Mocha Protein Shake

Mocha Protein ShakeThis is the perfect drink to have before or after a challenging workout. It’s packed with protein, some carbs, other good-for-you-stuff (details below), and it tastes like an iced mocha coffee! Post-workout, get this into your system within 30-60 minutes after exercise to feed those hungry muscles. Sipping this shake before your workout helps fight fatigue and powers your muscles up for action…but do so an hour before to allow time for digestion.

Why this shake’s ingredients work for your workout:

  • Protein powder – Weight-lifting and vigorous exercise tear down the fibers of our muscles (we build muscle when the body repairs those fibers). Our bodies need protein to use for the repair process. There are tons of protein powders out there but many are full of weird, unnatural ingredients. Thanks to Gary Collins, I discovered Jay Robb protein powder and was really impressed with the “clean” and simple ingredients.
  • Banana – Provides the quick carbs you need after a workout to help repair your muscles. This is the best time to consume a moderate amount of natural sugars because your body will use it instead of store it. (Yep, there IS an ideal time to eat that piece of dark chocolate…)
  • Coffee – When we expend energy…we get tired! Unless your workout is at the end of the day, or you’ve penciled in some nap time, you’ve still got stuff to do! Coffee not only wakes you back up but studies show caffeine also helps reduce muscle soreness.
  • Coconut oil – After a tough workout, our muscles need extra nutrients. Coconut oil acts as a transport system, getting valuable nutrients from the food we eat afterward into our muscles by helping us secrete insulin. While working out helps our health in the long run, it can actually break down our immune system in the short-term. Plus, gyms are notoriously germy! The antiviral, antibacterial properties of the lauric acid in coconut oil give our immune systems the extra boost in protection it needs. For more explanation of why coconut oil is so good for you, check out this article by Dr. Mercola in The Huffington Post.
  • Maca powder – The magical maca root has a myriad of helpful benefits. The ones that pertain to post-workout are: Speeds up recovery; increases energy endurance and stamina; helps circulation. Want to know more? Take a look at this great article I found.
  • Raw cacao powder – This isn’t your commercial powdered chocolate! Raw cacao powder is powered up with antioxidants. It also contains magnesium, which helps relax muscles and promotes a feeling of calmness.
  • Cinnamon – This flavorful spice reduces inflammation in the body. Another plus is its sweet taste with no real sugar.
  • Sea salt – We know that sweating depletes our electrolytes, but don’t reach for the Gatorade or other “sports drinks” that add artificial colors, flavors, and sugars. Sea salt is just as effective in replacing electrolytes, without all the nasty stuff our bodies aren’t meant to ingest. Not all salt is created equal, nor is salt something we need to avoid. Read Debunking the Salt Myth for the real (salt) scoop.

For about 250 calories (based on 120-calorie protein powder), you’re got a nutrient-packed meal that will prepare you for or replenish your body after tough workouts. Have a fit summer!

Recipe for Mocha Protein Shake

Makes about 20 ounces

  • Coconut milk1 cup coffee or mixture with other liquid – I like ¾ cup coffee with ¼ cup almond or coconut milk (Get the unsweetened, no sugar variety, like pictured example)
  • 1 serving vanilla protein powder
  • ½ medium banana (whole banana if long or strenuous workout)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional) – Melt the oil first before measuring if it’s solid
  • 1 teaspoon maca powder
  • 1 teaspoon raw cacao powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch sea salt (one-eighth teaspoon) – Examples of quality salt are Himalayan Crystal Salt and Real Salt
  • ice

Add ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Tangy Apple-Ginger Compote

This nutrient-loaded compote is versatile enough to show up for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  The apple cider vinegar and ginger lends a spicy tang while the raw honey imparts a bit of sweetness to balance it out.  Five-spice powder, used in Chinese cuisine–a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and pepper–gives off an intoxicating fragrance while elevating the compote’s flavor.

This compote is a tasty, but less sweet, topping for pancakes, french toast, or oatmeal.  It’s a gently sweet condiment for pork or chicken.  Adding chilled leftovers to fresh salad greens adds a touch of sweetness and delightful texture.  This compote is an overachiever that doesn’t disappoint!

Recipe for Tangy Apple-Ginger Compote

2 organic apples – cored, peeled, and roughly chopped

1 inch piece ginger – peeled and minced

¼ cup organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon five-spice powder

2 pinches sea salt

2 tablespoons raw honey

Add ingredients, except honey, in saucepan.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Stir, lower to a simmer, cover, and cook until apples are soft, about 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and add honey, stirring gently until dissolved.

Banana Nut Maple Syrup

My apologies.  I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for a while, but when rumbling stomachs and photo shoots (with adequate natural lighting) are involved, it can be hard to find the right time.  However, I was determined to make this again today so I could finally share it with all of you.  As I consulted my notes, I couldn’t quite remember why I made this recipe so large.  It didn’t take long before I thought,  Ah, yes, now I remember…

Reason #1: It’s super easy to make.  Takes less than 5 minutes to prep and is done cooking by the time your pancakes hit your plate.    Reason #2: Banana Nut Maple Syrup is fancier than plain ol’ syrup.  Don’t you want your pancakes (and taste buds) to feel special?  Reason #3: Leftovers.  This recipe is not limited to its ability to liven up fluffy flapjacks.  Spread the love and flavor!  Use as a topping on french toast and crepes, or swirl into oatmeal or yogurt.  And don’t forget desserts…this would be awesome on vanilla ice cream.  But if you still think the yield is too much, you can easily adjust it.

Banana Nut Maple Syrup

makes about 3 cups

2 tablespoons organic butter

4 bananas, sliced ¼ inch thick

¾ cups Grade B maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cardamom

½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Melt butter in small saucepan on low heat.  Add maple syrup, bananas, and spices.  Heat mixture over low heat until just starts to boil.  Turn off heat, add nuts, and stir gently.

Maple-Kissed Walnut Spread

After a month of mornings craving non-traditional breakfast foods–pasta, sandwiches, stir-fried vegetables, salad–this week has been all about standard American breakfast fare.  One particular craving I’ve had is for bagels and cream cheese.  A couple of times a year, my husband and I go to a local bagel shop and share an Everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese and a Cinnamon-Raisin bagel with walnut cream cheese.  With my hankering in mind, I decided to recreate the latter spread at home.  I was delighted that the result was super-yummy even though it’s less sweet than the one from the bagel shop.  I think it’s even more delicious because I didn’t get that sick feeling halfway through from all the sweetness.  Ok, I’m probably prejudiced that mine is better.  Just see for yourself.  While this recipe isn’t something I’ll make on a regular basis, it’ll be perfect for those lazy weekends when my husband and I would normally take a trip to the bagel shop.  Hmm, now I just have to recreate that vegetable spread….

I chose Neufchâtel cheese because it has a third less fat than traditional cream cheese, but tastes just the same in my opinion.  In the directions, I don’t add the maple syrup until the end.  This is because I tried a version with only maple syrup, and the result was a bit lumpy, like cottage cheese.  Not quite what I wanted!

Recipe for Maple-Kissed Walnut Spread

makes enough for at least 4 bagel halves

4 oz. organic Neufchâtel cheese, softened at room temperature

1 tablespoon raw honey, softened (or use liquid honey)

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts – I used roasted nuts

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

dash cardamom

1 tablespoon Grade B maple syrup

Place Neufchâtel cheese in small bowl.  Add honey and mix, then add walnuts and spices and mix thoroughly.  Once spread is nice and creamy, add maple syrup and stir until mixture is a light brown color throughout.

Zucchini Muffins

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As soon as zucchini started to pop up in my farm share, I knew I had to use some of them to make zucchini bread.  I found a great recipe from 101 Cookbooks, my go-to source for all-natural baking.  Although it’s a perfectly fine recipe on its own, I couldn’t help tinkering with it a bit.  I was wary of using curry as Heidi suggested, so I used my favorite spice, cardamom, instead.  I prefer muffins to bread, and since I was planning on making huge muffins, I figured I’d try to cut down the amount of fat and sugar, without compromising flavor of course.  I substituted half the amount of butter with apple butter (made from nothin’ but apples) and eliminated almost one cup of sugar by using ¼ cup xylitol, a sugar that can be found in fruit and vegetable fibers.  It’s touted to protect teeth, and is often used in gum and toothpaste.  In large quantities, xylitol can create intestinal discomfort, but unless you’re eating this entire recipe in one sitting, you’re safe!  I used it in this recipe only to test it out.  I wouldn’t use xylitol on a regular basis, since it must undergo a lot of processing…that doesn’t sit well with me.   If you’d rather not use it, substitute 1 cup of natural cane sugar as is called for in the original recipe.

I’ve had some unfavorable baking results in the past when I’ve played with recipes, as baking is more of a science and one can’t just substitute ingredients willy-nilly.  Thankfully, these muffins survived my experimentation.  In fact, they were incredibly moist and flavorful.  My husband–who won’t politely continue to eat something he doesn’t like–enthusiastically accepted a monster muffin after I fed him a taste.  He loved it, despite knowing he was consuming zucchini in a muffin…I’d call that success!

This recipe yields 6 big ol’ muffins flecked with the zucchini’s dark skin and light green flesh, dotted with tender chunks of ginger and walnuts, and uplifted with bright notes of lemon.  I highly recommend using Reed’s Ginger Candy for the crystallized ginger.  They are so tender and only have a faint dusting of sugar instead of the thick sugary crust I’ve experienced with other brands.

Recipe for Zucchini Muffins

Makes 6 jumbo muffins, 12 standard-size muffins, or 2 loaves (5×9 inch pan)

Group 1

1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
¼ cup poppy seeds
zest from 2 lemons
½ cup crystallized ginger, chopped – Almost all of 3.5-ounce package of Reed’s Ginger Candy

Group 2

¼ cup unsalted butter, softened (about ½ stick)
¼ cup apple butter
¼ cup xylitol (or 1 cup natural cane sugar)
½ cup fine grain natural cane sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons quality vanilla extract

3 generous cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium, skins on) –  One handful at a time, squeeze some of the moisture out of the grated zucchini and then fluff it up before measuring

Group 3

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour – Whole wheat all-purpose flour works too
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cardamom

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter the muffin pan, dust with a little flour.

Combine Group 1 in small bowl, reserving a couple tablespoons of the mixture to add to the tops of the muffins before baking.  Set aside.

Beat the butter until fluffy.  Add apple butter and beat until incorporated into the butter.  Add sugars and beat until mixture is no longer crumbly.  Add one egg at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each egg.  Stir in vanilla and zucchini by hand.

In large bowl, mix Group 3.  Add to butter mixture in several batches.  Fold in Group 1 except for reserved tablespoons.  Mix gently.

Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups.  Sprinkle tops of muffins with reserved tablespoons of Group 1, patting down mixture lightly so they don’t fall off when batter rises.  Bake for about 30 minutes (adjust accordingly if not using large muffin tin).  If unsure, better to have undercooked muffins for this particular recipe.  Muffins will continue to bake a bit once out of oven. Remove from oven and let sit in pan for about 10 minutes.  Loosen muffins from pan with butter knife, remove from pan, and place on wire rack to cool.  I kept half the muffins in the refrigerator and froze the rest for future treats.  These muffins freeze well wrapped in tin foil and kept in a freezer bag.