Fit&Happier Pantry Recipes

Last week, I gave you a peek into the Fit&Happier Pantry.  The following are a few original recipes my husband and I have developed over the years using some of our pantry staples.  Where appropriate, I’ve offered ingredient substitution suggestions so you can tailor recipes to your family’s tastes.

Base Recipes

Roasted Vegetables: I love roasting vegetables because the process caramelizes the produce bringing out their natural sweetness, making them so much tastier than steaming, yet healthier than sautéing because you can use a fraction of the oil.  My favorites: beets*, cauliflower, butternut squash, bell peppers, red onion, asparagus, fennel, carrots, parsnip, rutabaga, turnip, brussels sprouts, sweet potato

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees (*450 degrees for beets)
  • Wash, peel (if necessary) & cut veggies into similar sized pieces for even roasting.  Dense, hard vegetables such as butternut squash or sweet potato should be cut into one-inch cubes.  Asparagus (delicate & quick-cooking) need only have the woody ends trimmed off, keeping the rest of the spears intact.  (Tomatoes & bell peppers are easier to peel after roasting.)
  • {*Beets: Place washed, unpeeled beets on baking sheet, place in 450 degree oven for 1 hr.  No oil necessary.  Cool beets for about 5 minutes, then peel and cut as directed in your recipe.  Use gloves for peeling and cutting to avoid stained fingers.}
  • In large bowl, toss veggies with just enough canola or olive oil to evenly coat.  Add only a little oil at a time to avoid over-dressing
  • Line a large baking sheet with foil, spray with canola/olive oil non-stick cooking spray
  • Spread veggies out on pan in single layer.  Sprinkle evenly with fresh ground black pepper & sea salt
  • Roast in the oven until golden brown. Examples: Asparagus=10 mins, Butternut Squash=25 mins

Balsamic Vinaigrette: I make this in large batches to have handy when needed.  For easy and precise dispensing, I recommend storing in a glass dressing bottle with spout.  You can also make other vinaigrettes using this same recipe, simply substitute your favorite vinegar or citrus juice (acid) and oil at a 1:3 ratio respectively.

  • Ingredients: 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, 3/4 c extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp honey, dash each of garlic powder, fresh ground black pepper, sea salt
  • Place all ingredients in medium-sized bowl and whisk vigorously to emulsify into a thick dressing
  • Pour into glass container, cover and store in a cool, dry place.  Shake before dispensing.

Hearty Breakfast

Banana Pancakes: I won a Reader Recipe contest in Cooking Light Magazine (Nov 2004) with an older version of this recipe.  I’ve since revamped it several times and am pleased with this final version.  I use a mix of grains to give the pancakes a nutty flavor and crunchy exterior.  And I substitute an over-ripe banana for the oil, making these pancakes low in fat yet filling.

  • Mix the following dry ingredients in a large bowl: 1 c whole wheat flour, 1/4 c all purpose flour, 1/3 c farina (ie Cream of Wheat), 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt
  • Mix the following wet ingredients in a separate, medium bowl: 1 1/2 c fat free milk, 1 lg beaten egg, 1/3 c firmly packed light brown sugar, l lg mashed over-ripe banana
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until fully incorporated
  • Optional stir-in additions: 1/2 c semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (adding kid-friendly antioxidants) or 1/2 c chopped raw nuts (adds protein & healthy omega 3 fatty acids) or 1/2 c golden raisins (boosting fiber, potassium & iron)
  • Cook as you would any pancakes.
  • Serving suggestion: Opt for 100% maple syrup over the fake stuff but you can reduce the amount of syrup needed by serving fresh berries or canned crushed pineapple (drained well) over the pancakes. Serving size: 2 pancakes

Make Ahead Meatless Lunch

Quinoa Roasted Beet Salad: Best to make this over the weekend and spoon out servings into re-useable containers to pack quick lunches during the week.  The following includes ingredients I love to mix together but this can be tweaked to include your favorite grains, vegetables, nuts, cheeses and vinaigrettes.

  • Prepare quinoa according to package instructions, cool completely
  • Roast 1 bunch (1 lb) beets; cool, peel and dice (recipe above)
  • In large bowl, mix cooled quinoa and diced beets with the following: 1/4 c chopped scallions, 1/4 c finely diced celery, 1/4 c toasted pine nuts, 1/2 c crumbled goat cheese, pinch of salt & pepper
  • Add approx 1/2 c balsamic dressing (recipe above), mix thoroughly, cover & chill completely
  • Serving size: 1 cup
  • Substitution suggestions: for quinoa: faro or barley; for pine nuts: toasted almonds or pumpkin seeds; for goat cheese: crumbled gorgonzola or feta

Guilt-Free Burgers & Fries for Dinner

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Cilantro Garlic Mayo: My husband, Matt, gets all the credit for this recipe.  Though I’ll take a few kudos for providing the fresh cilantro from our backyard.  Trust me, you won’t miss the beef in these burgers.  Serve tossed salad alongside your burger & fries for a complete, filling, veggie-packed meal.

  • Cilantro Garlic Mayo: in small bowl, combine 1/2 c canola oil mayonnaise, 1-2 tsp garlic powder (to taste) and 1/4 c finely chopped fresh cilantro.  Set aside.
  • In large bowl combine 1 lb lean (97%) ground turkey, 1 sm onion diced & lightly sautéed in olive oil, and 1/2 c canola oil mayonnaise
  • Form into 4 burger patties and lightly salt & pepper each side
  • Spray cold grill rack with Pam Grilling/High Heat cooking spray, heat grill to 500 degrees
  • Sear burgers for 2 mins at 500, reduce heat to 450, cook for 5 mins.  Flip burgers, increase heat to 500 to sear for 2 mins, reduce heat to 450 and cook for 5 mins.
  • Serve burgers on whole grain buns with 1/2 Tblsp cilantro garlic mayo, sliced fresh avocado, bibb lettuce and sliced tomato

Roasted Baby Red Potato “Fries”: The key to these potatoes is the smoked paprika, so don’t omit it.  Roasting on high heat for 50 minutes renders a golden, crispy exterior and soft, creamy interior – just like a traditional french fry.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Wash & cut 1 lb of baby red potatoes into similar-sized wedges: quarter large ones, halve small ones
  • In large zip-top plastic bag put: 1 tsp each of salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder & onion herb blend (such as Mrs Dash) and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Place cut potatoes into bag and add 2-3 Tblsp of olive or canola oil
  • Close bag tightly, shake and massage bag to evenly coat potatoes with oil and seasonings
  • Line 13X9 baking pan/dish with foil and coat with canola/olive oil cooking spray.  Empty bag of potatoes into baking dish and spread out evenly into single layer.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes or until crispy on outside and tender inside

Satisfying Snack

Fruit Smoothie: We let bananas turn over-ripe just for these smoothies.  When you take an over-ripe banana and freeze it for 15-30 minutes, an amazing thing happens.  It adds creaminess, sweetness and hearty texture to anything you mix it with.  The result in this smoothie is a richness that seems more like a shake.  Substitute whichever frozen fruit you prefer.

  • Peel and freeze an over-ripe banana for 15-30 minutes
  • In blender, combine: 1 c fat-free milk, 1 c 100% fruit juice (such as Juicy Juice or Apple & Eve), 1/4 c plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 c  each of frozen blueberries, peaches & strawberries, 1 frozen banana & pinch of salt
  • Blend on high until smooth and pourable.
  • Makes 4 servings, serve immediately

Dessert Bonus

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana Shake: Using the same concept as the fruit smoothie you can make lower calorie, lower fat shakes for dessert.

  • Peel and freeze an over-ripe banana for 15-30 minutes
  • In blender, combine: 1 1/2 c fat-free milk, 1 c 1/3 reduced fat chocolate ice cream (such as Edy’s), 1/2 c peanut butter, 1 frozen banana
  • Blend on high until smooth and pourable
  • Makes 4 servings, serve immediately

Enjoy your Fit&Happier food and let me know what you think.

Author’s Note: I am an exercise professional, not a nutrition professional.  My food recommendations are based on the most current science-backed information provided by nutrition professionals in the fitness industry publications I receive and my personal experience.  Mine are general recommendations that are in line with the guidelines published by the US Dept of Health and Human Services for apparently healthy individuals.  If you have a health condition that requires dietary restrictions, I recommend consulting a medical doctor or registered dietician before making any changes to your diet.


  1. […] (in olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper) or roast (see recipe here) your favorite vegetables and stir into the casserole just before putting in the oven.  Some of […]

  2. […] to be portable) and include those items on your list.  See my list of healthy pantry items and original recipes (including kid-friendly ones) to give you some ideas and help you get […]

  3. […] cakes can be served with a side salad dressed with my balsamic vinaigrette for under 400 calories.  You can add 1/2 cup of my oven roasted potatoes for a satisfying meal […]

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