Healthy Blueberry Zucchini Muffins

The summer is fast approaching and fresh zucchini and blueberry bushes are starting to bloom at the local farms. My garden isn’t really big enough for zucchini so I tend to get them from friends or farm stands. There are so many meals and baked goods to make with zucchini. I love that it’s mild in flavor with low calories and can be used as a substitute for pasta on occasion. Blueberries are another fruit that’s showing up at our farm stands as well and who can’t resist some fresh big blueberries? My little guy calls them “bluebears” and it’s simply adorable.  

When I was younger my nana used to bring us blueberry picking every year. She made sure we got the biggest ones and our buckets were full to the brim. Then we’d go back to her cute house in the woods and eat a big bowl of blueberries, milk and sugar. Yup- it was the best. I thankfully got to bring my youngest son blueberry picking with her one summer. Now that she’s passed away, I still make it a point to bring the kids blueberry picking to remember her as well as show them where their food comes from.

Once the blueberry bushes are ready you can bet we’ll be out there picking and making these muffins again! I usually have all of the ingredients on hand so they’re easy to whip up when we’re needing some comfort foods. Maybe this year I’ll let them have her infamous blueberry, milk and sugar treat.

I made these muffins healthier by using a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour. It takes some density out of the muffins and still makes them taste like they come from a bakery. I don’t like using white sugar so I use coconut sugar and maple syrup to sweeten them up. The banana and coconut oil is a substitute for oil in traditional muffin recipes. Zucchini adds a bit of vitamins and minerals to sneak in there as well. Next time you go blueberry picking, save some for this recipe!

Healthy Blueberry Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (water removed)
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix egg, coconut oil, coconut sugar, maple syrup and vanilla extract in small bowl.
  3. Grate zucchini and squeeze out liquid.
  4. Add mashed banana and zucchini to wet ingredients above.
  5. In separate bowl mix flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry and mix.
  7. Add in blueberries and combine.
  8. Line muffin tin with liners or spray with coconut oil. Spoon mix into cups and bake for 15 minutes.
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Strawberry Protein Bars

I don’t make protein bars often but these have been so easy to make and I feel a lot better giving them to my husband knowing what’s in them. He takes a bar with him every day to work so I know having protein, healthy fat and carbs will help keep him full while he’s working. We have so much protein powder at our house so I figured I’d use that to get the extra protein in these bars. He has strawberry powder and I found some freeze dried strawberries that I thought would go perfect in the bars- and they DO!

What I love most about these protein bars is there is no refined sugars, I add healthy fats with flax seeds and almonds, and the mix is pretty versatile. This is what the mixture looks like before I add the strawberries and press into the parchment paper to freeze. It isn’t totally stuck together which is fine because they will stick together after pressed and frozen. I like having protein bars for an easy and healthy snack to grab from the fridge or freezer when I’m in a rush.

I mixed a few strawberries into the mixture before I dumped it onto the parchment paper. Then I added some extras to the top. These strawberries are very similar to the Special K cereal. They give the bar a nice crunch and add to the strawberry taste from the protein powder. Feel free to use any flavored protein powder for these bars, I used strawberries and cream.

I’m able to get about 8 decent size bars from this recipe. After cutting the bars when they get out of the freezer, I place them in small ziplock bags. Some go into the fridge and some go into the freezer.

 

Strawberry Protein Bars

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup protein powder
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 3 tblsp flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup nut butter
  • 1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the oats and protein until fine. Add dates, flax seeds and almonds and continue blending until finely chopped.
  2. Add honey and nut butter to bowl and mix until combined.
  3. Carefully mix in freeze dried strawberries.
  4. Place parchment paper in 8x8 baking dish. Put mixture onto parchment paper and press down firmly.
  5. Add extra strawberries on top if desired and freeze for 30 minutes.
  6. Once bars are hard, remove from dish and cut into 8 pieces. Place in bags to store in fridge or freezer.
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How to Efficiently Meal Prep in 6 Steps

Meal prep can really help you when it comes to being successful with living a healthy life. It can be challenging coming home after a busy day at work, having a fun day with kids or when life just gets busy to make dinner. Coming up with ideas or making sure you have the ingredients to create a healthy meal can be tough, especially when it’s time to eat. Getting food on the go isn’t always the healthiest option either. Meal prep doesn’t have to happen on Sunday or Monday- it can happen any day of the week that’s convenient for you. Most people like to start Sunday or Monday because it sets their week up for success. However, you have to do what works for you. It also doesn’t have to be 2-3 hours long. Even if you just cut up some extra fruit, cook extra veggies, or make enough leftovers from dinner- I would consider that a success in meal prep. Anything you can do to make meals quicker. These are my 5 steps to making meal prep easier.

1.Plan- Have a list of things you want to make for the week. I suggest looking at things you and your family eat a lot of. Also, picking a breakfast, a lunch, and a dinner to make. Or chose the meal that you have the most trouble with. Make 3 dinners if you often have a protein shake and eat out for lunch. Make lunches if you plan to make a crockpot dinner. Whatever meals you choose to eat, figure out what you need to start first. If you’re baking sweet potatoes- do those first and then starting boiling eggs. Chop veggies while sautéing ground turkey. Use your time efficiently and multi-task without getting overwhelmed. Don’t get distracted and set timers where needed!

2.Don’t go overboard- Keep things as simple as possible. Now is not the time to try out the newest Rachel Ray recipe you found on food network. Make the things you know how to make so you can easily/quickly put them together. You’ll also be multi-tasking, so even more reason to know what you’re doing. I’d suggest keeping your list of things to make to a few things and adding to it if you have more time at the end.

3. Cook Protein- Having protein ready to add to salads or a dinner can be very helpful when looking to create a healthy meal. I like to do either a taco flavored ground turkey, salsa chicken, meatballs, bbq chicken, tuna, chickpeas, etc. Cooking protein ahead of time can really save you when you’re in a pinch. Breakfast protein options also make for a good grab and go meal. Protein waffles, hard boiled eggs, overnight oatmeal or a frittata are all convenient to take in the morning.

Roasted Chickpeas, tuna, kodiak cake waffles, ground turkey

4. Mix it up- Don’t prep the same thing every week. Everyone will get bored. Changing the proteins for dinner and snack options are ways I add variety to the week. I also am not a fan of making 5 of the same salads so I’ll switch up the veggies I put into them. If you don’t mind eating the same thing- by all means do it. Many people have success with this. If you make the same salad then think about switching the protein you top it with.

Tossed Salad with greens, Spinach salad with chickpeas

5. Prep healthy snacks- This is mostly for kids but everyone can benefit from this. If your kid doesn’t ask for snacks all day long then I envy you. I’m exhausted by the amount of snacks I have. But buying bulk and prepping portions makes lunches easier to put together. I don’t love the plastic bag situation but it really makes it convenient and easy. Having snacks in the fridge (typically cut up veggies) and in the pantry (popcorn, pretzels, trail mix, protein bars) are all essential to have for options.

popcorn, peppers, cucumber/tomatoes, pretzels

6. Cook in bulk- This goes for things like protein, vegetables and whole grains. Grilling a few pieces of chicken at once, making turkey burgers and putting together a few cans of tuna in a bowl are ways to save time. Roasting or steaming vegetables make it easy to complete a meal. Boiling rice, quinoa or

I hope these tips help you become more efficient in food prepping. What are some strategies you use? I’d love to hear new tips!

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All Things Almond

I’ve been wanting to make almond milk for awhile now so I finally went for it. That and the fact that I realized I didn’t have milk for my morning coffee. So I knew something needed to be done to avert a crisis. Everyone talks about how easy it is and well- it is easy. I would recommend something good to strain the milk with though because even the cheese cloth I got still leaves a few residues. I don’t mind the added texture though.

Travis saw me soaking the almonds the night before and after telling him how it turns into milk, he wanted to be sure to help when it came time to in the morning. He liked pushing the button for the blender and watching the almonds turn into a white milk. 

He didn’t drink it which is fine with me because I used it for my coffee and with some other baking I did. How cute are these milk bottles? I saved them a few years ago after a camping trip we took up Maine. The farm had lots of farmish stuff for sale including their homemade strawberry and blueberry milk. I knew the bottles would come in handy one day.

After making my homemade almond milk I had a lot of this leftover pulp. I hated to see it go to waste so I made them into energy bites. My kids love dried fruit so I like adding some fat and carbs to help keep them full a little bit more. They’re also easy to take in the car or for school lunches.

Homemade Almond Milk & Energy Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • optional: 2-4 pitted dates for sweetness
  • For the Energy Bites
  • 1 cup almond pulp
  • 1 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup teddies smooth peanut butter
  • 1tblsp flax seed
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup dried mixed berries (cranberries, blueberries, cherries)

Instructions

  1. Soak almonds in 2 cups water overnight on counter.
  2. Rinse almonds, put in blender with 4 cups fresh filtered water.
  3. Add vanilla, cinnamon and dates to blender.
  4. Strain over cheese cloth into a bowl/mason jar. I recommend having a strainer underneath the cheese cloth as well to catch any extra residue.
  5. Store in refrigerator.
  6. For the Energy Bites
  7. Simply mix all ingredients together and form small balls. Store in refrigerator.
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I made everything in the morning without much effort. It’s always nice to have some homemade milk once in awhile and an easy, healthy snack for me and the kids. What are some of your favorite things to make with almonds? Let me know!

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