Banana Bread “PowerBar”

PowerBar needs to be in quotes, since I work for “the” PowerBar. I absolutely love PowerBars, whether it’s our chews, wafers, protein bars or the traditional bars. I’ve told this story many times, but I’ll repeat it again. I started eating PowerBars in the 80’s, when they first came out. I believed it was the fuel of champions, and so, being an 8-year-old swimmer, I was going to be a champion too. So, I requested a chocolate PowerBar before every swim meet. And since I went on to swim in college, I know they helped. In all seriousness, nutrition is such a key to overall health and athletic performance, that anyone who wants to be healthy and be successful in all areas of life, should focus on good nutrition.

As much as I love our actual PowerBars, I love to bake. I’m often asked, “please give me a recipe for a bar I can make at home.” So, I set off to make a bar that tasted good, and provided good nutrients. Also, since added sugar, gluten-free and vegan are such hot topics, I wanted to make the bar all 3. So, here’s my take at an energy bar. For those times when you feel like making your own energy bar, give this one a try.

The base ingredients are dates, oats and banana. All provide healthy carbohydrates. The additional ingredients provide healthy fats and spices. The bar can be made with or without chocolate, or with vegan chocolate. If chocolate is used, there will be some added sugar, and may of may not be vegan, depending on the chocolate used.

Since these bars are made with oats and dates, they have a higher fiber content. Due to this, I’d recommend using them as pre-workout, post workout, snack or biking/non running activities.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Energy Bars

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Energy Bars

Banana Bread Bar:

  • 1 cup of gluten-free oats, ground into flour
  • 20 dates, soaked in 1 cup of water
  • 1 banana (ripe)
  • 1/4 cup water (reserved from the dates)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips/vegan chocolate (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, grease a 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan
1. Pour 1 cup of oats into a blender or food processor. Blend until ground into a rough flour. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
2. Add the dates, banana and 1/4 cup water to the blender. Blend using pulses, and scraping the sides of the blender down. This might take 1-2 minutes of blending.
3. Add the oat flour to the blender and mix.
4.To the blender add the walnuts and almonds. Blend again using a low setting to mix the ingredients together.
5. Spoon the wet mixture into a bowl, and stir in the chocolate chips and spices.
6. Line your pan with parchment paper. Spoon the mixture into the pan, using your hands or a spoon to flatten the mixture out. It will be thick.
7. Bake 15-20 minutes or until starting to brown. Remove from the oven, let cool, then the parchment paper out of the pan.
8. Cut into 8 bars.You can keep in the refrigerator or freezer for best taste. I kept mine for 1-2 weeks in the fridge and they were just fine.
Nutrition with chocolate:
  • 200kcal
  • 28g carbohydrate
  • 4g protein
  • 10g fat
  • 4g fiber

Nutrition without chocolate:

  • 180kcal
  • 24g carbohydrate
  • 4g protein
  • 8g fat
  • 4g fiber

I hope you enjoy these bars as much as I do. Please give them a try and let me know what you think. Also, I’m going to be taking a one week hiatus from blogging as I’m going tech free for this next week. Brett and I are headed to Puerto Rico for some relaxation in the sun. I’m sure I’ll have some great pics post trip to share. Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day, from an Italian!

Quick Fire Roasted Tomato Soup (GF, Veg)

All week Brett has been under the weather. He even stayed home from school and just laid on the couch, coughing, sneezing, etc. I did my best to stay healthy-washing my hands, cleaning, taking Vit. C, taking my probiotics, trying to get lots of sleep, etc. Unfortunately it didn’t work, and here I am with a head cold. Runny nose, sore throat, the whole nine yards.

When I’m sick I crave hot tea, hot cocoa and warm and soothing soup. Brett loves tomato soup, so I decided it was time for a nice batch of tomato soup. I follow no meat on Friday’s during Lent, so yesterday turned out to be the perfect time for the soup-sick and no meat. I actually made tuna melt’s for Brett as well. Yummy.

While I’d love to say I roasted my own tomatoes, being March and snowy, tomatoes aren’t in season. Plus I wanted to make a quick soup. Instead I used fire roasted diced tomatoes to add the roasted flavor. I love thick soups, but feel free to add more vegetable broth to thin your soup out. Also, I love adding beans or lentils to my soup, then blending them. No one can guess what makes your soup so creamy and hearty, it’s great. Plus, they add a needed protein boost. This time I used red lentils, which tend to become very soft and are easily blended. I chose to blend the soup to hide the lentils, and make it more creamy. I do like a bit of texture, which is why I added the second can of roasted tomatoes after blending. Feel free to blend everything if you like a smoother texture.

This soup warms the soul. In addition, this soup provides a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, protein and lycopene (a carotene that reduces cancer risk).

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

Quick Fire Roasted Tomato Soup (Serves 6)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 28oz of peeled whole tomatoes
  • 2x 14oz can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained and divided
  • 2.5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1/8th season of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning or a combo of basil and thyme
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Swirl the olive oil around the pan.
  3. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Stir, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
  4. Add the lentils, peeled tomatoes, 1x 14oz can fire roasted tomatoes and 2.5 cups of broth.
  5. Bring to a boil, top with a lid, and reduce heat and simmer 20min, or until lentils are soft.
  6. With an immersion blender or blender, blend the soup. If using a normal blender, blend in batches making sure to cover the lid with a towel.
  7. After the soup is blended stir the other 14oz can of roasted tomatoes into the soup. Season.

Nutrition (2 cup serving)

  • 259kcal
  • 49g carbohydrates
  • 14g of protein
  • 4g of fat
  • 16g of fiber
  • 870mg of sodium


Struggling to Get Enough Protein?

There are two very polar sides to the protein debate. Side one says, as Americans, we get plenty of protein in our diet, in fact some say too much. Side two says, as athletes, particularly vegetarian or vegan athletes, we aren’t getting enough. So what do we do…?

The easiest way to think about it is this:

  • If you are an endurance/team sport athlete, you need about 1.2-1.5g/kg of protein per day
  • If you are a strength athlete, you need around 1.5-2g/kg of protein per day
  • The RDI is .8g/kg of protein per day

So, most of us reach the RDI, however some fall short. As a vegetarian or vegan, restricting animal products can be a bit more challenging to get the right protein in. It can certainly be done though. Also, the other category that needs to focus on getting more protein in, are those trying to lose weight. Protein adds satiety (keeps you feeling full), and will actually cause your metabolism to increase while breaking the protein down.

  • For weight loss, generally I recommend 1.5g/kg of protein per day

Years ago, and possibly still today, I’d hear and see athletes (and the general public) downing protein shakes. I am not opposed to protein shakes, in fact, I think they can make a great recovery tool, a quick and easy stand in meal, and are pretty yummy. That being said, I do not want my athletes depending on them solely for their protein intake. I’d love my athletes to get the majority of their protein from whole food sources. Since I hear “I can’t get more protein in without this bar or shake,” here are 45 different foods, 24 listed categories and their approximate protein level. I’ve included serving sizes and whether or not it is a complete protein.

Complete Proteins

Animal products are made up of complete proteins, so all the essential amino acids are represented. Grains, seeds and vegetables are often incomplete proteins, which means you have to eat from multiple sources to create a complete protein. A traditional meal to create a complete protein is beans and rice. Together, all essential amino acids are represented. I used to be more concerned with my athletes creating complete proteins, but as more research has come out, we’ve realized that it has less to do with creating the complete protein in the meal, vs just having the different foods throughout the day, which create complete protein. Several non animal products are complete proteins, including the highly touted quinoa and chia seeds.

Great Sources of Protein (In no particular order)

*denotes a complete protein

*For the meat, 3-4oz is the size of a small palm. 5-6oz is the size of a larger palm
1. *Chicken- 35g in 1 cup of chopped chicken (think on a salad)/4oz (the size of a small palm)
2. *Fish- 16g per 3oz serving
3. *Turkey- 34g in a 4 oz serving
4. *Beef- 22g in a 3oz serving
5. *Eggs- 6g per egg (large)
6. *Dairy-milk, yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese- 8g per cup, 15-20g for Greek yogurt
7. Beans-black, pinto, navy, kidney, white- 5-7g per ½ cup
8. Nuts-walnuts, almonds, cashews, pine, macadamia – 5-6g per ounce (1/4 cup)
9. Nut butter-almond, cashew- 4g of protein per 1 tbsp
10. Sunflower butter- 3g of protein per 1 tbsp
11. Seeds-sunflower, sesame, *hemp, *chia, flax- 5-7g per 2 tbsp serving
12. Legumes-peanuts/peanut butter- 4g per 1 tbsp
13. Lentils- 9g per ½ cup
14. *Tempeh and Tofu/Soy products- 15g per ½ cup
15. *Edamame- 8g per ½ cup
16. Seitan- 36g per ½ cup
17. Peas- 5g per ½ cup
18. Broccoli/Spinach- 4g per ½ cup
19. *Quinoa- 6g per 1/4cup uncooked
20. Millet/*Amaranth/Spelt/Farro- 6-7g per 1/4 cup uncooked=1/2-3/4 cup cooked
21. Oats- 4-5g per ½ cup uncooked
22. *Buckwheat- 11g per ½ cup uncooked (not actually wheat)
23. Brown Rice- 5g per 1 cup cooked (1/4 cup uncooked)
24. Spirulina- 4g of protein per 1 tsp

So now you have no excuse to be under consuming the correct amounts of protein during your meals and post workout/races. Be adventurous and try out different proteins on this list. You’ll find some that you thought unusual, pretty good.

Baked Falafel Salad (GF, Veg)

For the past few months, I’ve been meaning to make a go at making my own falafel. I have a favorite middle eastern restaurant, and a restaurant/salad shop that makes a darn good falafel salad. Amsterdam Falafel is located in both downtown DC and Annapolis. It’s kind of one of those places that if you’re still in college, it would be where you’d go after the bars close. Me well, I go for lunch.

SweetGreen is an awesome salad shop that makes the best salads. Really and truly, if you are a salad person, check out SweetGreen and their tahini/falafel salad. I’m even more passionate about them after coming back from a trip to Philly and another “make you own salad shop” was located next to my hotel. It was a “bad” night and day comparison. I almost couldn’t eat my salad. For SweetGreen think fresh foods, local, organic meats, the best veggies, etc. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of SweetGreen, but try it out if you have one near you.

Amsterdam Falafel Shop

Amsterdam Falafel Shop

Falafel isn’t hard to make, just more time-consuming. I think it’s definitely worth the time it takes though. This time I made a falafel salad, you can also stuff falafel into a pita with grains and veggies. Just as delicious. Normally, falafel is fried. Since I am not a fan of fried foods, that meant my goal was to achieve a slightly crispy crust on the baked falafel. I did manage to get a slightly crispy crust, but they are softer overall then your typical falafel.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian lunch or dinner, the chickpeas/garbanzo beans are the key ingredient and are very healthy. They are high in fiber, zinc, iron, folate, molybdemum, manganese and protein. Traditionally, bulgur is used as the main grain. If you’re gluten intolerant, you can substitute quinoa or brown rice. It just doesn’t have the same feel. You’re getting added protein, fiber, healthy carbs and other micronutrients from both.


Baked Falafel (Serves 4):

15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minus 1 tbsp for tahini dressing
1/4 cup cilantro, minus 1 tbsp for tahini dressing
1 egg
1 tbsp whole wheat flour/gluten-free flour
1.5 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt


8 cups mixed greens
1 cup uncooked bulgur, prepared according to the directions (use quinoa if gluten-free)
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 avocado
1 cup chopped tomato
20 kalamata olives
4 tbsp feta cheese

Tahini Dressing:

1/4 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp cilantro
salt and pepper


4 tbsp hummus

For the baked falafel:

1.Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking dish/sheet.
2. Drain and rinse chickpeas.
3. Add the chickpeas, and the rest of the falafel ingredients to a food processor.
4. Process the ingredients until mashed and combined, but not pureed. Scrape the ingredients down the sides in between pauses. Total process time is around 1 minute. The mixture will appear a bit chunky, wet and a bit sloppy.
4. Roll the falafel mixture into a ball. It should make soft 12 balls (I know that sounds terrible).
5. Place on the baking sheet and bake for a total of 20min. At the 10min mark, gently flip over.
6. There will be a slight brown crust when done.

For the Salad:
1. Cook the bulgur/quinoa according to the directions.
2. Chop the vegetables
3. Place 2 cups of greens onto each plate, 1/4 of the grains,  and divide the rest of the vegetables, olives and cheese between the 4 plates.

For the Tahini Dressing:
1. Whisk the ingredients together and set aside.

Top each salad with 1 tbsp hummus

Nutritional Data:
487 Calories
57 Carbohydrate
19 Protein
23 Fat
17 Fiber
487 Sodium