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What is Clean Eating?

If I polled 100 people, there could easily be many definitions and viewpoints.

However, after years of detailed research, personal experience, and conversations with certified nutritionists and dietitians alike, I’ve developed a definition that is the heartbeat of Take Back Your Kitchen. It’s throughout all my recipes and incorporated into my personal life.

Clean eating is enjoying food in its purest form. This directly translates to the number of ingredients used to create the food you eat. In other words, the fewer ingredients, the better.

Do you see yourself in any of the following descriptions?

  • A reluctant and picky eater
  • Feel you lack time for meal prep
  • Don’t enjoy cooking
  • Are you simply bored with the same old recipes

I can guarantee that clean eating is right for you! It will look distinct for each individual, but when you tackle it one healthy habit at a time, the benefits of clean eating will quickly become obvious. 

CONSEQUENTLY, WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY, DIRECTLY CORRELATES TO HOW YOU FEEL FROM THE INSIDE – OUT. Your gut health controls your emotions, your physical pain, sleep and more day to day functions. When you can get your gut biome to a healthy state life just works out so much better in every aspect.

So ask yourself this? Do you feel any of the following symptoms on a regular basis:

  • lack of energy
  • poor digestion
  • exhaustion and fatigue
  • hair loss
  • weight gain
  • muscle tension 
  • headaches 
  • mood swings 

Clearly, these symptoms are often caused by the food one consumes on a regular basis.  While I am not a doctor and am not claiming to know your specific situation, choosing to be intentional about the foods you put into your body is a great place to start.  

Likewise, sometimes your body needs more help than just choosing clean foods. 

Unfortunately, many people not only need to take out inflammatory foods (see descriptions and ideas below) but they also need to ADD something to help them gain and maintain a healthy gut. This will allow your body to absorb all of the nutrients it needs to get the BEST results overall. I recently have had success and LOVE the program that Arbonne uses and would love to tell you more about it. The products are 100% vegan and full of 21 vitamins and minerals. The program itself is full of products that re-align the PH balance of your gut biome as well include delicious protein shakes fill you up to get you to the next meal. These plant-based products are clean eating at its best!

Here are some thoughts to consider when choosing ingredients:

Does the ingredient cause inflammation in the body? 

The only way to find out what’s causing the inflammation is to remove ingredients from your diet.  Hit that reset button! 

Likewise, while many people do not have an allergy to gluten or dairy, many products Americans consume are mass produced and full of additives and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). These products are hard for your digestive tract. Over time, those extra sugars, chemicals, and artificial junk turn into fat and inflammation in the body. Furthermore, since these hidden ingredients are in so many foods with labels claiming to be “natural” or “healthy” or “no high fructose corn syrup”, they still contain variations of corn syrup. This alone is a leading cause of higher spikes in blood sugar. 

Solution: Look for products that have 5 or fewer ingredients that you recognize. Furthermore, unless the product is something that is naturally sweet, avoid buying brands that include unnecessary sugars. Overall, this will cut down the added sugars, sodium and additives that turn directly into fat in the body.

What food does my own food eat? 

Identifying what is pumped into proteins is also important. If your food eats it, guess what!? You’re eating it! Many of the ingredients you’ll see unnecessarily added to proteins like sausage, bacon, and even ground beef is:

  • Nitrates (preservatives)
  • Dextrose and Maltodextrin (a form of High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Sugars
  • Added artificial colors and flavorings

Why are they added? It’s cost-effective. But if I’m being honest, it’s only cost effective for the manufacturer.  Choosing to add preservations that will keep food on the shelves longer means they can sell it to you for slightly less to the consumer, but sell more due to the lower cost. As the consumer, you might save a few bucks over time, but is the cost of your health worth it?

Solution: Look for organic and grass-fed products if its in your budget. This helps to eliminate those unnecessary ingredients. When choosing sausage, stick with the leaner version like chicken sausage. However, indulging in a local, quality version of sausage is okay in moderation. Most importantly, read labels and know what you’re putting into your body. There is always a wiser option. 

Do I have to give up dairy?

As a general rule of thumb, I avoid dairy. However, I do include goat, sheep and lamb milk cheeses as they are lower in lactose and easier for the body to process. Keep in mind that quality cheese that is aged for over one year is lactose-free. So check with the deli counter at your natural food store for one of these quality cheeses when you want to indulge. 

Solution: The quality of ingredients is key. Treating dairy as a treat rather than a daily ingredient will make all the difference. Including Greek yogurt with zero additives is a great addition to healthy digestion. Adding fresh berries or organic honey will make it sweet enough. Over time, these are small changes that will directly affect how your gut feels and how it looks! 

Ghee is my butter substitution. It is simply clarified butter that is lactose-free. 

Are my baking ingredients plant-based Products?

Grains commonly used in baking flour, pasta, and bread tend to be genetically modified and overly processed. They are one of the leading causes of poor gut health and inflammation. 

Solution: Stick with plant-based products, as you’ll see in the pantry must-haves section. These are all waistline friendly. But like anything you eat, moderation is key.  

If you have any questions concerning clean eating, message me! I would love to hear from you and be able to answer your questions.

In Health,

Jenni

Almond Butter Cups

One of the most popular flavor combinations of all time is peanut butter and chocolate. It’s been on my favorites list since I was a kid. But did you know that those PB cups you can buy at the store are pumped full of various forms of sugar and corn syrup.

Well, I decided to create my own recipe that satisfied my cravings without adding all that sugar. Don’t worry, the flavor isn’t compromised here. In fact, it wakes up those taste buds. I love this recipe because of how easy it is to make. You’ll have sweet treats for the week and a few to share.

Almond butter is my choice nut for many reasons, but the main is that is less likely to add inflammation. While I don’t have a peanut allergy, they are legumes and legumes (beans, lentils, and peas) are all prone to cause inflammation in your body.

SHOPPING TIP: go to the natural section of your local grocery store and grind your own almond butter…it’s cheaper this way and you only need to get the amount you need. So if you’re not used to almond butter, this is a great way to ease into adding it to your pantry.

Almond Butter Cups Almond Butter Cups Print This
Serves: 8 Prep Time:
Nutrition facts: calories fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • 2-3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 14 ounces or 1 ½ package of Enjoy Life Vegan Dark Chocolate Chips (split in half)
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • Silicone muffin tin or muffin tin with paper liners

Instructions

In a medium mixing bowl, add the filling ingredients and stir until combined. Set aside.

In a microwave, melt half of the dark chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon coconut oil in 30-second intervals. Stir between each round. Repeat until completely melted.

Pour into 8 silicone molds. Swirl so it covers the bottoms and halfway up the sides.

Freeze for 5-8 minutes or until the chocolate is set.

Roll the almond butter into 8 ovals and place over the hardened chocolate in each cup.

Melt the remaining chocolate and pour over to cover each almond butter filling.

Place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to fully set.

Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Southwest Style Eggs Benedict

or as my good friend Melynda also named it: "Jenni's Benni" or "Southw​est Benni".

Whatever you call it, it is still purely decadent. It makes the prefect weekend brunch and satisfies so many cravings without all the guilt.

Clean eating doesn’t have to be overly complicated with a handful of hard to find ingredients. Since most of these ingredients are most likely in your fridge or freezer or on your grocery list rotation, this should be easy to whip up.

I was never a fan of Eggs Benedict, so this is my exception. My creamy secret sauce drizzled layers of flavors both spicy and sweet burst to life with every bite.

So show off to your friends and create brunch at home. Save money, buy some bubbly, fresh oranges and fruit, and enjoy your own brunch on a sunny spring day.

Southwest Style Eggs Benedict Southwest Style Eggs Benedict Print This
Serves: 2 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: calories fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 4 cage-free eggs
  • 2 chicken sausage links
  • Heirloom Tomato Slices
  • 1 avocado, smashed
  • Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
  • Secret Sauce
  • ¼ cup 0% Fage Greek Yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small lime, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons organic honey

Instructions

Follow the steps for the sweet potato toasties, except for the direction you cut the sweet potatoes. Instead of lengthwise, cut ¼ inch circle rounds.

Cook the chicken sausage on medium-high heat.

Poach the eggs. I use these handy gadgets to help me. Let your water boil and add a splash of white vinegar as it will help the eggs maintain their form.

Poach anywhere from 2:30-3:15 based on your stove top and desired cook.

Layer your Southwest Bennie:

sweet potato

smashed avocado

tomato slice

chicken sausage

poached egg

sauce

Trader Joes seasoning

Better in a Bowl?

When looking over my cookbook recipes and the new recipe creations, they are not only full of flavor, but I’ve found that putting a meal in a bowl makes life easier. So here’s a few oldies but goodies AND a few new ones you need in your life.

Loaded Burger Bowl:

This is my latest creation and I just ADDED a new blog post with the recipe.

Simply Rooted Salad:

I needed something light and filling for a late night of work. This salad did the trick! I felt full and satisfied and didn’t have to worry about my body fighting to digest my late dinner while sleeping. (recipe below)

Not Beetin’ Around the Bush Smoothie Bowl

I love this go-to bowl for when I have a little more time in the morning or as a great snack. I top it with some dried fruit (no sugar added) like figs and my favorite grain-free granola.

Sheet Pan Fajitas … in a Bowl

I took my simply flavorful sheet pan fajitas and went low carb. I created this lime-cilantro cauliflower rice instead. (recipe below) It makes these fajitas even easier to eat the next day. Meal Prep WIN!

Better in a Bowl? Better in a Bowl? Print This
Nutrition facts: calories fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • Simply Rooted Salad:
  • 3 medium beets
  • 2 medium carrots or 1 1/2 cups organic rainbow carrots
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • pepitas
  • Drew's Italian Dressing
  • Spinach
  • Lime Cilantro Cauliflower Rice:
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 16 ounces of frozen riced cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (Thai Brand)
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, diced

Instructions

Simply Rooted Salad

Heat oven to 400 degrees 

Roast beets, wrapped in foil for 50-60 minutes

Add sliced carrots to the pan, sprinkled with salt, pepper and avocado oil and roast for 25 minutes

Compile salad and add fresh pepitas and 1 tablespoon of Drew’s Italian dressing.

Lime Cilantro Cauliflower Rice

Add coconut oil and the riced cauliflower to a large skillet on medium-high heat.

Cook for 5 minutes, adding a dash of salt and pepper along the way.

Add the coconut milk and let simmer for 10 minutes until fully absorbed into the cauliflower.

Add the juice of 1 lime and cilantro and continue to cook for 5 minutes. 

 

1

Loaded Burger Bowl

When I gave up grains, dairy and processed foods a few years ago, I was surprised on what foods I actually missed eating. While I didn’t missed the processed foods, I missed a good juicy burger. And especially today, you can find places that use quality ingredients. But still I know all the sauces are full of sugar and fries high in calories and fat. So why no recreate a burger that I can enjoy throughout the week without feeling guilty?

In my cookbook, I have a BBQ meatball recipe that was inspired by a bun-less burger I tried to make. The problem with that burger was never it’s flavor. It was simply hard to eat… Don’t you feel that way about eating a burger without a bun!?! Completely messy!!!

BBQ Meatballs from Take Back Your Kitchen

A few weeks ago I created another burger with a smashed sweet potato for the bottom bun. Full of flavor once again, it had so many steps to make and was a mess to eat.

Smashed Burger: My inspiration

So I’m learning, that if it’s going to be messy, why not use all those components and make it a salad? Finally, I nailed it! (I’m just realizing I did forget to add the bacon…but clearly I didn’t miss it.)

So enjoy this Loaded Burger Bowl. It will fill you up and help to satisfy that craving without any real guilt. All components can be made during meal prep and complied when you’re ready to eat!

So grab a fork and dig in!

Loaded Burger Bowl Loaded Burger Bowl Print This
Serves: 3 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: calories fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Balsamic Onions
  • ⅛ yellow onion, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons pure balsamic vinegar
  • Maple Dijon Aioli
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Sweet Potato Seasoning
  • PRO TIP: Make a batch to have on hand.
  • Sweet Potato Seasoning (from my cookbook: Take Back Your Kitchen)
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 6 cups mixed greens, loosely packed
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • avocados

Instructions

Components can be made in advance and much of this will all be timed together, but here are some tips:

  • Double your batch of sweet potatoes and add them to one of my power bowls.
  • Chop all of the components first. Then getting each component baking, simmering and cooking.
  • Place all of your spices in a small bowl first so you can just add when ready.
  • Make the aioli when you’re ready to eat.
  1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel the sweet potato and chop into ¼ inch pieces.  Toss on a rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with avocado oil and Sweet Potato Seasoning.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  4. Thinly slice, or julienned, ⅛ of the onion.  Place in a skillet on medium-low and add the balsamic and onion slices. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Place the ground turkey in a large skillet pan on medium-high heat. Cook and drain. Add the spices, water, and garlic and continue to bring all the flavors together.
  6. Whisk the aioli ingredients in a small bowl.
  7. When you’re ready, compile your salad. Each salad has about 2 cups of loosely packed mixed greens, a few cherry tomatoes, and ½ a small avocado.
  8. Store components in meal prep containers so it’s ready for your lunch the next day!

As Seen on SA Live – 3rd Time’s the Charm

A year ago I was connected with the producer of SA Live, a local TV show that brings the community of San Antonio together. At this point I was just starting to write a few of my own recipes and trying to get my name out there. Little did I know that one year later I would be a published author!

SA Live: 1/2/2019

I honestly didn’t think I had it in me then as I am a home cook who has taught myself how to make healthy eating a lifestyle. It was time to dump the fad rollercoaster diets. Now that I’ve adopted clean eating habits, I have balance in my life. I enjoy the occasional meal out but find ways to make flavors come to life with my recipes and still keep it from draining my bank account or adding inches to my waistline.

After my first appearance on SA Live, I started to believe I had something to share. And that’s when it clicked! The recipe ideas kept coming and I continued to better my practice. It takes grit and risk to take your dreams from an idea to reality and I am so thankful for the support and opportunities I’ve been blessed with this last year.

To learn more about my food philosophy, take a few moments to watch these segments from the January 2nd show. Consider how you and those closest to you, can make these small and meaningful changes.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

What is one manageable step you’re going to take this month to create a new healthy habit in your life?

Personally, I need to get my water intake back up! 1/2 of my body weight in ounces is the magic trick. I plan to track my ounces on my monthly habit tracker that is included in my book. Have you got your copy yet? There are so many helpful resources, not just the recipes, to help you finally get off the rollercoaster and take small steps to a healthier you.

Have you got your copy yet? There are so many helpful resources, not just the recipes, to help you finally get off the rollercoaster and take small steps to a healthier you.

5 Easy Switches for 2019

Oh Mr. Max – Dog Treats that Appease the Pickiest of Eaters

I love my dog! His name is Max and he is a rescue. While he’s the biggest sweetheart, he is super skittish. Random things make him jumpy. One day he loves something, the next day he is scared of it.

(insert heartfelt awwweeeee here)

Since I am a new dog mommy, I wanted to give him food as clean as I eat. And while I still stand by that principle, I soon learned from my vet and further research, that a grain-free diet can lead to heart disease for dogs. Check out this article from the NY Times for more info.

Needless to say, I have stepped back from grain-free and focus on only giving Max REAL ingredients.  After the release of my cookbook, (which is on sale right now) I decided to embark on making new recipes. So clearly Max was first on my list! However, I’m not sure I’m up for creating a dog food, so treats it is for him. After my research, I decided to choose flour, choosing whole wheat and the best quality so it’s still easy on his tummy. The first variation was almost too easy to make and he inhaled it. So I also created a variation to freshen his breath. Let’s be honest, all dogs could use this one. And again, the treats didn’t disappoint.

So take a few minutes this weekend to make this simple treats for your fur baby. They will love you even more for it.

3 simple ingredients make this not only safe for your fur baby but easy to make.

Dog Treats, Fresh Breath

Parsley and Coconut Oil are known to spruce up that stinky dog breath. I could tell a difference after Max devoured 1.

Oh Mr. Max – Dog Treats that Appease the Pickiest of Eaters Oh Mr. Max – Dog Treats that Appease the Pickiest of Eaters Print This
Serves: 12-22 treats Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: calories fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • Peanut Butter Biscuits:
  • 1/2 cup raw peanut butter (make sure this is the only ingredient)
  • 1/3 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 cup whole wheat organic flour
  • Fresh Bites:
  • 1 cup gluten-free oats, ground
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups parsley. loosely packed
  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Instructions

Peanut Butter Biscuits:

Mix all of the ingredients on low until combined.

On a cutting board, parchment paper or Silpat, roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thick.

Using 2 or 3 inch dog bone cookie cutters (or your choice of shape) cut 12-16 biscuits.

Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

Let cool completely before letting your fur baby enjoy.

Fresh Bites:

Ideally using a food processor, grind the oats.

Add the flour, parsley, and carrots and mix until combined. The parsley will turn the mixture green.

Add the melted coconut oil and egg to form a gummy-like dough.

Lightly dust a cutting board, parchment paper or Silpat with flour. Place the dough ball on it and roll out until it’s 1/2 inch thick.

Using 2 inch dog bone cookie cutters (or your choice of shape) cut 12-16 biscuits.

Bake at 325 degrees for 22-25 minutes.

Let cool completely before letting your fur baby enjoy.

 

A Taste of Fall

Stuffed Acorn Squash

I love the flavors, aromas and produce during Fall, especially squash. Honestly, it’s one of the most versatile foods. It can act as a noodles for pasta, a bowl for stuffing or a side dish all on its own. It pairs with both sweet and savory flavors which makes it the perfect Fall dish. This stuffed acorn squash will fill you up and leave you satisfied. The burst of the tart cranberries paired with the sweet and crunchy apple and savory sausage makes for the perfect bite!

I originally created this recipe last year when wandering through the produce aisle. I realized that squash came in so many forms I hadn’t tried and I wanted see how this particular squash varied from butternut. Honestly, there isn’t much of a difference besides the outer shell containing its goodness. It’s slightly less sweet which makes it the perfect choice for this dish as the rest of the flavor combinations provide that aspect.

It’s definitely one of my go to recipes this season and a tried and true show stopper. I already plan to bring it as a side dish to a Friendsgiving this year and I’ll be sure to post those pics and any changes I might add to my Facebook Page: Take Back With Jenni.

Clean eating, fall flavors, acorn squash

Dig in to the flavors of fall

A Taste of Fall A Taste of Fall Print This
Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: calories fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Acorn Squash, seeded
  • 6 oz Pre-Cooked Sausage, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 Honey Crisp Apple, peeled, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1 cup Cranberries
  • 1 tsp. Thyme
  • 1 tsp. Ghee, melted
  • Dash of Salt and Pepper
  • Optional: Shredded Gruyere Cheese (1 tsp. per serving)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Brush with melted ghee to lightly coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the squash face down on a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes. They should be mostly cooked through, so use a fork and prick them to check for firmness. The fork should go through the thickest portion with ease.

While baking, slowly caramelize the onion. No added oil needed, just slowly sauté on low, stirring every few minutes. This will allow their flavor to fully come through. At the 10 minute mark, add of the cranberries, apples, and garlic. Continue to cook until everything is softened. My favorite parts is as the cranberries cook, you will hear them start to pop.

Once everything is softened, about 20-25 minutes total time, add the sausage and cook for another 3-5 minutes along with the thyme, salt and pepper. Take the squash out of the oven and leave them facedown for 10 minutes to steam.

[caption id="attachment_4293" align="alignnone" width="576"]Acorn Squash, Fall Flavors, Clean Eating, Chicken Sausage Easy to prep and perfect for leftovers.[/caption]

​​Turn the oven to broil. Scoop out 1 giant spoonful of squash to allow for more stuffing. Place the stuffing into center of the squash, knowing you will have stuffing leftover, and add the cheese if you choose. Broil for 5-7 minutes. Make sure to turn the oven light on to see how they are coming along, avoiding burnt cheese.

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