Happy WIAW! Jenn at Peas and Crayons is over the moon now that her husband, Paul, is back form deployment (hooray!) But she still had time to serve up gorgeous food photos, and even one of her ferret! Check out her blog to see the happy couple, happy food, and a bunch of happy bloggers sharing their midweek treats!

Summer staples from last week included some zucchini that have been producing nicely in my garden, and this week I’d like to include yet another prolific producer–cucumber!

I love the taste and crunch of a fresh cucumber, and if you also like yogurt then yesterday’s Easy Tzatziki recipe is right up your alley. Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie might sound like some kind of body cream, but it’s a real, drinkable smoothie that has the clean, refreshing taste of cucumbers and the smooth sweetness of vanilla. I had one for breakfast, and it was a delicious and light post-workout snack:

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie

Refreshing, packed with nutrients, and low in fat, carbs, and calories–just around 250 for 30 ounces of deliciousness (this glass is only 12 oz…refills!)

Lunch was another fruit & veggie yogurt bowl:

Cucumber, apple, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and fat-free Greek yogurt mixed with vanilla protein powder & cinnamon. Celestial Seasonings Imperial White Peach tea.

Dinner was leftovers from the previous night, chicken tikka with biriyani:

Another good source of low-fat protein: chicken, yogurt marinade, brown rice and split yellow peas.

Dessert was an assortment of sweets, including some Dutch cookies sent by my husband’s grandma from the Netherlands (thank you, Omi!) We couldn’t eat everything, but it’s just nice to look at a bunch of assorted cookies:

Clockwise, top, L-R: spekulaas (traditional Dutch cookie, tastes like Xmas,) stroopwafel (“syrup waffle”,) roomboter bitterkoekjespencee (thick cookies filled with buttery, pasty filling,) Riesen chocolates, vanilla oreos, roomboter Fondantsprits (butter shortbreads,) fudge coconut oreos, Amarettini koekjes (tastes like almond cookies,) and gezouten drop (salted licorice.) Served with rooibos thee!

This smoothie recipe can be adjusted to your taste, and is yet another great way to use up all those extra cucumbers and zucchini piling up in your fridge. The mild flavors of the veggies add freshness, plus they provide fiber for bulk. The banana also helps thicken it up and gives it some sweetness. The vanilla protein powder gives it the creamy, vanilla flavor.

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie
A thick layer of foam forms at the top, just stir gently to incorporate all the yummy goodness!

Ingredients:

12 ounces cold water
4 ounces almond milk (or milk, soy moo, more water)
1 1/3 scoops vanilla protein powder, or your favorite flavor protein powder
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, rinsed and squeezed out
4″ cucumber, sliced thin
4″ zucchini, sliced thin (more cucumber is okay, too)
1/3 ripe banana, sliced
ice cubes (optional)

Directions:

In a blender, add water, milk, protein powder. Blend on low until combined, about 10 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients except ice. Blend on medium to medium-high until veggies are chopped up, 15-30 seconds. Add ice cubes and blend on high for 10 seconds until crushed. Makes about 30 ounces.

Vanilla Cucumber Smoothie-2

The bulk from the veggies makes this shake thick enough for a straw to stand up

Any favorite post-workout smoothies? What’s the greenest smoothie you ever tried? :D

Today’s WIAW will be quick and dirty, as it’s been a busy week and an even busier Wednesday (hence the evening post!)  thank you again to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting this weekly round-up for us to share our recipes, a few laughs, and maybe some interesting stories to close out the summer.

In addition to my summer staples of fresh fruits and veggies, I came across an easy protein bar recipe that could be a great staple to take along on hikes, bike trips, road trips, or even as an on-the-go breakfast while running errands (like I did this morning) or a nighttime snack when you need a little something to satisfy your peanut butter and banana cravings (like I did five minutes ago!) I’ll share this recipe in a moment, but here’s a quick rundown of the day’s eats:

Breakfast: I wasn’t that hungry after this morning’s workout so I had peanut butter jelly toast and coffee (no picture, but it’s the same as last week’s recycled photo!) My stomach was ready for more after a couple hours, but coffee and tea was enough to keep me satisfied until lunchtime.

Lunch: fruit and veggie salad with protein powder-infused yogurt! Fruits: apple, pear, grapes, strawberries, blueberries. Veggies: celery, cucumber, shredded zucchini. This is a good way to add more veggies into your day, just slice them thin/small so you won’t be overwhelmed by a mouthful of zucchini…unless you like zucchini a lot!

Fruit and veggie yogurt bowl and a cup of Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Breeze green tea for lunch.

Snack: half a Peanut Butter Banana Protein Bar! It was so chewy and gooey, and half was just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth (picture and recipe below.)

Dinner: quick and easy chicken, broccoli and quinoa:

No dessert if I have wine…and I did have wine!

Protein bars are great, and I used to have them for lunch along with an apple on the days I had back-to-back classes in college. I haven’t bought one in a while and when I do feel like trying one out, it’s usually the price that convinces me not to buy one.  I got this super easy protein bar recipe from http://fatlossschool.com/how-to-make-your-own-whey-protein-bars/. You can make these bars whatever flavor you want with different protein powders and some of your favorite baking spices. I made this version using some powdered peanut butter to help cut down on the fat and it still has a great taste.

L-R: powdered peanut butter, oat flour, nut butter, protein powder & banana.

Thick and sticky, just like cookie dough.

I use tofu containers to mold them, but any small container will do.

Put the plastic wrapped protein mix in the freezer to firm up before slicing.

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Bars, also can be made into bite-sized nuggets (left).

Chewy Peanut Butter Banana Protein Bars (vegan)  recipe from http://www.fatlossschool.com
Give them a light coating of oats and chopped nuts. These protein snacks can also be baked.

1 cup oat flour
1 cup dairy-free vanilla protein powder (or protein powder of your choice)
1/4 cup powdered peanut butter (like PB2)
1 large ripe banana
1/4 cup nut butter
1/4 cup water (I used water that had soaked dates in it to make it a little more sweet)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine oat flour, protein powder and powdered peanut butter (if using) with a whisk. With a fork or pastry cutter, mash in banana and peanut butter, adding a little water at a time until cookie dough consistency. Blend well.

Line a small loaf pan or container with plastic wrap, leaving half hanging over the side. Spray the inside with cooking spray. Add mixture to loaf pan, or if using a small plastic container, add half of mixture. Flatten with spatula, cover mixture with plastic wrap and press firmly. Repeat with remaining dough. Freeze for 30 minutes before slicing. Makes 10-12 servings.

Baking option: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut bars into thirds, place on silpat, ungreased cookie sheet or pizza pan. Bake for 10 minutes, cool before storing in airtight container in fridge for a week or wrap in foil and freeze for up to two months.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the nutritional info (oat and nut coating nutrition info not included):

Total 1/12th serving 1/10th serving
Calories 1360 113.5g 136
Protein 101.5g 8.5g 10.2g
Fat 61.4g 43.4g 5.2g 3.6g 6.2g 4.4g
Carbs 158.6g 13.3g 16g

(NOTE: I made a mistake on the fat! I counted 20 grams instead of 2, yikes!!! Luckily my recalculations brought it down, sorry about the scare, folks!)

Options (extra calories apply!):

– omit PB2 and increase nut butter to 1/2 cup, use less water
– substitute Nutella for half of nut butter
– substitute 1/4 – 1/3 cup apple sauce, pureed sweet potato or canned pumpkin for banana
– add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

What’s your favorite protein bar flavor? Are there any protein bars that are worth shelling our a couple bucks for or do you enjoy making them yourself?

The cocoa powder will dull the otherwise bright green smoothie, but the flavor it brings will brighten your day.

I started experimenting with smoothies a few weeks ago to introduce more raw foods into my diet, and to hopefully perk up my energy and overall well-being. Strangely enough, I found smoothies made mostly of fruits made me extremely tired, and only after drinking a cup of coffee was I able to get back to work! I read several recipes for green shakes, all sounding pretty gross until I came across one that used greens, fruits and avocado. I found this the most delicious and versatile, and you could add flavors like blueberry, banana, chocolate, peanut butter, strawberry, etc. The avocado–and the addition of the different flavors–seemed to help tame the leafy green taste, and you still get a nutritious, vitamin-packed smoothie.

Here is what I made this morning using my favorite green smoothie ingredients: kale, apples, avocado and dates (it is not entirely raw because of the roasted cacao nibs, cayenne and cocoa powder.) I prefer the more nutrient-dense kale over spinach, and the taste is mild enough to let the other delicious flavors come through. I added just enough banana for additional creaminess and sweetness. Feel free to adjust any of the ingredients to your liking:

Green Morning Smoothie with Cocoa and Banana

1/2 apple, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 kale leaves, chopped (about 1 cup packed)
2 dates, soaked for an hour or overnight
1/2 ripe avocado, chopped
1 two- or three-inch-piece ripe banana (the riper, the better!)
1 packet of Stevia, or 2 teaspoons sweetener of your choice
2 teaspoons cacao or cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon broken cacao nibs, plus extra for garnish (optional)
1 teaspoon hemp seeds (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 -3/4 cup soy or almond milk
1 cup water, plus more, if needed

Add everything in a blender, add enough water until it reaches 3/4 of the level of your ingredients. Mix on medium-high speed until blended, adding more water if needed. Pour into glasses, garnish with ground cacao bits. Makes about 20-24 ounces.

Chocolate Avocado Shake
This shake is more chocolatey. The sunflower seeds and cacao nibs give it an extra crunch!

1/4 avocado, chopped
1 stalk celery
2 kale leaves, about 1/3 cup packed
1/4 apple, chopped
1 pitted date, chopped
3 inch piece frozen banana, sliced (about the length of your index finger)
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds (optional)
2 roasted cocoa nibs (about 2 teaspoons ground, optional)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon stevia
1 teaspoon agave syrup (or leave out and use all stevia)
pinch salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 – 3/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water

Put everything in a blender, pouring liquids last. Blend until nice and thick, adding more water and sweetener to taste.