This year, so far, I’ve tried to emphasize protein in my diet. Why am I trying to emphasize protein?
- I’m not a big meat eater, so I’m always looking for alternatives that actually have a significant amount of protein.
- Since I’m a gym rat, I know that eating protein will help support my workouts.
- I’ve realized that I physically feel better when my meals are protein focused rather than carb focused. I feel fuller, longer and I have more energy.
To supplement my real food sources of protein, I use protein powder and bars. Here are my go-tos:
My morning protein shake has Metabolic Nutrition Protizyme whey protein powder in the vanilla cake flavor. Something about metabolic protizyme screams delicious, right? It has 25 grams of protein per 122 calories which is one of the best ratios I’ve seen out there. And it only has 1 gram of sugar per serving. Plus the flavor and texture work well in my smoothie.
For my occasional post workout protein shake snack is Vega Protein & Greens in vanilla flavor. It’s a plant based protein powder that includes 2 servings of greens per scoop. The protein to calorie ratio is 20 grams per 110 calories. It’s not quite as delicious as my morning smoothie, but I think it really does the trick! Even just half a scoop helps out a lot! Pro tip- mix it with almond milk, never just water!
And lastly, when I’m traveling or on the go, I’m partial to thinkThin High Protein Bars. They are not extremely delicious, but very palatable and they do the job. They have 20 grams of protein for 240 calories which makes for a solid recovery snack or mid afternoon, I don’t know if I can make it to dinner, travel snack. It’s a real happy medium between the high calorie protein bars, and the dinky granola bars with 4 grams of protein and tons of sugar.
What are your creative, or not so creative, protein options?
Over the last few years I’ve gotten in the habit of sending my grandparents cookie care packages about once a quarter. I don’t live very close to my grandparents in Long Island or my grandmother in Georgia, so sending them cookies is my way of telling them that I’m thinking about them and reminding them that I’m a fantastic baker.
I’ve probably sent somewhere between 50 and 100 baked good care packages through the mail over the past five years to my grandparents and other assorted friends and family, and I’ve developed somewhat of a formula. When it comes to packages for the grandparents I usually include three things:
- about a dozen of a seasonal cookie
- about a dozen of a heartier (perhaps more nutritious) cookie
- a couple mini loafs of a quick bread
The purpose of the seasonal cookies is obviously to make the package festive. In December it’s a Christmas cookie; in the spring it’s heart shaped shortbread, Hamentashen, or coconut macaroons; in the fall it’s something pumpkin oriented; and the summer is kind of a wild card. The heartier choice is sort of the same idea as putting vegetables in your kid’s mac and cheese. Cookies with oats, dried cranberries, nuts, or bananas add a couple little nutritional elements to my grandparent’s limited daily diet. I know that my cookies are better for them than any of the baked goods they buy at the grocery store. Lastly, I throw in one or two mini loaves of a quick bread. I usually do banana bread because it’s just so easy, but I’ll also do cranberry nut bread or zucchini bread. I just know my grandparents all love quick bread so I try to always include it.
This past weekend I baked for a care package for my Grandfather in Long Island. He’s turning 94 next week! Keeping that in mind, I made two of his favorites- Hamentashen (it’s Purim season) and banana bread. I also added chunky lola cookies (adding Craisons to the recipe) for a little extra something.
Here are a few pro tips to remember for mailing cookies:
- do bake as close to mailing as possible (I usually bake Sunday afternoon and mail first thing Monday morning)
- don’t be shy with the bubble wrap, peanuts, newspaper, etc.- cookies need cushioning
- do include a quick note that identifies the enclosed items
- don’t make anything too fancy, delicate, or perishable because it will not hold up in the mail- btw cookies covered in powdered sugar do not usually look great when they arrive, but they probably still taste good
- do allow everything to cool completely before you package them
For whatever reason, I think the seasonal quick bread in the winter is cranberry nut bread. Maybe it’s because cranberries are a fall/winter fruit. I also like to think of cranberry nut bread as a little fancier than the standard banana bread, so I send it to family and friends with Christmas cookies.
I’m actually not sure where I got this recipe, but I’ve had great success with it (if I do say so myself). The one hitch is that it includes orange juice and buttermilk which takes extra brain power when I’m at the grocery store (I forgot them, and I had to postpone the baking until after my next grocery trip).
Cranberry Nut Bread
Yields 1 9 x 5 loaf or 3 mini loaves
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup and 2 Tbs sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup cranberries, chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375. Prepare loaf pan(s) with non-stick spray.
- Combine orange juice, zest, buttermilk, butter, and egg.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda.
- Combine wet and dry. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
- For 9 x 5 loaf, bake for 20 minutes at 375 then reduce to 350 and bake for 45 minutes. Reduce time for smaller loaves. Use the toothpick test.