Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Cookies in a Jar

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When the ladies of Zest Nutrition whipped these little wonders out at their holiday party in December, it was love at first bite. And worth sharing now, even post-holiday, because I believe so strongly in their credo that “we deserve to eat food that tastes amazing and makes us feel good all year long.”

Since they’re so easy to make, I’ve been sharing them with friends who become seem to become equally obsessed (you’ve been warned). The first few batches were by the book, but I’ve since experimented by trying coconut flour in place of almond flour, adding half an extra banana and a tablespoon of chia seeds, and replacing the regularly-sized chocolate chips with mini morsels.

The Zest ladies also suggest swapping out the dried cranberries, chocolate chips and coconut for any other ingredients you like. Go wild, and indulge without guilt!

Cookies in a Jar

(original recipe here)

Ingredients (in jar):

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients (to add):

  • 2 ripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350F.
  2. Mash bananas with a fork, then mix in jar ingredients until combined.
  3. Form cookies on baking sheet and bake for 20 min.

The best part? Each batch is perfectly proportioned for storage in your standard mason jar.

Mix ahead and save for a rainy day when cravings hit, or get crafty and share something nourishing — yet delicious — with your friends and family.

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Ever thought a vegan, gluten-free cookie with no refined sugar could be so tasty? Me, neither!

Recipe: Crock-Pot Apple-Pear Sauce

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While I’m on my apple kick, I figured I’d share another family-favorite fall recipe: Crock-pot apple-pear sauce, otherwise known as the gift that keeps on giving.

Not only do you get to have fun hitting up the orchard to collect bushels of fruit (or in our case, my in-laws’ backyard — thanks, guys!), but then you get to come home and reap the benefits of its deliciousness.

What I especially love about this recipe — well, besides the eating part — is that it’s practically foolproof. Three ingredients, loose directions, and in a few hours you’ll have some pretty amazing sauce to share (…or not).

Crock-Pot Apple-Pear Sauce

Ingredients:

  • ~20 small apples (your favorite variety)
  • ~10 pears (I use Bosc)
  • Cinnamon stick

Directions:

  1. Rinse, dry, peel and roughly chop enough of the apples and pears to fill your Crock-pot to the top. Add a stick of cinnamon.
  2. Turn Crock-pot on low and cook fruit until it starts to break down (a few hours), stirring occasionally.
  3. When fruit has cooked down (i.e. darkened up and gotten mushy), remove cinnamon stick and use spoon to break up any remaining large chunks.
  4. Let cool before eating. If desired, use an immersion blender to blend to a smooth consistency, but I like the rustic, chunky kind of sauce!

Hint: I like to have a few extra apples and pears on hand; as the fruit breaks down, it takes up less room in the Crock-pot (if you start with it full to the brim, you’ll end up with a half batch), so I’ll add more fruit as it cooks to end up with a full batch.

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Here’s the “before” — with fresh fruit and a cinnamon stick in the Crock-pot just as I turned it on. Resist the urge to add water or sugar (you’ll see why when you taste the finished product).

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And the “during” in which the fruit starts to brown up and break down. Be sure to stir regularly to avoid it sticking to the sides and bottom.

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And since I started this batch in the afternoon and added more fresh fruit before bedtime, I let it cook on low overnight so we’d wake up to a sweet surprise with breakfast the next morning!

Are you as apple-obsessed as I am in fall?

Recipe: Fully-Loaded Zucchini Banana Bread

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Ever have a moment when you see a shot of a baked good, and it looks so tantalizing that it literally stops you in your tracks?

Ok, maybe that’s just me. 

When blogger friend Carleeh Mulholland posted pics from her recent Banana Zucchini Chia Bread baking session, I suddenly found myself at the grocery store on my lunch break to gather the ingredients.

She had tweaked the original recipe, doubling it, along with adding a cup of zucchini, 1/4 cup of chia and a extra banana for oomph. I figured I could take it a step further by taking out some of the sugar, playing with some “healthier” flours and packing in some more fiber with wheat germ.

The result speaks — or rather, shows, in the image above — for itself: a super-moist, super delicious bread that had hubby sneaking seconds (and thirds!) as a late-night snack.

Loaded Zucchini Banana Bread

(adapted from LittleBitsOf.com & special thanks to Carleeh for the heads up!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 small zucchini, finely grated
  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, beat together the egg, sugar, agave nectar and vanilla until combined. Add the butter and beat until smooth and the butter is fully incorporated. Beat in the buttermilk, bananas and zucchini.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and wheat germ. Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet until all the flour is incorporated.
  3. Spray two loaf pans with non-stick spray, and pour half of the batter in each.
  4. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
How do you sneak healthy ingredients into your favorite recipes?

Recipe: Zest Nutrition Avocado Chocolate Mousse

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Usually when I see the words “gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and vegan” to describe a recipe, I brace myself for the worst. But, once again, my friends over at Zest Nutrition have managed to create a super-healthy treat that’s incredibly tasty.

This silky avocado chocolate mousse comes from the kitchen of co-founder Anna Rosinoff, who grew up with “chocolate o’ clock” as a time-honored tradition in her family. So when she’s not applying her expertise in counseling and health promotion to develop workplace wellness programs, Anna’s brainstorming delicious ways to incorporate her favorite sweet into wholesome, nourishing recipes.

Don’t let the avocado throw you for a loop; with no refined sugars, un-pronouncable ingredients or bad fats, this dessert will pass a taste test from even the most discerning chocolate connoisseurs!

Zest Nutrition’s Avocado Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 very large, very ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened powdered baking chocolate
  • 2 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar or honey

Directions: 

  1. Combine all ingredients in food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Enjoy immediately, or chill in fridge for around 30 minutes.

Since Ben and I have a, ahem, healthy appreciation for chocolate, I thought it’d be best to start with a double batch of mousse.

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My bananas were just starting to ripen up, so next time I’ll look for some with spots to make sure they’re softer and sweeter.

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Next comes the cocoa and vanilla — and I used a little less than a cup of agave since it’s pretty potent.

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After the initial blend, scrape the sides of the food processor and blend again until there are no more lumps.

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It’s got a lovely pudding-like consistency, and there’s a subtle hint of banana, but you can’t even taste the avocado.

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Eat it plain, or top with nuts, berries or something crunchy if you want to break up the smooth texture (I opted for unsweetened shredded coconut).

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Do you celebrate chocolate o’ clock in your house? 

Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Lemon Yogurt Cream Pie

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When she’s not helping kiddos eat better by day as a registered dietitian or running around with Team LUNA Chix Portland Run on Monday evenings, Megan Fuetterer can often be found in her kitchen concocting some pretty amazing so-good-you-won’t-believe-they’re-actually-good-for-you recipes.

Case in point: this pumpkin pie, which landed her on the TODAY show in Joy Bauer’s “Too Good To Be Healthy” holiday pie competition.

Megan, along with her business partner Anna Rossinoff, founded Zest Nutrition, which is dedicated to helping women shed the guilt and overcome the struggle with food. Zest’s mission is to take a whole-foods approach to eating to support women in accomplishing health goals and truly loving their bodies, so they can spend less time in their heads and more time in their hearts.

This Lemon Yogurt Cream Pie that Megan created is one such example; she wanted a treat for breakfast one morning, so she whipped up something that’s sweetened with honey, nestled in a whole-wheat crust and packed with protein from a yogurt base. Go ahead, and indulge without guilt!

Zest Nutrition’s Lemon Yogurt Cream Pie

For the Crust

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup softened coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Using a hand mixer, mix the flour, salt and oil together until you have good-looking crumbs.
  2. Add water and continue to mix. If your crust is too crumbly, continue to add water until you get the right consistency.
  3. Press crust into a the bottom and up the sides of a pie pan. You might have some leftover crust depending on how thin you make it.
  4. Bake your crust at 450F for 10 minutes. Let cool before adding pie filling.

For the Homemade Lemon Curd

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Mix together eggs, honey and lemon zest in a nonstick saucepan or pot.
  2. Heat over low heat, then add coconut oil and continue to stir.
  3. Once melted, stir in the lemon juice.
  4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes until it thickens.
  5. Let cool before adding to pie filling.

For the Filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt (Megan recommends 2%)
  • 1 1/2 cup homemade lemon curd (recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 2 Tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Mix together yogurt, lemon curd, honey and vanilla.
  2. Put the water and gelatin in a microwave safe bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Then microwave for 10 seconds until gelatin is dissolved and immediately whisk the hot gelatin into yogurt mixture.
  3. Pour into pie crust, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to allow pie to set up.
  4. Add any toppings or garnish as desired…enjoy!

Megan’s secret to making this pie pop is the addition of homemade lemon curd, which is actually much easier to make that you’d think (I even added a few key limes we had on hand to give it extra zip).

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Ben and I couldn’t wait the full six hours for the pie to set, so we dove in after about four, topping it with fresh berries and devouring it as dessert.

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Of course, by morning it was even better — not only did the filling fully set, but the lemon-lime flavor also mellowed out a tad. Start your morning off with a slice and a cup of coffee, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a good day!

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Pie for breakfast: Yay or nay? 

Recipe: Coconut Flour Chocolate Chunk Bars

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Finally — a no-fail coconut flour recipe!

I could wax poetic about how these bars are low in carbs, high in fiber, gluten-free (depending on the chocolate), blah blah blah…but all you need to know its that — holy crap — they’re good. And not too bad for you.

Next time you have a hankering for chocolate chip cookies, this isn’t just a healthier substitute; it’s about to become your new go-to recipe for chewy, cakey, chocolatey bars with that perfect balance of sweet-and-salty, thanks to a sprinkle of sea salt on top.

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chunk Bars

Courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey, agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk (I used cashew)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 oz your favorite dairy free dark chocolate bar, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes, optional

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×8 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut oil, honey, vanilla, eggs, and almond milk. In a separate medium bowl whisk together coconut flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined and batter is smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate, reserving a few tablespoons for sprinkling on top, if desired.
  4. Bake for 20-22 minutes (mine took closer to 26) or until edges are golden brown and knife comes out with a few crumbs attached. The batter may look like it’s not all the way cooked, but it will be. DO NOT OVERBAKE.
  5. Cool bars on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes so they settle a bit, then cut into 16 squares. Enjoy!

As mentioned above, I also sprinkled some sea salt on top before baking to offset the sweetness just slightly.

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Have you struck gold with a coconut flour recipe? 

Recipe: Running on Veggies’ No-Bake Almond Butter Cookies

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As much as I try to fill my diet with whole, nutrient-dense foods, all bets are off when it comes to cookies.

It was by pure chance, though, that I saw a pic of this no-bake version on American long-distance runner Kara Goucher‘s Twitter feed just as a craving hit for my usual Toll House recipe.

And, just my luck, I had all the ingredients available, so my baking took a healthier turn that day.

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Now, let’s be honest, there’s no substitute for the real-deal, mega-butter-and-sugar variety (in fact, these reminded me more of my raw coconut macaroons)…but if it’s a sweet treat that you’re after, this one won’t completely derail your diet.

And if it’s good enough to keep Kara fueled, it’s good enough for me!

No-Bake Almond Butter Cookies

(Makes 14-15 cookies; recipe courtesy of Running on Veggies)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 4 tablespoons almond butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup of dates
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs (or chocolate chips)
  • Optional add in: 41 grams (1 serving) of your favorite protein powder, be sure to add more liquid. Around 1 cup total of almond milk (1/4 cup extra)

Directions: 

  1. In a medium size mixing bowl combine almond flour, coconut flour and almond butter until well combined.
  2. Blend almond milk and dates until smooth.
  3. Add almond milk date mixture and the remaining ingredients into your flour and almond butter mixture.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a spoon, form little balls and press them down gently using a fork.
  5. Place in the freezer or eat them as-is! Store in an airtight container in the freezer. You can also let them thaw for a few minutes to get a softer cookie feel.

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How do you feel about healthy “baking” when it comes to curing those cravings? 

Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Gluten-Free Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

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Despite whatever the weather’s doing near you, the calendar says it’s spring. And one of my favorite ways to celebrate is with a sweet treat, preferably something light, bright and lemon-y.

Ever since my friend (Zest Nutrition co-founder & fellow Team LUNA Chix Portland Run memberMegan Fuetterer posted this recipe, I’d been dying to try it. The only problem? Our oven was broken for almost a week.

So as soon as we were up and running again on what happened to be a rainy weekend afternoon, baking these little rays of sunshine was first on my to-do list. They’re everything you love about lemon muffins — and more — because they’re super healthy.

Gluten-Free Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Adapted from Zest Nutriton

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups almond meal/flour
  • 4 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup lemon-flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients, then pour into lined muffin tins.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool, and enjoy!

Here’s a look at the process:

I just bought a great new grater from GoodCook, which made zesting the two lemons a breeze (and spared my poor knuckles).

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They’re pretty dense, thanks to the almond flour, so be generous when you’re filling the cups; these muffins will rise only slightly.

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Bake until the edges are a nice golden-brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.

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Since I used agave nectar, which is 1.4 times sweeter than sugar, I halved the amount of honey the original recipe called for.

But if you like them on the sweeter side, you may want to experiment with the type and amount of sweetener used.

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The lemon yogurt, which I added instead of applesauce, also added another layer of flavor and kept the muffins nice and moist.

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Enjoy, and here’s hoping they bring a little ray of sunshine into your spring!

Is your baking influenced by the change of seasons? 

Recipe: Raw Coconut Macaroons with Cacao Nibs

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Remember when I wrote about my recent almond milk experiment?

Well, when all was said and done, I was left with a bowl of expensive delicious almond meal that I couldn’t bear to throw out. And since the food processor was already dirty, I figured I might as well take a stab at this recipe from the lovely Jessica Mishra, a friend who is a health coach and yoga teacher in San Francisco.

Mishra made these decadent little nibbles for one of our SweatGuru events, and no one could believe that they were all-natural, packed with nutrients and brimming with healthy fats. I made a few tweaks — like using dates instead of maple syrup — and am excited to share what has become a favorite after-dinner treat in our house!

Raw Coconut Macaroons with Cacao Nibs

Ingredients: 

  • 6oz almond meal (I use leftovers after making almond milk)
  • 2 cups unsweetened, finely-shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp water
  • 5 pinches sea salt
  • 8 dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs

Directions: 

  1. Combine almond meal, coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, water, salt and dates in food processor, blending until mixture has a uniform consistency.
  2. As the food processor is running, gradually add in coconut oil until fully incorporated.
  3. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and stir in cacao nibs.
  4. Using a spoon, scoop mixture into hands and press to form into small balls.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Here’s a look at the process, starting with the inspiration for this recipe: what’s left in nut milk bag after I make a batch of almond milk.

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The coconut oil helps bind all the ingredients together, so you’ll want to scrape the food processor once or twice to make sure everything’s evenly distributed.

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And don’t worry — it’ll be pretty crumbly. Here’s what it looks like after transferring the mixture to a bowl and adding the cacao nibs.

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If you try to roll them, you’ll end up with a crumbled mess — so gently “pack” scoops of the mixture between your palms to form into balls.

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Two more tips: Sprinkle with a dash of coarse sea salt if you like that sweet-salty mix, and separate balls between layers of parchment paper when storing.

How do you make use of your almond-milk remnants?

Recipe: Banana Carrot Muffins

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I don’t know about you, but rainy weather and cold temperatures always put me in the mood for baking. That can get out of hand pretty quickly in a wet climate like Portland, though, so I’m making an effort to incorporate more nutrients into my sweet treats this season.

Case in point: I adapted the following recipe from Wassner Twins’ delicious Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, making some substitutions based on ingredients we happened to have on hand. The result is a perfect little pick-me-up for enjoying with your morning coffee — and it won’t leave you feeling sluggish for hours after.

Banana Carrot Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 medium carrots, grated with a box grater (about 1 cup)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mash bananas with cinnamon.
  3. Add Agave, oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer on medium (or rigorously by hand) until combined.
  4. Stir in carrots until they’re evenly dispersed throughout the batter.
  5. Add flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing by hand until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Divide mixture into lined muffin pans, filling each one about three-quarters to full (batter won’t rise much).
  7. Bake 20-30 minutes or until edges are golden and a tooth pick inserted into the middle of each muffin comes out clean.

The Wassners recommend using bananas that aren’t over-ripe so the recipe doesn’t get too sweet, but you may want to adjust accordingly if you find that this recipe isn’t sweet enough to your taste.

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You can also play around with the amount of Agave to get the batter to your desired level of sweetness.

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And who would have thought to add carrot into banana bread?

But it’s a great way to get some good vitamin A, as well as a host of other powerful health benefits, including beautiful skin, cancer prevention and anti-aging properties.

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Another area in which you can experiment is the flours: If you’re gluten-free, feel free to swap out the all-purpose flour for your favorite alternative.

But I like to retain some of the white stuff to keep the muffins from getting too dense.

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One word of warning: The batter will be dry and thick, but don’t worry! Simply scoop it into your muffin cups instead of pouring it in.

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Because it is so thick, you’ll also want to smush it down in the cups to make sure they’re filled evenly.

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As you can see, they won’t rise much — if at all — so the best way to tell whether or not they’re done is to make sure to do the toothpick test.

Not only do oven temperatures vary, but these tend to take a bit longer to cook than traditional muffins, so don’t be surprised if their cooking time is on the higher end.

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I promise, though, they’re worth the wait. Your house will smell lovely, and you can eat as many as you’d like, guilt-free…well, within reason.

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What’s your go-to activity when the weather is crummy?