Tag Archives: recipe redux

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!

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

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)

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

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)

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

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.

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

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Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches

18 Aug

I received free samples of Breton Crackers mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Breton Crackers and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

I’ve become somewhat of a weather-app-checking freak every time I set out to train for a race. Will the weather be good enough for my long runs? Will I get caught in the rain? Do I need to wait or go sooner to avoid high temps or bad storms? My weather app is probably the most-used app on my phone as a result!

Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Which is why, when planning this weekend’s running, I was disheartened to see 90 degree highs for Saturday through Tuesday. Wisconsin seriously has something against spring time, because I swear we jumped from winter to summer overnight. It’s ridiculous.

I don’t like running super early in the morning, but it looks like it’s either that or I suffer through the heat! Luckily, as I think about the half marathon that is just two weeks away, I know that it’s an early start time, so in most cases, we should be fine.

Speaking of hot weekends, it’s just about time to start whipping up allllll the nice cream for easy scooping to beat the heat. If you haven’t jumped on board the nice cream train, let me give you the low-down.

Rather than sugar- and fat-filled ice cream or frozen custard or froyo, nice cream is simply made by pureeing frozen bananas with a splash of milk and flavoring agents of your choice. In the mood for a protein boost? Chocolate protein powder tastes great as an addition. Want something fruity? Throw in a handful of berries. Going for a classic ice cream flavor? Toss in the toppings of your choice and drizzle with homemade date caramel or magic shell (melt coconut oil with cocoa powder, stir, and cover your nice cream- the oil will solidify on contact with the cold nice cream!). It’s a wonderful dessert that you will always feel good about.

Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

So when I was eating some of these Breton Artisanal Sweet Potato and Ancient Grains crackers on their own, I was totally inspired! Why not use these as the “sandwich” part to a nice cream sandwich? These crackers are pretty magical. They’re made of ancient grains, like rye and quinoa, have sweet potato baked right in, and are still somehow light and flaky. Sure, plain vanilla nice cream could suffice, but I wanted to kick up the flavor party with the addition of strawberry and chocolate layers. The resulting Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches are a hearty, healthy dessert that perfectly join together the slightly salty, crispy crackers with a guilt-free filling. A wonderfully satisfying snack or appetizer on a hot day!

I’m super excited about these. Make them now – you’ll thank me when it’s 90 degrees in your neighborhood!

Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches

Makes 15 sandwiches

Line a 9×13″ baking dish with plastic wrap. Lay half of the crackers bottom side up on the sheet, making sure they touch each other but do not overlap.

Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

In a food processor, puree all the bananas with the nondairy milk and vanilla. Remove 1/3 of the banana mixture from the food processor bowl and spread this on top of the layer of crackers, being careful not to break the crackers. Place in the freezer to firm up.

From the remaining banana mixture, remove half to another bowl; set aside (this would be another 1/3 of the original mixture). Into the food processor, add the quartered strawberries and puree again until completely smooth. Spread this on top of the frozen vanilla layer. Place in the freezer again.

Wipe out your food processor bowl and blade with a clean cloth and then place the final 1/3 of the banana mixture back in, along with the sea salt and cocoa powder. Puree together until incorporated. Spread this mixture onto the vanilla and strawberry layers. Place the other half of the crackers on top, following the same pattern you did for the bottom layer. Make sure these crackers face up.

Freeze the nice cream sandwiches for at least an hour, or until firm.

Remove the pan from the freezer, and let sit out a few minutes to allow the nice cream to soften a bit. Use a sharp knife to cut out the sandwiches from the layer of nice cream, again being careful not to break the crackers.

Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

Transfer sandwiches to a plate and place them back in the freezer to harden again.

Serve cold and enjoy! Leftovers can be transferred to a freezer-safe container and eaten one at a time.

Neapolitan Nice Cream Sandwiches | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

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Quick Herbed Goat Cheese Alfredo with Red Lentil Pasta

22 Jan

Have you ever added up how much you spend on food? The daily coffees, lunches out with co-workers, dinner dates, picked-up meals and weekly groceries all add up to a LOT of money. Whether you’re working on a New Year’s goal related to spending habits, or just want to be able to cook more frugally, the Recipe Redux has you covered this month!

We’ve been tasked with creating a recipe that costs less than $3 per serving. Now, as a vegetarian, this is much easier for me than my meat-eating friends. I noticed the drop in spending immediately after I gave up meat – both at the grocery store and at restaurants. But the bill can still add up and sometimes in a less than healthy way.

Quick Herbed Goat Cheese Alfredo with Red Lentil Pasta | xtinaluvspink.wordpress.com

So I wanted to develop a meal that was not only low cost, but high in flavor, protein and fiber. Have you seen those legume-based pastas that are available? Black bean spaghetti, red lentil rotini, even chickpea penne! Yes, they sound a little crazy, and the first time you make black bean spaghetti, I guarantee you will be weirded out by the color of the cooking water. But these are such an incredible alternative to traditional pastas. (Which I totally have nothing against, especially since I began making my own!) Sometimes, you just need a high protein meal that comes together quickly and can be easily dressed up.

This Alfredo delivers on all of the above. Red lentil pasta, which clocks in at a hefty 21 grams of protein per serving, is tossed with a simple yet flavorful goat cheese sauce. Dress up the finished product with a bit of balsamic glaze and voila: a healthy, quick, delicious meal that only costs $2.22 per serving.

Quick Herbed Goat Cheese Alfredo with Red Lentil Pasta

Serves 2

  • 6 oz red lentil gluten free pasta (can substitute for black bean pasta, or another favorite) – ($1.50)
  • 2 tbsp butter ($0.15)
  • 1/2 C soy milk (or other preferred milk) ($0.12)
  • 4 oz garlic & herb goat cheese or chevre ($1.99)
  • 1 oz parmesan, freshly shredded ($0.36)
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic glaze, to garnish ($0.32)

Grand total: $4.44. Per serving: $2.22!

Cook pasta according to package directions. These legume-based pastas have pretty specific directions, so it’s best to follow them!

While the pasta boils, heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Once melted, stir in the milk and then the cheeses. Keep stirring to melt all the cheese into the milk. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Drain the cooked pasta and immediately transfer into the skillet with the hot Alfredo sauce. Toss to coat completely. Serve and drizzle with balsamic glaze (this is optional, but the sweet tang of the glaze makes the creamy sauce pop!)

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