Super Food Pumpkin Granola & Thanksgiving

This is the season for gratitude. Alright, every day and moment should have some gratitude! With Thanksgiving this week, it’s more important than ever to be grateful for the people, things and opportunities we have in life.

I think it’s easy for people to get caught in the whirlwind of our day to day. It’s the grind right? Different days of the week, as well as highs and lows each day, get us axel-wrapped. But all it comes down to is one life. One.

I think Thanksgiving is being heavily overlooked this year. Christmas decorations put up almost immediately after Halloween, Black Friday deals being blasted for weeks and numerous other distractions keeping us preoccupied with what matters most.

If you are like me, you might need a break from it all. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk in a nature park. Do some yoga. Drink a cup of hot tea. Read a new book. Just sit in quiet with your loved one(s) taking in the environment.

Then, come back and remember that love and appreciate you experienced in the little moments. Live each day finding things your are grateful for–make a list of three things at the end of each day or just think about them in your head.

It makes you feel better, right? As you may have read in my last post, the kitchen is one of my muses and I recently felt unattached. My boyfriend David helped me find reconnection and reminded me why he is one of the people I am most grateful for in life. He cherishes me more than anyone and helps me find my inner self and overcome any challenge, even when he travels and is states away.

My latest recipe got me excited to cook and work towards what I’m grateful to work towards — inspiring others to make health simple. David liked it too, even though he isn’t a big pumpkin fan. ๐Ÿ™‚

Strong Sweet Caroline | super food pumpkin granola and gratitude

Here is a recipe perfect for Thanksgiving: pumpkin granola! Make ahead of time and put in separate bags for gift giving, sprinkle on top of some yogurt for a dessert or use at home as a breakfast like I did topping my egg whites.

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What are you most grateful for this week? Thanks for reading and look forward to more gratitude and positivity in the blog and each day in your own life.


Super Food Pumpkin Granola

Makes 10 1/2 cup servings

Macros: 158 calories, 4.7g proteins, 22g carbs, 5.8g fats

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled or quick oats
  • 1/4 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and patted dry with paper towel
  • 2 Tbsp agave
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1/3 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c chia seeds
  • 1/4 c raw pepitas
  • 1/4 c chopped nuts
  • 1/2 c dried berries

Process

  • Preheat oven 325 degrees.
  • Spread oats and quinoa on a parchment lined baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes in oven.
  • While oats toast, in a small bowl combine agave, brown rice syrup, coconut oil, pumpkin puree, spices, salt and vanilla.
  • Pour the toasted oats into a medium bowl and add chia seeds, pepitas, nuts and fruit.
  • Pour the sweet pumpkin mixture and stir in until oats and seeds evenly coated.
  • Spread on baking sheet again and bake additional 20-30 minutes until golden.
  • Granola will crisp as it cools.
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Obstacles bring you options and an Enlightened cookie shake recipe

Have you ever felt a moment where you just keep hitting obstacles? That’s been me the past week. From cooking snafus and burning myself to discovering new business needs on permits and finances, it’s been eventful. And I’ve struggled to keep my head above water, physically and emotionally.

I’ve been told this is the beginning of entrepreneurship. Just try and hold on to your seat!

The kitchen is usually my release. It allows my creative mind to work, try new flavors, make foods not only taste good, but look good too. I’ve lost some of that recently with trying to learn new recipes, stay up to date with food safety protocols and cook for clients [and then finally for myself].

Luckily for me, I have managed to keep my head down and continue the grind. What happens when you see an obstacle?

We have fight or flight responses. Our adrenaline kicks in. These are the breaking points we need to beat the plateaus and grow.

This week, I’ve come to realize that obstacles bring you options. You will have more than you can handle at some moments. Ultimately, that gives you the option to more clearly define goals, purpose and action steps as well as see new options you would have never imagined!

The other day, I was feeling like baking and made these delicious protein pumpkin peanut butter cookies.

Strong Sweet Caroline: Enlightened cookie shake recipe

The recipe, taste and consistency were perfect.

I then thought, “what if I added these cookies with some Enlightened Ice Cream for a preworkout shake?

Strong Sweet Caroline: Enlightened cookie shake recipe

Magic. I love all their flavors but for some reason, cold brew coffee and pumpkin peanut butter cookies sounded good and it did not disappoint!

The only thing missing was someone to share them with. David was out of town and I would not be seeing anyone for a few days. That’s when it occurred to me that I am sharing.

As those who have followed for a while might know, I love goal setting, reflection and am very futuristic. I am in the midst of setting my 2018 goals (they are not resolutions because mine continue to evolve). One new goal is that for January, I plan to release my first e-book! This one is a dessert e-cookbook and will feature 50 delicious, tested and proven clean treats you and your loved ones will enjoy.

I am also preparing a 1-month challenge contest based around one of my favorite topics: meal prepping! I’ve had many people reach out about how-to’s, tips, recipes and staying committed to healthier food selections. This will touch on all of those and more and I will present an award to a winner at the end of the month!

Stay tuned for updates on both projects, as well as Meals Beyond Athletes. It’s amazing how when you put your mind to it, you can turn like the flip of a switch to overcome those obstacles and discover new options.

For those seeking a new option for a sweet indulgent but healthier, high protein shake, try the recipe below.

I hope you’ll join me in this excitement because I know the next few months will be full of MANY obstacles turning into options! Never take for granted the blessings and gifts right in front of us. I’m thankful for all of you followers and encourage you to share this message with a friend who it would resonate.

Make it a great day and take time to choose your options!

Strong Sweet Caroline

Strong Sweet Caroline: Enlightened cookie shake recipe


Enlightened Cookie Shake

Serves one, because it’s too good to share. Unless you double the recipe.

Macros: 238 calories, 29g protein, 21 carbs, 4g fat, 4g sugar

Ingredients

  • 1/2 scoop True Nutrition custom whey protein in Chocolate Fudge Brownie flavor
  • 1/2 c Enlightened Ice Cream in Cold Brew flavor (discount “STRONGSWEET20” for broad bean crisps ordered online)
  • ~1/3-1/2 c unsweetened Almond Breeze Almond Milk
  • 1 Protein Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cookie by me ๐Ÿ™‚ – replace with cookie of choice

Process

  • In food process or blender, combine ice cream, almond milk, whey protein, and half of your protein cookie.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Pour into glass and top with other half of your cookie.
  • Indulge without guilt. ๐Ÿ™‚

“Beet” dreary weather with a vibrant protein smoothie

Beet Protein Smoothie by Strong Sweet Caroline

Happy Halloween! Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, I hope y’all have taken some time to enjoy the crisp weather and seasonal joy that’s upon us. Fall is here and it has actually started out rather brutal. I do not know about you, but I do not like the cold. When the weather goes from the 70s to the 40s, that drastic change is too much for me!

Nonetheless, I’m now enjoying a sip of warm tea while I look out into the wooded section near my apartment. We had rain this weekend so it is nice to have some clear air to breathe.

Caroline and David Lee Haney
David and I at the Lee Haney show this past weekend

This past weekend was a doozy with errands, meal prepping, and support David and his fitness clients who competed in the Lee Haney Games. Both of us are overcoming a cold (and he also had a sinus infection). With a lot of moving parts and higher stress, it wore me down. It became a bit dreary getting sick.

What do you do when you’re sick? I try to find ways to first, get better as quickly as possible! I do not use over the counter medication when I can help it. Food and natural products like herbs are the best source in my opinion. Second, I seek ways to occupy my mind.

Vibrant Flowers

David brought home a bouquet for me to liven the apartment! I love the colors so much that I wanted to also eat something that bright, vibrant and healthy. This lead to my latest kitchen creation, a dairy-free protein beet smoothie!

Protein beet smoothie and flowers

Crazy, I know. Where will you get 25g of protein without using Greek yogurt or milk in the recipe?

Strong Sweet Caroline Beet Protein Smoothie

Egg whites. Mine are from Egg Whites International and come in a convenient half gallon jug with a pump. Simplicity is key when baking or eating, right? And a touch of vanilla whey/egg white protein powder from True Nutrition.

Beet Protein Smoothie with True Nutrition

The rest were an assortment of fruits, kale, ground golden flaxseeds, cinnamon and honey.

Beets. Why did I choose them? I felt I’d been seeing recipes and postings about them splattered all over the place. I have never tried making them myself and the more I read, the more healthy benefits they seemed to offer. So why not?

The best beet benefits I like are:

  • Low calorie – per cup is about 60 calories, 17g are carbs, 4g fiber, 9g sugar
  • High in folate, magnesium and potassium
  • Anti-inflammatory and help with muscle recovery

More benefits and details can be found at Dr. Axe’s site. Try out my recipe for yourself or modify to your liking! It will make your day more vibrant.


Strong Sweet Caroline Beet Protein Smoothie

Serving: 1, about 12 ounces

Beet Protein Smoothie

Macros (my version below): 283 calories | 25g protein | 38g carbs | 3g fats | 5g fiber | 22g sugar (all unprocessed, natural sugars)

Ingredients

Process

  • Combine ingredients in blender or food processor, starting with whole ingredients and adding liquid at the end.
  • Blend until smooth and enjoy!

Strong Sweet Caroline Beet Protein Smoothie

Thanks for reading. Please subscribe and share and reach out with any questions. I’d love to help you be strong (and enjoy sweets too).

-Strong Sweet Caroline

Quality cooking time and spaghetti squash DIY video

How do you define quality time spent with loved ones? Is it that you run errands and go shopping together? Do you watch the same television show? Host parties and get-together’s? Since David and I have been dating, we have shared a bond over quality cooking time.

As bodybuilders, yes, we eat a lot. Yes, we spend more time in the kitchen than the average couple. However, we also make time for quality cooking time.

What I mean by that is, we commit to usually once per week where we will cook one nice meal together. None of the recipe will have already been “meal prepped” for the week. It will start from scratch, beginning to end.

What works for us is assigning specific parts of the meal each of us will prepare. Since I cook 99% of David’s meals while he is gone for work, he usually takes charge of the protein. He has also become quite fond of our new cast-iron skillet, which somehow, I STILL have not had the pleasure to try!

But, nonetheless, David works the oven and I will gather up vegetables, side dishes and, my specialty–desserts.

The meal we prepared a few weeks ago was homemade Greek flatbread pizzas.

Strong Sweet Caroline | Homemade Greek Flatbreads and Vlog

We used Naan flatbreads, fat free Balsamic dressing, fat free feta cheese, shrimp, chicken (which was precooked), spinach, onions, garlic, peppers and dry spices. In about 45 minutes, the meal was made.

Strong Sweet Caroline | Homemade Greek Flatbreads and VlogStrong Sweet Caroline | Homemade Greek Flatbreads and Vlog

Dessert consisted of our favorite, Enlightened Ice Cream. If y’all have not tried it, it is a competitor to Halo Top. And in my opinion, way better. More creamy and satisfying flavors.

This week, while David’s been gone for work and I’ve been working my jobs and checking off priorities for launching my company, it dawned on me. We are the lucky ones.

Why is that? Because after dating for 10 months, both 25 years young, we understand and prioritize “quality time” with loved ones. I’d say that is pretty uncommon, wouldn’t you?

David and I are putting together a series of weekend videos. The latest shows some of our shenanigans with me cooking spaghetti squash, his breakfast routine and some farmer’s market fun.

How will you make the most of quality time? Do share in the comments, subscribe and follow our adventures!

 

– Strong Sweet Caroline

Precision and cream of rice chia bowl

I’m slowly but surely making my way. I put one foot in front of the other. I take one step at a time. Precision is key. Just like anything worth having, if you don’t take baby steps, one step at a time, how can you learn to walk?

Today, I had the pleasure of talking to a gal on the phone. Similar to me, she is interested in starting a meal prep company in her local area. She wanted to pick my brain about why I’m doing it, how I’m getting started, etc. The current word that comes to mind is precision.

I am become more precise on my vision. I am building the detailed framework and business plan of what I want it to be now and what it will become in two years, five years and even ten years. The more precision I have, the better off I will be in aligning action steps, goals and needs.

When you work with someone on a project, do you prefer they ask a general question like, “how can I help”? Or would you rather they ask a specific question like “what can I work on for your website today”?

For those who enjoy firearms, think about it like target practice. You cannot improve your accuracy until you load the weapon, step up to the line, aim, and fire. Sure, you might be off the first shot. You may be off the first 30 shots. But as long as you are improving on your consistency and precision, you will get better.

I shared an Instagram photo a few weeks back of some sweet potato donuts I made. I was going to share the recipe, but haven’t felt ready yet. It’s not quite to the precise taste and consistency I am confident sharing.

Strong Sweet Caroline | Precision

But, that’s OK. It gives me more reason to keep trying, continue baking, researching new methods to prepare the ingredients, use the oven and get better. Take one more step in the right direction.

Instead, I’m excited to share a breakfast recipe I made with inspiration from acai bowls. This one was for a higher carb, medium protein, low fat day to speed up my metabolism. I enjoyed a few other foods that day also, like nonfat Greek yogurt with rice Chex cereal and powdered peanut butter. If you’ve not tried that, I HIGHLY recommend. So good. Add natural almond or peanut butter for added amazingness.

Strong Sweet Caroline | cream of rice chia bowl

Nonetheless, this recipe featured hydrolyzed caseinate protein in fruit punch flavor from True Nutrition, cream of rice, unsweetened almond milk, chia seeds, and topped with some peaches, blueberries, and Trader Joe’s roasted cocoa nibs. Why the assorted ingredients?

Strong Sweet Caroline | Cream of rice chia bowl ingredients

  • Hydrolyzed caseinate – one of the purest forms of whey protein and most readily digested into your body. True Nutrition has some of the best products if you need pure, quality ingredients.
  • Cream of rice – it’s essentially granulated rice and is easily digested in the body as a carbohydrate.
  • Unsweetened almond milk – delicious and lower calorie milk substitute. I am removing conventional dairy products from my diet again because every time I try to bring them back, my body does not respond positively. I’ll spare you the details.
  • Chia seeds – per serving, chia seeds offer high fiber, high protein, high omega-3 fatty acids. They are unique because they can be consumed raw or like in this recipe, soaked and puffed up and “jell-like” texture.
  • Fruits – natural source of sugar, antioxidants and vitamins.
  • Cocoa nibs – cleaner source for my fellow chocoholics and gives a little crunch.

Time for you to try it yourself! How precise will you be? I’d eat it as a pre workout or post workout treat.


Cream of rice chia bowl

Estimated macronutrients (will vary based on amount of toppings)

400 calories | 20g protein | 55g carbohydrates | 8g fat

Strong Sweet Caroline | Cream of Rice chia bowl

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup cream of rice, prepared as directed on box in the microwave
  • 1/2 scoop True Nutrition or alternative brand hydrolyzed caseinate whey protein in a fruity or vanilla flavor
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup (or just under) unsweetened almondmilk
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa nibs
  • 1/4 banana, sliced thinly
  • Handful blueberries
  • 2 slices peach, thin

Prepare

  • Make cream of rice in one serving bowl.
  • With a little water left in the cream of rice bowl, add protein powder until thoroughly combined.
  • In separate bowl, combine almond milk and chia seeds and let sit in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
  • While chia sets, gather other toppings.
  • Using a spoon, push cream of rice protein mixture to 1/3 of the bowl.
  • Pour the chia mixture into other 2/3 of bowl.
  • Add toppings as pretty as you like!

Building big dreams & cooking low calorie zucchini fritters

Do you ever have those times you need to stop, take a deep breath and reset? I do. Recently, I’ve been busting my butt to organize my thoughts, business plan, work two part-time jobs and just like many of you, trying to find a way to “balance” it all with a healthy relationship, friendships and family.

I have some information to share. I’m no longer striving for balance. I am building big dreams. I heard an interview with Kevin Roberts of Saatchi & Saatchi and a quote he shared I am taking hold for my own life.

work-life integration

 

As I build my dream, each day blends into one another. Therefore, I must be intentional with my time, gratitude and daily reflections. If not, I will succumb to my old self who was constantly chasing a balance instead of integrating the things I love into one life.

Well, folks, it’s happening. And I’m so blessed to share my story! My good friend Amanda Jae Spoo recently featured me in her blog. Visit it here and watch the YouTube video I compile to change up her format and push her outside her comfort zone a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚

Additionally, this week has been killer with many things accomplished, new recipes attempted and most were successful! This one I shared on Instagram story and had many requests for the recipe. So here we go. Allow me to introduce: Zucchini Asparagus Fritters!

Strong Sweet Caroline zucchini asparagus fritter recipe

Per usual, I found a few different recipes via Pinterest, and modified to my liking. I knew I had to use a touch of oil for them to get slightly crispy on the edges. Well, when you are using eggs and egg whites as your base, it will be more difficult to keep that crisp. Fresh off the pan, they are fabulous! Full of flavor, not too overpowered by garlic or onion and just enough spice to keep it interesting. Can keep for a few days stored in the refrigerator. I recommend reheated after storing in the refrigerator or they might seem a bit soggy.

Strong Sweet Caroline Zucchini fritters

I chose to pair two fritters with a bed of romaine lettuce, homemade beef meatballs, one whole egg and sunflower seeds. This was my last meal of the day, which I typically have the mostly proteins and fats. It keeps me fuller longer so I do not get hungry in the middle of the night. No need for carbohydrates because let’s face it, it would be useless for sleeping.

Strong Sweet Caroline fritters with meal

I’ve been experimenting more with seeds and different nuts. I grew up eating sunflower seeds and got away from it until recently. Can be unsalted, salted, flavored and used in a variety of ways. They have SO MANY health benefits! The biggest one for me right now is increasing my Vitamin E daily intake. I’m working to strengthen my hair and skin and reel in some of those not so fun PMS symptoms.


Strong Sweet Caroline Zucchini Asparagus Fritters

Servings: 6 total fritters, 2 per serving

Macros per serving: 100 calories | 6g protein | 5g carbs | 6.5g fats

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely chopped or grated zucchini squash
  • 6 cooked asparagus spears, cut
  • 1 Tbsp whole wheat flour (or flour of choice)
  • 3 Tbsp egg whites (equal to one whole egg white)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp each or other desired spices: paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt

Procedure

  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine zucchini, asparagus, egg, egg whites, hot sauce and spices.
  • In a frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil.
  • Add the flour to the mixture. You may desire more flour for a firmer fritter. I did not just for trying it out with less ingredients.
  • Use a ladle or spoon to pour mixture into circles onto hot oil.
  • Cook for about 3 minutes on first side or until you can start to see the egg cooked through.
  • Flip and cook other side for approximately 3-5 minutes and remove.
  • Enjoy on their own or with a meal!

Stronger than you think from competition — treat yourself with a Kodiak Brownie Cookie Dough Cake

When I started writing this blog and recipe, I was looking in my Passion Planner and the quote for the week. The Chinese proverb stated, “Trial often exhibits truly wonderful results.” This could not have been more accurate for this past weekend.
For current followers, you know about my boyfriend David. To all my new visitors, he is an athlete in men’s classic physique bodybuilding. This weekend, he had a local show and the pressure was on. Last year, he won overall athlete. This year, it was his goal to come to this show with a bigger, fuller, leaner physique. This is only a stepping stone to bigger goals in his bodybuilding career.
I told David that for a post-competition treat, I was going to make him something “semi” healthy to curb his sweet cravings. I chose to modify a brownie cookie dough cake recipe I found here.
Strong Sweet Caroline Kodiak Brownie Cookie Dough Recipe
Day of show, he needed to get his tan touched up and we had to leave the venue. We learned a valuable lesson. No matter what the consequences could have been, know that factors can change unexpectedly and affect your end result. Because of challenges, our patience and understanding is challenged. You are stronger than you think.
David placed second. And although we had a few tough moments of misunderstanding, we became stronger together through the process. It was a rewarding day. David received positive feedback from supporters and the judges. As you can see below, he created art in his posing routine.
My art to contribute that day was this Kodiak Brownie Cookie Dough Cake. When you are dieting for 8-months straight, most people have intense cravings. David is not usually a chocolate fan but he loves cookie dough. I have been incorporating Kodiak Powercakes and Flapjack Waffle Mix in a lot of recipes lately to see how they turn out for a higher protein content product. Dark chocolate is my favorite. This recipe turned out well and actually reminded me a lot of chocolate brownies that my mom used to make for me growing up.
Strong Sweet Caroline Kodiak Brownie Cookie Dough Cake
I baked the single pan of brownie in a cake pan, then cut in half and split down the middle to make four separate layers. While it cooled, I created the cookie dough filling. This was a Greek yogurt cream cheese base. If you have never tried it, I have only ever been able to find this Green Moutain Farms brandย at Walmart and it’s fairly inexpensive. It is also half the fats and double the proteins of regular cream cheese.
Instead of using a granulated sugar or alternative sugar, I used honey. Honey tastes fantastic and is lower on the glycemic index. It has been benefits and Dr. Axe does a great job sharing them in this article.
The frosting was fairly thick but I froze it overnight and took to the show next day. It held together very well. Each layer and the outside was packed with mini chocolate chips. I did not use sugar free for this recipe but that would be a good alternative for those wanting a low sugar/sugar free alternative.
Strong Sweet Caroline Kodiak Brownie Cookie Dough Cake
This cake was dense. David enjoyed it and he (with help) was able to finish it in a few days. If you are looking for a tasty cake idea, make this one today! Even if you have a few mishaps or changes in your plan, you are stronger than you think.
Get the recipe in my dessert e-cookbook today!