Recipe: No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars

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I think we can all agree that snacks are pretty awesome.

That quick energy boost is a must, whether you’re deep in race training, pushing through the mid-afternoon slump of a work/school day or chasing after a toddler with a battery that just keeps going and going…and going.

But, alas, very few snacks lie at the intersection of “treat yo’self” and “treat your body well,” which is why I’m really excited to share this recipe for my No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars.

You guys: If fudge and a brownie had a baby, it’d taste just like this – but the best part is that they’re made with just a handful of whole-food ingredients.

Not only did they pass the husband-taste-test with flying colors, but they’re also loaded with protein, fiber, natural sugar and all kinds of vitamins and nutrients. So get your snack on!

No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 c almonds
  • 1 c walnuts
  • 2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates
  • Near-boiling water (to soak dates)
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 c brown rice syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 c almond butter
  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds

Directions: 

  1. Pre-soak dates in hot water for 10-15 minutes, then drain.
  2. Process almonds & walnuts in food processor until they’ve reached a mealy consistency. Place into a medium bowl & set aside.
  3. Process soaked dates and warm water in food processor, adding in cocoa, vanilla and coffee until well blended.
  4. Continue processing date mixture, adding in brown rice syrup, almond butter and the nut meal from step 2.
  5. Transfer ooey-gooey goodness into a medium bowl, and add in oats and seeds. Stir to combine.
  6. Press into a 9×9 pan lined with parchment paper, and freeze for 30 minutes to harden.
  7. Lift bars from pan and chop into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container in the freezer to keep from getting too sticky at room temp.
  8. When ready to eat, enjoy straight from the freezer!

Let me know if you try these; I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Recipe: Orange Dreamsicle Protein Smoothie

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Maybe it’s just my Midwestern roots, but the taste of an Orange Julius always brings back fond memories of trips to the mall with my mom.

The only problem? Now that I’m grown up and we’re all better informed about eating healthy, the drink’s nutrition information (or lack there of?) is a tad disturbing.

Yes, I’m talking about you, 0 grams of dietary fiber and 54 grams of sugar in a SMALL serving. 

So in a recent Oregon heat wave I set about recreating this classic treat. Step one was removing any kind of artificial ingredients. Step two was giving it a boost in the nutritional value department.

Typically I sweeten my smoothies with bananas, but this one was just begging for dates. Why? Not only do dates have 50 percent more potassium by weight than bananas, but they don’t overwhelm the flavor if you’re working with a recipe like this.

And to amp up the fiber, I added ground flax seed and wheat germ. Don’t worry; you won’t even notice ’em, but your body will thank you for the extra omega-3’s, lignans (which reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men), vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, thiamin, folate and phosphorus.

One taste, and you’ll be transported back to childhood!

Orange Dreamsicle Protein Smoothie

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c orange juice
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • 1/4 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1 scoop of your favorite vanilla protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed meal
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 15 ice cubes
  • Sprinkle of granola

Directions: 

  1. Toss all ingredients into a high-speed blender or food processor & blend.
  2. Pour into two glasses, garnish with a sprinkle of granola & serve immediately.
  3. Enjoy!

Recipe: Kitchen Sink Energy Cookies

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Try as I might, I just can’t quit those dense, chewy, seed-laden Power Cookies from Whole Foods. Their siren song calls to me from the end of the conveyor belt, and somehow a package (or two) always sneaks itself into my basket at checkout.

But seeing as they’re quite the sugar bombs and surprisingly lacking in some key nutrients, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to re-create them at home with, ahem, whole-food ingredients.

The result? You’ll have to taste for yourself, but I think it’s pretty darn close. And they’re chock full of fiber, essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc (thanks to the dates!), plus natural sugars for a sustained energy boost.

Kitchen Sink Energy Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 c wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c oats
  • 1/2 c wheat germ
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/2 c unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 c sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 c ground flax seeds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together wet ingredients until blended.
  3. In a large bowl, stir dry ingredients together.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Shape into golf ball-sized balls with your hands, and gently flatten before placing onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake ~15 minutes or until cookie tops feel dry to the touch.

 

Recipe: Cocoa Recovery Truffles

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Eating well on the run isn’t always easy. But eating well while running…or, more specifically, while training and building mileage can be even tougher.

Suddenly justifications abound for treating yourself. And before you know it, “just this once” becomes a regular part of your routine. Or at least for me it does.

That’s why I’ve started whipping up batches of what I’ve dubbed my Cocoa Recovery Truffles. Full of protein, good fats, vitamins, antioxidants and decadent flavor, they hit the spot when you’re craving sweets yet still deliver some great nutritional benefits.

Cocoa Recovery Truffles

Ingredients:

  • Approx 1 cup almond meal (use leftovers from making almond milk)
  • 2 cups unsweetened, finely-shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 10 Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (warmed to liquid)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs

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Directions:

  1. Combine almond meal, coconut, hemp hearts, cinnamon, vanilla, water, salt, dates & cocoa powder in a food processor, blending to a uniform consistency.
  2. Turn off food processor & scrape down the sides.
  3. Replace cover, turn it back on & slowly pour in coconut oil until fully incorporated.
  4. Transfer mixture to a bowl & stir in cacao nibs.
  5. Using a spoon, scoop mixture into hands & roll gently into small balls.
  6. Store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, for up to one week.

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Almost as good as my favorite indulgence of diving spoon-first into a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough!

Recipe: No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date (Smash!) Cake

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They say that with age comes wisdom. But, for me, it took being responsible for another little life to finally smarten up about my eating habits.

Sure, Ben and I have always tried to eat healthy, which mostly meant forgoing sugary treats until we’d eventually cave into temptation…only to start a cycle of guilt, restriction and inevitable relapse.

But it wasn’t until I got pregnant that I decided to cut myself some slack and relax when it came to cravings. Although with space in the belly at a premium, you’ve got to make every calorie count.

When I stopped thinking of foods as “good” and “bad” and started judging them on their nutrient density, I felt empowered instead of deprived. Not to mention it felt great to fuel my body — and my baby — with whole foods that would help both of us thrive.

Enter Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates. I’ve partnered with them this year to help our family make the swap from refined sugars to a more natural alternative: whole foods that the body can recognize and pull nutrients from.

My 2015 almond milk experiment started what has become a passionate love affair with these little gems. Medjool dates deliver sustained energy from their combo of fiber and natural sugars, plus they’re packed with potassium to support muscle fuel and recovery.

So Wyatt’s first birthday “smash cake” became an experiment of sorts in substituting date paste for processed sugar. It may have taken me a few attempts — the first was too moist, the second was too dense — but the third time was a charm, as you can see from the shot below.

This recipe works for birthdays, but I think it’s even better made into muffins for a quick energy boost throughout the day. Finally, you can have your cake — and eat it (along with some very valuable nutrients), too.

No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date Cake

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small zucchinis, grated & squeezed dry (about 2 cups)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup date paste
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease muffin cups with coconut oil (or use muffin liners).
  2. In large bowl, mix together zucchini and banana. Add eggs one at a time.
  3. Blend in date paste, peanut butter and vanilla.
  4. In small bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add slowly to wet ingredients, stirring to incorporate.
  5. Spoon into muffin cups, filling each 3/4 of the way.
  6. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into muffin come out clean.

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Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Recipe: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a sucker for anything pumpkin, regardless of the season. The same goes for chocolate, so it was love at first bite with these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

With just a few small tweaks, I made them a bit healthier (less sugar, some wheat flour) and even tastier — there’s nothing like a little salt in sweets.

They’re not your typical crispy-chewy cookie; the consistency is much softer and more moist. But they’re delicious and (somewhat) nutritious, thanks to the oats and pumpkin.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

(adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teastpoon salt
  • 1 15-oz can of pumpkin
  • 1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions: 

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  2. Combine the flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl; stir into creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin.
  3. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 12-13 minutes or until lightly browned.
  5. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 4 dozen.
What do you think about pumpkin — worth the hype, or overrated?

Recipe: Lemon Raspberry Greek Yogurt Muffins

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When life hands you lemons…MAKE MUFFINS!

It’s good to have a go-to recipe in your back pocket, whether someone stops by unexpectedly, you want to take a crowd-pleaser to an event or you’re looking for something special — yet simple — on a weekend morning.

Mine just happens to be lemon blueberry muffins; not only do I always seem to have the ingredients on hand, but they’ve never earned less than rave reviews (seriously, yogurt is the secret to tangy, moist, yummy muffins).

No blueberries? No problem. I experimented recently with a raspberry version that’s just as lovely — plus it’s lower in sugar and includes some extra nutrients and fiber thanks to the addition of wheat flour.

Lemon Raspberry Greek Yogurt Muffins

(recipe adapted from Running with Spoons)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. juice from 1 medium lemon
  • zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a muffin pan by spraying cavities with cooking spray or greasing them with oil. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine Greek yogurt and sugar, mixing until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes smooth. Add oil, honey, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest, mixing until well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to yogurt mixture, mixing gently until just combined. Fold in berries.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups, filling about 3/4 of the way full. Batter will be on the thicker side, so use a spoon to scoop it in. Sprinkle with additional berries, if desired.
  6. Bake muffins for 20-22 minutes, or until top is firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in pan for ~10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Got any go-to recipes that you’ve relied on over the years?