Honey Nut Apple Crisp

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with all those apples I got from apple picking a couple of weeks ago, and apple crisp was on the top of my list.  It is the quintessential Fall treat, and I feel like everyone should make it at least once every single Autumn. 

With that said, I knew I’d most likely be the only one to eat it unless I brought it somewhere to share, so I didn’t want to make a huge batch loaded with butter and sugar and end up eating it every night for two weeks.  Instead, I did a little thinking and tried to come up with something a lot healthier that could serve as breakfast, dessert, or even a snack.  I was a little nervous to alter the classic original, but I went for it, and I was really pleased with the results.  My version doesn’t taste exactly like traditional apple crisp, but it’s chewy, sweet, and delicious, plus it’s packed with good-for-you ingredients. 

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Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, medium
  • 1 lemon OR 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 c macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 c cashews
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c almond meal
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

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Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400*F
  • Peel, core, and slice apples. 
  • Layer apples in a 9”x9” baking dish.  Drizzle with the juice from the lemon or the apple cider vinegar.  (I didn’t have lemons but I realize a lot of people don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand.)

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  • Pulse macadamia nuts and cashews in a food processor until chopped into small chunks.  (If you don’t have a food processor, just put them in a bag and crush with a cup.  You can chop them as much or as little as you want, according to your tastes.) 

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  • Pour nuts into a medium mixing bowl and add in sunflower seeds and cinnamon.  (Fair warning:  I like a lot of cinnamon.  If you don’t like it as much, you should use less.)

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  • Melt honey and coconut oil and stir together.
  • Pour melted honey and oil into nuts/seeds mixture and mix until combined. 

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  • Layer mixture on top of apples, spreading evenly. 

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  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is crunchy and browned. 

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Store covered in the refrigerator.  This dish is great served warm or cold, as a breakfast, dessert, or snack.  If you want to get really wild, throw a little ice cream on top of there and go to town! 

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PWO Banana Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

First of all, let me just preface this post by saying that besides the fact that these are made with oats and raisins, they don’t taste that much like regular oatmeal raisin cookies.  I called them cookies because they look like cookies and you can grab them like cookies and they are made with the same base ingredients as oatmeal raisin cookies… but if you’re looking for sugary sweet oatmeal cookies, you might want to look elsewhere.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, if what you’re looking for is a delicious, healthy, nutrient-dense, grab-and-go snack, you’re in the right place.  And the PWO in the title stands for pre-workout because these are also perfect for that. 

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If you’re looking for a good pre-workout snack, it should break down like this:

  • Low levels of fat, as fat takes the longest to break down
  • Moderate levels of protein to increase the rate of protein synthesis and help decrease muscle breakdown
  • Good amount of carbs to increase glycogen stores and give you the energy to power through your workout

These “cookies” aren’t like eating regular cookies before you hit the gym, which will cause you to crash after the sugar wears off, but they will help fill up your energy tank and help give you the fuel to go move weight, run hard, swim fast, or dance wildly. 

Two of these cookies have about 25g carbs, 4g protein, and 3g fat.   The main sources of of the carbs – the oats and the bananas – are good clean, energy-packed sources.  The fat comes mainly from the eggs, and the little bit of honey and raisins give you some of the (natural) sugar that you need.  If you haven’t eaten in a while, you might need more than this ~135 calorie snack before you workout, but for someone like me who can’t eat a big meal right before I workout, this is the perfect source of fuel. 

I workout first thing in the morning, so these are great for me to grab and eat in the car on the way to the gym, without having to prepare anything when I first wake up.  This week, I’m also planning to try out a new gym after work, so these will be nice to have on hand so that I can get something in my stomach after work when dinner is still a while off.   

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Besides the fact that they’re healthy, they’re also super easy to make.  And of course, they’re delicious enough to eat anytime of the day… not just before your workout!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups oats
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375*F.
  2. Pulse oats in a food processor until they become a flour (optional).
  3. Combine banana and eggs in food processor until blended.
  4. Mix oats with banana and egg mixture until combined.
  5. Add in honey and cinnamon and mix well.
  6. Stir in raisins.
  7. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.  (Note: these will not be sticky or doughy like normal cookies.  They’ll fall apart a little bit so just do your best to shape them into cookies.)
  8. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown. 

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What do you eat before you workout? 

A big meal, a snack, nothing? 

Do you worry about protein/fat/carbs?


Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t know if it was the mint chocolate chip ice cream I had the other day or the homemade thin mints I made a couple weeks ago, but Friday night, when I decided I wanted to make cookies, mint chip was the first thing that came to mind.  I still had some peppermint extract in my cabinet and I didn’t really know how it was going to work out, but I was more than willing to give it a try.  I love anything mint + chocolate, and this recipe isn’t that different than my basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, so I figured I had a good chance of coming  up with something tasty.

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And what I ended up with was a minty, chocolately ball of goodness.  (Besides the dark chocolate chips, these are also dairy/gluten/grain/sugar free.)  Right out of the oven, they were moist and gooey, but after they cooled, they were still just as yummy.  And I bet they would be delicious right out of the freezer, too!

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Ingredients:

  • 7 dates, pitted
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (or more) dark chocolate chips

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Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350*F.
  2. Process dates in food processor until they are pureed into a ball.  (If you don’t have a food processor, just use more honey instead of dates and use a mixer or a fork to make the batter.)
  3. Add eggs, peppermint extract, coconut oil, and honey and blend until mixed.
  4. Add almond flour, coconut flour, and cocoa powder slowly and blend until mixed. 
  5. Add chocolate chips and mix well. 
  6. Shape into small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Press down to flatten.  (They won’t change shape much while baking.)
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. 
  8. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. 
  9. Eat immediately or freeze the extras to save for late.  Pop them in the microwave on defrost or let thaw on the counter when ready to eat!

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Give them a try and let me know what you think! 


Homemade Thin Mint Cookies

I am taking over the job of one of my coworkers who is moving on to another rotation in the company, so he has been helping me a lot since I started.  Every day, he is super patient with me while I pepper him with a million different questions, trying to soak up all his knowledge before he leaves, and he miraculously never seems to get annoyed with it. 

Friday was his last day, and I wanted to bake him something to say thank you, but I had no idea what he liked, so I was somewhat at a loss.  I remembered him offering me a Thin Mint from a roll in his desk once though (I accepted, obviously; anyone who keeps a roll of cookies in their desk is okay by me), so I figured that trying to create a homemade version would be a safe bet. 

Little did I know that that gamble would pay off tenfold.  Not only did he (and everyone else on our team) seem to really like them, but I too thought they were amazing.  And the coolest part (to me) is that I could very easily make these gluten-free/paleo so that I could eat as many as I want without getting a stomach ache.   (Just kidding on that last part, although I wish because these are definitely at the top of my favorites list now.)

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The insides are sort of crumbly, just like the actual Girl Scouts version, and the dark chocolate peppermint on the outside is to die for.  And just like the originals, they are even better out of the fridge/freezer. 

I used this recipe as a guide, and I have to give it major credit because I really didn’t change it that much.  I didn’t see any need to make it Paleo/G-free or anything else since they weren’t for me, but next time I’m going to use almond flour instead, and maybe try to figure out what I could sub for the powdered sugar too.

Or maybe I won’t, because they’re pretty much perfect as they are. 

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons peppermint extract

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Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. 
  2. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and cocoa. 
  3. Add flour and mix until combined. 
  4. Chill dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 
  5. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  6. Remove dough from the fridge and roll into a log shape on a lightly floured surface.
  7. Slice cookie log into slices 1/8” inch slices. 
  8. Bake cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are set. 
  9. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cookies cool completely.
  10. Once cooled, microwave chocolate chips in 30-second intervals until melted.  DO NOT OVERCOOK; they will burn.  You are better off under-microwaving them and stirring them until they are melted.  I dis this step in two batches. 
  11. Stir peppermint extract into chocolate until smooth. 
  12. Place cookies in the chocolate one at a time.  I started off dipping the cookies in on two sides but they were sticking to the cooling rack, so then I only dipped them on the top, and they worked a lot better that way.   
  13. Transfer chocolate dipped cookies to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper (if you coat both sides) or a wire rack (if you only do one). 
  14. Let chocolate harden before serving.  Put them in the refrigerator to set the chocolate faster.

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Fill Me Up, Buttercup

On Tuesday morning, it was another really tough workout, and for the first time in a while, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish it.  I started out with things that weren’t so familiar to me, making them all the more challenging, and then the seemingly not-so-bad workout nearly killed me.  50 push presses at 65# was heavy for me, and I felt like I had lead legs by the time I got to the burpees.  I had never done wall walks before, but by that point, I was pretty sure my arms were going to give out on me and I’d end up on my head.  It’s funny, but somewhere along the line, box jumps somehow became one of the easiest elements of a workout.  Who would’ve guessed?

  1. Warm-up and stretch
  2. Snatch:
    1. 1×3 55#, 1×5 75#, 1×5 85#
  3. 1 Clean + 3 Front Squats + 5 Deadlifts x5 @ 105#
  4. Workout:
    1. 50  Push presses @ 65#
    2. 40 Box jump overs
    3. 30 OH squats @ 65#
    4. 20 Burpees
    5. 10 Wall walks
  5. Core (4x):
    1. 25 Swiss ball sit ups
    2. 50 Weighted side bends
  6. Cool down

We are in the middle of a serious heat wave over here this week, so the last thing I wanted Tuesday morning was a hot breakfast.  Instead, I brought cold chicken with cucumbers and grapes, and it was the perfect meal. 

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For lunch, I had baked chicken, zucchini, and tomatoes with Italian spices and crushed red pepper, and I just about melted on the couch at home eating it during lunch!

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For dinner, I wanted to try to use the buttercup squash I bought this week, and I really had no idea what to do with it, but I just went for it.  I’m sure there’s a “right” way to do it, but at the same time, I really don’t think you can mess it up.

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That thing was hard to cut through, but very carefully, I managed to slice off a chunk to cook. 

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I scooped out the seeds and microwaved the pieces for five minutes before baking them in the oven.  I picked up some turkey tenderloins this week too, so one of those went in the oven right alongside the squash. 

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After about 30 minutes, I had my very own super simplified version of Thanksgiving dinner.  (My favorite holiday, by the way.)  I thought about topping the squash with honey or maple syrup, but I wanted to give it a shot on it’s own first.  I definitely think it would’ve been good that way, but it was still sweet by itself.  It wasn’t that much different in texture from butternut squash, but it did have a slightly different taste. 

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The only thing that was missing was cranberry sauce.  Cranberries are hard to find off-season, but some mashed up cranberries would be so good paired with this dish!  Imagine if I baked them right on top of the little squash boats?  Fill me up, buttercup!

After dinner, I got a serious craving for Larabars, but didn’t want to go out to the grocery store, so I decided to give the homemade ones a shot.  First, I mixed up some cashews and dates in the food processor, and next I did peanuts and dates. 

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I got the pieces good and small, and then scooped out the mixture, rolled it into balls, and flattened it into some sort of edible shape. 

DSC_0389 I didn’t know quite how much of each ingredient to use, so I’ll have to play with the amounts.  I’m thinking more dates would mean a stickier mixture, but I’m not sure if that’s actually what would work best or not. 

I threw them in the fridge for a while, and when I was ready to snack on one, I had it alongside some sliced strawberries and grapes. 

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They weren’t half bad for my first try; they tasted just like their Larabar counterparts, and I didn’t even have to leave my own kitchen!


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