Vegan Energy Muffins: Packed with Zucchini, Bananas, and Walnuts

25 Oct

These vegan energy muffins are packed with zucchini, banana, walnuts, coconut, and even chocolate! They’re low in sugar and full of healthy fats.

Eat, Drink, Be Healthy!

Energy and protein bars don’t always cut it. The taste is sometimes lacking, and the size often leaves something to be desired. And let’s face it: an intense workout deserves and intensely flavorful snack to match it. Whether you chow down on one of these energy muffins before or after exercise (or just for a tasty breakfast), it’s sure to please. Packed with zucchini, bananas, applesauce, walnuts, whole wheat flour, oats, and coconut oil, you’ll get a nice dose of fiber, protein, carbs and fats. Replenish your body with these homemade baked goods!

Vegan Energy Muffins: Packed with Zucchini, Bananas, and Walnuts | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.comVegan Energy Muffins: Packed with Zucchini, Bananas, and Walnuts | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

One more thing, these are vegan! And low in fat and sugar! And actually super easy to make. You can even shred the zucchini and chop the walnuts in your food processor. No zucchini lying around? Replace with equal amounts of grated carrot and a splash of milk. Not a fan of walnuts? Replace with pecans. Going…

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Chocolate-Covered Probiotic Protein Bites

22 Oct

This weekend marks my sixth half marathon (!) in two years’ time. And this time, I’ve taken on the additional challenge of running a 5k the evening before. My training plan has incorporated shorter runs the day before my long runs, so I feel physically and mentally prepared for this. It’s a Halloween-themed run, and I’m sure I’ll see plenty of amazing costumes on the course. Stay tuned for a complete review and tons of pictures. Until then, I’ll be snacking on these Chocolate-Covered Probiotic Protein Bites!

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All of this running and racing has taught me to pay more attention to the health of my gut. The gut is responsible for digestion, which is insanely important for our health. Probiotics aid in this digestion, which requires the bacteria in our gut to be balanced. An unhealthy gut might result in a variety of unpleasant issues, such as constipation, indigestion, gas, and more (Global Healing Center).

Furthermore, the microbiome that is the gut is thought to affect our brains: how we think and feel. “Recent studies have found that autistic people’s microbiome differs significantly from control groups.” “Gut bacteria can influence anxiety and depression.” Prebiotics have been shown to “lower levels of a key stress hormone, cortisol, and in a test involving a series of words flashed quickly on a screen, [subjects] focused more on positive information and less on negative.” Probiotic eaters “reacted more calmly to images than the control group,” which scientists think “changed the makeup of the subjects’ gut microbes, and that this led to the production of compounds that modified brain chemistry.” (The Atlantic)

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Finally, “it’s not yet clear how the microbiome alters the brain. Most researchers agree that microbes probably influence the brain via multiple mechanisms. Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds). Certain organisms also affect how people metabolize these compounds, effectively regulating the amount that circulates in the blood and brain. Gut bacteria may also generate other neuroactive chemicals, including one called butyrate, that have been linked to reduced anxiety and depression. Cryan and others have also shown that some microbes can activate the vagus nerve, the main line of communication between the gut and the brain. In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system, which itself influences mood and behavior.” (The Atlantic)

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Now we know how the gut works, and why it’s so important to maintain a healthy gut! Consuming probiotic foods are one way to aid gut health, but these should be paired with prebiotic foods, to ensure the most effective absorption of nutrients. This is because “probiotics are living organisms, while prebiotics are indigestible fibers that provide nourishment for the probiotics—much like fertilizer for a garden” (Hyperbiotics).

Chocolate-Covered Probiotic Protein Bites | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Still with me? Let’s get to the recipe 🙂 One form of a probiotic is fermented foods. Tempeh is a delicious, high-protein fermented soy product that can be eaten raw or cooked. Chocolate is also a fermented food (watch Michael Pollan’s series “Cooked” for an amazing look into the fermentation of chocolate). Bananas, almonds, and coconut are examples of prebiotic foods, and thus pair incredibly well with tempeh and chocolate.

Chocolate-Covered Probiotic Protein Bites | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Tempeh slices ready for chocolate!

I KNOW how weird it sounds to think of tempeh in a sweet application. But TRUST ME, it’s amazing. On its own, tempeh has a wonderful nutty flavor to it. And what’s better than chocolate and banana and nuts?! Dairy-free, semi-sweet or dark chocolate is a simple way to keep these healthy bites vegan, and you should be sure to use chocolate that’s not loaded with sugar (I’m talking to you, milk chocolate).

Chocolate-Covered Probiotic Protein Bites | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Vegan chocolate chips were on sale, so I stocked up!

Chocolate-Covered Probiotic Protein Bites

Makes 12 bites

  • 1/2 block plain tempeh
  • 1 just-ripe banana
  • 6 oz semi-sweet vegan chocolate (chips or a baking block are fine – I used Chatfield’s vegan semi-sweet chips)
  • 12 raw almonds
  • 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut

Line a baking sheet or plate with parchment paper; set aside.

Cut a block of tempeh into two equal pieces. Save one half for another meal. Then, slice the second half into two thin sheets. Cut each into 6 pieces, so you have 12 total, equal pieces; they should be about one-square inch in size. Set aside.

Peel the banana and slice into even pieces, about as thick as the tempeh squares. You want them to match up fairly well for easy stacking.

In a glass bowl, slowly microwave the chocolate until completely melted. Be sure to stir will every 30-60 seconds to avoid burning the chocolate.

Now for the assembly! Begin by dabbing a little melted chocolate onto one side of the tempeh squares and press a banana coin on top (yes, these are different shapes, but the mismatched look is totally in). Then, spread a little chocolate onto the parchment paper. Place a tempeh-banana stack on the chocolate and spoon more chocolate on top, and spread it down to cover the sides as best you can. Top with an almond and sprinkle with shredded coconut.

Repeat the chocolate-covering process with the remaining tempeh-banana stacks.

Place the sheet pan in the fridge and let set for an hour. Transfer the Chocolate-Covered Probiotic Protein Bites to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator.

Eat them cold or let them set out on a counter for 10 minutes before enjoying for a softer treat. I would NOT recommend freezing these, because the frozen tempeh needs to thaw, but this will cause the banana to loose its shape and weep out its juices.

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Creamy Chickpea Potato Soup

16 Oct

This weekend, my family and I celebrated my Oma and Opa’s 57th anniversary (that’s German for grandma and grandpa)!

Celebrating 57 years together!

We gathered at a local Italian-themed restaurant, toasted their lives together with some tasty wine, and enjoyed a delicious meal (the chef even whipped up something special for my vegan needs).

Fried artichokes and grilled vegetables with balsamic glaze

All celebrations in my family revolve around food: from birthdays to anniversaries to holidays to major accomplishments. Whether it’s brunch, lunch, or dinner, food is the common denominator for our gatherings. Being first vegetarian, and now vegan, that’s hard enough. Tack onto that the October #Unprocessed challenge, and it’s like I can barely eat anything!

Me and Oma ❤

Or is it? Much to everyone’s surprise, there are so many things I can eat – one just needs to understand ingredients and various preparations. And one must remember the miracle of soup. Yep, soup is an easy way to get a bunch of veggies into your meal, in a delicious, #unprocessed way! This soup is pureed to be a creamy, luscious meal that’s packed with protein, fiber, and flavor. Chickpeas naturally thicken the end product, so you don’t have to whisk in a roux. Finally, this is made in the crockpot! Just dump, stir, and switch it on. Eight hours later, use an immersion blender to puree to finish.

Creamy Chickpea Potato Soup | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Creamy Chickpea Potato Soup

Serves 6

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeds removed and chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cans (or 3 cups) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I use homemade crockpot chickpeas)
  • 4 medium white potatoes (Russet potatoes are best), about 4″ long, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 C low sodium vegetable stock
  • 3 C water
  • 1/4 C maple syrup or coconut sugar

Prep all the vegetables, chickpeas, and potatoes and throw them into your slow cooker or crockpot. Add the herbs and spices, and top with the oil, stock, water, and sweetener. Stir with a spoon, cover, and set on high to cook for 6-8 hours.

Once the vegetables are cooked completely, use an immersion blender to puree the soup partially or until silky smooth. You can also do this in batches (carefully) using a traditional blender.

Serve the soup hot, topped with freshly parsley, hot sauce, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Confessions of a Mother Runner

 

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