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No Holds Barred: DIY Protein Bar

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No Holds Barred: DIY Protein Bar

FEATURED ON OLD SCHOOL Given my busy training schedule I often find myself with clients (or driving like a maniac) during meal time. Although I really try hard to avoid processed food, my number one slip-up is protein bars.  I've searched high and low for a bar that has it all: made from real foods, low in sugar, high in nutrients, offers anabolic support (for muscle repair and regrowth), and gives me plenty of energy to hit those hills (again!). While I've come close to finding it, there is always something standing in the way of the perfect bar - usually sugar or processed soy. So I decided to hit the kitchen and see what I could come up with.  The final product was so delicious that it's now a regular on my weekly menu.  The bar (and how I eat it) continues to take many forms.  Try it warmed up and served with almond milk, or for a pre or post workout treat.

Note: Once you get used to the concept of making a protein bar, you can easily modify to accommodate your pantry supplies, creativity and specific energy needs. Some of my other favorite combinations have been:

Dried pineapple and crispy quinoa

Cacao and goji berries (best served raw)

Pecans and cranberries

Nut and seeds galore! (pumpkin, flax, sesame, sunflower, pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.)

HOMEMADE POWER BARS

Tools:

  • Food processor
  • Baking dish
  • Parchment paper

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole rolled oats
  • ½ cup good quality protein powder (rice, pea, or hemp is the most easily digestible.)
  • ¾ cups chopped walnuts (or almonds, or pecans)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 Tbs. poppy seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds (brown or white)
  • 2 Tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 4 Tbs flax or chia seeds (best with a combination of the two!)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • ½ cup coconut oil (olive oil or safflower oil can be substituted)
  • 5 Medjool dates
  • 5 Dried apricots
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbs. pure maple syrup (or honey)
  • Zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
  • Zest and juice of 1 organic lemon

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 325.

Begin by placing the flax and/or chia seeds in a small bowl with 4 Tbs. water. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine all your dry ingredients: oats, walnuts, poppy and sesame seeds, cinnamon and sea salt.

In a food processor, blend all the wet ingredients: banana, coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup, dates, apricots, lemon juice and zest.

By this time, the flax/ chia/ water will have become gelatinous.  This will be used to bind the bars.  Add them to the food processor at the last minute and pulse to combine.

Now add your wet ingredients to the dry. Using a big spoon, mix well.

Place parchment paper along the bottom of a baking pan.  Add the ingredients, evenly distribute and press down your bars.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Let the bars cool then slice them into squares about the size of a deck of cards.

Enjoy them easily for a quick breakfast on their own, warmed and served with almond milk over the top, or as a healthy pre-workout snack. They will store in the fridge up to 2 weeks.

The Skinny: Why go to the trouble of making your own protein bars? Because anything you make in your own kitchen, will give you control over important things like oil, fat and sugar content.  Many of the bars on the market these days contain high sugar (immunosuppressant & blood sugar destabilizing), processed soy (harmful to the thyroid), whey protein (hard for most to digest), and preservatives. Plus, these bars are a great breakfast-to-go , which will help steer you clear of sweet rolls and sugary cereals.

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Quintessential California Prawn Salad

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Quintessential California Prawn Salad

This simple salad is a personal favorite when I’m low on time and energy. And, depending on your personal preference, it can be made even easier with a few cheat-items! In all it’s glory, the from-scratch recipe is as follows: Ginger Turmeric Vinaigrette This is a great dressing to kick start your week and detox from the wildness of the weekend; turmeric is a natural detoxifier and anti-inflammatory that will help to clear your liver of toxins and raw garlic is an antimicrobial good for immune boosting and blood purifying.

½ shallot, diced 2-3 tbs apple cider vinegar ¼ cup olive oil ½ tsp ground turmeric ½ tsp fresh ginger, chopped finely 1 tsp honey 1 tsp lemon juice Pinch of salt Pepper to taste

Combine the dressing ingredients and shake aggressively to emulsify.

** This is an easy way to boost your salad any day of the week – feel free to make leftovers, they only get better with time! **

For the Salad: 10 frozen, raw WILD shrimp 2 cloves garlic, minced ½ loose cup parsley, chopped ½ -1 avocado, cubed 1 grapefruit (or your favorite citrus), supremed Baby spinach, wild arugula, shredded kale (aka your favorite salad greens) Seasonal option: ½ a head of raw fennel bulb, sliced very thin adds a fresh California bite to this dish! Salt and pepper to taste

Pull the shrimp out of the freezer and soak in room temperature water to defrost. This can be done while you’re getting ready to go out or just winding down after a long day. Takes about 10 minutes. Once defrosted, begin by taking the shell off the shrimp and throwing away.

Next, heat 1 Tbs good olive or coconut oil over medium to low heat in a sauté pan and add your minced garlic. Once softened, add the shrimp and cook until just pink.

*Pro Tip* - for perfect shrimp cook shrimp "low and slow" only flipping once. Be careful not to overcook – good quality shrimp is okay to eat a little bit underdone so don’t worry about undercooking, just try to avoid the rubbery texture of overcooked seafood.

*Pro Tip #2* If the weather permits, take this party outside! BBQing your shrimp will add a flavorful smoke to the dish.

Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan, toss with parsley, salt and pepper and set aside.

While your shrimp are cooking, you can prepare your salad. Toss the greens, avocado chunks and citrus supremes with your turmeric dressing and add the shrimp on top.

That’s it. Easy.

If, however, you don’t have the time (or perhaps the culinary inclination), this recipe can be even further simplified by using a store bought dressing. Just be sure to choose a bottled dressing that uses real olive oil – it will make all the difference. My personal favorite for jarred dressing are the Bragg Brand vinaigrettes.

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Jalapeño Cilantro Hummus

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Jalapeño Cilantro Hummus

I have long shirked the flavors of overly granola, "hippie" snacks, due to the fact that I was raised on too much granola and hippie snacks.
But low and behold, as promised, "mom is always right."

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Grilled Veggies with a Miso Dipping Sauce

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Grilled Veggies with a Miso Dipping Sauce

You are not truly a grill master until you have learned the ropes of the vegetable. Grilled vegetables on their own, or along side your protein, make any meal more gourmet, diverse and more nutritious. In this recipe inspired from the San Francisco Chronicle, the vegetables are paired with a flavorful miso dipping sauce which is frankly so good you'll  find yourself dipping much more than vegetables in it.

Grilled Veggies with a Miso Dipping Sauce

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup white miso

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger (peeled)

2 teaspoons of garlic (aprox. 2 cloves)

2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tables spoons mirin (*can be substituted with 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbs white wine or sake, and 1 tsp honey*)

1 Tablespoon sesame oil

1/4 olive oil

1 pound of broccolini

Yellow squash, cut lengthwise

1 medium carrots, peeled and sliced length wise

Olive oil as needed

salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Place the miso, ginger, garlic, vinegar and mirin in a food processor  or blender. Blend on high until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Combine the sesame oil and olive oil in a measuring cup and mix together. Slowly drizzle the oil into the miso mixture as you continue to blend it. Taste and adjust to your taste if needed with black pepper and sea salt. Garnish the sesame seeds

Meanwhile heat the grill to medium-high, clean and oil it. Wash and slice all your vegetables as needed and toss with olive or coconut oil and salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables until tender, about 8-10 minutes.

Serve with the miso dipping sauce and impress all your grill master friends!

The Skinny

When you eat animal proteins like eggs, meat, poultry, or fish, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid and an enzyme called pepsin to digest them in the ideal, highly acidic conditions. When you eat carbohydrates your body produces an alkaline environment. When eating protein and carbohydrates together the acid and alkaline environments cancel each other out, making it difficult to digest anything effectively. By eating non-starchy vegetables alongside your protein, you ensure better digestion and proper nutrient absorption.

For more on the principles of check out the Body Ecology Diet.

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Natural Sports Drinks

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Natural Sports Drinks

During exercise the body loses many fluids and electrolytes. It is important to keep them replenished to avoid dehydration and allow your muscles to repair themselves more quickly.  When your out for long bouts of training (runs, cycling, swims over 45 mins.),  drinking only plain water can cause bloating, cramps and actually suppress, rather than quench, feelings of thirst which can lead to dehydration.  The body's cells need salt in order to actively transport water between them and replenish hydration within the body.  In other words, an active body needs constant electrolyte replenishing.

When looking at the major sports drink on the market you will find that many of them are packed with high fructose corn syrup, unhealthy levels of caffeine and a wide range of additives and preservatives. While it is possible for high levels of sugar to be burned off by a serious athlete, most of us are not performing at a level to properly deal with that insulin boost.  This can disrupt our blood sugar levels causing weight gain, energy crashes and a lowered immune system.

I've been tinkering with ways to get those electrolytes in without all the junk of the shelf versions. Some times that means I mix 50/50 coconut water and filtered water; sometimes I add a dash of salt to filtered water; some times I add 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1TBS of honey to 1 liter of filtered water; and when I am really inspired and have the time to plan ahead I turn to the botanicals to create an electrolyte sun tea. The herbs used in this tea specially blended by a herbalist friend of mine to address the needs of an athlete. The Skinny: Hibiscus and lemon balm both lower blood pressure, peppermint is a stimulant that increases both speed and strength, tulsi is a metabolism booster and lowers cortisol, and eleuthro is an energy booster and that can aid in muscle recovery.  These teas can be bought loose from the bulk bins at your local health food store (if you live in San Francisco, Rainbow is your best bet.) You can mix and match herbs and flavors depending on your needs and tastes.

Drinking your electrolytes before, during and after your next workout for sustained energy, increased hydration and fast recovery!

Herbal Electrolyte Tea

INGREDIENTS

3 1/2 gallons water

4 cups lime juice

2 cups of honey

1/2 cup of salt

Fresh herbs of your choice. Try hibiscus, peppermint, tulsi, lemon balm, eleuthro. (These can be bought in the bulk section of a good health food store. i.e. Rainbow)

DIRECTIONS

Brew sun tea using 1/2 gallon of water and fresh herbs.  Let sit in sunny place for 1-2 days until a strong tea is brewed.

When ready to make your electrolyte tea, start by dissolving the honey in salt in hot water.  Then in a large jar, add the additional 3 gallons of water, the diluted honey and salt mixture and lime juice.  Stir until mixed well. Serve in your water bottle over ice.

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Here are a few more ways to create a homemade sports drink:

Energy Water:  In 1 quart water add ¼ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp baking soda, 2 Tbs honey, 1 tsp. Ginseng

Water Booster: In 1 quart water add ¼ tsp sea-salt, juice of 1 lemon, and 1/2Tbs honey.

Isotonic O.J: Isotonic sports drinks quickly replaces fluids lost by sweating and supplies a boost of carbohydrate.To make-In 1 litre of water add 200ml of concentrated orange and a pinch of salt (1g). Mix all the ingredients together and keep chilled

Coconut water: Coconut water naturally has 650 mg of potassium (15x more than a banana), 25mg of magnesium, and 35 mg of sodium.  Low calorie. Packed with natural electrolytes coconut water hydrates, increases energy, balance bodies pH, cools the body, transports nutrients to cells, improve digestion and increase libido.

*Drink unsweetened coconut water before and after exercise.  Try dilute with water and use for hydration during training.

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Immune Boosting Rose Hip Jam

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Immune Boosting Rose Hip Jam

Rose hips are the fruits of a rose-bush and they contain huge amounts of vitamin C, tannins, pectines, and carotene.  This means they are radically immune booting and can be used as a nutritional therapy when you feel a cold coming on. Rose hips are also known to protect the cells during radiation,  and provide a rich antioxidant for the skin. Each tablespoon of the jam contains about 60 mg of vitamin C (which is 2/3 of the daily RDA recommendation.) Simply by soaking your dried Rose Hips, they we turn into a jam like consistency. Then, with a little boost of anti-inflammatory ginger and honey for sweetness you get a delicious and therapeutic treat.

I like to drizzle rose hip jam on my morning oatmeal, add it to berry smoothies, or eat it on a seedy toast.

*Rose hips can be found in a well stocked health food store.

Ingredients 1/4 cup of dried rose hips 1 inch of water above rose hips 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, minced 2 tsp of local honey or stevia * Flax or chia seeds to thicken if needed

DIRECTIONS Add your rose hips to a small jar and cover in water by an extra inch.  Close the jar tightly and let them sit on the counter for 2 hours (or if you leave it overnight, keep it in the fridge.)  When you open them you will find the rose hips have absorbed the water and turned into a jam like consistency.

You are welcome to stop here and use your rose hips as is for a slightly bitter fruit compote.

Or for a smoother jam with an extra depth of flavor, add them to your food processor with ginger and honey and blend until smooth. Sweeten to your taste. You can store the jam in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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A Toast to San Francisco Summers: Stay Hydrated!

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A Toast to San Francisco Summers: Stay Hydrated!

When the sun comes out in San Francisco, the city takes notice. The sunscreen and sandals come out, and the sidewalk cafes and running paths get packed. But often something important is forgotten: water intake. Especially when active, water consumption must go up with rising temperatures. The old “8 glasses per day” prescription is no longer one-size-fits-all. Especially if you are running on a dedicated exercise schedule, the recreational athlete should have between 10-15 glasses of water a day. Benefits of increased fluids for athletes include maintained energy during exercise, lower heart rate, body temperature control, improved blood flow to muscles for quick recovery, lowered muscle cramps, and improved athletic performance. Tips on monitoring your hydration needs

Peek at your pee: Check the color of your urine to determine if your body is getting adequate flushing power. The darker the pee, the more dehydrated you are.

Hydrate before and after exercise: Drink 16 oz of water two hours before activity and the another 8-16oz fifteen minuets right before exercise. Afterwards, drink 16-24oz per pound of loss water weight.

Weigh yourself: Do this before and after exercise to monitor fluid loss. If you weigh less after exercise, you didn’t get enough to drink. If you weigh more, then you’ve had too much. Weighing the same (or slightly less) after exercise, shows that you are an effective hydrater.

Avoid stimulants: Sugar and caffeine are dehydrators. Avoid sodas, fruit juice and coffee, especially around exercise sessions. If you have a sweet treat or an afternoon Americano, follow it up with double the amount in water.

Electro-charge your workout: Sports drinks are specially formulated with electrolytes and carbohydrates to help replace the salts lost in sweat. These electro-charged replacements are ideal for activities lasting longer then an hour. For a more nutritious spin on sports drinks check out the natural brands such as Recharge, Kul Fuel, unsweetened coconut water, or consider making your own!

Recipes!

Electrolyte Sun Tea: In 3 gallons water add 4 cups lime juice, 2 cups honey, 1/2 cup sea salt, 1/2 gallon sun tea (with your choices of herbs: hibiscus, peppermint, tulsi, or lemon balm.) *Mix sugar and salt in warm water to dissolve. Add the remainder of the ingredients and allow at least one hour in the sun. Serve over ice.

Energy Water: In 1 quart water add ¼ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp baking soda, 2 Tbs honey, 1 tsp.

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