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!

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

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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! 

Minestrone Soup

The weather this year has been NUTS! It seemed summer would never end with 85+ degree days in October here in NoVA! When fall finally descended in the middle of the month we got a few autumnal days…then yesterday temps took a nosedive and we woke to frost this morning!

Why is the weather forecast important?

Explains my obsession with soup! I, personally have a hard time getting and staying warm and warming from the inside with soup or hot tea are much more efficient that walking around like an Eskimo!

This recipe for Minestrone Soup is based on what I had in the refrigerator leftover from earlier in the week and pantry items I had on hand. You can choose different veggies in place of the green beans, peas or spinach. Some options would be summer squash, kale or lima beans. I cook beans in bulk and freeze – cheaper and better for you than canned options- and had red kidney beans on hand, but cannelini or great northern beans are also a good addition!

Minestrone Soup Ingredients

Minestrone Soup

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of broth or stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups of beans (kidney, cannelini, etc.)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups of chopped vegetables (green beans, squash, etc.)
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach (or chopped kale)
  • 1 cup of small pasta, uncooked
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 T dried basil
  • 1/2 T dried parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook until softened about 3 minutes.
  2. Add broth/stock, tomatoes, beans and bay leaves and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Add chopped vegetables and pasta and cook to al dente according to pasta package directions.
  4. Stir in spinach and peas and season with herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaves before serving.

I served with garlic cheesy bread.

Garlic Cheesy Bread

  • Cut a fresh baguette in half, or use slices of French bread. Spread with softened butter, sprinkle garlic powder and top with shredded cheese of your choice.
  • Broil about 3 minutes until cheese is melted.

Minestrone Soup

Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili – No Beans!

It’s finally feeling like fall here in the DC area

& I’m LOVING it!

Fall calls for comforting foods – but if you have a busy family and would rather be outside – you need something quick! A meal that can be thrown together in 20 min or so and left to slow cook while the flavors develop and it get’s yummier!

This Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili is the answer! It can be made in a pot from start to finish, or started in a pan then transferred to a slow cooker, or, my preference – start to finish in the Instant Pot.

This is a complete meal in a bowl and my hubby and kids loved it! Nutrition details: packed with protein, fiber and vitamins. Gluten and dairy free as is. Vegan if made with chick peas in place of turkey and veggie broth. Can be topped with shredded cheese or served over spinach for extra veggies!

Photo Oct 10, 4 52 41 PM

Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili

  • 16 oz ground turkey (or beans for vegan)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 14 oz canned tomatoes in juice
  • 16+ oz broth
  • 1t Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoning or 1/2 t chili powder
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/4 t paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t salt (or more to taste)
  • 1 medium sweet potato cut into 1/2″ dice
  1. Heat 1/2 T of the olive oil in a pan/pot or Instant Pot on Saute at medium heat. Add the ground turkey and break apart while cooking thoroughly.
  2. Remove the cooked turkey from the pan/pot. Add the other 1/2 T oil and the onions. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic. Cook 1 more minute. Stir in the tomatoes, 16 oz broth and spices.
  3. Transfer to crock pot if slow cooking or leave in the instant pot.
  4. Stir in the sweet potato. Slow cook for 4-6 hr on high – or until potato cooked through. In Instant Pot bring to a boil on HIGH saute setting, then cover and turn to HIGH slow cook 2 hours or until potatoes cooked through.
  5. This chili can cook all day and be even yummier. It can be made ahead, frozen and reheated. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
  6. Optional toppings – grated cheddar or feta cheese. You can serve in a bowl or over greens for even more VEGGIES!

Photo Oct 11, 7 37 14 AM

White Bean Falafel

Typically Falafel are made from chick peas or garbanzo beans. I have a recipe I’ve used for years and made small appetizer sized ones and larger traditionally sized ones. Everyone loves them. We top with tzatziki or my homemade mayo.

Well, we were out of chick peas and a big part of cooking is comfort in the kitchen to know what you can substitute or how to adapt a recipe for what you DO have on hand. I had Great Northern or white beans – so here we go! You could also use Cannellini beans.

White Bean Falafel

  • 1 can of white beans, rinsed and drained, or 2 cups of beans.
  • 1 t cumin
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 onion grated or fine dice
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 T flour (what ever type you like, it’s a binder)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scoop out to desired size and bake on parchment lined baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10-12 min/ side to brown. You could also shallow fry them.

Serve warm with tzatziki sauce or mayonnaise. You can wrap in a pita with cucumber and tomato or serve over greens. Refrigerate or freeze left overs.

Color & Crunch: Broccoli Salad

It’s almost summer and there is an abundance of fresh veggies so why settle for the traditional green romaine salad. We all eat with our eyes first and this Broccoli Salad is full of color and crunch! Great to serve with grilled fish as we did, or take as a side to a picnic.

I mixed in broccoli, red cabbage, carrots and a little onion, white because I didn’t have red onion on hand. Get creative with what you have on hand. You could add in bell pepper, green cabbage or cauliflower.

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Then I mixed in Craisins and pumpkin seeds, but you could use raisins, sun flower seeds, chia seeds, slivered almonds, fresh chopped grapes – get creative!

For dressing I mixed my homemade mayo, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, poppy seeds, salt and pepper. But you could also use a bottled slaw dressing.

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Broccoli Salad

Feeds 6, generous servings. Prep < 10 min.

  • 1 head (~2 lbs) chopped broccoli or prepared broccoli slaw
  • 2 c red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 c carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 c onion, fine dice
  • Toppings: 1 c Craisins, 1 c toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Dressing: 3/4 c homemade mayo, 2 T honey, 2 T apple cider vinegar, 1 t lemon juice, 1 T poppy seeds, salt and pepper to taste.

Toss everything together. Can be made a day in advance and refrigerated. Flavor will just get better! Refrigerate left overs up to 3 days.

Eggplant Caponata

I LOOOVE eggplant! I think part of the reason is that it absorbs the flavor of the olive oil I usually cook it with!

One of our favorites is this double-duty Eggplant Caponata – which can be served as is and/or pureed into Baba Ganoush! Dishes that can be served one way then turned into something else for a later meal save time and money.

Eggplant Caponata

  • 2 large or 4 small eggplants, chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 bell peppers, red/orange/yellow, seeded and chopped
  • 2 c tomato, chopped (or 1 can of chopped tomato, drained)
  • 3 T garlic, crushed
  • 1 T dried parsley, or 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 T dried basil
  • 1/2 T dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  •  2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss all ingredients to evenly coat with olive oil and seasonings and spread in a roasting pan. Roast about 20 minutes or until edges are browned, stirring occasionally.

Serve warm as a side dish or chilled with crostini.

Baba Ganoush: you can toss the left over caponata into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. If you want a creamier consistency you can add tahini paste. Serve as a dip or spread with grilled meats or vegetables, flat bread or on a sandwich.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The baba ganoush may freeze.

Falafel: Baked-not-Fried

Falafel is a chickpea based fritter that is traditionally fried. I tried that and burned them every time so I now bake them to perfection!

We strive to eat a couple of meatless dinners each week. These can be served alone, in flat bread, over greens, as an appetizer, you name it! They’re a crowd-pleaser and easy to batch-bake and freeze – saving even more time!

You can serve them with a Greek yogurt based sauce like Tzatziki, but we love my  Homemade Mayo (recipe follows).

Falafel

  • 2 cups chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or 1 can rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 c onion
  • 1/4 c parsley, chopped
  • 1 T garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/2 t corriander
  • 1 t salt, dash of black pepper
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 c flour of choice (wheat or oat or gluten free)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a food processor with the “S” blade, combine beans, onion, parsley and garlic. Add olive oil to get it moving. Pulse or process until desired consistency – we like them smooth, but some prefer some chunks of beans, you choose. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.

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I use a 2 T scoop to portion onto the pan but you can use a spoon. Space about 2″ apart for even browning. Wet fingers and gently press to flatten to 1/2-3/4 ” thickness.  Bake about 10 min until brown, then flip and bake about 8-10 min to brown the other side. Serve warm with tzatziki or homemade mayo. These also freeze up to 2 months.

MAYO!!!

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I have always hated mayonnaise. I thought it was just a big blob of fat filled with junk I didn’t want to eat. With the start of the Paleo and Whole 30 trends I noticed more and more people making their own homemade mayonnaise. I was intrigued and a good friend talked me into trying it and gave me a great recipe!

As with anything homemade, the quality of the ingredients is key. So I used avocado oil, fresh lemon juice and free range eggs….and it blew my mind! My husband’s, too! He didn’t hate mayo the way I did, but knew it as the sweeter “dressing” variety and was still not a fan. He loves my homemade mayo and asks for it as a regular staple in our refrigerator. Our kids love it on fresh tomatoes, in coleslaw, chicken and tuna salad, deviled eggs – and of course to top the Falafel.

Mayo

  • 1 fresh egg
  • 1/2 t dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 c light oil (I use avocado)

In a high speed blender put the egg, mustard powder, salt and lemon juice. Slowly blend to combine and warm the ingredients slightly. SLOWLY, and I mean s.l.o.w.l.y stream in the oil while the blender is running. Gradually increase the speed as the mixture emulsifies and becomes white and creamy, until all the oil has been added. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.

 

 

Oat & Berry Bake

I was making breakfast-for-dinner for the fam last night and I’m on a use-up-what-we-have-on-hand kick so I tried out this new oat and berry bake and it’s amazing. Oats, nuts, coconut in the pantry. Berries in the freezer, milk and eggs in the fridge – check!

I was slammed yesterday and didn’t eat lunch until 3pm so I wasn’t hungry when I had to leave for a meeting at 6:30. Just wanted to have dinner ready for the fam. But when I came back at almost 9 I totally ate this for dinner!  Oops.

Oat & Berry Bake

(great out of  the oven or cold next day – can double for a 9×13 dish)

 

  • 1c nuts, roasted and chopped (I used almonds)
  • 2 c oats
  • 1 1/4 c unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¾ t salt
  • ¼ t nutmeg

  • 1 ¾ c milk
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 T melted butter

  • 2 ½ c fruit (can be fresh or frozen, blueberries or mixed berries – I tossed in frozen berry blend and it was fine)
  • Topping: coconut, berries, nuts

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375, grease 9×9 square pan, toast nuts.
  2. Combine dry ingredients (nuts, oats, coconut, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg) in a medium bowl.
  3. Combine wet ingredients (milk, maple syrup, eggs and butter) in a medium bowl.
  4. Reserve ½ c fruit and ¼ c nuts and ¼ c coconut for topping.
  5. Place berries in bottom of dish. Top with dry ingredients. Slowly pour wet ingredients over top and press down so all oats are covered.
  6. Top with berries, coconut and nuts.
  7. Bake 40- 45 minutes or until hot through and bubbling.

 

You can serve as is or with Greek yogurt.

I was in too much of a rush to snap a pic before I left. This is what it looked like after I got a hold of it!

Oat &amp; Berry Bake

Greek – Inspired Chopped Salad

Inspired by a promotional post card from a Realtor, I threw together ingredients on hand to make this colorful, nutritious one-dish meal! Didn’t have feta cheese on hand this time, but next time for sure!

This salad can be a side or complete meal, lunch or dinner. Will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator so it lends well to meal prep for the week.

This is also the type of dish I often take to parties or picnics. I’m usually tasked with a veggie dish and this is something I know I can eat and the kids will eat, when I’m not sure if there will be any healthy options on the menu.

Greek-inspired Chopped Salad -or- Layered Salad

  • 2 c (or 15 oz can) garbanzo beans
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 c cucumber, diced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 c red/white onion, finely diced
  • 2 T parsley, chopped
  • Optional Additions: 1 c diced chicken, 1/2 c crumbled feta cheese, 1/2 c chopped olives

Dressing:

  • 3T red wine vinegar
  • 1 t garlic, minced
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1/4 c olive oil

In a large serving bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.
Serving options:
1) Add salad ingredients and toss to combine with dressing.
2) Layer salad ingredients and drizzle dressing over top for a pretty presentation.

Serves 6. Can be served at room temperature or refrigerated.IMG_20180419_205130_632