Girlfriend's Fit Club | Healthy Winter Recipes
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Healthy Winter Recipes

By Chef Jen

The winter months can be nutritionally challenging, as our bodies are craving more comfort foods. However, we must remember that our immune systems are more compromised during this time of year, and nourishing meals are necessary to fight off those winter ills. Choose to incorporate seasonal citrus fruits, root vegetables, squash, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower into your weekly routine; in addition, make the most of frozen fruits and veggies, which are always readily available. Roast or steam your fresh vegetables for optimal flavor.

Soups, stews, whole grains, beans and braised meats (like pulled chicken) are great make-ahead items that you can enjoy throughout the week. As these items reheat well, these dishes make it super simple to pull together a healthy meal on busy weeknights. Add warming spices to your meals to help you feel cozy and to also improve your circulation. (Such spices include black pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, garlic and ginger.) 

Note that this time of year is very dehydrating, so it is key to drink enough non-caffeinated fluids and to include healthy fats in your diet. Some examples of healthy fats to eat often include avocado, salmon, nuts, seeds and olive oil. 

 

Recipe 1

Spaghetti Squash with Chicken, Sundried Tomatoes and Artichokes

What I love about spaghetti squash is that it is so flavorful and filling for very few calories or carbs, and it works as a great base for sauces. This chicken topping has a wonderful balance of sweet tomatoes and salty olives with feta.
Serves 4

All you need:

2 small (or 1 large) spaghetti squash

Olive oil, for drizzling

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 small red onion, diced

2 peeled garlic cloves, minced

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced

½ cup white wine (or chicken broth)

1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

2 tablespoons julienned sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil

½ cup pitted green olives, halved 

½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 oz. crumbled feta cheese, for garnish 

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Line a large baking sheet with foil and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Halve the spaghetti squash and scoop out any seeds; drizzle with more olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay cut side down on the baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. 
  3. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except feta) and cook for 5 minutes longer, or until the chicken is completely cooked through. 
  4. Shred the roasted spaghetti squash flesh with a fork and scoop into 4 serving bowls. Top with the chicken mixture and sprinkle with feta. 

 

Recipe 2

Sunflower Seed Butter Energy Bites

These energy bites are nut-free so they are safe to pack for a lunch treat or mid-afternoon snack! And these aren’t just for the kiddos, obviously. I also enjoy these for breakfast with tea or as an afternoon pick-me-up. 

Makes 16

All you need:
1 cup sunflower seed butter
8 pitted medjool dates
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt

All you do:
1. Place sunflower seed butter and dates in a food processor and process until almost smooth.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and process until a thick dough forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go (you can add a small amount of water if needed).
3. Roll the dough into 16 equally sized bites. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Jen graduated from Michigan State University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and health promotion. In December 2010, she pursued her lifelong dream of becoming a chef by studying culinary arts at Kendall College in downtown Chicago. 

After graduation in 2012, she served as the head chef of a vegetarian catering company. She subsequently worked at Hy-Vee, a Midwest grocery store chain, as their head chef and dietitian. Through this job, she was able to share her dietitian and culinary expertise through nutrition counseling, cooking classes, and community events.

Since moving back home to West Michigan, she has been working as a personal chef and currently owns her own company, Chef Jen LLC (chefjen.com).  She married Josh Plaggemars in 2013, and they have two adorable Goldendoodles – Colby and Wally.