Mango-Macadamia Granola Bars

So it’s no secret that since I’ve started eating “healthy” – or whatever – I’ve become a breakfast eater.

My breakfast game was at its all time peak during my couple of months of unemployment late last year when I got to make breakfast at home every morning. Toast, eggs, cheese and salsa, yessssss #allthethings

HOWEVER, that’s unfortunately not the norm. I usually eat Greek yogurt and a little somethin’ somethin’ on the side. What that somethin’ somethin’ entails changes from week to week… I have made skinny muffins. I’ve made protein muffins. I love muesli…and I even made muesli bars.

For this week’s What I Ate Wednesday, I’m sharing what I’ve been eating for breakfast lately:

The past few weeks, I’ve been eating homemade granola bars!

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You’ll notice that, unlike my other breakfast muffins and bars, there is no “skinny” or “protein” in the title of this recipe.

That’s not to say they aren’t healthy! Made primarily of oats, uncooked quinoa, and flaxseed, they’re leaps and bounds better than any processed bar you’ll find in the supermarket. Plus they have a LOT less added sugar (only 3 tbsp of honey for the entire batch!).

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But they’ve also got a fair amount of nut butter…and chocolate.

The point of these granola bars isn’t that they’re low cal, or fat free. It’s that they are full of nutrient dense foods that are good for you, and some healthy fats that make them DELICIOUS.

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Plus, mango + macadamia nuts + coconut = tropical summer vacation. Am I right?

Mango-Macadamia Granola Bars
adapted from Cooking Light’s Cranberry-Pistachio Energy Bars
makes 9 bars

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/4 cup dried mango, chopped
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded or flaked
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (or just grind up flaxseed!)
1 oz chocolate (chips or chunks)
1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp coconut oil

Note: This is an extremely flexible recipe. I’ve also made it with pepitas and dried cranberries. Use whatever kind of dried fruit, nuts, nut butter, or oil you want!

Preheat oven to 350* F. Arrange oats and uncooked quinoa on a baking sheet and bake until slightly toasted and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, combine mango, macadamia nuts, coconut, chocolate and flaxseed meal. Once cooled, add oats and quinoa.

In a stovepot, mix nut butter, honey, and coconut oil. Heat to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute and add to oat/nut/coconut mixture. Add to a greased 8×8 inch pan and bake at 350*F for 12 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Let cool before cutting into 9 squares. Eat at room temperature or cooled…the squares will keep for 1 week in the fridge!

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What is your breakfast go-to?

Chocolate Flax Muffins

As much as I know you all love lurking on my weekend fun…I did not have it in me to bust out a weekend recap post this week! I knew that I probably wouldn’t have time to put up my normal post yesterday, because I have been insanely.busy at work. I was hoping to bring back Meatless Mondays, but didn’t get a chance to work out a shareable recipe in time…

However, if you really must know what I did this weekend… 😉 We had a couple of GORGEOUS 75-80 degree days and I took full advantage!

If you follow me on Facebook then you already know that, even though I’m no longer in half marathon training mode, I still did my usual long Saturday morning run:

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It was weird — but GOOD — to be running less than 10 miles. I got in a great workout, but didn’t feel like I was suffering the rest of the day, which was nice!

And if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know that I followed up that run with some frisbee:

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I’m hanging up the Thursday night dodgeball knee socks for a season or two and putting together an Ultimate Frisbee team…Chris is pretty much a pro (he played competitively in college) and spent over an hour imparting his knowledge and showing me all his tricks. It was lots of fun! Slightly draining though, and much harder than it looks 😉

Moving on….I am happy to report that even though I don’t have a Meatless Monday recipe, I do have a recipe to share!! It’s been a while, eh?

It all started last week when I went to my beloved Grocery Outlet and snagged a boatload of good deals for less than $30.

As if finding that 6 pack of Luna bars for like $2.99, Greek yogurt for .60c a pop and a bottle of wine for $5 wasn’t enough, I was extremely excited to find a bag of organic milled flaxseed (aka flaxseed meal) for $2.99. Generally, healthy living blogger ‘essentials’ like flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp, and other such random gluten free shtuff cost a fortune! So I snagged the bag and looked for ways to incorporate it into a healthy, yet yummy, girl-on-the-go recipe.

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ENTER: chocolate muffins.

Every flax muffin recipe I found had some kind of weird combination of gluten free flours/meals, xanthan gum, non-sugar sweeteners, or other various products that most regular people on a budget don’t keep in their pantry. So I was largely on my own testing out this recipe and, after a few months of very little baking, was thrilled to realize that not only were these not terrible

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They’re actually really frickin good. Although I can’t call them “skinny” like my nearly fat free lemon poppyseed muffins…They do have less added fat than your standard muffin recipe (the majority of the fat comes from the Omega 3-rich flaxseed), not too much sugar (1/3 cup), and have a texture that’s not only incredibly moist, but has a little bit of chew in it from the flaxseed meal.

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I’ve been eating 1-2 in the morning with Chobani for a breakfast that’s packed with both protein and fiber. They are actually pretty healthy, at about 160 calories a pop. They have 8 grams of healthy fat (from the flax!), 3.5 grams of fiber, and almost 5 grams of protein.

But I won’t tell anyone if you slather peanut butter all over them.

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Chocolate Flax Muffins
Makes 9 muffins

1/3 cup (white) whole wheat flour
2/3 cup flax seed meal (or just grind up flaxseed in a food processor/coffee grinder/etc)
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate (chocolate chips/chocolate square/whatever you can find!)
1 extra ripe banana
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons oil

Preheat oven to 325F and grease a muffin pan. Don’t use paper liners- these guys are low enough in fat that they will stick to them!

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flour through baking powder). In a separate microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals (or over a double boiler), being careful not to burn it. When it’s done, vigorously mix in the banana and mash until it’s fully incorporated. Add in sugar, eggs and oil and mix to combine.

Add wet ingredients to dry and distribute into ~9 muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops are set and a toothpick comes out clean. Use a butter knife to help release the muffins from the tin.

Eat fresh out of the oven or soon after. If you can’t, keep muffins in the fridge. Heat ’em up in the microwave briefly before eating if desired!

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Have you ever cooked or baked with flaxseed? What’s your favorite use for it?

What’s your favorite recent grocery store discovery?

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I must admit, even though I’m a “food blogger” and a self-proclaimed foodie, I don’t think I really have a signature go-to dish. I feel like every blogger, mom, homemaker, Pinterest-obsessed lady, or even BBQ-loving man out there has a signature thing that they make well.

Unless throwing a bunch of veggies in a saute pan with various spices and serving it over rice/quinoa counts as a “signature dish”….I am a little bit all over the place, and I prefer to try my hand at as many different kind of dishes as possible rather than specialize in just one.

However, there is one flavor profile that I may have a borderline obsession with…

Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins (one of the most popular recipes of all time on my blog, probably because I put the word “skinny” in front of them)… Basil-Lemon Breakfast HashBraided Lemon BreadLemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies…. Seeing a trend here?

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Which brings me to this cookie. I have made these cookies (in Lemon Shortbread Square form) every year for the past 4 years. I thought, nay, KNEW they could not be improved upon…and then I made them into cookies.

GAME CHANGER!

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Not only do you get more cookies out of a batch than you would if you put the dough into a square pan and cut out squares (bonus: it makes them fewer calories!!)… The cookies are just straight up BETTER. Slightly browned and crumbly on the edges, covered in the same heavenly lemon glaze (it’s really what seals the deal here), you need these on your cookie tray!

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Seriously. Nothing is better than lemon juice and powdered sugar. Even people who aren’t huge fans of lemon have told me they liked these cookies. Plus, I tend to prefer a cookie dough that doesn’t have raw egg in it. No danger in eating it off the spatula as you bake 😉

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If you’ve found yourself behind on your Christmas baking, or if you’re like me and you have eaten too many of the cookies you baked that were supposed to be gifts…look no further for your next cookie recipe!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
makes 24 cookies

For Cookies:
2 sticks softened butter
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 small lemon)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Lemon Icing:
2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
juice & zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 300˚. Beat together butter, lemon zest, and sugar. Whisk the flour and salt separately, then add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until well combined. The dough will be scraggly; this is okay!

Lay down a piece of plastic wrap and turn over dough onto plastic wrap. Form the dough into a log with a diameter about the same size you want your cookies to be (about 1.5 inches). It will be pretty long, about 12 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Remove shortbread from fridge and slice into cookies that are about 1/2 inch thick. Score the shortbread with a fork, place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.

While shortbread is baking, combine sugar and lemon juice/zest. I usually start with the juice of half a lemon and add powdered sugar as needed. You’ll want it to be semi thick because it’ll get thinner when it touches the hot cookies.

Remove cookies from oven and immediately drizzle with as much icing as desired (ALL OF IT). Let cookies cool and icing harden before storing.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013 – Walnut Bars

Today is Cookie Swap reveal day!

Leave it to me, the typically Millennial internet-obsessed 20-something, to participate in a virtual/Internet-based cookie swap before ever participating in a real life one! I chose a good one, however: this year, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap raised over $13,000 (via entry fees, donations, and matching donations from sponsors) to be donated to Cookies for Kids Cancer. That is one seriously awesome cookie swap.

Those bloggers who participated had to bake 3 dozen cookies – each dozen going to one of 3 different food bloggers around the country. I was SERIOUSLY impressed by every batch of cookies I received! Each one was better than the last. But more on that later 🙂

My “cookies” went to Maria at Maria of the Best, Lauren at Have Fork, Will Eat, and Samantha at Haute Pepper Bites. I hope they enjoyed their goodies… take a look at my contribution to the cookie swap!

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My cookies weren’t cookies, per se, but rather bars! Walnut Bars, to be exact. These bars can be found in my family’s home every winter without fail. My parents have a walnut tree that produces pounds upon pounds of walnuts in the fall, and this recipe is one of our favorites for using them all up!

The pecan pie-like filling is a perfect complement to the buttery shortbread crust…I was happy to be sending these to Maria, Lauren & Samantha, because whenever they’re around me I end up eating them up super fast 😉 Walnut Bars for breakfast, anyone?!

Walnut Bars
makes 24-36 bars, depending on size

Shortbread Cookie Crust:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine, softened

Walnut Filling:
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Karo syrup (corn syrup)…light is OK!
2 1/2 cups roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cookie crust: Spray or grease 10x15x1in baking dish. Beat together the sugar, flour, salt and butter until mix becomes crumbly. Press into pan. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Meanwhile, prepare walnut filling. Beat eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla until blended. Stir in walnuts. Once the shortbread cookie crust is finished, evenly pour the mixture over tje hot crust. Bake an additional 25 minutes, or until the filling is firm around the edges and set in the middle.

Let cool and cut into bars/squares/whatever shapes your heart desires!

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Now, for the delicious goodies I received… I’m going to use photos from the recipes’ creators, because my iPhone pictures seriously don’t do justice to how amazing these cookies were. Be sure to click through and get the recipes on their blogs! I am DEFINITELY making all 3 this month!

Cherry Almond Thumbprint Cookies from Sarah at Strawberry Plum

These had a great almond flavor and PERFECT texture. Plus, I need to find out where to get that sour cherry jam!

Peppermint Biscotti from Lynn at Turnips 2 Tangerines

Peppermint biscotti?! GENIUS! I can never say no to the peppermint+chocolate combo!

Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Deb at Cooking on the Front Burner

I can’t decide what I liked more about these…the zingy ginger flavor, or the huge chocolate chunks?!

Thank you ladies for some delicious cookies! I can’t wait to give them to my friends and family this month over the holidays.

Have you ever participated in a cookie swap?

What is your go-to cookie to make during the holidays?

Monday Night Football Feast — Week 4

OK, bear with me here friends, I know we’re going back in time a little bit. We did just finish Week 11 of the NFL season, after all.

However, I promised more updates on our MNF Feasts, and a separate post on what I made for New Orleans week. So here we are!

Sadly, since our epic Italian/New York feast I have missed a few weeks, but I’m back at it tonight so I decided now was a better time than any to share another example of a dish I’ve brought to the table!

On the 4th week of Monday Night Football, the New Orleans Saints took on the Miami Dolphins in New Orleans… And I took on BEIGNETS!

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I felt pretty confident about making the dough for beignets, since I use yeast when I make my pizza dough, and I’ve made sweet yeasty creations before (OMGGGG I can’t wait to make Braided Lemon Bread again)… So bringing the dough together was pretty simple.

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Where it differed was in two ways: first of all, I rolled out the dough and cut it into rectangle-ish squares. There was a little bit of trial and error with this when it came to cooking them because some required more/less time in the oil…but all in all it went okay.

The other reason why I was out of my comfort zone with these guys is because beignets are deep fried! I don’t think I had ever deep fried anything before making these. I pan fry stuff occasionally…but was fairly certain that I would need a trip to the burn unit of the ER after attempting these puppies, especially with my tendency to injure myself 😉

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Well, since this was almost 2 months ago and I haven’t shared any stories of 3rd degree burns…I think you all know it went fine! It took a couple of batches of 2-3 beignets to get the timing and done-ness right (we didn’t have a thermometer for the oil), but after a few tries I finally got it down and, after a heavy handed sprinkle of powdered sugar, they were delicious!

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Along with Dave’s gumbo dishes, this made for one of my favorite Monday Night Football meals yet!

Although tonight for the New England at Carolina game, we chowed down on pulled pork and jalapeno coleslaw sandwiches, fried mac n’ cheese, and chocolate lava cake. At least I know I’ll have my winter coat this November through January in the form of an added 5 pounds 😉

Beignets
based on Anne Burrell’s recipe
yields about 2 dozen beignets

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1(.25-ounce) packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup, plus 1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 6 cups peanut or other neutrally-flavored oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting
In a measuring cup combine the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Let sit until the yeast gets frothy and smells yeasty.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and pinch salt. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine well.

Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and place on the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Once the ingredients are well combined, knead 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover, and place in a warm area for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

In a wide, deep pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees F. Set up a paper towel-lined sheet tray to land the beignets when they come out of the oil.

Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly knead on a floured work surface. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares.

Working in batches so as to not crowd the oil, fry the dough squares until they are puffy and golden brown. Remove from the oil, make a pit stop on the paper towels and immediately dust with powdered sugar.

Serve hot!

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies – Happy Blogiversary Becky!

Today, I bring you a recipe…but it isn’t mine.

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It belongs to a blogger who reminds us to always TREAT YO SELF!

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Who has run two half marathons…. one without even training! (I like how in the first half marathon recap it says that it was “likely” her last!!! YEA RIGHT!!!)

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Who always seems to end up being my hangover buddy 😉 (of course, this picture wasn’t hungover but rather during our split bottle of wine….after a day of wine tasting….and cocktails….)

It comes from the brain of Becky at Olives n’ Wine!

A couple of months ago, Erica contacted me and asked if I’d be down to help plan a virtual surprise party celebrating Becky’s 1 year blogiversary. One year ago today, Becky wrote her first blog post! I was absolutely 100% down, and couldn’t believe how sweet of an idea it was…especially considering Erica ended up not being able to make it to Blend Retreat (poor thing just had to go to MEXICO! 😛 ) so we have actually never all met! 😦 Hope that changes next month when you find yourself in my neck of the woods, Erica!

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Anyway, though my inclination was to pick one of her many amazing peanut butter-chocolatey concoctions to display, I had to go with an option that’s not only seasonal (even my “mehhhh pumpkin” self loved them), but totally typically blogger-esque! In her original post, Becky talks about how this recipe has the two most typical blogger ingredients: pumpkin and coconut oil.

Go figure the night I brought pumpkin, flour, and all the other ingredients to my parents house to do some baking, I totally FORGOT all of my coconut oil. (we kiiiiind of got a lot at Blend). Oh well! Bought some more and made these cookies. They were DEEEE-LICIOUS. Though I’m usually a chewy cookie fan, these were quite cakey- but oh so flavorful. They might have made me like pumpkin…just a little! 😉

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Oh, and I was sure to enjoy some Olives n’ Wine while I baked!

If you don’t follow Becky’s blog, you should. Becky, you have achieved so much this year and have so much to be proud of! I’m proud to call you a Blend AND a friend, and I can’t wait for our next adventure together!

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Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies (c/o Olives n’ Wine, Adapted from Inside BruCrew Life)

Makes 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed but not 100% melted
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 TSP baking soda
  • 1 TSP baking powder
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate minis)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar and coconut oil with an electric mixer until blended. Add in pumpkin, egg and vanilla and blend until creamy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly stir dry mixture into pumpkin mixture just until combined. Mix in chocolate chips by hand. Roll cookies into 1-inch balls and place on cookie sheet (FYI – if you just “plop” the cookie dough on the sheet, it won’t spread nicely like typical cookies which is why my photos aren’t of pretty cookies. If you would like your cookies to have a nice appearance, roll the dough into balls prior to cooking!). Bake cookies for 7-8 minutes and then allow cookies to cool slightly on sheet for 3 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Katie’s Notes: I rolled my dough into balls and flattened them with the bottom of a small glass. I also used 1/2 white whole wheat flour, which worked out fine! My cookies were ginormous, so I barely got 24 and I had to cook ’em a little longer 😉 I also used chopped chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips. All still ended up excellent!

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Check out all the amazing recipes of Becky’s that we are showcasing today! Also check out our hashtag on Twitter & Instagram – #ONWturns1 🙂

Chocolate-Dipped Quinoa Coconut Bars from Erica @ Coffee & Quinoa
Banana Bread Oatmeal from Jan @ Sprouts n’ Squats
Mexican Sweet Potato Casserole from Jackie @ Nacho Average Runner
Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie in a Mug from Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate
White Chocolate-Walnut-Coconut-Butternut Squash Dessert from Holly @ Eat Great, Be Great
Easy Breakfast Cookie in a Mug from Amanda @ Running With Spoons
Pumpkin-Nutella Bars with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Glaze from Dana @ The Daily Moderation
Banana Bread Nutella Cookies from Katie @ Running 4 Cupcakes
Homemade Taco Seasoning  from Carly @ Snack Therapy
Skinny Chubby Monkey from Amy @ The Little Honey Bee
Jalapeno-Spiced Black Bean Burgers from Hannah @ Clean Eating Veggie Girl
Spinach and Cheese Lasagna Roll-Ups from Sam @ Better With Sprinkles
Biscoff Chip Cookies from Davida @ The Healthy Maven
French Onion Soup from Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health
Beef and Broccoli from Alisha @ Alisha’s Appetite
Creamy Butternut Risotto from Emily @ Have Your Cake And…
Antioxidant Froyo Bars from Brittany @ Protein and Pumps
Chocolate Chip Birthday Cookies from Heather @ Fit ‘n’ Cookies
Greek Spaghetti Squash from Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen
BBQ Tofu Pizza from Ashlee @ His-n-Hers Happy-n-Healthy
Mini Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting from Erin @ The Almond Eater
Paleo Pad Thai from Melanie @ Beautifully Nutty
Arugula & Goat Cheese Flatbread Pizza from Elise @ 9 to Fit
Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Smoothie from Jennifer @ Brunette Anthem
Double Chocolate Chip Muffins from Sara @ Fitcupcaker
Andes Mint Cookies from Taryn @ Peace and Pizza
S’mores Cookie Dough Bars from Caroline @ The Trendy Trainer
Biscoff Chip Cookies from Natalie @ Free Range Human

Weekend in Photos

Happy Monday! Or should I say….. crappy Monday:

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You’d think I would’ve learned last year when my back tire was stolen that I need to bring my bike up to my balcony every.night. My balcony was occupied when I got home last night so I told myself I’d move it later…but of course forgetful Katie + an early bedtime = did not remember to go back downstairs for it before I went to sleep. Oops!

Determined to not let that set my day on a bad path, let’s remember a fantastic weekend, shall we?

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I came home on Friday only to be greeted by this adorable lab, Lucy. My roommate’s parents dropped her off with us for the weekend! While Lucy and Hanna went and had a play date with some other dogs and their humans, I stayed back and enjoyed my Friday night wine + cheese & crackers + Netflix. I was so happy to have a new Parks & Rec to look forward to!

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I woke up early on Saturday morning and was surprised it was brisk enough (in the high 50s/low 60s!) to require a t-shirt and leggings for my morning run! Usually I wear a tank and shorts. Lucy was a great running partner, but I definitely have shin splints from all the stop + go I did to control her, and from the increased speed at which we were jogging she dragged me along.

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I rode my bike over to Kristin’s apartment and we took light rail to the Megabus, which took us over the new Bay Bridge into San Francisco for one of the last Giants games of the season! I woke up CRAVING those garlic fries, and they didn’t disappoint.

I hadn’t been to a Giants game since 2006…my friend Jordan’s parents have season tix and were kind enough to let us go with Jordan and his girlfriend (both good college friends of mine I hadn’t seen since graduation!).

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We missed the first 3 innings due to traffic (and Megabus leaving, like, 20 minutes late), but we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day at AT&T Park. It was in the mid 70’s and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky.

After a couple of margaritas at Pedro’s, we stopped at Safeway to stock up on some essentials for the tipsy bus ride back to Sacramento. (I am obsessed with kombucha and Nutella, as you all know. And apparently I get carsick now…the bus ride there was not pleasant!)

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After sleeping 11 hours on Saturday night (11pm-10am. Apparently, I needed it!), my project for Sunday was to prepare beignets for Monday Night Football tonight. Every week, my friend David hosts MNF and he makes a dish native to the city hosting the game. I’ve actually been meaning to write a post about what I’ve brought (maybe even a new weekly series)…Tonight, they’re in New Orleans, so to go along with Dave’s gumbo, I prepped some beignets! They are currently chillin in the fridge, ready to be plopped in the deep fryer and covered in powdered sugar. Hope they turn out!

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And of course… if you have the internet, chances are you heard that the Breaking Bad series finale was last night. I gathered one last time with my group of friends/faithful fans to watch, and we were all extremely pleased. I thought it was a perfect ending! I just hate that it had to end 😦

Looking forward to a good week full of perfect weather (high 70s-low 80’s! Still no fall here yet!) and hopefully better luck than I had this morning. Have a great week!

Are you actually having fall weather where you live? 

Without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t caught the finale yet, what did you think about Breaking Bad?

Muesli Protein Bars

***Muesli Fusion chose these Protein Bars as a finalist in their recipe contest!! If you like what you see, PLEASE head over to Facebook and click on my recipe – Muesli Protein Bars (Blonde Ambition Blog)…all you have to do is click! Voting closes this FRIDAY, June 21st! THANK YOU!!!***

I think I’ve mentioned a few times that I have been really into overnight oats lately. This is in large part due to the fact that I acquired a bag of Muesli Fusion at Blend, and I l-o-v-e it.

When I heard Muesli Fusion would be sponsoring one of our breakfasts, I was actually pretty skeptical about the whole idea of muesli. I thought, “It has no added sugar, so it’s not crunchy like granola…it’s basically just oats and fruit??” whyyy would you eat raw oats and fruit?

Fortunately, Muesli Fusion totally proved me wrong. One beef I’ve always had with overnight oats is that it’s too mushy. I am a texture freak, I need to have SOME kind of crunch or chew in my oatmeal/overnight oats. And Muesli Fusion’s An-Ox totally provides that. It has walnuts, dried goji berries & blueberries, and cacao nibs. Perfect solution!

I’ve all but decided to eliminate plain oats from my grocery-staple list and replace them with muesli. Seriously, I love the stuff.

Last week, as I was approaching the end of my bag of An-Ox, I remembered that Muesli Fusion is hosting a recipe contest. The challenge: to create a recipe featuring Muesli Fusion cereal.

Challenge accepted!

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I really wanted to make homemade granola muesli bars, but every recipe I found used at least 1/2 cup and usually closer to 1 cup of sugar/maple syrup/honey/etc. One of the most advertised characteristics about Muesli Fusion cereals is that they have no added sugar, except that which comes from the added fruit, and I really wanted to keep a somewhat low level of sugar in my recipe.

What I ended up with not only has less sugar than a store-bought granola bar, but also, thanks to a few scoops of protein powder and crunchy quinoa, packs a good 8 grams of protein per serving!

Instead of tons of sugar, this recipe uses only 3 tablespoons of honey, as well as the natural sweetness of banana.

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Though An-Ox already has a bunch of good add ins, my inner texture freak came out and I added a few crunchy ingredients: chia seeds, quinoa, and almonds.

I maaaaay have also used chocolate protein powder and added chocolate chips…but doesn’t everyone love feeling like they’re eating dessert for breakfast?

These aren’t your typical crunchy granola bars, but I love them all the same. The version with chocolate chips that I made clocks in at around 200 calories, only 5g of fat, a whopping 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. This version has about 11.5g of sugar, which would be a fair amount lower if you omit chocolate chips.

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So will you join me in eating dessert for breakfast?

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PS. If these sound like something you’d like to try making yourself, please re-pin this post on Pinterest! I could get a prize if I get the most pinned recipe! Click this link to re-pin 🙂

PPS. If you aren’t feeling up to the challenge of creating a new recipe…try entering Muesli Fusion’s summer giveaway! No purchase necessary, no blog post needed. Just like their Facebook page!

(Chocolate) Muesli Protein Bars
makes 8 bars
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1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (you can also use skim milk or any unsweetened non-dairy milk)
3 tbsp honey
1/2 ripe banana, mashed
1 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups Muesli Fusion An-Ox
2 scoops chocolate protein powder (I used Onnit Hemp Force, but you can use any kind! Doesn’t have to be chocolate!)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, or full almonds roughly chopped (measure after chopping)
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa (or cooked. depends on what consistency you’re going for! i kinda par-cooked mine, haha)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional, will increase amount of sugar in bars)
1 tbsp flour (optional, if needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium-large bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl. When evenly mixed throughout, slowly add dry ingredients to bowl of wet ingredients, making sure everything gets evenly incorporated. Mixture should be pretty wet, but if you think it looks too wet, feel free to add about a tablespoon of flour.

Ideally you will use an 8×8 or 9×9 pan for these bars. Spray your pan with oil and press the batter tightly into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark to see how done they are. You will want them to be firm in the middle, and to look dry. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before removing from pan. Let cool completely to room temperature before cutting into bars…it should make about 8!

Keep in an airtight container, or individually wrap the bars in saran wrap, and keep in fridge. Should keep for about a week.

Blend Retreat Swag + Chocolate Protein Muffins

Sooo, if you haven’t heard, we got a lot of free stuff at Blend.

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A yoga mat from NatureMade? Seriously?! 😀

photo cred: Becky @ Olives n’ Wine

We found all of this waiting for us in the swag bag we got upon checking in on Friday afternoon. And just… WOW.

Additionally, there was an expo room set up with tables featuring even more sponsors, with MORE products set up for us to take as we pleased. What? Like…REALLY? We were in disbelief all weekend at all the great companies who want to promote their products to healthy living bloggers.

The funniest moment had to be when we opened our bags and saw:

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coconut oil and vanilla beans!

Becky, Carly and I started freaking out. I’m pretty sure I was jumping up and down in excitement…we were in food blogger heaven.

We thought that was it for the swag, but to our surprise, we walked back to our rooms on Saturday post-breakfast and pre-hike to find:

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MORE swag?!

So you get the point…there was a lot of swag.

The weekend concluded with a closing ceremony on Sunday, which included a raffle. Only, it wasn’t just a couple of items being raffled off…I think almost everyone won something!

{both photos courtesy of Lindsay @ Lindsays List}

2 of those 3 Onnit goodie boxes ended up going to Becky and I!

photo cred: Becky at Olives n’ Wine

Onnit has a lot of very interesting products…namely, their supplements. Their supplement Alpha Brain was one of the first nootropic supplements on the market. It is supposed to help with focus, creativity, and apparently it enables lucid dreams as well. I think Stron Bone & Joint might be a little more my speed, but I am definitely excited to try some of these out!

When I got home, I was determined to make the most out of all the free stuff I got, and save some money on groceries this week in the process. So I went to Safeway and got the essentials: bread, Alexia frozen fries because I’m obsessed, and mixed greens for salad. With some coupons from my swag bag, I also bought:

Yogurt and almond milk from Chobani and Silk, two Blend sponsors!

So basically, the swag legacy continues.

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I decided to use my Hemp Force protein from Onnit, Chobani yogurt, and Musselman’s apple sauce (yep, we even had apple sauce in our swag bag!) to make some chocolate protein muffins. At only about 110 calories and less than a gram of fat, they’re just as skinny as my Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins, but thanks to the hemp protein they pack a bit more fiber and protein!

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Skinny Chocolate Protein Muffins
verrry loosely based on these Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes ~11 muffins

2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 banana, mashed
3/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla (optional, but recommended)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or mixture of all purpose and whole wheat)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 scoops chocolate-flavored protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 425F.

Start by mixing all the wet ingredients together in a bowl: applesauce through vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift all the dry ingredients and whisk together. If you are using hemp protein powder, the only ingredient you need to sift is the cocoa (if you sift the hemp, some bits might not make it through). Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just until combined. The mixture will be thick.

Spray a muffin tin with oil, and divide batter among tins. (Because of the low fat content, I don’t recommend using paper liners) It should almost reach the top. Place muffins in oven for 5 minutes. Then, keeping muffins in the oven, reduce the temperature to 375F and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Check the muffins with a toothpick: if it comes out cleanly, they are done. If not, give them another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the muffins sit for 3-5 minutes before removing to cool on a rack. I used a butter knife to loosely release the muffins.

NOTES: Hemp definitely has a strong taste, so next time I use hemp protein powder in this recipe, I will definitely add vanilla (I didn’t in this batch), chocolate chips, and maybe even cinnamon to off-set the flavor. Even so, these have great texture and are rather large for 110 calories!

Paired with even more Greek yogurt, this made quite the protein-packed breakfast!

Also, it was pretty much dessert for breakfast. I can always get down with that.

Have a great 3-day weekend!

Do you ever use protein powder in your smoothies or baking? What is your favorite kind?

I can’t wait to try the other protein/energy powders we got in our bag: Vega, Plant Fusion, and Fitmixer!