High-Protein Freezer Breakfast Burritos

If you are or have ever been one of my clients (or friend or family member), and you tell me you don’t usually eat breakfast, chances are I’ve given you a lecture. I pause, I take a deep breath, and I start ranting about why you should eat breakfast and easy ideas of things you can eat and so on. Most people hang their head and say “I know, I know,” but do they really know? Why is it that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day?” Let’s discuss:

Why Should I Eat Breakfast?

This is where I get all science-y in explaining why your body loves breakfast. I’m going to explain this very simply and if you need more information, just Google it. Your body has many mechanisms in place to keep you alive when you’re sleeping (and not eating). One of these mechanisms is your liver releasing stored sugar to stabilize your blood sugar and keep your brain functioning while you’re off in dreamland. Unfortunately, your liver doesn’t have a high, medium, or low switch which means that it’s pumpin’ sugar with all its might, slowly but surely raising your blood sugar. When you wake up, since we can’t say, “Okay liver, I’m good, you can stop producing sugar now,” it’ll just keep going and going until… you eat breakfast! Wow, what?! It’s that easy? Yes! When you eat breakfast, specifically a breakfast with carbohydrates, you’re telling your body that you can now control your own blood sugar. In this article, which happens to be another easy breakfast option, I talk about why you want a stable blood sugar.

Who is Breakfast a Non-Negotiable Meal for?

You must eat breakfast if you have diabetes, (including gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes both taking medication/insulin and diet-controlled, as well as type 1 diabetes), Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), have ever experienced “hanger,” feel like your mood fluctuates throughout the day, battle with fatigue, are thin, are overweight, are pregnant, are an active person, are a woman, are a child.. you catch my drift?

Reasons People Don’t eat Breakfast:

  • I don’t have enough time in the morning. If you feel like you can’t spare 10 minutes in the morning to make or eat breakfast, your only option (other than grabbing fast food) is to make your breakfast ahead of time. I might be foreshadowing here…
  • I’m just not hungry. I’d encourage you to still eat breakfast. First, ask yourself how late you’re typically eating at night. If a late dinner time or evening snacks are hindering your morning hunger, I suggest you adjust/eliminate that. Otherwise, start eating breakfast consistently and I guarantee you will start to wake up hungry. It just might take a few weeks.
  • I’m trying to lose weight or cut calories. Remember how I mentioned that your liver produces sugar until you eat in the morning? Well, a high blood sugar level causes your body to release that hormone insulin which, in excessive amounts, can lead to weight gain. Bottom line: Skipping breakfast to lose weight is counter-productive.
  • When I eat breakfast, I get hungry again sooner than normal. Good news, that’s your metabolism working for you! Two suggestions: 1. Make sure your breakfast has adequate amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein to keep you satiated longer. 2. Plan to have a snack between breakfast and lunch, such as an apple with a small handful of almonds.

All of this brings me to why I started making these burritos in the first place. My adorable husband often skips breakfast, gasp. Well I should say, he used to skip breakfast until these burritos came into the picture. His excuse was that he wakes up super early to go exercise and doesn’t come home afterward so would have to buy something which is either unhealthy or expensive and blah blah blah. He’s not immune to my lectures so he’s heard my “why you should eat breakfast” speech a time or two. I eventually figured, as his loving and concerned wife, I should help him out. I wanted to make him something hearty enough to fill him up and keep him full until lunch. For an active guy with a big appetite, a breakfast burrito is not only hearty and filling, but delicious as well. The beauty of these is that they are also completely customizable.

burrito ingredients
Ingredients for simple breakfast burritos

I found these humongous tortillas at the commissary on post one day and I knew they were a winner. With a whole wheat option that provides a few grams of fiber, contains no shortening or partially hydrogenated oils, and a whopping 9 grams of protein, these were a no brainer. I chose an all-natural, uncured sausage to add protein and flavor but not a ton of sodium and preservatives. For the herbs, feel free to add any herbs you like, fresh or dried!

burrito potatoes
A medley of potato, onion, and herbs. Yum!

I always cook the eggs first then let them sit to cool. Cooking eggs is so easy that maybe I just want to get that out of the way first. I usually crack my eggs straight into the pan so I don’t dirty a separate bowl in the process. While the sausage is in the oven, I then start on the potatoes. It takes a little practice to get the potatoes perfectly fork tender, while allowing them to sear long enough to develop that golden brown crust. They’ll taste delicious whether they’re perfectly cooked or not, so don’t worry.

Spinach added for more nutritious & filling fiber!
Spinach added for more nutritious & filling fiber!

I add spinach to anything I can since it adds so much nutritious fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Spinach pairs so perfectly with eggs, especially in a quiche, yum!

This tortilla is ready to roll!
This tortilla is ready to roll… literally!

Allowing all of the ingredients to cool before assembling is crucial. You don’t want your tortilla getting soggy from the steam accumulating inside your burrito.

Assembling these burritos makes me so hungry, it’s hard not to shove one in my mouth right then. With all the vibrant colors, tastes, and smells, this is a breakfast that’s sure to provide you with the energy you need to have a productive morning.

An assembly area makes it easy to portion out the ingredients equally.
An assembly area makes it easy to portion out the ingredients equally.

Rolling the tortilla into a burrito takes practice, I’ll be honest. You can probably find some YouTube videos on how to do it but for me it just took patience. Once you get the technique down, you’re golden. The key is to fold the bottom over the ingredients and squeeze everything together firmly. Then you fold in the sides, then the upper edges, then roll until closed. Do the same thing when you wrap it in the aluminum foil.

Burritos ready for the freezer
Burritos are ready for the freezer. Don’t forget to remove foil before microwaving.

After the burritos are rolled and nicely stacked, I’ll put them into a bag and label the bag with the instructions: Remove foil before microwaving. Trust me, sometimes we all need a little reminding, especially if you’re eating this before you’ve had your morning coffee.

Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Ingredients

  • 5 large tortillas, preferably whole grain
  • 12-15 eggs
  • 6-7 red potatoes, skin on (or one large sweet potato)
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6-8 oz shredded cheese, I use cheddar
  • 2 large handfuls fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbsp butter (or canola oil or avocado oil)
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp parsley
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • Pinch of salt and pepper, plus more to taste
  • *Optional: 2 sausage links, preferably all natural/no preservatives, low-sodium

Other optional additions: mushrooms, tofu, zucchini, kale, feta cheese, black beans

Directions

  1. Cook eggs in pan on medium heat. Let cool completely.
  2. *Cook the meat according to package directions. Let cool completely. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Mince the onion and add to a pan (a separate pan from the eggs) on medium heat with the butter or oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes.
  4. Chop the potatoes into small bite-sized pieces and add to the pan with the onions. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the potatoes in the butter/oil.
  5. Let the potato/onion mixture cook for about 2 minutes then stir again and cook another 2 minutes. Add the herbs and stir to coat. Let cook another 1-2 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown.
  6. Add water to pan and cover with lid to steam the potatoes for about 5-7 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. If you notice the water evaporate and the potatoes are still hard, add another 1/4 cup water and steam until soft.
  7. Add spinach and replace lid for 1 minute then stir the mixture until the spinach is wilted throughout. Let cool completely.
  8. Place each tortilla on a separate sheet of aluminum foil. Once all the ingredients have cooled, start to assemble your burritos.
  9. Place equal amounts of cheese on each tortilla.
  10. Place equal amounts of eggs on each tortilla.
  11. Place equal amounts of potato/onion/spinach mixture on each tortilla.
  12. Place equal amounts of meat on each tortilla.
  13. Fold and roll each tortilla firmly to keep all ingredients tightly packed inside.
  14. Wrap each burrito in aluminum foil for freezing.*
  15. When ready to eat, remove the aluminum foil and place your burrito on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave for 3-6 minutes, flipping over halfway through.

*If you plan to store these burritos for longer than one week, wrap the burrito in plastic wrap before wrapping in foil, to help prevent freezer burn.

Easy Baked Falafel: A Healthy Twist on a Middle Eastern Classic

My love of falafel started in Key West. My parents would take our family there every summer growing up and we’d walk along Duval Street to explore and eat. We’d rent jet skis and my brother would take pleasure in throwing me off by going really fast then taking a sharp turn. My dad would usually charter a fishing boat and we would fish, snorkel, and enjoy our time in the sun. He always reminds us of the time when my sister and I had our feet hanging off the back of the boat and he casually tells us to bring them in. It wasn’t until years later my dad informed us that he saw an 8-foot hammerhead shark swimming in our direction. I’m glad he didn’t tell us at the time, since I had seen the movie Jaws one too many times at that point and probably would’ve had a heart attack.

My mom was the one who always insisted we get falafel while in Key West. If I remember correctly, that was the only time we ate it. Maybe they didn’t have good falafel in Jupiter. Maybe it became more of a tradition while we were there. I know my mom looked forward to it all year. Needless to say, we’d always make sure to stop at the little stand and get our falafel, wrapped in a fresh pita bread with lettuce, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce. Yum.

Sprouted whole grain pita stuffed with falafel, cucumber slices, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce, garnished with cilantro.
Sprouted whole grain pita stuffed with falafel, cucumber slices, tomato, and Tzatziki sauce, garnished with cilantro.

I found a place in Manitou Springs, CO that served authentic Middle Eastern food. You better believe every single time I went there I ordered falafel because it was so dang good. The place was called The Sahara Cafe and I think I probably ate there 20 times while we lived in Colorado. We took all of our visitors there, because it was delicious but also because Manitou Springs was a really cool town to explore. I went to Sahara a couple times after hiking The Incline, an intense hike that starts at 6,600 feet and goes up 2,000 feet in less than a mile. I had heard about this hike before we even moved there so of course I had to conquer it.

Falafel is a Middle Eastern food and traditionally deep fried. As we all know, deep fried anything is delicious but probably not something you want to eat regularly. Fried foods are not only a lot higher in calories (versus the same food baked or grilled), but also likely contain trans fats, which are the bad fats that you want to avoid. Trans fats contribute to everything from heart disease to diabetes to infertility.

Before you think that you can never enjoy some of your favorite foods again, the good news is that most foods that are traditionally fried can also we baked or grilled– like falafel! This recipe uses the same ingredients as traditional falafel, but is baked in the oven. This allows you to enjoy falafel regularly, as it’s actually a healthy option for the entire family, kids included! So what’s in it?

Garbanzo beans. Fear not carnivores, in 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans, also called chickpeas, you get a whopping 20 grams of protein. The beauty of plant-based protein is that you typically get a healthy dose of fiber too, about 15 grams to be exact. They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals as well. Chickpeas are a great addition to your salad or bean chili but are the star of the dish in falafel.

Fresh herbs. Speckled with green, falafel is not only healthy, but it’s pretty, thanks to the fresh herbs in this recipe. Cilantro and parsley add flavor that make your taste buds sing. Herbs are the best way to add flavor to a dish without adding a bunch of salt. They contain an array of healthy stuff as well, including anti-inflammatory properties and several essential vitamins.

Garlic. Just do a quick online search for the health benefits of garlic and you might be surprised at the millions, yes millions, of articles you find. Garlic has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and it’s widely used for the tremendous amount of flavor it provides. To put it simply, garlic is good for you: your heart, your blood, and your GI tract too.

The ingredients of falafel minced in the food processor.
The ingredients of falafel minced in the food processor. Almost done!

When I was making my falafel, I probably said 10 times “Mmm it smells so good.” When herbs, garlic, lemon, and onion are minced together in the food processor, the aroma is intoxicating. I wonder if they sell a falafel scented candle… 

Forming the falafel is easy by hand, although I’ve heard they sell fancy falafel-making scoops. I emptied the minced falafel ingredients into a bigger bowl which made scooping by hand easier for me. Bonus: Your hands will smell delicious during this process.

falafel patties ready to be cooked
The patties have been formed, now to be brushed with olive oil and put into the oven.

After I made these for the first time, I broke open a steaming hot falafel and dunked it into a bowl of hummus. Falafel + hummus = a match made in heaven. Ryan is always amazed at my ability to eat food straight out of the oven, when in reality, I just don’t have the patience to wait for it to cool. Most of the time, I can’t even taste whatever I’m eating because I’ve burned the inside of my mouth. Why is it that I continue this habit? I’ll never know.

falafel with hummus
Falafel atop a bed of creamy homemade hummus, garnished with cilantro.

 

Easy Baked Falafel

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic, roasted
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped and roasted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing pan and brushing falafel

Suggested sides/toppings: Homemade Tzatziki sauce, hummus, cucumber slices, whole grain pita (warmed), sriracha, minced onion, diced tomato, shredded lettuce

Directions: 

  1. Put garbanzo beans in a large bowl and cover with 3-4 inches of water, (the beans will expand as they absorb the water). Let sit for 18-24 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and drizzle some olive oil on a baking sheet.
  3. Place the onion and garlic cloves on your baking sheet, roll the onion and garlic with your fingers to coat with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. The onion will be slightly translucent and the garlic with be slightly charred.
  4. After they have soaked, drain the garbanzo beans and add to your food processor. Pulse the beans alone for 5 pulses to break apart.
  5. Add all other ingredients to food processor and blend until minced (not pureed), scraping down the sides as necessary.
  6. Scoop falafel mixture with your hand and form “patties.” The mixture is very delicate so handle gently. Gently brush the tops of your falafel with olive oil.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, then bake for 10 more minutes.
  8. Enjoy your falafel warm from the oven, dipped in hummus or cool in a pita with cucumber and Tzatziki sauce. Falafel can be frozen, but try to consume within 2-3 weeks.

Adapted from: Just a Taste

Secret Ingredient Smoothie Bowl

I have to admit, I’m not a huge smoothie person. I read an article years ago that argued we don’t feel as satisfied when we drink our calories versus when we eat them. It suggested that the actual sitting down for a meal, tasting our food, and being mindful of what we’re eating helps us to stay full longer. I get it. It’s so easy to drink our calories that people often wonder why they’re slowly gaining weight when they drink over 400 calories per day in <insert sugary beverage here>. Dr. Cheung a lecturer at Harvard School of Public Health, suggests that mindless eating is contributing to the national obesity epidemic we see today. Why is this smoothie different? Why does this smoothie allow us to eat mindfully? Because you eat it out of a bowl

A smoothie contains ingredients you likely already have at home. You can even put your smoothie ingredients together the night before, so in the morning it literally takes you 5 minutes to blend. A smoothie is a great option when you’d otherwise skip your meal because you’re in a hurry or you don’t feel hungry. Smoothies are also kid-friendly! They’re a great way to sneak fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet.

I always talk about blood sugar regulation and how it affects everything from our mood to our energy. Smoothies can be “dangerous” in the sense that it’s easy to add a lot of sugar into one. Most of the ingredients that go into a typical smoothie have carbohydrates aka sugar, including the fruit, milk, juice, and yogurt. The problem with this is that people don’t balance those carbohydrates with protein. Protein is the secret weapon in a smoothie. Protein helps those liquid calories keep us full longer, but most importantly, it helps to mitigate the blood sugar spike we get from drinking a fruit smoothie. I add a scoop of grass-fed whey protein to my smoothie. It’s flavorless so I can’t even tell its in there. The protein is crucial, as I’ve mentioned, and ultimately transforms your smoothie from a snack into a balanced meal.

cauliflower berry smoothie with coconut
Smoothies are versatile and can be sipped from a cup or eaten with a spoon from a bowl!

The smoothie I’m about to share with you checks all of the boxes I look for when building the perfect smoothie:

  • taste
  • carbohydrate-to-protein balance
  • includes vegetables
  • color
  • texture

The best part about this smoothie is that it contains a secret ingredient that you can’t even tell is in there: cauliflower. Although cauliflower may seem boring, its actually a nutritional powerhouse. Cauliflower contains anthoxanthins, which give this vegetable its creamy white color, as well as its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight damage within the cells of our bodies, helping to prevent cancer and degeneration of our eyes and brain cells. Although “green smoothies” are often praised for their health benefits and antioxidant capabilities, other colors including white, offer just as many benefits. Cauliflower also contains Vitamin C (which also acts as an antioxidant), potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Needless to say this often underrated vegetable is the nutritional star of this smoothie.

Cinnamon. The cinnamon flavor is subtle but gives this smoothie a special hint that makes you say, “Mmmm, what is that?” Cinnamon is sweet and spicy at the same time, teasing your taste buds but allowing the other flavors in the smoothie to shine through. Cinnamon might also help to keep blood sugar down for people with diabetes, high five!

Almond butter. Creaminess, protein, healthy fats, and flavor. I can’t think of a better combination than almond butter and banana. To me, the nutty, earthy flavor of almond pairs so perfectly with a sweet banana. This smoothie has both. Throw the cinnamon on top and oh. my. gosh. Enough said.

Avocado. Who would have guessed that this beautifully purple smoothie had avocado in it? Avocado adds creaminess which makes this smoothie spoon-worthy. It also adds monounsaturated fats, potassium, and fiber. Yes please.

I love the idea of eating a smoothie out of a bowl. It’s almost like eating ice cream, but healthier. I love that this smoothie is thick which allows you to scoop a heaping spoonful into your mouth. Feel free to top it with whatever you like- I chose hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and coconut flakes. Because I eat mine out of a bowl with a spoon, I don’t have to worry about my toppings getting stuck in a straw.

smoothie bowl with coconut, pumpkin, and hemp seeds
I topped my smoothie bowl with hemp & pumpkin seeds for crunch and coconut flakes for flavor, yum!

Secret Ingredient Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cauliflower, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup berries, frozen
  • 1 cup liquid (I did 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup water)
  • 1 scoop of protein, plain or vanilla
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Optional toppings: pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, coconut flakes, cocao nibs, berries, banana slices.

Directions:

  1. If using frozen cauliflower, add that to the blender or food processor first, by itself, to start the blending process. Blend until small (bite-sized) chunks before adding other ingredients.
  2. Add the banana and blend.
  3. Add all of the other ingredients and blend until thick and creamy.
  4. Pour into bowl or cup and top with your favorite toppings.

Makes 1 serving.

Estimated nutrition facts via MyFitnessPal per serving: calories 375. protein 21 grams. carbohydrates 40 grams. Results will vary based on specific ingredients used.