Double Chocolate Protein Brownies

Yes, protein brownies.  Why?  Why not! Sure, you can save these for dessert just because, but won’t you feel a little less guilty knowing they have a healthy dose of protein and veggies? Oh, wait.  I forgot to mention the veggies part. Please keep reading. I hope I didn’t scare you away.  The batter alone is worth sticking around for–I promise!

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I made this on Saturday night for two reasons: 1. I wanted dessert BADLY. 2. My kids were sleeping so I could eat said dessert peacefully.  Moms, you know what I mean.  There is nothing like hiding by the garbage can or–true confession here–sneaking into the bathroom just to eat a cookie or spoonful of Nutella in hopes of snagging a sweet snack without your kids being aware.  They are always aware.  They will always find you. They will always throw an accusatory “What are you doing?” at you that makes you choke on your secret treat and to simply reply with a grumbly, mouth-full, “Nothing!” that sounds more guilty than your toddler does when you actually see him punch his sister. So alas, when my husband arrived back home on Saturday night from his quick kids-are-in-bed trip to Dunkin Donuts for our coffees (see, Dads hide treats, too!), he was surprised to find me mixing up some brownies. He was even more surprised to see half a zucchini on the counter.

Don’t be alarmed. These are good. Plus, they are dairy- and gluten-free and flourless.  I did use peanut butter, but if allergens are an issue, you can easily sub in sunflower seed butter.  You could also throw in the nut of your choice if you are a nutty-brownie kind of family.  We aren’t, so I left these to their fudgey goodness on their own.  You can hardly detect, let alone taste, the zucchini in the final product.

I did make it up to my kids, though. On a Sunday morning, I served these as breakfast.  Can you say #momguilt? But really, it was the only way I could keep from eating them all myself! Besides, there is no better way to treat yourself and your family than to a yummy, warm, wholesome breakfast on a Sunday.  I served them with some watermelon, scrambled eggs (for the kids–not me!), and yogurt.  Bed-and-breakfast worthy, if I do say so myself.

I have to give a shout-out to Cleanfoodcrush.com for this recipe idea.  I made some changes to better fit my family’s needs and also to fit the ingredients I had on hand and the end result was so yummy, I just had to share!

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Double Chocolate Protein Brownies

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fudgey, healthy treat good enough for breakfast!

I adapted this recipe from Cleanfoodcrush.com to fit my family’s needs.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-natural creamy peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
  • 1/4 pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-natural unsweetened applesauce (I made my own.)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder (I used vegan chocolate Shakeology)
  • 1/2 cup certified gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (do not drain/remove excess water)
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, reserving half (I use Enjoy Life brand, which are dairy- and soy-free)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray 8×8 glass baking dish or brownie pan with non-stick coconut oil spray.
  2. In your blender or food processor, blend rolled oats until a fine powder forms.  Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, use a mixer to blend together peanut butter, maple syrup, apple sauce, extract, and protein powder. Gently stir in remaining ingredients, minus half of the chocolate chips. (Don’t forget to add the oat powder–I almost did!)
  4. Add to the baking dish, spreading batter evenly.  Top with remaining chocolate chips.  Slivered almonds would also be delicious across the top!
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Lick the spoon and the bowl and everything in between.
  6. Allow to cool, then cut into squares and enjoy.

Please let me know how these taste!  If you want to give these a try but don’t have protein powder on hand, contact me as well and I will send you a serving size perfect for this recipe!

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21 Day Fix Fish Tacos

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I really, truly love sea food–especially white fish. And I have come to love fish even more in recent months because it can be quite healthful. The right fish can be a perfect form of protein and many varieties contain an ideal amount of healthy fats. Fish can be rather lean and can often be doctored up much like chicken without being as filling. I often like a light her meal at dinner time, especially as the weather gets hotter and hotter, so fish is perfect.

At least once a week, I stop at Whole Foods on my way home from school and see my pal Dan, the fish monger. I always have a seafood meal listed on my weekly plan–such my honey orange salmon or BBQ shrimp–but if Dan has a better suggestion or if a certain cut or type of sea food is on sale, I am always open to a new option. Last night, this happened. I planned on making fish tostadas using tilapia and Ezekiel wraps. By the time I got to the store, though, I was already prepared to make a change. First off, I overextended my yellow containers at school (I blame my Relay for Life hangover! More on that in a later post!), and since it was only day 1 of my 21 Day Fix, I knew I needed to make up for an earlier splurge. Secondly, Whole Foods did not have any fresh tilapia. What Dan did have, though, were individually portioned Chilean sea bass fillets. I’ve never cooked sea bass before, but, in full disclosure, before my foray into clean eating this January, I hadn’t made many diverse foods.  I’m a cooking work-in-progress. Dan assured me that I could grill these much like I would a steak, so I bought two and made quick mental calculations as to how I could plan the rest of the meal around this unexpected purchase.

I grabbed a few avocados, a head of butter leaf lettuce, and went to the checkout–knowing full well that some of my clean staples already in my pantry and fridge would cap off a sure-to-be successful dinner.

I was right.

I am not a taco lover. Well, that’s isn’t a fair statement. I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten a taco. So I guess I am a taco-averse person?! I also don’t entirely love hot food–like steamy, right-out-of-the-oven food. Except cookies. 😉 I often let my meal sit for a bit before I eat it just so it cools off and I never reheat my lunch. Never. But turn a taco shell into a veggie and the ground beef into a delicious white fish while deducting a ton of the physical heat–but still leaving the spice, of course–and I am all in.

This dinner was light and full of flavor. My mom and kids all approved–though my kids deconstructed theirs.

Side note/rhetorical question to parents: am I the only one with kids who LOVE to eat with their hands when not appropriate (i.e. Spaghetti or pancakes or apple sauce–spoons are for babies!) but refuse to eat with their hands when a meal actual calls for it? My 3 1/2 year-old had a near meltdown after his first bite of taco when 1 minuscule drip of salsa touched his palm. Okay, not a near melt down. A full on cry. Like a “you broke my Lego castle!” cry. Or a “You deleted all the Odd Squads!” cry. So I quickly cut up both kids’ tacos and got on with a more peaceful dinner.

I have discovered that jarred salsa is my go-to ingredient. When in doubt or playing around with a new possible recipe, I often lean on a jar or half jar of salsa to add a kick or moisture or texture. The right brand and the right variety–I love Paul Newman’s Mango or Pineapple Salsa in particular–add just the right something. I even add salsa to my turkey burgers!

After I grilled the sea bass, I layered it on a butter lettuce leaf with a slice of avocado and tablespoon of salsa. I then sprinkled a bit of Mexican cheese blend on top and served it with fresh pineapple. My mom and I felt like we were vacationing in the Caribbean with each bite. Plus, one taco was filling enough on a day in which I hit my yellow containers early and needed a light yet balanced dinner.

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Here’s the game plan! Give it a try with any white fish you’d like!

21 Day Fix Fish Tacos

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh, light, Caribbean-inspired taco recipe using a lettuce wrap--perfect for a summer night!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Chilean sea bass fillet per person (1 red container)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked would be best!)
  • 1 tbsp salsa of choice per person: I used 365 brand Mango and Peach salsa (1/4 purple container)
  • 1/4 avocado per person, sliced thin (1 blue container)
  • 1 butter lettuce leaf per person (1/2 green)
  • optional sprinkle of Mexican blend cheese
  • optional tsp of nonfat Greek yogurt (in lieu of sour cream–plus it adds protein!)

Directions

  1. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
  2. Drizzle sea bass with olive oil and spread to coat both sides. Sprinkle seasoning on top. (I only add seasoning on one side so I can still enjoy the flavor of the fish.)
  3. Grill sea bass for approximately 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
  4. Place avocado and salsa in a lettuce leaf. Add 1/2 sea bass filet. Top with cheese and/or Greek yogurt, roll up the sides, get messy, and enjoy!

**21 Day Fix Containers, per my own unofficial deductions: 1 red, 1 green (lettuce and salsa, though you may choose to count salsa in the purple container), 1 blue.  Non-Fixers can go all-out and add the cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt.

I’d love to get more lettuce wrap or fish taco recipes that are tried and true!  Feel free to leave one below!  Or, let me know if you would like to enroll in my next Clean Eating Group: Quick-N-Clean 15 minute meals!  I’m enrolling now!  I will provide 7 days of clean eating meals for both dinner and breakfast that can be on the table in 15 minutes or less.  This group is FREE, but space is limited! Don’t delay!

Raspberry Almond Power Cookies

imageThese cookies happened by accident. I was making a quick attempt at my own energy bites and failed to carefully consider proportions. When I whipped everything together, the “batter” was far too liquidy to ever evolve into a perfect ball. I considered adding more rolled oats to absorb the moisture. Nah. I questioned chucking the mix all together and starting over. No way. That defeats everything my minimal waste cooking and eating philosophy stands by. I figured I would spoon cookies, drop them on a cookie sheet, throw them in the oven, and see what happens. I am so glad I did!

I love sweets and snacks. I worried when first delving into clean eating that I would be overwhelmed by my sweet tooth and would, inevitably, fail. That is not the case. I have grown to love the flavors of real food and, as I’ve written about before, love meals now. In fact, on my daughter’s Mother’s Day story that she wrote at school, she completed the sentence “My mommy loves to…” with eat the yummy dinners she makes. In 2015, that would have read “bake cupcakes” or “snack all day” or “eat only her side dishes.” My daughter notices my healthier eating habits. I know they are more likely to rub off on her since she sees me living by this ideal, that our nutrition matters.

So yes, I’ve conquered my sweet tooth and often have carrots with peanut butter or nonfat Greek yogurt with berries when I do have a snack. I still, however, love a good cookie and know its place in my life remains.

imageEating clean doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a decadent treat once in a while. I value balance. Balance means redefining your expectations each day to align with your own priorities. Forget anyone else’s expectations; focus on your own priorities and let go of the rest. That is balance. Most days, my priorities are self care, serving my family, and building my business. On any given day, I may spend more time on one of these tasks than I will the others or I may add something to the list. Some days, self care means fitting in my fitness and eating well all day. Once in a while, though, Mama wants a cookie–or 3–and that’s ok! These raspberry almond power cookies fit into this balanced lifestyle. Plus they are clean, they are full of fiber and healthy fats, and they are chocolatey.

Yes, chocolatey. Delicious, ooey-gooey, sweet and semi tangy, soft and kind of crunchy (pun intended) chocolatey cookies. You and your kids will love these when you want a different but home baked dessert or when you want a treat without much guilt. These also take little time to prep and bake and are one of the many ways to use those last few bananas before they turn.

You can easily up the ante and add protein to these cookies by trading out the cocoa powder for chocolate protein powder, but once in a while it is nice to eat a treat that is just that: a treat. You could also trade out the freeze-dried raspberries for freeze-dried strawberries. They would be equally delicious.

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These cookies are dairy free, contain no added sugar, and can be certified gluten free if you need. Yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 overripe bananas, smashed with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (certified gluten free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-natural almond butter (or butter of choice)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life dairy free)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with nonstick coconut oil spray.
  2. Smash two bananas in a mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except chocolate chips and mix well with a spoon. Sprinkle in a pinch or two of oats if too liquidy.
  3. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon teaspoon-sized portions onto the greased cookie sheet. Cookies will not expand, so you do not need too much room between them.
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool for one minute on the cookie sheet then for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.
  6. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

These unique flavors make for a scrumptious snack and a little pick-me-up when the days get long. Enjoy as is or alter to your liking. Please share your thoughts in the comments or send me your feedback. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter by leaving your email below! You’ll receive a free 5-day clean eating menu just by subscribing!

Carrot “Cake” Oat Muffins

I have always been a breakfast person.  My son, Paxton, has inherited this love.  He must eat within the first half hour of waking–even quicker than that if he had his way–or he goes from sweet to sour faster than you can say “overnight oats.” I’ve always been one to eat when I wake up or to at least have something quick as I head off to school, both as a student and as a teacher.  My lack of understanding of true nutritional value combined with my own hectic, early morning routine left me picking at not-so-healthy breakfasts.  I used to live off of cereal or Pop Tarts.  In the last few years, I became more aware of my sugary morning selections and opted for green smoothies.

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This switch to a healthier, green-filled breakfast didn’t completely abolish my frequent stops to the coffee chain on the corner for a latte and a muffin.  At least I wasn’t getting a donut, right?  Wrong!  Check out the nutritional information for the donuts and muffins at the coffee shop “America runs on” and you may be surprised to learn that one muffin has 100-200 more calories than the average donut.  That same muffin has 20% of a person’s suggested daily fat intake and 25% of a person’s suggested daily carb intake.  For one muffin. One.  I should have been getting the donuts!

But honestly, my tastes have evolved as my understanding on a body’s need for macronutrients continues to develop.  I am no expert, but I am learning.  I now know how vital protein is, especially in the morning, in order for my body to perform most effectively each day.  I now know that I cannot cut fat from my diet, but that I can focus on healthy fats for optimal fat burning and muscle development.  I now know that my mind was the roadblock to my enjoyment of and dedication to making healthy meals–not my tastebuds nor my busy schedule.

IMG_8088I also now know that I am obsessed with rolled oats.  Check out past recipes or any of my videos on my Facebook page, and you will see this love affair in action.  But rolled oats are more than just an ingredient for clean oatmeal.  I have made overnight oats, chicken meatballs, turkey meatloaf, protein cookies, and energy balls with this power ingredient–and that is just a sampling.  I have also been able to tap into my muffin habit of yore and create healthy, protein-and-healthy-fat-packed muffins full of delicious ingredients that fit into my clean lifestyle and family’s various morning needs.

I found two recipes that I absolutely love: apple pie oat muffins and banana zucchini oatmeal cups.  I’ve made these each multiple times and have shared them with friends and family–all of whom enjoyed them–so I decided to give my own recipe a whirl.  I was inspired by Easter and all of the leftover carrots floating around my kitchen and, with a bit of tweaking from these two recipes and my own understanding of what makes carrot cake yummy, I came up with the following.  Vary it however you’d like for the perfect healthy morning muffin.

Carrot 'Cake' Oat Muffins

  • Servings: 12 muffins
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ground flax seed + 6 tbsp water (to create flax eggs)
  • 3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1/4 cup all-natural almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup or raw honeyIMG_8090
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten free if necessary)
  • 1/3 cup raisins (halve these if you want more raisin-per-bite ratio)
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans (option
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes, crushed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. I used coconut oil.
  2. Combine flax seeds and water.  Let gel. (Or, use one whole egg or two egg whites).
  3. Mash three bananas with a fork and combine with carrot, almond butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add all dry ingredients, except for raisins, pecans, and coconut.  Stir to combine. Then, fold in final three ingredients, or any combination of them.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then loosen with a knife, and enjoy!  Store any leftovers in the fridge or freeze for later!

These are simple, wholesome, and clean.  Let me know below if you give these a try and if you mixed up the ingredients in any way. I’d love to hear of your results.IMG_8092