My Meatless Keto Week

Couple of years ago I’ve got sucked into the social media trend and started using Instagram. I had joined the Facebook wagon a long time before that in 2007, but I kept resisting IG for quite a while. I didn’t see the purpose of it, after all if I wanted to share some pictures I would have simply created an online photo gallery, which I did do multiple of times at different sites such as Flickr or Picasa. But, by looking at my sidebar where I feature my IG pictures, you know I eventually caved in and joined in on the fun.

Why am I saying all this? Well, I, like just about anybody out there, am very impressionable by what I see. In other words, if you walk the talk you will have my attention and I will be interested in what you are saying. If you don’t walk the talk and it shows, I will ignore your preachings. And before anybody even begins to form the criticism of that statement by saying that people use photoshop and filters to improve what they put out on IG, let me say that I am aware of that and I believe I can see through it. So, long story short, I’ve been fascinated by a vegetarian bodybuilder for a while now – her name is Geraldine Morgan.  In fact, I must give her credit for my Basic Savoury Pancake, because her food posts have inspired me to make one myself.

If you’re following any dietary news, especially in the bodybuilding sphere, you know there is a lot of controversy and dispute as to what’s the best macro ratios for building muscle. In fact, some will argue that you absolutely cannot build any amount of muscle by avoiding meat aka animal protein. Well, have a look at Geraldine and tell me she doesn’t carry a great amount of muscle on her frame! She can easily put to shame not only some women but also males trying to build muscle!

I’ve got so inspired by her posts, her work ethic and simply by her appearance that I decided to go meatless for a week. I would say I did rather well and didn’t really miss meat that much. I’ve actually increased my protein intake slightly, my carbs went up just a notch only because I decided to include some fruit in my morning post-workout meal and I was still able to keep my fats at a comfortable level to stay in a ketogenic state by including a lot of home-made nut butters, avocados, eggs and coconut oil. It was quite liberating not to have to worry about my main protein for a meal – I simply stuck to eggs, my savoury pancake (which can also be called a protein pancake for its high protein content) and last but not least my old time favorite cottage cheese creation. I supplemented liberally with hemp seeds, vegan protein powder, nuts and to a lesser extent with chia seeds. I liked it so much that I think I will continue this regiment into the second week!

And this is an example of what I would have for breakfast every single morning with the exception of the orange which I swapped for blueberries and plums. If you have been following my sweetener resolution you will now know that I’ve only been able to reduce my stevia usage, but not eliminate it completely – I still have a very strong sweet tooth that I am trying to control. I still believe I am doing pretty good and this type of breakfast makes everything better, every single morning 🙂

Orange Chocolate Mousse
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 12
  • Serving size: 150g
  • Calories: 72
  • Fat: 0.5
  • Saturated fat: 0.2
  • Carbohydrates: 2.8
  • Sugar: 2.4
  • Sodium: 15
  • Fiber: 0.3
  • Protein: 14.5
  • Cholesterol: 3.8
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: high-protein
Prep time: 
Total time: 
This can be transformed 100 different ways by playing with flavours.
Ingredients
  • 500g Dry Pressed Cottage Cheese
  • 500g Skyr
  • 125ml Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Stevia to taste
  • 4 drops of Orange Extract
  • 20g Unsweetened Cocoa
Instructions
  1. Combine Cottage Cheese, Skyr and Milk until smooth in a food processor.
  2. Add more milk if desired.
  3. Add Stevia, Cocoa Powder and Orange Extract.
  4. Process until very smooth.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Notes
Please note even though I am promoting this as a ketogenic meal it is not very high in fat. This DOES NOT prevent it from being a keto food simply because one can add as much fat to this meal as desired. Toppings is where you can play with the fat content.

 
Orange and chocolate go quite well if I may say so. I reinforced the orange flavour by using a very powerful Orange Extract. By adding Cocoa nibs I was also able to add a chocolaty kick. No sugar in any of the ingredients and only a fraction from fruit. You can easily skip the fruit if you wish to.

 

The consistency is quite creamy and satisfying.

 

The texture also does not disappoint – I added a serving of chia seeds for some added fats and a serving of hemp seeds for more protein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as tradition would have it I put it all together in a quick video – actually it ended up being my longest video yet – but I believe that all 8 minutes of it is worth your time! So have a look and give me a thumbs up if you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more.

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When too much of a good thing is bad

If you have ever been on any type of regimen to lose weight or to become healthier (which btw. are not always synonymous) you’ve probably come across the notion that as long as you eat healthily you can eat a lot and it won’t matter. I hear it all the time. I make a sugar-free cake and all of a sudden my brain thinks it’s a free for all, eat-the-whole-cake kind of a deal. But whether you use healthy sugar-free ingredients or not it’s still a cake  – if you have one too many slices it will go right into your thighs and buttocks. Why is it so hard to remember?

Food is energy and it doesn’t matter what type of food it is (perceived to be healthy or unhealthy), if you eat more than you can use, it will most certainly be stored in your body especially when you’re already carrying too much weight on your frame. If you are already super lean, then it might be a different story (more about that in a future post), but for now, let’s assume that we all have some padding we could spare.

A common misconception that fuels the if-it’s-healthy-there-is-no-limits mantra is the idea that there are healthy and unhealthy versions of sugar. Let me explain: there’s been quite a bit of stirring news in recent years about the dangers of consuming too much white sugar that now almost everybody agrees that white refined sugar is bad and should be avoided or its consumption be minimized. You’d think that this is a positive outcome, but you’d be wrong. We still crave the sweet taste so we arbitrarily decided that we will find sugar replacements or “healthy versions” of sugar. We’ve been taught that because honey is made by bees it is somehow different than white sugar and it’s even considered a healthy sweetener – how many times have you heard somebody say to have some hot water with honey when you’re sick? Honey will not only not cure your cold, but it will make you sicker by spiking your blood glucose, the same way that white sugar will.

Another fraud that we have have fallen victims of at least once in our lives is being perpetrated by the the organic food industry : think organic molasses, organic coconut sugar, even simple white sugar parades as a healthy alternative because the label reads it’s organic. This is the biggest and most successful food scam that I have ever seen – not only are you still eating sugar, you are also paying through the roof for it. A 4.4lbs pound of non-organic white sugar sells for $1.99 and 2lbs of the organic variety is $5!

Does it change your purchasing habits if you see a label that reads “Wholesome”? It must be good, right?

The list goes on… if you think you are somehow doing yourself a favour by switching from sugar to Maple Syrup, Agave Syrup, Coconut Palm Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup etc. you are fooling yourself. They are all metabolised by the body the same way  as sugar – in the liver – and have a glycemic index around that of white sugar – anywhere between 50 and 70. Sure, you could be harming yourself even more by consuming maltodextrin whose GI is 100, but you could also be doing much better by not fooling yourself with “healthier” versions of sugar.

Pure Canada Maple has a great little spin on their website about the benefits of consuming Maple Syrup that touts its antioxidant, mineral and vitamin content. It looks impressive enough to make me want to chug on some straight from the bottle… until I remember that it is a sugar and it will make my body go bonkers trying to deal with a surge of blood glucose, my insulin will try to lower it and redirect it into liver and muscle as glycogen and when that’s full and it will be full very quickly, it will deposit the rest on my thighs. I also looked at their little comparison table trying to convince us that the nutritional information of Maple Syrup is so much more superior to that of other sugars… until you look at the calorie and sugar content that is on par with its neighbors:

Source: Pure Canada Maple

What counts the most is the damaging sugar content in all those sweeteners – this is the deciding factor of how much these sugars are going to harm your body and in effect negate the other micronutrient content. You can get your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from other sources that will not spike your blood glucose and make you fat.

This idea that there are better options of white sugar paired with the first notion that if something is healthy we can eat unlimited amounts of it, followed by the revelation that there is no such thing as healthy sugar alternatives creates an atomic bomb kind of problem. If the sugar alternatives are just as bad as white sugar (and they are) but we perceive them as better, less harmful and as a result eat more of them then we might as well have  been eating the white stuff in fear and moderation all that time and be better off for it. Now, we’re eating more of the sweet stuff and the results is we are harming ourselves more than before!

So what’s the solution? – you ask. When I first started being aware of the damaging effects of sugar on my body in 2005 what really did it for me was to get rid off all sugar altogether. I went cold turkey to heal my body and it worked like a charm. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to do that, most of us want to have the cake and eat it too. Damned be all the social media food porn that teases us with the picture perfect images of various treats! Yes, I blame the social media – when I first started using IG, I swear to my food processor, I did get dummer! I bought in to all those pretty pictures of supposedly healthy sweet alternatives and started experimenting with substitutes myself. Mind you, my substitutes were never the above mentioned sweeteners, because by then I knew better. I picked my sweeteners of choice based on their blood glucose effect, forgetting completely that it’s still the sweet taste that mattered
and whether a sweetener has calories and high GI rating or not, it is still telling our brain that sweet stuff is coming. So my vices were and still are: Pure 100% Stevia, Pure 100% Erythritol (or a blend of those two) and to a lesser extent 100% Xylitol. When I say 100% pure I mean without any bulking agents – remember you have to look at the ingredient list – if your Stevia, Erythritol or Xylitol contain bulking agents like Maltodextrin or even Sugar, you might as well just be eating straight white sugar. Those 3 sweeteners have no or very little effect on blood glucose which is good, but consuming them daily does mess with my brain. I never thought I would say this out loud – because prior to my use of these sweeteners I consumed sugar based foods only once a month – but I now believe that the sweet taste (regardless what sweetener it comes from) consumed on a daily basis makes me want to eat more than I would normally eat. And it’s not even the idea of them being calorie free, I simply get a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment when the treat is gone that I reach for another piece and another and another, until the feeling turns into a disappointment with myself…

All this to say that the sweet stuff is here to stay and as much as I can make sure that packaged stuff doesn’t
contain any added sugar, I can’t in my right mind say that I will never consume any sweet treats. I’d be lying to myself and you. Our weekly grocery shopping includes many items that are high carb and high sugar because other members of my family do consume them. So I am surrounded by the carbage that taunts me on a daily basis. Do I like the taste of carbs? Yes! Do I have weak
moments? Yes! And I try to deal with them by creating my own “better” recipes that don’t contain sugar. Does it work? Most times it doesn’t, because I, like everybody else, have learned to believe that the sugar replacers are somehow better and my inhibitions get lowered and self control goes out the window and before I knew it, my latest low carb creation – The Poppy Seed Cakes – was gone!

If you read this far, you probably gathered that my New Year’s Resolution is not doing as well as I would have hopped and you would be correct. Granted, I’m not having my sweet treat every
day, but when I do my sweet tooth kicks in with triple the strength and I want to eat a horse made out of chocolate 😉

So I decided to try something new – this is probably an old wives tale, but I don’t care – they say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so starting today until March 18th I’m quitting Stevia, Erythritol and Xylitol (the only sweeteners I’ve been using for years now) to see if my sweet cravings subside. So, no treats, no pancakes, not even once a week. I’m fed up! You should join me too and let me know how you’re doing in the comments section.

In the meantime, I leave you with the creation that became the source of inspiration for this long rant – Poppy Seed Cakes. It is, of course an all time childhood favorite turned low-carb, but I momentarily forgot that it was still a sweet treat and inhaled them quicker than the speed of light – I am not even kidding. By now, they are all gone, of course. If you think you can apply self control better than me, I highly encourage you to try them, because they were truly off the hook delicious – I guess that’s partly to blame for their disappearance 😉

I was not quite as successful as I would have liked with the icing on top, but it did add a nice sweet component, if just a bit too crunchy…

Poppy Seed Cakes
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 43
  • Serving size: 30g
  • Calories: 158
  • Fat: 47
  • Saturated fat: 21
  • Unsaturated fat: 8.4
  • Carbohydrates: 16
  • Sugar: 2.2
  • Sodium: 70
  • Fiber: 9.8
  • Protein: 12
  • Cholesterol: 95
Recipe type: Sweet Treat
Cuisine: Low carb
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Be warned - these are to die for!
Ingredients
  • 250g Poppy Seeds
  • 4 Eggs
  • 125g Coconut oil
  • 125g Butter
  • 300g Almond Flour
  • 130g Coconut Flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond milk
  • 1tsp Almond extract
  • Liquid Stevia to taste
  • 4tbs Truvia (spoonable)
  • 1tsp Baking powder
Instructions
  1. Poppy Seed Mixture:
  2. Bring 1 cup of Almond Milk to a boil and add your Poppy Seeds, 1tbs Truvia, Stevia and 1tsp of Almond extract.
  3. Reduce the heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. When cooled off process Poppy Seeds through a grinder to break down the seeds - repeat 4-5 times.
  5. Add 2 Egg Yolks, mix well.
  6. Gently fold in 2 whipped Egg Whites into the poppy seed mixture.
  7. Set aside.
  8. Dough:
  9. Mix together in a bowl: Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, 2tbs Truvia and Baking Powder.
  10. Add 2 Eggs, melted Coconut oil and Butter and mix well.
  11. Assembly:
  12. Using silicone muffin cups line the bottom of the cup with a tablespoon of the dough, pressing with your fingers line the bottom completely.
  13. Add a tablespoon of the Poppy Seed mix.
  14. Cover the Poppy Seed mixture with another layer of the dough.
  15. Repeat until all your dough and Poppy Seed mixture is used up.
  16. Preheat the oven to 350F and bake 45 minutes or until your cups turn brown on the tops.
Notes
This recipe was originally supposed to be in a shape of a roulade called Poppy Seed Roll, but having very little experience baking with these ingredients I had to improvise quickly. When I realized that rolling this closed would pose a problem I turned the recipe into individual cakes by using silicone muffin cups. The dough would just not stick and hold together the same way traditional flour does.

Traditionally, since this recipe calls for potato starch and regular white flour it does come out being fairly dry, so my mom would make an icing to drizzle on top. She would use icing sugar with hot water to create it, but of course that's a no-no in my books. So I used a bit of Erythritol with hot water, but as you can see it did not produce a good looking icing. My recipe tester also disapproved by scraping it off. He found it too sweet. Next time I might grind Erythritol into a powder to imitate the icing sugar texture.

 

They turned out amazingly well, given the fact that it was supposed to be a roll rather than a muffin 🙂
The filling was very dense but at the same time retained a lot of moisture from Almond Milk. Traditionally, though, the recipe would call for some dry fruit such as raisins – but those are not allowed in any keto recipes. You can also add chopped nuts into the Poppy Seed mix like walnuts, but I found that I did not need to increase the fat content in this recipe due to all the Coconut oil and Butter already used, so I skipped the nuts. Maybe next time I’ll play with different versions.

 

The bottom line is : whatever you decide to be your sweetener of choice for your treats make sure you use it as a treat, not as a constant, daily component of your meals – that’s why we call them treats, because they are supposed to be infrequent.

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My New Year’s Resolution this year

Disclaimer warning: If you start reading this post only to ask yourself why the heck am I putting this out here, please know that one of the purposes of this blog is to keep myself accountable. If it’s out there and I fail you will be my judge. 

I’m not sure what it is that prompts people to commit to a New Year’s Resolution around this time of year, but the sudden desire to better myself at something come January 1st has overcome me as well this morning. You could say that we are being bombarded by the media telling us from every corner of the house that a new year is beginning and hence we should work on our resolution lists. However, my TV is never on – I hate the constant blaring of TV so unless there is something specific I want to watch it stays off, I only listen to the radio on the way to work in the car – and it’s the public radio for that. In fact, the only way I know what time of year it is is because I am not waking up every morning to go to work, and even then I need to look it up in the calendar to see how many days left til we’re all back to reality. So, what is it that makes me want to hop on the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon? Maybe I’m just sick and tired of this lala land without any schedule whatsoever, getting up whenever I  feel like, skipping gym or washing my hair, maybe I just want back into the real world…. Now, this makes me think: Is this what retirement is like?

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided that I too should show my allegiance to the millions of people trying to make their lives better this coming year and change something about mine. Given my last post,  it only makes sense for my resolution to revolve around food. Yes, there is one thing that I am still working on improving as far as food choices are concerned – sweeteners.

If I was to pick one vice, one weakness that still plagues my life it would be my sweet tooth… well maybe also not wanting to leave the house after dark, but that’s not food related ;-)…. I’ve been known to skip supper and instead make myself a sweet treat – lately I’ve been on a coconut pancake kick. But I go through phases of different treats – a long time ago it used to be protein ice-cream…

 

then I couldn’t stop making mug cakes….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was even a time when I’d eat this delicious store bought no-sugar added So Delicious coconut ice-cream. Notice that these were from an era of IIFYM when sugar was an accepted ingredients of my deserts as long as it fit my macros – the ice-cream was sugar free, but the toppings were certainly not. Hard to believe I these were my nightly treats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and for the past little while it’s been my beloved big ass pancake….

Every night, like in a Swiss clock, I’d be at my stove going through the motions of preparing for yet another pancake. I now have it down path: whip the eggwhites in the food processor until stiff peaks form while I measure out the coconut flour and my various toppings (nut butters, nuts, coconut flakes, cocoa powder with stevia and few drops of water to make it into a paste – you name it I can whip it up). It’s become a type of a tradition now, but I’m getting sick of it. A tradition that makes you feel like a slave to your urges is not a good tradition. Sure, I make it by myself – the pancake is not store-bought, there is no sugar in it – I use pure Stevia extract drops to sweeten my pancake batter, it has minimal ingredients that I weigh out, I also track every gram of every ingredient in my food tracking app – MFP. Granted, I feel better about my pancake than I would if I was sitting down to a bag of Doritos, that’s true, but is it really that much better?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not that much better after all.  I have become enslaved to my little tradition and I seem to be unable to stop. That one night treat will go down every single night regardless of whether I’m hungry or not – I just simply have to have it or I will feel deprived. And that feeling of deprivation right there has nothing to do with food or hunger – it has to do with the hold that sweeteners have had on my life for quite some time. I’ve gone through an array of safe to consume, better sweeteners :

Erythritol,
Xylitol,
Truvia (I was careful enough not to buy the big bags as those are blends that often time contain sugar as a bulk agent),
Monk fruit,
VitaFiber IMO (Isomaltooligosaccharide),
Just Like Sugar,
Swerve, …

You name them, I’ve probably used them. There is a chapter of my life that I recently managed to close permanently in which  I craved the sweet stuff so much that you’d be hard pressed to see me without a huge piece of aspartame sweetened chewing gum in my mouth – hardly able to speak. I thought since my gum had no sugar in it, I was safe to chew it to my heart’s content. Same happens to an artificially sweetened nightly treat – it does not contain sugar in it, so what’s the harm in it, right? That’s exactly what the manufacturers of all these sugar replacements will have you believe – they are better than the obvious white poison, but are they really?

Even after reducing my sweetener of choice to the one and only, better-than-all-the-rest-of-them – SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia – I still find myself strangely drawn to the sweet taste, like an addict to her poison. In the morning I might actually resolve myself to not making a sweet night treat, but as the day goes on my resolve weakens and I find myself planning for the pancake anyway. I hear myself saying : “Just this last time and then I’ll be done with it forever”. And by the time the evening comes and we are quietly awaiting some TV viewing I start going through my well known steps to make yet another sweet treat.

I now believe that it’s the case with all sweeteners (good, bad, natural, artificial etc.) that there is much more at play than just their caloric value. Sure, when you look at the package, most sugar replacers will claim 0 calories and 0 carbs or very close to 0 – this is supposed to make them better than sugar – but calories and carbs are only part of the equation of the relationship with sweeteners that we have developed. In fact, I’ve learned to believe (based on my own experience) that those calories and carb claims on the packages make us more likely to overindulge. We have come to think that if the package says there is no dietary repercussions to consuming a given food we can gorge on it and there will be no consequences for us. Finally, we can have the cake and eat it too! And I’ve been eating it way too much.

It might not be a physical consequence – even though that’s a point of debate – but there certainly is a mental consequence. When you can’t go a day without your favorite aspartame sweetened soda or gum – or as is now the case for me, a Stevia sweetened nightly treat – there is a problem : you have got yourself hooked on the sweet taste. If addiction doesn’t scare you, because supposedly you are not consuming calories let me remind you that the research on all these sweeteners is still in its infancy and we know very little as to how they affect our bodies. It matters very little that you are not consuming calories when you sweeten your coffee with Sweet ‘n Low if your blood glucose might still be going up as a response to the sweet taste? If your blood glucose is up, the insulin is released to deal with it, couple that with a pasta dish and a fat storing process begins without you even realising.

So this time is good as any – my New Year’s Resolution this year is to say no to the sweet stuff and learn to live without even the good sweet stuff.

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Second Chances

As I’m sitting down to write this post I’m coming to the conclusion that my blog has become somewhat hike-centric – yet again the topic of this post is hiking – and more precisely why I haven’t yet taken to hiking, even though I’ve had plenty of opportunity to join in. If hike blogging is to continue I might have to change the tag-line in the description of the blog 😉 

The truth of the matter is that I am a whimp when it comes to physical exertion. I tire quickly and then become a whiner with an occasional outburst of “drunken giggles” – It had to be said to give you a true picture of me. I can lift weights all day, but when it comes down to endurance I falter very quickly. Having said that, I should also say that unbeknownst to anybody I’ve been on a quiet mission to change this state of affairs for some time. I’ve been secretly hopping on a bike first thing in the morning before I do my weight training. It’s not much but I have gradually been increasing the duration of my cardio sessions and I have been building up endurance. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that 60 minutes on a stationary bike in the gym does not compare to hiking in the woods with weight on your back and the force of nature. I understand that. However, I do believe my bike sessions are helping me to work on my endurance level more-so than not doing any cardiovascular exercise at all.

Why all of a sudden all this interest in hiking? Well, I do like a challenge and I’ve also come to realize how unfit I have become by sticking to weight training only. Training with weights shapes the body, develops muscle that look appealing to the eye, but it does not equal fit, unless one is engaging in another form of exercise… Weights are for the looks, which I don’t think is wrong –  but to be fit you need to do more. I want more, plus hiking will definitely help me to lean out (with proper nutrition that is) and what better way to make my hard earned muscles pop.

If you’ve been reading my blog or social media posts you might have noticed that I have tried to engage in hiking a while back and have failed miserably, so miserably that I have lost my hiking partner who tried to get me on board in the first place! As a result he has had to resort to hiking solo, because after trying the overnight hammock-hike I waved the white flag and finally said “You’re on your own, buddy.” And here I am starting over. So why am I hoping for a different outcome this time? For starters I won’t repeat the same mistakes, but let me tell you why I think I failed the first time…

There were 2 main reasons why I believe it didn’t work out for me the first time around :
1. Comfort level and,
2. Food

1. As I said earlier, I am a whimp and feeling uncomfortable makes for an even bigger whimp. When hiking in the past my biggest mistake was to go into it with a typical hiking pair of shoes. I know now that it was the wrong choice. A typical hiker shoe is bulky, heavy and tight on your foot. Your feet are doing most of the work when walking, so you should take care of them first and foremost. I don’t want to sound like I am an expert, because I am not, but I’ve been observing the shoe choice of a thru hiker at home and I can safely conclude that the less shoe you’re wearing, the better! It needs to be fast drying, so no waterproof material and it needs to be as light as possible. Of course, I’m assuming the grippness of the sole of your hiker is a no brainer. So after some research I’ve been gifted yet another pair, hopefully a successful one.

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The pictures don’t really give justice to the uniqueness of this trail-runner. At first sight the shape of this shoe is somewhat uneven – the big toe is protruding way to the side of the shoe. You can read more about the design on the manufacturer’s website. I picked them solely on the basis of comfort.

 

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Gaiter support that unfortunately won’t work so well with the gaiter I’ll be wearing, but it’s nice to see little details that the manufacturer has included.

 

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They came with regular laces, but of course me being a gadget girl I had to swap the laces for these fancy pully things. I fully realize I’m being taken, but the fit and the colour just screamed at me 😉

This weekend is a test for these before I set out on a crazy Outport 50k hike. They had better past the test is all I can say. So far I have worn them at home and they fit perfectly with plenty of room for swelling. They run very low so the mobility of my ankle shouldn’t be an issue. They do have a bit of a lip on the heel which I’m told might be an issue with hooking over branches or tree roots, but I am yet to experience it. The material the shoe is made out of feels very breathable and fast drying. Other than that I wish the colour was darker all around as I know they will not look as pretty as they do in the pictures for very long. Will report once tested. 

2. The second reason why hiking has not stuck with me in the past is the food related. Let me elaborate for those of you who might be confused. If one is to enjoy long distance hiking it is crucial that everything you take is as light as possible. Believe me, I’ve witnessed the joy  in the eyes of a hiker who was able to shave off a couple of ounces from the base weight – it’s unmistakable. And even though most times I roll my eyes when I see the scale coming out of the cupboard, I do realize it’s necessary to put in the effort to make your load light. So, now my shoes are 33% lighter than the pair I was wearing before, but food is not that easy to master. It’s fairly easy if you don’t care what you eat on the trail, but you know that this is not the case with me. I do care what I eat and I see no good in hiking if I am to put junk in my trunk.

In the past I found it exceedingly difficult to stick to my clean diet while hiking. I wanted to eat my regular yummy food while hiking only to realize that it weighs a tonne. When your shoes are heavy and uncomfortable and your pack is too heavy you are bound to be an unhappy hiker and the activity will not stick. You need to enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing. So, I know I can’t bring my regular food on the trail because of the weight – that is not going to change. And I am still not willing to eat whatever is most calorifically dense (read: sugar) regardless of the quality of its ingredients because it might fit the weight criteria – it simply makes no sense to me. A Snickers bar on the trail to me equals a bottle of vodka at an AA meeting – just simply wrong (I can hear all the hikers gasping at my criticism of the Holly Snickers Bar).

On top of that I’ve been told we’ll only be cooking 2 meals on the trail and the rest of the calories will have to come from snacks eaten while walking or on quick stops without pulling out all the cooking gear. So, I will resort to some bars that I deem least processed and containing the least number of ingredients (Lara Bars, Quest Bars and Yup Bars). But one can’t possibly just eat bars all day, so I set out on a quest to make some crackers. They are a work in progress, but my first batch came out rather well. I made the mistake of leaving them out on the counter and they did absorb some moisture and became chewy. Note to self: put next batch in a plastic resealable bag!

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These are Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers that are literally made with chickpea flour, water and spices (anything you might have in your pantry). I mix the batter in a food processor to a very watery consistency and pour it out in batches onto a greased non-stick frying pan, form a thin pancake, flip and then cut into square pieces and lay out on a baking sheet. Pop in the oven at 350F for as long as it takes for them to become crisp. You have to make sure your initial pancake is very thin or else they will not be crispy.

 

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I enjoyed them nonetheless. They did become a little bit bready, so hopefully thinning out the batter on the frying pan and storing them in an air tight bag will prevent them from absorbing moisture.

 

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I am not a picky snacker and I believe that anybody who exerts themselves on a trail would welcome these even past their crispy state 😉

 

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These are another type of cracker I made. I can’t quite take the credit for the recipe, though. I had some almond flour kicking around so I simply googled “almond flour crackers” and right off the bat different versions of these started popping up right, left and centre. I started with the most basic version that can be traced to Elana’s Pantry. It’s a simple enough recipe but the making is somewhat time consuming.

 

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These are the opposite of what most hikers would reach for because it’s predominantly made out of fat (almonds and egg). Most hikers are most interested in having access to carbohydrates, so they would not be interested in a cracker that was mostly fat. However, carbs make me sluggish, so I like to derive my energy from fat. Yes, not everybody realizes that we can run on carbs or fat (never on protein). If you are keto adapted you can quite successfully get energy from fat. I digress of course.

 

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Here is an interesting bit about these: my lovely tester did not take to these right away. He found them bland (look who’s talking 😉 ) and he preferred the Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers better at first. He said those had a little kick and he enjoyed that. However, once the former became soggy, he changed his tune and said the Almond Flour Crackers were way better. They were crispy and you could actually crack them in half quite easily. They were mild but that’s because I opted for the basic recipe with salt and pepper only, but you could play with different flavours for sure – I found one recipe that called for raisins.

 

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I made the same mistake with those as I did with the Spicy Chickpea Flour Crackers, which was to leave them out on the counter, so they also absorbed some moisture and are no longer snappable 🙁 Lesson learned. I do like them a lot, but I think I might have to modify the recipe because when I run the macro calculator it turned out that because of the high level of fat 10g of these crackers (about 3-4 crackers) were 63 calories and that’s a lot for not much volume to eat.

And there you have it, this is how I am dealing with the food issue – I’m making it as trail friendly (light) and diet friendly (clean) as possible. It’s a work in progress, but I am most positive the second time around hiking will stick. I have a better appreciation of this activity than I did in the past and a different kind of motivation to make it succeed. 

Please stay tuned for the next episode of trail food entry in which I will show you my cooked meals. I have already figured out complete, nutritious meals that are light – therefore suitable for hiking – and I didn’t resort to questionable ingredients. 

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And the Best Energy-Protein Bar is…..

A while ago I was covertly encouraged by a certain thru-hiker to do a review and recommend the best energy-protein bar to take on the trail. I’ve been dragging my feet to write this post mostly because to do a review would entail actually trying the bars in question and to be perfectly honest I am not too keen on that – I’d be eating thousands of extra calories! Also, as I am trying to promote wholesome and minimally processed foods it goes against my beliefs to recommend any of these mass manufactured bars. However, as I do understand the convenience of an energy bar while hiking (or at any point during a busy workday) I decided to make my version of a bar that will not only be good for you but it most certainly taste delicious – and I can vouch for the taste-test myself 🙂

Energy Protein Bar
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 8.6
  • Serving size: 100g
  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 3.5
  • Saturated fat: 1.8
  • Carbohydrates: 26.4
  • Sugar: 16
  • Fiber: 3.5
  • Protein: 2.9
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Packs an enormous amount of goodness!
Ingredients
  • 100g Medjool Dates
  • 100g Dried Figs
  • 100g Dried Apricots
  • 200g Oats
  • 2Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5tsp Yacon Gold Syrup (can substitute for honey or maple syrup)
  • 28g Unsweetened Baker's chocolate
  • 2Tbsp Raw Coconut Butter
  • 100g walnuts
  • 60g Protein Powder
Instructions
  1. Chop dried fruit and walnuts
  2. Add all ingredients together and mix well.
  3. Add water as desired to bind all the ingredients.
  4. Line a pyrex dish with aluminum foil and spread out the mixture from edge to edge.
  5. Pop in the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30-45 minutes.
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These came out so delicious that I am having a hard time keeping my hands off them! I did not use any sugar in these, all the sweetness comes from the dried fruits (that also did not contain any added sugar) and a bit from the Yukon Syrup which is a low-glycemic sweetener. I think these would go very well with some natural nut butter, like cashew butter, but they are also perfectly fine on their own.

Now, I know hikers (or most of the serious ones, anyway) are always concerned with the weight of their hiking gear. It makes sense to minimize it as much as possible so that one can hike most comfortably with all the necessary conveniences of daily life – or at least enough to get by. Keeping this in mind I will say that these are not light by any means – I don’t know how they compare to any commercially made bars – however one serving of my bar is 100g. The whole batch weighed at about 860g, so I don’t think you’d be taking the whole batch with you, but with a day hike in mind I don’t think it would be extremely inconvenient to take 2 servings.

 

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This was so easy and not time-consuming at all to make that I keep getting puzzled any time I hear people say it is so difficult for them to find time to cook.

 

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I love the different textures of this bar when you sink your teeth into it. The gooiness of the dried fruit combined with crunchiness of the walnuts and the bitterness of the baker’s chocolate just make me want to keep going for more.

 

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Of course I had to take my bar for a photoshoot on my back porch! How could I recommend this bar and not take it outdoors with me. I doubt these will last long enough to test them out in the woods, but who knows, they are so easy to make I might have to make them a staple.

 

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Forgive my food processor in the background! Now that I can use it again, it seems to have inserted itself in one of the best pictures of the bar!

 

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PS. If you absolutely have to get a store bought bar I would go for Larabar. Having briefly looked at the ingredients of most readily available bars in a Canadian grocery store (as in no fancy, specialty bars) I can say with utmost certainty that it’s the most minimally processed bar that I would be willing to eat with pretty much the same ingredients as my bar. The weight of a Larabar is 48g, so half the size as my bar, however much denser in terms of caloric value: 190 calories, 10g fat, 24g carbs and 4g protein. Now, from a hiker’s perspective this might be a good thing since it weighs less but packs in more nutritional value. From my perspective, I’d rather have more to chew on, so to me smaller size means I’m chewing less 😉 To each their own!

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Healthy Snacks – review

It’s hip to be on the healthy eating band wagon these days, but what it often times means is buying products that really are just junk disguised as healthy alternatives. Let me explain if you don’t already know what I am about to say. You have surely heard of everybody going on about protein bars, as opposed to candy bars. It has become widely accepted that protein bars are better for you than regular candy bars because of all this protein they contain. Protein – good for you, sugar – no good for you. In principle, yes I would tend to agree, but sticking the word protein on a bar and a bunch of cheaply made whey protein in the bar is not going to make it any more healthy than a candy bar. Heck, many times they are even worse than a regular candy bar. You don’t believe me? Watch!

In my most recent order from SVN I was offered a free gift – they always have this option and mostly there isn’t anything I am particularly interested in, but this time I thought, what the heck it’s free, so I picked a protein bar. Well, let me tell you something, there is a reason why it’s free, it’s because nobody is buying it and why is it that nobody is buying it? Keep reading…

So the protein bar in question is the Muscle MaXX White Chocolate Peanut Butter – sounds delicious, doesn’t it? I picked it thinking I might have it for a cheat meal sometimes, but when it got here and I actually looked at the macros and the ingredient list and I thought to myself : “Sure as hell I will never put this garbage in my mouth!” And I tucked it away. Big, big mistake. I should have ditched it in the garbage and never looked back. But I kept it. I guess the fat kid in me did not want to let go of it that quick. So, what is wrong with the ingredients in this thing? They are not any different or better than the ingredients on a Snickers bar, I would go as far as to say that they are worse. Let me present to you the comparison of the 2 bars in terms of their nutritional value and the things they are made out of. First Muscle MaXX:

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So in the spirit of transparency and not assuming any knowledge on the part of the reader, here is what’s wrong with the ingredients of this bar: 

  1. It contains Hydrogenated Cottonseed and Rapeseed Oil – the word hydrogenated refers to the fat that is man made that is extremely bad for you (now they don’t list it as trans fat which I am not sure how they get around that). When you look at the labels and you see oils that have been hydrogenated, put it away. 
  2. TBHQ is a preservative, meh – stuff that extends the shelf life of packaged foods – you won’t need to consume it if you make your own, because home made stuff does not need to sit on a shelf, you’ll eat it before it goes bad. 
  3. Graham Crackers get their own parenthesized list of ingredients and oh boy is it reminiscent of a cookie! That’s because it is a type of cookie. Here you get all the sugars your heart desires starting at sugar itself, high-fructose corn syrup and molasses, as if just sugar wasn’t enough, LOL. You also get a good dose of the hydrogenated stuff, this time only partially hydrogenated, but don’t let this fool you, it’s just as bad.  
  4. Coating is composed of some more sugar, some more hydrogenated stuff, some synthetic wax by the name of Sorbitan Monostearate (I’m not going to argue its harmful effects, but if you are following me you understand that I’m advocating minimally processed foods and this bar went through hell to be manufactured) and Polysorbate 60 which is another type of emulsifier that I’d rather not eat, but did I? 

So here you have it, a pretty nasty list of ingredients that should not be in anything that bears any claims of health and wellness benefits. Now, the bar does not imply that it is good for you, but it is sold by a company whose website is plastered with ripped bodies so it implies this stuff is OK to eat if you want a six pack – after all it is a MUSCLE MAXX bar, so muscles are in your future if you eat it, right? Well, all that’s in your future is fat from eating this bar. It is a candy bar, not a protein bar – now that I think of it I’m not even sure where all this 13g of protein is coming from. After all, peanuts are predominantly a fat source. Muscle Maxx also claims that the bar is highly addictive and that part I thought they actually got right, after all it is full of sugar. 

On to show you ingredients of a popular brand of candy bars, namely Snickers bar:

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These were taken straight from the Snickers website and my first thought when I saw the macronutrient breakdown was that it is so extremely hard to read! So I found a better picture from the website that presents the macros.

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What you will notice right away is that the macros are very similar to those of the Muscle Maxx (MM). Calories are higher for MM by 40, fat is higher for MM by 4g, carbs are higher for Snickers by 8g and Protein, which is the good stuff is higher for MM by 9g. So, all in all pretty similar. 

Now, for ingredients, also very similar: tons of sugar (but we would not be surprised by that, this is a candy bar after all), corn syrup and also a good dose of hydrogenated stuff. So right to the point with the bad stuff as much as the Healthy version. I do have to say though the list seems somewhat shorter than the MM which is always a good sign, however in this case not so much – pretty much everything on the list is bad.  

Now back to MM and why I should have ditched it in the garbage – yes, you probably guessed by now I did consume part of it. Why only part of it? Because it was truly the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth. The graham cracker, which contained in the middle a softer mushier part, was just that, nothing wrong with the taste of a graham cracker, the coating though really tasted like wax. The really bad part was in between the two crackers – it tasted like mushy cardboard. It was not even that sweet, so I’m sort of wondering about all the different sugars… All in all I understand why SVN is giving them away – anybody who has ever tried them will never pay a cent for these bars and people who haven’t tried them know better by looking at what’s in the bar and are also not buying them. So SVN needs to get rid of them before the expiration date, so they are giving them away for free! Don’t get fooled. Might as well get a Snickers Bar, at least you won’t feel like you are eating cardboard, you won’t be pretending you are doing something good for your body and on top of that you will actually enjoy the bloody candy bar 🙂 

 

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Chocolate Almond Butter

I absolutely love nut butters – they are versatile, they are creamy, they are the boom! When I say they are versatile I mean you don’t have to limit yourself just to p&j toast. I put nut butters on slices of apples sprinkled with cinnamon, on sweet potatoes in any form (don’t knock it till you try it!), on broccoli, in my cream of rice and in my oats, in my chai coffee shake, in home-made muffins and of course, let’s not forget my pancakes!! You can put it on and in virtually anything and it will work, I promise!

So in light of rising almond butter prices and shrinking jars I have started making my own almond butter – other nut butters quickly followed – my favourite after almond is cashew butter. So creamy and silky! But be careful because it is predominantly a fat source so a little will cost you a lot. I always measure my nut butters, but let’s be honest, who doesn’t lick the spoon 😉 Here is my very simple recipe I made today. I’m not even sure if it deserves to be called a recipe, there is really not much to it. It’s more time consuming than anything else. Oh yes, it takes a while, but if you have a good food processor you are set.

 
Chocolate Almond Butter
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serving size: 10g
  • Calories: 62
  • Fat: 5.4
  • Saturated fat: 0.9
  • Unsaturated fat: 4.2
  • Carbohydrates: 2.2
  • Sugar: 0.4
  • Sodium: 0.1
  • Fiber: 1.2
  • Protein: 2.1
Recipe type: Snack, spread, nut butter
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Always handy to have in the fridge and keeps you at peace knowing there is no added hydrogenated oils in it, yuck.
Ingredients
  • 437g Raw Almonds
  • 30g Coconut Oil
  • 5g Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 10 drops of plain stevia
Instructions
  1. Process almonds in a food processor for a good 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally until smooth consistency.
  2. Add coconut oil, cocoa and stevia and process until incorporated well.
  3. Voilà!
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This is what your almonds are going to look like after a 2 minute spin in the food processor. It’s a long way away from the final product, but it is so worth it.
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After a while you’ll notice the almonds getting finer and finer. At this stage they almost remind me of almond meal. You’ll notice that the mixture will start sticking to the walls of your food processor, this is when you need to scrape the walls every so often and stir.
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I thought this was a cool shot to be able to get with a cellphone camera! And it demonstrates perfectly what is happening with your almond mass, the middle is getting much more action and therefore is getting smoother by the minute.
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Nope, still very much grainy after giving it a stir, so the top goes on for more grinding.
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But see how the different layers keep changing? The bottom, closer to the blade is getting lumpy, whereas on the sides it is still very grainy.
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We’re getting close, really close! At this point you will find the mixture very hard and lumpy. It sticks together making the impression that you have less than what you have started with.
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There is the lump, nice and shiny and moldable. This is on the right track – worry not! You might be thinking something is wrong, but this is all good.
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See! I told ya! Now we’re talking. If you dip your spoon in it now you will know for sure that all along it was slowly getting to this point.
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And time for weighing and putting away. I didn’t have a fancy jar on hand so I just used a glass container – same one I put my lunch in 🙂
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Who needs commercially made protein peanut butter when you can have Chocolate Almond Butter made with 3 ingredients!
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Even though it is smooth almond butter there is plenty of crunch in it! Just the right amount !
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Couldn’t resist taking it out in the sun after we have had some chilly, rainy, foggy days.
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And for some beautiful blue skies trying desperately to grace us with their presence.
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Peanut Butter Cookie Thins

I love peanut butter, any nut butters for that matter. I could eat them straight from the jar with a spoon, sometimes I do, but it’s not recommended as it adds up. Peanut butter is a fat and fat is expensive when it comes to caloric value. What this means is that you are not eating much of it and it doesn’t really fill up your stomach the same way that carbs do, but it comes at a whooping price of 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 calories for carbs. So, you want to be mindful with it. Not that fat makes you fat, but anything in excess will add on weight. So, what I like to do is find alternatives. 

If you haven’t heard of peanut butter flour or powdered peanut butter you are missing out big time! Essentially, it is peanuts turned into powder by squeezing out the fat and dehydrating what’s left. This type of powdered peanut butter will be very low in fat and most times will have some sugar and salt added to it. Not a significant amount, so I am not too concerned about it, as I am not consuming large amounts of it. I have tried PB2 and today I have used Tru-nut. I have also found an alternative that has nothing added, just defatted roasted peanuts that have been dehydrated by Protein Plus. You can reconstitute these powders to obtain peanut butter or you can use them in baking. I’ve opted for baking today.pc peanut butter chips

Have you  ever had commercially made peanut butter cookies? Like the President’s choice cookie chips ? If you have, you know what kind of deliciousness I am talking about. They are sweet and salty at the same time, they are crumbly and oily. They are so delicious you can eat the whole bag in one sitting. But as you do it, you have to fully realize that it is not doing you any good. You might even peak at the nutritional value label and realize that just 5 of those cookie chips (a measly 28g) packs 150 calories. Besides nobody buys a pack of cookies and then weighs out 28g to eat! That’s ludicrous, no? You open up a bag and eat the whole damn thing because it tastes so good! But, by the time the bag is empty you will have consumed 900 calories all from sugar (90g) and fat (54g), oh wait, there is some protein (24g) in there from peanuts, I guess 😉 In any case, that’s me, if I allow myself to have these at home. Maybe you, the reader, can stop at 28g and call it a day, I know I can’t. So I don’t buy them, I make my own. Are they as good tasting as the PC brand? To me, they are and I am able to stop at one serving. 

Peanut Butter Cookie Thins
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 11
  • Serving size: 50g
  • Calories: 131
  • Fat: 4
  • Carbohydrates: 14
  • Sugar: 2
  • Fiber: 5
  • Protein: 13
Recipe type: Desert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Peanut butter cookie made with beans, but I swear you could be fooled!
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Put the liquid egg whites and stevia in a food processor and blend on high until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
  2. Add the kidney beans and blend well. You will end up with tiny little specks of the dark skin of the beans, but those will almost unnoticeable after the cookies are baked. And here is an image to prove that this recipe really calls for kidney beans. Trust me, you will not taste them!
  3. Add the Peanut Butter Powder, Baking Powder, Stevia, Vanilla and Peanut Butter.
  4. Blend well until you get a nice consistent mixture.
  5. Spray your cookie sheet with coconut oil and form flat rounds with your batter.
  6. Pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until your cookies have reached the desired crispness. .
Notes
Please notice the difference in the macronutrient breakdown of these cookies vs the commercially made ones.

My Peanut Butter Cookie Thins per serving of 50g: 131 cal, 13g protein, 3.7g fat, 14.4g carbs (2g sugar and 5g fibre)

PC Peanut Butter Cookie Chip per serving of 28g : 150 cal, 4g protein, 9g fat, 15g carbs (10g sugar and 1g fibre)

You get more bang for your buck eating my cookies in all respects! For a portion almost 2 as big you get less calories, less sugar, less fat, more protein and more fibre. I think I know what I am making next time I get a sweet tooth! And BTW, you tested them with somebody who doesn't know what's in them I guarantee you that they will not pick kidney beans and the main ingredient!
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I promptly snapped pictures of my cookies even before anybody noticed I made them because I know they will not last long!
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I think the only thing I am going to change for next time is their thickness. They turned out delicious but I sort of wanted them to be somewhat crumbly and that they are not. I think that if I had made them thinner they would have gotten a bit crunchy and crumbly. Don’t get me wrong, they are very good as they are – moist and soft and that’s fine too, but there is nothing wrong with improving them.
And here is my portion for testing. Ok, I did have couple of more bites than this, I just could not resist they were so good! What you see smeared on the side is my cottage cheese frosting. Yes, you are reading right, cottage cheese can be made delicious too.
And here is my portion for testing. Ok, I did have a couple of more bites than this, I just could not resist, they were so good! What you see smeared on the side is my cottage cheese frosting. Yes, you are reading right, cottage cheese can be made delicious too. And the fork ended up being just decoration, no need for it. 
It went very well with the frosting. Surprisingly enough, once I had my cookie I nibbled on some more, just to double check the deliciousness :) However, I did not get this same urge of reaching for the next and the next and one more that I usually get when and if I eat commercial cookies. That one cookie and couple of more nibbles satisfied me to the point that I did not feel the urge to have more. That's what I call nutritious food, as opposed to empty calories that make you want to reach for more and more and never seem to fill you up.
It went very well with the frosting. Surprisingly enough, once I had my cookie I nibbled on some more, just to double check the deliciousness 🙂 However, I did not get this same urge of reaching for the next one and another one and one more that I usually get when and if I eat commercial cookies. That one cookie and a couple of more nibbles satisfied me to the point that I did not feel the urge to have more. That’s what I call nutritious food, as opposed to empty calories that make you want to reach for more and more and never seem to fill you up.
Half of it gone and I was OK with that. It was filling, satisfying and even though I know there is more I'm not longing to have another one.
Half of it gone and I was OK with that. It was filling, satisfying and even though I know there is more I’m not longing to have another one.
I was marvelling at the last bite as I formed my post.
I was marvelling at the last bite as I formed my post.
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