Author Archives: jenniferpantall

About jenniferpantall

I'm a HEALTH NUT! Not the soaked and sprouted almond kind, but I am fascinated with health and wellness. I'm an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Health Coach and Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Balanced Body Pilates Instructor and Pre/Post Natal Exercise Specialist. I have over 10 years experience training and teaching fitness and nutrition classes in Northern Virginia. As a HOKIE, I graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Bio-Medical Engineering. That is where I met my husband, Bobby. We now live in Ashburn, Virginia with our 2 children, Aaron and Maya, and our rescue pup Pippin. As a mom and an active member of the community I am passionate about educating people on whole food nutrition and how to live a healthy lifestyle. I can show you how eating real food and exercising can dramatically improve your health - with out using up all your time or money!

Greek Chicken & Rice (Instant Pot)

This is a variation on my Chicken & Rice Burrito Bowl recipe. Quick and easy to throw together, easy to modify by adding chopped bell peppers or omitting the olives – adding fresh herbs like parsley or more heat with smoked paprika or chili flakes. Top with fresh parsley, Feta or Romano cheese.

To make ahead as a freezer meal toss ALL ingredients EXCEPT for broth into a zip-top freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. Defrost before cooking or add 3 min to Instant Pot cooking time or 1 hour when cooking in a slow cooker on high.

VEGETARIAN/VEGAN option: Swap out 2 cans (3 cups) of rinsed and drained chickpeas for the chicken. Be sure to use vegetable broth.

Greek Chicken & Rice!

Greek Chicken & Rice

  • 1 lb chicken (breast or thigh), cubed. OR 2 cans (3 cups) rinsed and drained chickpeas
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 T crushed garlic
  • 1/2 c olives (whole or chopped)
  • 1 c rice (I used jasmine), uncooked
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1/2 T dried oregano
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika
  • 1/4 t chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (olives and tomatoes are usually salty – salt sparingly, I didn’t add any)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • OPTIONAL: chopped bell pepper, chopped green beans, green olives
  • TOPPINGS: feta cheese, Romano cheese, fresh parsley
  1. In Instant Pot on Saute setting heat olive oil on medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add seasonings and spices and heat until fragrant.
  3. Add chicken or chickpeas, stir to coat, cook 5 minutes.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Place lid and set to SEAL setting. Cook on MANUAL for 12 minutes, then Natural Pressure Release for 15 minutes. Vent remaining pressure and serve.
  5. FOR FREEZER MEAL: Dump defrosted bag into instant pot and add broth. Same cooking instructions. OOPS!!! Forgot to defrost! It’s ok – beauty of Instant Pot! Break it up so it fits in the pot. Add the broth, seal the lid and cook for 15 minutes, NPR 15 minutes. Ensure chicken is cooked through prior to serving.
  6. Serve: top with optional toppings listed above. I serve hearty comfort foods with fresh greens – Roasted Asparagus and a chopped salad for us!

Health-ified No Bake Cookies

My 9 year old daughter wanted to make cookies the other day…while we were waiting for a new oven to be installed. So we looked up some no-bake recipes. They all had 2 cups of sugar for about 2 dozen cookies – seemed a bit extreme. They also said NOT to use natural peanut butter because the cookies were too dry… I KNEW we could do better!

Photo Nov 26, 4 20 59 PM

Health-ified no-bake cookie ingredients

We softened some dates in hot water for a few minutes and threw them in the blender with the milk (not pictured) and were able to cut sugar by more than half!

Health-ified No-Bake Cookies

  • 1/4 c butter
  • 5 dates (pits removed and soaked in hot water to soften)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c milk (dairy or non dairy)
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3 c oats
  • 1/4 c chocolate chips
  1. Soak pitted dates in hot water to soften. Remove from the water and put in blender with the milk. Blend until smooth.
  2. In a saucepan over med-high heat combine butter, date puree and sugar. Bring to a boil and stir for a minute. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in peanut butter, vanilla and salt until all melted and smooth.
  4. Stir in oats and chocolate chips – which may melt if the mixture is still warm.
  5. Scoop onto parchment lined pan or silicone mat and freeze 20-30 minutes or until firm.
  6. Store refrigerated or frozen.

Makes about 2 dozen gluten, dairy, egg free cookies. You could use almond butter in place of peanut for peanut free cookies.

 

Simply FRESH Thanksgiving

Oh what to serve or bring to Thanksgiving dinner that will be healthy and delicious? Get in a few extra veggies but not a traditional carrot and hummus platter or salad? Traditional Green Bean Casserole with the crunchy onions from a jar does NOT count. Sorry. Creamed Corn Casserole doesn’t either. Or the sweet potatoes from a jar topped with marshmallows!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m going to give you 3 great options here that are easy to prepare, delicious and nutritious!

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Cauliflower “Stuffing”

  • 4 T butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 3 cups of riced (fresh or frozen) or finely chopped cauliflower
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 t dry sage
  • 1 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 t fresh rosemary, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • may need up to 1/2 c broth (chicken or veggie)
  1. In large pan with sides, melt butter or heat oil. Sauté onion. Add carrots and celery and sauté till soft. Add about cauliflower and cook about 8 min. Add mushrooms and season with salt, pepper, sage, fresh parsley and fresh rosemary.
  2. Cover and cook 15 min. Add up to 1/2 c broth if it seems dry. Using frozen cauliflower rice brings more moisture. Serve warm and eat it up!!!

Photo Nov 19, 8 49 49 AM

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

with Lemon Tahini and Roasted Red Pepper Sauces

Serving with two different colored sauces, white and bright red, adds color and variety and allows guests to customize their dish. When given an option to personalize kids of all ages get creative and are more likely to dive in!

  • 2 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t salt, 1 t pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed or 1 t garlic powder
  1. Heat oven to 425° F.
  2. In a bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Spread in an even layer on a pan with sides.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes or until pierced easily with a fork and browning on the edges. Toss every 5-7 minutes for even roasting.

Lemon Tahini Sauce

  • Juice of one large lemon
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup raw tahini
  • 1 t maple syrup or honey
  • 1 T and 1 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ t tamari soy sauce
  • 1 t coriander powder
  • 2 T olive oil
  • ¼ t sea salt, pepper
  1. Combine lemon juice, garlic and water into a blender and puree for 15 – 30 seconds.  Add all remaining ingredients and puree again until smooth.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

  • 1 c jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 3 T sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped.
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1/4 t salt, pepper
  • optional: 1/4 c Parmesan cheese or 1/4 sour cream.
  1. combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree.

Photo Nov 19, 8 49 49 AM (1)

Marinated Vegetable Platter

Similar to the platter pictured above, select a variety of marinated vegetables of different size, color and texture. The variety draws in kids and picky adults that may turn their nose at traditional crudites. Select or prepare vegetables so that they can be picked up with a cocktail fork or small tongs and can be eaten in a bite or two with out cutting. You want your guests to eat it and not wonder how to do it with out making an embarrassing mess! Serve with a side of Marcona Almonds for crunch. Optional cheese: cubed feta or small balls of Mozzarella.

Some good options:

  • roasted red peppers, sliced into 1″ thick sections
  • sun dried tomatoes, drained and in halved or quartered.
  • whole artichoke hearts
  • hearts of palm, sliced lengthwise on the bias
  • marinated mushrooms
  • variety of olives
  • pickled okra
  • marinated green beans
  • Giardiniara style marinated cauliflower and carrots – in bite size not finely chopped.

Happy Healthy Thanksgiving to you, your family and friends!

Sweet Potato Hash ( with and without Chicken)

Photo Nov 15, 5 49 11 PM

This recipe checks so many boxes!

  • Comforting
  • Nutritious
  • Quick and easy
  • Cheap!
  • Vegetarian…or not…
  • Gluten free
  • Breakfast / lunch / dinner
  • kids love it!!

Make it WITH the chicken or just omit it. Left photo with, right with out.

Sweet Potato Hash (with/without Chicken)

  • 3 sweet potatoes, small cubes
  • 2 T olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 + cups fresh spinach (baby or chopped if larger leaves)
  • 1t paprika, salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 c cooked, chopped chicken
  1. Toss the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through and browning.
  2. Melt coconut oil and saute onions and peppers until soft.
  3. Stir in spinach and season.
  4. When spinach begins to wilt add beaten eggs. Stirring to fully cook the egg.
  5. ** separate any you want to be vegetarian** and add cooked, chopped chicken.
  6. Stir potatoes back into all vegetarian and chicken dishes.

 

Cashew Chicken / Cashew Tofu

Long ago I realized why take-out Chinese food made me feel so sick. Like I was hung-over…before I even knew what that meant! MSG is a seasoning often added to Asian dishes that makes many of us sick. It’s really awful stuff also often found in packaged foods – so be on the look out and stay away!

Making traditional Asian take-out at home not only saves $money$, but is healthier and you can modify for all the different nutritional needs and preferences around your table.

In this recipe I took a traditional Cashew Chicken and subbed extra-firm tofu. Yes, I made 2 batches, one with chicken and one with tofu. It’s a Sunday night and this double batch only takes a couple extra minutes but saves me headache later in the week. BONUS!

I always ask the kids which version they want. Boy chose a little of chicken and tofu, girl ate all tofu and finished it!  At 9 she’s in a phase where any different texture in meat turns her off from eating anymore of her dinner. Fun times. Soy products, like tofu, are a rarity in our house but I grabbed whole foods organic extra firm tofu just to try this dish. You do need to press it though to remove any extra moisture so the cubes hold shape during cooking.

Photo Nov 11, 5 21 29 PM (1)

Pressing Tofu

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Cashew Chicken

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 lb cubed boneless chicken
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 T fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 c roasted cashews
  • Slurry (2 T arrowroot powder + 1/4 c water, or cornstarch or flour thickener)
  • Sauce
    • 1/2 c soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
    • 3T rice vinegar
    • 1T oyster / fish sauce
    • 1 T grated fresh ginger
    • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  1. In a large pan with sides heat the oil and brown the chicken. Removed cooked chicken from the pan. Meanwhile mix the thickening slurry and sauce ingredients in separate bowls
  2. Add the bell pepper, celery, garlic, ginger and broth. Simmer until peppers are softened but not mushy. Return the chicken to the pan.
  3. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in thickening slurry 1T at a  time until desired thickness.
  4. Add cashews
  5. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

Photo Nov 11, 5 21 19 PM (1)

veggies!!!

Photo Nov 11, 6 03 45 PM (1)

Cashew Tofu

Cashew Tofu

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 8 oz pressed, extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2″- 1″ cubes
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 T fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 c roasted cashews
  • Slurry (2 T arrowroot powder + 1/4 c water, or cornstarch or flour thickener)
  • Sauce
    • 1/2 c soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
    • 3T rice vinegar
    • 1T oyster / fish sauce
    • 1 T grated fresh ginger
    • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  1. In a large pan with sides heat the oil and add the garlic and ginger. Heat for 30 seconds and carefully add the cubed tofu.  Brown on all sides. Meanwhile mix the thickening slurry and sauce ingredients in separate bowls
  2. Add the bell pepper, celery, and broth. Simmer until peppers are softened but not mushy.
  3. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in thickening slurry 1T at a  time until desired thickness.
  4. Add cashews
  5. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

 

CASHEW CHICKEN CROCK POT / SLOW COOKER OPTION

The Cashew Chicken can be made in the crock pot. Add ALL ingredients to the slow cooker except for the cashews and thickening slurry. Cook on HIGH 2-3 hours, LOW 4-6 hours. Add cashews and thicken before serving.

CASHEW CHICKEN FREEZER MEAL OPTION

To make into a freezer meal place all ingredients into a gallon sized zip-top freezer bag – except for cashews and thickening slurry. The follow Crock Pot instructions.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

No pretty pictures, yet. Just want to get this one down. You can use fresh roasted and pureed or canned pure pumpkin. Just not canned pumpkin pie mix.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

  • 2 t coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 c pumpkin puree
  • 2 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 c or one can of coconut milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 t thyme, dried
  • 2 T red curry paste, or 1 t red curry powder.
  • 1 t grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. In a large stock pot, melt the coconut oil and add onion, carrot and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the pumpkin, broth and spices and bring to a simmer, covered, until the carrots are soft.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the coconut milk. Puree with a stick blender. Alternatively, allow to cool and then pour carefully into a blender in batches.

You can serve as is or top with pumpkin seeds and chopped fresh cilantro.

 

 

Cabbage Soup for ALL

Another cold day ending in 2 hours on the windy lacrosse field and I was SO grateful I’d thrown this cabbage soup together before we left for practice!

As many of you know, I don’t give myself labels : Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarian, etc. I’m more of a “Flexitarian” meaning that I listen to my body and eat what it needs. For years that has NOT been beef. But this is good beef – raised on my friend’s family farm and crazy lean, so great for the hubby and kids. Beef also gives great flavor to cabbage soup so I cooked it up and then removed it from the pan before adding the vegetables. This gave me the flexibility to make one meal that met all dietary needs.

Photo Oct 22, 4 02 31 PM

** Look, it’s seriously just a handful of ingredients! That’s what I LOVE about soups! SOUP-ER simple!  **

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Cabbage Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 t garlic, diced
  • 6 c green cabbage, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5-6 c broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • top with 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  1. brown ground meat – remove from pan.
  2. Add olive oil and onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Add cabbage, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook 3 minutes.
  4. Add broth, tomatoes and bay leaves.
  5. You can add the ground meat back to the soup or leave it out and add it to the bottom of the bowl when serving. This made 6 large servings.
  6. Top with chopped parsley.