Tag Archives: almond butter

Hello, Fall!

I have mixed feelings about fall.

I love the falling leaves. Crisp air. And the outfits–boots, sweaters, layers, and scarves. What I don’t love is the sense of impending doom.

A.k.a. winter.

And what I really don’t love is when winter comes early. In the form of snow.

In October! (Yeah, that happened.)

But I try not to dwell. And there’s nothing like a little taste of fall to make me forget what’s coming. Which, of course, means pumpkin!

There’s been a return of pumpkin oats…

Fall in a bowl. 

But recently a new fall treat was born.

When I ran out of my batch of No-Bake Back-to-School Granola Bars, I naturally turned to pumpkin for inspiration and added a fall twist to the next batch of bars.

N0-Bake Maple Pecan Pumpkin Oat Bars

  • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnut baking pieces
  • 1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
  • a couple grinds of sea salt
  • 1/3 cup Tierra Farm Organic Maple Pecan Butter* (or other nut butter)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin

* If you can’t find maple pecan butter, use a different nut butter (such as almond or walnut) and try replacing some of the brown rice syrup with maple syrup to get that maple flavor. Justin’s Maple Almond Butter would work well, too.

DIRECTIONS:

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix nut butter(s), pumpkin, and sweetener, then stir into dry ingredients until well-combined. Press mixture down into a baking dish. Cover with saran wrap to really push down evenly without getting your fingers sticky. Refrigerate for at least four hours before cutting into squares and wrapping individually. Store in the freezer for an easy on-the-go snack.

Enjoy!

So tasty! These have been a perfect addition to my lunches.

I cut mine into small bites, which ended up being the perfect size.

Scrumptious–and so easy to make!

What’s your favorite way to eat pumpkin?

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Halfway There

In terms of my marathon training plan, I’m officially halfway there.

Livin’ on a prayer. Actually, not really–I just have Bon Jovi in my head. And now you do, too. You’re welcome. ;)

Fittingly for my halfway point, I ran 13.1 miles yesterday–the distance of a half marathon–no big deal. It was a great way to unwind after my first week of classes.

I’m sure you’re getting slightly tired of the whole redundant long run routine, so I’ll breeze through the grub then share some of my general training reflections up to this point.

There was carbo-loading–yada yada yada. You’ve all seen carbs. They’re a beautiful thing. I’ll leave the veggie burger up to your imaginations.

Pre-run, there was more peanut butter-banana-cacoa nibs-action. I also added a grind of sea salt to counter the sodium I’d lose through sweat.

During the run–which was a lovely tour of Brooklyn, featuring the Brooklyn Bridge, the promenade, and Prospect Park–I fueled with some Hammer Gel.

This time I went with the vanilla flavor. I liked it, but it was a bit too sweet; I much prefer the banana flavor I had last time. Hammer Time happened around mile 11. I probably could have done without fuel, but I figured a boost couldn’t hurt. I also brought along some water with lemon and agave to stay hydrated.

And post-run, I enjoyed a recovery pudding–based on this version.

In the mix: 1 frozen banana, 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, 1/4 cup frozen raspberries, 1 Tbs almond butter, 1 scoop Sunwarrior vanilla protein powder, 1 Tbs carob powder, a grind of sea salt, and a splash of lemon.

It was refreshing–but a bit sweet for my tastes. I’m not sure where my sweet tooth has gone!

All in all, the run went well. It was a lovely day and I was feeling strong.

So what about marathon training as a whole?

Here are a few observations I’ve gleaned from my experiences.

For the love. I’ve discovered I love distance running. Love. I mean, I’ve always loved it, but I’m even more smitten now that I’m getting into the longer distances. I look forward to my long runs every week. They’re actually really fun!

And it’s probably a good thing that I’m loving distance running, considering I have to somehow work up to 26.2. I’m still not totally sure how that will happen, but I trust the training. ;)

It hurts! Since I’ve started training, something pretty much always hurts. Not badly, but enough that I notice. One day it’s my left hamstring, the next my right groin muscle. My right calf hurts during the run, my left toe afterward. I’m in a constant battle with my body. Often it takes the first 4 or 5 miles of my run to warm up and feel totally great. And even when I do feel amazing during the run, as soon as I stop a new ache or pain reveals itself.

Luckily, I haven’t dealt with any serious, lasting pain or injury [knocking on wood], and I will of course take the necessary precautions should something develop. But the bottom line is that training is not easy on your body–and I’ve learned to live with a little discomfort, to test my body’s limits. It comes with the territory.

Rest is the best. Speaking of pain, I love my rest days. Like today. And I mean 100% rest–no working out. They allow me to completely recover so that when I head back out for a run I feel mentally and physically replenished.

What’s cross-training again? As it turns out, I define “cross-training” quite loosely. When I first began training, I would go to the gym and try out a machine other than the treadmill and/or lift weights on my cross-training day. Lately, I’ve thought more creatively about it. I do yoga if I have the time. But I’ve also counted a Jillian session as cross-training. And “running errands.” Even boat rides. Ha. And I’ve also abandoned any pretense of cross-training during weeks where I need the extra day of rest.

Don’t get me wrong–I think cross-training is important (and an area I undoubtedly need to work on), but I also believe listening to your body trumps all. And if life is going to get in the way of my training, I’d rather it be my cross-training days than, say, my long runs. Priorities people.

Pacing. So, I’m not the best at sticking to my “marathon pace” during my long runs yet. When I’m feeling good, I run accordingly. I realize this way of thinking is not going to help during the marathon; if I run too hard too soon, I will hit a wall. And that would be bad. So my goal for the next phase of training–for the 18, 19, 20 milers–is to focus on running a somewhat consistent, reasonable marathon pace. It might feel slow at times, but that will probably mean I’m doing something right. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Literally. Ha.

I make my own beats. As they say, training runs are the time to experiment–with fuel, running gear, clothing, etc. I’ve talked a lot about grub–but I haven’t mentioned that I’ve been running sans an ipod. Yep, that means no music.

(source)

Why? I didn’t want to carry my ipod. It’s an old clunker–and even when I put it in an arm strap, I find myself constantly adjusting it so it’s comfortable. The thought of dealing with that for 9, 12, 15 miles was too much. And truth be told, I like being alone with my thoughts, and the world around me. I like hearing my own breath. I like feeling like I don’t need anything but myself to power me through.

With that said, I’m certainly not opposed to music–and used it for all my half-marathons in the past. And if things start to get desperate, I haven’t ruled it out. But so far, I’ve really enjoyed leaving the ipod behind.

When you run and/or work out, do you listen to music or leave the ipod behind? Why or why not? 

Do you embrace your rest days, or feel guilty when you don’t work out? 

Also, if you have questions that I didn’t cover, feel free to ask! :)

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All or Nothing?

Today marks my first official day of grad school.

I’m sure you’re all wondering what the breakfast of champions is (yes, I have deemed myself a champion)–and I will gladly share.

Hint: It’s not Wheaties.

If you guessed oats, you would be correct!

Look familiar? Clearly, yesterday’s breakfast was worth repeating.  The combination of blueberries and vanilla is reminiscent of a blueberry muffin. So. Good.

I did, however, make a couple of changes. I nearly doubled the frozen blueberries, replaced the almonds with a little sprinkling of walnut pieces, and ate it from a jar.

I don’t know why, but eating out of jars is way more fun.

Stir, refrigerate, and eat. (And, apparently, repeat. Because it’s that good.)

I’m counting on this jar to power me through class. And readings, homework, papers, exams. Wait–whose idea was it to go back to school??

Kidding. I can’t wait.

As the whirlwind that will be the next two years of my life begins, it’s only natural that I question where (if at all) blogging will fit into my new world.

One thing I do know is that I won’t be able to blog as much as I have in the past. In fact, you may have noticed that I’ve already started posting less frequently–and I’ve only had orientation so far. (Is that a bad sign?) School is my priority, my program is intense, and I want to be fully present in my learning.

I also want time to breathe, rest, reflect. Time to run. Or not. Time to spend literally days baking–and bake at ungodly hours. Time to shell chickpeas one by one, collect really tiny jars (?), and have a beer with friends once in a while.

I realize I won’t (and shouldn’t try to) fit all of these things in. The point is, I want time to have a life. I want balance. And I’m not sure I will have room for blogging.

The perfectionist in me thinks that if I can’t keep up with my blog, I should just call it quits now. It’s been real, I’ll miss it, but why continue to blog, half-heartedly? It’s got to be all or nothing.

(source)

Another part of me, however, believes a blog’s worth is not determined by the frequency of posts. And I know that I will miss blogging if I call the whole thing off. It’s something I’ve enjoyed. It may even become an outlet for me while I’m in school.

The dilemma I posed in my very first post (to blog or not to blog) remains relevant, and, again, I’m choosing to blog–but also to cut back on my posts.

(source)

Right? Right.

I’m not sure what this will look like week to week, or what posting schedule will be optimal, but I hope you’ll continue to stop by!

And in the spirit of less is more, I’ll leave you with a simple salad–one of the best I’ve had in a while.

In the bowl: mixed greens, tomatoes, carrot, cucumber, onion, artichoke hearts, adzuki beans, toasted sunflower seeds, fresh basil–dressed with a mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Gena’s amazing hemp pesto. Oh my goodness, what a dressing! If you have not used pesto as a base for a dressing, do it.

So tasty.

You know what else–besides jars–is really fun to eat out of?

Huge mixing bowls. No shame.

Bloggers: Have changes in your blog ever reflected changes in your life?

What is your Breakfast of Champions? 

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The Week of Wraps

Remember lunch posts? That little series of posts I dedicate to what is arguably the most mundane meal of the day: packed lunch?

Don’t feel bad if you have no idea what I’m talking about; I barely recall those weekly wonders. ;)

Well today I’m back to share my last week in lunches.

And apparently I’m really into wraps right now. I mean, I’ve always loved a good wrap–but last week I took that love to a whole new level with a wrap nearly every day.

But first things first: breakfast.

Overnight oats brimming with blueberries and vanilla.

In the bowl: 1 mashed banana, 1/3 cup old fashioned oats, 1 Tbs chia seeds, 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 scoop Sunwarrior vanilla protein powder, cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract, 1/4 cup frozen wild blueberries, a few raw almonds–all topped with a Tbs of almond butter.

Delicious!

Have you tried adding frozen fruit to your overnight oats before? Do it–it’s wonderful.

Anyway. On to lunch the wraps…

MONDAY 

A classic combo: whole wheat wrap with Creamy Hummus (recipe here), spinach, tomatoes, and toasted sunflower seeds.

Simple, but tasty–and highlighted the hummus so well!

I also snacked on an appleWhat else is new?

And in the afternoon, I picked up splurged on a Two Moms in the Raw bar–Goji Berry Granola.

Love. 

TUESDAY

Okay, you caught me: I splurged on two Two Moms in the Raw bars–and this time enjoyed the Blueberry Granola flavor. Essentially the same wrap as Monday–Creamy Hummus, mixed greens, tomatoes, and toasted sunflower seeds, served on an Ezekiel sprouted grain tortilla. Apple.

It doesn’t get old.

WEDNESDAY

Carrot sticks with TJ’s edamame hummus. And for the wrap, I went with another classic: a Tofu-Avocado Wrap on an Ezekiel sprouted grain tortilla. Apple.

Layer one: a titch of vegan mayo along with mashed avo, sea salt, and red pepper flakes. 

Layer two: greens, TJ’s savory tofu, and toasted sunflower seeds. 

Creamy, crunchy, and awesome.

THURSDAY

Thursday, I deviated from the Wrap Week. Lunch was to be provided by my grad school for orientation, and knowing that the vegan options would be limited, I packed an apple and blueberry muffin Larabar (amazing flavor, by the way)–which held me over perfectly.

When I got home in the afternoon, I enjoyed a late lunch/early dinner consisting of a salad beast and a sprouted grain wrap with hummus

A deconstructed wrap, in a way. ;) It was totally amazing. I could eat this every night in one form or another and never get sick of it.

The wrap was spread with more Creamy Hummus

And in the large-and-in-charge, protein-packed salad: mixed greens, cooked adzuki beans, carrot, chopped onion, cucumber, hemp seeds, peas, chopped olives, a dollop of leftover sundried tomato marinara sauce, and toasted sunflower seeds–dressed with a mix TJ’s edamame hummus, ume plum vinegar, minced garlic, and a titch of olive oil.

So. Good. Filling and full of varying flavors and textures. Hit the spot.

FRIDAY 

Apple + whole wheat wrap.

This wrap was a little more creative than the earlier ones. In the mix: more Creamy Hummus, a dollop of leftover sundried tomato marinara, cooked adzuki beans, chopped olives, cucumber, sliced tomato, avocado, and toasted sunflower seeds. Random, but totally hearty and delicious.

So am I sick of wraps yet?

Nope! I’m ready for more. :)

What’s a food or meal you never get sick of? Salads and wraps for me, because there are a million ways to create them–and change things up! I’ve also never gotten sick of oats or nut butter, and I can’t see that happening.

P.S. I survived the storm unscathed. Many thanks for your well wishes! 

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Back in Action

I’ve been home from my little vacation (a.k.a. Midwest tour) for a little over a week now, and slowly but surely, I’m getting back into the swing of things. I really missed the city!

And by “city” I actually mean my kitchen.

And by my “kitchen” I’m really just talking about my food processor. Ha.

I’m kidding! Kind of. I mean, I missed New York too. And Tom, of course (love you, honey!). But my food processor…it had been weeks since I processed, pulsed, or pureed anything! The horror!

(Except for this deliciousness using my mom’s processor. But still.)

Naturally, I busted it out before I even stocked up on groceries.

Ice cream for breakfast anyone?

This is what happens when you’re craving peanut butter + banana but don’t have fresh fruit in the house. A pretty tasty solution, if I don’t say so myself–especially topped with cacoa nibs. Mmmm.

And of course there was this amazing pizza sauce.

I also whipped up a batch of Creamy Hummus–freshly cooked and shelled chickpeas and all!

There is nothing like homemade hummus. Especially this one, which has quickly risen the ranks to become my go-to hummus recipe.

I made another batch of cinnamon-raisin peanut butter as well. Just ‘cuz.

Love.

And I’ve recreated Brendan’s Recovery Pudding a couple of times–after my 14-miler as well as last Wednesday’s 7-mile run.

The perfect post-run treat.

I have to say, as much as I loved a change of scenery while I was traveling, it’s great to be running all my old routes again. What was once tired now feels familiar–and even welcome. Plus, it’s fun to run them all with my new garmin.

I’m slightly obsessed!

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point: If my food processor felt abandoned during my time away, I believe I have more than made up for lost time this past week.

Home is where the heart food processor is. As they say. ;)

The Cuisinart aside, I’ve also made sure to get my daily dose of oats–hot and cold.

Mostly, I just wanted to show you a few pretty pictures of oats. And on that delicious note, I will leave you.

Do you miss your kitchen when you travel? A weekend away I am happy to do, but after a couple weeks I really start to miss mine.

What’s the one kitchen appliance you couldn’t live without? I think mine’s obvious. ;)

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All Things Running + Pasta Primavera

Good news: I’ve added a new page to Unmitigated Grub! Can you spot it?

Yep, it’s the Run tab.

As you’ve probably deduced, Run is a space for all my running-related posts–including pre- and post-workout fuel, nutrition, injuries, marathon training, gear, and more–meant to serve as a resource of sorts. The info is certainly not prescriptive; it’s all based on my personal experiences, but hopefully having it all in one place will come in handy. Check it out!

Speaking of which…

Saturday I completed another long run for my marathon training. And by long I mean 14 miles–longer than any distance I’ve raced before (a half marathon being the longest).

I was slightly nervous about the run–but it went really well. In fact, I loved it. I mapped out a run that took me around the Prospect Park loop, through two boroughs (Brooklyn and Manhattan), across two bridges (the Williamsburg and the Brooklyn Bridges), and back home.

It was a total adventure. :)

And now that I’m getting into the long long distances, I’ve started experimenting with how best to fuel my body for the marathon–before, during, and after.

The morning of my run, I woke up early to have a chia seed pudding concoction I had created the previous night–complete with chia seeds and almond milk (for hydration and healthy fats), dates (quick energy), banana (quick energy + potassium), a splash of lemon (alkalizing and aids in digestion), and sea salt (to counter the loss of sodium through sweat). I also drizzled some blackstrap molasses over it all (for quick energy + an iron boost). Agave would work well, too.

This might sound like a strange combination, but I wasn’t going for the Most Delicious Breakfast Award.

Or the prettiest. Ha.

I was going for what would get me through the run. And it was actually tasty–sweet and light. Here’s what I did.

Pre-Run Chia Seed Pudding

  • 2 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 dates, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a couple grinds of sea salt
  • a drizzle of blackstrap molasses or agave syrup (optional)
  • a small spoonful of almond butter (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Mash banana in bowl. Add chia seeds, milk, chopped dates, lemon, and sea salt. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or until it gels up into a pudding, at least a half hour).

2. If desired, drizzle molasses or agave and top with a small amount of almond butter. Enjoy!

I ate this about an hour before I took off–and to be honest, I don’t think that was enough time for me. Let’s just say I had some digestive issues early on in the run. I will spare you the details.

You’re welcome. ;)

Aside from the aforementioned issues, the run went smoothly and felt great. I had my water bottle filled with water, a bit of lemon, and a touch of agave. I also brought a chocolate Gu packet.

I’d like to find more natural methods of fueling during my runs–and hope to make my own gel or quick energy bars–but, I must say, I do love Gu. It tastes like a chocolate brownie and for whatever reason that does not gross me out while I’m running. I busted it out around mile 10 or 11 and it provided a nice boost of energy.

And after the run I enjoyed a lot of water, stretching, and Brendan’s Recovery Pudding–this time with Sunwarrior protein powder instead of Vega.

It hit the spot as usual. So delicious!

The night before the run was all about carbs.

I’m a big fan of carbo-loading. And loving. ;)

I whipped up a veggie-filled pasta dish based on this recipe–and whatever I had on hand. Plus hummus because that makes everything more delicious.

Vegan Pasta Primavera

Serves 4 (or more as a side) 

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1-2 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup kale (or 3-4 stalks), stems removed and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 pepper (I used green)
  • 1-2 cups almond milk (I used about 1.5)
  • 3 T whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup hummus
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil (optional)
  • sea salt + freshly ground pepper, to taste

* Note: Any veggies would work in this recipe, so use your favorites!

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Add onion, garlic, and pepper and saute until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add flour, dried basil, some s + p, hummus, and the almond milk–1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly over medium-low heat to form a sauce. Stir in nutritional yeast.

2. Meanwhile, lightly steam broccoli and carrots, then add to the sauce. Toss in the frozen peas and kale and stir until kale is wilted and peas are heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Add more s + p as needed.

4. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, reserving a bit of cooking liquid. Combine veggies/sauce with pasta and stir well. Add in pasta liquid for desired consistency (I added about 1/3 cup; for a thicker sauce, omit). Top with fresh basil, if using.

5. Enjoy!

Lots of veggies. Lots of carbs.

What’s not to love?

What’s your favorite thing to eat before you workout? 

Runners: What’s your fuel of choice during longer runs? 

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Strange Food From Around the World

This title requires some explanation, but let’s back up a bit.

I’ve been living the life in Northern Michigan this week–relaxing, reading, sailing, boating, tubing, water skiing, running, sunning, and of course, eating–all of which deserve a recap. But today I want to share Wednesday’s trip to my other grandma’s house–my mom’s mom–who lives on an island smack dab in the middle of Lake Michigan: Beaver Island.

Ever heard of it?

Most likely, no. Roughly the same size as the island of Manhattan (only slightly wider), Beaver Island boasts a population of 600 during the winter compared to 1.6 million in Manhattan. Talk about extremes!

Getting to the island of Manhattan usually requires jet-setting; our journey to Beaver Island consisted of a two-hour ferry ride.

Instead of ascending the Empire State Building, we climbed the historic lighthouse.

And the infamous birch tree.

“Top of the Rock” has a whole new meaning on Beaver Island, too.

Terrible pun intended. ;)

And instead of fighting through a crowded New York bar, our group made up over half of The Shamrock’s clientele.

As much as I love New York City, summer days on the island are pretty special.

With that said, given the remoteness of Beaver Island, I was not expecting much in the vegan food department.

So when when we all went to lunch at a joint called Stoney Acre Grill, I was ready for slim pickings–totally prepared to have a salad sans cheese or perhaps a veggie burger.

But lo and behold, a section of the menu caught my eye and had me covered. It was called “Strange Things From Around the World.”

Among these “strange” foods, I found the hummus and tofu. HA.

No joke.

So. Funny. And, again, the polar opposite of New York City. (Candle 79, anyone?)

But it was also awesome! They had hummus! Obviously we have different definitions of what’s “strange,” but I was delighted. I ended up ordering the veggie wrap and added in hummus.

Hit the spot.

I love when I’m pleasantly surprised by veggie options. :)

Just in case things didn’t go well on the island, I did come prepared. In fact, I’m always prepared; I’m more likely to have a nut butter packet and a Larabar in my purse than chapstick. True story. (I will concede that this habit might be a bit strange.)

And my snacks did come in handy; the next morning, after a gorgeous 5-mile run, I slathered a piece of whole wheat toast with a Justin’s Maple Almond Butter packet.

Delicious.

And for the ferry ride back, I avoided the vending machines with a banana bread Larabar.

Yum.

Do you keep snacks in your purse when you travel or just go with the flow? 

or

Do others see what you eat as “strange”? 

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Winner!

Thanks to all who entered my giveaway. I enjoyed reading your favorites. :)

Although I used a completely random integer generator to determine the winner, I was thinking it would be kind of awesome if my brother won, given his entry.

I mean, he clearly needs more nut butter in his life! Ha.

But, alas, I had no say. And I suppose it’s for the best; it may have seemed slightly shady had my brother won my first giveaway. ;)

And the *actual* winner is…

Liz from I <3 Vegetables!

Congrats lady! Contact me (unmitigatedgrub@gmail.com) with your address, and I’ll send you the goods: chocolate hazelnut butter, almond butter, and baby rawtella….GET EXCITED! 

Until tomorrow!

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Nutella Granola + A GIVEAWAY

I’ve had a bit of thing for all things chocolate + hazelnut lately. There was that taste of raw nutella (yum!). And then I found away to essentially drink nutella. Which was obviously amazing.

I’ve also been enjoying Tierra Farm Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.

So. Good.

With all this chocolate-hazelnut business, it didn’t take long for my mind to start dreaming up recipes.

And a delicious new granola was born.

It’s chocolate-y, nutty, but not too sweet. Basically a decadent yet guilt-free breakfast.

What’s not to love? 

Nutella Granola

  • 3 cups of old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 flaxseed
  • a couple grinds of sea salt
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 4 Tbs chocolate hazelnut spread (I used Tierra Farm)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbs nondairy milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

2. Mix the oats, cocoa powder, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, flaxseed, and sea salt in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the brown rice syrup, nut butter, coconut oil, nondairy milk, and almond extract. Whisk until combined.

4. Add this to the oat mixture and mix very well.

5. Spread out on a parchment paper-lined (or lightly oiled) baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring and checking often.

6. Let cool completely and enjoy!

This is good straight off the pan.

Or in a bowl.

It’s also delicious topped with bananas.

Or doused in chocolate hazelnut milk…Nutella on nutella?

Done.

Add in strawberries and you have a pretty perfect breakfast.

This will keep for a long time stored in the fridge (or even freezer).

But mine didn’t last too long at all.

As I made my way, bowl by bowl, through this batch of granola, it occurred to me…you should really try this chocolate hazelnut spread! And I should give it to you!

So one lucky reader will receive their very own jar–kindly donated by Tierra Farm.

Because, well, I like you guys.

And then you could make this granola…OR (even better idea) just eat it straight from the spoon. (I won’t judge!)

It’ll even come with this little guy…

Because I can’t in good conscience separate mother and child! ;)

And because this is the blog’s first-ever giveaway, I’ll also throw in some almond butter. And not just any almond butter, my friends. You may or may not remember, but in addition to the chocolate hazelnut butter, Tierra Farm happens to make my all-time favorite almond butter.

Ever.

The texture is like no other almond butter out there. It’s PERFECT.

So who’s in???

How To Enter: 

Leave a comment on this post telling me YOUR all-time favorite almond butter (and/or granola flavor).

And for additional entries:

You have until Thursday, July 28 at 8pm EST to enter.

Good luck! 

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Sludge: A Tutorial

You probably know by now that I eat overnight oats a lot. In fact, I just created a separate category on my recipe page for my overnight oats creations.

It’s gotten slightly out of hand.

Tom doesn’t quite share in my obsession. To him, my bowls are little more than sludge…or goop.

And you know what? He’s not far off; that pretty much describes overnight oats exactly–and it’s also why I am obsessed. :)

Yeah, I eat sludge. So?

I have gotten a fair amount of questions about overnight oats, but it wasn’t until reading posts by the lovely Chelsey and Clare on their overnight oats methods–and realizing that “overnight oats”  means different things for different people–that I decided to offer a bit of a tutorial of my own.

It was a revelation to me to learn that some people actually cook their oats before putting them in the fridge overnight. I had no idea! While I’m sure the results are fluffy and magical, I personally like that overnights oats require no pan. Call me lazy, but I don’t like doing unnecessary dishes. For me, that’s the beauty of sludge.

That, and you get a delicious, mushy-yet-textured breakfast (not to mention reap the nutritional benefits of eating raw, soaked oats).

However you make ‘em, I think we can all agree: overnight oats = out of this world.

Okay, maybe Tom doesn’t agree. (Yet!)

So. Without further ado, I offer you my foolproof method for great goop. Inevitably, it involves a lot of room for variation–another reason I’m rarely bored of overnight oats. No two bowls are alike! (Unless you want them to be, of course.)

Note: If you’re already an overnight oats connoisseur, I grant you permission to skip this introductory course. ;)

Step 1

Bowl + banana (half or whole)

The banana is totally optional. If you do skip, however, I would recommend using an alternative sweetener (see below).

Step 2

Mash said banana (if using)

Sliced banana works, too; I just like the flavor/texture mixed in.

Step 3

Add 1/2 cup oats (not an optional step–although you could try oat bran or an alternative grain)

If you’re a gluten-free eater, be sure to buy gluten-free oats!

Step 4

Add 1/2 cup nondairy milk

Almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk, rice milk, etc., etc. You can also get flavored milks to shake things up (I heart unsweetened vanilla almond milk).

And that’s it!

But we’re not quite done yet. Now for the fun part: mix-ins.

All of which are, of course, optional (although having at least some mix-ins is highly recommended!).

Nuts/Seeds + Dried Fruit

Pictured: raisins, almonds, walnut pieces, dried tart cherries.

Other possibilities include hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pepitas, apricots, goji berries, golden raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples…or none of the above!

Superfood Seeds

I usually kick up the nutrition and texture with either hemp seeds (easily digestible protein!), chia seeds (healthy fats, hydration), or ground flaxseed (healthy fats, fiber). For more on their nutritional benefits, head on over to my ingredients page. I add anywhere from just a sprinkle to a tablespoon of whichever seed I’m feeling.

And for the record, hemp seeds taste great. Don’t fear hemp! They’re sweet and nutty–and, in oats, you won’t be able to taste them anyway!

Note: When I add chia seeds, I splash in some extra liquid, as they soak up a lot!

Spice Rack 

Often I’ll hit up my spice cupboard for cinnamon, because cinnamon spice makes everything nice! If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll go with a titch of nutmeg, ginger, or my favorite: pumpkin pie spice.

Other times, I’ll skip this step.

Sweeteners

Usually, I sweeten simply with a banana–and I find I don’t need anything else. If you’re not a banana lover, however, or you have a huge sweet tooth, I would also recommend a few drops of liquid stevia; a drizzle of agave, maple, or brown rice syrup; blackstrap molassas (as seen here); chopped up dates (or other dried fruit); or, of course, fresh fruit.

No need for sugar. Seriously.

Flavor Flav

The obvious way to kick up flavor: extracts: vanilla, almond, coconut, cocoa bean…you name it!

But you certainly don’t need extracts to take things up a notch. Try adding cocoa powder, peanut flour (I highly recommend!), unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut flakes, coconut flour, carob powder or chips, chocolate chips, raw cacoa nibs…or even lemons!

Protein Powder

Protein/supplement powders are a great way to bulk up your sludge while providing a great flavor. When I use protein powder, I often go easy on the mix-ins.

Examples include:

Saturday’s PB & Strawberry Jam Protein Oats

Lemon Poppy/Chia Seed Overnight Oats

Peanut Butter Cup Overnight Oats (version 3)

Green Monster Overnight Oats

You get the idea…

Fresh or Frozen Fruit

When I add fresh fruit (berries, cherries, bananas…even apples), I usually do so in the morning right before I eat (although sometimes it goes into the mix the night before).

Frozen fruit happens to be tasty mixed in so it becomes all melty and good overnight. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

More Oats!

Oats on your oats? Yes indeed! If you like more a crunch in the morning, sprinkle granola on your overnight oats before you dig in.

Veggies? 

Such as spinach. Yep, it happened.

And I realize that technically butternut squash and pumpkin are both fruit, but in my head they’re veggies. Which make for great overnight oat dishes, as you may remember here and here.

In fact, here’s a recent (read: out-of-season) bowl of butternut squash bowl topped with a new-to-me pecan butter.

The nut butter? Artisana Raw Pecan Butter with Cashews

Wow. Delicious!

Speaking of which (and last, but not least)…

Nut/Seed Butters

I top nearly all my bowls of sludge with a tablespoon blob of nut/seed butter. Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, pecan butter, walnut butter, etc., etc. It’s my personal favorite topping.

I even splurge sometimes with a bit of flavored nut butter, such as Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter (as seen here) or PB&Co.’s Dark Chocolate Dreams (on this bowl). Or even cinnamon-raisin peanut butter (on this creation). Just sayin’. You probably wouldn’t regret it.

So let’s get to an example. Take yesterday’s bowl.

I started with a mashed banana, 1/2 cup oats, and 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

Basics–check!

Then, I added a few walnuts, a mix of flaxseed, hemp, and chia seeds, lots of cinnamon, a sprinkle of raw cacoa nibs, and a blob of sunflower seed butter.

I stored in the fridge overnight.

Note: they maybe called overnight oats, but you can create them any time of day–just make sure they spend at least 2-3 hours in the fridge.

And in the morning…

Perfection!

A no-prep breakfast? Love.

Oh–I almost forgot to mention! Overnight Oats In A Jar (OOIAJ) is a very fun and portable way to enjoy goop (as you may have seen herehere, and here). Do it. 

Sludge: Yay or nay?

What are your three favorite mix-ins? 

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever added to overnight oats? 

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