Five Thoughts {Including Holiday Diet Talk and Baking Inspiration}

Five Thoughts {Including Holiday Diet Talk and Baking Inspiration}

Sharing five thoughts from the week, including tips for handling holiday diet talk, two articles that gave me hope for humanity, holiday baking inspiration, a fun and inexpensive idea for entertaining, and a discussion of how you would like to celebrate the holidays if you were OK with your body.

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Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bars

Packed with fiber and lightly sweetened, these vegan peanut butter and strawberry jam bars are perfect for snacking or dessert! 

Vegan Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bars

Hey guys! It's Recipe Redux time so you get a bonus recipe this week! Lucky you ;) And me because it gave me an excuse to try these peanut butter and strawberry jam bars I saw on my friend Alex's blog.

For this month's theme we're choosing a fellow recipe reduxer to celebrate by making a recipe from their blog.

One of the happiest surprises about starting a blog was just how many real friendships I've made through it. And Alex is one of those people! We "met" after following each others blogs for awhile, I emailed her for advice when I first started my private practice. Actually, I had also emailed Anne too, which makes me laugh because now because the two dietitians I looked up to professionally are my coworkers! Then I feel like a jerk cause I never seem to have enough time to write back all the young RDs and students who send me emails.

PB and J Bars

After emailing on occasion for about a year, we finally got to meet in real life on the California Almonds trip to Lodi, California. We actually came up with the idea for Joyful Eating on our first night over dinner and wine! Crazy to think that it's come to fruition!

I hope you check out Alex's blog, Delish Knowledge. She features the most beautifully photographed simple vegetarian recipes. This peanut butter and strawberry jam bar was a recent addition I just had to try. It's part breakfast bar, part cookie, which means you could enjoy it for breakfast or dessert!

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bars

Makes 12

Adapted from Delish Knowledge

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

  • 1 cup oats

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 cup almond milk

  • 2/3 cup all-fruit strawberry jam

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with olive oil.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together peanut butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Mix in vanilla extract, then flour, oats, salt and baking soda. Stream in almond milk and blend until combined.

  3. Place jam in a microwave safe bowl and heat 30 seconds until warm.

  4. Spread 3/4 of the peanut butter oat mixture over the bottom of the prepared baking sheet and press down with the back of a spatula. Pour the jam over the top and spread evenly with the jam.

  5. Dollop scoops of the peanut butter dough over the jam to make a "crumble" topping. Place in the over and bake 18-20 minutes until set. Remove from heat, let cool, then slice into bars.

Coconut Almond Macaroons, Three Ways

Easter is less than a week away so I’m excited to be partnering with one of my favorite brands, Bob’s Red Mill, for a sweet treat that’s perfect for sharing this Sunday!

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Easter. It all started off great because, you know, being a kid...candy…what could go wrong? Oh, only MY MOST TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD MEMORY. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, and considering I did wear big purple glasses through elementary school, you know I had many traumatic memories.

The Great Easter Outfit Fail of 1991 began when my grandpa and his lady friend came to visit for the holiday and decided to gift me a new Easter outfit. By early 90s nostalgia standards, it was glorious. Matching floral print pants and shirt, but instead of normal pants, it was a pair of long stretchy shorts with a thick floral ruffle at the end, and instead of a normal shirt, it was a crop top, off the shoulder three-quarter sleeve top with, obviously, more floral ruffle on the sleeves. Being a gift, I was forced to wear it. Although in my parent’s defense, I had zero sense of style and there’s a strong possibility I thought I looked fabulous.

It was until I arrived at our neighborhood clubhouse for their annual Easter egg hunt and saw my friends, in their cute and very normal Easter dresses I realized I looked like a huge dork. The other clue was when they burst into laughter at the sight of me. My memories after that are pretty fuzzy, probably buried in my subconscious, but I’m pretty sure there were tears involved. And I know there’s at least one picture of me holding my Easter basket with a huge pout, which is probably floating somewhere around the internet in meme form.

Now that I know how to dress myself as an adult (#winning!), I haven’t had any outfit related disasters. But being born on April 4th and getting married on March 31st, Easter always has a way of interfering with birthday or anniversary celebrations. And when it comes to birthday/anniversary vs. Easter, Jesus wins.

Hopefully I don’t sound like too much of a Debbie Downer on Easter, because we really do have wonderful celebrations every year at my mother-in-law’s house. We still get Easter baskets because we are 30 going on 9. Except mine is always full of dark chocolate and cooking gadgets, as it should be. That Easter bunny knows me well! Then we all sit down to a delicious Southern meal, followed by a dessert we are way too stuffed to eat more than a few bites of!

I made these Easter macaroons for that exact reason. After a day of candy and Easter ham and biscuits, no one is in the mood for a heavy dessert, but Easter without a cute spring inspired dessert would be a crime! These pastel macaroons will look so pretty as part of your Easter spread, and they have just a hint of sweet that’s perfect after a heavy meal. The whole batch has only ¼ cup sugar, relying on the natural sweetness of coconut.

So here’s a macaroon question for you all. Why are there two very different types of cookies, both called macaroons? There’s the pure shredded coconut cookies then those very pretty and dainty filled macaroon cookies (which always disappoint me because they look much better than they taste). These obviously are a take on the former.

I made these with a mixture of shredded coconut and Bob’s Red Mill almond flour to make them a bit lighter and more cookie-like. Bob’s Red Mill almond flour is my favorite brand of my favorite gluten free flour to bake with. It’s made with blanched, whole almonds so there’s no dark bits of skin then extra finely milled so it’s super soft. You can use it for lighter baked goods like cakes, pancakes and biscuits and it won’t have that grainy consistency you get with other almond flours/meals. Plus, being made with almonds, it's a rich source of vitamin E, manganese and monounsaturated fats. Grab a coupon for Bob's Red Mill here so you can try it yourself!

Feel free to experiment with different types of zest and freeze dried fruit to create a rainbow of colors. I think it would be cute to make a batch of all pastel macaroons with freeze dried blueberries, strawberries and mango! Just be careful not to let them overbrown or they’ll lose that pretty color – keep a close eye on them in the oven and you may want to check on them a few minutes before the end of baking.

Coconut Almond Macaroons, Three Ways

Makes about 40

Ingredients

Lemon Macaroons:

  • Zest of 2 lemons

Chocolate:

  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

Strawberry:

  • 2 cups freeze-dried strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with a little coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix coconut, almond flour and sugar. Add eggs and stir to combine. Divide dough evenly between four bowls.
  3. To make the lemon macaroons, stir in the lemon zest.
  4. To make the chocolate macaroons, stir in the dark chocolate, cocoa powder and almond milk. Add a little more almond milk if needed to combine.
  5. To make strawberry macaroons, place freeze fried fruit in a plastic bag. Crush with something heavy (I used a meat mallet) until it's a flour consistency. Add to dough with almond milk, adding more almond milk if needed.
  6. Scoop tablespoon sized dollops of dough evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake 20 minutes, checking a few minutes before it's supposed to be done to make sure it's not browning too much. Let cool on the baking sheet a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Store covered at room temperature a few days, then transfer to the refrigerator.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Chai Almond Cookies

Lightly sweetened and made with whole grains, these dark chocolate dipped chai almond cookies are the perfect addition to your holiday baking! 

It's the most wonderful time of the year - Christmas cookie time!

Ever since I was a kid and would count down the days until snow covered oreos were available, Christmas cookies have made me crazy happy. Although who are we kidding, cookies make me crazy happy year round! Candy and cakes do nothing for me, but cookies are everything.

When it comes to holiday baking, I tend to get delusions of grandeur. I think I've read too many issues of Southern Living, because I dream of making all my friends pretty little boxes filled with homemade and healthy holiday cookies. I pulled it off one year for my coworkers and it quickly turned into an all night affair! Maybe I'll attempt again when I retire :)

This year I wanted to whip up a batch of cookies to bring to a holiday lunch with my officemates. These were very loosely inspired by my memories of an Italian bakery we used to go to growing up in New York. I would stare into the glass case filled with dozens of kinds of cookies and basically turn into Veruca Salt, begging my parents 'I want them ALL!'

(Timeout. Just as I was writing this, Scott walked in the door with a box of Christmas cookies from a coworker. Universe, sometimes you are awesome).

Anyway, I remember this one buttery, crumbly, barely sweet almond cookie that was dusted with powdered sugar. Another one I loved was this sweet butter cookie dunked in chocolate. This is kind of a hybrid of the two. I don't remember anything with chai tea, but I like chai tea, so lets just throw it in there for giggles. 

What are your favorite Christmas cookies? Leave a comment or a link below! 

Dark Chocolate Dipped Chai Almond Cookies

makes about 30

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup turbinado or brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk (or dairy of choice)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • The contents of 2 chai tea bags, finely ground (you could use a coffee grinder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a large standing mixer, mix coconut oil and sugar on high speed until fluffy and fully combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add egg, almond milk, vanilla extract and blend until combined, scraping down sides if needed. Slowly mix in whole wheat flour, almond meal, chai tea powder and salt while mixer is running on medium-high speed, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add chopped almonds, mix on medium-high speed until combined, then set aside.
  3. Using a tablespoon measure, form balls of dough. Place evenly on a large, greased cookie sheet (they won't spread much) and press down lightly to flatten. Bake 20 minutes until lightly browned.
  4. Remove cookies from oven and let cool. Once cool, heat chocolate chips and oil in the microwave in 15 second intervals, stopping to stir between each interval, until smooth. Dip cookies in chocolate, then place on a sheet of parchment paper over. Carefully place cookies and parchment paper in the refrigerator to harden. When chocolate is firm, store cookies in a container with a lid in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

More holiday baking inspiration: 

Gluten Free Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies
Gluten Free Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies
Gluten Free Nutella Blondies
Gluten Free Nutella Blondies
No Added Sugar Cinnamon Raisin Spice Cookies
No Added Sugar Cinnamon Raisin Spice Cookies

Almond Trail Cookies

Gluten free and vegan, these lightly sweetened, whole grain almond trail mix cookies are the perfect snack to fuel your hike.

I was asked to participate in the “#CrunchOn ” campaign as a member of the Healthy Aperture Blogger Network. I was compensated for my time and also received free samples for recipe testing.

To me, food is one of the most important parts of travel. Before we take a trip, even a quick weekend jaunt within the South, I'll spend hours online, learning local specialties, researching the best restaurants and figuring out how to work in as many tasty yums as possible. There are few things in life that make me more sad than a subpar meal while on vacation.

Scott and I love camping, but that type of vacation doesn't exactly lend itself to good eats. We've taken a few camping trips in the last couple years, and in each case, crappy food was pretty unavoidable. Even if a can of beanie weenies was the panacea of health, you still wouldn't catch me eating it. I have no problem not showering or peeing in the woods, but eating rehydrated food for dinner? NOPE.

When we decided to camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains for my birthday, I planned ahead to ensure the weekend was filled with deliciousness. I prepared a gourmet meal of potatoes, grilled vegetables and halloumi cheese with smoked paprika, cooked over an open fire. We packed a nice bottle of wine, which I think we were judged for by the, um, mountain folk at the campsite next to us. The second night, we drove into Asheville for dinner at my favorite brewery and birthday cake from my favorite chocolatier (Asheville has all my favorites!). And lastly, I made sure to pack plenty of tasty snacks to fuel our hikes - olive oil popcorn from Trader Joes, honeycrisp apples, wasabi peas and these trail cookies, stuffed with all sorts of almond goodness.

Y'all, these are kind of the perfect trail food. I get pretty hungry when I'm hiking, which isn't that different from my usual state of being, but of course when hiking, there's no refrigerator nearby. Portable, compact, full of healthy fats, protein and a boost of energy from honey, these were perfect for munching on while we stopped to rest our legs. Sure, we could have just packed an energy bar, but I mean, cookies.

These cookies incorporate almonds in four different ways:

WHOLE ALMONDS // For satiating crunch!

ALMOND MEAL // My favorite gluten free flour for baking, it adds a nice crumbly texture and nutty flavor.

ALMOND BUTTER // Used instead of butter and other added fats.

ALMOND MILK // Mix 3 tablespoons almond milk with 1 tablespoon chia seeds to make a vegan egg for baking.

Besides the obvious fact that they taste amazing, there's a lot to love about almonds:

  • Almonds are a rich source of monounsaturated fat, the type found in extra-virgin olive oil and avocados, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol.
  • With 1/4 cup providing 40% your daily needs of vitamin E, almonds are the best nut source of the fat soluble vitamin. The antioxidant vitamin helps protect against heart disease and protects fats in the brain against oxidative damage and inflammation.
  • Almonds also top all other nuts in calcium content, one of the reasons (besides it's creamy deliciousness) that I love homemade almond milk so much!
  • Some people still avoid almonds because of their fat content, but study after study have shown them to be beneficial for weight management. And not that I recommend calorie counting, but recent studies with more accurate methods of measuring calories, have shown an ounce of almonds contain only 130 calories versus the previous count of 160.
  • With 6 grams of protein in each ounce, a serving of nuts is one of my favorite post-workout snacks.
  • Snacking on crunchy food like almonds can actually help combat stress!

Feel free to mix in your favorite trail mix ingredients. I like using freeze dried fruit, which is less sweet than dried fruit, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Dark chocolate chips never hurt anything. Because these are vegan, you can always skip the whole baking step, roll into balls and enjoy like cookie dough!

Almond Trail Mix Cookies

Makes 20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup freeze dried blueberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix almond milk and chia. Let sit 10 minutes or so to gel.
  2. In a large bowl, mix chia "egg," almond butter, coconut oil, honey and vanilla with an electric beater. In another medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Using electric beater, mix wet ingredients into dry. Stir in oats, blueberries and almonds. Cover dough with saran wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 325.
  4. Scoop tablespoon sized balls of dough onto an oiled baking sheet. Press down lightly with the back of a spoon to flatten. Bake for 16-18 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

No Added Sugar Cinnamon-Spice Cookies

No Added Sugar Cinnamon-Spice Cookies

Yes, these cookies are gluten free, vegan and made with no added sugar. They are also insanely delicious, dense, and chewy. You may be doubtful such a cookie exists, especially the whole 'insanely delicious' part. Let me assure you, these cookies are all I've made them out to be...and more. The trick is a quick golden raisin paste to sweeten the cookies! 

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Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies

Everything but the kitchen sink cookies are loaded with crunchy almonds, dark chocolate, toasted coconut and oats! Gluten free, vegan and made with whole grains! Plus, you can make them in a food processor, so you don’t have to dirty a ton of bowls!

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