Healthy pumpkin pancakes – Low-carb and full of protein (and fluffy!)

This week I had a request from the husband to make a healthy pancake with protein, that was low-carb and grain-free. I’ve had some success with grain-free, healthy pancakes, but I’ve also had a few failures. This time I lucked out and ended up with a great recipe I’ve already made a few times. I even made a double-batch and stuck them in freezer for quick breakfasts or snacks.

Find the recipe after the jump!

proteinpancakes

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Protein powder review and smoothie recipe

I enjoy drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement. I think they are yummy and easy and it helps me not to make bad food choices when I don’t the motivation to eat leftovers. Is a shake the healthiest option for a meal? Maybe not, but I’m not sure. It works for me and I like it. I’m not a health professional and everybody is different, but drinking a smoothie for breakfast or lunch helps me out.

My husband Marc is getting into power-lifting and gaining muscle-mass, so he is very interested in using protein powders. I like getting enough protein in my diet and protein powder is an easy way to do it. Marc came across True Nutrition’s website (through a variety of blog sources he follows) and we wanted to give it a try. A lot of protein powders (probably most of them) have undesirable ingredients like bad oils and preservatives and the like. It can be hard to find a protein that is “clean,” but True Nutrition seems to be pretty clean.

I went to pick the protein I wanted, and there are a million different choices. You can choose what type of protein (they have all sorts of different kinds) and you can mix them if you would like. You can also customize your mix with carbs, fats, or supplements. Then you can choose a flavor and sweetener from a very long list of options.

I’m breast-feeding and my little guy has issues with dairy, so I wanted to try a vegetarian protein source. I chose a pea protein, but because I really like whey, I made it 20% grass-fed whey protein as well. Marc chose the 100% grass-fed whey protein in double-chocolate mint, mine was orange creamsiscle. There was 54 flavors to choose from! The unsweetened chocolate or vanilla, or the plain, are the cleanest flavors, but we decided to go with the artificial flavorings. We aren’t perfect.

Trying out 2 of many flavor and mix combinations

Trying out 2 of many flavor and mix combinations

The Double Chocolate Mint? AMAZING. It is really tasty. The mintiness of it actually reminds me of the taste of too much Torani chocolate syrup. I know that sounds weird and not really all that great, but it does taste good. I find that a lot of chocolate protein powders taste like minty hotdogs (which I do not like)… but that could just be me. The point is, this protein does not taste like hot dogs and I like the flavor.

I can actually mix this protein in my banana and almond butter smoothie and it doesn’t give off a minty taste, it’s more of the chocolate syrup taste.

The other protein was the Orange Creamciscle flavor, 80% pea protein, 20% whey.

It was disappointing. You can actually taste the peas, and the orange doesn’t come through as much as you would hope. If I ordered it again, I would get the flavor “heavy” (you can specify the concentration of the flavor; light, normal, heavy). When I made my smoothie I ended up adding orange oil to it, which made it much better. I think adding the juice of an orange would make it pretty tasty as well, but by itself, I wasn’t a fan.

What is my favorite way to use protein powder? A smoothie! Or shake, whatever you would like to call it.

Here is my favorite recipe:

almond butter banana chocolate shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute – I use 1 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp almond or other nut butter
  • 1/2 banana (better if frozen in chunks)
  • 1/2 or 1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder
  • 1 or 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • A few ice cubes
  • Optional additions – greens, avocado, coconut oil

I use a hand blender now, so I no longer freeze most of the milk. Because only my banana is frozen, it is not a very thick consistency. If you want a thick, frozen-shake consistency, freeze half of the milk in ice cube trays and use that.

I also blend all the ingredients, except the ice, until completely blended. I then add the ice and blend it last.

Enjoy!

Note: I am using this as a meal-replacement. This is not a 100-calorie shake. Nor am I a dietician. Make sure you find out what works for you, even if it includes talking with a professional.

*I am in no way, being compensated for this review. I bought the protein myself and I am sharing my experience.

This week’s meal plan (1/21- 1/25)

This last week I added delicious Strauss milk back into my diet… and then removed it because it caused a rash (allergic reaction) all over my little guy’s face. I also over-cooked the grass-fed sirloins.

Also, the starter on our second vehicle died and Marc is working long hours. I think I might be able to bribe my dad into taking me grocery shopping! I better make sure my grocery list is extremely thorough. We really should have gone grocery shopping yesterday, but it was my husbands only day off and the championship game was the only priority (this is 49er Country, just don’t tell the Raider fans)!

Despite all of that, we managed to really clean up our diets this week and rid our body of all that sugar and junk. So that’s a win!

This week’s grocery list:

  • Monday: Chicken with basil and prosciutto, salad greens and snap peas
  • Tuesday: Taco salad (with no tortillas or with sprouted corn tortillas, over mixed greens instead of lettuce)
  • Wednesday: Oven baked pork chops with green beans and onions
  • Thursday: Crock-pot whole chicken with garlic broccoli
  • Friday: Roast, carrots, and sweet potato

Lunches: Leftover dinner from the night before, almond butter and protein smoothies

Breakfast: Eggs and bacon, cheese omelet, eggs and linguica

When do all of you go grocery shopping? What’s on your meal plan?

Experimental Cooking: Protein Packed Breakfast Cookies

Yesterday morning I spent a couple hours scouring the internet on an empty stomach, looking for a breakfast cookie that was actually healthy and didn’t require a ton of specialty ingredients. I didn’t consider 1/4 cup or more of sugar to be considered healthy and I was amazed when people said the cookie was high in protein when they had less than 2 grams per serving.

So I finally pried myself off the couch and went to work in the kitchen, challenging myself to make a healthier breakfast cookie. I concocted a cookie batter from various ingredients in my cupboard and hoped for the best!

The batter seemed a bit soft, but I put them in the oven anyway. After about 11 minutes, I was pleasantly surprised that they had maintained their shape.

They were fluffy in the center and slightly crispy on the edges (which is just how I like my cookies). The flavor was quite light and enjoyable. Next time I would probably not use the banana protein powder though, and keep it to vanilla (or maybe chocolate).  The peanut butter did not come through, so next time I’m going to try to add more vanilla and cinnamon to taste like a regular oatmeal cookie, or perhaps replace some of the Greek yogurt with more peanut butter. I liked the cookies with the chocolate chips the best (who wouldn’t). The next day these cookies still had great texture and they weren’t overly soft (nor did they harden) like some cookies can get when you use fruit puree.

I will label this recipe as a success and will make again – with less than 3 grams of sugar and 11 grams of protein for 2 cookies, these might come in handy as a quick snack for when the baby gets here (they say oats helps with milk production, right?)

Protein Breakfast Cookies Recipe

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Grain-free and Sugar-free Waffle Review

I love waffles, but the traditional variety is really just a step down from cakes or cookies. My husband also aims at eating grain-free (a non-pregnant me usually does as well). I was thinking that waffles for Saturday morning breakfast would be delightful, if only I could try out a grain-free, sugar-free variety. I came across Health, Home and Happiness’ waffle recipe and decided to give it a try!

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Grain-Free Crumbly Cinnamon Muffins

I love muffins and I love cinnamon, so of course I am going to love cinnamon muffins! I’ve been craving some muffins and I finally found the muffin recipe I made some months back and I altered the recipe a little bit with what I had in the house already. The base of this recipe comes from Comfy Belly’s Cinnamon Bun Muffins; I just used some slightly different ingredients and measurements. These muffins are dense and moist and really hit the spot!

Crumbly Cinnamon Muffins

Moist and Crumbly Muffins (they taste good with some butter too!)

Makes approx. 10 muffins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees

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Recipe Review: Overnight, Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal

I’ve been eyeing a cinnamon apple slow-cooker concoction for a while now, and I finally settled on trying The Yummy Life’s Overnight, Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal (say that 5x fast). My husband declined to eat it (too many carbs and oats are a grain), but being pregnant and carbing it up, I said “bring it on!”

Here is her recipe:

Ingredients
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2-1/2 to 3 cups chopped)
  • 1-1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into 5-6 pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional garnishes: chopped nuts, raisins, maple syrup, additional milk or butter
Directions

Coat inside of 3-1/2 quart (or larger) slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients (except optional toppings) to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for 7 hours. Spoon oatmeal into bowls; add optional toppings, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Freezes well.

To reheat single servings: Put 1-cup cooked oatmeal in microwave proof bowl. Add 1/3 cup fat-free milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot.

Recipe can be doubled in 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Increase cooking time 1 hour.

I picked up some of the tastiest apples recently and thankfully I bought a whole bag! I had to use 3 apples to equal 2 cups and I wish I would have used more! I love apple cinnamon and not a big fan of oatmeal, so I probably would enjoy it even more if it was cinnamon apples with oatmeal and not cinnamon apple oatmeal (I want a little oatmeal with my apples, not a little apple with my oatmeal). I also used whole-fat milk because low-fat milk doesn’t exist in our house.

I didn’t add any flax seed, but I did add some vanilla granola just on the top while it was still cooking to add some more texture and vanilla in the mix because I love vanilla. I let mine cook for 6, not 7 hours.  I also added half the water because I like my oatmeal really thick.  I also didn’t add the salt, but that was because I forgot, not because I am anti-salt. I added a lot of cinnamon, not sure how much.

Leftovers, heated up with some milk

It was so nice to get up in the morning and not have to walk back and forth in the kitchen, opening and closing the fridge for 30 minutes while I decide what to eat for breakfast (bad, I know).  I now have leftovers that will last me all week and the only real work involved in making the dish was prepping the apples.

Until I go back to low-carb eating, I am sure I will make this again!

Easy Breakfast Casserole

My husband wakes up quite early to get ready for work and sometimes he gets tired of eating eggs and bacon every morning (and since being pregnant, I am not a fan of the smell of bacon lingering in our home, either).

Last night he prepped and cooked a simple, grain-free breakfast casserole (inspired by this recipe) and had it ready to go the next morning. It was a quick, easy, and healthy solution to breakfast!

Grain-free Spicy Breakfast Casserole

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3 Days Until Christmas: Christmas Breakfast

Just a few more days until Christmas and I’m super excited! My holiday celebrations kick off tomorrow evening so I will have a festive filled Christmas weekend. To elevate my mood even further, I was able to enjoy a real food breakfast this morning and a real food dinner last night (which has been few and far between since becoming pregnant)!

I’m spending today decorating our traditional sugar cookies and prepping grain-free meatballs so I can throw them in the crockpot tomorrow morning.

I’m also getting the final ingredients to make our traditional Christmas breakfast. On Christmas morning my brother and mother (and maybe some cousins) are joining me and my husband for breakfast and a gift exchange and while my husband cooks eggs and bacon, my brother will be making biscuits and chocolate gravy. Yes, you heard right; chocolate gravy.

My father has a lot of family from Tennessee and the South and I am sure chocolate gravy is much more popular over that way than here in CA. When we visited some maternal family in Oklahoma our great aunt Sue made us chocolate gravy and biscuits as well.

My brother won’t let me post our family’s recipe, but this I found a recipe online that is pretty similar. We don’t usually let it get as thick as pudding, we like it a bit more runny, so we substitute some of the milk for water.

Mom’s Chocolate Gravy from Redneck Epicurean

Ingredients:
Serves: 6

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (we prefer Hershey’s)

Directions:

Mix all the dry ingredients in a heavy saucepan with a whisk. Using a whisk blends everything better than a spoon. Stir in the milk.

Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Remove the pot when the mixture is thick like pudding.

Add the butter. Stir in until completely melted. Serve over biscuits with a teaspoon of butter dolloped on top.

Even though our preferable lifestyle/eating habits are whole foods (and generally grain-free) I think it’s ok to have a special treat once in a while.

I think a great healthier alternative would be soaked cinnamon rolls from Modern Alternative Mama’s new book, Treat Yourself, which you can win!

What are you making Christmas morning?

First 5 Days of Paleo and Whole30

We are 5 days into Whole30 and it hasn’t been bad at all. We generally eat grain-free anyways so the transition wasn’t too bad. Marc does miss dairy and I do want butter, but overall the only other thing I’ve wanted is junk food and that’s not good for me anyways. Actually I’ve missed chewing gum, which isn’t allowed on the food challenge because it can still cause insulin spikes.

Why are we doing the Whole30? My husband has been having some abdominal pain that has been diagnosed first as gas, then as reflux but nothing has helped and 2 years later he wants it gone. An elimination and no-cheating diet to jump start good eating habits seemed like a good idea. Whole30 (correct me if I am wrong) is a strict paleo diet – no grains, no legumes (which includes peanuts!), no sweeteners, and no dairy.

After the Whole30 we are going back to more primal-style of eating; we are fans of butter, raw milk, whole and cultured yogurt, and unprocessed cheeses in moderation.

You aren’t supposed to weigh yourself during this diet, but we have been. Marc has lost about 5 or 6 pounds, I think I’ve lost maybe 2 (I’m a woman with less to lose).  I think this diet has me craving exercise though! We’ve gone walking and I do weights and exercises at home (I’ve been craving lap swimming though).

Problems or issues with the diet? None, except Marc developed a small rash middle-way on his left side of his back. Some kind of die-off maybe?

Here’s what we  ate this week:

Monday:
Breakfastcoconut almond butter smoothie / 3 eggs with spinach and 1/2 avocado
Lunch – guacamole with 1/2 avocado and 2 tsp salsa, handful of snap peas
Marc had galinha guisada without the root vegetables
DinnerCrock pot roast beef with lemon-pepper green beans

Tuesday:
Breakfast – Coconut almond butter smoothie / 3 eggs with beef neck from beef broth preparation
Lunch – 1/2 can low-sodium tuna with 1/4 cup blended roasted red pepper with 1/2 avocado
Marc had leftover roast and vegetables
Dinner – Ahi Tuna with garlic broccoli and spinach salad and paleo hummus

Wednesday:
Breakfast – Coconut almond butter smoothies – made with 1 more tbsp of almond butter, less banana, and some cocoa
Lunch – guacamole and snap peas and 1 cup grapes
Marc had leftovers from dinner and some extra salmon
Dinner – Crock pot chicken, kale, mashed sweet potatoes and tomato

Thursday:
Breakfast – coconut almond butter smoothie / 3 eggs with beef neck and tallow
Lunch – Salad with Tuna, red peppers, and hummus
Dinner – Chicken taco salad

Friday:
Breakfast – More eggs and more smoothies
Lunch – Leftover chicken taco salad
Dinner – Out to eat – Chipotle (we ordered meat, veggies, salsa, lettuce, and guacamole. The guacamole could have sugar in it, but we decided to risk it)

Snacks
Grapes, cantaloup and other fruit, raw nuts, carrots and snap peas dipped in hummus and guacamole, kombucha, and tuna and avocado.

Thoughts:

  • We need to find bacon and beef jerky without sugar!
  • I should be eating more vegetables – I’ve been relying too much on fruit and nuts