Girl on the Run

RECIPES

VEGAN + GLUTEN-FREE PROTEIN BROWNIES

But I promise you, these are legit.

There’s not one ingredient in this recipe that I’m sorry about. With around 8 grams of protein per serving (not including frosting), these refined-sugar-free, chocolatey, and super fudgy brownies will crush your sweet cravings while packing a protein/antioxidant punch.

The super dense chocolate flavor comes from cacao, which, if you’re not familiar, is essentially cocoa’s superfood twin. Cacao and cocoa are notably different, but they both have the same origin: cacao beans. Post-harvest, cocoa is processed at a much higher temperature, which makes it sweeter, but affects the cacao bean’s molecular level in a way that degrades the nutrient content. Cacao, on the other hand, is typically raw or minimally processed, which allows it to stay classified as a superfood.

Here’s a further breakdown of the benefits of cacao:

  • Cacao is full of antioxidants, particularly phenolic phytochemicals and flavanoids, which protect your cells from free radicals and oxidative damage (read: anti-aging benefits!)
  • Cacao contains high levels of magnesium, which is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies (especially for muscle and nerve function and keeping your heart rhythm steady).
  • Cacao is also rich in iron, which acts as an oxygen carrier for your body to improve your muscle and brain function and regulate body temperature.
  • Cacao is loaded with fiber, which not only makes you feel fuller, but is crucial for healthy digestion.
  • Surprisingly, cacao is also a great source of monounsaturated fat, cholesterol-free saturated fat, calcium, potassium, natural carbohydrates, and *drumroll* protein!

Other ingredients that add to the nutrient profile of these brownies include pumpkin puree, raw almond butter, and maca. The pumpkin acts as a healthy egg and oil replacement, providing a fudgy texture while contributing potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. The raw almond butter has a similar effect chemistry-wise, but gives the brownies a boost of vitamin E and satiating omega-3 fats. Lastly, maca, which acts as a secret ingredient in a lot of my recipes, gives these brownies an adaptogenic edge to support adrenal function, hormone regulation, positive mood, and more.

Topping off this recipe (quite literally) is the peanut butter cacao avocado frosting.

I know what you’re thinking – avocado seems like the *weirdest* base ingredient for frosting, but hear me out.

When combined with the right flavors, avocado essentially loses its taste. Here the flavor is cancelled out by the cacao, peanut butter, vanilla extract, and maple syrup, allowing the avocado to do what it was *partially* meant to do – provide a super rich and creamy texture.

However, texture aside, the purpose of the avocado frosting is to incorporate additional healthy fats and fiber to satisfy your appetite and cravings. Unlike traditional frosting, which often gives us a sugar high that leaves us wanting more, this frosting is refined-sugar-free and packed with positive health benefits so you can be extra with your brownies without feeling guilt.

Now, who’s ready for the recipe?

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes | Baking Time: 20-25 minutes | Chill Time: 1 hour +

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes + | Makes: 9-12 brownies

Ingredients:

Brownies

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup raw almond butter *
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp. maca powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 4 Tbsp. Vega Clean chocolate protein powder (or another vegan chocolate protein powder of your choice)
  • Coconut oil (for greasing the pan)
  • PB Fit (optional, for garnish)

Peanut Butter Cacao Avocado Frosting

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. raw peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. maca powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8-inch pan with coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, almond butter, and maple syrup. Once combined, whisk in the coconut sugar, maca powder, cinnamon, sea salt, and vanilla.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the cacao powder and chocolate protein powder.
  4. Transfer the brownie mixture to your prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow the brownies to cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator for an hour. Note: The brownies will seem undercooked when you first take them out of the oven, but as they cool they will firm up!
  6. While your brownies are cooling, make the avocado cacao frosting by adding the avocado, cacao powder, maple syrup, coconut sugar, almond butter, vanilla extract, maca powder, and cinnamon to a food processor or blender. Blend all ingredients until smooth and store in the refrigerator until the brownies are ready to be frosted.
  7. Once the brownies have cooled in the refrigerator for one hour, frost them evenly with the avocado cacao frosting. Alternatively, you can spread your favorite nut butter on top or eat the brownies unfrosted. Cut into 9-12 squares and serve, or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If desired, sprinkle with PB Fit or other toppings for garnish.

* Note: Other nut butters, like cashew or peanut, can substituted for the almond butter in this recipe with varying taste results. 

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY ACAI BOWL

How do you eat enough protein?

As a runner, and especially as a vegan, I’m asked this question frequently.

It’s an important topic, particularly when you consider all that protein does for your body. Athletes know protein as the vital nutrient to build and repair your muscle tissue, but did you know it also balances your blood sugar, regulates your hormones, provides energy, and promotes healthy hair, skin, nails, and bones?

Protein certainly isn’t impossible to come by as a vegan, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge to get the amount that my body needs. In the first few months of marathon training, I was barely functioning on about 40 grams of protein per day. For many people that intake seems adequate, but I later found out from a nutritionist that I should be aiming for at least 90 grams of protein per day. Yes, 90.

So the question remains, how do you get enough?

A well-crafted acai bowl is one of my favorite non-traditional ways to get protein. As someone who isn’t very fond of meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, and setian, I find clean, plant-based protein powders to be an effortless go-to for smoothies, energy bites, acai bowls, and more.

This chocolate raspberry acai bowl in particular has about 30 grams of protein, making it the perfect way to start your day or replenish post-workout. Notably most of the protein comes from one of my favorite vegan protein powders, but I want to emphasize that it is not the only or main source of protein for me in general. Protein powders can do wonders as a supplement when you opt for a whole foods, plant-based option, but you should seek protein from other sources as well to ensure you maintain a well-balanced diet overall.

That being said, I like to supplement my diet with Vega’s clean protein powder, which combines pea, hemp, alfalfa, and pumpkin seed proteins to deliver 25 grams of complete protein for around 130 calories. Importantly, this particular protein powder also includes 4 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), which can help promote muscle protein synthesis and prevent fatigue in athletes.

But there’s more to this recipe than a scoop of protein powder, and that’s where super foods like flaxseed, maca, and spirulina come in.

Flaxseeds have a solid reputation as a positive source of healthy omega-3 fats, but did you also know that they’re loaded with antioxidants called lignans, which can help reduce free radical damage? This means flaxseeds have anti-aging and cellular-regenerating effects, and, bonus, they can also help balance your hormones – all while delivering about two grams of protein per tablespoon.

Maca, which has one gram of protein per teaspoon, can also work wonders for your hormones while boosting your energy levels and maintaining your adrenal health. Similarly, Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica can increase energy and performance levels as well. Known for being one of the most nutritious, concentrated whole foods, this type of spirulina is a phenomenal source of complete protein (2 grams per teaspoon), iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and more. Even cooler, it can help your body detox heavy metals, speed up weight loss, and alleviate sinus issues. Who knew algae could do so much, right?

Now get out that blender. It’s time to make your food work for you. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients

Base Layer

Spirulina Drizzle

  • 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1 tsp. Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica
  • A couple of splashes of unsweetened almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)

Toppings

  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
  • Raspberries

Suggested Toppings (optional)

  • Shredded coconut
  • Banana
  • Blueberries
  • Chia Seeds
  • Goji Berries

Directions

  1. To make the base layer, add the frozen banana, acai pack, frozen raspberries, almond milk, maca powder, and protein powder to a blender. Blend until smooth, pour into a bowl, and set in the freezer while you make the spirulina drizzle.
  2. To make the spirulina drizzle, add the frozen banana, spirulina, and almond milk to a clean blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Remove your base layer from the freezer and add your desired toppings. Using a spoon, drizzle your spirulina mixture on top. Serve immediately.

Questions, comments, or thoughts on this recipe? Leave a comment below!

 

VEGAN + GLUTEN-FREE PEANUT BUTTER GLOW BARS

Since becoming vegan, one of my biggest food philosophies has been, “Make your food work for you.”

To me, this means consistently choosing and creating healthy meals, snacks, and desserts that go beyond just satisfying a craving. As an extremely active vegan who performs rigorous workouts 5-6 times per week, I don’t really believe in counting calories. I do, however, believe that every calorie should count.

I truly hope you love these bars. They’re decadent, satisfying, easy to make, and full of health benefits. They play on a classic craving – peanut butter and chocolate – but incorporate superfoods and adaptogens to take that craving to the next level. All of the ingredients serve a positive purpose, but the power players include:

  • Goji Berries
  • Maca Powder
  • Cinnamon 
  • Chia Seeds
  • Raw Nut Butters
  • Coconut Sugar

Goji berries have medicinal roots in ancient China and are well-known today for being an incredible source of antioxidants and phytonutrients. They have a high concentration of protein (about 1g per tablespoon) and they contain 11 out of the 18 essential amino acids. Additionally, they’re high in vitamin A, C, B2, beta-carotene, selenium, potassium, iron, and calcium, and they’ve been known to help elevate energy levels, boost athletic performance, and naturally treat diabetes.

Similarly, maca powder is also rich in antioxidants and has been known to enhance energy, stamina, mood, and memory. As an adaptogen, maca can also help your body’s stress response and balance your hormones. How cool is that?

Cinnamon, which many of us probably overlook and take for granted, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help relieve muscle soreness, allergies, and more. It’s also a natural anti-microbial, antibiotic, anti-fungal, and antiviral agent, which means it can help boost your immunity and fight infections and viruses.

Chia seeds, which are a great source of omega 3 fats, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and protein, add to these bars by working with the raw almond butter (high in protein, vitamin E, magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, phosphorus, and more) to complement the nutritional properties of peanut butter. Peanut butter has a pretty bad rep due to its high content of omega 6 fats. Omega 6 fats, which possess inflammatory qualities, have a negative effect when consumed in high amounts. However, when consumed with anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats, like those naturally found in raw almond butter and chia seeds, this effect is suppressed. *Breathes a sigh of relief.*

Lastly, coconut sugar deserves to be spotlighted because it contains inulin, which has the ability to stimulate the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria, commonly found in probiotics. Coupled with the high amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in these bars, the inulin in coconut sugar can help provide an overall boost to your immune system. Also, fun fact, coconut sugar may help slow glucose absorption, which can make it a better sugar choice for diabetics.

So whether you’re looking to satisfy a craving, incorporate a healthier dessert into your lineup, or you just love a good post-workout treat, I hope these bars become your new go-to and inspire you to make every part of your nutrition (indulgences especially) *work* for you.

Now let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

Prep Time: 30 minutes | Chill Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes | Makes: 9 bars

Ingredients:

Base Layer

  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup raw almond butter
  • 1/2 cup raw peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. maca powder (I like Navitas Organics)
  • 2 1/4 cups quick oats (certified gluten-free, if necessary)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds

Chocolate Layer

  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate (I like the Enjoy Life! brand)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil

Toppings

  • 1/2 cup goji berries
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Add coconut sugar, maple syrup, melted coconut oil, almond butter, peanut butter, and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Whisk until combined.
  2. Next add the ground cinnamon and maca powder. Whisk until combined.
  3. Using a spatula, stir in the oats and the chia seeds.
  4. Add the base mixture to a 9×9 inch baking pan. Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan using the spatula or your hands. Transfer the pan to the freezer to set.
  5. In a small saucepan over medium-low to low heat, add the vegan chocolate and 1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil. Using a spatula, continually stir the mixture until it has completely melted.
  6. Take the base mixture out of the freezer and pour the chocolate on top. Spread the chocolate evenly with a spatula until the base mixture is completely covered, then sprinkle the goji berries on top before transferring the pan back to the freezer.
  7. Let the bars set in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, then take out of the freezer and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Questions, comments, or thoughts on this recipe? Leave a comment below!