Feedback is in from friends, family and those of y’all around the Internets . . . . this hearty, healthy Banana Quinoa, Oats ‘n More Breakfast Bake is a winner! Other nutritious ingredients I’ve snuck inside this make-ahead breakfast meal — hemp seeds, chia seeds and cacoa nibs!
Ready for a curiously crunchy treat? My recipe for Apple, Walnut & Quinoa Crunch will satisfy sweet crispy cravings while filling you up longer thanks to an unexpected punch of protein from the quinoa and black walnuts– it’s a balanced candy for your “healthy tooth”!
I almost hesitate to even call this easy-to-make recipe “candy,” although it is a take on old-fashioned “nut brittle.” However, the typical peanut brittle or nut brittle uses a boatload of butter, table sugar and corn syrup – gasp! Instead, my healthy candy recipe is packed with wholesome ingredients like 100 percent juice apple cider, ancient grains, dried fruit and nuts, and just a touch of coconut sugar.
I also choose to use Black Walnuts instead of standard english walnuts. Why? The black walnut has the most protien of any tree nut and imparts a more intense, earthy, nutty flavor to recipes. I discovered this news I can definitely use at the Produce Marketing Associations recent Fresh Summit in Orlando when, I auspiciouslly bumped into Hammon Black Walnuts on my way out the door to fly home.
As far as sugars go, coconut sugar (derived from Palm) is a much healthier sweetener in moderation as it doesn’t spike blood sugar as dramatically as traditional sugars. Also, if a concern for you are a loved one, this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free.
I originally made this recipe for Litehouse Foods and used the Honey Crisp Apple Cider, you can find it in the produce section this time of year. This Cold Pressed, 100 percent pure apple juice has a unique tart taste that is wonderfully balanced with sweet. It’s perfect poured straight from the container, served hot or cold, and also makes a great ingredient in recipes where you would prefer natural sweetness.
Some things to note when making this recipe — you need to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, your oven temperature may vary affecting the overall cook time. Also, it will be soft when removed from oven — give it plenty of time to set up and harden, stick in the fridge to expidite. If it still doesn’t seem crispy, then you can put it back in the oven for several minutes at a time until done.
Another healthier “candy” I’m pulling from the archives to share with you today is my recipe for Sweet Date Chocolate Candy Bar Bites. These are so yummy and I love how the dates provide extra iron in my diet.
I also like to make a batch of my Hazlenut Fudge Protein Balls to stash in the freezer and thaw out one at a time to quell my dessert cravings. These no-bake energy bits are ideal for a healthy little dessert or as pre and post workout fuel.
In addition to the Honey Crisp Apple Cider from Litehouse Foods, which you can conveniently find in your market’s produce section this time of year, here are some other ingredients used in my Quinoa Crunch.a
Do you have a “healthy” candy recipe? What is your go-to when you are craving something sweet? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer
It’s happened more than once, I’ve tasted a quinoa salad and gone “meh” even though I know good for me. We are at the crescendo of the quinoa craze, so you too probably are aware that this ancient grain (which is actually a seed) boosts your diet with nutrients like B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and fiber. Additionally, quinoa is also one of only a few plant foods considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids — oh how I love me some protein!
To add some flavor excitement to a quinoa recipe, I decided to mix up a dish that magnifies some of my favorite flavors that some consider “fall season” but I embrace year ’round – maple syrup and butternut squash! And hey, even though it was 105 degrees yesterday . . . we are getting closer to Autumn one day at a time! I’ve used two of my favorite products from NOW Foods, Organic Tri-color Quinoa and Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Anyway,my recipe for Maple Pecan Raisin Butternut Squash Quinoa is just bursting with flavor and wholesome goodness. Not only is this recipe pretty to look at, it’s a beautiful addition to a meal-prepping lineup — especially important now that it’s Back-To-School season. You can make a big batch and eat it warm or cold — it also holds up well to being packed in a lunchbox. Of course, I like to pair mine with a big, juicy steak!
By the way, I am demonstrating this Maple Pecan Raisin Butternut Squash Quinoa coming up on Friday, September 9th at the Texas Pinner’s Conference in the Dallas area (Arlington Convention Center). My class is called “Empowered Meal Prep – Protein for Fitness.”
Learn how to prepare enough protein (I’m grilling Molasses & Pepper Crusted Steaks) to make dinner with leftovers for breakfast and lunch — the other recipes are Iron-Boosting Beef & Date Spinach Salad and Steak & Plantain Breakfast Bowl. Sign up for my class, I’ll also have beef swag and lots of tasty samples! Use the discount code FITFORK at online registration to save 10% on the very reasonable cost that allows you access to 100+ classes on food, fitness, crafts, home décor and more! Or, if you just want General Admission to shop and see the sights (no classes), you can get a free pass ($7 at door) using FREESHOPPING. RESISTER HERE
Are you a make-ahead meal prepper? What is your favorite dish to stock in the fridge or freezer? Have the kids gone back to school yet? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
You 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!”
The 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.
I used two of my go-to non-GMO, gluten-free and certified organic pantry staples from NowFoods.com — 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.
Now, 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 BeefLovingTexans.com (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.
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
I could have named this post “Watermelon Wednesday,” but the current title seems so much better because variations of the events that unfold below could happen any day of the year. For reals, I’m always #LivingOnTheWedge , y’all!
5:15 am: Wake up, drink coffee, check my Instagram feed and remember that my friends @WatermelonBoard are hosting a fun photo contest on Instagram. Tag your pics of watermelon #100DaysofWatermelon for chances at prizes all summer long.
6:00 am: Trying to get out the door fast, so I eat a protein bar and chug some watermelon juice – it’s just the hydration I need to tackle my 8 mile run on this hot and muggy morning. Also, research suggests that drinking watermelon juice before an intense exercise session can help reduce heart rate and next-day muscle soreness (thank you L-citrulline)!
6:48 am: Mid run full-bottle chug of Nuun Active (watermelon flavor, natch) – packed optimal electrolytes, made with clean ingredients, low in calories and sugar – plus vegan and gluten-free. Save yourself 20% with discount code NUUNAMBASSADORFRIEND
8:41 am: Snack on Organic Raw Sprouted Watermelon Seeds – why our mom’s told us not to swallow them is beyond me, they are packed with amazing nutrients.
9:29 am: Brush teeth with some Watermelon Toothpaste – yeah, it’s for kids, but it’s totally free of yucky stuff . . . . and it tastes like my favorite fruit, so don’t judge.
10:43 am: Purchase two of the cutest watermelon tank tops evvvvvahhhh for my trip to Los Angeles in July to share my love for watermelon (and demonstrate watermelon workouts) on behalf of Watermelon.org at IdeaWORLD Fitness Convention & Expo (yes, my job is awesome).
12:32 pm: Lunchtime, how ‘bout a breadless with chicken, bacon, basil and provolone – and watermelon for the bun! I’ll have the recipe on this one posted tomorrow!
2:01 pm: Practice a little #WatermelonYoga ‘cause I’m crazy like that.
4:08 pm: Take an afternoon work break and search watermelon-related hashtags on Instagram — #watermeloncake has 21,838 photos (yet my Chocolate Cherry Watermelon Cake is still the best) and #WatermelonYoga isn’t exactly trending with 12 posts – 11 are me (!!) and 1 is some pregnant lady – hahah!
6:00 pm: Make a batch of my Super Red Watermelon Quinoa Salad that almost got me on a season of Master Chef, but got thumped in the end. My delicious jumble of healthy foods and warrior spirit couldn’t quite compete with the OCD craziness of a lady who cried when her raspberry rolled 1 millimeter out of place.
9:17 pm: Make my “to-do” list for tomorrow the old-fashioned way, with paper and pen (hello awesome watermelon pens) — at the top of the list “Buy More Watermelon” !!!
10:27 pm: Drift off to sleep and dream of watermelons growing in a field . . . . that means good fortune is on the way (and no, not a baby!)
Love WATERMELON as much as me?! Check out a bumper crop of my watermelon posts compiled in one place for more recipe ideas, watermelon workouts and helpful watermelon tips.
Tell me something, anything watermelon! Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of NOW Foods.
Over here to the left, a couple of the protein powders that started my love affair with NOW Foods. Oh, and their food lines is amazing and so many of their products, from BetterStevia™ (it really is better) to gourmet, small-batch Ellyndale Foods™ to , are the foundation for many of my healthy recipes on the blog including my Kiwi, Apricot and Feta Salad with Hemp Honey Dressing (I used their organic hemp seeds and avocado oil for this yummy summer dish). Also, the Living Now™ line up is has a nice variety of tasty, junk-free products that make it easier and more convenient to keep a gluten-free diet. We also had an interesting and informative “oil tasting” led by the adorable and talented Executive Chef in their corporate test kitchen. Apparently, there is a proper way to appreciate the flavor of oils (think wine tasting) and I slurped in little bits of various oils one at a time, from pumpkin seed and almond to olive and sesame, and let them slowly wash over my tongue! At the end of this taste-test, I have very moist lips as a whipped up a homemade berry salad dressing using the macadamia nut oil. We also made to-go salads for our travel home that day and packed our jars from a rainbow array of produce, nuts and healthy grains – of course, I went straight to the Organic Tri-Colored Quinoa from NOW Real Food™ , one of my favorites ( because, when meat isn’t on the menu, this near-celebrity-status seed offers a complete amino acid chain). 2) NOW products are a blessing for my body and budget Now Foods products are both affordable AND high-quality — gasp, I know! These two factors are important to so many of us trying to live, role model and share our passion for the “fit life.” It’s such a common assumption in the natural health food and supplement industry that the more expensive, the better — not so! In fact, many times (not always), an expensive product is actually quite cheap in quality and just jacked up with a big marketing budget. But NOW Foods never tries to trick you into thinking that you’re getting something you’re not. They don’t waste money (which is ultimately your $) on overkill advertising because they are confident that their products always stand up to the test – literally!
Just one example, I can get NOW Whey Protein Isolate for double the amount for half the price (okay, that’s a generalization, but the point is it’s a very good deal) as many other brands I’ve tried – plus the macros are spot on in my opinion, as opposed to many of the other protein powder options out there. Same goes for product after product in their collection of hundreds (if not thousands) of different items. NOW also maintains a highly efficient, low-error operations facility that helps keep costs down. And, because NOW is privately-owned, they don’t have to jack up prices to please profit-margin focused shareholders – actually, NOW wants to please YOU, even if that means a little less moola in their own pockets 3) NOW Tests to be the Best
So what did I just mean when I just said in #2 that “products always stand up to the test”? I mean that NOW is highly committed to quality and bringing you the cleanest, safest products. Their 263,000 square foot facility is widely regarded as one of the most scientifically-advanced in the natural products industry. The $40+ million lab of this privately-owned company is simply amazing and is nearly unmatched both nationally and world-wide. I could tell from the giddy grins on the otherwise serious chemists, bio-scientists and other laboratory professionals’ faces that the NOW lab was THE place to be. Not only does NOW test the quality of their finished products, but they also monitor and maintain quality all through the entire manufacturing process which starts with product development and receiving raw ingredients from vendors and ends with storing in appropriate thermostatically-controlled environments and shipping out from a precision-inspired, highly-streamlined warehouse. They also keep samples from each batch of products for a lengthy six years to ensure that if there ever is a problem, they can identify and correct immediately. I really appreciate that NOW is very transparent about the make-up of their natural products, ingredient lists and macros for nearly everything on their website. Plus, with all this testing I’ve described – I am 100% confident I’m getting what’s sold. Plus, they stand by their products if there ever is a rare, rare, rare exception. The overwhelming majority of NOW products certified organic and non-GMO, those few that aren’t are always in the pipeline to meet those standards as soon as viable in the ingredient sourcing process. Feel free to read more about the Must Use Ingredients and Must NEVER Use Ingredients. Join the twitter chat on June 16th (9PM EST) to learn get into the conversation — follow @NOWfoodsand #NOWgetfit Enter my giveaway for a huge haul of NOW products, the same two huge bags of items they sent me home with! It’s so much stuff, I can’t even describe it all – but it’s a bit of everything (probably $200+ at least) and you won’t be disappointed! USA only! Thank you FitFulFocus.com for the photo of loot, because I was so excited to try everything that I forgot to snap a pic! Don’t miss #NOWGetFit Twitter Party 6/16 9pm EST w/ me @NowFoods and @Fitfluential #ad a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time to refocus on the remaining festival of eating that spans now through the New Year! There is more noshing and nibbling packed into the next 30 days than perhaps in the whole calendar year! With invited (and quite possible uninvited guests) dropping by with holiday cheer and hungry appetites, I like to have a few simple yet show-stopping appetizer recipes at my fingertips so that no one is disappointed.
My recipe for Blue Cheese, Pomegranate and Quinoa “Caviar” is an easy yet elegant addition to any gathering, whether you need sophisticated snacks to headline a cocktail party or as a prelude to a full-scale dinner party. Or, perhaps as an “I’m not cooking tonight” mini meal to enjoy with a bottle of wine in your fuzzy slippers after everyone heads home!
One of the treasures of this holiday hors d’oeuvres recipe is pomegranates. Pomegranates on their own are a quite festive fruit, the little arils inside resemble ruby-red jewels and taste decidedly more precious. When paired with a pleasingly pungent blue cheese and the almost nutty texture and taste of quinoa, you get a taste experience that I can describe no other way than Manheim steamroller for your Mouth – a modern orchestra of fa-la-la flavor!
While this holiday appetizer looks like it spent all day getting ready for a food glamour shot, it’s actually embarrassingly easy to make. All the ingredients are just tossed together in a bowl and then molded into a standard 6-ounce ramekin dish. If you’d like to do individual servings, mold with a mini melon baller or cookie dough scoop.
I’ve served this Christmas and New Year’s Eve party recipe on one of my favorite cracker; the nearly paper-thin wafers from 34º Crisps. However, you can use the cracker of your choice or even serve a dollop atop an apple or pear slice.
If you have leftovers, a big spoonful or two of Blue Cheese, Pomegranate and Quinoa “Caviar” is fantastic on a steak salad – especially with the Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette. Enjoy!
PS – Need some other easy cracker-topping ideas? I’m your girl, I have a gazillion combinations of goodness. Here is just a sampling of my madness — 10 Easy and Elegant Ways to Top a Cracker.
So, what are your favorite things to put on a cracker? See if you can surprise me! Share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
On top of spaghetti or even nestled in a lettuce wrap, meatballs are a mainstay in my weeknight dinner rotation – the kids love them and so do I! In fact, there is usually a stampede to kitchen to see who can get served first! These spherical mounds of ground meat goodness can be made from just about anything, but I like to use ground beef – preferably a 90/10 ground sirloin to keep them a bit leaner yet still offer loads of satisfying flavor.
Today, I have a deliciously nutritious recipe for you — Beefy Quinoa Feta Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps. Yup, that’s right – instead of bread crumbs or another filler, I’ve added quinoa to act as the binder in these yummy meatballs – this little swaperoo makes them ideal for folks following gluten-free, Paleo or low carb diets. Quinoa, an edible seed that is a good source of nutrients including fiber, iron, magnesium, folate and heart-healthy omega 3s, is also considered a complete protein in itself with all the requisite amino acids. What a dynamic duo – a double punch of protein thanks to beef and quinoa, both superfoods!
Not only to you kick up the protein with this beef quinoa meatball recipe, it also helps to stretch your food budget – adding the cup of cooked quinoa to ground beef lets you roll up a few more meatballs for hardly any more money (meaning, you can buy that better sirloin grind). And, in my family, more meatballs more happy boys and less arguing over who gets second servings.
You could serve these Beefy Quinoa Feta Meatballs over the pasta of your choice or even a sub sandwich. I personally love them wrapped up in “bowls” of Bibb lettuce and drizzled with a tangy Greek yogurt dressing like a tzatzikis sauce – for convenience try OPA by Litehouse™ Feta Dill for the perfect lower-cal pairing.
Also, a fun kid-friendly idea for quickly-approaching October lunchbox duty — ‘Lil Critters Beef Meatball Bento Box. I made this happy monster meal in a post on ways to beef up a bag lunch for BeefLovingTexans.com — please visit to see the other ideas!
How would you serve these meatballs? Have you ever used quinoa for anything other than a side dish? Please share in the comments below — XOXO, Jennifer