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coconut yogurt & gRAWnola

I had a 90 minute run on the agenda for this morning, so I whipped up another version of my tropical smoothie for a pre-workout snack.

Tropical Smoothie – V2

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • squirt of agave

This version was great!  Check out the chunks of strawberries and coconut butter in there!

I ran 9.5 miles in 90 minutes for my weekly long run in about 10°F weather!  I came home to a post-workout smoothie!

Chocolate PB Banana Protein Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp hemp protein powder
  • 1 tbsp ground flax

Blended to perfection!

Crazy Richards produces Krema PB as well, so I received some samples of this too!  It tasted just like the Crazy Richards Smooth PB.  It’s great!  I poured it right into my mix.

This guy was thick, but delicious!

I cooked up a storm last night – coconut yogurt and raw granola!  I was too exhausted to get the cookies in!  I have been trying to stay away from all dairy for the past week (since last friday, exactly) for experimentation.  I love yogurt, so I have been trying to find alternatives.  I don’t like soy yogurt, so I decided to try the new coconut milk yogurt that they have in stores, and I like it.  I like the milk, yogurt and ice cream!  So, I decided to try to make my own coconut milk yogurt!

I used the same steps as my last yogurt, but just used coconut milk instead of regular milk!

I started with 3 cans of full-fat coconut milk and added in 3 tablespoons of tapioca starch.  I was reading about how to make coconut milk yogurt and multiple people suggested to add it for thickness and texture.  Since I had some in my cabinet, I decided to do so.  We’ll see how it turns out!

I heated the milk to 180°F.

Then, I took the milk off of the heat and allowed it to cool to 110°F.  The milk is thick!  I’m not sure I needed that tapioca starch…

After cooling, I added 1 tablespoon of the plain store bought coconut milk yogurt as my starter.  I whisked that in until mixed.

I then poured my mixture into a pitcher and then into the 7 individual yogurt containers.

I plugged in my yogurt maker and set the timer for 12 hours, which is the suggested cooking time for coconut milk.  It will be done in the morning!

While that was cooking (it will be cooking overnight!), I started to work on my granola!  I started by zesting my orange and adding that to my food processor, along with the orange juice and pear.  I pulsed until coarsely chopped.

I had been soaking my almonds and macadamia nuts for about 3 hours, so I chopped each of them in the food processor individually, then added them to the pear mixture.

I mixed up some agave, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and vanilla in a separate bowl and then poured it onto my nut + fruit mixture.

I then stirred in my extras!  Chopped dried bananas, unsweetened dried cranberries, coconut, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

Since my dehydrator is too small for a job like this, I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread my granola mixture onto that.

I then put it in my oven on it’s lowest setting of 175°F, with the door slightly ajar and “baked” it for a long time – almost 5 hours.  Or, if you don’t care about the granola being raw, then bake it in your oven at 300°F for 1-2 hours.  Make sure you take it out and stir it around every once in awhile.

gRAWnola

adapted from the Fitnessista!

  • 1 pear, roughly chopped
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 cup raw agave
  • 1/4 cup pure grade A maple syrup
  • 1 T orange zest
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 cups soaked raw almonds
  • 1 cup soaked raw macadamia nuts
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds (i used 3/4 cup + 1/4 cup sunflower seeds)
  • 1 banana, diced – i used 3 dried, unsweetened bananas
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (added to original recipe)

Directions:

  1. Soak the almonds and macadamia nuts for a few hours before using.
  2. In a food processor, combine the pear, orange juice and zest, and pulse until coarsely chopped then move to a separate bowl.
  3. Add the macadamia nuts to the (empty) food processor and pulse to chop a little bit and add them to the pear mixture.
  4. Repeat for the almonds.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the agave, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  6. Add this to the nut + fruit mixture and mix very well.
  7. Stir in your extras – chopped dried bananas, dried cranberries, coconut, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  8. Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet in an even layer (or use a dehydrator).
  9. Bake (dehydrated) in your oven at the lowest temperature with the door ajar for about 6 hours (dehydrating will take longer).  Or cook at 300°F for 1-2 hours.
  10. After it is ‘cooked’, let sit for a little while to cool before storing in an airtight container.
  11. Serve with your homemade coconut yogurt!

The granola came out great!  I got impatient because I was ready for bed, so I turned up the heat in my oven for the last 30 minutes.  This browned the granola nicely!

It made a ton of granola!  A huge bowl full!

Speaking of yogurt, mine is done!  12 hours later, and 3 hours in the fridge to chill and it is the perfect thickness and texture.

My granola is also done, so I mixed up a bowl of coconut milk yogurt with about 1/a cup of my gRAWnola.  YUM.

The yogurt is definitely not something I could eat everyday, but it is perfect for a sweet breakfast or dessert!

quinoa stew and macaroons

My yogurt maker made delicious yogurt!  I’ll post towards the end of the week with some ideas and uses for it. 🙂

It was Day 2 of my weight training today, so I worked out my Legs & Abs.

5 minute warmup – jumping jacks

Legs

  • Lunge & Lift – 3 sets of 12
  • Stability Ball hamstring curl – 3 sets of 12
  • Mountain Climbers – 1 minute
  • Calf Raises with 10 lb weights – 3 sets of 12
  • Squat jumps – 1 minute
  • Deadlifts with 10 lb weights – 3 sets of 12
  • Step-ups with 10 lb weights – 3 sets of 12
  • Burpees – 1 minute
  • Leg lifts – 2 sets of 12

Abs

  • Crunches – 3 sets of 15
  • Reverse Crunches – 3 sets of 15
  • Bicycles – 3 sets of 20
  • Frogs – 3 sets of 10
  • V-ups – 3 sets of 10

5 minute cooldown – jumprope

Tough workout tonight, my legs were burning during those squat jumps and burpees!  I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow, but it was worth it!

Then, it was time for dinner and baking!

Tonight on the menu was our favorite – quinoa!  You probably think that we eat quinoa all the time.  Well, we do!  It is a delicious grain (actually, it’s a seed) and it pairs nicely with any type of vegetable.  Quinoa is about 15% protein, which is very high for a grain, so we rarely eat much other protein with it.

We used a recipe out of one of the Moosewood Cookbooks tonight.  These cookbooks are great, especially for vegetarians.  They make all sorts of delicious recipes.

Quinoa cooks like a couscous does, very quickly.  I started dinner by rinsing 3/4 cup of quinoa (it is important to rinse the quinoa because the seed produces a natural coat to protect itself from insects and you want to rinse this bitter coat off) and placing it in a pan with twice as much water to boil.  Once it boils, you just reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.  A few minutes before the quinoa was cooked, I added some corn to the mix.

Meanwhile, I chopped up my veggies: garlic, onion, green pepper, zucchini, summer squash and tomatoes.

Add the onions and garlic to a pan heated with olive oil and cook until tender.  Then, add the pepper, zucchini and squash and cook until a little browned, 5-10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes along with 2 cans of diced tomatoes and a tablespoon of thyme and cover, simmering until the veggies are all tender.  Then add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.  We like our food a little on the spicy side, so I added extra pepper flakes!

Serve the stew over a scoop of the quinoa mixture!  The quinoa really works nicely with the stew.  It is a much lighter dish that it would be with a rice.  Delicious!

Quinoa with Vegetable Stew

adapted from Moosewood Restaurants Low-Fat Favorites

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 summer squash, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa and add to pan with water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender and fluffy.
  2. When quinoa has cooked for about 10 minutes, stir in the corn, and continue to cook.
  3. Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until the onions soften.
  4. Add the pepper, zucchini and squash; cook until slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes and thyme.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until veggies are tender.
  6. Add red pepper flakes, then salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Fluff the quinoa mixture, spoon it onto individual serving plates and ladle on the vegetable stew.

Nutrition Facts: About 300 calories per serving.  9.2 grams of protein and 6.5 grams of fat.

My dessert creation of the night were some delicious Almond Coconut Macaroons and Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons!  We are having some friends over for dinner this week, so I needed to try some things out.  I can’t serve just any old thing to my guests. 🙂

I got this recipe from another foodie’s blog and they came out perfectly.  Plenty of almond and coconut flavor.  I added extra sun-grained chocolate chips to the chocolate ones which makes them much more chocolaty and sinful!

I buy my raw almonds and raw coconut whole because you get more bang for your buck, so my first task was to chop them all up.  I ground up the almonds in my food processor until they were almost to a flour-like texture.  I did the same with the coconut, but made sure it had more texture.

Once chopped, I mixed all of my ingredients together and formed them into ice-cream scoop sized balls.  These are supposed to be placed in a dehydrator, but mine isn’t large enough, so instead I turned my oven on to 170°F (the lowest it will go) and “cooked” them for about 4 hours.

Almond Coconut Macaroons

borrowed from Joggerslife.com

makes 9 macaroons

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Raw Almonds, ground (flour-style)
  • 1 Cup Raw Ground Coconut
  • 2 Medjool Dates, spun in food processor
  • 1/8 Cup Raw Agave Nectar
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Almond Extract

Double Chocolate Almond Coconut Macaroons

borrowed from Joggerslife.com

makes 9 macaroons

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Raw Almonds, ground (flour-style)
  • 1 Cup Raw Ground Coconut
  • 2 Medjool Dates, spun in food processor
  • 1/8 Cup Raw Agave Nectar
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Almond Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Sun-Grained Chocolate Chips

Directions for both recipes:

  1. Preheat oven to 170°F. (or use a dehydrator at 105°F for 6-8 hours)
  2. Combine all ingredients.  You’ll know it’s perfect when everything sticks together easily.
  3. Form batter into round balls, and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  4. Allow to stay in oven for 3-4 hours, or until macaroons are firm to the touch. (mine took 4 hours)

These babies are so good.  I could eat them all day long!  They would be great topped with a little almond butter, or even broken up over some coconut ice cream!

I will be making these for family and friends in the very near future!  They just might be the 2010 Christmas cookies!  By then, maybe I’ll have a bigger dehydrator. 🙂

heathier takeout

Takeout is a normal nightly routine for a lot of people these days, with people having less and less time to cook healthy meals for themselves and their families!  In the past, it has received a bad reputation because there were not many healthier options.  However, today you can pretty much get anything you want!

After spending a weekend in NH, the last thing we wanted to do when we got home was cook dinner!  We arrived home around 7pm last night and decided to go for takeout instead.

Living in a city, there are so many takeout options, that sometimes I get very overwhelmed!  We always just seem to go for pizza!  The fact that it is cheap and easy to pick up is a definite plus!  My thought is that if I am going to spend $40+ on a dinner, then I am going to eat it at the restaurant and enjoy the atmosphere.  So, pizza it was for us last night!  Many people believe that pizza is not good for you, but like I have said many times before – I believe that anything in moderation is ok!

I absolutely love pizza.  I love the dough and sauce and cheese…but, I always try to add veggies for something more nutritious.

5+ years ago, I would have ordered a large pizza and eaten 3-4 slices no problem!  But, now, I try to fill up on other good-for-you things so that I will not just scarf down the delicious pizza and feel sick afterwards!  Instead of just ordering a large pizza, my husband and I make a healthier decision and order a small pizza with a garden salad.  This way, we fill up on the greens so that we don’t overdue it on the pizza.  By ordering a small, instead of a large pizza, there is also less temptation for overindulging.  I think it is a smart choice!

Sidewalk Cafe Pizza and Salad:

This was the Alfreso: White pizza with ricotta and mozarrella cheese topped with tomatoes and a garden salad.  I definitely ate 2 more small slices after that!

Our pizza of choice for the evening did not include many veggies, but it is one of our favorites that we only get every so often!  Plus, the delicious salad (which I topped with pomegranate seeds!) gave us more than enough veggies for the meal!

To get some more antioxidants, I had a virgin cocktail of sparkling water and a splash of pomegranate juice straight from a pomegranate!

And, for dessert (which I can never give up!) I had 2 chocolate covered snowballs!

Delicious and nutritious takeout dinner!

nutty for coconut

I was just doing some research, for my own personal benefit, and came across all of these tremendous health benefits of coconut!  I absolutely love coconut – the coconut meat, water, oil – everything about it!  And, it is all good for you!  Many people try to stay away from coconut (and do the same thing with nut butters!) because of the high fat content, however, those people are missing out on the super health benefits that this fruit (and all of it’s parts) have.

I have read about the benefits of coconut before, during my marathon training, because I had seen coconut water in the grocery store and wanted a healthier alternative to boost my electrolytes (instead of drinking gatorade) after my long runs.  I now drink coconut water multiple times per week just because I love it!

I was interested in more research on other parts of the coconut, so I began again…

I found a great website, Coconut Research Center, which highlights the importance of coconut in a diet, as well as, for medical purposes.  I read through their list of health benefits, and have included a list of 10 highlights (or benefits that stuck out to me!):

  • Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
  • Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
  • Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
  • Supports tissue healing and repair.
  • Supports and aids immune system function.
  • Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
  • Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
  • Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
  • Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.

Why wouldn’t you want to eat and/or drink something that has such amazing health benefits?!

When I embarked on my healthy eating adventure, I completely replaced all bad oils in my pantry with healthier oils, such as coconut oil.  Therefore, when a recipe calls for a different type of oil, I reach for my favorite resource, Super Natural Cooking, and try to find a healthier fat to use in it’s place.  In most baking recipes, I substitute coconut oil for canola or vegetable oil.  Canola and vegetable oil are not bad to use, but coconut oil provides many more benefits to your health, and is a healthier fat.  You will see that I did not do this for all of my holiday baking!

I could go on and on with all of the articles and websites that I have read about coconut, but instead I leave you with some interesting articles on the benefits of coconut:

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Coconut Oil, Healthy Living Magazine’s Interview with Bruce Fife, CN, ND.

The Fat That Can Make You Thin, by Bruce Fife, CN, ND.

Coconut Oil, by Raymond Peat, PhD


vegan treats

I am not a vegan, nor am I a vegetarian…but, I do stay away from red meat (personal preference) and don’t eat too much other meat.  I love grains and beans and veggies and fruit!  I also love sweets, so when I found a few blogs with numerous recipes for vegan sweets, I decided to try some out!  It seemed like the perfect time, being the holiday season and all.

These are the types of recipes that I love because they are made with minimal, healthier ingredients.  I am not saying that all of the ingredients in these recipes are healthy, but they are healthier than normal sweets can be (so you don’t have to feel as guilty when you induldge)!

(recipes borrowed from LoveVeggiesandYoga.com)


Vegan Peanut Butter Cups

makes 2 huge PB Cups (next time I will make mini’s)

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (they recommended baking chocolate, but I have lots of dark chocolate bars on hand that I used).
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • small handful chopped unsalted peanuts
  • optional: dash of vanilla (or agave)

Chocolate & PB

Directions:

  • Melt 3 ounces of chocolate (in microwave or stovetop).

ready to melt...

  • Pour chocolate evenly into 2 muffin liners and place in fridge or freezer to harden a little.

melted chocolate in muffin liners

  • In the meantime, mix 2 tablespoons of PB, peanuts (or just use crunchy PB – we were out!) and vanilla in a small bowl.  I popped it in the micro for 15 seconds to make it more easily blendable.

PB, peanuts and vanilla after 15 seconds in micro

  • Take muffin liners with chocolate out of the fridge and place a scoop of PB mixture into each.

scoop PB mixture onto hardened chocolate

  • Melt remaining chocolate and pour over the PB.

making a mess with melted chocolate!

smooth out a little after pouring over PB

  • Refrigerate until hardened (I put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes).

waiting to be eaten in the freezer!

ready to eat!

with muffin liner off - check out those ridges!

  • YUM!  So rich and chocolatey – delicious!

showing off the PB filling!

These were delicious!  Next time I would make the PB cups in the mini muffin liners, because these were too big and rich for me to eat in one sitting.  After licking all that chocolate off of my fingers while making these babies, I could only get myself to eat a few bites of this.  Mini PB cups would be awesome!

Next up:

Vegan Chocolate Coconut Snowballs

makes 12-15 snowballs

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups shredded coconut
  • 3/4 c maple syrup or agave
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • Dash Vanilla Extract
  • Optional: 1/4 c coconut oil

Ingredients for Snowballs

unsweetened coconut

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix by hand.

before mixing

after mixing

  • Roll into tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet.

ready for freezing

snowballs!

  • Place in freezer until hard, about 1 hour.

hardened and ready for eating!

  • Eat and enjoy!

YUM YUM YUM!  These snowballs were to die for…I will seriously have these on hand in my freezer all the time!  And, they were so simple to make!