sprout for joy

emerge, spring up, grow


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chewy chocolaty peanut-buttery protein bars

010I’m really not sure why I’ve always been so intimidated by baking, but I have. And while I fully believe in conquering the things in life that hold us back, for some reason I haven’t felt the need to apply that notion to this area of my life yet. Maybe it’s because, well, not to down-play it or anything, but it’s just baking. Just baking?! I don’t think I really mean that. After all, what could be better than a fresh, buttery croissant right out of the oven… or a slice of indulgently rich chocolate cake… or heck, even a hot and gooey glazed donut? There clearly is something magical that happens when flour is mixed with some combination of sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. The joy is most certainly not lost on me.

This does seem like something I need to tackle at some point. If for no other reason than to open up an entirely new world of food, which sounds quite motivating. I just haven’t ventured there yet. One step at a time I suppose. And while I’m openly sharing my apparent struggle over this issue, I may as well get to the heart of the matter. I think I carry the belief that baked goods, as delicious as they may be, just aren’t as healthy. I also know that I can’t resist breads, cookies, or sweets in general with much discipline (if there’s chocolate involved, it’s just over), so making them is almost like setting a diet trap for myself. But I think that’s being pretty small minded, not something I aspire to be. So rather than close myself off to an entire method of cooking, and basically an entire food group, maybe it’s time I prove myself wrong and find a way to make healthy versions.

Consider these no-bake protein bars my very first step into the world of baking – irony intended – but hey, I used flour; it’s a start. The hemp seeds were a bit of a splurge, but they are loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and protein, and give a nice nutty flavor and texture. Sunflower seeds would probably work just as well, and save a few bucks. The bars are really everything you could want… chewy, crunchy, salty-sweet, additive-free and packed with protein. Let’s just say, I made them last night, and I’m down to one. I’ll be sad to see it go.

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(Recipe adapted from oh she glows)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole grain oat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup Garden of Life RAW protein powder (or powder of your choosing, unflavored is best)

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp chocolate covered hemp seeds (or plain hemp seeds for vegan)

1/2 cup rice based cereal (I used Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla and crushed up into pieces)

1/2 cup all natural peanut butter

1/2 cup agave syrup sweetener

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp mini dark chocolate morsels (for vegan, use vegan brand chocolate)

1 tbsp coconut oil

Steps:

1. Use an 8 x 8 pan, lined with parchment paper

2. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl:  flour, protein powder, 1/4 cup hemp seeds, cereal, and salt

3. Add in peanut butter, agave syrup, and vanilla, mix to combine – can splash in a little water or almond milk if too dry

4. Press down into pan then put in freezer

5. Melt chocolate chips with coconut oil in small sauce pan over low heat, careful not to burn

6. Cut frozen dough into bars, drizzle with melted chocolate and top with remaining hemp seeds

7. Place back in freezer to set, keep stored in freezer (bars soften as they get warmer)

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cauliflower crust pizza

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If there’s one thing I love about cooking, it’s that the possibilities are endless. Case in point: a crust made out of cauliflower. I love pizza, love it, but there is something a little off-putting about greasy fingers and blotting your food with a paper towel. If this is you, this recipe is for you! Not that cauliflower can in any way claim to be like bread… it is a vegetable after all… but I was really blown away by how well this turned out. The crust holds together very well, you can pick it up with your hands (no falling apart), and the edges were even a little crispy. Most importantly, it’s easy to make, quite tasty, and very healthy. Win!

(note: you will need a cheesecloth, I got one at the grocery store for $3).

Ingredients:

  • 1 small-medium size head of raw cauliflower, washed and broken up into florets
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (you could use any kind of soft or shredded cheese, but I really think this was the secret ingredient)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Italian seasoning and salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese for topping (I used a mozzarella/parmesan blend)
  • your favorite toppings (I used mushrooms, bell peppers, sweet onion, and chives)

Steps:

1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

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2. Grate cauliflower florets into a bowl using a cheese grater (could also blend in a food processor but I don’t have one) to make little flakes.

3. Spread cauliflower flakes evenly on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. (I filled a 9 x 13 inch pan, there was leftover cauliflower that I didn’t use, about enough for a second smaller crust).

4. Remove cauliflower from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then scoop batches into a cheesecloth and squeeze out water into a bowl. (This takes a little muscle, but the more water removed the better). Scrape cauliflower “pulp” into another bowl.

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5. Beat 1 egg into cauliflower “dough”, mix in goat cheese, garlic, and seasonings.

6. Place dough back on baking sheet (I used a new piece of parchment paper), and press into desired crust shape, about 1/2 inch thick. I made the edges a little thicker.

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7. Bake crust for about 20 minutes, until it starts to brown a little. Meanwhile, chop up your toppings.

8. Remove crust from oven, spread pizza sauce, sprinkle cheese, and toppings evenly across, and bake another 5-10 minutes at 400 degrees.

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I’m a huge fan of cauliflower so I love the taste and texture, but mixing in cheese and an egg really does give it an awesome “doughy” consistency, and the garlic and seasonings give amazing flavor. To make this vegan, substitute vegan cheese (still trying to find one I like – any recommendations?), and vegan eggs (can make by mixing 1 Tb ground chia or flax seeds in 3 Tb water – whisk together, becomes gooey like an egg). Hope you enjoy!