spotlight on a favorite: multi-grain english muffins

My favorite way to eat? Real, natural foods cooked in delicious ways.

My other favorite way to eat? Fast.

As a graduate student with two jobs, life can be pretty very hectic. While I would love to prepare ALL of my meals with fresh veggies, fruits, and meats, that just isn't realistic for me right now. So I have a few packaged foods on hand that make my life much easier. I thought I'd do a few "spotlight" posts with some of these foods in case you're looking for some good, healthy grocery store purchases.

Requirements for a packaged food to be a staple in my diet? It should be nutritious -- meaning, it should offer something in the way of nutrients rather than just providing empty calories. For example, I don't eat things like rice cakes. While yes, they're low in calories, they offer virtually nothing in the way of vitamins, nutrients, fiber or protein. No thanks! I look for things that will be filling and give me energy, so most of my favorite packaged goods contain fiber and protein without too much saturated fat or sugar.

It only makes sense that I'd start with multi-grain english muffins. These things are a staple in my diet and have been for a while.

I buy Thomas brand multi-grain light english muffins. And if you don't have a Costco membership -- get one now! You can get an 18 pack of these (two 9-packs; I freeze one) for $5.49. A little 6-pack is $4.99 at the grocery store!! 

Now, are these technically "clean"? No, probably not. I wish the ingredient list were shorter and if I didn't work 60 hour weeks, I'd totally take on trying to make these myself so that I could know exactly what goes in them. But.... let's be real. That's not happening. Bread just isn't something I'm going to make regularly on my own, so I look for the best options at the store in terms of nutrition then fill the rest of my diet with mostly fresh, clean foods. 

Let's check out the nutrition facts. 100 calories. 1 g fat. 8 g fiber. 5 g protein. That's what I'm talking about!

And let's not forget to  mention the fact that I LOVE these! I look forward to breakfast in the morning because I get to have an english muffin. So, how to eat them? 

Most mornings, I toast my english muffin, spread it with almond butter, then top it with cinnamon. For something fresh, I have some fruit or make a smoothie as well. Side note: almond butter is another great thing to get at Costco -- you get a huuuge jar for the same price as a small jar at the grocery store! (I know I'm sounding like a commercial but I'm definitely not getting paid by Thomas or Costco, BTW -- just sharing my real love!) 

Other mornings, if I have time, I'll have my english muffin with an egg on it, and maybe some cheese. And sriracha, obviously. 

Even better? Topped with a runny egg, spinach, and tomatoes. With a side of a peanut butter, berry, and banana protein smoothie

Another fave? A toasted english muffin topped with cottage cheese mixed with honey and cinnamon. Might sound weird, but it's delish!

On the weekends, I love to make delicious breaskfasts. I'll cook up some almond butter and berry french toast for Ryan and make a healthier version for myself by using an english muffin rather than white bread. So good!

English muffins aren't only for breakfast, though. Top them with pizza sauce, fresh grated cheese and basil (and whatever other toppings you'd like), broil for 6-7 minutes, serve with a side salad -- dinner in 10 minutes!

Any other english muffin fans out there? If you haven't added these to your diet, you may want to! Such an easy way to add a ton of fiber without many calories. They're filling too!

I think I'll go have one for breakfast now!


clean & healthy honey almond blueberry oat protein muffins

First of all, I should apologize for being so scarce on the blog lately. As I mentioned in my last post, qualifying exams have been taking over my life in the worst way possible. But as of this afternoon, I am DONE...and man it feels good! I am SO happy to have my free time back to spend as I please rather than studying or writing for that damn exam. After I finished today, I immediately went to the gym and the grocery store then whipped up a few recipes. One of which included this awesome make-ahead breakfast idea: honey almond blueberry oat protein muffins. Easy, healthy, yummy, filling, clean.

Okay, I know the recipe name -- honey almond blueberry oat protein muffins -- is ridiculously long. But I couldn't help it. These muffins are chock full of awesomeness and I didn't want to leave anything out! Actually, I really wanted to fit "banana" in there somewhere too but resisted.

I love blueberry muffins and randomly got a craving for one last night when I saw someone on TV eating a big, delicious looking blueberry muffin. So I decided to try to make a clean version full of fiber and protein for filling, make-ahead breakfasts. I'm not a baker (at all) so I'm pretty proud that they worked out. Especially since I didn't include flour, butter, oil, or refined sugar... the recipe was a bit risky. But it worked! They're dense and chewy and sweet -- but not too sweet -- from the honey and banana. No, they don't taste like the blueberry muffins from Dunkin Donuts, but you'll feel a heck of a lot better after eating one. 

This is definitely a flexible recipe. Play around with it and see what works for you... add peanut butter instead of almond butter, toss in some dark chocolate chips, add some ground flax seed... whatever you'd like! 

Let me tell you how they're SUPER delicious though: warmed up in the microwave for 15 seconds and spread with a bit of coconut oil. YUM.

Here's how to whip them up in under 30 minutes:


crispy baked sriracha chicken tenders

Oohhhhh. I love the recipe I'm sharing with you today. These super spicy and crispy chicken tenders dipped in "ranch" totally make you feel like you're splurging.

As I already told you when I made my almond-crusted chicken tenders with honey mustard, I have a true affinity for junky food. That's why, although I make an effort to "eat clean" most of the time, you don't find a ton of recipes here for salads and grilled fish and steamed veggies. Well, for one thing, you don't really need a recipe for those, but also... I can't eat that stuff consistently! Props to you if you can, but I love too many different foods to bore my palate with plain chicken and greens all the time. So here you find chicken-bacon-ranch quesadillas and pasta with cream sauce and filet mignon and roasted potatoes with garlic dip and creamy shrimp salad and cheesy orrechiette bakes -- all made healthy! These crispy baked sriracha chicken tenders are a great addition to our list of "meals that your mouth won't even recognize as healthy."

Serve these with the "ranch" dipping sauce I shared with the chicken, bacon, ranch quesadillas to cool off your mouth. They are pretty spicy! But if you love sriracha like I do, you'll LOVE these. They're drenched in a sriracha marinade, coated in panko, and baked/broiled until crisp. They are SUPER easy. Another great idea to make these even healthier would be to reduce the amount of panko and substitute it with crushed almonds, just like I do with my almond-crusted chicken tenders. Either way = delicious!

Here's how to make them:


spicy quinoa & kale muffins

I know I've been quieter on the blog recently, and unfortunately it will probably be that way for a few more weeks. I have to take qualifying exams July 15-26, a nightmare-ish and immensely dreaded hoop that we have to jump through in my grad program. So, I've tried to be responsible and spend my free time studying and reading rather than blogging. Blegh. I do have an awesome recipe to share with you today though: spicy quinoa and kale muffins!

And hopefully I'll have lots more to share soon. The good news is, quals will be over sooner rather than later and then [if I pass...] I'll become an official doctoral candidate. Woohoo! I've maintained my sanity through all the studying by taking plenty of breaks, continuing to exercise and cook, and making time (albeit less time) for the things I enjoy. I definitely made time to enjoy July 4th -- with sparklers, friends, fireworks, beer, and crabs. Perfect!

Now, before I get back to studying, let me share the recipe for these quinoa and kale muffins. They turned out so good! And they're super-duper healthy. 

A coworker of mine made cheesy ham, broccoli, and quinoa bites a couple of months ago and brought them in to share. They were delicious! Here's that recipe here. I had plans to try making them myself but never got around to it. Then this past week I had a ton of extra kale from the farmer's market that I needed to use. I don't know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how I want to prepare kale. I get sick of sautéed kale, and sometimes I just don't feel like putting in the work to make kale chips. My mind went back to the quinoa bites from work and I had the idea to make a similar product but with kale instead of broccoli. And less cheese. Plus onions for more flavor and red pepper for spice. It totally worked!

Warning: these are highly addictive. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many I ate in one sitting. Let's just say I didn't bring them in to share with coworkers like my friend did. They're pretty much guilt free though, so no worries if you also consume way more than seems reasonable! Here's how to make them:


whole wheat fusilli with tomato & goat cheese sauce & spiced chicken

There's something about eating fresh foods from local farmers, right? I absolutely love going to the farmer's market on weekend mornings and seeing what sorts of treasures I can find. This weekend I ventured away from my small neighborhood farmer's market to the HUGE market in downtown Baltimore. It was unlike anything I've ever seen: rows and rows and rows of vendors; more produce than I knew what to do with; hot foods; cheeses and salsas and breads and honeys; even jewelry and hat vendors! It was tough to finally settle on what I wanted to go home with, but I pretty much grabbed everything my arms could carry: kale, dandelion greens, berries, squash and zucchini, brussels sprouts, vine ripe tomatoes, and fresh local goat cheese... all from nearby Maryland farmers. The combination of  buying delicious fresh foods + supporting nearby farmers is perfect. Plus, I get to make simple but amazing dishes like this:

This pasta sauce is AMAZING. Creamy and tangy and slightly sweet. And it's made from just the simplest of ingredients: a bit of olive oil, a vine ripe tomato, and fresh goat cheese. Season it up and you have a sauce that's better than fatty alfredo (IMO) without any of the butter or cream. You've gotta try it!

I topped whole wheat fusilli pasta with the sauce and spiced chicken (prepared with S&P, basil, oregano, & garlic powder) and served it with a side of squash and zucchini. You could eat this is in so many different ways though -- add the veggies directly into the sauce; top with shrimp; eat it meatless and stir in some broccoli instead; add some sundried tomatoes and olives... the possibilities are endless. I was focusing on perfecting the sauce so I kept the rest of the dish simple. Mission accomplished! This stuff rocks. 

Here's how to make it:


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