Smoothie Perfection…

I’m not going to bore you with how great green smoothies are for you…I mean, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know this.  I don’t need to go on and on about how much energy you’ll have or the weight you’ll lose, or how many greens you can pack into a blender…blah blah blah.

Nope.  Not going there.

However, I do want to talk a little bit about a green smoothie-making method that might make you want to pay a little more attention to this healthy habit.  That might make you want to actually make it a habit, instead of just something you sort of try out and hate but maybe do anyway for awhile because you think you should.

Because, if you’re anything like me, you heard about ’em.  You thought, can’t hurt, right?  So you tried ’em: you went out and bought a bunch of “healthy stuff” and stacked it in a blender.  You got some kale and some almond milk, an apple and a banana…maybe you squeezed in some ginger and chia seeds and maca powder and…ok maybe you didn’t use maca.  But you get my drift.  You threw it all in and hoped for the best.

And what came out was, well…shall we say, less-than-tasty.

But here’s where this great-green-smoothie-making formula comes in…this is going to help, I promise.

There’s not much to it; I mean, what are you working with here?  A liquid base (juice, nut milk, water, whatever), some greens (the sky is the limit here), and some fruit.  Oh, and if you want to add in some “boosters”, that’s great too…but we can talk about those later.

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So you want a 1-1-2 ratio for these three things; that is, one cup base-one cup veggies-two cups fruit.  This will give you a ton of nutrients, fiber and even protein (depending on what you’re using), but also keep it sweet enough so that any green smoothie neophyte won’t be scared off.  (FYI, my boyfriend even liked this mix-up…and he’s pretty much a steak-and-eggs, meat-at-every-meal type of guy.)

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To start, pour your one cup of liquid base into the blender; I recommend a homemade or unsweetened store-bought nut milk, or water.  You can use juice, but it’s really best to make your own due to the high sugar content of most store-bought juices, and this can be time-consuming.  A quick alternative is to use 1/2 cup juice and 1/2 cup water, to cut the sugar a little.

Next add the greens.  I use kale…a LOT.  But I also like spinach, beet greens, dandelion greens, whatever.  Just make sure you’re washing it well, and de-stemming the kale or chard or whatever you’re using.  At this point, I also add in any powders I might want: greens powder, protein, maca, etc.

Now blend it all smooth.  This is the key…unless you want to chew your green smoothie, and at that point, you might as well just have a salad.

Now add the 2 cups of fruit.  Apples and pears are good standbys (core and roughly chop them), as are bananas and grapes (you can freeze both of these to keep longer, and to help chill the smoothie).  I also like to use frozen fruit, since it eliminates the need for ice; I try to buy a bunch of when it’s on sale.  Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mango, peach and pineapple are all good options; you can also buy your own produce and freeze it, if you’d really like to cut down on processed stuff.

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Now blend it all smooth again, and voila!  Your perfect green smoothie.  Feel free to boost it with whatever you want: chia seeds, coconut oil, nut butters, even walnuts.  These should be added when you add the powders.

I think you’ll find that if you replace even one meal with a green smoothie, you will have increased energy and stamina, and feel better through the rest of your day.  Make extra, and take it for a healthy snack mid-morning or post-workout.  (I know, I said I wouldn’t get started on the benefits.  I just couldn’t help myself…)

Give it a shot.  I think you’ll be pleased.

The Sequel…

Maybe this is just a continuation of the last post…maybe I’m starting to freak out a little because my work season is drawing closer and my days of carefree skiing and puttering around my kitchen are coming to an abrupt end.   I shiver a little bit when I think about it.

Such is life.  Someone needs to pay the bills…and the cats sure aren’t going to do it.

Regardless, I have been digging out great energy bar recipes and trying them, looking for the best one…knowing that there is fast coming a time when my life is going to be less about real food and nourishing meals, and more about finding quick snacks to fuel myself with.

We’ve all been there.

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So this week’s recipe made quite a splash, mainly because it is in keeping with the “dump everything together and pour in a pan and freeze” motif that I am enjoying lately.  There’s some minor melting of nut butter…other than that, I don’t think this gets much simpler.  Mix it all together and press it into a pan covered with parchment paper…you don’t even really need to wash the dish afterwards if you don’t want to.  How awesome is that?

The result is another great granola bar that, once cut into pieces, can be put into snack size baggies and stored in the fridge or freezer for quick access.

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A few notes: I actually didn’t use the rice crisp cereal, because I didn’t have any on hand; I still think these came out fine! Also, I substituted maple syrup for the brown rice syrup, and flax seeds for the hemp seeds.

I’m sold.  I think you will be, too.

Classic Glo Bar

Ingredients

1 1/2 c. gluten-free rolled oats
1 1/4 c. rice crisp cereal
1/4 c. hemp seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
2 T. sesame seeds
2 T. chia seeds
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. fine-grain seas salt
1/2 c. + 1 T. brown rice syrup
1/4 c. roasted peanut butter or almond butter
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. mini non-dairy chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand)

Directions

1. Line a 9″ square pan with two pieces of parchment paper (one going each way).
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, crisp cereal, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, sesame and chia seeds, cinnamon and salt and mix.
3. In a small sauceoan, melt the syrup and nut butter together until well combined. Cook over medium-high until mixture begins to buble and soften, then remove form heat and stir in the vanilla.
4. Pour the nut butter mixture over the oat mixture (be sure to scrape all the remnants out of the pan). Stir well until all the oats and cereal are coated with the wet mixture. If you are using chocolate chips, let the mix cool slightly before you fold them in. This will keep them from melting.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it out evenly. Using a pastry roller (or just folding the parchment paper over and pressing firmly with your fingers), compress the mix firmly. This helps the bars hold together better.
6. Plaace the pan in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, until firm.
7. Lift the square out of the pan with the paper, and slice into bars. Wrap in plastic, foil, or baggies and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You can also store them in the freezer for up to a month.

*Recipe courtesy of Angela Liddon

Super-Stoked on Sugar Free Granola Bars…

I am on some sort of bar kick right now, I swear.

But I’m good with it…I mean, that’s what I end up reaching for when I need a quick boost before a morning workout to get me through until breakfast, fuel for a 10 am feeding, or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. I mean, you can only eat so many almonds. (And I love almonds.)

So it was really nice to find this super-quick recipe for some easy granola bars, that don’t have any sugar and taste great, to boot. These little babies are sweetened with Medjool dates (you can use any dates, really, as long as they’re pitted), and also get a touch of sweetness from the cranberries (good for urinary tract health!). I like to use dried cranberries that are sweetened with organic apple juice…yummy!

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These also have chia seeds, which, if you’re a regular reader, you already know I’m a fan of when I’m looking for a super food to boost my energy and give me some extra staying power for whatever sport I’m pursuing on any given day.

A few notes: This recipe calls for gluten-free oats, but of course you could use regular rolled oats as well. Also, you can use roasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds in a pinch…but it will definitely change the flavor of these bars.

Either way, they are tasty treats and could easily become a staple in your arsenal of quick snacks. Enjoy!

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Sugar-Free Granola Bars

Ingredients

3/4 c. gluten-free rolled oats
1 c. water
3/4 c. packed, pitted Medjool dates
1/2 c. chia seeds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 c. dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. organic vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees; line a 9″ square pan with two pieces of parchment paper, one going each way.
2. Place oats in high-powered blender; grind into fine flour and place in large bowl.
3. Add water and dates to blender and process until super smooth. (Soak dates for 30 minutes if they are too firm.)
4. Add water, dates, and all other ingredients to th oats in the bowl and stir to combine.
5. Scrape into prepared pan and spread out flat. Bake at 325 for 23-25 minutes until firm. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack for 5-10 minutes more. Slice into bars. Freeze remainder if necessary.

I placed mine into small snack-size ziploc baggies; you can also wrap them individually with saran wrap for easy grabbing on the go.

Recipe courtesy of http://www.ohsheglows.com

3 Ways to Get Healthy Fats…Without the Fuss

I know, I know…you are probably up to your eyeballs in suggestions for how to improve you diet, get better sleep, eat more greens, blah blah blah.  I hear you…it can be overwhelming, with all these internet lists and online quizzes (“Are you eating enough leafy greens?  Click here to find out…”).

Snooooooze.

It gets to be too much.  Really.  But I am going to offer you a few super easy suggestions to help recoup your dietary deficiencies in one fell swoop…or at least a trip to the grocery store.

And why, you ask?  Why do I need this stuff?  I mean, isn’t fat bad?  That’s what we’ve all been told for years.  But–and you’re all smart, so you’re probably on to this by now–fats are important for all kinds of organic processes in your body.  They help lubricate joints and ligaments.  They transport and process important fat-soluble vitamins.  And fat serves as an important fuel source during long-duration activity.   Fats also help you feel full after a meal, quick snacks in particular.  This is why things like almonds and cashews make great on-the-go snacks.

So this week I’m going to give you a few quick ways to get your healthy fats quota…without a ton of extra effort or label-reading.  (Because who has time for that?)

1.  Pack plenty of nuts.  Seriously…raw nuts might just be the perfect food.  Almonds and cashews are among the lowest-calorie options, and give a good bang for your calorie buck.  Walnuts have high levels of alpha linoleic acid, which means they go a long way towards reducing inflammation and helping out your heart.  And peanuts (technically legumes) have a high folate content, which has been proven to help fight cognitive decline: good for your brain!

Look for nuts that are raw or dry-roasted; nuts that are salted or packed in oil might have oxidized, which reduces their healthful properties and introduces other chemicals you don’t want in your body.  As a quick snack to take with me, I like to throw about a cup of nuts into one of those little snack baggies (less than 1 quart).  I can fuel my day but also control my portion size.

2.  Find a good fish oil.  You might be rolling your eyes at this, but there are  options out there that won’t make you gag…the key is to find one that tastes good, so you’ll use it consistently.  These oils are packed with not just omega-3 fatty acids, but also omega-6 and omega-9…both important for getting a well-rounded dose of lipids.  This really helps with joint lubrication and bone density, as well as vitamin absorption,  energy and endurance, and sexual and hormonal health.

I really like Barlean’s Omega Swirl, which comes in a ton of tasty flavors, and also has special formulations for both men and women, as well as kids.  Currently, I’m hooked on Mango-Peach, but all of the flavors are yummy enough to eat right off a spoon…no need to disguise it in yogurt or a smoothie.  (This is not your mother’s fish oil.)

3.  Try a grain-free granola or easy trail mix recipes.  This has been my favorite part of writing this blog: getting to try new recipes and share them!  It’s a hoot to check out different pages and websites, and try different methods and combinations…then add my own twist.  I also love getting recipes from friends and being able to get their feedback and tips.

Go to the August archives of this blog try my favorite grain-free granola recipe, which has infinite opportunities for customization to your tastes.

Below is one of my new faves…I hope you like it as much as I do!  This is another great quick snack, or handy appetizer recipe if you need to throw something together in a pinch for unexpected guests.

Enjoy!

Smoky and Spicy Nut, Sesame, and Coconut “Bacon” Bar Nuts

Ingredients

1 c. raw cashew halves
1 c. raw whole almonds
3/4 c. large-flake unsweetened coconut (not shredded coconut)
2 T. hulled sesame seeds
2 T. coconut aminos or low-sodium tamari
1/2 T. pure maple syrup
1/2 t. liquid smoke (depending on how smoky you like it)
1/2 t. fine-grain sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Directions

1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the cashews, almonds, coconut, and sesame seeds.
3. In a small bowl, stir together the coconut aminos (or tamari), maple syrup, liquid smoke, salt, paprika, and cayenne until combined.
4. Pour wet ingredients on top of the nuts and stir well with a spatula until thoroughly coated.
5. With the spatula, scoop the mixture onto the prepared sheet. Use the spatula to get all the liquid and seeds off the side of the bowl and spoon it onto the nut mixture.
6. Spread nuts out into a thin layer.
7. Bake at 325F for 10 minutes, stir, and bake another 10 minutes, or until the coconut flakes are golden. Turn on the range fan and open a window while it bakes as the smoked aroma is powerful.
8. Cool for 10 minutes on the pan. Store in a glass jar.

*Recipe courtesy of http://www.ohsheglows.com

Wanna Make A Larabar…?

Yup.  I thought so.  Me too, iguana.  (There might be a few of you out there that got that reference…)

If you’re like me, you latched onto Larabars as a great quick snack, because they’re a relatively healthy option when you’re on the go and need to pick up something in a hurry while you’re stopping for gas in between work and practice or home and work or any other of the billion errands you have to do each day.

And perhaps, like me, you got over the initial crush because you discovered there was more sugar in there than you thought there was, or maybe you just got a little more snobby about eating processed food.

But now, I’ve discovered this little gem, and frankly, I’m in love.

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I’m pretty excited about these, because they take about 7 minutes to whip up, and then once they’re frozen, you can slice them up and wrap individually to take with you in the morning as a quick snack for later in the day.   There’s also just not a lot going on as far as ingredients, so they’re super simple and made with stuff I usually have on hand in the kitchen.

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Ahhhhh.

Oh, and don’t forget to make extra…when your family finds these, they’re gonna go quick.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Larabars

1.5 c. cashews
1/4-1/2 t. salt
1 c. tightly packed dates (pitted; soak if necessary)
1 t. vanilla extract
3 T. chocolate chips

–Process the cashews and salt for a few seconds. Add dates and process until sticky. (You may have to add a little water. I added about 2 T. and it was perfect.)
–Add vanilla and process. Add chocolate chips and process, or just fold in with a spoon.
–Line a 8×8″ pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper crossed over each other. Spoon in mixture, and pack down.
–Freeze 15 minutes, then slice and wrap individually. Store in fridge or freezer.

*Recipe courtesy of http://www.ohsheglows.com

Two For One…

We’ve finally gotten some snow this winter.

This means lots of skiing and getting outside up here in the snowy Northwest.  But when all that’s done–or maybe even before, since the last couple days have been frigid freezing cold--it also means that there’s time for baking and cooking and hanging out in a cozy kitchen.

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So this week, I wanted to give you an easy recipe to make for your sweetie, in honor of Valentine’s Day, which seems to be fast approaching.  I had some extra time to scout around and try new stuff, and this is actually a variation on an old favorite of mine.  I am super-excited about it because it tastes just like cookie dough…and who doesn’t love cookie dough?

I had to make double the recipe and then maintain composure and not eat the entire mix out of the bowl.

But it’s super quick and super easy, and totally gluten, grain, and egg-free.  Tasty treat, for sure.

But I figured I had to include something that feels a little healthier, too…so I decided to try the smoothie recipe below.  Now, full disclosure: this was originally intended to be a green juice recipe, but I don’t have a juicer.  I do, however, have a blender…so I thought I’d give it a shot.  I made a few modifications, and voila…tasty green drink that is super healthy and nourishing.

There’s a few things going on with this emerald beauty; with cucumber, you get silica, which is important for joint health.  You also get terrific rehydration and replenishing.  With the inclusion of celery, you’re getting sodium and potassium (important for electrolyte replacement), and anti-inflammatory properties.  It will also help to eliminate toxins.

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This is a great drink after strenuous exercise, when you are in dire need of electrolyte replacement and rehydration.

Hopefully, you’ll find these as delightful as I did.  You might even have a few cookie dough bites left for your honey.  If not, you could always try a smoothie…

Cookie Dough Bites (Paleo, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Low Carb)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons coconut oil
1½ tablespoons coconut milk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ tablespoon + ½ teaspoon raw honey
¾ cup almond flour
3 tablespoons chocolate chips, plus more for drizzling

Instructions

–Whisk together the coconut oil, coconut milk, vanilla and honey.
–Using a rubber spatula, gently mix in the almond flour until ingredients are combined. Be careful not to over mix or the batter will become oily.
–Fold in the chocolate chips and refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
–Roll chilled dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
–Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler over simmering water.
Drizzle chocolate over each cookie dough bite

Recipe makes 10 cookie dough bites. Store in the refrigerator.

*Recipe courtesy of livinghealthywithchocolate.com*

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Super Green Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
1″ fresh ginger, peeled
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 c. spinach
splash of maple syrup
1 c. cold water
2 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well. I like my smoothies cold, so I added the ice; I also found that the maple syrup should be added to taste.  In addition, this will probably make enough for 2…I had quite a bit left over..

Perfect Parfait…

I am so super excited about this week’s recipe, I can barely contain myself.

I just finished my experimental batch of this parfait, and I might have to go back for seconds. It’s that kind of day here in the great Northwest; we just got our first large-ish dump of snow (in January!) and I’m feeling sort of like I want to stay inside and eat yummy things.

What’s more likely to happen is that I’ll head out for a ski tour and enjoy it for awhile…then come back in and eat.

In the meantime, I will have a great breakfast to fuel my endeavors.

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The great thing about this breakfast is that even though it takes a little advance prep (you can easily do this the night before, or maybe on a weekend morning), it’s pretty easy, fairly quick, and just-sweet-enough…the apple juice negates any need for sugar in the jam.

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I did find that although the original recipe makes sweetener in your “overnight” oats optional, I would probably add a little maple syrup next time, just to give it that added oomph. When I make them on their own as a quick out-the-door, go-time breakfast, I usually add some maple syrup or agave along with dried fruit.

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The chia seeds thicken this up nicely, and give you some extra staying power through your morning. It’s a great way to incorporate them into a morning routine as an alternative to mixing them into a smoothie, if you’re looking for a change of pace.

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In addition, apples also provide a host of health benefits you might not even think of; I know, I know…they told you to eat and apple a day to keep the doctor away. But it’s true: apples can help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as reduce your risk of diabetes and some cancers.

The fiber in apples will also help beat diarrhea and constipation, and neutralize irritable bowel syndrome. Not to mention detoxify your liver, which is always a good thing, considering how much crap we put into our systems without even knowing it.

Basically this one hits it out of the park. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed. The best part is that it makes enough for two, so you’ll have some left over. The jam will also keep about a week, if you want to make a little extra, and make the oats as you go.

Sugar-Free Apple Pie and Chia Seed Jam and Parfait

Ingredients:

For the jam…makes about 1-1.5 cups

3 large apples, peeled and diced
3/4 cup 100% pure apple juice
2 tablespoons chia seeds
3/4-1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
pinch of fine grain sea salt (optional)

For the parfait…

1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 + 1/4 cups homemade or store-bought almond milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
sweetener, to taste (optional)
Apple Pie Jam (from above)
Chopped toasted walnuts (optional)

Directions:

1. For the jam: Add all jam ingredients into a medium pot and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. When the apples are fork tender, remove from heat and mash 50% of the mixture to thicken. Set aside to cool.

2. For the vegan overnight oats: Combine the oats, chia seeds, almond milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Place in the fridge overnight, or for at least 1-2 hours to thicken. Once the oats are softened and the liquid is mostly absorbed, it’s ready. You can thin it out with more milk if needed or thicken it with more chia seeds.

3. To make each parfait: Layer the vegan overnight oats with the apple pie jam, a few spoonfuls of each per layer. Add toasted chopped walnuts on top of each layer if desired.
Store leftover jam in an air-tight container or jar in the fridge.

*Recipe courtesy of http://www.ohsheglows.com