Sunday, March 31, 2013

Banana Bread Protein Bars

With the explosion of recipes on Pinterest, I've been trying my hand at homemade protein bars. I have tried a few different ones like the following:

These were some good recipes. Fairly easy to make, not too many ingredients, and they tasted good. But I have to admit, I wasn't crazy about any of them. Luckily for me, I started reading the comments on each of the above sites. LOTS of other people had made them as well and they had tons of suggestions. So I started playing around with ingredients and combinations and baking versus not baking and I've come up with my new favorite protein bar recipe.

A few things you need to know first. These bars are high in sugar because of the dates and raisins. Please keep this in mind. They are not an everyday treat. You could do 2 of them in place of a meal, but once again, I wouldn't do this every day. In my opinion, these would be best immediately following a workout, but I am not an expert. This recipe makes 24 small (2 bite) bars. I'll give nutrition facts at the end. You will need a food processor to make these...a big one, not those teeny tiny ones! Also, I did parts of this in batches because it mixes better. While it is slightly annoying, it is really worth it so don't try to do it all in one batch!

Banana Bread Protein Bars
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 pound chopped pecans (you could use walnuts or almonds)
1/2 pound raisins (I used golden because that is what I had)
1 pound dates
1 cup flax seeds
3.5 ripe bananas (.5 because the other half of the 4th was gross)
3 scoops unflavored protein powder (I use plant fusion)

Preheat oven to 350. Line pan with foil and spray foil with a little oil. My pan was 8" x 11" I think.

Put oats in food processor and pulse a few times until the oats are about half their initial size. (no exact science here, they are just better when a little smaller. You could omit this step) Pour oats into another bowl.

Put pecans in food processor and pulse a few times. I actually did this in 2 batches leaving the second batch in a little bigger pieces. The size is totally your choice. Pour pecans in bowl with oats.

Add flax seeds and protein powder to oat-pecan mixture. Mix up well. 

In food processor, put 1/3 of the dates and 1/3 of the raisins. Pulse in food processor until they are chopped and starting to stick together. Put food processor on low and add 1 banana. (I just break pieces off and drop in.) Turn off. Add 1/3 of the oat-pecan mixture. Pulse several times until all mixed together. You will know it is ready when the mixture pretty much stops mixing. Dump this in your pan.

You'll do this 2 more times until all of the bananas, dates, raisins, and oat mixture are gone. My third batch had the 1.5 bananas. 

When you've got it all lumped in the pan, take a minute to kind of mix all 3 batches together. Then spread the mixture evenly in the pan. 

Bake in oven at 350 for 20 minutes. This leaves them still fairly chewy and bread-like. I would think you could bake longer and get a firmer texture. I really like them at this texture though.

When they are done cooking, use the foil liner to pull them out of the pan. This allows the bars to cool more quickly and keeps them from getting soggy. 

I initially cut them to this size, but after calculating the nutritional value, I cut each of these in half to give me 24 total bars...well, minus the ones we had to try! ;)

Nutritional Breakdown: (1 bar = 1 serving if you cut yours into 24)
Calories - 260
Total Fat - 10g
Total Carbs - 36.4g
     Dietary Fiber - 7g
     Sugars - 20g
Protein - 8g

Yeah, see why you can't have them all day every day?! They are seriously amazing though and a great post-workout treat. 

Make, enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

24 Day Challenge, Day 6 and a Recipe!

Monday's are not my friend. I know most people feel this same way so I won't elaborate any further. It was a long day, but I managed to survive. I hit the gym today since the sun was getting pretty low when we got home. I decided I'd try out the Cardio Cinema if they were playing a decent movie. Let me tell you, it is freezing in that room!!! I have now begun hating running on the treadmill but I knew I had to get my miles in. (I'm trying to run 500 miles this year. I'll tell more later) Anyway, so I ran the first mile, then did 3/4s of a mile walking at crazy inclines, then ran the last half a mile. My booty was feeling those inclines last night which means I probably need to do them more often. I'm doing a nice group run outside on Tuesday and I know it will be fun. Those crazy Mom's have ruined me for running alone or on a treadmill, but I'm not complaining!

Here is what my meal plan for Day 6 looked like and I have a recipe for you guys!

30 mins before breakfast: Probiotics and Spark
Breakfast: Small apple and banana with a little bit of natural peanut butter
 *my protein powder will be here on Day 7 and I am dying for a smoothie!!!
Snack #1: Grapes and unsalted cashews
Lunch: Mini meatloaves, quinoa, and steamed green beans
Snack #2: Banana and one of my homemade bars
Dinner: Stuffed Eggplant
Just before bed: Herbal Cleanse tablets (the biggest pills ever!)

Forever ago I was watching the Food Network and Michael Chiarello made this Stuffed Eggplant. I have been making a similar, albeit more simple, version of this ever since. Then last week I was perusing Pinterest and found this recipe for a Clean Stuffed Eggplant on the same website I found that mini meatloaves recipe. After reading the clean version, I realized it was very similar to what I was already making and that I needed to make it sometime this week. I made a few changes to each so here is my combined recipe. This will feed 4 people or more depending on if you add some sides.

Stuffed Eggplant

2 whole eggplants
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 can Glen Muir fire roasted tomatoes
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 8 oz. package mushrooms, chopped
Salt, Pepper, Cayenne
Dried oregano or basil

Preheat oven to 375. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out the middle. Be careful when you start scooping though. You want to leave enough eggplant on the sides to hold it up since this will be your "bowl". Put all the eggplant you scooped out in a small pot, cover with water, and let simmer until eggplant is soft.

***READ THIS*** Here is what I do differently. I put my eggplant halves in my casserole dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then put them in the oven while it is preheating and I am cooking the rest of the stuffing mixture. I hate my eggplant the least bit raw. This also cuts down on the time you have to cook them after they are stuffed! :)

While eggplant is cooking, brown your ground turkey in a skillet. When it is cooked through, remove from skillet. Saute your peppers, mushrooms, and onions. When onions get translucent, toss in a couple cloves of chopped fresh garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the can of tomatoes. Mix well and let cook for a few minutes. Add the cooked ground turkey back in. Drain the water off your cooked eggplant and then add this to your meat/veggie mixture. Mix well. Taste for seasoning. If it needs it, add more salt or pepper. Add a little cayenne/red pepper for heat. I really like adding in oregano or basil, whichever you have. Taste again for seasoning! (This is important)

Take your eggplants out of the oven. Be careful since your dish is hot. Scoop the meat mixture into the eggplant halves. I fill them all level first and then go back and pile more on top. For the BF, I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top of 2 of the halves. Put in the oven and back for 20ish minutes at 375.

I say 20ish because technically everything is cooked at this point. Just if you put cheese on top, don't let that burn. It isn't rocket science folks!

I always have stuffing mixture left over. Never fails. I just put it in a small casserole dish and throw it in the oven with the eggplant. (This with some quinoa is my lunch for Tuesday)

After doing it this way last night, I decided that I like the egg and breadcrumbs because it holds everything together more. For the next time, I think I'll try subbing in some ground flax seeds for the bread crumbs and egg whites to make it more like the original Michael Chiarello recipe that I like best.

Oh, and we each eat an entire eggplant half. Since I use 1 pound of meat and portion it out to 4 halves, that is only 4 ounces of meat in each half which is a normal serving. I don't know how the clean eating lady gets all that stuffing in just 2 halves, but her nutrition facts would still be pretty close if you ate one eggplant half of my recipe since you are really just getting more eggplant.

Hope you guys enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2013

24 Day Challenge, Day 5

Sunday was a super lazy day. Sadly, I woke up to know protein powder. The kind I like is supposedly sold at GNC, but shocker, not the GNC in Newnan, GA. I should have ordered it last week, but I just kept forgetting and now I'm S.O.L. in the breakfast department.

Back to why you are here. Sunday's meal plan was random. I slept in late so I ate breakfast later and since I was out of protein powder, I just combined breakfast and a snack.

Breakfast: Apple and Banana with natural PB
Lunch: Leftover meatloaves and steamed green beans
Dinner: Dijon Pork chops, green beans, squash

I didn't have snacks today. When I first started this weight loss journey, I was very regimented in my eating schedule, even on the weekends. I stuck to the AdvoCare plan exactly. Now that I've been doing this a while, I try to really listen to my body and only eat when I'm hungry. I've found that often on my lazy weekends, I'm don't always need snacks since I'm not doing as much. Days with heavier workouts lead to me eating a lot more usually.

Here is the recipe for the pork chops. She uses chicken, but you can use whatever. I did 4 chops and just did half the sauce. They were yummy!

Oh, and you might be wondering what happened to my yummy fiber drink. For the cleanse, you only drink it on days 1-3 and then days 8-10. On days 4-10, you take probiotics in the morning. Probiotics have been my lifesaver when it comes to my stomach issues. They have seriously changed my life. If you have issues, let me know. I can hook you up! :)

Happy Cleansing!