Berry “Power” Muffins & The Sweet Temptations of Vacation

20130722-131651.jpg

Ahhh, summer! I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a bit, but that whole summer vacation thing got to me for a while! Luckily, I’ve still been doing all kinds of fun stuff, and keeping up with my exercise, too!

Hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary- three whole years! Having been together for over eleven years, this seems small, but celebrating our special day at the beach with the pup was fun, even though we had some minor setbacks along the way (i.e. getting the car stuck on the beach, blowing out a tire on the way home, the usual).

One of the most difficult things while on vacation is keeping up with healthy habits. I didn’t do a whole lot of exercising or eating perfectly over our long anniversary weekend, but it’s okay. I surprised myself by jumping right back on the wagon once the weekend was over– a pretty huge feat for me! Even more surprisingly, the exercise wagon was the easiest to jump back on. The eating well wagon has been much harder to climb back on, though.

I am tempted by food so easily, as I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts. Sweets are the bane of my healthy eating existence. Once I get started, I can’t stop, and once I get the taste, I crave sweets like crazy. I have to admit, in the last week, I have been pretty terrible at restraining myself. Honestly, though, I started off well intentioned. I made some no-bake oatmeal, honey, peanut butter and protein bars ( delicious, by the way– find the recipe here: http://thejoyofeverydaycooking.com/3-ingredient-no-bake-peanut-butter-bars/ ), that for all intents and purposes were supposed to be “healthy”. Granted, I added some semi-sweet chocolate chips and vanilla whey protein powder to the original recipe!

Unfortunately, when I worked up the calories and nutrition, they were a lot more than the original recipe stated- about 450 per bar! They were mighty tasty, and with the added protein powder, oatmeal, and natural ingredients, not horrible for you, but still, a lot of calories! The honey also made them very sweet. Enter my cravings.

Once I started on the bars, I couldn’t help eating ice cream, homemade cookies, and all other delicious treats that came into my path. Ugh, so good, yet SO bad! I seem to have no willpower when it comes to eating just one. Needless to say, I’ve been working out like crazy to try and balance out the calories from all those treats.

Anyhow, I’m trying to reverse some of the damage in the gym, but also trying to ease myself off the sugar cravings with something less sweet and more healthy. Introducing my secret weapon, Berry Power Muffins!

Berry Power Muffins

I got the original recipe here http://domesticatedacademic.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/power-muffins-blueberryoatmealyogurtpower/ and we loved it with the blueberries, but it being berry season, I wanted to try a version with raspberries and blackberries. With non-fat Greek yogurt, oatmeal, and berries, this recipe tends to be much more on the healthy side and clocks in at 250 calories per giant muffin!

This muffin is chewy, dense, moist, and not too sweet. This is not a cupcake-type muffin sugar-wise. If super sweet is what you are looking for, you won’t find it here. It is a subtle sweet and tart combination, thanks to the berries. Perfect for a pre or post workout snack, or even a fast breakfast, this muffin will help curb those sugar cravings.

You will need:

Muffin tin (makes 12 big muffins)
Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups all purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill unbleached all purpose)
1 cup oats (no need to cook beforehand, can be quick or regular)
2/3 cup sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on the top
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces non-fat Greek honey yogurt, 1.5 cups (two containers of the Fred Meyer/Kroger brand)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raspberries and blackberries, mixed

20130722-140119.jpg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare muffin tin with nonstick spray or liners.

3. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

20130722-140341.jpg

4. Combine wet ingredients, except berries.

20130722-140525.jpg

5. Add wet to dry ingredients, stirring until well combined. Dough will be thick!

20130722-140653.jpg

6. Fold in berries, then stir.

20130722-140756.jpg

In my case, the raspberries broke apart and worked into the dough, while the blackberries remained relatively whole.

20130722-140911.jpg

7. Spoon dough into muffin tin. They will be pretty full. I’m sure you could also split the dough between two muffin tins, making smaller muffins, but I like the big ones!

20130722-141103.jpg

8. I like to add a sweet finishing touch by sprinkling some sugar on the top of each muffin before it goes in the oven. I love using this organic, fair trade sugar that I got at Costco for baking.

20130722-141244.jpg

9. Bake muffins in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are springy to the touch. Mine took 25 minutes, probably because they were so big!

20130722-141400.jpg

Serving size: 1 muffin. Calories: 250.5. Fat: 6.1g. Protein: 8.5g. Sugars: 14.2g. Fiber: 2.3g. Sodium: 23.5mg. Potassium: 71.7mg. Total Carbs: 40.8g

Eat, enjoy, in moderation, of course! 😉

As an afterthought, I realized I probably could’ve added vanilla whey protein powder with good results for an extra protein punch. I’ll have to try that next time!

What are your biggest food temptations? What have you tried to curb your cravings in a healthy way?

Some pics of Baby Girl loving her first time at the beach!

20130722-142644.jpg

20130722-142658.jpg

20130722-142706.jpg

20130722-142715.jpg

Advertisements

The Challenges of Eating “Right”– Knowing Your History

I read this “incredible” study in Ladies Home Journal while at my mom’s house for the 4th of July. It was all about how they finally proved that eating a Mediterranean diet is a great way to eat like a human being and be healthy at the same time. My (Italian) mom scoffed when I showed her and said she could’ve told anyone that years ago.

Growing up having a mother who grew up in an authentic Italian pizza restaurant in New York is a wonderful, miraculous thing. My mom can turn just about anything into an amazing pasta dish that you would probably have to pay $15 bucks for in a restaurant. Case in point: My darling niece just turned 17 in June. Her wish for her birthday was to have Nana (my mom) make an authentic Italian feast- 5 whole courses! And my mom, being the fantastic woman she is, did it for her! Lucky for us, we all reaped the benefits of the delicious meal.

20130706-142755.jpg

The thing is, I grew up a very, very picky eater. Partially, it was just being a kid, and partially it was having a list of health problems that were not discovered until I was older. Finally, as I figured out what I could eat without writhing in pain or having heart issues (a long list), I started to expand my diet to include many of the delicious things my mother made. This is awesome, but there are challenges to growing up with a mother that makes restaurant quality food every day.

First, portion sizes. Huge-normous is probably the best way to describe it.

20130706-143435.jpg

(Yes, this is from the “feast,” but really is not THAT unusual!)

Second, it might just be my family, it might be Italians in general, but dinner is a social experience that lasts for HOURS, and not just in the case of the five-course feast. My husband had to learn to endure the long-lasting dinners that I considered normal. Let me tell you, having dinner with his family for the first time was a shock! Everybody ate in 15 minutes and then left the table. Dinner, for us, was talking and eating, and more talking, and more eating. The social piece is wonderful, but I’ve learned the challenge is not going back for seconds, sometimes thirds, and then picking out of the bowl for hours. I’m still saying, “You mean, I DON’T need three helpings of this delicious pasta to feel satisfied and happy? Whaaaat?!”

This is one of my biggest challenges. Knowing when to stop and then actually doing it. It is easier at home to stop, but when I go to my mom’s for dinner (which has been twice this week), I lose all self-control. When I’m there, it tastes SO good, and I really have a problem stopping.

Third, food is love. Mom feeds us so well because she loves us, and we eat it because it is delicious, but also because we want to show her we love her food and her right back. You might be thinking, “Awwwww,” but this is very real. Therefore, from a young age I learned to eat ALL my food, not just because it was good, or because I was hungry, but because, subconsciously, I wanted to show mom that I loved her right back. Also, with that logic, not eating all the food subconsciously felt like saying I just liked her. This brings me back to that challenge of portion control.

20130706-145144.jpg

Of course, I didn’t realize this until recently, after trying to get to the bottom of why I feel the need to eat so much in one sitting. It almost seems sacrilege to not show love for the food by devouring it all, and then some. I watched my dad eat and eat and eat and so I ate too, which worked out fine when my metabolism wasn’t crap and I was super active.

Fourth, both mom and dad had weird relationships with food. Dad ate like a horse almost constantly, even after being overweight, having Type 2 Diabetes, having a heart attack, and having quadruple bypass surgery. The only thing that stopped him was when he had chemo for colon cancer. Mom, for the longest time, only ate one meal a day- a whole other issue. Needless to say, I didn’t think any of this was strange until I was an adult.

My point here is that it is important to know your food history. We all come from somewhere and there is a reason we eat the way we do. Many of the reasons above are both amazing blessings, but they have had a flip side for me that I only recently realized. I don’t like “depriving” myself of food because food is love, social, and it is delicious. So, being on a “diet” is really hard for me. This is good information because it shows me that I need to focus on portion control and moderation, as opposed to cutting out foods entirely, which I have tried and failed miserably at.

Food is sustenance, but for most of us it carries many other connotations. It is a way of life. It can make or break you. It can serve emotional and physical needs. My goal now is to focus on cooking my own food, eating it in moderation, eating whole foods, and not completely depriving myself from my vices, like sugary desserts, or cheeses, or fried foods. I think if I focus on these things, rather than on dieting, I will be more successful in my goals to be fit and healthy.

What have you discovered about your food history? How does it shape how you eat today?