The Best Protein Bars

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Well, the 4th of July is over. Time to get back to decent eating habits again, right?! I might have had my share of BBQ, potato laden sides and bread… and ice cream… and whatever else that was there! Now I feel bloated and sluggish, but I had a good time with family so it was worth it.

Now that it’s back to work and the hectic schedule I like to have grab and go breakfasts and snacks. Something I can easily toss into my purse and eat in the car or quickly on a break. My preferences for this is something that does not need to be refrigerated or heated up. Something quick and easy to eat that will also satisfy my hunger.

Enter homemade protein bars! I used to buy protein bars out of convenience, but I was usually dismayed by either the ingredients, the taste, the price or all of the above. A lot of times they would taste chalky or chemical-y and I usually didn’t like the ingredient list.  Then one day I had this ah-ha moment! I concluded that surely I could make my own protein bars with ingredients I am comfortable with AND that taste good. These are chewy, chocolate-y and filling. Yesss!!

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So what about the protein powder? I personally use 2 polar opposite types: Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder in the Vanilla Bean flavor. It’s organic, non-GMO, vegan and derived from pea protein. The vanilla bean flavor makes for a good neutral base. The other protein powder I use that is my all time favorite is Redcon1 MRE Lite Protein Powder It is a whole food based protein powder that is whey/lactose free and is low carb (not vegetarian friendly). They have multiple flavors, but for these protein bars I typically use their Banana Nut Bread flavor. I vary between the 2 brands depending on if I am sharing with others or not. Due to having some vegetarian/vegan friends I will use the Orgain protein powder if sharing. If it is just myself I will use the Redcon1 protein powder.

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These protein bars are super versatile and can be tailored to your diet preferences. Dairy free? Use almond milk, oat milk or whatever “milk” you would like to use. Nut allergy? Use sunflower butter instead of a nut butter. Don’t want to use honey? Use pure maple syrup. I have tried many variations and they all turned out awesome! Also, the flavor of protein powder plays a big role. Vanilla is always a good base to start with. Trying other protein flavors (such as the banana nut bread) makes it fun and brings variety.

You can see in the pictures there are lighter looking bars and darker bars. The lighter bars I used the Orgain vanilla bean protein powder and vegetarian ingredients. The pictures of the darker bars I used the Redcon1 banana nut bread protein powder and the ingredients listed below in my recipe. Both versions are equally delicious!

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Below I will share the recipe on my favorite version of these protein bars.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare an 8×8 pyrex dish by spraying it with cooking spray or greasing it well with coconut oil. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, protein powder, ground flax, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix until fully combined. Pour the peanut butter mix into dry oat mix and stir until fully combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Pour into prepared pyrex dish. Use parchment paper to cover mixture and press down evenly and firmly into dish. (This saves your hands from sticking to the mixture).
  5. Bake for approximately 18 minutes or until edges begin to turn light golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool in the pyrex dish for at least 30 minutes before cutting into 9 squares.
  7. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

*Use Orgain protein powder is vegan/vegetarian

**Use nut butter of choice or sunflower butter if you have a nut allergy

***Use pure maple syrup or brown rice syrup if vegan/vegetarian

****Use any non-dairy milk of choice if lactose intolerant or vegan/vegetarian

*****Use dairy free chocolate chips such as Enjoy Life brand if vegan/vegetarian

Please let me know if you try these lovely protein bars out. They are the perfect grab and go breakfast or snack. I would love to hear other peoples variations too!

 

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Roasted Veggies with Lemon Garlic Orzo

 

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Do you like vegetables? I’ve had a love/hate relationship with them for most of my life. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s before I realized you could make vegetables taste good based on how you prepared them. Except broccoli – broccoli is still my arch nemesis. That little crusty tree will not be be found in my house unless it is blended up and masked in a green smoothie that someone else has bottled and prepared for me! Bleh! Now, with that being said I think broccoli has awesome nutrients and is very beneficial for you. I just have to have mine hidden in a green smoothie of sorts 🙂

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Now, back to the yummy veggie talk! I like to season and roast vegetables or saute them. In this particular recipe I chop them all up and roast them with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. Another tid bit of info about me: I don’t like fresh tomatoes, but I like them prepared any other way. Roasted, cooked, stewed, sun dried, fried, you name it! Just not fresh. Weird, right?

Now to the good part. After the veggies have roasted you’re going to prepare some orzo. First, you are going to lightly toast the orzo in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Then you are going to add in some vegetable stock. Cover and simmer until the orzo is tender. Once tender remove from heat and set aside.

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While the orzo cooks you are going to prepare and simple dressing of olive oil, lemon and garlic.

After the orzo has finished cooking and the dressing has been prepared – take the roasted veggies and mix in with the orzo. Add in the dressing and feta and top with fresh basil. Easy Peas-y!

This dish works great as the main course or as a side dish. Personally I like to have it as it is for lunch or as a side at dinner with some baked fish.

 

Ingredients

For the Orzo and Veggies:

  • 1/3 Cup slivered or sliced almonds
  • 1.5 Cup button mushrooms sliced
  • 1 Cup mix of red, yellow and orange baby bell peppers, de-seeded and diced 
  • 12oz fresh green beans cut into 1 inch pieces 
  • 12oz cherry tomatoes cut in 1/2
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 Cup shallot, chopped
  • 3T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Cup orzo
  • 1.5 Cup vegetable broth 
  • 1/2 Cup feta, crumbled

For the Dressing:

For the Garnish:

  • 2-3T chopped fresh basil

Directions

Roast the Veggies:

  • Pre-heat oven to 425F. Line 1-2 two sheet pans with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lightly spray or coat with extra virgin olive oil. Place the chopped and/or diced mushrooms, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes and shallot on one pan. Sprinkle with 2 Tbs of olive oil and the 2 tsp of minced garlic. Using a spatula, mix all the veggies together with the olive oil and minced garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper then stir again. Move half of the veggie mixture to the other sheet pan (if 2nd sheet pan is needed). Spread the veggies in one layer, making sure there’s no overlapping on both pans. Roast in oven at 425F for 35-40 minutes. Some possible charring is fine (and yummy). Rotate pans half way through roasting to ensure evenness. Keep an eye on the veggies – due to variants in ovens and how thick the veggies are chopped/diced – cooking times may vary.

Cook the Orzo:

  • In a large saute pan, heat 1T of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat until simmering. Add the orzo and stir, coating the orzo thoroughly. Stir occasionally for about 3 minutes or until the orzo is toasty and lightly golden. Add the vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer, turn down the heat to low and cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Make the Dressing:

  • In a small bowl add the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

Put it Together:

  • In the large pan that the orzo is in, add the roasted veggies, stir in the dressing, feta, and almonds. Garnish with basil. Serve immediately and enjoy! Leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge.

Buttermilk Ranch Seasoning

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So, my kids have a thing about ranch. Ranch dressing, ranch seasoning, ranch everything! I used to buy the packets of ranch seasoning from the store, but after becoming more aware of ingredients and additives I decided I’d try and make my own.

 Well, to my surprise this was super easy AND tasted way better! Also, it’s cheaper to make my own. This was a win all around. Best of all my kids love it! My youngest one will sneak to get some of this seasoning, dip her finger in it and eat it that way. Don’t worry, we don’t share her personal stash with others (lol).

We use this seasoning mix mainly on: Popcorn, pork chops and roasted veggies, but the possibilities are endless! I’m super tempted to sprinkle some of this on a healthified (that’s a word, right?) pizza. Back in high school and college I remember we would dip pizza into ranch dressing. Even tacos we would dip in ranch. Terrible, right?! But, oh so good 🙂

Buttermilk Ranch Seasoning

Directions:

Throw all of the ingredients into a food processor and process for a minute to make sure everything is incorporated well. Feel free to mix it up with a fork or whisk if you do not have a food processor. Store mix in an airtight container and refrigerate after use. Enjoy!

Well, Hello!

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Thanks for stopping by to check out my blog!

This little space of the internet is where I hope to share my healthy, yet delicious recipes with you! My passion is living a healthy life and fueling our bodies with undercover noms (aka: delicious, healthy foods).

But first, I want to give a little background into myself and how I ended up being food conscious. I suffer from PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). This is an endocrine disorder that totally throws your body and mind out of whack. Currently there is no cure, nor specific medicine specifically for this. A couple of symptoms of PCOS is weight gain/obesity and insulin resistance/diabetes. There are many more symptoms, but these are the biggies that I want to talk about.

I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase, “if I just look at food I gain weight”! Well, for us PCOS sufferers this is legit. Ok, maybe not just looking a food will make us gain weight, but due a lot of us having insulin resistance it makes it extremely hard to lose weight. Also, for added fun it makes it really easy for us to gain weight (insert a big eye roll and a sigh here!).

Let’s backup about 5-6 years. I was overweight, extremely tired and all of my symptoms were full blown. Treatments the doctor was offering weren’t helping me. I decided to change my diet and to start working out regularly. I lost 50lbs and was in my healthy weight range for the first time in adulthood. My symptoms started to disappear as well. I then had this ah-ha moment. The food I was eating helped put my symptoms into remission!

Now, I have fined tuned what works best for my body. Due to having higher levels of inflammation than most and a sensitivity to insulin – I try not consume refined sugar and I tend to eat mostly gluten free grains. If I eat a huge glazed donut and wash it down with a sugary iced coffee I will feel the regret almost immediately. So, I try to abstain from the refined sugar and flours. Which, is easier than it may sound 😉

Follow along with me for healthy twists on desserts and traditional comfort foods that have an emphasis on being refined flour and refine sugar free!