca powder, ’cause that’s how I mix! Maca, a root vegetable indigenous to Peru, is a natural ingredient prized for thousands of years for its ability to boost stamina, endurance and hormonal balance. It includes vital nutrients such fatty acids, fiber, proteins, carbohydrates and minerals. Sign me up for all of this. Thank you maca powder!
To add a flavor lift of mint, there are two options. You can use sprigs of fresh mint, which grows so abundantly for me in the summer. But, my fresh mint is looking pretty sad, so my tried-and-true swap in is Instantly Fresh Mint from Litehouse Foods — it’s dehydrated mint that is recipe ready any time of the year. One jar has the equivalent of three bunches of mint inside. Look for it in the produce section of your grocery store in little herb-sized jars — ask the produce manager.
Chocolate Maca Mint Chip Smoothie
- 8 ounce unsweetened almondmilk
- 1/3 frozen large banana
- 1 scoop protein powder of choice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons maca powder
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon Instantly Fresh Mint (or fresh leaves)
- 2 teaspoons mini chocolate chips
Add all ingredients to blender, adding ice as needed. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 serving!
So yeah, I’m going to me needed all the energy, endurance and stamina I can get — I have a bunch of races and competitions coming up. I signed up last minute to run the Hill Country Half Marathon in Marble Falls, Texas thus weekend — it’s hill out there y’all. When they keep focusing on the words “scenic,” “beautiful” and “stunning views,” you know that those hills are going to be tough. Also, I’ve got the Spartan Beast in Dallas, it’s an approximate 14 mile run with 30-ish obstacles. I’ve been having so much fun training for obstacle course races, it’s a nice shake up from the traditional marathons and road races I do. Then, of course, San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon in early December.
It’s not too late to join me! Dallas Beast, October 31 and November 1, 2015, Sign Up Now for this Reebok Spartan Race! Save 10% and use discount code FINISH at checkout!
What are YOU drinking this week? What are YOU racing this month? Please share in the comments below – XOXO Jennifer
Another holiday to report — did you know June is National Iced Tea Month! Oh how I love to sun brew a big container of tea and flavor it with ginger and lemon – or sometimes I’ll mix my pitcher of refreshment with a fruit puree. Or, how about a tall glass of Mojito Mint Iced Tea, that’s what I have for you today! Sit back on the porch and enjoy, y’all!
Mojito Mint Iced Tea Recipe
- 2 quarts water
- 4 – 6 black tea bags (depending on strength preference)
- 2 limes
- 1 bunch of mint
- Liquid stevia to taste
Directions: Pour water into a large glass container with lid. Add tea bags and hang tags over rim. Zest limes into tea container, taking care not to zest bitter white pith. Reserve limes, for use later. Massage and twist mint with hands to activate oils; immerse into container. Top with lid and set in sunny part of yard for 4 – 5 hours. Take tea bags out of jar and pour tea through strainer to remove zest and mint leaves. Squeeze flesh of zested limes into tea, add liquid stevia to taste – -stir and enjoy!
I’ll be first to come clean that I have a major sweet tooth and can’t drink my iced tea plain – yet that sweet tea that’s served down here in the south is way to sugary. My compromise is to use stevia, a natural and zero-calorie extract derived from the leaves of the Stevia plant. I still get the satisfaction of “sweet” without the calories, carbs or that sickly saccharine taste that comes with many other sugar substitutes.
I’ve tried many brands of stevia and I really like Pure Via®, the company has a wide range of products including non-GMO stevia packets that can be sprinkled in beverages and used in recipes along with liquid stevia that comes in a handy little squirt bottle that fits in my purse – I love to sweeten my on-the-go coffees and smoothies with the vanilla – the sweetness of stevia is very concentrated, so just a few drops will do ya!
If you like to cook, bake or mix up drinks with stevia, check out Pure Via’s collection of yummy recipes. I can’t wait to make this Blackberry Lemonade – as I’ve mentioned before, blackberry is totally the hipster berry of the year!
One of you lovely readers will soon be even sweeter — that’s because I’m giving away a Pure Via® Summer Fit Kit that includes:
- Box of Pure Via® non-GMO packets
- Bottle of Pure Via® stevia liquid
- Bottle of Pure Via® vanilla stevia liquid
- Container of instant iced tea
- Pure Via mason jar & straw
- Pure Via pedometer (get in your 10,000 steps!)
- Pure Via SPF 15 lip balm
To enter the giveaway, please follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter app – also, please note that this review and giveaway is sponsored by Pure Via®, however the opinions are my own. Entrants must be limited to the U.S. only and only one winner per household (eg: you can’t win the same prize from another blog.
This Melon Mint Smoothie may be one of my favorites yet – it definitely ranks in the top three! The key to the refreshing minty-melon taste is to use really, really ripe cantaloupe and the freshest mint you can find. It was really my frugalness that was the basis for this protein smoothie; you see, I had an entire cantaloupe get over ripe on the counter because of a too-busy-to-cut-it-up week. It was a little mushy, so rather than throw it away (the horror!), I cut it up in cubes and dry-packed for the freezer. My thought was I could throw a few chunks in whatever smoothie I was whipping up for the day, and the frozen melon would help with the smooth frozen consistency – I never expected the melon taste to come through so strong! The perfect way to cool on a warm spring day here in Austin!
Mint Melon Smoothie Recipe
- 10 ounces almond milk
- 1/3 cup (approx. 1 scoop) vanilla or unflavored protein powder
- 1 cup frozen cantaloupe or honeydew chunks
- 10 fresh mint leaves
Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Serves 1.
I also wanted to share a quick review of an awesome backpack sent to me by Apera Bags. There are a lot of gym bags out there, but what I love about the Apera Bags is that they are protected on the inside and out with an antimicrobial finish – not that my stuff stinks or anything (jeeze), but it’s just reassuring to know my bag has these germ-fighting superpowers! There are pockets and pouches galore, all with various functions – to hold shoes, water bottles, a change of clothes, wet towel, etc.
The particular Apera Bag I picked is called the Active Pack and it is perfect for both work and play (there is a padded area where you could stash a laptop or tablet). Of course, I wanted to get the hot pink color, but knew that my husband wouldn’t help carry the load on or weekend hikes if I didn’t choose a “manly” color. And actually, I’m happy with the black color, it will go with all my gym and running fashions and won’t end up looking scuffed up in a few months. But, now I’m fighting with my husband over who gets to use it and when!
Yes, I know –another watermelon recipe. But ‘tis the season for watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and all other delicious, juicy fruits of summer. Hurray!
A reader (and husband) favorite was the Spicy Sesame Salmon on Seared Watermelon I posted last month. I just have to post the picture again because it was THAT good.
Oh, and I haven’t yet forgotten this Watermelon at Heirloom Tomato Salad.
Yesterday, I rehydrated from my 9 mile run in 90-percent humidity with a glass of real watermelon juice. While watermelon is loaded with potassium, I stilled kicked up my drink with even more electrolytes thanks to a grape Nuun Hydration tablet. So crisp and refreshing; it was a runner-friendly aqua fresca!
Wondering how to pick a good watermelon? I know all the tricks. First, look for a yellow, creamy spot on the bottom-side, this means it’s been ripening in the, as it should be! The deeper this “field spot,” the sweeter the melon. Second, a watermelon should have a dull finish (honeydews, too); if it’s super shiny, it won’t be ready to eat. Third, it should feel heavier than it looks. Watermelons are over 90 percent water, and the ripest ones are the juiciest and, therefore, pack the most pounds. This watermelon I’m holding below weighed more than 35 pounds (even though it doesn’t really look like it) and it was the best one I’ve had this summer!
This Melon with Serrano-Mint Syrup Recipe is a recipe I created that ran in Taste of Home magazine way back in May of 2008. At the time, I was growing a mountain of mint and was looking for creative ways to use it. The spicy-sweet syrup was my solution!
Melon with Serrano-Mint Syrup Recipe
Prep: 30 min. + chilling
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon minced serrano pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
- 4 cups each cubed watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, lemon juice, honey and serrano pepper. Bring to a boil; cook for 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in mint and lemon peel. Cool to room temperature.
Strain syrup; discard pepper, mint and lemon peel. In a large bowl, combine the melons. Add syrup; gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, stirring several times. Serve with a slotted spoon. Yield: 12 servings.
Nutritional Facts1 cup equals 92 calories, trace fat (trace saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 13 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 fruit, 1/2 starch.