Protein Brownie Bars

gluten free / dairy free / refined sugar free / vegan

As you already know I am a self proclaimed baked goods junkie. It is a rare occurence for me not to go to bed with a sweet in hand. Ok, fine…truth? I NEVER go to bed without a sweet in hand. Unless I am on my death bed with an illness, and even then….it’s not a guarantee. But even this baked goods junkie knows that to eat dessert every night is no bueno for my mind or body. Granted I no longer bake with refined sugar which is the worst of the worst but no mater what sugar I do use, it is still…..you guessed it, SUGAR! If there are some of you who don’t know much about refined sugar and its ramifications not only to our health but to our society as a whole OR you just like learning new things I highly recommend watching the documentary Fed Up! (link is for full length documentary). The film focuses on the causes of obesity in the US and the alarming rise in childhood obesity. It presents evidence showing that the large quantities of sugar in processed foods are an overlooked root of the problem, and points to the monied lobbying power of “Big Sugar” in blocking attempts to enact policies to address the issue.[2][3][4][5]

My first successful breakup with refined sugar occured in January 2015. The year before, I had given birth to my second child and for that year I had struggled with not only my weight, but my energy was non existent and my mind was dull and foggy, at best. I was als0 having a multitude of digestive issues, headaches and bizarre skin breakouts. Around this same time the health and wellness company I own my business through launched a brand new 30 Day Healthy Living Program. I had just come off an unsuccessful attempt to do the Whole 30 program. Don’t get me wrong, I lost weight but I was unhappy during the process; I wanted to be able to eat garbanzo beans!!! Is that asking to much?! And after I finished the 30 days the weight came back almost immediately. My hubby was as always supportive but also hated it and dubbed the program the “dirty dishes diet.” I was reluctant at first to try Arbonne’s program but I already loved their nutritional products and I knew I needed to try it so that I could make honest recommendations to my clients. The focus of the program was to change the way we look at food and to bring our bodies back to a more balanced alkaline state. We achieve this through focusing on eating whole, consumable foods and eliminating the top ten highly allergenic and acidic foods.

For those of you who just want the goods I will cease aand desisit with the lecture. But if you want more information or have questions please leave a comment and I would be happy to talk further. You can also click on the 30 Day link above for a quick video or email me.

One of the reasons I loved this program was because I didn’t have to deprive myself. Yes, I had to eliminate certain foods/ingredients but in return I was given a huge list of foods or ingredients I could use as replacemements. That’s where these brownie bars enter the picture. They were a replacement for my beautiful sugary goods that I had sworn off for the next 30 days. With the program, I was given a full menu plan with recipes and shopping lists already completed for me.  And as a busy mom of two that was key!! I was also given a huge support group via a secret FB group. This group was comprised of hundreds of men and women just like me; people looking to change their habits for the long term and stop the dieting wheel for good. It was a place to ask questions, offer support and encouragement, and recipe swap. This was one of the first treat recipes I tried on the program, and I have been hooked ever since. These bars are great for a midday snack because they are more like a protein bar than a brownie but with a cup of tea I think they make a great bedtime treat. They are packed with protein and are super filling. The icing on the cake??? My kids LOVE them. They constantly ask for “brownies” and I have no problem obliging them. Enjoy! nom nom

Side note: I have been told by a few people who sampled my bars and then made them using a different protein that they don’t taste as good. Not sure why that it is, but if this is the first recipe of mine you have tried, and you use a different protein AND they are bad…. I don’t want you to think I suck 😉

 

4 scoops of Arbonne Chocolate Protein Powder

3 cups of GF rolled oats; I like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats or Trader Joe’s GF Rolled Oats

1  plus cup vanilla almond milk; I do an overflowing 1 cup but 1 and 1/4 cup would be a good place to start. You want the mixture to be moist not dry.

1/2 cup almond butter

Dash of cinnamon

Sea salt; I prefer fleur de sel (optional)

1/3 cup- 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (optional)

  1. Put first 5 ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir until the ingredients are throughly incorporated and the mixture is moist.
  2. Press evenly into an 8×8 pan. Sprinkle sea salt and chopped nuts over the top and press lightly into the misture.
  3. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to set. Cut into 2×2 squares. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Though I guarantee they wont last that long!!!!

Nana P’s Hungarian Stuffed Peppers

This past weekend I was lucky enough (thank you grandparents) to get a kid free weekend to go and visit my family in Indianapolis. P and Michael are my second set of parents and have been in my life since I was 19 (and rather wild). P was my mentor and one of the best choreographers I worked with during my professional dance career, they are Nana P and Nano M to my kids and I have been lucky enough to be able to call their son my little brother since he was 8 years old. I took the wild sibling title seriously and would take him for pizza and ice cream anytime I watched him and introduced him to the world of hip hop and rap music. I’m sure P was mentally cringing and cursing me as her nine year old son told her all about Tupac and Biggie, but she never said a word!
Like any child preparing to come home for a visit I was mentally preparing a list of favorite foods I would want to have. Michael always makes me his white pizza and his ridiculously good margaritas. I mean so good you don’t even realize you are drinking tequila until you end up dancing the rumba solo in the other room. Both recipes he declares will go to his grave with him. Which is extremely annoying since I covet both. And P has a rotating list of recipes I love such as her carbonara, freshly baked bread and roasted chicken. This time we decided to make her Hungarian stuffed peppers.
This recipe comes from a late 1800’s Hungarian cookbook that was passed down to P through her family. She has made slight alterations to the recipe over the years but the core remains the same. The original recipe was an equal combination of ground pork and ground beef. It was also made with white/brown rice. P switched the meat to ground turkey and since I have a love/hate relationship with white meat I typically use ground beef. We also recently discovered that cauliflower rice worked really well with this recipe to make it grain free. While my kids don’t love the actual pepper, they do like the inside mixture so my hubby or I usually act as garbage disposal and finish their peppers for them. This is a great, quick weeknight meal for the whole family! Enjoy!! nom nom
gluten free/dairy free/grain free
Ingredients
1 pkg ground beef, turkey or a combination of pork and ground beef; which is what the original recipe calls for  (16-20oz)
4 lg or 5 med green peppers
2 1/2 c riced cauliflower (see side note below for prep)
2 eggs
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp basil
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2-3/4 tsp grated blk pepper
diced tops of green peppers
1 1/2 jars (36 oz) of homemade or jarred marinara sauce; Trader Joe’s organic tomato basil marinara sauce is a good choice.
Cauliflower Rice
Ingredients
1 head of cauliflower
  1. Remove stem and leaves from cauliflower. Cut into 4 even sections or smaller sections if using a blender. Place cauliflower in food processor or blender and pulse until cauliflower is the size of rice. For the recipe above, you will use the cauliflower rice raw. If you want to use it in place of cooked rice, just place rice in steamer basket and cook for 5-6 minutes until tender.
  1. Wash, cut off the tops and hull the green peppers – place in baking dish
  2. Beat eggs w/spices, add raw riced cauliflower, diced green pepper tops and ground meat of choice.
  3. Fill the green peppers with the mixture and pour the marinara sauce over top.
  4. Bake uncovered at 350 for 80-90 minutes. I recommend pulling ou tthe peppers 3-4 times through the cooking process to spoon sauce over the tops. I also make a cut in the top of the peppers with my spoon and push some of the sauce into the mixture. This keeps the mixture from bedrycoming dry as it bakes.

Chicken Noodle Soup

gluten free / dairy free / grain free option

Since we seem to be firmly back in the winter season (WTF…it’s April people!!!) I mournfully decided to continue on my journey with soups. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE soups but I am pretty ready to move on to warmer weather recipes. Unfortunately, the cold/flu season is still in full effect at my house (I am sniffling as I type) so soups are always a great way to fight a cold. As a kid, there was nothing better when I had a cold than my mom’s chicken noodle soup. It’s made from scratch with a rich and hearty stock but is still simple to throw together. Which is key when you have sick kiddos who want to snuggle. It also makes a big pot so you can freeze some for the next round of colds that hit your house. Enjoy!! nom nom

1 (3 ½-4 #) organic whole fryer chicken

8-10 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/2 tsp dried basil

1 TBS fresh parsley or ½ TBS dried parsley

¼ tsp celery salt

¼ tsp garlic powder

1 bay leaf

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

4 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup noodles; I prefer Tinkyada noodles; but if you don’t need GF noodles egg noodles are what the original recipe calls for. (see side note below on prep for GF noodles)

 

  1. Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Cook for 1 ½ hours on medium low-medium heat or until chicken is tender.
  2. Remove chicken and discard the bay leave. Allow chicken to cool, remove meat from bone, dice and set aside.
  3. Bring chicken broth to a boil, add carrots and onion. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
  4. Add meat and noodles and simmer an additional 15 minutes

Side Note: If you are using GF noodles do not add them to the soup in step 4. Gluten free noodles tend drink up all the liquid in soups leaving you with little to no broth and they turn your soup into a thick stew (I learned this the hard way). If you do add the GF noodles in at Step 4 you will have to add chicken broth to your soup for subsequent servings but that will water down the flavor of the soup. So, just prepare your GF noodles seperately and add them to your individual serving of soup.

 

 

Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

gluten free / dairy free option / vegetarian option

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 4-6 hours

Another fantastic (easy) weeknight meal using the slow cooker. This soup is a favorite of both of my kids so don’t be afraid of the dry sherry and the cayenne in this recipe. But if spice is a big NO NO in your fam just do a dash of cayenne to start.  My daughter is a traditionalist and pairs this with a grilled cheese. My son who is not a fan of cheese usually has crackers or buttered toast as his accoutrement and my hubby and I either do a big salad or open faced sandwiches.  This soup would also go well with the Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches I made last week. Whatever path you take you are sure to love this soup and you will have plenty for lunches throughout the week. Enoy!! nom nom

2 TBS unsalted butter or vegan butter

3 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved

1 onion, minced

1 TBS brown sugar, coconut palm sugar/sucanat are great unrefined options

1 TBS tomato paste

salt and pepper

2 TBS GF all purpose flour; rice flour will work as well

3 cups chicken broth; vegetable broth if vegetarian

2 bay leaves

2-3 ounces of goat cheese, 1/2 cup non-dairy creamer or blended silken tofu

1/2 TBS – 1 TBS dry sherry

pinch of cayenne

  1. Melt butter in skillet over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, onion, sugar, paste, 1/2 tsp salt and cook until tomatoes are dry and lightly browned 10-15 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly, whisk in one cup of broth, scraping up the browned bits; transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Stir in remaining broth, reserved tomato juice, and bay leaves into cooker. Cover and cook 4-6 hours on low. Note: Due to timing issues I have cooked this for 8 hours on low and it was perfectly fine!
  4. Turn slow cooker to Warm setting. Discard bay leaves. Puree soup with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender then back to the crockpot. Stir in dairy, dry sherry and cayenne pepper.

 

 

Mushroom and Brie Soup

gluten free /  vegetarian

To go along with the lavender cookies and my spring theme this week, I wanted to make a spring soup that was rich enough to warm up the cold spring days yet light enough to serve with a sunny day brunch. I stumbled upon this recipe via the blog Closet Cooking. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe so feel free to check out his blog for the original! Enjoy!! nom nom

Adapted from Closet Cooking

2 cloves of garlic, minced

8 oz portabello mushrooms, bottoms cleaned, chopped

8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, diced

1 tsp thyme, dried

4 cups of vegetable broth; chicken broth works too

2 TBS GF flour; all purpose or rice flour will both work

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 TBS oil

5-6 oz brie, rind removed, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 TBS butter

1/2 cup Silken tofu; blended (see #7 side note)

1/2 cup white wine

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Spread the mushrooms in a single layer on baking sheet, drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Roast in oven unti they begin to carmelize 25-30 minutes, tossing once halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a pot over medium heat and melt butter. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about one minute
  4. Add the flour and stir constantly for one minute.
  5. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Stir almost constantly until the liquid thickens a bit
  6. Add the broth and mushrooms, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  7. While the soup simmers, blend the sliken tofu in a blender or food processor until it is thick and creamy. Side note: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Unfortunately, dairy is troublesome for us and since it already called for the brie (which is what makes this soup great) I wanted to eliminate the cream to make it not only more gut friendly for us but to also make it healthier. So feel free to put the heavy cream back in, but I promise you won’t miss it!
  8. Add the blended silken tofu and brie. Stir unti the brie and tofu are melted and blended into the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Puree using an immersion blender or food processor until desired consistency is reached. I like to puree mine until its slightly thicker but still leaves good pieces of mushrooms.

Slow Cooker Option: Follow steps 1-4. place everything in slow cooker except brie and silken tofu. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Add the brie and tofu, stir until brie is melted and tofu is blended in. Turn slow cooker to warm and puree.

Lavender Cookies

Spring is officially here! And that means crazy indecisive weather that in one breath makes you put on your parka and rain boots, grab your shovel with one hand and your umbrella with the other. Those days are punctuated by beautiful sun filled days where you throw open your windows, smile and run with (or without) your kids to the nearest park. For me, there is also a dramatic increase in the amount of socializing or entertaining once spring arrives. Mostly because with two young kids we spend most of the winter months huddled in our houses battling one illness or another or waiting out the current snow storm.  But also because for this foodie spring also screams BRUNCH! Mimosas, quiches, fresh fruit and beautifully light and delicate desserts like these lavender cookies. This recipe came from my mom by way of the Herb Society she belongs to. They are buttery soft with a lovely undertone of lavender. They are perfect for bridal showers, baby showers or just brunch with friends! Oh, and they are SO good I recommend doubling the recipe! Enjoy!! nom nom

2 cubes of softened butter

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 egg

1 tsp of grated fresh lemon zest

1/4 cup culinary lavender buds

pinch of salt

2 cups GF all purpose flour; I am still perfecting my all purpose blend so I used King Arthur’s GF all purpose flour.

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix butter, sugar and egg with mixer on medium speed. Add dry ingredients and stir to make very stiff batter.
  3. Drop by the spoonful onto parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes until cookies are slightly brown around the edges. They are best if slightly underbaked. Let cool for a few minutes then move to wire rack to cool completely.