Saturday, May 16, 2015

Copycat recipe: Lemon Vanilla Chia Bars

I took inspiration from an early morning snack by the beach yesterday for this recipe.  I wanted to recreate Kit's Organic Lemon Vanilla Chia Seed energy bars, and came up with a close enough version that is quite tasty, and best of all, super easy!  Scroll below the recipe for my top healthy energy bar picks that will fuel you, and not weigh you down as you achieve great things each day--whatever that looks like for you!

Lemon Vanilla Chia Bars
Yields 4 energy bars

6 organic medjool dates, pitted (or 1/2 cup dates)
1/2 cup raw organic pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried apple, packed
2 tablespoons chia seeds
3/4 to 1 tablespoon lemon zest, loosely packed
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1.  Mix all ingredients in a food processor, adding 1-2 teaspoons of water as needed for mixture to stick together.

2.  Press into a wax-lined loaf or similar pan, and freeze or chill to set for 20 minutes.  Slice and wrap in plastic wrap for a portable bar!  Store in the fridge sealed to last several days.

healthy raw bar

lemon chia bar

As you can see, I don't always have the time to make my own bars (especially when I'm usually selling them, hehe--don't worry, one day Running Girl Bakery treats will be available outside the Monterey Bay area!)

So when I do grab a meal substitute or snack on the go, I want to be sure it's completely gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free, and usually nut-free and vegan.  I like energy bars that fill me up but don't weigh me down, and most importantly, taste good.  If it tastes terrible, why eat it?  Life's too short for that nonsense.  So if you'd like my allergy-free recommendations, here you go!

Running Girl's Fave Non-Homemade Energy Bars :
all available at natural food stores on through Vitacost

1.  Kit's Organic Fruit & Seed Bars: two flavors, Lemon Vanilla Chia Seed and Cherry Pumpkin Seed are my snack or meal when I'm on the go and want a sweet treat with simple, healthy and organic ingredients and nothing hidden or sneaky.
follow me on Instagram! @runninggirlhealth
 2.  Squarebars: Oh-em-gee.  Really, I wish I had invented these.  This one of my favorite protein bars that gets its protein from pea and hemp (love that hemp protein), and it tastes like dessert.  This is my treat snack or dessert when I want to satisfy a chocolate craving but not indulge.  Also, if you're having a crappy day, have one with herbal tea.  Problem solved.  My favorite is Cocoa Mint, followed by Cocoa Crunch then close behind, Cocoa Coconut.  My husband's favorite is Cocoa Cherry--unfortunately I can't handle chocolate with cherry. Or chocolate with blueberries or raspberries.  I know it is a normal thing to mix fruit and dessert but I had bad experience as a child in a candy shop on the Oregon Coast that involved me vomiting everywhere.  Whoa I digressed.  You'll love Squarebars, I promise you.  It tastes nothing like a healthy food, yet it is!  Literally it may tie with my Chia Chocolate Chip Cookie for being the yummiest treat ever.

square bars

There are a select few bars I can eat without getting sick.  Almonds are the only nut I can tolerate in certain amounts, and I've learned some energy bars with almonds work for me, though most don't.  In terms of protein, I have another favorite:

3.  Exo Protein Bars: Apple Cinnamon flavor, followed by Cocoa Nut.  These are the only nut-containing protein bars on my list, but they are delicious.  I love the sustainably, eco-friendly protein source of cricket flour (yes, cricket flour!) and I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more food items made from crickets soon. Click here to try them out and enter code AFL10 to receive 10% off!

exo protein bar

4.  CoGo Bars: These are tricky to find outside of Oregon.  I know they exist in several natural food stores.  This used to be my favorite bar (both the chocolate and apricot ones are amazing) and I still enjoy them though I prefer them as a light meal or snack, not necessarily a pre-workout fuel source or post-workout replenishment.  If they had more protein I'd be excited, but they are a still super-delicious organic allergen-free option. The apricot hemp one I think is a little better because it's less sweet, and I love they that have quinoa in them when you need a little more carbs.

organic energy bar

Thats about it for now for the yummy bars that my sensitive stomach (and taste buds) can handle.  What are your favorites?  Have you had any of these?  Let me know in the comments if I missed a great bar that I need to know about!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Healthy Baking Substitutions & Banana Peanut Butter Bars

peanut butter banana bars

I'm asked about baking substitutions all the time, so I figured a post was in order.  Friends come to me often to ask what they can substitute, and often it's to make a recipe healthier, or allergen-free or simply because they ran out of eggs and are about to pop their brownies in the oven and need help, stat.

So here's some easy substitutions for you when you're in a pinch, or simply want to make a recipe healthier or to fulfill a dietary need.

replace sugar with applesauce

For less sugar, try applesauce or maple syrup and reduce the liquid.

replace butter with banana

For less fat, use mashed banana instead of butter or oil.  This also can be used to make recipes dairy free, and allows you to use less sugar!

replace eggs with chia seeds

Chia seeds, whether ground into a meal or whole soaked in water make great egg substitutions.  Flax meal also works, though it takes less water.

replace eggs with peanut butter or almond butter or sunflower seed butter

Sunflower seed butter (my favorite!), almond butter or peanut butter replaces eggs as well.

avocado for butter

Especially in chocolate recipes, avocado replaces butter or oil nicely, and lends a creamy texture.

So I can't actually have peanuts--occasionally I eat almonds in small amounts but unfortunately peanuts are a no-go.  BUT my husband swore these tasted amazing.  I'm inclined to believe him, but if you don't love them--you can blame them on a certain Mr. Miller.

Or just add sunflower seed or almond butter in instead of the peanut butter.  Enjoy!

banana peanut butter bar

dairy-free banana peanut butter bars

Banana Peanut Butter Bars
yields 9 large squares or 12 smaller bars


1 cup gluten-free flour 
1/2 cup almond flour
1-1/2 cups gluten-free oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (if nut butter is unsalted)
6 tablespoons peanut butter (or seed butter)
3/4 cup mashed banana (about 1 large or 2 small)
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
optional: 1/4 cup nondairy chocolate chips or homemade chips: see below


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 8" pan with parchment paper.
2.  Mash banana and whisk all wet ingredients together; fold dry into wet.

3.  Optional: stir in chocolate chips and spread mixture into pan.
4.  Bake for 25-30 min or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool and slice!

 Homemade chips: melt 1/4 cup coconut oil, 3-1/2 tablespoons raw cacao and 2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup and let firm up for an hour or pop in the freezer before chopping up.

homemade raw chocolate chips

Friday, May 8, 2015

Banana Carrot Cake

gluten-free banana carrot cake with honeycomb

I spent yesterday making four lovely healthy gluten-free carrot cakes for a client, and the intoxicating aroma of baking carrot cake prompted me to make a version of the delectable cake for my own snacking purposes (ok, I shared some).

This recipe is easy, which I love, and quick.  But those perks aside, it's also a great fluffy texture: not dense or gummy as some traditional carrot cakes tend to be.  And no messing around with raisins or walnuts or coconut or anything else that in my opinion distracts from the true deliciousness of carrot cake.

This is a versatile recipe: any mashed fruit can replace the banana and you can even limit or omit the coconut sugar.  You can also omit the sugar and use honey or maple in place of the carrot juice.

I can also attest that this treat is quite nice after an hour long dog walk and long busy day of work.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!  Oh, and my suggestion for the honey is to browse your local farmer's market: local raw honey may help with allergies (and let me tell you, my allergies are full force in Monterey County right now--I can use all the raw honey I can get!)

Banana Carrot Cake
Yields 11 muffins or 12 "donuts" or 1 two-layer cake

healthy banana carrot cake


1-3/4 cup gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup carrots
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or sunflower oil
1/4 cup carrot juice
1/3 cup mashed banana (1/2 of a large banana)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional glaze: raw honey and honeycomb for a truly divine treat!

*This is my favorite "baking powder" as it is corn-free and aluminum-free


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins or spritz donut pans with nonstick oil.
2.  Sift all dry ingredients together; set aside.
3.  Stir coconut oil and apple cider vinegar together and let sit to curdle.
4.  Whisk all wet ingredients together including carrots, then slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet.
5.  Divide into tins greased with coconut oil, filling 2/3 full.

5.  Bake 15-18 min or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, let cool 2 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack or surface.

6.  Enjoy warm with raw honey, or store extras once cooled in an airtight container.

By the way, most of these ingredients are found on; they have tons of organic ingredients and ship in one day, which is hard to beat.  If you sign up through this link, you'll receive a $10 off coupon, and when you're order ships, I'll get a $10 coupon too--it's a win-win for both of us, and I'll have a reason to buy even more delicious organic ingredients to play with!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Vegan "Cheesy" Kale Chips

Yesterday I wanted kale chips so bad; I was craving a crunchy flavorful snack and kale chips seemed like just the thing.  Whole Foods had a dollar off a ridiculously expensive bag deal and on a whim, I bought it and happy munched away while running errands.  Then I had the genius idea of saving tons of money by buying my own kale and making my own chips.

The result was phenomenal.  In fact, this picture below is of my breakfast.  I may have received a few weird looks from my husband, for whom I made strawberry waffles, but I couldn't resist diving into my vegan kale snack.  

Another bonus to this recipe for this of you sensitive to nuts: it's nut-free!  Honestly, it is next to impossible to find kale chips made without cashews.  Well turns out sunflower seed butter and tahini make a great creamy nut-free option.  To make this truly raw, use a food dehydrator and dehydrate at 115 degrees for 6+ hours.  My dehydrator was buying drying organic bananas, so I used the oven at 175, and it was faster and delicious as well.

Kale crips are a great portable snack (maybe have a toothpick or floss handy though--for me at least they get in my teeth like crazy).  That aside, kale is a phenomenal source of nutrition: vitamins including Vitamin K which may help prevent cancer, antioxidants, iron, and may be anti-inflammatory, making it a great post-workout snack as well. (1)

nut-free vegan kale chips

Vegan "Cheesy" Kale Chips
yields 2 baking sheets of "cheese" snacking

crispy vegan kale chips nut-free

vegan cheese covered kale


1 large bunch or 2 small bunches kale
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 large lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons Red Ape Rasta Shake seasoning*
(OR sprinkle a mixture of pepper, salt, cinnamon, garlic powder, red chili powder and thyme, to taste)

*This is an easy, flavorful organic spice blend or you can make your own using the spices listed above.


1.  Rinse kale and pat dry.

kale and ingredients


Note about most of my ingredients: I used Coconut Secret brand raw coconut aminos, Whole Foods 365 brand Organic Tahini, MaraNatha sunflower seed butter, Spectrum organic apple cider vinegar, bulk nutritional yeast from a natural foods store, and Red Ape Cinnamon Rasta Shake spice blend!  Oh and of course, local kale!  Buy local and organic produce when you can--it not only tastes better, but will be more nutrient dense.

*By the way, I am not paid by any of these companies; I just like to promote healthy brands I trust, especially if they are a company that gives back and serves as an excellent example for other businesses.

You can find many of these ingredients at great prices online at Vitacost, which offers free one-day shipping.  Plus if you purchase through this link, you'll get $10 towards your purchase and I'll get a coupon for $10, which helps me continue to provide great free (and delicious) recipes for you!

2.  In a food processor, mix all the ingredients except the dry ripped up kale leaves.

vegan nutritional yeast cheese mix
I know, it looks gross!

3.  Toss the kale in the mixture, scrunching up the kale and making sure to coat the leaves well.

4.  Bake at 175 degrees in an oven for 3.5-5 hours or in a food dehydrator around 115 to 125 overnight until your desired texture is reached.  (I lined a baking sheet with a nonstick mat, and a second one with parchment paper, and they turned out identical).  For this batch, I baked them at 175 degrees for 3.5 hours, then 185 degrees for an hour, then let them cool fully.

5.  Once cool, store in a sealed container.

For a great article citing sources on benefits on kale, read it here!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Switching it Up with Cookie Dough Overnight Oats

healthy cookie dough overnight oats at the beach

Trying something new can benefit you in several ways.  Trying a new food or experiences or yes, even a workout can be invigorating as well as inspire confidence.  A sense of accomplishment from creating a new recipe or producing a nutritious meal can be very rewarding.  Finding a new way to get your heart rate up or giving your muscles a change of pace can produce renewed energy and even spark creativity.

I know when I'm in a rut or having a hard time staying focused, a brisk walk or jog can sometimes jumpstart my creativity.  In this recent case, I decided to do my own solo little spin class--something I never do on my own.  It was surprisingly fun, and a good way to mix up my routine.  I gave myself permission to do whatever I felt like in the gym, and it turned into a crazy, random 15 minute solo spin session followed by a few made up plyometric routines--and I had a blast.  Sometimes when you let your body do what only what it feels like (and that includes resting!) the results can be very rewarding.

Speaking of a rut, sometimes I realize I've had the same thing for breakfast for a week, and I have a strong urge to mix it up and try something new.  This is where the "cookie dough" overnight oats came in: this recipe is delicious and almost like dessert.  If you like oatmeal cookies, you'll love this.  
Thinking of switching up your routine even more?  Take your breakfast outdoors!  Enjoy your meal on a park bench or by the seaside and see how it feels to eat whilst savoring nature and inhaling fresh air.  You might be surprised you don't need that coffee to jumpstart your day after all!

"Cookie Dough" Overnight Oats
yields 2 servings


1 cup gluten-free oats
1 cup vanilla unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoon sunflower seed butter
3/4 teaspoon organic cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon organic lucuma powder(optional)*
2 teaspoons ground chia seeds (optional)
1/4 cup raisins
dash sea salt

optional: for a sweeter version, add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup


1.  Whisk all ingredients together, then store in a sealed container for at least 2 hours in the fridge, or up to overnight.

whisk nondairy milk and sunflower seed butter

I added cinnamon and lucuma powder and sea salt!

whisk overnight oats
I added raisins but currants or chopped dried figs are also great!
2.  Make it your own!  Eat as is, or add cacao nibs or chocolate chips for a true "cookie dough" taste/texture.

Store mixture in a closed container as you chill it: I used a simple glass jar cup with a screw on lid, but tupperware also works.

chilling cookie dough jar

overnight oats

healthy cookie dough

healthy cookie dough

If you'd like it sweeter, drizzle on raw honey or maple syrup.  Enjoy cold!

*What's Lucuma?  Lucuma is a subtropical fruit native to Peru, Chile and Ecudaor that is low-glycemic yet very sweet.  In a powdered form, it can easily be added to cereals, smoothies, granolas: anything you'd like to sweeten naturally.  It can partially or fully replace added sweeteners in many recipes.  It also provides calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, fiber and protein to list a few of its' healthy contributions to your diet.

By the way, most of these ingredients are found on; they have tons of organic ingredients and ship in one day, which is hard to beat.  If you sign up through this link, you'll receive a $10 off coupon, and when you're order ships, I'll get a $10 coupon too--it's a win-win for both of us, and I'll have a reason to buy even more delicious organic ingredients to play with.