BBQ Chickpea and Quinoa Bowl with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

This incredibly simple dish combines two things that I love; BBQ and bowls.  Buddah bowl recipes are so easy to make, very filling and can be packed with loads of  protein and fiber.  To reduce inflammation, I stick with plant based proteins.  They are cleaner and don’t create an inflammatory response in the body like animal proteins do.

Because chickpeas contain lots of fiber- they help keep you feeling full for longer periods of time.  This means you’ll be less likely to graze on junk which could help you in your quest to lose some excess pounds. Chickpeas also help to stabilize blood sugar levels and offer protein, vitamins and minerals including manganese, folate, copper, iron, zinc and more. They are the heart of this dish, along with the quinoa which- also offers a great serving of protein and fiber.

I wilted down three cups of spinach to add to the dish.  Spinach is rich in iron and actually has about 3 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces.  If you want glowing skin- add spinach to your diet.  It is an excellent source of  folate, chlorophyll, Vitamin E, magnesium, Vitamin A, fiber and Vitamin C. Due to their antioxidant abilities, Vitamins C, E, and A are especially great for your skin.  The magnesium in spinach is helpful in calming nerves and anxiety. In fact, a magnesium deficiency can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.

To make this dish, sauté 1/2 cup chickpeas with 1/3 cup sliced grape tomatoes in BBQ sauce over a low flame until tomatoes are soft.  To cook the quinoa, combine 1 cup quinoa (this will cook up to about 2.5 cups- use the left overs for other meals or with fruit for breakfast) with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 1o minutes. In another pot, wilt down 3-4 cups of spinach.

If you want the roasted red pepper sauce it’s incredibly easy.   In your blender combine 1/3 cup roasted red peppers with 1/3 cup Earth Balance ‘mayo’.  Blend.  Taste and add a dash of salt and garlic if you would like.

When everything is done, assemble your bowl.  My portion was

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup tomatoes
  • 3 cups baby spinach, wilted down
  • 1/2 of an avocado, sliced
  • Drizzle of roasted red pepper cream sauce on top

My portion had about 14.5g of protein.

About Ultimate Fit Zone’s Boot Camp in Monmouth County

Four different methods of training, one membership at our boot camp gym. Now you can keep your workouts fresh and challenging.  Take advantage of Cross Training (Zone 360), Interval & Circuit Training (IT 360) High Intensity Interval Training (HEAT) and Spin (priced separately).  Scroll down to read descriptions of each.

Your unlimited monthly membership at our boot camp/cross training gym in Monmouth County also entitles you to one complimentary consultation each month with our Holistic Nutritionist on staff.  Get questions answered about nutrition, weight loss and more.  We have special support for beginners.  For more information about beginner boot camp fitness please give us a call at 732-428-2111.



Better Than Tuna Salad – Raw, Vegan

From the time I was in my early 20s, I’ve always been interested in how our diets could affect our appearance and health. I’m not talking about being overweight or skinny, I’m talking about glowing skin, shiny hair and a healthy heart.  I learned early on that what we put into our bodies had as much of an effect on our outward appearance as what we put on our bodies (lotions, creams, hair serums, etc).

Before switching to a plant-based diet, tuna was a staple in our house.  I valued it’s high protein content for a quick and easy snack.  After learning about the high mercury content found in many fish, especially tuna, I started to realize that I wasn’t being very cautious with what I was putting into my body.  I began looking for other sources of protein that didn’t come with pollutants and heavy metals.  That’s when I discovered the beauty of the plant based diet.

Like many people, I associated protein with animal flesh.  Now I know that the association isn’t very accurate.  Protein is found in nearly all foods.  Proteins are strings of amino acids that are found in nearly all things we eat from the earth including vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and more.  Even better- I learned I could trade the side-effects of animal based protein (example mercury from fish) for side-benefits of plant-based protein (all of the detoxifying and beautifying benefits of the vitamins and minerals found in foods from the earth).

I’m not a huge fan of the ‘fake meats’ sold in many supermarkets. I prefer to get texture from natural foods like mushrooms, nuts and seeds.  One of the health food stores near us sells a ‘mock tuna’ salad made up of cashews and sunflower seeds and other seasonings.  My husband tried it and loved it.  I was happy to try to recreate the recipe as the sunflower seeds and cashews offer numerous health benefits including:

  • cardiovascular health
  • healthy cholesterol levels
  • magnesium for energy and to calm nerves and anxiety
  • selenium for thyroid health
  • vitamin E for beautiful hair and skin (and heart health)
  • zinc for a healthy immune system

Canned tuna just can’t offer these same health benefits.


Better Than Tuna Salad - Raw, Vegan

Course lunch
Servings 2 cups


  • 1 cup sunflower seeds *Soak for 4 hours or more
  • 1 cup cashews *Soak for 4 hours or more
  • 2 tablespoons pickle juice *or sub water if you don't have
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt *omit if you have high blood pressure
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • 2 tablespoons dulse or nori rice seasoning *I used nori rice seasoning because I keep it in the house for stir fry dishes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground, dried mustard


  1. Add all ingredients to food processor.  Pulse until smooth. Taste.  Add more dill or ground mustard as needed.  

About Ultimate Fit Zone’s Boot Camp in Monmouth County

Four different methods of training, one membership at our boot camp gym. Now you can keep your workouts fresh and challenging.  Take advantage of Cross Training (Zone 360), Interval & Circuit Training (IT 360) High Intensity Interval Training (HEAT) and Spin (priced separately).  Scroll down to read descriptions of each.

Your unlimited monthly membership at our boot camp/cross training gym in Monmouth County also entitles you to one complimentary consultation each month with our Holistic Nutritionist on staff.  Get questions answered about nutrition, weight loss and more.  We have special support for beginners.  For more information about beginner boot camp fitness please give us a call at 732-428-2111.

Protein Packed Portobello Steak with Creamy Polenta and Kale Salad

If 40 is the new 30 and silver/grey hair is now in style- I think it’s safe to add portobello mushrooms to the list of trends that make us look and feel younger.  Food is no longer just a palette pleasing opportunity.  The realization that the foods we put inside our bodies can help us look better on the outside means that our diet is perhaps just as important as our hair stylist.

Portobello mushrooms offer a huge opportunity for us to literally nourish our bodies from the inside out every time we enjoy a meal.  Packed with protein, vitamins and minerals- this vegan-portobello-mushroom-steak-recipemushroom should become a staple in your weekly meals.  Bellos can help keep blood pressure at a healthy level, reduce cholesterol, are great for your skin, keep your heart healthy and boost your immune system.  Take a look at what the world renowned Dr. Mercola has to say about this mushroom:


“…Portobellos are an excellent source of copper, which your body needs to produce red blood cells and carry oxygen through your body. They also offer three important B-complex vitamins: riboflavin for maintaining healthy red blood cells; niacin for supple skin and properly functioning digestive and nervous systems; and pantothenic acid, which aids in the release of energy from the fat, protein, and carbohydrates in the food you eat.

Just one cup of mushrooms has the potential to release at least 15 different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. A single Portobello contains more potassium than a banana – 630 mg per serving – which helps maintain normal heart rhythm and muscle and nerve function, as well as a balance between your fluid and minerals. This in turn helps control blood pressure.” (source)

My favorite way to eat portobello mushroom caps is lightly brushed with olive oil and then grilled on the indoor grill pan for just a few minutes on each side.  These mushrooms release a lot of moisture and will wilt quickly- so be careful not to overcook at too high of a temperature or for too long.

Serve over creamy polenta (recipe below) and an iron-packed kale salad and you have a meal that has about 15 grams of protein (2 mushroom caps, 1 cup polenta and about 2-3 cups kale salad), loads of fiber, vitamins, minerals and disease fighting anti-oxidants.


  • 2 cups of corn grits
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter
  • A sprig of rosemary (do not chop)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Slowly add the two cups of corn grits, while stirring, and immediately reduce heat to a very low simmer. Stir in the butter, rosemary, salt (if using) and nutritional yeast. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

About Ultimate Fit Zone’s Boot Camp in Monmouth County

Four different methods of training, one membership at our boot camp gym. Now you can keep your workouts fresh and challenging.  Take advantage of Cross Training (Zone 360), Interval & Circuit Training (IT 360) High Intensity Interval Training (HEAT) and Spin (priced separately).  Scroll down to read descriptions of each.

Your unlimited monthly membership at our boot camp/cross training gym in Monmouth County also entitles you to one complimentary consultation each month with our Holistic Nutritionist on staff.  Get questions answered about nutrition, weight loss and more.  We have special support for beginners.  For more information about beginner boot camp fitness please give us a call at 732-428-2111.

Traditional Tempeh Bolognese Sauce – Vegan & Gluten Free

This traditional tempeh bolognese sauce is very authentic tasting, packed with protein and goes amazing over pasta OR zucchini noodles for a low carb option.  This is as high or higher as any tempeh-bolognese-recipe-veganbeef bolognese and it eliminates your intake of harmful residues found in animal meats including antibiotics, synthetic sex hormones, environmental toxins, cholesterol and more.  This is such a clean way to enjoy a heart ‘meat’ sauce.  Even meat-eaters have told me that they absolutely LOVED this version and would definitely make it over a traditional beef bolognese.

The original recipe is from 

Since sauces tend to thicken as they sit, I modified the recipe slightly to include crushed tomatoes.



Traditional Tempeh Bolognese Sauce

A vegan and gluten free on the classic beef bolognese.  Packed with protein and flavor, this sauce will satisfy any pasta lover. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine gluten free, Vegan
Servings 6 people
Author ultimatezone


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion Diced (I like vidalia)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (I buy mine already minced)
  • 1 Package organic, non GMO tempeh- crumbled by hand Let the tempeh become room temperature so it's easy to crumble)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can diced tomato (The can is approximately 411 g)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes Same 400-415g size
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup water (You may need more water- this is to dilute the sauce to a consistency of your liking)


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet and add the onion.  Saute 2-3 minutes until it softens a little. Add garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add tempeh crumbles. Stir all together to incorporate flavor of onions and garlic into the tempeh.  Let all cook together about 5 minutes.  Add oregano, thyme and chili. Stir together and cook for a minute.  Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, nutritional yeast and a little bit of water (as needed).  Reduce to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes. 




Sundried Tomato and Herb Chick Pea Salad

vegan-chick-pea-salad-sandwich-ideaThis is a really good, quick recipe to make that can satisfy may desires.  You can have this Italian inspired chickpea salad over pasta or brown rice with some balsamic vinaigrette, as a sandwich or even spread onto a bagel. Because it’s made with chick peas and white beans, it’s high in protein and fiber.  Eating a diet high in protein and fiber will help you feel full for longer periods of time.  This means you’ll be less likely to snack and crave junk foods.

I was going to make just a regular white bean and chick pea salad with some Earth Balance mayo, lemon juice and parsley…but I wanted something different and then I got the idea to do sundried tomatoes.  I had mine over short grain brown rice with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Other ideas would be to add in broccoli or wilted spinach.


Sundried Tomato and Chick Pea Salad

Course lunch, Snack
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Author ultimatezone


  • 1 14 oz can chickpeas- rinsed and drained well
  • 1 14 oz can canellini beans- rinsed and drained well
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan mayo
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6-7 Whole Sundried tomatoes (mine were packed in oil, I drained them as much as possible first)


  1. Place all ingredients in food processor and process until well incorporated. 

About Ultimate Fit Zone:

UFZ is a cross training and boot camp gym in Monmouth County NJ.  We are owned and operated by husband and wife team, Eddie and Stacey Albert.  Eddie is a long time and well known personal trainer in NJ and Stacey is a certified holistic nutritionist.  The gym offers high intensity boot camp classes coupled with health focused weight loss and nutrition programs to help members get the most out of their training.

Are You Running Low on Vitamin B12?

When we think of vitamin B12 or other B vitamins, we often think of them as the ‘energy’ vitamins.   It is common for a B12 deficiency to cause fatigue in individuals, however, there are many other symptoms that could signal that your body is not getting enough of this essential vitamin.

First, let’s start with sources of vitamin B12. This water-soluble vitamin is naturally found in foods of animal origin such as meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. If your diet is rich in these items, you are probably getting enough B12. However, there are reasons why someone could still be deficient even though these foods are present in their daily lives.

People with types of anemia and diseases of the small intestine (such as Celiac or Crohn’s) do not absorb the vitamin well. Vegans, who do not consume any foods of animal origin, may also be at risk for low levels.

Symptoms of a B12 Deficiency

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Pale skin
  • Smooth tongue

These are just some of the symptoms associated with a B12 deficiency. It is a good idea to get an annual physical AND have your doctor run a complete blood test to check for all vitamin levels. If you follow a vegan diet you can take a supplement to ensure your levels don’t run low.

Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Pizza Recipe

Guilt Free Sausage & Mushroom Pizza

vegan-sausage-pizza-recipePizza night is a weekly occurrence in my house. This amazing dairy free and meat free Sausage and Mushroom pizza packs all of the flavor with none of the guilt.

First, get yourself your favorite pizza crust, or you can make your own if you prefer. You’ll also need the following:


  • Daiya dairy free shreds in mozzarella flavor (in the organic section of Wegmans or you can find it in Deans Health Food Store or your local health food store)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Mushrooms and spinach

Sautee the mushrooms and spinach with some low sodium veggie broth and garlic. Set aside. To make the meat free crumbled sausage, follow this recipe:


  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 8oz pack sliced mushrooms
  • 3 TB all purpose flour ( I used quinoa flour because I like the taste of it)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • pinch of crushed red pepper
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 TB maple syrup

Directions: Place walnuts in food processor and pulse until a fine, crumbly meal forms. Add mushrooms, flour, basil, fennel, pinch of red pepper, salt, pepper and maple syrup. Pulse about 25 times, until mushrooms are finely chopped. Be careful not to over process, it should be crumbly and chunky.

Next, place the mixture in a large sauté pan with some fat free cooking spray, Turn frequently with the spatula, breaking up into smaller pieces as both sides begin to brown. and crisp (about 10-15 minutes)

Now that your sausage is made, prepare the pizza by placing a layer of sauce on the dough, them your veggie mixture, a layer of the dairy free mozzarella shreds and finally the crumbled sausage on top. Cook according to the directions on the pizza dough you are using.

This sausage is made of walnuts and mushrooms- so it’s full of anti-cancer nutrients, healthy omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, plant protein and more. Regular sausage is tainted meat filled with hormones, saturated fat and antibiotics. The choice is clear what we should feed our families!

If you have questions about going dairy free or meat free, please feel free to email me.

Stay healthy!


How and Why To Give Up Dairy

How And Why to Give Up Dairy 
Eddie and I gave up dairy milk years ago  Truthfully I don’t remember the exact reason why we switched, but it was when I was getting deeper into nutrition and whole foods. The switch was easy for us.  We dropped dairy milk and picked up almond milk instead.  That was the start of it.

Over the years an onslaught of information has come out regarding dairy milk and its harmful effect.  It seems like every day there are more and more medical and scientific studies coming out in favor of giving up dairy.  Below are just a few of the documented effects that researchers believe are caused by dairy.  The full article can be found online.

1. Increased risk of prostate cancer
2. Higher ovarian cancer risk
3. Higher rates of Multiple Sclerosis across populations with high consumption of dairy
4. Dairy protein has been shown to increase IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) levels. Increased levels of IGF-1 has now been implicated in several cancers
5. Higher milk intake linked to acne

Now that you’ve learned some of the reasons why you should give up dairy, the next step is learning how to give up dairy.  Fortunately, it’s pretty simple.  Dairy free is becoming a mainstream movement now that much of the population is aware of dairy’s harmful effects.  With that realization came hundreds of companies producing dairy free items like cheese, mayo, ice cream, yogurt, ‘milk’, etc.

The first step is to ditch dairy milk and find a non dairy milk you like. I use unsweetened almond milk but there is also coconut milk, creamy cashew milk, rice milk, hemp milk, etc.  It may take some getting used to, but trust me the health benefits are well worth it.

Dairy free (vegan) cheese are made by many companies.  My favorite are Daiya and Follow Your Heart.  Dairy free ice cream, yogurt and mayo can be found by companies like So Delicious and Tofutti.

I recommend trying the Daiya vegan ‘cheese’ shreds in mozzarella or cheddar and the So Delicious dairy free coconut yogurt. So Delicious makes great coconut milk ice cream in many flavors.   Most supermarkets have all of these items.  If not, check your local health food store.

If you have questions about going dairy free, please feel free to email me.

Weight Loss Programs From A Holistic Nutritionist

What makes our weight loss programs different here at Ultimate Fit Zone in Monmouth County, is that we don’t focus on your weight.  The focus of all of our nutritional services is health.  The very first thing we do is analyze your health profile through two different simple assessments.  It’s possible to  lose weight and still be unhealthy.  That’s why we want to examine your specific profile, your family medical history, your current state of health.  Through meal planning and sound nutrition, we can make you healthier and happier.  A natural side effect of this process is that you will shed unwanted extra pounds.

Teaching portion control is a critical element for health and weight loss, but it’s not just about calories and points.  We want your calories to come from whole foods that are nutritionally sound.  We want to show you how to choose foods, why certain foods are healthy for you and what benefits they can offer your health.  We also want you to understand the consequences of choosing foods that are unhealthy for you. It’s with education, planning and our unconditional support that these simple changes lead to lifetime habits of healthy eating.

We don’t believe in fad diets or elimination strategies.  Our meal plans include all food groups and delicious recipes for you to enjoy.

We are happy to have a holistic nutritionist on staff with us 24/7 to help you with all of your health and wellness questions.  Our full time Ultimate Fit Zone members are entitled to 1 complimentary consultation with Stacey each month.

Don’t get hung up on your weight. Instead, talk to us about how we can help you become healthier and happier through fitness training and sound nutritional planning.

Summer Weight Loss Challenge Announced

weight-loss-challenge-monmouth-countyThe next weight loss challenge at Ultimate Fit Zone in Monmouth County, NJ will lead right up into the 4th of July weekend of the summer!  We had amazing results from our 2014 weight loss challenge, with our winner shedding more than 12 inches from  head to toe!  We are excited to announce our next weight loss challenge will kick off Monday April 6th and will run for 90 days.

This year’s challenge will add even more added value for participants now that Ultimate Fit Zone boasts their own Holistic Nutritionist, Stacey Albert, on staff that will be available for participants around the clock. Plus each participant can schedule a complimentary consultation with Stacey each month during the challenge to help them stay on track.

weight-loss-challenge-njThe weight loss challenge at Ultimate Fit Zone is NOT an extreme diet with deprivation and starvation.  We stress a healthy, whole foods meal plan that includes lean protein, fruits, veggies, healthy fat and yes, CARBS.  Participants will lose weight the healthy way while learning how to portion and prepare meals that are healthy and balanced.

Our whole foods meal plan steers away from the traditional Western diet full of processed and refined foods, chemicals, additives, artificial flavor, color, etc.  Stacey will also be helping participants enjoy their meals by providing them with simple, easy to follow recipes that produce meals the whole family will enjoy.  Our program has been tested over and over again, and the results are that IT WORKS!  Our clients LOVE what they are eating, they feel great weight-loss-challenge-monmouth-countyand they look great.  And THAT is how weight loss and healthy living should be.

If you would like to work with Stacey and the personal trainers at Ultimate Fit Zone to help you achieve your health and weight loss goals, please fill out the contact form to the right and we will contact you.  You can find complete information about the weight loss challenge by clicking HERE.


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