Peanut Butter Banh Mi

If you haven’t tried a Bánh Mì sandwich yet, you are seriously missing out. Alas, worry not, for I am about to remedy that tragedy. If you haven’t even heard of Bánh Mì, well, I can fix that too. Let’s get our culture on for a split second.

The sandwich originated in Vietnam during French colonial rule and is characterized by it’s French-Vietnamese fusion ingredients, which include some source of protein (pork, chicken, tofu, etc. ), a mayonnaise spread, pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber slices, and fresh cilantro (coriander). Traditionally, the term “bánh mì” actually refers to the bread that is used for the sandwich, which happens to be a thin French baguette. However, as it gained popularity, the sandwich as a whole became generally recognized as “bánh mì.”

My first Bánh Mì experience was mind-blowing. I was enjoying live music at the local Saturday Market in the town square with my wonderful boyfriend. So I guess you can say that all the positive factors for the perfect first experience were all there. The sandwich really made an impression on us, and before we knew it we were experimenting with the ingredients and making versions of our own! My Peanut Butter Banh Mi was a result of this on-going love-affair, and my love for it only grows stronger with every bite!

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Peanut Butter Banh Mi

Ingredients:

  • Whole Grain Tortilla or a Whole Grain Baguette
  • Shredded or Cubed Chicken mixed with Asian Peanut Butter Paste
  • Fresh Spinach
  • ½ of a Small Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1/2 of a Cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro (Coriander)
  • 1 clove Garlic, chopped or minced
  • Juice of Half of a Lemon
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ⅛  tsp Cracked Black Pepper
  • Greek Yogurt (I use Fage 0%)

Directions:

Chop the cilantro and cut the carrot, cucumber, and red bell pepper into matchsticks and place in a bowl. Add the garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and mix.

Spread each tortilla or slice of baguette with a little greek yogurt (about 1 Tbsp). Layer with fresh spinach, peanut butter chicken, and mixed vegetables. Dig in!

I love using peanut butter chicken in this recipe, but it also tastes amazing with seasoned pork or shrimp. It is so versatile! Get inspired and let me know in how you like your Bánh Mì in the comments below!

 

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Baked Cinnamon Apple Stuffed with “Pumpkin Pie” Oatmeal

I recently opened up a can of organic pumpkin, and I swear it makes that “Fall feeling” all that more real! With the first pop of the can opener, the wind wisps colorful leaves around the kitchen and the smell of cloves fills the air. But seriously, I haven’t been able to keep my spatulas and measuring cups out of that can! I am talkin’ PUMPKIN EVERYTHING. Yeah, it could be worse. 😉

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What is better than some Fall flavors and a big ole cup o’ joe on a crisp morning? Nothing. Except for maybe two big ole cups of coffee. But my addiction to the black elixir is neither here nor there. We’re talking pumpkin here!

There are no two things that I love more in this world than a mug of black coffee and pumpkin season.

Except for maybe oatmeal. And my grandmother’s baked cinnamon apples. The good stuff.

Alas, given all the facts, it got real “Fall” all up in my kitchen this morning with a baked cinnamon apple stuffed with “pumpkin pie” oatmeal. More commonly known as heaven.

This recipe is for a single serving, but the measurements are such that it is super simple to double, triple, or quadruple if necessary.

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Baked Cinnamon Apple Stuffed with “Pumpkin Pie” Oatmeal

Serving Size: 1 Apple

Serves: 1

Calories per Serving: 210

Macros: Carbs: 38g

Fat: 8g

Protein: 3g

**Serving Size, calories, and macros are approximate, not exact!

Ingredients:

  • 1 crisp, sweet Apple
  • ¼ Cup Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 4 Tbsp Unsweetened Almond Milk (*you can use regular milk, but I find that almond milk tastes better in these kinds of recipes.)
  • 2 Tbsp Pumpkin Purée
  • 1 tsp melted Coconut Oil
  • ½ tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon, divided.
  • Stevia, to taste.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425.

Core the apple, preferably with a melon baller, but a sharp knife will work too.

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Coat the inside of the apple with the coconut oil and sprinkle with ¼ tsp cinnamon.

Mix the oats, almond milk, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices, and stevia in a separate bowl. Spoon into the cored apple, compacting a little. It is okay if a little oatmeal spills over the top. In fact, it is encouraged.

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Place the stuffed apple in a small baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ tsp cinnamon. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the apple is softened to your liking.

My mornings have officially been transformed. My only regret was not making some homemade almond butter to spoon on top! 😉
My Tips:

  • This would be especially good topped with some vanilla greek yogurt (greek yogurt mixed with vanilla extract and stevia). Or, for the more indulgent soul, a good ole scoop of old-fashioned vanilla ice-cream! You deserve it.
  • Cooking times may vary for a variety of factors. After 20 minutes or so, I would check on it every 5-10 minutes until it reaches your desired softness.
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Homemade Roasted Almond Butter

Peanut butter, hazelnut butter, almond butter, you name it. I’m an extreme fan of them all, and I will lick the jar of every last one of them. But, oh, the woe that lies in the bottom of the jar.

Deep in the depths of  the nut butter jar, there lies an emptiness that we all anticipate with dread: that moment when you can’t possibly scrape anymore.

Nut butter addicts, rejoice! You can replenish your jars with almost no effort at all. All you need is a bag of nuts, a food processor, and a smidgeon of patience. Okay, maybe sometimes you need a lot of patience, but I promise that it is so worth it. 

Making your own nut butters is an easy way to cut down on the preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and extra sugars that are lurking in your food. Not to mention it just tastes so incredibly fresh! Double win.

The following is a recipe for roasted almond butter, but this process can be replicated with almost any kind of nut.

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Roasted Almond Butter

Serving Size: 1 Tbsp

Servings: approximately 32

Calories per Serving: 40

Macros: Carbs: 2g

Fat: 4g

Protein: 2g

**Serving size, calories, and macros are approximate, not exact!

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz. bag of Raw Unsalted Almonds
  • that’s it!

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes

Transfer the freshly roasted almonds to your food processor equipped with the “S” blade and set on the “LOW” grind setting.

First, they will grind down into a fine almond powder. This is the almond meal that you pay an arm and a leg for at the grocery store! Keep going to get butter.

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Keep grinding, making sure to scrape down the sides every few minutes to remove the build-up on the walls. It will get clumpier…

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As the almonds begin to gradually release their oils, it will clump even more…

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Then, you will get to a point where you think to yourself, “Is that it? Did I make almond butter?”…

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KEEP GOING! You are almost there! Wait for it, that moment when *POOF!* it turns into almond butter!

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As if by magic, you will have a smooth, creamy almond butter! If you would like, you can add a tsp of sea salt and blend it in. You can also add flavors like pure vanilla extract, cinnamon, pure maple syrup, or honey! Whatever your heart desires. Store in an airtight container, like a mason jar, and it will keep for up to 2 weeks. As if it will last that long…especially if you use it to make my Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites!

 

My Tips:

  • The time it takes for it to turn into almond butter can vary drasticallyIn other words, patience is a virtue in this process! 
  • I found that roasting the almonds beforehand decreased this time significantly. I once made a Raw Almond Butter, and it took me over an hour! One time it just never turned into butter no matter how long I processed it. When I finally tried roasting the almonds, it took me roughly half an hour. Keep in mind that I have terrible luck with nut butters, so take that with a  grain of salt. Most everyone makes them in 15 to 20 minutes, but alas! I am cursed.
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HIIT: No Frills Cardio.

Some of us love cardio and some of us shudder at the very thought. However, most of us suffer through it in the pursuit of fat loss and newfound confidence, eventually even the post-run euphoria commonly known as the “runner’s high.” And let’s be honest, a good chunk of us on are on the cardio struggle train and would prefer to rip the bandaid off as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This is where HIIT comes in to save the day!

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training; in other words, short intense workouts consisting of quick bursts of energy followed by a recovery period.

Did you read that right? “Recovery Period?!” Yeah, a good ole recovery period that is crucial to the efficacy of the workout. Sounds like my kind of workout!

The Structure of a High Intensity Interval Workout

The basic structure of an HIIT session consists of four elements:

  1. Warm-Up Period. Each session should begin with a 2-5 minute medium intensity warm-up period, which can consist of brisk walking or light to medium jogging. If you would like, you can stretch for a minute or two after your warm up to prepare yourself for the real deal, but be mindful to not rest too long before you begin your intervals. You want to keep your body warm and ready for the training session.
  2. High Intensity Interval. Follow up the warm-up with a quick burst of energy; run or sprint with maximum intensity for 20 seconds to 1 minute. Do your best and push yourself in this stage, because the length of your high intensity bursts is subjective to your personal level of fitness and ability.
  3. Recovery Period. Take a rest in the form of a brisk walk or a light jog, you deserve it! Not too long though. The ideal structure of HIIT strives for a 2:1 ratio of high intensity bursts to recovery period, meaning that you should aim to sprint for twice as long as you rest. However, if you are just starting out with this method of cardio training, you can take it easy and rest for a little longer. As you become more conditioned, you will improve and get closer to achieving the ideal.  Depending on personal abilities and time constraints, repeat steps 2 and 3 for anywhere between 10-30 minutes. Some variations of HIIT, like Tabata, only last as long as 4 minutes, and are a great place to start if you want to sample.
  4. Cool-Down. Once you finish repeating your interval circuits, it is time to cool off with a low intensity walk, wipe the sweat off your face, and have a nice stretch while you marvel at what a cardio beast you are. You’re now basically a rockstar, or at least I think you are!

Remember that every body starts somewhere, so your sprint to rest ratio will vary based on your level of cardiovascular fitness.

In the middle of your sprint intervals, when you feel like dying or giving up, remember that this method of cardio does not come without some pretty awesome benefits.

The Maximum Benefits of HIIT

Although during your workout you may be cursing cardio advocates, the benefits of HIIT are second to none. Not only are you given a fair chance to catch your breath when you have exhausted your energy output, but studies show that by raising and lowering your heart rate in intervals with High Intensity Interval Training, the effects and benefits of aerobic exercise are amplified. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Decreased concentration of adipose tissue in the body; in other words, increased and maximized fat loss.
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Maximum results in minimal time
  • A healthier heart that works more efficiently. Love your heart, it loves you!
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Increased resting metabolic rate, meaning that you will begin to burn more calories at rest.

I guess it is safe to say that HIIT is the best bang for your buck. Why not give it a try?

HIIT the Ground Running

There are quite a few variations of High Intensity Interval Training to choose from. To get you started, here are a few basic and progressive beginner interval workouts that you can choose from based on your fitness level and what you feel is appropriate for you. They can be done on a treadmill or outside. The pace refers to the action that you should be executing, i.e. sprint or recover, and not a particular pace, because that is subjective and will vary for everyone. Refer to the intensity column to determine how much effort (again, subjective and relative to your abilities) that you should be exerting during each interval.

A 20-minute beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 6 sprint and recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 6 sprints, long recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

When you decide that you are ready to move up a level, try this intermediary beginner’s workout that increases the amount of sprints and shortens the recovery periods within the same 20 minute workout.

A 20-minute intermediary beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 9 sprints, shorter recoveries, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute intermediary beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 9 sprints, shorter recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

The following HIIT circuit reaches the ideal of a 2:1 ratio between sprint intervals and recovery periods. Progress onto this workout when you feel that you are ready for more intense sprints and minimal recovery periods.

A 20-minute advanced beginner 2:1 HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 10 long sprints, and minimal recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute advanced beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 10 long sprints, minimal recovery cycles, and a cool-down. This workout upholds the ideal of a 2:1 sprint to recovery time ratio. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

Above all else, enjoy the process. High Intensity Interval Training is difficult and is meant to challenge you, so remember, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

 

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Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites

I used to hate bananas. The texture, the taste, the way “banana” rolled off my tongue. “Ba-na-na.” Hmph. I just simply pretended bananas didn’t exist. I left them alone, they left me alone, and all was well in the world. There was only one problem with this relationship between bananas and I: bananas are incredibly good for you and so versatile in the kitchen. Well, I have been cramping a bit during my workouts lately, and I could use a little extra energy pre-workout anyway…UGH, fine. I’ll learn to like them. But how?

Well, I love chocolate. MMM…chocolate. Yes, chocolate is nice, especially with peanut butter. Especially with anything, really. But how does this relate to learning to love bananas? WELL, let me explain it to you by using this simple equation: Chocolate+nut butter+banana=NOM. It’s simple really. Eventually you may even be able to subtract the chocolate, divide by the nut butter, and…just get a banana. It’s a novel idea.

That is how I did it. I utilized this cutting-edge, break-through approach of just eating a lot of bananas until I liked them. And it worked. Bananas and I are now close friends, and I suggest you include more of them into your diet. Except I will never recommend eating a banana whilst taking a hot bath. I tested that one out for you all, and trust me, it just isn’t a good idea.

Chocolate, nut butter, and banana all together in delicious harmony, however, is always a good idea. And with that, I present to you: Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites.

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Yeah, that just happened. And they were every bit as good as they sound. Did I mention that they are totally healthy? Yes, they are also that. So, what aren’t these little guys? Existent, because I ate them ALL.

Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites

Serving Size: 1 Banana Bite

Serves: as many people as you are willing (or not willing) to share with.

Calories per Serving: 105

Macros: Carbs: 4g

Fat: 10g

Protein: 2g

**Serving size, calories, and macros are approximate, not exact!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Banana
  • All Natural Nut Butter (I used homemade roasted almond butter)
  • ¼ cup Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Cacao Powder
  • Stevia, to taste.* (see note under “My Tips.”)
  • 1.5 Tbsp Unsweetened Coconut Shavings

Directions:

Peel the banana and slice it into ½ inch thick segments. Top each segment with approximately 1 tsp nut butter. Place banana pieces on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate coating. In a bowl, combine the coconut oil, cacao powder, and stevia (to taste). Mix thoroughly, making sure to break up any chunks of cacao powder. Set aside.

Remove banana slices from the freezer and carefully coat each one in the chocolate mixture. Place banana bite back on the cookie sheet to allow it to harden while you coat the others. Repeat this step, coating each banana bite twice. After the second coating, dip the top in unsweetened coconut shavings. Place cookie sheet with chocolate covered banana bites back into the freezer and freeze for another 30 minutes.

Enjoy these delectable little bites frozen, or let them thaw out in the fridge for a few minutes! The banana gets nice and oozy-gooey, and it is just too good to pass up.

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My Tips:

  • *There are many different kinds of stevia products out there on the market like liquid extract, powdered extracts, and stevia in the raw. Each varies in strength. Because of this, there is no exact measurement for the amount of stevia that you should use. Just sweeten the chocolate to your preferred level of sweetness using whichever product you have!
  • If you do not like stevia, or you do not have any, use a natural sweetener like honey or 100% pure maple syrup.
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