Pumpkin Pie Protein Bars

Pumpkin Pie Protein Bars

There’s only one problem with this Pumpkin Pie Bar recipe.

It’s too delicious.

Seriously, I always end up having to give these bars away or else I’ll keep snacking on them!

I first started making these bars about 10 years ago and they still make me as happy as ever! I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years – it’s forgiving, especially the base recipe. (NOTE: You likely will not have good luck substituting non-dairy milk in the filling.)

Since I enjoy a “oat-ier” base because of its heartier/nuttier taste, I make my own oat flour. Feel free to experiment with other flours – just remember: nut flours require less butter since they come preloaded with healthy fats.

Pumpkin doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. It’s very nutrient dense (it has a lot of nutrition in it for its caloric load) and yet it can still taste like a treat.

Keep these stored in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Base
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup oat flour (I grind oatmeal in my high-speed blender)
1/2 cup flour (experiment with your favorites)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup cold grass-fed butter, cut into small cubes

Filling
2 cups organic skim milk
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 15-oz can real pumpkin puree
5 scoops (equal to 125 g) vanilla protein powder (OWYN or Sun Warrior are my go-to brands)
3 large organic omega 3 eggs
Coconut sugar, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine first three base ingredients in bowl or stand mixer. Add the cubed butter to the other ingredients, squeezing the butter into the other ingredients to form a coarse breadcrumb-like texture. Press into a 9×13 baking pan, and bake for 12 minutes.

While that’s cooking, bring milk and spices to a boil in a saucepan. As soon as it boils, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the pumpkin first, then the protein powder, and, finally, the eggs. If using the coconut sugar, add here.

When base is ready, remove it from the oven and pour the pumpkin filling mixture on top. Place back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the filling as set (it might jiggle a little in the middle, but is somewhat firm to the touch). Cool, cut into 8 pieces and store in the fridge or freezer.

Per serving: 313 calories, 10 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 34 grams carbs, 23 grams protein.

No-Bake Cookie Oatmeal

No-Bake Cookie Oatmeal

Back in 2010 when I first published this recipe (which I’ve since updated), this was one of my favorite mini meals.

And why wouldn’t it be? It contains chocolate AND peanut butter. What could be better? It’s also filled with protein, fiber, antioxidants, and contains very little fat.

Yes, I know we are rethinking our whole relationship with fat, but it’s energy dense (high in calories) and when you’re watching your macros, that can play a role in your food decisions.

Back when I competed more regularly, this was one of my go-to breakfast meals. It powered me through my mornings and kept me feeling full till noon.

No-Bake Cookie Oatmeal

Ingredients

1/2 cup gluten-free old-fashioned oatmeal, dry
2 tablespoons PB2 (powdered peanut butter) (if you don’t have this, use 1 tablespoon “real” natural peanut butter)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (the kind you bake with)
1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder (I use Sun Warrior)

Cook the oatmeal in 1 cup of water, as per package directions. Place oatmeal in a bowl and add dry ingredients, mixing well. If it’s not sweet enough for you (it is for me), add some stevia. Voila! Done! Delicious.

To make this richer, you can make the oatmeal using coconut or almond milk.

Nutritional breakdown:
260 calories, 7 fat grams, 8 grams fiber, 36 grams carbohydrates, 23 protein grams.

With 1 tablespoon “real” peanut butter if you don’t have access to PB2:
313 calories, 13 fat grams, 7 grams fiber, 33 grams carbs, 21 protein grams

Oatmeal turkey pizza crust

Oatmeal turkey pizza crust

I love recipes that don’t have to be EXACT. This one doesn’t — and it’s a good guilt-free way to indulge in a dish that’s usually not so healthy for us: Pizza!

I started making this back in 2011 after seeing it in an issue of Oxygen magazine, but have revised it over the years. Feel free to play around with the toppings (the last 7  ingredients).

You can add a Mexican flare with salsa, mix up the veggies, try different cheese — your choice!

Makes 1 serving

Oatmeal Turkey Pizza Crust

Ingredients:
1/2 cup gluten-free oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground flaxseed
2 oz extra-lean ground turkey
1 cup chopped baby spinach
1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
1/4 cup 1% cottage cheese
2 tbsp red onion, chopped
2 tbsp red bell pepper, chopped
1 roma tomato, sliced
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together first 4 ingredients. Flatten this oatmeal crust into a disc shape on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, flip over and bake for another 5.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Spread out on top of the oatmeal cake.
  4. Bake until cheese melts. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan (optional) when it comes out of the oven
Banana cheesecake protein shake

Banana cheesecake protein shake

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I sneak some not-that-“clean” food into my healthy-ish meals.

Because sometimes a gal just has to eat something that tastes like cheesecake but that doesn’t blow her macros through the roof. Am I right?

This Banana Cheesecake Protein Smoothie is a case in point. The sugar-free, fat-free cheesecake pudding mix in this recipe makes this smoothie thick, luscious and decadent … and that’s not a bad thing, in my book.

Try it! This was originally posted in 2011, but I updated it to make it even “cleaner” … except for the instant pudding mix. 🙂

Banana Cheesecake Protein Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Sun Warrior brand)
1 tbsp sugar-free fat-free cheesecake pudding mix
1 cup coconut milk
1 medium frozen, sliced banana
small amount of water (if needed)

Place first four items in a high-speed blender and mix well. Add a little water if it’s too thick. Drink. Yum!

How to eat for fat loss over 50 (and every other age, too)

How to eat for fat loss over 50 (and every other age, too)

If you want to lose fat, you need to do two main things.

  1. Make your body better at burning fat.
  2. Require it to burn more fat.

It’s crazy how complicated people can make those two tasks sound. Trust me, it’s not that complicated. Yes there’s a ton of contradictory science but the basics of the above – and what I’m about to lay out below – haven’t changed and I’m guessing they won’t change, either. 

How to eat for fat los over 50 (and every other age)

The hard truth: losing fat is NOT a fast process, especially when you’re older. Just by virtue of BEING older, you’re a survivor. That means your body is smart – it’s lived this long and it wants to survive, so in order to do that it slows down your metabolism so you require less fuel.

You’ll have more success if you incorporate these tips into a lifestyle instead of a short-term “thing” … the upside: you’ll feel better every day, have more energy and an improved mood. Plus you’ll notice huge changes in your skin and hair, and in the way your body moves and feels.

1. Make your body better at burning fat

Your body’s preferred fuel is glycogen, which is basically sugar/carbs. If there are readily available carbs in your system, it’ll burn them. If you take in too many carbs/sugars, your body will store them.

But here’s the thing: once your body runs out of carbs, it’ll use other fuel sources (including stored fat!) to fuel everything you do, from breathing to dashing up the stairs to retrieve your glasses.

Do you need to cut out all carbs? Go into ketosis? Should you go buy test strips? How about a fancy blood monitor?

NO.

The best bet for long-term success is to create a sustainable lifestyle. Any diet or program that requires you to buy or do (like test for ketones) a lot of extra stuff to support it isn’t going to give you lasting results unless you are a highly motivated/obsessed person. I competed in figure competitions for four seasons so I know this firsthand. 

Your diet shouldn’t run your life. Your diet should fuel your life.

Instead do this: Eat real food. I’m talking about more veggies and fruit, healthy fats and proteins, occasionally enjoy some fiber-rich complex carbs but watch your portions — legumes, quinoa, beets, rice, etc. 

Note: wine IS carbs. All of them. So watch your intake.

Your body has a harder time burning fat when it’s under stress, too – remember, it wants to survive, so if it feels under attack, it’s likely to engage in a series of hormonal responses designed to help with that (like burning less fuel). Some stress in life is inevitable and even good for you, but too much is bad all the way around.

Your body can feel stress from: too little rest or sleep, poor diet, autoimmune disease (which have huge impact on your body’s intricate hormonal systems), financial/business/work/family/relationship issues, some medications/drugs and/or overuse of alcohol.

2. Require your body to burn more fat.

This has two components … eating and moving.

First, the eating. You need to let your gas tank get a little empty so you can switch on your reserve (stored) tank of fuel. The key to that: Watch your portion sizes. The amount of fuel you take in DOES matter if you’re trying to lose fat (even non-carb intake).

Second, the moving. The more you move, the more fuel you burn. Studies repeatedly show that when it comes to fat loss, non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) can have more of an affect than your workouts! NEAT calories get burned when you are just moving around during the course of the day.

And when you do work out, make sure you train with intensity — listen to your body but be sure to push yourself just a little bit at least a few times a week (i.e., strolling at 2 mph on the treadmill probably isn’t going to give you the results you want). And lift weights a few times a week. As we age, we lose muscle. Not only do you need muscle to remain strong and vital, but it also burns a little more fuel over the course of the day than your body’s other parts.

Avoid this rookie fat-loss mistake (which we all make): If you think you “deserve” a high-calorie, sugar-laden treat because you worked out and/or were busy all day … and fat loss is your primary goal … be careful not to undo all the hard work you put in by overfilling your tank.

Remember: fat-loss is primarily a diet-related phenomenon.

5 Things for Thursday, May 10

1. I have 14,386 unread emails, most of them trying to sell me something.

2. Yesterday I cried for the first time in a long time. Like, an ugly awful dizzy-making cry that I was worried would never stop. See the stress note above? Crying helped. I think. Maybe. Although I did end up fighting a migraine for the rest of the day. #oversharing

3. Also yesterday, my dog met the 3-pound dog that lives next door. The two of them bark at each other many times a day, and I thought a meeting would help. Poor Bella (the little dog) was so timid and scared. But this morning? No barking.

4. External validation. Some of us need more of it than do others. That’s OK.

5. Why do I share my workouts below? So you can steal them if you want.

Bonus No. 6: I now have 14,396 unread email messages.

Workout

Quick cardio day

  • 15 minutes elliptical
  • 15 minute treadmill running intervals
  • Adductor/abductor machine, 3x:
    • 20 abductions (press out)
    • 15 adductions (press in)

Oh hey Wendy why did you only do that one machine? Two reasons: my lumbo-pelvic-hip complex has been really tight/cranky and these movements seem to help, and my leg workout last week didn’t hit these accessory muscles very well.

How to Roast Frozen Veggies (and Save Money!)

How to Roast Frozen Veggies (and Save Money!)

Don’t you hate throwing away food? 

It’s kind of like throwing away money.

The thing is, you probably never intend to throw away food when you buy it. But here’s the usual scenario:

You go to the grocery store and, with perfectly good intentions, buy fresh veggies. When you get home, you only use some of that beautiful produce and by the time you want to use the rest of it, it’s gone bad.

Gross.

This is why I mostly use frozen veggies. They save money over the long run and the nutritional breakdown between fresh and frozen veggies shows they are comparable (1).

The problem with frozen vegetables is that sometimes the texture can be off or they can taste a little bland. That’s why I’ve become kind of a ninja when it comes to preparing frozen veggies.

One of my favorite uses for frozen veggies is to roast them, especially during the fall and winter. They caramelize, which makes them sweet and delicious, plus they get a little crispy. So good!

And even better is the fact you can roast them straight-up from their frozen state. No thawing required!

The Secret to Perfectly Roasted Veggies

Here’s the trick: You have to preheat the pan AND the oil to prevent your veggies from getting soggy as they thaw in the oven.

Last weekend I had a terrible case of insomnia so I got up super early and decided to get my grocery shopping done … and that meant I had to go to Walmart because it was the only store open. I am not a huge fan of the produce section at my local store, so I hit the freezers for my veggies.

Bonus: I scored a 5-lb. bag of California blend veggies (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower) on sale.

When I got home, I roasted the whole bag and had veggies on-hand for several days.

This method will work with nearly every kind of veggie, but keep in mind that thicker/bigger veggies (like broccoli) will take longer to roast than small veggies (like sliced carrots or green beans).

How to Roast Frozen Vegetables

  • Line 1 or 2 rimmed baking pans with foil (to help with cleanup later).
  • Put 1-2 tablespoons of high-heat oil (such as coconut oil or avocado oil) on the pans.
  • Place pans in oven heated to 425 to 450 degrees to preheat. (I like hotter ovens for thicker/bigger veggies.)
  • Meanwhile, coat the frozen veggies in a small amount of fat/oil. The oil not only helps with taste but also can help your body better use the micronutrients contained in the veggies.
  • When the oven is heated, CAREFULLY remove the pans from the oven and make sure the oil is equally dispersed in the pan. 
  • Add the veggies in a single layer.
  • Place pans in oven.
  • Cook for 30 to 45 minutes (again, thicker/bigger veggies take longer to cook). Carefully stir the veggies every 15 to 20 minutes to ensure even roasting.
  • When done, remove from oven and season with salt/pepper/herbs/spices.

How To Serve Roasted Veggies

How To Roast Frozen Vegetables

Roasted frozen veggies with balsamic glaze and a sunny-side up egg.

Roasted vegetables make a delicious side dish, and they taste even better the next day.

Personally, I do not like microwaving leftover roasted vegetables because they get mushy, so I usually heat them in a pan on the stove. It’s a win-win: it only takes a few minutes, and they taste better.

You can use them cold in a salad sprinkled with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and vinaigrette; make a warm salad with greens and chicken or shrimp; or top them with an egg (one of my lunchtime faves).

Seriously, roasting your frozen veggies will make you appreciate your grocery’s freezer section!