Banana Bread Breakfast Bites (Virtually fat free)

Bananas have a shelf life that is only rivalled by avocados. You wait all week to get them just to your preference and then…too late, their skins are spotty and they start to lose their firmness. For this recipe though, the more overripe they are, the better! Both the texture and flavor of the bananas being overripe will only help your finished recipe! These delicious bites are virtually fat free, which I love, as it makes them so versatile. For a breakfast on the go, you can top with nuts or nut butter (my preference is Trader Joes chia and flax peanut butter or Crazy Go Nuts coconut walnut butter) or you can serve warmed up with vanilla Greek yogurt for a great pre/post workout snack).

Macros per bite (based on 16 servings): 63kcal; 6g protein, 7.8g carbs (1.6g fiber), 0.6g fat

Ingredients

  • 40g rolled/quick cook oats, ground into a flour
  • 200g over-ripe banana
  • 32g coconut flour
  • 20g sweetener (I use Stevia baking blend)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 150g 0% Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 scoops banana protein powder (best to use a whey/casein blend, though will work with whey isolate too, just the rise won’t be as good)
  • 1/2 scoop cinnamon protein powder (can sub for an additional 1/2 scoop banana protein powder)
  • 60ml milk/milk alternative (my milk of choice is unsweetened vanilla cashew milk but regular/almond milk will work!)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350f (180c) and line a 8″ baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork until it forms a smooth puree.
  3. Grind your oats into a flour a blender/Nutribullet.
  4. In a large bowl, sieve the coconut flour, Stevia, oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and protein powder.
  5. Add in the mashed banana and stir until combined.
  6. Add in the remainder of the wet ingredients – egg whites, milk and Greek yogurt until mixture is fully combined. It should have a very thin consistency.
  7. Pour the mixture into your tin and bake for 20 minutes in the center of your pre-heated oven. The top should be golden brown and firm.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing into squares.
  9. These will keep in an air tight container for 2-3 days and a week refridgerated. (I usually opt for refridgerating them as they keep for longer and it makes the centers more gooey. I then heat up before eating).
  10. These are great topped with nuts/nut butter (I have mine topped with walnut butter in the photo). Equally, you can incorporate chopped nuts or chocolate chips into the mixture. With calories as low as these are, zero guilt for eating 4 at a time!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

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Vegan Cheese, Tomato And Pistachio Pasta

I have had a lot of requests for vegan, or plant based meals. Veganism is growing in both general awareness and popularity, with the past January seeing a ‘Veganuary’ movement and the hastags #meatlessmondays and #meatfreemondays trending on Instagram. Whilst I have not joined this trend, and don’t plan to, I do eat vegan/plant-based meals. The great thing about this dish is that it can easily be adapted to someone who does not want to eat a vegan meal! This dish is so packed full of flavor, though, that I guarantee even the meat-lovers amongst us won’t disagree it is lacking in taste!

Macros per portion (based on 1 serving): 281kcal; 22g protein, 32g carbs, 10g fat

Ingredients

  • 1 pack of Miracle Noodle ziti, rinsed (can sub for 2oz of conventional pasta)
  • 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 20g roughly chopped red onion
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 15g nutritional yeast
  • 30g shredded almond milk cheese alternative (can substitute for regular/low fat mozzarella)
  • 15g pistachios

Method

  1. Place a small non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and cook the onion and garlic until the onion turns translucent.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and dried herbs and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent anything from sticking. The tomatoes should begin to bubble.
  3. Reduce the heat and add in the zucchini and nutritional yeast. Stir occasionally while the sauce simmers.
  4. Bring a medium sized pan to the boil and cook the rinsed Miracle Noodle ziti for 2-3mins and drain. (If using conventional pasta, cook according to packet instructions and don’t omit the salt. It prevents the pasta from sticking together!).
  5. Add the drained pasta to the sauce along with the cheese alternative and cook on a low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
  6. Transfer to a bowl and top with the pistachios.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Pizza Oatmeal

Savory oatmeal? You might think I have well and truly lost it, but oatmeal is actually by nature rather plain and savory tasting. We tend to think of it in steaming morning bowls with milk, fruit and nuts, but I challenge you to re-think and try using it as a basis for savory items. When making savory oats, I tend to think of it like quick cook risotto. It is super easy to whip up and the recipe can so easily be adapted to suit your palette!

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Macros per portion (serves 1): 355kcal; 34g protein, 31g carbs, 9g fat

Ingredients

  • 40g (or half a cup) of oats. Use quick cook oats if you are making in the microwave and rolled oats if making on the stove top.
  • 1 cup water (can sub for milk/milk alternative)
  • 100g spinach
  • 3 egg whites (can substitute for whole eggs)
  • 50g mushrooms
  • 10 slices turkey pepperoni (can substitute for sausages/bacon/turkey bacon)
  • 30g reduced fat mozzarella, grated
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Pinch of mixed dried herbs
  • Ketchup/mustard/hot sauce (or all 3!)

 

Stove Top Method

  1. Add the oats and water to a medium saucepan and cook on a medium heat until the oats begin to thicken and absorb some of the liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small, non-stick saucepan, saute the mushrooms on a medium heat until they begin to soften.
  3. Reduce the heat of the oats and add in the egg whites, black pepper and dried herbs.
  4. Stir the mushrooms into the mixture along with the turkey pepperoni and spinach. Cook on low for a minute or so to allow the flavor of the pepperoni to flavor the oats and for the spinach to wilt. Stir constantly to prevent sticking.
  5. Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Top with the mozzarella and place under the broil setting on the oven for approximately 2 minutes, until the cheese melts and begins to turn brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and top with condiments of choice – I usually opt for Heinz reduced sugar/salt ketchup!

Microwave Method

  1. Add the oats and water to a microwave proof bowl and cook on high for 45 seconds so that the oats have absorbed most of the liquid. Remove and stir.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small, non-stick saucepan, saute the mushrooms, spinach and turkey pepperoni over a medium heat until the mushrooms soften and the spinach wilts.
  3. Add the egg whites, along with the black pepper and dried herbs to the microwaved oats and cook for another 30 – 45 seconds. Remove and stir. If the egg whites have not cooked into the mixture, cook for 10 seconds at a time until the oats and egg whites are cooked.
  4. Stir the mushrooms, pepperoni and spinach into the oatsĀ  and top with the mozzarella.
  5. Place under the broil setting on the oven for approximately 2 minutes, until the cheese melts and begins to turn brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and top with condiments of choice – I usually opt for Heinz reduced sugar/salt ketchup!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Have We Lost Loyalty?

Loyalty. Noun: a strong feeling of alliance or support. When I hear the word loyalty, I instantly think of dogs and their utter and complete devotion. We use the word loyal most commonly in contexts to describe faithfulness within relationships and commitments to brands or products. But what does it really mean to be loyal?

Media often portray the idea that society is becoming increasingly disloyal. With more opportunities, availability and resources than ever before, we have access to more information across an ever-increasing number of platforms. We are less reliant on a single source for anything – whether it be where we get our news; where we get our groceries or even where we find and meet people. Our lifestyles have evolved to such an extent that not only do we have increased diversity between people, but also increased diversity within people. There seems to be fewer and fewer examples of regimented labels that people uphold, and more and more examples of fluid principles/values that people live by; so much of these varying according to circumstance.

For example, vegan/plant based diets are on the increase, with many people showcasing the fact that they try to source their food this way. Ordinarily, you might assume that this means these people ARE vegan, yet this is often far from the truth. What it actually seems to more commonly mean is that whether that person eats a vegan meal or not is circumstantial, dictated by other underlying values. Their norm is to eat plant based, but this isn’t their everything, and they are willing to stray from their norm for many varying reasons. Perhaps they are visiting family and don’t want to inconvenience family meals. Perhaps they have discovered a sustainably sourced, Organic meat they like. Perhaps they are travelling and want to try a local delicacy. Perhaps their long-time favourite food is all too tempting. Really, the list is endless. Diversity within us often dictates that people no longer label themselves so distinctly (e.g. “I am vegan”), but rather they portray their values with explanations (e.g. “I try and eat mostly plant based meals because…) to decide when they uphold their norms.

With fewer ‘labels’, the ability to demonstrate loyalty is also a lot harder. How can manufacturers keep shoppers when their target audience isn’t a distinct set of people? How can we maintain positive relationships with people when we aren’t quite sure of what their fundamental principles are? The evolution of society requires both manufacturers and people to really invest time and resources to really get to know people in order to evoke loyalty. With lots of peoples’ underlying values being so intricately complex, finding what makes people tick is not a quick task.

It seems that long-term, sustained loyalty can only be achieved with time, ironically something we are often declaring we have less of. But, gone are the days that one good meal using a particular brand or ingredient creates lifelong loyalty to that brand. Gone are the days that one good date leads to long-term relationships. Loyalty now has to really be earned and only those willing to invest substantial time will be able to attain and retain loyalty of anything. Except of course if you are talking canine loyalty. Their loyalty hasn’t evolved and their devotion remains unwaivered…thank goodness.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Does “Good Try” Really Mean “Good Try” Or Does It Mean “No Success”?

“Good try”.

Ever heard those words and thought “Aww, how cute. They tried hard but didn’t accomplish the objective?”

I remember as a child, stamps in my books from the teacher saying ‘Good try’. These were the ultimate recognition that you really didn’t understand the work. As a teacher myself, often I would start a comment with ‘Good try’ when I was really struggling for something positive to say about the output, but knew that the child had dedicated at least some time in an attempt to complete the work.

Publicly recognizing achievements in assemblies or at awards ceremonies, ‘trying hard’ was often used as a descriptor to acknowledge those children who weren’t academically high achievers, but did work hard each day. Rarely did you hear stories regarding effort from within the classroom if the child was also deemed highly intelligent; academic attainment typically took precedent.

From a young age, we are conditioned to believe that academic success is the ultimate achievement and that exuding effort is secondary. Those children who can effortlessly achieve anything (and realize it) are seldom taught to value effort, as, well, ‘they don’t need to’. I have delivered many parent/teacher conferences and whenever I told the parents that their child lacked effort, (rarely was any parent surprised at this information) but did well in school, most parents laughed it off, because, again…why does their child need to exert effort if they are over-achieving? Isn’t that a waste of energy?

Millennials receive a lot of negative press about being entitled and expecting opportunities to arrive in their laps and, arguably, lots of this is due to societal conditioning where effort is regarded as inferior to attainment. Ironically, beyond the structured world of academia, rarely does society value effort in the same way. Very few people can successfully contribute to society based solely on their success, and those who do, are often stigmatized as being arrogant. Think world class soccer players, for example. Those players who rely solely on their elite talents are rarely in the media for how much ‘team spirit’ they contributed to, or for the fact they are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.

In both the working and recreational world, as adults, effort takes precedence more frequently. People would rather devote time to someone who tries rather than someone who clearly grasps concepts easily with an air of arrogance. In fact, it is one of the things I love most about fitness. You can buy yourself boobs, pretty nails or a sun tan. But you cannot buy your physique anything like as easily. Sure, you can get liposuction or take drugs, but, for most people, the results are so unpredictable, and, for such an expense, most people simply do not bother.

A toned physique requires continuous effort and maintenance, almost every day. Again, sure, you can have days here and there where you don’t exercise or eat ice-cream for dinner, but unless these episodes form the minority of your habits, you cannot (literally and figuratively) have your cake and eat it. Ironically, people often look towards those with good figures as being self-obsessed and vain (both, arguably, sharing similarities with arrogance), yet, actually, having such a physique is testament to relentless effort. People seek quick fixes, but seldom do these pay off.

A “good try” is often the driving force behind us getting results. A “good try” at work shows loyalty, dedication and passion. A “good try” in a relationship shows commitment, trust and care. A “good try” in fitness shows determination, resilience and pride. A “good try” at anything encompasses all these descriptors and more. We want people to be triers, yet to break this ever-strengthening stereotype that younger people don’t try, I suggest we first frame how we project ‘trying’ to the littlest of people.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

White Chocolate And Banana Blondies

‘Fitspo’ seems to suggest that the only type of chocolate you can enjoy in moderation is the highest cocoa percentage possible of dark chocolate. While some people love it, I find it far too bitter; white or milk chocolate is my jam (or my chocolate!) This recipe can easily be adapted to adjust for your chocolate preferences by using milk chocolate hot cocoa powder or regular cocoa/cacao powder. You can also substitute the white chocolate spread for Nutella or chocolate peanut butter!

Macros per blondie (based on 12 servings and excluding white chocolate frosting): 142kcal; 6p, 14c, 6f

Ingredients

  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 150g white chocolate spread (can sub for Nutella/chocolate nut butter)
  • 100g over-ripe banana
  • 25g white hot cocoa powder (can sub for regular hot cocoa powder or cacao/cocoa powder)
  • 30g oat flour
  • 50g coconut flour
  • 2 scoops of vanilla/banana protein powder (I used birthday cake Dymatize)
  • 120ml almond milk
  • 1/4 cup room temperature water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350f (180c) and line a 9″ baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork until it forms a smooth puree.
  3. Grind your oats into a flour by popping in a blender/Nutribullet until they resemble a flour-like consistency.
  4. In a large bowl, sieve the coconut flour, hot cocoa powder, oat flour, baking powder, salt and protein powder.
  5. Add in the mashed banana and stir until combined.
  6. Add in the remainder of the wet ingredients – egg, almond milk, white chocolate spread and water and stir until mixture is fully combined. It should have a ‘cake batter’ type consistency. If it is too dry, continue adding water a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the correct consistency.
  7. Pour the mixture into your tin and cooking for 30 minutes in the center of your pre-heated oven. The top should be golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing into squares.
  9. These are great topped with additional white chocolate spread or served warm with fruit and ice-cream! These will keep for a week at room temperature, 1 – 2 weeks refridgerated (but this will make the texture more moist) and also can be frozen/defrosted at your convenience.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Is Help Always Helpful Or Can It Be The Sunny Side Of Control?

Help. A single word where correct choice of punctuation is imperative to communicate the right meaning. An exclamation mark signals terror and panic (and reminds me of many of my childhood reads), whilst a subsequent question mark conjurs up an entirely different scenario. The question mark implies the speaker has some skill or expertise that can be of assistance. It also suggests that the speaker is willing to devote time (at minimum) to spend on someone else.

We all depend on help in a variety of forms to live. Although we might believe some of our successes are achieved independently, in reality, there are many moving pieces that have resulted in us being where we are today. Offering help to someone is generally thought of as kind and caring; sometimes even selfless. But is it always this way? Even if you think about your most selfless offer of help, can you really say it was selfless?

People often remark that my prior teaching career was a ‘selfless profession’ as I helped children day in, day out. I always disagree with this remark; I got huge satisfaction from teaching, and, actually, what sparked my career change was not ill-behaved children or difficult parents, but extensive feelings of redundancy and lack of influence – two factors far from the ‘selfless’ label teaching can have. Moreover, what sparked my interest in becoming a teacher was the desire to be in control of others’ education. Having never enjoyed school myself, I wanted others to have an entirely different experience. (I can honestly say approximately 100% of my friends and family were shocked when I decided to become a teacher!)

Now, I am not saying that all suggestions of help are laced with selfish, controlling motives, but I definitely think more are than we would care to think of; particularly those offerings that come without prompting.

Take a colleague at work continuously offering you help, for example. Why are they doing this? Is it because they think you are incompetent? Or is it the complete opposite and they think you are highly capable and want to be attributed to your success? Is it because they are self-conscious about their own quality of work? Is it because they want to be seen as tla team player and doing “the right thing”?

What about someone who continuously offers you help in the gym? Is it because they are concerned your technique is dangerous? Is it because they see your potential and want to be involved in the satisfaction of watching you bloom? Is it because they want to demonstrate their knowledge or because they want to prove themselves?

There is no question, help in the broadeat sense is a wonderful thing. Regardless of how independent you are, we are all entirely dependent on interdependency. But, i do think that help is not exempt from the list of things we should be cautious of. Not every offer of help is laden with your best interests at heart, and, while, we may accept help knowing that really we are the ones helping, sometimes it is perfectly okay to turn it down. Just because we think of help as kind and thoughtful, remember that an exclamation mark after writing ‘help’ can initiate an entirely different thought process.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x