NO-BAKE BANANA NUT PROTEIN BARS

In the midst of marathon training and exploring the hiking trails of New England, I am always looking for a small portable snack that will fuel my active lifestyle. Most of the granola bars that you buy from the store are filled with mostly sugar, leading to a short spike in energy followed by an abrupt crash. Why buy bars with a ton of unknown ingredients when you can make them yourself?

This is my first recipe using dates, which is similar to a raisin and helps bind together the bars and provide the sweetness. They are easy to spot at trader joe’s in the nuts/dried fruit section. Everything else you most likely have already in your kitchen. Recipe and pictures are courtesy of hummasapien. I originally found this recipe from the Greatist e-mail subscription, that sends me healthy. easy recipes, lifestyle tips and fitness workouts. This one was easy DIY energy bar recipes.

 

Servings– 8

Prep time– 20 minutes

Freezer time– 2 hours

Ingredients

    • 9 large dates (make sure you take the pits out!)
    • 1 ripe medium banana
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • ½ cup walnuts
    • ½ cup almonds
    • 1 cup old fashioned oats
    • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
    • ¼ tsp cinnamon
    • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder (optional)

Directions

 

  1. Line an 8×8 inch pan with  plastic wrap and set aside. To help the parchment paper stick, you can spray the pan with cooking spray first.
  2. Blend dates, banana and vanilla in a large food processor or blender for about a minute, or until smooth. Add walnuts, almonds, ¾ cup of the oats, flaxseed, and cinnamon and blend for another minute or two, or until fairly smooth.
  3. Scrape down the sides and add in the other ¼ cup of oats and protein powder. Process for another minute or until the mixture is well combined. It will be very thick and sticky.
  4. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. With wet hands, flatten in pan until it looks fairly even throughout.
  5. Place pan in freezer for at least 2-3 hours. Remove from freezer and slice into 8 bars.
  6. Store bars in freezer–they can be eaten directly from the freezer without thawing.

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Meal Prep: Avocado and Three Bean Salad

When talking to friends, I’ve been getting requests for more lunch meal prep recipes. Whether you are looking to save money, better your nutrition, and/or make your co-workers jealous, I highly recommend these meal prep recipes to improve your work week. You can use this recipe for lunches, or if you want to bulk prep a side dish for weekly dinners. I’m personally a sucker for Mexican food (fueled by my wife’s superb Mexican cooking), especially when it incorporates avocado, tomatoes and fresh cilantro. This dish should take you no longer than 20 minutes to make.

One mistake rookie meal preppers (if that isn’t a word, it is now) make is forgetting to add a grain to their meal. I’ve heard of people bringing salads to work, and complaining they aren’t full. I highly recommend adding grains like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, etc. to help keep you full all day.

This recipe and pictures are courtesy of noblepig My mom raves about this recipe, so I finally made it today and decided it was blog worthy!

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Servings- 8

Time- 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can whole kernal corn, drained
  • 1 large orange or red bell pepper, diced
  • 12 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 large avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
  • juice of 2 limes (4 tablespoons of lime juice)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Optional- 1.5 cups dry brown rice

Directions

  1. Add the beans, corn, pepper, tomatoes, and cilantro to a large bowl.
  2. If you are making rice, boil 3 cups of water, add the 1.5 cups of brown rice once the water is boiling, turn down to low heat, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes (or until all of the water is absorbed).
  3. Add the lime juice, olive oil, and garlic to a small bowl and mix. Cut up the avocado and add to the juice. The citrus will help prevent the avocado from browning as fast.
  4. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

 

HONEY-CINNAMON BAKED PEARS

With Valentines day coming up, I’ve been experimenting with different sweets to make for my sweet wife. I’ve been cooking with a lot of Trader Joe’s raw honey, which is a much better alternative than sugar. This can be a good idea if you’re cooking for your significant other, and want a little something to help cap off the meal! This recipe and pictures are courtesy of livesimply.me

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Ingredients

  • 2 ripe pears (any variety), halved
  • ½ TB cold butter, cubed or 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • ¼ cup pecans or other nuts, finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 TB honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Spoon the seeds from the pears to create a small cavity in the flesh of the pears. Place the pear halves in a high-rimmed baking dish.
  3. Distribute the butter cubes or olive oil evenly in the cavity of each pear.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the chopped pecans/nuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon the mixture in the cavity of the pears, and on the top of the pears (if the cavities can’t hold anymore filling).
  5. Finally, drizzle the honey evenly over the pears.
  6. Bake the pears, uncovered, for 25 minutes, until they are fragrant and soft.
  7. Serve the pears warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt.

Easy Lunch Meal Prep

Sundays tend to me be on my favorite days of the week. It starts off with a feel-good mass at church, followed by some grocery shopping, a hike (weather permitting), and meal prep for the week. I usually find a new recipe to make for dinners on Sunday since I have the time to prep. For me, cooking is more than just making food. I get into a zone where I’m totally focused on the moment. It is therapeutic in a way. While I like to prepare a new dinner each night during the week, I doing as much preparation for lunches on Sunday as possible. I know a lot of people tend to bring deli sandwiches or salads for lunch, but this meal prep plan will help you make lunches that will actually keep you full (and look good too!), and fill your coworkers with envy. I base my lunch prep plan off of a Greatist article (are you surprised?), but make different variations. Remember that these are just guidelines, and you can add whatever types of grains, veggies, or dressings that you’d like.

Pictures and steps below courtesy of Greatist article

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Step 1- Hit up the grocery store

Shopping List

  • 5 cups greens: arugula, baby kale, and/or baby spinach
  • 2 cups grains: brown rice, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, and/or farro
  • 1 cup nuts or seeds: walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds, and/or cashews
  • 2 raw vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, red cabbage, broccoli and/or onions
  • 5 servings of protein of choice: chicken, salmon, tuna, and/or beans
  • (optional) 1/2 cup cheese: goat, feta, cheddar, and/or Parmesan
  • (optional) 1/3 cup dried fruit: raisins or cranberries

Dressing ingredients:

  • Option 1
    • 5 tablespoons olive oil
    • 5 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • 3 lemons (or 6 tablespoons lemon juice)
    • Sea salt, to taste
  • Option 2
    • 3/4 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Option 3
    • 4 tablespoons tahini (plus 1-2 tablespoons of water if using tahini paste)
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or juice of half a lemon)
    • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Step 2- Prep everything in 30 minutes.

Make Sunday an even more fun-day by preparing the ingredients for your bowl. Need some tips to get you going? We got you:

  • Greens: Keep ’em as is.
  • Grains: Normally the instructions are on the box, but if not. use this guide to cooking grains.
  • Nuts or seeds: Chop ’em up. If you have time, roast them in a pan for 10 minutes on medium heat
  • Raw vegetables: Chop into small bits.
  • Proteins: We recommend canned chicken, tuna, or salmon, since these stay fresher longer, and you can drop them into your jar in the mornings. But if you’re cooking, here are the best ways to cook chicken and salmon.
  • Cheese: Crumble it.
  • Dried fruit: Chop into bite-size pieces.
  • Dressing: Combine 5 tablespoons olive oil, 5 teaspoons Dijon mustard, juice from 1/2 lemon, and sea salt to taste. Mix it up and store in a mason jar for the week.

Step 3- Build a bowl.

In each mason jar or container (five total), you’re going to add your ingredients in the same order they are listed below. When you’re done, seal each mason jar with a lid and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

1/4 cups grains
1 cup greens
1/5 raw vegetables
1 tablespoon cheese
1 tablespoon dried fruit
2 tablespoon nuts
1 serving protein of choice (or add each morning for freshness)

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of dressing on top in the morning.

 

Delicious Turkey Meatballs

Buon giorno (Italian for Good Morning). Growing up I was extremely lucky to have parents that are great cooks. My mom spoiled us with many of her family Italian recipes, my favorite being her meat balls. It was and still is a comfort food for me, and is actually really easy to make. I’ve been using ground turkey at home, because of its leanness and tenderness. The key to the flavor is to let the meatballs cook in the sauce, absorbing all of its goodness. Buon appetito!

Picture courtesy of skinnytaste.com

Time- 30-35 minutes (depending on the thickness of your meatballs)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey (makes about 12 meatballs)
  • 1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, or 2 15 ounce cans (no salt added)
  • 1 handful of fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons
  • 1 package whole wheat pasta (or 1 spiraled zucchini for zoodles)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs or blended oats
  • 1/2 red onion diced

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven for 350 degrees. Spray down a cooking sheet with cooking spray
  2. Put a small or medium sauce pan on a burner with medium heat. Add 1/3 cup olive oil.
  3. Wait a few minutes for the oil to heat up. Add diced onions and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Let them heat up for about 3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the cans of diced tomatoes to the sauce pan. Chop up the fresh basil into small pieces, add basil and oregano to sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce to low heat.
  5. Add ground turkey, 1 tablespoon garlic, bread crumbs or blended oats (put 1/4 cup of oats in a blender and blend until smooth), 1 egg, salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon oregano, basil, 2 tablespoons olive oil and any other spices you’d like to add
  6. Now the fun part. Make sure you wash your hands. Mix together the meat with your hands, and form 10-12 medium size meatballs. You can place mozzarella in the middle if you’d like!
  7. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, and then place them in the sauce for the remaining 10-15 minutes.
  8. Boil a pot of water, add a few shakes of salt to the water, and boil pasta for 8-10 minutes. Before straining, save 1/3 cup of the pasta water and place into your sauce. The starch from the pasta remains in the water, so it gives your sauce extra flavor!
  9. When the pasta is done, place the cooked pasta in the red sauce, cook for an additional 2 minutes, and then serve.

Healthy Egg Breakfast Cups

Hello All! Happy 2017! I’m hoping you have had a great start to your new year and am as excited as I am for the things to come. A common concern I hear from people who don’t eat breakfast at all, or one that doesn’t fill them up, is there isn’t enough time in the morning. I’ve posted about overnight oats, which can be prepped in 5 minutes the night before, but this is another option that includes eggs and sneaks in some veggies. I also have brought this to a pot luck as a simple dish that people enjoyed. This recipe was suggested to me by my sister, and was adopted from a buzz feed article. I personally like using all of the egg, including the egg yolk, as most of the nutrients and protein are in the egg yolk. Enjoy!

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Servings- 12

Time- 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups spinach chopped up (a few handfuls)
  • Muffin tin with 12 slots
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 roma tomatoes (diced)
  • 8 eggs
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Directions

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F

2. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray, then divide equally the spinach, tomatoes, and eggs across 12 cups. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Bake for 17 minutes, or until eggs have set.

4. Serve hot.

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Homemade Hummus

Happy Sunday!

Now that I am training for my first marathon, I am always looking for ways to sneak more protein into my diet. I also want to switch up the snacks I bring to lunch, that will keep me full until I get home. Plus, I’ve been going to more pot lucks and meetings where we bring food, and sometimes it can be tough to avoid certain things like dairy and meat for those who have diet restrictions. There is one healthy dish that I’ve had a ton of luck with, since it is healthy, has a good amount of protein, and is very simple to make. I’m referring to homemade hummus! When I was in Greece last year, the hummus at restaurants was significantly tastier and more fresh than the hummus I was used to at home. For this recipe, you can use a food processor, or a blender/magic bullet. I hope you enjoy!

Time- 10 minutes

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Drain and rinse your garbanzo beans
  2. Add all of your ingredients to a blender, food processor, or magic bullet
  3. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Note if it is too thick, you can add more olive oil or add a few tablespoons of water. You can also top the hummus with some olive oil
  4. That’s it. You’re done! Serve with pita bread/chips, broccoli, peppers, carrots and/or celery.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Hello All!

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and were able to enjoy some great food with family. Going off the Thanksgiving theme, I figured I would post a recipe with my favorite carb, sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest carb out there, with a ton of essential vitamins/nutrients like Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and fiber. I have a sweet potato with my meal almost every night of the week. If you are looking to eat healthy, but miss french fries, this recipe can be a healthy alternative. I initially found this recipe on foodnetwork.com

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Servings- 4

Total Cooking Time- 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium sweet potatoes (whether or not to peel them is personal preference. A lot of the nutrients and fiber are actually in the peel, so I don’t peel them)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees

2. Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut each half into 3 long spears.

3. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil.

4. Spread the potatoes in one layer.

5. Combine the cinnamon, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes.

6. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

7. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve hot.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/baked-sweet-potato-fries-recipe.html?oc=linkback

My First Turkey

Hello all,

This is a bonus blog post. While it definitely doesn’t take less than 30 minutes to make a turkey, I enjoyed the challenge and experience enough to want to blog about it!

You’re probably wondering, why is he making a turkey when Thanksgiving isn’t for another few weeks? I’m lucky and grateful to have a great group of friends in Boston, so we held our first annual Friendsgiving! We had a great array of dishes from yams, green bean casserole, and many delicious desserts. As the hosts, my wife and I took on some of the Thanksgiving staples, the turkey and stuffing. This is the first time that I’ve had to cook a turkey, but I’m always up for a challenge. This post is meant to be an end to end guide from buying the turkey, cooking it, and cutting it. It can be the one stop shop post if you’re thinking about making your first turkey!

What You’ll Need

A turkey (about 1 pound per guest)

Roasting pan (we used a disposable aluminum one. Get one with handles!)

A turkey baster

A meat thermometer 

2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Assorted spices (we used dried rosemary, thyme, and garlic)

Olive oil

1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 1/2 half onion

A large cutting board

A sharp knife

Buying the Turkey

After doing some research online, I read that you should plan for 1 pound of turkey for each guest. We had 15 guests coming, so we went for a 15 pound turkey from Trader Joe’s. Luckily it wasn’t frozen, which can add a lot of thawing time. When we brought it home, we put it straight in the fridge for 1 day under a dish towel.

Preparing the Turkey

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Take the turkey out of the fridge about 1 hour before you plan on cooking. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of each of your favorite spices. We used rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix it together and pour on top of the turkey. It will drip nicely, but you can also use a cooking brush if you have one to completely coat it.

You will also want to cut the tie from the legs, and remove the bones on the inside. Although it seems gross at first, it winds up being pretty cool! You will also want to check out the other side of the turkey to see if there is any bag to remove.

Fill the roasting pan with 2 cups of the chicken stock. You can then chop up the onion, celery, and carrots, and place them in the roasting pan. Finally, place the turkey in the pan!

When you are ready to put the turkey in the oven, turn down the heat to 325 degrees. How long you cook it depends on the size of the turkey. Our turkey was about 15 pounds, and it cooked for 4 hours. Here is a great guide. You’ll want to time it pretty close to when you will serve the turkey so it doesn’t dry out. If you use the meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 165 degrees in the thickest part of the bird (I checked the thigh).

Cooking the Turkey

Now that the turkey is in the oven, you’ll want to baste it every 30 minutes. You’ll use your turkey baster and use the chicken broth and juice to coat the top of the turkey. This prevents it from drying out.

Once the turkey is done, and the internal temperature is 165 degrees, place the turkey on a large cutting board. You can save the juices to make a homemade gravy if you’re up for it.

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Cutting the Turkey

I found this great youtube video to learn how to cut the turkey. In a nutshell, you’ll want to cut out the wishbone, then cut off the thighs, wings, and then cut the meat off the breast. The video can do a way better job at explaining it then I could. As I mentioned, you don’t want to cut the turkey until you are ready to serve.

Most importantly, enjoy the great times with friends and family! No wonder Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays!

Photos courtesy of chowtastic.com and drivefromwithin.com

Homemade Salad Dressings

Good morning and happy Sunday! In a previous wellness tip, I talked about the benefits of making your own salad dressing at home to coat your veggies and dishes with. A lot of store brought dressings have a lot of sodium, preservatives, and other unnecessary stuff.

It takes less than 5 minutes to make the homemade dressing, and it tastes so much better! The nice thing is a lot of the recipes have the same base ingredients as well, so you only have to buy them once. I used to use an old salad dressing container, rinse it out, and put the new salad dressing in. After a month, we bought a salad dressing container at bed bath and beyond for less than $10. They are nice because they have measurements on the bottle, and some even have recipes printed on the side! The rule of thumb to follow is for every 3/4 cup of olive oil, add 1/4 cup of vinegar. Below is a great graphic from the Huffington post

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Apple cider vinaigrette- 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1tsp garlic powder, pinch of salt and pepper

Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette- Dressing- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon basil or oregano

Maple-Dijon- 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 pure maple syrup, 1/4 dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon minced garlic

Greek Vinaigrette- 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 lemon juiced, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt