Hello all! I do apologize for the lack of updates lately – I have been struggling to emerge from an never-ending mound of schoolwork. For now, I suppose that mythology and indigenous American Indian stories can take the backseat (at least for a little while) because I’ve got a yummy recipe that I wanted to share with you. Based on feedback and requests from friends, I decided to introduce something that is nutritionally filling based on its simple ingredients, is easy to reach for while on the go, as well as being relatively easy to prepare: a huge batch of carrot cake protein bars! Just hold on a second, you think. Isn’t carrot cake the exact opposite of clean eating? My answer to that is: yes and no. Yes, when you prepare it the traditional way, laden with butter, vegetable oil, white flour, cream cheese, and sugar. No, when you prepare it this way with no oil (you read that right), oat flour, and Truvia. Just you wait and see!
Speaking of large batches (a term that I have grown quite fond of), I discovered that dedicating an hour or so at the start of each week to the routine of meal preparation helps tremendously in various aspects of nutrition, especially portion control. Not only does “meal prepping” or “meal planning” guide us in the right direction and eliminates stress, but it also simplifies our lives by eliminating the tendency to reach for less nutritious options when pressed for time. Let’s face it, when I’ve had a particularly tiring day, the last thing I want to do is slave away in the kitchen. This process is as easy as gathering ingredients, assembling and cooking them in batches, and finally saving them either in the fridge or freezer. You could even distribute them into Tupperware containers if you’d like. Personally, I make sure that I am including all macronutrients when meal planning. A protein, for example, could include anything from a batch of hard boiled eggs to several slices of grilled chicken breast. Complex carbs could range from steamed sweet potatoes to brown rice in replacement of white rice (I am Asian, after all). Vegetables are perhaps the most versatile of all: a personal favorite of mine would be a steamed vegetable medley. Green beans, broccoli, carrots, colorful and deliciously crunchy! Lastly, I also include healthy fats in my meal preparation, easily incorporated by adding coconut oil, nut butter or avocado. And that’s it! Protein, complex carbohydrates, veggies, and a small dose of healthy fats. Keep each food group in mind during preparation and watch the magic happen; soon, you’ll be mixing and matching a wide range of fun foods! Ah, creativity at its finest.
I admit that before I became more conscious of what I was putting into my body, I would resort to 1.) whatever was in the fridge and 2.) whatever was easy to prepare, but were not the healthiest options. For example, when I lived with my aunt, I had endless access to Chinese food such as noodles, deep-fried anything, soy-sauce/oil/MSG drenched dishes, white rice, leftovers – all characteristics of a traditional Chinese household’s eating preferences. Now that I have been living with my mother who rarely cooks anymore, I had to either sink or swim… and I wasn’t about to starve because of my old habit of preferring any other room in the house besides the kitchen. I remembered cringing when one of my eldest aunts suggested that I learn about traditional recipes. “Watch me as I prepare this dish, or else you won’t have to chance to later on in life,” she’d say. I nodded my head as vigorously as I could manage in an effort to feign interest. Seeing right through this, she signed and implored, “You can’t expect your husband to cook for you when you yourself are incapable of doing so.” I did not appreciate the importance of knowing how to cook until I moved in with my mother, who used to cook elaborate meals in the past but has been preoccupied with her hectic schedule. It did not take long before I grew increasingly alarmed at the deplorable state of our empty fridge and barren pantry. If I didn’t want to live off of Ramen noodles and white rice for the rest of my life (foods that I once thought I’d never have the willpower to surrender), I had to act quickly!
And so off I went on my personal dedication to a healthier me: I began to Google recipes, bought more wholesome, fresh produce while avoiding processed foods, did research on a more fitness-oriented lifestyle, made mental notes on healthier options for my favorite comfort meals, and sought more nutritious staples to add to my growing admiration for “super foods.” Mind you, this transformation did not occur overnight. Slowly incorporating healthier habits and eliminating what does not serve us is much more approachable than a radical change in the course of one day. Listen to your body, respect its adaptability, and understand that each small change counts in the grand scheme of things. Results will undoubtedly develop with time – be patient and all will come.
With that said, I present to you the recipe for one of my favorite sweet treats that can be enjoyed without any guilt – Jamie Eason’s carrot cake protein bars. Do keep in mind that I was certain of having carrot baby food, but the two bottles were nowhere to be found. It was then that I declared: desperate times call for desperate measures! I decided to substitute in the 8 oz of baby food for half mashed baby carrots and half apple sauce. Many baby carrots were sacrificed for the purpose of this post. However, doing so did not change the flavor much, as I have made these to recipe before. This substitution was entirely improvised to remain as true to recipe as possible – I would recommend following Jamie Eason’s original recipe. In any case, these carrot protein bars are still lean and clean. No funky ingredients, added sugars, butter, white flour, or unnecessary junk… just the way I like it. Just one approximately packs 10 grams of protein with 10 grams of carbs, coming to less than 100 calories. This recipe makes 16 squares, with 2 squares are equivalent to one serving. The best part? It tastes like a heavenly mix of pumpkin pie and carrot cake! Now who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Let’s get started!
Carrot Cake Protein Bars
- 1 cup oat flour
- 2 scoops vanilla whey protein
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 1/8 nutmeg
- 4 egg whites
- 3/4 cup Splenda, Truvia or Ideal (I used Baking Truvia)
- 8 oz baby food carrots (I used 4 oz pureed baby carrots, 4 oz no sugar added applesauce)
- 2 oz water (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix flour, whey protein, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
- Mix egg whites, Truvia, baby food carrots/applesauce and water in a small bowl.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix together.
- Spray glass 8×8 pyrex dish with non-stick baking spray.
- Pour ingredients into dish.
- Bake 20-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
I allowed the dish to cool significantly before cutting them into 16 squares – 4 slices horizontally and 4 slices vertically. That way, I can grab two, put them in a small ziploc bag and have them at work or at school for an easy, nutritious, satisfying small meal during the day! If you want, you can make your own cream cheese frosting with a mix of warmed reduced-fat cream cheese, nonfat Greek yogurt, sugar free maple syrup and a dash of spices. Spread that warm cream cheese topping on the bars, add shredded carrots as garnish, and voila. Move over, traditional carrot cake! Remember: healthy eating does not have to be unappetizing. Over time, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll find that you no longer crave empty calories or excessive salt, sugar, and the like. Isn’t that wonderful? The human body never ceases to amaze me with its incredible knack for adaptation. All in all, be creative, keep your body guessing, and don’t be afraid to experiment to find what suits your tastes. I hope you enjoyed today’s sweet treat – let me know how yours turned out. I always love to know your opinions and thoughts!