Month: April 2016

Chocolate Energy Bars/Bites Recipe

What’s the difference between a candy treat and a power-packed  energy snack? It’s a difficult line to draw. Both options are high in sugar, but the quality of ingredients may be the deciding factor. This recipe brushes pretty close between the lines of being an energy snack and/ or  a  candy treat. No need to panic though, it works as both extremely well. But let’s back up a little  and explore  why I developed this recipe and have shared it multiple times already before I was even able to post it! The second I made it, and I snapped  picture of it for Instagram, requests came flooding in for the recipe. Not only my fellow runner friends wanted this magical energy treat but also my friends from our moms’  group. They just had to have this “cleaner and better version” of “candy” that they could offer to their kids.

I have been looking for a quick energy drop that is so easy to digest that one could eat it before going out on a job or an endurance workout . I have some energy bites that I have shared on this blog before, and I still make them often as well. But I wanted one that didn’t have any grains this time for the sake of variety, as well as  having a differently sourced form of  energy. Our body requires energy to run, but how we ingest that energy creates  different  routes  for our body to process it. Carbohydrates and sugar provide this quick energy that our body can burn through while we exercise and or run. It is up to us to find just the right ones for our bodies that result in the best performance. That’s right! This is not a one answer fits all puzzle. Some athletes, for example, rely on a tablespoon  of  honey right before a 5 mile run in order to achieve better running times,  while conversely others prefer a banana with peanut butter.. In the end, they all contain about the same amount of carbohydrates, but how your body digests each and breaks the food  down to “usable energy” remains  a bit different. Therefore, finding the ones that work for you is a matter of trying and keeping track of  performance.

These energy bites are made up mainly of dates. Dates have a high sugar content, making them   a   energy booster. They are also rich in potassium and fiber. In just one cup of chopped dates, you’ll find a combined 12 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as around 415 calories and 3.6 grams of protein. By adding the pecan meal (which can be substituted for any other nut finely ground up into a powder consistency) and cashew butter, the flavor and nutrients are enhanced as well. And since chocolate is my friend always, I added some cacao powder and chocolate chips, which are completely optional. Instead you can add vanilla extract and chopped dry cherries for a new flavor..

The other super fans of these bars or drops —  it all depends on how you choose to prepare them — are kids! Our goal is, of course,  to decrease the amount of  processed sugar in children’s diets. The unfortunate numbers for childhood chronic diseases are  related to their overwhelming intake of sugar, which  is still much higher than desired in our country. These treats, on the other hand, provide a satisfying sweet flavor with added benefits. The nutrients found in these energy drops are not present in the vast majority of candy marketed to children. Although they may contain the same grams of sugar, these will provide vitamins and minerals, fiber, protein and no added artificial preservatives. It is what I like to call a “clean candy.1’ This way we still understand they are high sugar and not something you’d want to provide as a daily afternoon snack, allowing  your child to pop five or six at a time into their mouths. But instead of gum, candy coated chocolate, hard sugar candy,, these are without a doubt a better choice for your kids!

Not sure you can make them at home? Grab the ingredients and watch the video below, so we can make them together!

Energy Bites from Once Again Nut Butter Blog, Carolina Jantac, MS, RD LD

Chocolate Energy Bars/Drops

 1 pound of dates

½ cup pecan meal (ground pecan to a fine powder consistency)

1 tablespoon cacao powder

1 tablespoon Once Again Nut Butter Cashew butter

½ cup dark chocolate chips

Add half of the dates to food processor and pulse on high until the mixture forms into a ball, and then add in the other half of the dates and pulse again. Now add pecan meal and cacao powder to the food processor and pulse until well mixed. Last, add the cashew butter and chocolate chips. The mixture will be very sticky. By slightly dampening your hands with water, it  will be  much easier to work with this “dough.”  Place it on  parchment paper, and place another piece of parchment paper on top of it. Roll it out using a rolling pin until it reaches desired thickness. One half inch of dough  makes a great sized bar. Then cut and place bars in lined pan to set in refrigerator for 15 minutes. You may also roll them into bites. Store in refrigerator for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 30 days. This recipe makes about 18 bars.

Estimated calories: 110 per bar when making 18 bars total.

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Runner’s Recovery Cookie

Have you noticed all the “stay active” challenges talked about this year? The “Run 1,000 miles in 2016 Challenge”… “Work out 6,500 Minutes” this year and “Walk 3 Million Steps in 2016” are just some examples of the ones getting a lot of attention on social media. They are all fantastic ways to motivate yourself to stick to  a goal. While nutrition plays an integral part in your health, there is no question that staying active is just as important. As a matter of fact, while some nutrients tend to gain endorsements (for example vitamin D), others fall short of their promised values (such as excessive amounts of protein). Controversial food groups are added or eliminated from diets often; however, exercise continues to be a constant in all plans for  healthier living.

All health professionals agree that increasing your heart rate via exercise at least five times weekly is one of the best ways to prevent some serious chronic diseases. Therefore, to encourage everyone to join in the fun and challenge themselves to create an activity goal this year, we worked on a yummy recipe that will help you recover after a long work out.

This cookie received its name because I developed it with a particular race weekend in mind. I was looking for something easy to transport, since the race was taking place about two hours away from home. Also the cookies  had to stay fresh for a couple of days as well.

A critical time to optimize muscle recovery is within 30 minutes post exercise. It’s not just a happy coincidence that usually after a racing  event, the most common item that runners pick up (after their medals, of course) is  bananas. One of the favorite t-shirts that I purchased at a race weekend event had the saying: “I run for a free banana.”  Bananas are an excellent source of electrolytes and energy when needed to replace your depleted stores. But is there something else you could eat after a race? Perhaps something more motivating to think about during  that last mile of your race? I think so!

Our Runner’s Recovery Cookie may just give you enough strength to power through those last few hundred feet when you feel you have nothing left. And there are two ingredients that make it fit for a post- run fuel. The peanut butter is the first one, providing the sugar, protein and balanced fat your body craves after strenuous activities. The chopped tart cherries are the second ingredient. This one may surprise you, but tart cherries and tart cherry juice are  popular items among  many elite athletes.

Tart cherries, famous for their anti-inflammatory properties, are also able to ease muscle soreness after exercise, speeding up your recovery process. The pain one feels after a long run is attributed to muscle damage, inflammation and inevitable oxidative stress. Fortunately, tart cherries’ concentrated amounts of anthocyanins are able to tackle all three issues. A recent study (1) looked at runners in a 196-mile relay race in Oregon and showed that those who drank cherry juice reported significantly less muscle pain after the race. Besides their delicious tart flavor, this proved to be  an additional  reason to add some chopped tart cherries to this cookie recipe.

Now, since we like to share our cookies when we bring them to a race, we kept this one gluten-free so that everyone could have some! Notice the recipe includes pecan meal. But you don’t have to buy/use pecan meal; simply add pecans to your food processor and pulse until you achieve granulated consistency. If pecans aren’t your favorite, just use almonds or cashews. The recipe also has ½ cup of crushed corn cereal. This can be any cereal you have in your pantry. I used a corn- based one to keep this gluten- free, but feel free to use your own favorite. The dough is super sticky, and using two spoons to place cookies on the baking sheet helps. Use a non-stick spray on the spoon to ease handling the mixture. It makes a large batch, so if you’d like, this is a good recipe to halve  for a smaller turn out when needed.  Just cut the ingredients in half and proceed.

Runner's Recovery Cookie -

Runner’s Recovery Cookie

1 cup Once Again Crunchy Peanut Butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of oat flour

2 teaspoons of baking soda

6 tablespoons of pecan meal

½ cup finely crushed corn cereal

½ cup chocolate chips

½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

¼ cup chopped tart cherries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the peanut butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs first. In separate bowl, mix oat flour, pecan meal, crushed cereal and baking soda. Mix well — and slowly add to the wet mixture. This may be easier done with a mixer. Lastly add in coconut flakes, cherries and chocolate chips. Mix well. It will be a sticky mixture. Using a cookie scoop, form cookies and place them on  a cookie sheet prepared by spraying with oil or butter, if you are using a silicone baking mat there is no need to spray it with oil or butter. with a spoon or fork, slightly flatten them. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden. Enjoy them after a run or workout! Save these delights in an airtight container for up to 7 days.

  1. Bowtell JL, Sumners DP, Dyer A, Fox P, Mileva KN. Montmorency tart cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2011;43:1544-1551. 

Jumbo Flourless Chocolate Muffins

This recipe takes a different approach to  my usual baking,  not so much in the ingredient choices, but in the size of the finished product. If you have been following our recipe blogs for a while, you likely noticed my preference for “bite-sized” type of baked goods, small portioned desserts and mini-sized versions of recipes. But there are times when one just needs a jumbo -sized muffin! Maybe you need one after a long week at work, or a particularly challenging meeting, or perhaps after a bad episode of your favorite T.V. show. Whatever the reason, there are times when it is appropriate to indulge in a super-sized baked treat. And for those times, we want you to be prepared with a quick recipe to go to.

When baking large- sized muffins, it is crucial that the batter  you are preparing have enough leavening agent to grow and stay fluffy during the oven baking process. Not to get too technical here, but your leavening agent, also known as raising agent, incorporates gas bubbles into the dough. The two most often used in baking are baking soda and baking powder. So why don’t we  take a minute to explain the difference between the two? You can use this information to create your own recipes and have confidence they  won’t flop when put in the oven.

Baking soda, aka: pure sodium bicarbonate, combines with the moisture and an acidic ingredient in your mix, resulting in a chemical reaction that produces bubbles of carbon dioxide. These expand when in the oven causing your dough to rise. Since they act immediately, once the baking soda is added, you are on a timer to get your muffins to the oven or else they could fail to rise. Note that the recipe depends on an acidic ingredient for it to work. This can be yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice or even chocolate. Without one, your baking soda won’t work at all. It’s nice to check to see if   your baking soda is fresh by adding a teaspoon to vinegar some of it; if it bubbles immediately, you are good to go!

The other agent widely used in our recipes is baking powder. This one contains sodium bicarbonate as well, but also includes the acidifying agent (cream of tartar) and a drying agent (starch). It can stand a little extra time, as it does not lose its potency so quickly, so you don’t have to rush your batter  into the oven. It will work once it reaches warmer temperatures, allowing your muffins  to rise in the oven while baking. It can also be tested for freshness by adding a teaspoon to warm water; if it bubbles right away, it’s fresh!

Some recipes will actually ask for both, baking soda and baking powder. This allows the raising to happen twice:  once while you are mixing it (because of baking soda) and then again when it reaches the oven (because of baking powder), giving your recipe  an extra boost of air bubbles. The art of baking is a balance of science and experience. And I don’t claim to be an expert in by any means! But learning little facts about the most common ingredients will help us all advance along the  road to becoming  “master bakers.”

As a little  side note, did you know that most (if not all, I’m still investigating this) cake, cookie and muffin recipes that call for a pinch of salt do not necessarily need it? That’s right! If you are concerned about your sodium intake, try omitting the salt when you can and see if your end results are the same. So far in my kitchen, it has worked. Hooray for healthier shortcuts that are successful!

~ Carolina

jumbo flourless chocolate muffins on

Jumbo Flourless Chocolate Muffins

¾ cup Once Again Cashew Butter

2 eggs

1/3 cup Killer Bee Honey

1/3 cup Unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons milk or water

¼ cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together cashew butter, eggs and honey. Add in the cacao powder, vanilla and baking soda. If mixture is too thick, add in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water or milk (your choice). Place batter in muffin tins, sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top, and take the batch  to oven for  20 to 25 minutes. Enjoy the muffins  warm, or store them in an airtight  container for up to 3 days. Makes 6 large muffins. #glultenfree #noiol #norefinedsugar