Get Active Outdoors in Austin #FromHereForHere

 

This post was sponsored by Ozarka Water, however all opinions, recipes, and enthusiasm are my own.Hi How are You Mural from AustinI love living in Austin, Texas and, with the exception of a few boomerang moves, I have called this little place (well, now a BIG place) home my entire life – not many folks can say the same! Sure, the live music scene and hipster vibe has made this town trendy and it’s also the place to be for high tech, politics, and a good food truck fix.   However, the opportunities for being active are what I appreciate most about being right here in the ATX. The weather is wonderfully warm and the sun seems to never stop shining on the abundance of parks, lakes and local events where I stay active. And, there are so many local businesses that make products #FromHereForHere (like Ozarka Water) that keep me hydrated and fueled up for my healthy fitness journey.

Sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  My neighborhood has over 20 miles of hike and bike trails to run and explore . . . 

#FromHereForHEre Trail Run in Austin

My house is sublimely sandwiched between two bodies of water. Three miles one way is Lake Travis, the largest reservoir of the Colorado River and home to swimming, boating, scuba diving, and even legal nude bathing in the Hippie Hollow park area (we all want to #KeepAustinWeird). Another three miles down the road the other way is the return of the Colorado River at Mansfield Damn before it turns into downtown’s Lake Austin (more recently renamed Ladybird Lake).

I like to paddle board toward downtown for miles or until my arms tire out . . .

Paddle Boarding Lake Austin

#FromHereFor Here Jet Ski in Austin

 

Some days I get my motor started by taking the jet ski out . . . 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, sometimes I just relax and sit in a chair while my son enjoys after-dinner fishing while our dog standing on guard . . . 

davis fishing with lucy

And, if the water sports in Austin weren’t enough, there is every type of endurance sporting event imaginable – my favorites are probably the Spartan Race in nearby Burnett at Reveille Ranch and the Fit Foodie Race.

Of course, being so active in Austin requires the proper hydration and snacks! And that’s where I can count on Texas to treat me right again! There are so many beverages and foods #FromHereForHere that make it heaven for the adventurous, healthy foodie like myself.

Ozarka Water  by Lake Austin

jennifer ozarkaWith the heat and amount of physical activity I do in the summer, I always concerned about getting enough water. At the top of my cooler you’ll find Ozarka ® Brand Natural Spring Water, sourced from three nearby springs, this water has a uniquely Texan fresh taste! It’s so easy to stay hydrated with this clean-tasting, crisp water that’s available in convenient single-serve bottles and for Ozarka® water delivery at home.

Gotta have that Ozarka ® Brand Natural Spring Water! I try to drink an ounce per pound of my body weight, even more if I’ve run far or worked out hard!

All these outdoor workouts in in Austin makes a girl hungry So, I came up with a super easy nut recipe using a few local ingredients #FromHereForHere . It’s perfect to pack up in a snack baggie for on-the-go munching at the lake or post run!  My Habanero BBQ Almonds use Yellowbird Sauce (a peppery condiment that puts the whoowhee hot yum on EVERYTHING, Sweet & Spicy Mustard Seeds from Taste Elevated that add in interesting mustard sweet-heat flavor and BBQ Sauce from Snow’s BBQ Sauce (named best in the state by Texas Monthly staff).

Habanero BBQ Almonds

To make, heat skillet to medium- high over stovetop. add 1 cup raw, unsalted almonds. Toast, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, 2 teaspoons habanero sauce, 1 tablespoon moist, jarred mustard seeds (with sauce) and 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Cook over medium-low for an additional 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Makes 1 cup.

JElly Queens Spice Kings Grill OzarkaI also found some new local ingredients for my grilling creations — I can’t wait to try them! The Black Garlic Rosemary BBQ Sauce from Jelly Queens  is an umami bomb of flavor! I first learned about black garlic about a year ago as an ingredient, but have never seen it used in a prepared artisan product – this stuff will send your taste buds out of bounds!  They also make a fab-looking Steak Rub that will be so on fleek crusting up my flat iron!

Chips Queso Bean Salad OzarkaWhen I’m packing a picnic lunch for the lake, my recipe for Mom’s Best Black Bean, Avocado & Corn Salad is ALWAYS a winner – in fact, the California Avocado Association even named it the winner in the July 4th All-American Recipe Contest in 2014! But add some local love to this salad, I take along Queso con Salsa Escabeche from CookWell & Company  (built around a blend of blue and cheddar cheeses!) and Paqui’s  Tortilla Chips (“better for you” tortilla chips named after the Aztec word for “to be happy”). The family and I are snacking happy until the sun sets!

What do you love most about your hometown? Do you have any must-try local food products? Do you drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

 

Grilled Chicken, Corn and Jicama Chop Salad with Sweet-Heat BBQ Vinaigrette

This post is sponsored by Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q, however the recipes, opinions and enthusiasm are all my own!

There is so much to love about May! The weather is warmer, daylight lasts longer and backyard patios, porches and pergolas are prime party spots for good friends and great food. I don’t know about you, but my go-to cooking method from early spring well into the fall season is grilling. Whether I’m entertaining company or it’s just the family, my trusty grill is this mom’s solution when it comes to whipping up creative, healthy and quick meals. Grilled Chicken, Corn & Jicama Salad with Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce Vinaigrette

I will grill anything and everything.  I get fired up for grilling the gamut . . . meats and seafood to fruit, veggies and dessert (mmmm, banana boats)!  Today, I’m sharing a recipe for Chicken, Corn and Jicama Chopped Salad with Sweet-Heat BBQ Vinaigrette that relies on one of my secret weapons when it comes to grilling and barbeque – Stubb’s Bar-B-Q Sauces, Marinades and Rubs.

Grilled Chicken, Corn & Jicama Salad with Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce Vinaigrette makes a hearty meal for your backyard cookout, picnic or potluck.

grilled corn in hand squareGrilled corn and chicken are the stars of this simple grilled salad recipe – Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub gives just the right amount of seasoning to poultry and vegetables without being overpowering or too spicy for my kids to eat. This is the original rub of Stubb’s fame, crafted by the legend himself at his original Texas Bar-B-Q joint — “It all starts with good rub.”

Stubb's Chicken Spice Rub

To dress this chopped chicken salad that also features jicama and avocado , I’ve created a simple barbecue sauce vinaigrette that is a bit spicy, a bit sweet – and certainly fun to eat! Using Stubb’s Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce is my not-so-secret shortcut to prepping this dressing in mere minutes. Of course, this BBQ sauce with hints of brown sugar and chipotle peppers is also excellent used in the traditional way to drizzle or douse on everything from baby back ribs and burgers to pizza and sweet potatoes.

Barbeque Brisket Skillet Nachos will satisfy a crowd!It’s also the sauce I use in my Brisket & Bean Skillet Nachos. I love that Stubb’s Bar-B-Q sauces get their bold flavors from real, wholesome ingredients with no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners.  Also, you’ll find absolutely NO (none, zip, nada) high-fructose corn syrup in these quality condiments.

Stubb’s Legendary Bar-B-Q, maker the No. 1 brand of barbecue sauce, rubs and marinades in the the country, is located right here in Austin, Texas — so I can head over and dive head-first in a vat, if I want!  But, these barbecue “helpers” are also sold in 85% of grocery stores nationwide — so, run out and getcha some!

Stubbs Grilled Chicken Corn Chop Salad

Grilled Chicken, Corn and Jicama Chop Salad with Sweet-Heat BBQ Vinaigrette is such an easy grilled recipe and the perfect fixin’s for a potluck or picnic – whether for Memorial Day, a graduation or any summer time celebration. You can also make it the night before, the dish is delicious served cold and the vinegar and lemon juice in the dressing help keep the avocado fresh for up to a day in the fridge. If you want to enjoy as a side dish or vegetarian meal — just omit the chicken and dig in!

What have you been tossing on the grill lately? Any big weekend plans for Memorial Day — a race, a party, a picnic? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

Grilled Chicken, Corn and Jicama Chop Salad with Sweet-Heat BBQ Vinaigrette
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 to 6 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 to 6 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Grilled Chicken, Corn and Jicama Chop Salad with Sweet-Heat BBQ Vinaigrette
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 to 6 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 to 6 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Rub uncooked chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub with 2 tablespoons Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub.
  2. Heat charcoal or gas grill to approximately 400 F degrees and grill chicken approximately 15 – 20 minutes, flipping once, or until cooked through and internal temperature reads 165F degrees.
  3. While chicken is cooking, rub corn cobs with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon Stubb’s Chicken Spice Rub.
  4. Place corn on grill with chicken and grill for approximately 10 minutes, rotating occasionally, or until turning tender and browning in spots.
  5. Remove chicken and corn from grill and let rest for 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
  6. Chop chicken into small, bite-sized pieces. Slice corn kernels off the cob. Add both to medium bowl along with jicama, red onion, red bell pepper and avocado. Set aside while making dressing.
  7. To make dressing, whisk Stubb’s Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce together with olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey and pepper.
  8. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
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Copy Cat Freebird’s Ancho Salad Dressing Recipe

Grilling 101 - Texas Beef Council & The Fit ForkThis past weekend, I teamed up with the Texas Beef Council to teach a Grilling 101 class – and it was the perfect day for outdoor cooking with members of the Beef Team. Weather was in the mid-80s and it seems nearly every Austinite was down at our venue, Zilker Park, my hometown’s favorite urban spot for relaxing and recreating!  Texas Beef Council - Grilling 101

beef team grill

After learning some grill basics on how to operate gas and charcoal grills and prep beef before it hits the grates, participants put their skills to practical use firing up flat iron steaks to perfection – they were delicious!  A+ to everyone, especially genius, fast-learning student who cooked my steak to a magnificent medium-rare while I was off making the final salad preparations!

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I’ll get back to the beef another day (oh, you know I will), but today wanted to share the dressing I made I made to accompany our steak lunch. Since I’m a huge fan of the Freedom Salad (with beef) at Freebird’s World Burrito that is drizzled with the yummiest ancho dressing ever, I knew I needed to replicate it for our post-class meal. Check out my recipe for Freebird’s Copy-Cat Ancho Dressing :

Freebirds Copy Cat Ancho Salad Dressing

Ancho Salad Dressing Hope you enjoy the Freebird’s Copy-Cat Ancho Dressing as much as I do!

This southwestern-inspired vinaigrette is delicious on everything from salads to corn-on-the-cob and other veggies — or use as a marinade for meats and seafood.

 

Copy Cat Freebirds Ancho Salad Dressing

Did you know that Anchos are smoked poblano chile peppers?!  What would you drizzle this dressing on? What is your favorite steak cut? Do you prefer chacoal or gas grilling? Please share in the comments below – xoxo, Jennifer Fisher

 

Copy Cat Freebirds Ancho Salad Dressing
Print Recipe
This vinaigrette is not too spicy and a tiny, tiny bit sweet -- it's perfect for salads, side dishes and marinades.
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
0 minutes 4 hours
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
0 minutes 4 hours
Copy Cat Freebirds Ancho Salad Dressing
Print Recipe
This vinaigrette is not too spicy and a tiny, tiny bit sweet -- it's perfect for salads, side dishes and marinades.
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
0 minutes 4 hours
Servings Prep Time
12 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
0 minutes 4 hours
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Add dried ancho chiles to bowl of water, weight down with a plate so they don’t float to the top. Soak 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain water off rehydrated ancho chiles. Discard stems and cut open to remove seeds. Chop.
  3. Add chopped chiles, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, honey, salt, pepper and chile powder to blender.
  4. Pulse blender on and off, blending ingredients until smooth and combined – about 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Pour in 16-ounce Mason jar or salad dressing cruet and refrigerate until serving time.
  6. Makes 12 – 14 ounces.
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Spiralized Grapefruit, Avocado & Cucumber Salad + Altra Superior 2.0

Spring has really sprung here in Austin, so naaaaaaturally I’m talking running shoes and spiralized salads.  The bluebonnets are always a sure sign as is the unofficial start of trail running season.Altra Superior 2.0 - Great shoe for trail running. With some off road and Spartan running on my upcoming race calendar, I was excited to try out the Superior 2.0s from Altra Running. Such a light and fast ride for a trail running shoe and I had absolutely no loss of traction on the slightly muddy banked trails, excessing sloshing out of the water crossings, or feet that felt like they had been beat up by race end.  Check the Superior 2.0 out, you will love them for flying down gentle trails to all sorts of gnarly terrain. And, more good news, I placed 3rd  Overall Female in that 10k trail race aptly named “The Maze.”

So, now you know my latest spring shoe obsession, but what about the salad?Cucumber Grapefruit Feta Salad with Avocado Cilantro DressingHow about a Spiralized Cucumber and Grapefruit Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing?!

Spiralized Cucumber Avocado and Grapefruit Salad -- add feta, pecans and whatever else you love! Dressed with a Greek Yogurt Cilantro Avocado Dressing

I used the spiralizer attachment on my Kitchenaid mixer to transform cucumbers into windy ribbons and toss with tart grapefruit segments and other flavorful ingredients like feta cheese, avocado chunks, pecans and cilantro.Kitchenaid Spiralizer Attachment puts a new twist on fruits and vegetables. Great for creating healthy recipes.

It makes a showy salad full of salty-sweet tang, vibrant colors and crunch! To marry the flavors even more, I’ve also used a favorite dressing — OPA by Litehouse Avocado and Cilantro! With a base of Greek yogurt, this dressing is a healthier way to pour rich and creamy flavor atop any salad – or use as a versatile sauce over fish or in your lunch turkey wraps, the possibilities are endless.

Cucumber Grapefruit Salad with Opa Greek Yogurt Cilantro Avocado Dressing

A few tips about the Spiralized Cucumber and Grapefruit Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing:

  • Don’t have a spiralizer? Don’t worry, just quarter and seed the cucumbers lengthwise and then julienne into 2 to 3-inch strips.
  • Don’t skip the draining step after prepping the cucumbers or you’ll end up with excess water pooling in the bottom of your bowl (and eventually making a soggy salad).
  • For convenience, consider using prepared grapefruit segments found in the produce section. Drain off the juice (drink or reserve for another use – see below) and simply toss in the salad. There’s no time-consuming peeling and tedious cutting away of pesky membranes.
  • Before adding avocado chunks to the salad, I like to dunk them in reserved grapefruit juice (or lemon juice) to keep them from oxidizing and browning before serving. This also helps leftovers stay fresh in the refrigerator for another day.

Check out these blogs I’m linking up with today: Check out these blogs I’m linking up with today: The Fit Foodie Mama, Hello to Fit, Fairy Burger, Chocolate Runner Girl , Confessions of a Mother Runner, , Running on Happy

Do you even spirazlize? Hehe, if so, what is your favorite fruit or veggie to turn into twisty goodness?  Did you race this weekend, I’d love to hear the details – XOXO, Jennifer

Cucumber Grapefruit Feta Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing
Grapefruit, Avocado and Cucumber Salad with Cilantro Avocado Dressing
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 minutes
Cucumber Grapefruit Feta Salad with Avocado Cilantro Dressing
Grapefruit, Avocado and Cucumber Salad with Cilantro Avocado Dressing
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 Servings 15 minutes
Instructions
  1. Process cucumbers in spiralizer and place “noodles” in colander to rinse off seeds.
  2. Let cucumbers sit and drain for several minutes before patting dry with paper towels. Transfer to serving bowl.
  3. Add sliced onion, cilantro, feta, and pecans to salad and toss gently with dressing.
  4. Drain juice from grapefruit (if using packaged) into a small bowl.
  5. Peel and seed avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces and gently dunk in reserved grapefruit juice (or lemon juice) to prevent oxidization.
  6. Add grapefruit segments and avocado to top of salad. Serve with additional cilantro, if desired.
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Bon Temps! Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons

Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter CroutonsWell, first of all, happy Mardi Gras – Laissez les bons temps rouler! This day of eating, drinking and overindulging that can take quite a toll so, I’m sharing a healthy salad to help keep you fit and fierce for Fat Tuesday . . . or get you back on track later in the week!

Creole Cajun Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons

You’re going to love my Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons, it’s like a healthier version of a Po’ Boy sandwich that exploded with loads of lettuces and farm-fresh veggies. Shrimp sauteed with Cajun spicesInstead of getting fried in oh-my-gawd grease, the succulent shrimp in this quick and easy recipe get a toss in Creole Seasoning before being lightly sautéed in heart-healthy olive oil.

Forget about bland Creole seasoning from grocery store spice aisle, kick up the taste and cut down on costs by making a big batch at home – in addition, making it from scratch lets you say au revoir to weird chemicals and preservatives and control the amount of heat. Often referred to as Cajun spice, this blend of peppers, paprika, thyme, oregano, garlic and onion powders creates the base of bold flavor on practically everything in my shrimp recipe – BAM! Spices for Creole Seasoning

I also use Instantly Fresh Herbs  in my Creole Spice Mix, a generous recipe that makes plenty for the salad, dressing and croutons – store leftovers in an airtight jar for up to a year. Use this Creole Spice Mix in soups and gumbos, rub into catfish and tuna, mix into meatballs, and even sprinkle on grilled fruit – this Cajun food seasoning is crazy-good!

Creole Spice with Instantly Fresh HErbs

The dressing isn’t loaded in fat either; I used the deliciously creamy Greek yogurt-based Ranch and jazzed it up a bit with Creole spices.

If you are looking for some other Cajun, Creole or otherwise New Orleans-ish, check out this collection of Crescent City inspired recipes from Cooking Light

Creole Cajun and New Orleans recipes from Cooking  Light

 

What are your Mardi Gras plans? What is your favorite Cajun or Creole recipes? Please share in the comments, XOXO — Jennifer

Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons
Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons
Print Recipe
Let the good times roll while keeping it light with my New Orleans inspired entree salad featuring spicy sauteed shrimp and crusty French baguette croutons.
Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons
Spicy Creole Shrimp Salad with French Quarter Croutons
Print Recipe
Let the good times roll while keeping it light with my New Orleans inspired entree salad featuring spicy sauteed shrimp and crusty French baguette croutons.
Ingredients
For Creole Spice
For Shrimp
Servings:
Instructions
  1. To make Creole Spice Mix, place ingredients in small jar with lid. Stir or shake to combine. May be stored in pantry out of direct sunlight for up to one year. Makes approximately ½ cup.
  2. To make shrimp, heat olive oil and Worcestershire sauce in large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat thawed shrimp dry and toss with Creole Spice Mix. Place in hot skillet and sauté for approximately 2 minutes, or until heated through (take care not to over-heat since shrimp are precooked). Remove shrimp from heat to a plate while finishing remainder of dish.
  3. To prepare salad, top lettuce with cabbage, radish and tomatoes on a large platter or individual bowls. For dressing stir, Creole Spice Mix in dressing until incorporated – use more or less depending on preference for spiciness.
  4. For croutons, slice 8-inch length of baguette in half lengthwise. Next, slice each half in half at a long diagonal; place on baking sheet. Brush cut side of bread with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese and Creole Spice Mix. Set under broiler for 60 seconds (keep a vigilant eye) or until top beginning to bubble and brown.
  5. To serve, place shrimp on prepared salad and add one big crouton per person; pass with dressing.
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Top Healthy Recipe Pins from 2015

First of all — HAPPY NEW YEAR! Before I move forward into 2016 with all the healthy recipe ideas that are bouncing around in my head, I wanted to share my most loved recipe pins from the last 12 months. If we’re not already following each other on Pinterest, let’s connect today!  So, here you go — a collection of pins that are my most popular. Top Healthy Recipe Pins from TheFitFork.com

Sweet Potato Cauliflower Mash – This simple-to-make sweet potato dish is paired up with cauliflower for a creamy, dreamy side dish for Thanksgiving or any other time of the year. This side dish recipe has been pinged on Good Housekeeping, Canadian Running Magazine, Glamour and a zillion food, health and wellness blogs.

(Slow Cooker) Salted Chocolate Caramel Crunch –  Crunchy cereal, pretzels and an assortment of nuts get a sweet upgrade with a coating of caramel and chocolate. The secret surprise is that this easy snack mix recipe is made in the slow cooker!

Black Bean, Zucchini and Corn Tacos – This summer-inspired vegetarian meal is quick and easy dinner solution for the patio – when the season passes, just swap out the zucchini for a winter squash like butternut!

Balsamic Slow Roasted Tomatoes – Scrumptious beyond imagination, this easy veggie recipe turns what I consider to be a typically bland tomato (if purchased from a consumer grocery store) into a magical topping for salads, eggs, steaks, pasta and more.   Also, freezeable!

Mom’s Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad – This versatile veggie salad can be served as a side dish, atop a bed of lettuce or as a relish for tacos.  Inspired by my mom’s family favorite recipe and kicked up with a little of my chipotle chili powder addiction. A winner in the California All-American Avocado Recipe Contest.

Brain-Boosting Cinnamon Peach Smoothie – One of the things I love most being a healthy food bloggers is explaining how the ingredients in my recipes help optimize well-being. For example,  the cinnamon and natural sugars in this smoothie recipe help improve alertness and brain function – the perfect snack for study sessions or work day pick-me-ups.

Spicy Watermelon BBQ Sauce – I made this quirky barbeque sauce to accompany my Brisket Tacos with Watermelon Rind Relish for the SXSW Taco Takedown in Austin this year.  Basically, in Austin, the weirder and wackier the better and this crazy condiment stole the show!

Southwestern Steak Chili – This delicious chili recipe fills the kitchen with the scent of smoky, spicy goodness and just might cause a stampede to the table. A bowl full (or two) makes a hearty, happy and healthy meal for even the hungriest hombres in your home.

Strawberry Greek Yogurt Tart – Not only is this strawberry tart gorgeous, it’s better for you made with protein-packed Greek yogurt and a gluten-free chocolate crust. A stunning finale to any celebration or Sunday dinner.

Yoga and Fitness Bloopers from TheFitFork.comAlso, don’t miss my Running and Fitness Recap (with Bloopers) from last week.

 

 

 

 

 

And, because everyone else is doing it (haha), my #BestNine2015 on Instagram. These are the nine most “liked” posts, but not necessarily my favorite – it’s a bunch of abs, inversions and the peculiarly popular yellow shorts.

Best Nine 2015 on Instagram - @TheFitForkl

What is YOUR favorite recipe of 2015? Please share the link or just give me the down and dirty description in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

Pomegranate, Blue Cheese and Quinoa Caviar – Easy & Elegant Holiday Appetizer

Blue Cheese Pomegranate and Quinoa CaviarNow 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.

Pomegranate Blue Cheese Quinoa Caviar is an easy and elegant appetizer for your next party or celebration. Leftovers are delicious sprinkled on a salad.

Blue Cheese Pomegranate and Quinoa Caviar

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!

jennifer fisher pomegranate fresh summitOne 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!

Blue Cheese Pomegranate and Quinoa CaviarWhile 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.

Blue Cheese Pomegranate and Quinoa Caviar on Steak Salad

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!

 

Make a a quick and healthy appetizer platter with these 10 Easy and Elegant Ways to Top Crackers.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

Blue Cheese Pomegranate and Quinoa Caviar
Pomegranate, Blue Cheese and Quinoa Caviar
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 appetizer servings 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 appetizer servings 10 minutes
Blue Cheese Pomegranate and Quinoa Caviar
Pomegranate, Blue Cheese and Quinoa Caviar
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
12 appetizer servings 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
12 appetizer servings 10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: appetizer servings
Instructions
  1. Add blue cheese crumbles, cooked quinoa, pomegranate arils and vinegar into small bowl, stir gently to combine.
  2. Transfer to 6-ounce ramekin dish and use back of spoon to tightly pack down.
  3. Place serving plate on top of ramekin and quickly invert.
  4. Carefully lift up ramekin, leaving mixture in mold form.
  5. Sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme and walnuts along with reserved pomegranate arils.
  6. Serve with crackers, apple slices or on a salad.
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Super Red Watermelon Quinoa Salad + #LivingOnTheWedge Questions Answered

Super Red Watermelon Quinoa Salad with Sprouted Watermelon Seeds has a secret ingredient -- beets!School may be starting, but that summer weather will be around these parts for a while  — and that means I can count on good watermelons through October here in Texas. Yeehaw!  When chopping up fresh watermelon for my kids’ lunchboxes, I always hide set aside a bowlful in the fridge to use as the superstar ingredient in in one of my salad creations.  This weekend, “Super Red” Watermelon Quinoa Salad was inspired by a dish I could both serve outdoors for al fresco dining (squeezing out the last few drops of summer pleasure before vacation ends) and also to package up during the week to take to school and work.

“Super Red” Watermelon Quinoa Salad with Sprouted Watermelon Seeds  is perfect for outdoor summer entertaining and packs well in lunch boxes

“Super Red” Watermelon Quinoa Salad lives up to its name – it’s super beautiful in shades of red made with ripe watermelon, shredded fresh beets and red onion. In addition to all the gorgeous nutrition these super food veggies offer, this quick and easy salad recipe offers enough protein to make it a meal thanks to hearty red quinoa and sprouted pumpkin seeds. Yes, you CAN eat watermelon seeds contrary to the old wives’ tale that eating them might make the fruit grow in your belly!

Raw Sprouted Watermelon SeedsI buy sprouted watermelon seeds to put on this salad and eat as a snack right out of the bag. Why “sprouted” seeds?  Not only does the sprouting process make them easier to eat and digest than the big black seeds, they are high in protein and a good source of iron and heart-healthy fats.  Sprouting seeds “wakes up” dormant seeds and kick starts the germination process that unlocks all their nutritional benefits.  You could make sprouted watermelon seeds at home, but busy-me prefers to buy – you could also substitute sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds in the recipe if you can’t find them.

Watermelon Q & A

Over the course of #LivingOnTheWedge this summer, I’ve received lots of reader comments and questions about watermelon. I’m sharing what I know with you inquiring minds of melon – another great resource for all things watermelon (including nutrition, recipes, and fun facts) is Watermelon.org.

What’s the best way to store a watermelon and for how long can you keep it?Storing watermelons at 55° F is ideal, according to Watermelon.org.  However, whole melons will keep for 7 to 10 days at room temperature – any longer and they’ll start they’ll lose flavor and texture. After cutting, store watermelon in refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. After cut, wrap watermelon in plastic or keep in an airtight container at 36° – 39°F. Also, I’ve noticed if you let watermelon sit in the juice that collects at the bottom of the container for too long, it loses the signature crisp texture – so I always drain off (and drink or save) the juice every time I get into my stash. Another strategy to maintain freshness is to keep melon stored in big chunks or slices as opposed to little bites. This cuts down on the amount of juice that drains out in the bottom of the container.

Do you know why watermelon helps alleviate morning sickness while pregnant?  The high water content in watermelon (92 percent) along with magnesium and potassium helps keep pregnant women from getting dehydrated, a dangerous condition that can also make nausea worse.  Additionally, the cool, mild, lightly sweet flavor of watermelon is easy to tolerate when queasy, especially when paired with other known upset tummy tamers like ginger, lemons or limes. Check out my recipe for Watermelon Ginger Limeade  — take a few sips every 10 minutes until you feel better!

Is it safe to eat a watermelon that was accidentally left in the car overnight in the summer?  My first reaction to this question was – “yes, don’t watermelons grown in the hot sun anyway?” But experts say to abide by the “when in doubt, throw it out” rule.  So, I would say if the outdoor temp was close to “room temp” then eat, if hotter,  throw it away (as horrifying as that is).

Is it okay to swallow watermelon seeds?  One reader said she remembered swallowing her share of seeds during watermelon eating contests as a kid, and was worried about the consequences. Unlike the fear that our mothers instilled in us as young-uns, watermelon seeds are 100 percent safe for consumption. There is nothing at all harmful about them and a watermelon won’t even sprout in your belly! Today’s recipe for “Super Red” Watermelon Quinoa Salad even uses easier to digest “sprouted” watermelon seeds (which can be grown or, easier, bought at a health food store) – they are actually good source of protein and alternative for people with nut allergies.

How many kinds of watermelon are there and which is the best? There are more than 300 varieties of watermelons grown around the world, although not that many are readily available in your local market. The Crimson Sweet is a popular choice that is reliably sweet –check out this link that sums up some of the best from Saveur. And, if looking to pick the BEST watermelon out of the bin, check out these Tips for Picking Watermelon.

What’s the most unusual watermelon recipe you’ve made? Okay, this was a fun question to answer because I got to reminisce about all my watermelon creations and give them superlative awards! Winning “Most Beautiful” is my Chocolate Cherry Watermelon “Cake” and taking the title of “Most Dramatic” is  my Sesame Salmon on Spicy Seared Watermelon, a recipe that caught the unsolicited attention of casting agents for the Food Network (apparently I’m not as exciting as my food although I beg to differ).   “Most Athletic” goes to My Creamy Watermelon Chia Seed Smoothie for its L-citrulline and protein perks that are good for pre and post workout while and “Most Cool” award goes to the Watermelon Coconut Cherry Chiller . Oh, and I can’t forget to mention my go-getter recipe,  Brisket Tacos with Watermelon BBQ Sauce – it’s definitely “Most Likely to Succeed” at your next backyard cookout or family Taco Tuesday night.

Winning Watermelon Recipes

Watermelon, Quinoa, Beet SaladWhat are you packing in lunchboxes this week? Aside from “don’t swallow watermelon seeds,” what other superstitious advice has your mother given you?  Do you have any unanswered watermelon questions? Please share and/or ask in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

BTW, this post was sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board — however, unless otherwise noted, all recipes, editorial content, and enthusiasm for watermelon are all my own.  

Watermelon, Quinoa, Beet Salad
Super Red Watermelon Quinoa Salad
Print Recipe
This delicious Watermelon Quinoa Salad is packed with nutritious benefits and is great f or Labor Day entertaining, summer parties and lunch boxes!
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Watermelon, Quinoa, Beet Salad
Super Red Watermelon Quinoa Salad
Print Recipe
This delicious Watermelon Quinoa Salad is packed with nutritious benefits and is great f or Labor Day entertaining, summer parties and lunch boxes!
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Place watermelon in blender and blend for about 1 minute, or until flesh is broken down. Pour watermelon through fine mesh strainer, collecting juice in a glass measuring cup. Collect 1 ½ cups of watermelon juice, reserving 1 cup for quinoa and ½ cup for dressing.
  2. Rise uncooked quinoa in fine mesh strainer and place in saucepan with 1 cup of watermelon juice. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until juice is absorbed. Pour cooked quinoa in bow and let cool in fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. While quinoa is chilling, make dressing by adding ½ cup of reserved watermelon juice to bowl. Wisk in jalapeno, salt, pepper, stevia, olive oil and cilantro. Set aside.
  4. Pull quinoa out of fridge. Add beets, red onion, green onion and spouted watermelon seeds to quinoa and toss with watermelon vinaigrette.
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