Though no one has ever mistaken me as a die-hard sports fan, nothing quite beats spending a Saturday tailgating with friends and rooting for my college team. The burgers, the beers and 90,000 screaming UCLA fans … I’ve got to admit, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the revelry.
But when you get so caught up screaming for your team, it’s easy to let your cheat meal turn into a cheat day. That’s why this year I’ve decided to add a healthy twist to my tailgating repertoire.
When brainstorming this recipe, I took into account that it not only needed to taste great, but needed to be wonderfully simple too.
Since my birthday is fast approaching, I decided to treat myself with a week full of recipes on my so-called “cooking bucket list.” But before I get too far ahead, let me tell you what happened a few days ago.
Last week, I came home to an insane number of boxes in front of my apartment. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I love a good online deal, but by the number of boxes waiting for me, I started to think that maybe I should lay off the late-night shopping sprees. Turns out, a few of them were gifts from my brother Michael.
My brother knows I love to cook, and has successfully gifted me an espresso maker and a crock pot in years past. This year he outdid himself with a beautiful French cookbook and a small Le Creuset pot. Gifts aren’t important to me, but I may have drooled a bit when I opened that large (and very, very heavy) box.
After a year (ish) of blogging, I finally bought my own camera. I know what you’re probably thinking: How did I get to this point without owning a camera? Answer: I have a very gracious friend who allowed me to borrow her DSLR for the year. And, while the DSLR is a great camera – I learned how to take food photography on it – I decided to buy a … wait for it … an Olympus digital camera instead. Before you go photo-purist on me, just look at some of the photos I shot on my new Olympus.
*Just a note: Most food photographers suggest shooting in natural light in the early afternoon. I took these photos at 6 PM and in very poor lighting; if that doesn’t sell you on my new camera, I don’t know what will.
Now on to the important stuff: The muffins.
A little over a month ago, I decided to change up my workout routine. With my work schedule and social life the way it is, I couldn’t always make it to the gym classes I liked, and I found that my regular cardio routine (read: a half-hearted two mile run/walk) was starting to not cut it anymore. So, I decided to start lifting weights. And, while I’m not sure I can say I see physical results just yet, I sure am hungry all the time!
That’s where these protein muffins come into the picture. They provide just the right amount of sweet, while still being the perfect pre-workout snack. The best part is, they are chock-full of protein.
I used the ceramic muffin pan that Marta got for me, and as you can see, was fully occupied with taking muffin photos … that is, until Sophie (my cat) crept into the picture.
Chocolate Hazelnut Protein Muffins (adapted from DailyBurn)
1 1/4 Cups and 3 Tbsp. of Whole Wheat flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. of Ground Flaxseeds
2 Tsp. of Baking Powder
1/8 Tsp. of Salt
2 Bananas, mashed (*note: use ripe bananas, as they will help naturally sweeten the muffins)
1/2 Cup of Nonfat, Plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 Cup of Almond Milk
1 Tbsp. of Vanilla
1/4 Cup of Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (for homemade, click here)
Sift together the following dry ingredients: flour, flaxseeds, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Using another bowl, mix together the eggs, banana, Greek yogurt, almond milk and vanilla. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, just until combined.
In a generously greased muffin tin, fill up cups half way. Drop in a large teaspoon-size dollop of chocolate hazelnut spread. Cover the chocolate hazelnut fully with more muffin batter. Bake for 17-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Eat immediately, or store in the fridge in an airtight container for two days.
I’ll just cut right to the chase…we’re slackers. Fall has been an insanely busy time in New York, and apparently in LA too. And it may only get worse with holiday season approaching! Even though October and Halloween have come and gone, our pumpkin kick has not. It’s still appropriate to obsess about pumpkin until the end of Thanksgiving, right? Call us Basic if you must, but the truth is pumpkin is delicious, versatile and easy to cook with, so the pumpkin posts continue.
Oat balls are one of my favorite healthy snacks because they’re so easy to grab on your way to the gym or if you need a midday kick at work but want something light. They also keep for a reasonable amount of time sealed in the fridge. These ones are fairly similar to this peanut butter variety I’ve posted previously, but mainly uses the pumpkin as the adhesive to make the balls stick instead of peanut butter. They take about 10 minutes to make, so I always choose these instead of processed granola bars from the store.
I have to admit, this pumpkin spice flavor was maybe one of my favorite combinations yet. I guess I should stock up on pumpkin purée from Trader Joe’s now before the season ends! Pumpkin spice balls in July, anyone?
Pumpkin Spice Oat Bites
1/2 Cup Almonds
1 Tbsp Agave or Maple Syrup (I used Trader Joe’s Agave-Maple Blend)
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puréé
1 Cup Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
1 Tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/4 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips (Or regular chocolate chips, chopped)
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
Place almonds in a food processor or powerful blender and blend until completely crushed into a powder, on the verge of becoming almond butter (note: may need to pulse and continually scrape sides). Place almond powder into a large bowl. Mix in Agave and pumpkin until smooth. Stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie spice, mini chocolate chips and chia seeds. Use your hands to roll the mixture into balls, about 1 – 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place in fridge for best results to allow the balls to set.