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!

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.

 

Health — THROUGH — the Holidays

9316470

What do those numbers mean?

Is it a complicated locker combination? Football team starting lineup?

Nope. It’s the # of days from TODAY until Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. And why is that important? Because having so many food related holidays so close together can be detrimental to your waistline and general wellness.

Halloween starts with candy corn and those darned mellowcreme pumpkins…and then the left over candy at the office and late night raids of the bags the kids ‘planned’ to donate to the dentist / troops / church.  A few pumpkin spice lattes over the next couple of weeks and it’s Thanksgiving. Ahh, the day we give thanks for our family and friends with a lot of sitting watching football and enjoying what studies have shown is the LARGEST single sitting calorie consumption in year – unless you’re a competitor in that Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest. The month of December we ‘fa-la-la’  from one festive gathering to another bringing carols…and cookies…and a cocktail or two. And before you know it, New Years Eve is here and you’ve moved to the “comfort fit” waist band and leaving shirts un-tucked.

Many cultures celebrate with food – I don’t plan to address that with one blog post – but a handful of guidelines can get you to 2019 feeling good, like yourself and not the Jolly Old Elf.

#1 MOVE

Normally, I agree with the 80/20 ratio of the importance of eating over exercise when it comes to weight loss or maintenance. But this time of year MOVEMENT moves to #1 because of the multitude of benefits of exercise. Besides helping to maintain weight due to the metabolic effects, it also reduces stress, encourages the maintenance of healthy habits, can be a way for family and friends to bond over a game of ball and PHYSICALLY gets you away from the food.

#2 EAT SMART

Planning is imperative. Look at your week ahead. Bring a healthy dish to a party – it saves the host some work while ensuring you have a clean option. When choosing where to begin, hit the veggie tray before the meat and cheese, a handful of grapes and cocktail shrimp over the creamy crab and artichoke dip. If you can’t stick to just one small portion of decadent dishes like cornbread stuffing or pecan pie – avoid it all together.

#3 DRINK SMARTER

Hydration is tricky in the winter months. The air is drier and who wants a tall glass of cold water when it’s cold and wet outside? But, dehydration makes us confuse thirst for hunger…and then we’re eating AGAIN when we really just needed to drink water. Hydration is also key to a healthy immune system and digestion.

Now the ‘drinking’ you really want to know about. Alcohol not only packs a caloric punch but lowers inhibitions so we eat things we wouldn’t otherwise and alcohol leads to inflammation and belly bloat. Hello comfort-waist pants! But you CAN imbibe wisely.  Plan it out and schedule dry-days during the week or between parties. Avoid sweet drinks like eggnog or spiked cider and go for light beer, dry wine, clean mixed drinks such as vodka/ soda water / lime. You can add a splash of cranberry juice for color! Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to stay hydrated.

#4 SLEEP

We know lack of sleep can turn you into the Grinch. But it also contributes to weight gain and weakened immune system. Getting enough sleep keeps your hunger hormones balanced and gives you energy to exercise and clearer thinking. Hit the hay instead of staying up to binge watch Hallmark movies with the apple pie.

#5 REDUCE STRESS

It’s the most STRESSFUL time, of the year! Well it definitely can be but you can reduce the stress with exercise and sleep, as listed above. One of my favorite: Just. Say. No. You can’t be everywhere all the time. It’s ok, and expected for you to have to say NO to some events and obligations. Ask for help and delegate where you can but be ok with saying No.

When feeling the effects, care for yourself. Take a bath, get a massage, go for a walk or get coffee with someone you WANT to talk to. See a funny movie – laughter can be the best medicine. Christmas vacation is a personal favorite.

 

Enjoy the next 70 days of this festive holiday season. Focus on the friends and family not the food.

Want more information on exercise through the season, how/when/what to eat, healthy festive food and cocktail recipes, how to keep your kids hydrated and manage their sleep and stress?  Even healthy gift ideas – you know how to find me!

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram as I’ll be sharing nuggets of wisdom as we go!