1 Bowl GF + V Pumpkin Cookies

pumpkin cookies

When I was younger, my mom used to bake up cookies every few weeks to feed the sweet tooth that my sister and I had.  As a kid, nothing was better than a glass of milk and a belly full of cookies.  YES.  I had no self-restraint and never stopped at just one.  Homemade cookies are best when fresh so I would eat 4-5 that first day…and the second day…and maybe just two or three after that…if there were still any cookies left.

pumpkin cookies

Sadly, traditional cookies have several cups of sugar, white flour, butter, plus additional sugary add-ins.  Yupp, I don’t know how young Melanie did it!  If I tried to recreate my old 4-5 cookies indulgence these days I would definitely end up with a stomach ache.  Nowadays, I don’t crave cookies in the same way.  Though, sometimes your girl gets a craving for healthified versions of old favorites.  Thus, I whipped up some cookies that I consider to be more nutritionally balanced.

pumpkin cookies

Ingredients breakdown:

We’ve got banana and pumpkin to soften up the cookies and a mere ½ cup of sugar to sweeten them up.  I am extremely cautious about my sugar intake and, ever since reading Woman Code, I try to avoid adding excess sugar unless absolutely necessary (sidenote: possible post on this in the upcoming future).  The fact is: cookies just don’t taste like cookies without some kind of sweetener.  These are just lightly sweetened with a mixture of brown and coconut sugar.  Of course, you could add an extra ¼ cup of sugar for sweeter cookies.  Feel free taste-test the batter 😉  Though, I think you’ll find there is something nice about the subtle level of sweetness in these.

Also, let’s not forget about fats.  I know there are some cookie recipes out there that might bake up with simply banana but I like incorporating healthy fats into my food.  Why, you ask?  Well, fat helps slow the absorption of sugar and keeps me satiated.  Not to mention, it helps make the cookies crisp up on the outside and stay fluffy on the inside.

In addition, you can include up to a cup worth of dried fruit, nuts, ALOHA brand chopped chocolate, or whatever you like.  I went with a small amount of chocolate and walnuts to add a bit more healthy fats and protein.  Speaking of protein, definitely try adding a scoop of your favorite protein powder, if you’d like.  Sometimes my family can taste the protein powder in baked goods so I went with an unflavored plant-based protein powder from The Natural Citizen.  That is totally optional, though.  The cookies will be just fine without!

pumpkin cookies

 

pumpkin cookies

Without further ado, here is the recipe for the pumpkin cookies:

 

GF + V Pumpkin Cookies
Print
Recipe type: Snacks, Dessert
Cuisine: Cookies
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup mashed banana (about ½ a banana)
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted warm coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup of almonds, ground into meal/flour
  • 2 cups oat flour (blend from 2¼ cups whole rolled oats)
  • ½ cup whole rolled oats
  • 1 scoop plant-based protein powder, optional
  • ⅓ cup chopped chocolate
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, save some for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the banana and pumpkin puree. Then, stir in the sugars, baking soda, spices, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
  3. Use a food processor or blender to process the almonds to make a fine flour. Repeat for the oat flour.
  4. To the wet ingredients, add the processed almond and oat flour, along with the whole rolled oats.
  5. Next, fold in the chocolate chips and half of the walnuts. Use a large cookie scoop to drop dollops of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. Place a few walnut crumbs on top of each cookie.
  6. Bake for 13 to 14 minutes or until the tops have browned (don't under-bake). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute before moving to a wire rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes more. Bake the remaining cookie dough until all is finished.
  7. I know cookies are irresistible out of the oven but if you wait for them to cool, they will be much better. They won’t be as fall-apart delicate and their flavor will be more visible.
  8. When cookies are completely cool, they can be stored in an airtight container or frozen.
Notes
Evidently, if any of the ingredients are cold, that will make the coconut oil clump up. Small specks are okay but large clumps need to be dissolved. You can lightly warm the batter in a microwave safe bowl and proceed with the recipe.
I ground my almonds because I enjoy the fresher taste and don’t normally store almond flour at my house. You could probably use store-bought but I haven’t tested that myself.

Cookie recipe adapted from Love and Lemon’s Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip recipe.

As always, please let me know what you think if you give this recipe a try!  Leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram.

 

Snack Bars Showdown: My Favorite Healthy Bars

favorite snack bars

Less than a year ago, I used to consider snacks to be something you eat if you’re waiting on a meal.  So, if I was 30 minutes away from lunch time then I’d contemplate suffering through my hunger for a bit longer or give in to a snack to tide me over.

I have a very different outlook on snacks now!  I’ve still got my main meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner; I just include an extra snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  Sometimes I’m hungry and WAITING for that snack or sometimes I’ve got a mild craving and the snack helps satisfy that.  Either way, snacks are a part of my daily routine.

I like making my own snacks, like these no-bake almond coconut bars, but there are a number of packaged snack bars that I love taking on the go.  They are great options when you accidentally forgot to pack your homemade snack or if you need something that is not easily perishable.  I’ll dive into my favorite bars and flavors and also offer protein and sugar comparisons because that’s something I watch out for in bars.  The closer the protein to sugar ratio is, the less chance I’ll spike my blood sugar.  Please, feel free to let me know your thoughts on these bars or any others you like that I didn’t mention here.

My Favorite Snack Bars

Square Organics

squareorganics snack bars

If you’ve spent a short time on Instagram then you’ve probably seen or heard of these bars.  Square Organics bars are chocolate-coated crispy bars packed with vegan protein and hints of flavors.  I love the coconut and cherry coconut flavors but you can’t go wrong with any of them.  You can expect 12g of plant-based brown rice protein, and an equal amount of sugar from low-glycemic coconut nectar and cane syrup.  One of the best ratios I’ve ever seen in a snack bar.

You can buy these bars online or at places like Vitamin Shoppe.

Clif Nut Butter Filled Energy Bars

Unlike traditional clif bars, these energy bars taste like soft biscuits with a creamy nut butter center.  Each bar has an awesome 7g of protein!  I like the coconut almond butter flavor which has 9g of sugar in each bar.  These are surprisingly filling and really great at keeping me sane when I’m super hungry!  These bars are also organic and come in 7 different flavors.  I can’t wait to try the blueberry almond butter variety.

I find these at any major-chain grocer like Walmart and Target.

bRAW Bars

I mentioned bRAW in my May Wrap-Up post so you know I’m already a fan.  These do need to be kept in the refrigerator but taste just fine after being in my purse for 2-3 hours.  They are a little high calorie but all of the goodness of these bars comes from nuts and seeds!  My favorite almond crunch flavor has 9g of protein and 7g of sugar.  Another excellent ratio!  The other flavors: super green, coconut macadamia, and chocolate espresso have similar protein to sugar ratios.

These can be a little hard to find but check out their store locator or shop online!

Go Macro bars

My oh, my!  If you are in the market for the perfect organic nutrition bar, then look no further than Go Macro Bars.  They are vegan, soy-free, non-GMO, and gluten-free.  Some varieties like my favorite Balanced Goodness, contain 5g of protein and 12g of sugar.  Though, there are high protein varieties as well, like Everlasting Joy, which has 10g of protein and 12g of sugar.  I believe each bar has a base of nut butter, brown rice syrup, and puffed brown rice.  They are super chewy, lightly sweet, and so satisfying.

You can shop online or use their store locator to find retail locations near you.

ALOHA Protein Bars

aloha protein snack bars

I like using ALOHA’s organic, plant-based protein powder in my smoothies so I had high hopes before tasting these.  I’ve got to say, they are pretty darn good.  They have 11-12g of sugar in each bar and a whopping 18g of protein.  Yet, in my experience, they don’t weigh me down—which could be problematic in a snack.  That being said, these bars are likely made with ALOHA’s classic protein powder blend which can be a bit chalky.  That chalkiness is subtle in the bars and does not distract from the taste in the flavors I’ve tried: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Fudge Brownie.  Online you can find the complete flavor variety of protein bars (just stay away from the Dark Chocolate Coconut Snack Bar—yuck!) but the in-store selection will vary .

ALOHA protein bars can be found at Target or purchased through the ALOHA website.

LARABAR Original

What’s a snack bar list without LARABARS?  The company has quite the selection of products but I still find myself reaching for their original fruit and nut bar!  Flavors like Cashew Cookie, Apple Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Blueberry Muffin are all so good.  Unlike the other bars on this list, the protein to sugar ratio is a little skewed but I don’t find that they cause blood sugar spikes for me.  The bars nutrition content varies by flavor but they contain anywhere between 4-6g of protein and 12-20g of sugar.  The main ingredient in each bar is dates, which have a fair amount of fiber.  Plus, tag on the fat from the nuts and that helps keep the sugar punch down.

Find these at Target, Walmart, or Amazon.com.

RX Bars*

rx bars snack

A friend passed along some RX bars to me not long ago so I decided to give them a try.  I prefer plant-based nutrition bars but these aren’t half bad.  They are sort of like LARABARS but much firmer and higher in protein.  The egg-whites make these filling bars have a slight off-taste to me but I think it’s easy to get past.  Flavors like Mint Chocolate Chip and Blueberry are tasty choices

I haven’t spotted these in stores near me but they are available to purchase on the RX Bar website.

KIND Bars*

I’m not ranking snack bars from favorite to least but the kind bars are probably the bar I choose least out of all featured here.  Basically, KIND bars are the adult version of a granola bar.  Also, these gluten-free bars don’t use oats but rather: nuts, dried fruit, and sometimes crispy brown rice for texture.  While they taste good, some questionable ingredients like palm kernel oil or even the soy isolate/soy lecithin (which is in each bar), keep me from eating them regularly.  The bars usually have at least 5g of protein but upwards of 10g of sugar.  The healthy grains variety is also tasty but only contains 2 or so grams of protein.  I’d say, be mindful when picking out bars and go for the Nuts and Spices line which are lower in sugar.  The best choices in my opinion are the Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond or Cashew Ginger and Spice.

Find them at Walmart, Target, gas stations, or online.  In stores, they are sometimes available individually near the check-out stand, too.

This list is definitely not comprehensive of all the snack bars out there but just some standouts from what I’ve tried.  I’m always looking for nutritious snack bar options so if there’s something you like that I didn’t mention, let me know!  I hope to update or add to this list in the future as I discover new favorite bars. 🙂

favorite snack bars

*The KIND bars and RX bars are the only snack bar options on the list that aren’t vegan-friendly.  I chose to include them because I have tried them and both are fairly good options.  RX bars are filling and offer excellent protein.  KIND bars are widely available and therefore a decent option if you occasionally need to grab a quick snack while out or on-the-go.

No-Bake Almond Coconut Bars

I’ve got such a case of wanderlust right now; I can’t even handle it.  I want to be anywhere else but my hometown.  Has anyone else experienced this?

almond coconut bars

Every couple of months I get an overwhelming desire to move somewhere new.  A few years back in college, I was itching to head to Ireland for a semester abroad.  The experience surely would have been worthwhile but I played it (financially) safe and did not act on my dream.  Recently, though, all I want to do is move out of my hometown.  If you follow my Instagram, you might have heard me mention how I want to move out of California.  I currently live in the same hometown, or county, that I grew up in and I feel stuck.

Just yesterday I came across this article on Medium about how to live the life you want.  It might sound kitschy but inspirational articles and videos are all that get me by.  Anyway, the article’s author, Isaac Morehouse, stated something that really resonated with me:

“There’s something weird about staying in your hometown. It severely limits the definitions you accept for what makes you successful. Oddly, most of the hometown definitions of success have nothing to do with happiness. They have to do with becoming what everyone in your past expects or desires given who you used to be. It’s a sort of tether to a past self that no longer exists.”

 

almond coconut bars

As I read the article, and the above quote in particular, I felt understood like never before.  I really need a change from my same-old, same-old hometown.  It’s easier to say you want something to happen than to see it happen.  I’ve narrowed down where I want to go and have been applying to jobs left and right.  Unfortunately, I rarely hear back from any of the places I’ve put in applications. My guess is either:

A. No one wants to hire someone from out of state.

or

B. I’m oblivious of how under-qualified I am for the jobs that I’ve been applying for.

Ideally, I want to have some hope of acquiring a job before I move to the area I have in mind.  I’ve got some money saved up but not enough to keep me from wanting to play it safe.  (Thus, the reason I squashed my Ireland dreams in college).  Sigh.  It’s not an easy task to move out but I’m slowly working on it.

almond coconut bar ingredients

On a different note, something that is easy and does not require anyone to move (nice transition, right?) are these Almond Coconut Bars!  They are my ultimate favorite homemade snack bar.  They are inspired by the Balanced Goodness Coconut + Granola Go Macro bars but the ingredients are simplified.  You could totally make them into balls if you prefer small energy bites but I prefer larger bars, similar to the Go Macro ones.

almond coconut bars

They are ridiculously simple to throw together so if you make them, let me know! 🙂

No-Bake Almond Coconut Bars
Print
Recipe type: Snacks
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 bars
Inspired by Go Macro Balanced Goodness Coconut + Granola bars. These bars are only four ingredients, naturally sweetened, and don't require any baking.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (about 15 Neglet) sticky, pitted dates*
  • 2 heaping tbsp of almond butter
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, puree the dates to a thick paste. Add the almond butter and pulse.
  2. Take the ¼ cup of rolled oats and add them to a nonstick pan. On a stovetop, lightly warm the oats until they smell/look toasted. Three minutes on medium heat should be enough.
  3. Add the warm oats to the food processor, along with the coconut, and process until combined.
  4. Mixture will look dry and crumbly but, as you pick it up with your hands, it should mash together. Add 2 teaspoons of warm water if the mixture does not mash together and process again (I didn’t need to add any).
  5. Separate the mixture into 4 balls and form into square-shaped bars.
  6. They will keep at room temperature for a day, or store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Notes
*If your dates have been stored in the fridge or freezer, or simply aren't sticky, soak them in hot water to soften. I like to heat up some water in a pot on the stove and let the dates rest in the hot water for 10 minutes.

Live Nomva Smoothie Packs Review

Recently, I got the opportunity to sample several of Live Nomva’s probiotic smoothie packs.  These little packs are pure health pureed into a drinkable form.  I find them perfect for on-the-go and also an easy way to squeeze (literally!) some healthy fruits and veggies into my day.

Live Nomva Smoothie Packs
Photo from Live Nomva’s website

I tried out the following smoothie pack flavors:

KALE YEAH

STRAWNANA

TROPICARROT

APPLESTACK

EVERBERRY

At the time I tried these out, they had not yet release their ISLANDTIME flavor.   Nonetheless, I really liked the flavors I did try!  They’re basically like applesauce in texture but better! The packs are made with awesome ingredients ranging from banana to kale to apples to quinoa.

To begin with, the TROPICARROT flavor was probably my favorite.  It is made of pineapple, carrot, mango, and pear.  Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of how I used that pack because I literally guzzled that baby down in a minute because it was that good!  For all of the other flavors (that I could exercise a bit more restraint with) I managed to take some pictures:

STRAWNANA Live Nomva Smoothie Pack Chia Pudding Parfait

The STRAWNANA flavor went excellently in a coconut chia pudding, granola, and strawberries parfait that I put together.

EVERBERRY Live Nomva Smoothie Pack Chia Pudding Parfait

I also used their EVERBERRY flavor as a layer in yet another chia pudding parfait.  I mixed in some Puffins cereal, strawberries, and kiwi this time.  Super yum!

Admittedly, you could make your own smoothie and use that in a parfait but it’s hard to make just a small amount of smoothie.  So, these packs are the perfect size!!  I love adding the Nomva smoothie packs to parfaits and other concoctions but they are so delicious on their own.  Plus, they are free from dairy, tree nuts, preservatives, or anything funky.  Pure organic fruit and vegetables + vegan friendly probiotics!

Let’s talk about the probiotics for a sec.  As a mostly plant-based eater, I do not consume yogurt regularly.  That used to be my main source of probiotics.  Sometimes I drink kombucha or eat sauerkraut but these Live Nomva smoothies are totally easy and safe to consume daily because they are made with wholesome, organic produce.  Now, I can get behind that.

Live Nomva KALE YEAH: Productivity Fuel

Twice, I tried the KALE YEAH flavor on an occasion when I felt like I needed a pick-me-up but my stomach was feeling a bit off.  All of the nutritious ingredients and probiotics definitely helped me feel reenergized!

Check out the Live Nomva website to see more about their smoothie pack flavors and find out where you can buy them locally.  I believe you can even get a $1 off coupon to try out their product when you visit their website.

Have you guys tried the Nomva smoothie packs?  If so, what did you think?  As always, I’d love to hear your opinions.

Xoxo,

Melanie

 

DISCLAIMER: The Live Nomva smoothie packs were sent to me as a giveaway prize package.  I am not under any obligation to promote or endorse this product.  I truly enjoyed them so I just want to share my review.

5 Minute Peanut Butter Apple Crisp for One

I know what it feels like to get major cravings all of a sudden and desire immediate satisfaction.

I try not to keep unhealthy snacks or desserts around my house because I do not want the temptation.

Sure, I could make myself a healthy dessert but the thought of going through a lengthy process to whip up something is not always appealing.  Plus, what would I do with the leftovers?  Or, more likely, the problem will be that there are no leftovers.

Sometimes I have no self-restraint 🙈

Thus, I have created a treat to satisfy the quick snack cravings in a way that won’t leave you feeling yucky from an overindulgent dessert.

I cover all the sweet treat bases:

Warm

Crispy

Fruity

Peanut-buttery

Crunchy (Wait, is that the same as crispy? Nope!)

The most delicious crisp texture comes from broken down Ginnybakes cookies.  They are very firm, gluten-free cookies.  I  personally like microwaving them for a few seconds to soften them up, if I’m going to eat them on their own, but their hockey-puck like texture is perfect for adding crunch to this dessert snack!

Also, in the recipe, I used half of a large Gala apple but feel free to use an entire apple if you don’t want to leave half of an apple lying around.  Alternatively, double the recipe and share the snack-sized crisp with a friend! 😉

 

I’m aaaall ready to dive headfirst into this easy to assemble snack! Let’s go!


5 Minute Peanut Butter Apple Crisp for One
Print
Recipe type: Snacks
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 serving
A quick and easy apple crisp that is healthy enough for a snack and filling enough to satisfy a sweet tooth for dessert.
Ingredients
  • ½ tsp of Nutiva butter flavored coconut oil or plain coconut oil
  • ½ a large Gala apple or apple of choice, chopped
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Ginnybakes Coconut Oatmeal Bliss Cookies*
  • 2 tsp of peanut butter (I used Wild Friends Pumpkin Spice peanut butter)
Instructions
  1. In a small, nonstick pan, warm up the coconut oil over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped apples and sprinkle with cinnamon. Stir the apples around in the pan until warm. Pour apples into a serving bowl.
  3. Place the nonstick pan back on the stove, turning the temperature down to the lowest heat. On a cutting board, chop up the 2 cookies until there is a mixture of fine and medium-sized crumbs.
  4. Add cookie crumbs to the pan and turn off the flame. Let sit for 1 minute, swirling the crumbs every few seconds. The crumbs should already be crunchy so they just need to warm up.
  5. While the crumbs warm from the heat of the pan, add the 2 teaspoons of peanut butter to the cinnamon apples and stir until coated.
  6. Remove the pan from the stove and pour cookie crumbs over the apple-peanut butter mixture. Pat yourself on the back and eat!
Notes
*You can use another crunchy cookie of your choosing. The classic Nature Valley granola bars are the kind of firm, crispness that you’re looking for. Alternatively, you can sub 2 tbsp of pre-made granola for the cookie crumbs.