Steak and Quinoa Squachos – NachOMG!

Steak and Quinoa Squachos are a healthy take on nachos and gluten-free, low-carb appetizer optionlYou may be thinking, “Ummmm, excuse me . . . but what the heck on God’s green Earth are SQUACHOS”? This quick and easy appetizer is a healthy swap for traditional nachos made with tortilla chips which are typically fried, overly salted and plentiful in carbs (if you’re counting).  Made on slices of summer’s finest squash, my Steak & Quinoa Squachos are, in two simple words, “life changing!”

Steak & Quinoa Squachos - gluten-free and low carb appetizer!

Zucchini and Summer SquashThe farmer’s markets (and personal gardens of you green-thumbers) are exploding with green zucchini and yellow summer squash this time of year — and this fun and fit finger food is a tasty way to take advantage of a bumper crop and squeeze a few extra veggies into the day.


Recipes similar to this use panko bread crumbs to create that familiar nacho crunch — but that defeats to purpose of my low-carb, higher protein mission. So, instead, I tossed together almond meal and cooked quinoa with a bit of cheese to create a tasty texture on top of each squash disc.

Steak and Quinoa Squachos -- a low carb, gluten free appetizer!

I used two of my go-to non-GMO, gluten-free and certified organic pantry staples from Tri-Colored Quinoa  and Raw Almond Flour. This tri-color quinoa a blend of white, red and black seeds and is a great source of protein and iron — I typically serve it as a side dish or salad, but freeze leftovers for speedy recipes like this! Raw Almond Flour (or Almond Meal, as some people call it) is simply finely ground almonds and it makes a great low-carb swap for flour in many recipes. If you can’t find these products in your market, I’ve dropped the Amazon links below.

More Protein, More PowerNow, if you’ve been following along on the blog or social media, you know I’ve been sharing my (numerous time) journey on the Protein Challenge and encouraging others to join. This free 30-day challenge sponsored by (who I also originally developed the Squacho recipe for) shows you how to tweak your daily protein intake for optimal heath — to be very succinct, you should be getting about 25 – 30 grams of protein at each of your three meals — and also protein rich snacks throughout the day and possibly at bedtime, depending on your activity level. You can register for the Protein Challenge and get tips, support and recipes HERE.

Join the 30 day Protein Challenge

Steak & Quinoa SquachosSo, are you making these Squachos this weekend, or what?!

What are your other plans – a race, a vacation, just catching up on the to-do list? Let’s chat in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer 



Steak and Quinoa Squachos are a healthy take on nachos and gluten-free, low-carb appetizer optionl
Steak & Quinoa Squachos
Print Recipe
You'll exclaim "squash-OMG" when you taste these unique beef nachos that swap tortilla chips for discs of zucchini -- almond meal and quinoa create a crunch texture while keeping the appetizer gluten-free and low carb.
8 as appetizer
8 as appetizer
Steak and Quinoa Squachos are a healthy take on nachos and gluten-free, low-carb appetizer optionl
Steak & Quinoa Squachos
Print Recipe
You'll exclaim "squash-OMG" when you taste these unique beef nachos that swap tortilla chips for discs of zucchini -- almond meal and quinoa create a crunch texture while keeping the appetizer gluten-free and low carb.
8 as appetizer
8 as appetizer
Servings: as appetizer
  1. Preheat broiler on high. 2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil, coat with baking spray.
  2. lice squash into ¼” slices. Place squash, with edges touching each other, onto baking sheets.
  3. In bowl, toss together almond meal with dry fajita seasoning. Stir in cheese, cooked quinoa and almond meal until combined.
  4. Use a tablespoon to pile a big dollop of this cheese mixture on top of each squash slice. If leftover topping in bowl at end of dolloping, sprinkle evenly across tops.
  5. Cut leftover steak or fajita meat into bite-sized pieces. Place a piece of two of beef on top of each Squacho.
  6. Place oven rack on second to top position. Broil Squachos for 2 to 4 minutes, or until cheese mixture bubbling and turning golden brown on edges Watch carefully to prevent burning.
  7. Remove from oven and sprinkle with drained Pico de Gallo. Serve with other desired accompaniments such as guacamole, sour cream or salsa.
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DIY Popcorn Shakin’ Cups – Mess Free Mix-ins – Pop Secret Popcorn

Enjoy family movie night with Pop Secret popcorn and this genius container hack for serving up the snack!

The end of summer is especially bittersweet this year, not just because our leisure time is coming to an end (well, the kiddos’ respite anyway), but my oldest is heading off to college. Yup, that’s right – this mama bear is letting go of a cub and even with my stoic sensibilities, I’m getting a little choked up just typing out the words. With the Big Boy literally leaving the den in 10 days, our family movie nights seem even more special this summer.

Add your favorite ingredients to customize Pop Secret Popcorn flavors.

Movie night is a great excuse to hang out together (an increasing rarity in the teenage years), have some laughs, engage in some invaluable pre and post movie discussions – and, naturally, share some yummy Pop Secret popcorn and sensible snacks together!

Popcorn with Chocolate Chips and Almonds makes a healthy salty-sweet snack!

Now, over these last 18 years of watching movies with my kids, I’ve learned a several things. First, my lone female vote in a house with four male people means I don’t have a say in what we watch – we’ve made the natural boy progression from non-princess Disney productions to action and shoot-em-up flicks. Not a lot of romantic comedies and historical fiction in the DVR queue – of all the guy movies we watch, I like the superhero stuff best – that’s why I’m pretty pumped to have just watched the 2005 version of “Fantastic Four” in preparations for the reboot coming to theaters. By the way, if you Buy any 3 Pop-Secret items between 7/31 – 8/31 and get a Free ticket to the Fantastic Four movie (up to $5) while supplies last

Make these DIY Popcorn Shakin' Cups for your next party or family movie night.

The second important thing I’ve learned is that no matter the age, boys are just messy – and this includes my husband to a degree. Sharing one big bowl of popcorn means crushed kernels left all over the floor and greasy finger being wiped off on the couch. Hello, napkin? And, of course there will always be a bit of sibling squabbling over who gets to hold the bowl, who’s hogging all the food and exactly what toppings are put on the popcorn. To resolve these irritating movie-time issues, I came up with this a great popcorn-eating hack that will rock your socks off – Popcorn Shakin’ Cups!

These Popcorn Shakin’ Cups allow 1) everyone to have their own portion of popcorn, 2) customizable “mix ins” to be added and neatly shaken up to combine, and 3) the popcorn to be eaten straight from the lid opening to mouth (meaning no messy fingers)! Yes, I know – GENIUS!

Putting popcorn and custom mix-in ingredients into cups with domed lids is an easy and mess-free way to make and eat!

It’s easy to put together your own Popcorn Shakin’ Cups -purchase tall, clear plastic cups (mine are 20-ounce but I’ve seen them larger) and domed lids (usually found at an industry or party warehouse or sweet talk your convenience store for some shake/slurpee lids). Next fill with popcorn and your favorite mix-ins – I did almonds and chocolate chips, but Parmesan cheese and garlic salt, or cinnamon sugar and pecans are other yummy popcorn ideas. Add a cute label if you like –and that’s it! Eat, enjoy and toss – no clean up! Great for a party!Popcorn is perfect for family movie night -- you'll love these DIY popcorn cups.

I picked up my mom-of-teenage-boys-sized haul of Pop Secret at Walmart – I got the Sea Salt flavor for movie night plus an extra box of the Pop Secret 100 Calorie Pop 94% Fat Free Kettle Corn for me to keep on hand for sensible snacking in the afternoon. Also, note to self – perhaps I should buy Pop Secret popcorn flavors by the cart full because a variety of boxes would be great to slip into oldest son’s college care packages since he has a dorm microwave.

Have you seen any good movies this summer? What is your favorite popcorn flavor or mix-in?

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Pop Secret, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #pop4Fantastic4

Appetizers: 10 Easy and Elegant Ways To Top Crackers

Make a a quick and healthy appetizer platter with these 10 Easy and Elegant Ways to Top Crackers.May and June are party season at our house, maybe even more so that the winter holiday months! With my son’s graduation party and a Father’s Day cookout book-ending a couple family birthday celebrations, book club, and a baby shower, I need lots of easy but elegant entertaining ideas! Plus, you know me – I always want to put a healthy spin on all my appetizer recipe creations.

Finn Crisp Crackers are baked with whole grains and fiber, making them a nutritious foundation for all sorts of toppings.

Nothing more beautiful and brimming with good taste and nutrition than topping FINN CRISP crackers with healthy toppings like low-fat cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies and nuts. I used these delicious thin crispbreads, which are baked with whole grains and fiber, as the foundation for ten different flavor combinations. Choose a sweet topper, a savor topper or a sweet-savory topper – there is a well-dressed cracker for everyone at your party.     

Top Row (left to right)

  • Aged White Cheddar Cheese, Sliced Dried Apricots, Balsamic Syrup
  • Peanut Butter mixed with Soy Sauce and Sriracha, Matchstick Carrots, Minced Red Onion, Shredded Chicken
  • Low-fat Cream Cheese, Halved Blackberries, Fresh Mint
  • Avocado Slice, Garlic Salt, Pickled Jalapenos, Sriracha Sauce
  • Low-Fat Herb Cheese Spread, Marinara Sauce, Roasted Garlic Cloves

Top Row (left to right)

  • Low Fat Cream Cheese, Red Onions Pickled in Beet Juice, Pistachios
  • Mozzarella, Pepperonis, Italian Herb Seasoning
  • Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chips, Granola, Sea Salt
  • Low-Fat Cream Cheese, Pesto Sauce, Sliced Grape Tomatoes
  • Lemon Curd, Blueberries, Mint

These Next Level Cracker Toppings are an easy yet elegant appetizer for a party, celebration or just snacking!The fruit-topped crackers where some of my favorite, but every appetizer was good and not a single one left!

Easy Appetizer -- Crackers with spread and fruit toppings.

Cream Cheese, Blackberries and Mint on Whole Grain Crispbread Blueberry Lemon Curd Crostini

FINN CRISP provided me products to create these recipes, however all content and opinions are my own.

What are your great ideas for creative cracker toppings?

Southwestern Shrimp & Guacamole Starters + Avocados & Athletes

Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters -

Avocado Superfood

Head over to Core Power to check out my post on Guacasuperfood! Five Reasons Avocados are a Super-Fuel for Athletes.  Of course, I adore guacamole, but this nutrient-dense fruit also makes a rich and creamy addition to smoothies or spread on sammies – it’s also a heart-healthy swap for some of the fats used in baking!   Avocados are also a good source of fiber and protein and pack an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – find out exactly how they can help you as a runner, triathlete, CrossFitter, mountain climber, yogi, gymnast or other active person at

Meanwhile, dig into my recipe for these super easy, super yummy Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters –they are “starters” because once you start eating, you won’t be able to stop. That’s okay – they’re good for you!  These amazing appetizers will be the hit of your holiday party spread — you could also present them in disposable condiment cups if you don’t have enough tiny bowls or would prefer to avoid clean-up.

Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters -

Southwestern Shrimp & Avocado Starters Recipe

  •  1 large avocado
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1/3 cup mixture of roasted corn with red peppers*
  • 18 roasted or grilled shrimp*
  • 18 unbroken tortilla chips
  • Garnish: cilantro sprigs

In small bowl, mash together avocado, lime juice and garlic salt. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of this guacamole mash into 1 ounce condiment cups. Sprinkle a bit of the corn mixture to top of avocado and then top with one shrimp, tail side up. Set a single tortilla chip behind this for scooping out the remaining guacamole once the shrimp is eaten. Repeat steps for remaining appetizers. Makes 18 appetizers.

*I used thawed Green Giant Honey Roasted Corn in the steamer bag and grilled shrimp from the take-away food section of the market for convenience.  

If you’re looking for other small bites for your soiree, these Holiday Appetizers from Cooking Light make a statement and are sure to keep the conversation going!

Holiday Appetizers from Cooking Light

Snack Nation Box - TheFitFork.comI also want to let you know about a great service that delivers healthy snacks to your home or office – Snack Nation.  My box couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time, as I was about to gnaw my arm off in hunger desperation. I tore into the box and it was brimming with sensible snacks including long-time loves (Quest Bars, Krave Jerky and Pirate Booty) and some new favorites (Bare Fruit and Rip Van Waffles).  Perhaps what I appreciated more than the snacks, was the fact that this company gives back to end world hunger through their HUMAN donation program – each delivery is matched by a one month’s supply of nutrient packs delivered globally to people facing malnutrition.  If you’re looking for a unique holiday gift (and one that’s also healthy, tasteful and socially conscious), you really need to check out this fantastic home snack delivery service – plans start out at just under $30 a month and you can sign up for a free trial.

So, tell me, how many AVOCADOS do you eat per week?

What is your favorite healthy packaged snack food?

Batch o’ Hatch Green Chile Stuffed Mushrooms & Other Filled Fungi

mushroom loveI came to love mushrooms later in life. Why I avoided them for so long, I’ll never know. Well, actually I do know – I found these fungi that pop up from decomposing organic material to be disturbingly earthy. A playground friend reinforced my concerns by telling me that mushrooms grow in the spots where frogs pee (this is NOT true) and too many childhood stories ended with a sympathetic character dying at the hand of a poisonous mushroom.


But, now that I’m (ahem) more mature, my taste buds finally won out over my worries – although, you’ll still never find me foraging through the woods popping wild mushrooms in my mouth, willy-nilly.  What I do love about mushrooms, however, is their meatiness and amazing umami taste. Umami is our fifth taste receptor which sends off sirens of delicious, savory satisfaction when foods rich in naturally-occurring glutamates and ribonucleotides co-mingle (this is science, people). The reason why mushrooms, beef, red wine, Parmesean, blue cheese and Worcestershire sauce all go together wonderfully in one combination or another is that they get the umami action going exponentially.   Mushrooms are also like little sponges that soak up the flavor profile of any given recipe – mild and mellow, bright and lively, exotic and unexpected – you get the idea!

mushrooms stuffed with pepper jack, hatch green chile and kale

Today, I’m sharing an easy recipe for mushrooms stuffed with kale, pepper Jack cheese, green chiles and a sprinkling of queso fresca. It will be raining Hatch green chiles (from New Mexico) here in Austin for the remainder of August and my recipes for Hatch chiles keep popping up like (errr) mushrooms.  I originally made these Hatch Chile Stuffed Mushrooms to serve as a side with my Strip Steak with Roasted Hatch Relish – these little guys would also work well atop a salad or as appetizers. And, if you have leftovers (and that’s a big IF), chop them up and put in your omelet the next day!

Hatch Green Chile Stuffed Mushrooms Recipes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 large (2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter) white mushrooms (1 lb)
  • 1 large Hatch green chile, seeded and coarsely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 1 cup packed chopped kale
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup shredded pepper jack
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400°F.

  1. Pull stems from mushroom caps to create space for filling. Finely chop stems and set aside.
  2. In medium skillet, sauté chopped stems and Hatch green chiles over medium heat until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add kale, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté together for another 2 – 3 minutes.   Cool for about 10 minutes and then toss with pepper jack cheese.
  3. Mound mushroom filling in mushroom caps, pressing gently to pack in as much as possible. Top with a sprinkle of queso fresco cheese. Bake in middle of oven until mushrooms are tender and cheese is bubbling, about 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.
  4.  Serves 8 (2 each)

thefitfork beef bluecheese mushrooms plated small text

Looking for some other stuffed mushroom ideas?

Check out my recipe for Beef and Blue Cheese Mushroom Buttons (left) or another favorite recipe hearty enough for an entree – Greek Beef and Kale Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms.






A stuffed mushroom recipe from Cooking Light that looks delish is Pepita Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms – it’s next up on my must-make mushroom list!


Football Food | Healthy “Team Colors” Pudding Pies Recipe

Protein Pudding Pies

Even though the Super Bowl is just hours away, it’s not too late to put together some healthy snacks. Did you know that the amount of food scarfed down by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving Day, according to the US Department of Agriculture.  Most of the country’s pig-out party fare isn’t the most nutritious; included in the collective smorgasbord of snacking is 324 million gallons of beer, 1.23 billion chicken wings (BILLION!), 11 million pounds of potato chips, another 8 million pounds of tortilla chips and countless millions of pizzas –the Domino’s chain, alone, estimates they’ll deliver 11 million slices!

The Calorie Control Council, an industry group representing low-fat and sugar-free food and drink companies, reports that the average Super Bowl snacker will consume 1,200 calories and 50 grams of fat in snacks alone  — that’s not even including a meal! While one day of salty-fatty-carby indulgence probably won’t harm you (especially if you exercise regularly), but it will probably cause you feel sluggish and icky if you’re not used to the diet.

Sugar Free Pudding Pies with Fruit

So, I have some healthy ideas for Super Bowl snacks that are also quick and easy to make. I’m expecting my “Team Colors” Pudding Pies (made with Core Power High Protein Shake) to score big with party guests. Each little mini pie is made with sugar-free pudding and a protein-packed vanilla shake; dress the tops with fruit in your favorite team’s colors – kiwi and blueberries for the Seattle Seahawks or mandarin oranges and blueberries for the Denver Broncos! These are no-bake pies; anyone can do it – even those kitchen-avoiding guys! Head over to Core Power to check out their high protein shakes and if you’re watching the big game on Sunday then use the hashtag #CPBowl for live tweets and to post pix of your own Core Power inspired dips and snacks!

Mini “Team Colors” Protein Pudding Pies Recipe
• 1 box sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
• 1 (11.5-oz) bottle vanilla protein shake
• ¼ cup plain, 0% fat Greek yogurt
• 6 mini graham cracker crumb crusts (I used Keebler brand)
• 1 (6-oz) can mandarin orange slices, drained
• 1 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
• ¼ cup blueberries
In a medium bowl, whisk together pudding mix, Core Power, and yogurt until free of lumps and starting to thicken. Pour mixture equally into 6 mini crusts. Arrange fruit decoratively on top of pies. Chill for 30 minutes. Serves 6.




baked-sweet-potato-chipsIf you must eat chips, why not do baked chips? Store-bought baked chips are a healthier swap than the full-fat versions, yet still loaded with sodium. Make your own baked chips at home in the oven and keep control over all the ingredients – no guilt, no clogged arteries. Check out my recipe for Baked Spicy Sweet Potato Chips – you can dunk them right into one of America’s favorite dips (guacamole).  Did you know that more than 80 million avocados will be enjoyed Sunday, I say YUM to that!

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies

My Gluten-Free Quinoa Almond Chocolate Chippers are ready to tackle even the most hard-core sweet tooth. The quinoa in there packs a little extra protein punch which may help put a stop to your linebacker-sized appetite.

Also, check out Cooking Light – they have made-over five iconic foods eaten at football game viewing parties from coast to coast.

Healthy super Bowl Snacks