Protein Porridge

Happy 2019, folks. I hope everyone had a wonderful year, but if not, I hope this coming one is everything you hoped 2018 would be. I am not much of a resolution setter, but I am a huge fan of goals and personal challenges, and also a numbers person. Last year I tried 76 new recipes, shared 36 posts with you lovely readers, started an Instagram, tried and liked a lower carb lifestyle, discovered the magic that is a spiralizer, and went to several difference food-related classes and events, including learning how to make vodka infusions and homemade sausage. I am looking forward to putting those last two things to good use this year, and sharing them with all of you.

One of my December challenges was to keep a food log, in which I write down all the things I eat every day. It’s an analog version so obviously not a calorie tracker, but it makes me stop and think before eating and helps me to choose healthier options, especially during the food cluster that is the holiday season. I feel very successful this year, navigating lots of deliciousness in healthy ways without feeling like I deprived myself of seasonal treats.  Whether, like me, you are looking to maintain a good thing, or perhaps to start anew, this easy peasy breakfast is a great way to start the day.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

In August when I went lower carb, I basically stopped eating my go-to breakfast of banana peanut butter oatmeal. Since it would’ve been half my carbs for the day, I opted for yogurt parfait and chia pudding and probably unhealthy amounts of eggs. As the weather cooled, however, I found myself missing my warm bowl of morning oats even more. I am no longer tracking my macros, but I’m still opting to do lower carb and higher protein whenever possible, so I set out to find an appropriate winter option. Patterning off my summer recipes, I kept the chia and hemp I’ve become accustomed to and added a few oats for volume. Quick oats work best since the hemp and chia don’t need much time to cook, but lightly blended old-fashioned oats works great too. (I tried it once without grinding them and didn’t care for the textural juxtaposition, but you can nix the grinding process if you don’t mind it.) Warm, cozy, filling, and even faster at cooking, this is my new favorite way to start a chilly morning.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Even without the boosts this recipe has about 12 grams of protein, but I nearly double that with peanut butter powder and/or protein powder. I personally like the peanut butter powder best since it doesn’t affect the texture and adds a nice peanuty flavor with less fat than regular peanut butter (of which there is already plenty from the hemp and chia). You can use up to 1/4 cup depending on your calorie needs, although I typically use two tablespoons. Alternatively, you can use your favorite protein powder. This is a great option if you’re allergic peanuts or using mix-ins that aren’t typically paired with peanut flavor. Don’t add more than two tablespoons though (about half a scoop), because the resulting texture will be noticeably grainy and a little strange.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

Shockingly (jokes), my go-to mix-ins are half a banana and cinnamon, which pairs nicely with my peanut butter powder. Most fruits are great for this, and it’s a good way to use frozen produce as well. Just heat the produce first and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. If you’re not a peanut butter person (weird), I’ve listed a few other varieties that are excellent with or without protein powder. I also typically stir in a little plain yogurt to add that creaminess, or just actual heavy cream when I’m feeling more decadent. You can 100% skip this if you are dairy-free, or use your favorite non-dairy substitute. Although I don’t usually add it, a teaspoon or two of maple syrup is a nice addition for the more tart berries or options like pumpkin that are not inherently sweet.

Protein Porridge {{Baking Bytes}}

You can easily mix together all the dry ingredients in individual portions, then just add your mix-ins and water and you’re ready to go. I like to prep mine in 8oz containers so I can use it to measure the appropriate amount of water if I’m not at home. Additionally, nix the fruit entirely (but maybe up the spices) for a camping-friendly instant porridge that just requires hot water.

Get your protein in a cozy porridge and start your morning warm and happy. Give it a try and share your favorite mix-ins in the comments!

Protein Porridge

makes one serving

Ingredients

basic porridge
1/4 cup quick oats1
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
2-4 Tbsp peanut butter powder OR 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter (optional)
2 Tbsp protein powder (optional)
6-8 oz water

2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt OR 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)

flavor ideas with peanut butter
1/2 banana, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup blueberries, mashed + 1/8 tsp cardamom

flavor ideas without peanut butter
1/2 cup peaches, mashed + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree + 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut + coconut cream instead of yogurt

Directions

  1. If using fruit, mash it into the bottle of a microwaveable bowl.
  2. Add oats, seeds, peanut butter, protein powder (if using), spices of choice, and water. Stir until well combined.
  3. Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes (2:20 in my microwave is just how I like it) OR use boiling water and let sit, covered, until thickened.
  4. Stir in yogurt and/or maple syrup, if desired.
  5. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

You can also use 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats, lightly ground in a blender. I often do this method since we always have regular oatmeal on the counter for M. Also, if you are gluten-free, use certified oats to keep this recipe up to par.

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Pulled Venison (or Elk)

(Fair warning, this is somewhat of a novel-length post.)

In case you are overwhelmed with posts for cookies, fudge, egg nog, hot chocolate, and gingerbread houses, here’s a nice healthy entrée to get you through the season. Better yet, it’s made in the slow cooker so you can continue your holiday baking extravaganzas knowing there’ll be a savory dinner at the end of the day.

With M’s prolific hunting seasons, our freezers (yes, plural) are not often empty. Even in light years he harvests an ample amount to last the next year, and more often than not we are eating meat from a couple of seasons prior. Last to go are always the roasts. Although I do enjoy pot roast, it is something I tire of relatively quickly and as a result, the occasions M makes it for dinner are plenty for me. As a result, we typically have more deer and elk roasts on hand than I really know what to do with.

Pulled Venison {{Baking Bytes}}

Pulled pork is possibly one of my favorite meals, and I’m thrilled every time it shows up at a barbecue or on a menu. However, as many of you can probably guess, I never make it myself because we really don’t buy meat beyond bacon and the occasional sausage (although with this year’s experiments and an extremely fun class from Chef Nic of Grotto Meats, sausage will likely become our own too.) As such, when a potluck this summer had pulled elk as an option, I made a point to seek out the cook for some tips and tricks. Even better, he was more than willing to share his methods with me.

Having previously tried pulled elk once or twice, it just never quite got to the “pulling” stage as well I’d have liked it. Given how much less fat is in an elk or venison roast, I was pretty sure there was something extra required to get it to work. Potluck guy shared that he slow cooks it in “a lot of lime juice, and some water, but really a lot of lime juice” and that acidic component helps to break down the meat. He then pours out that liquid, shreds the meat, and carries on with a sauce as normal. With my mind officially blown, I set off to try my own version.

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I mixed “a lot of lime juice”, some apple cider vinegar, and water into the slow cooker and then added my roast. Slicing the roast into 2-3″ chunks gives it more surface area to cook, and I think results in a more even texture. After letting that go for eight or ten hours, I poured it out and added my own chipotle concoction. A short simmer later, and my Mexican-inspired pulled elk was delightful atop salad, tacos, or scrambled eggs.

While this method does require an extra step compared to your standard pork options, it is a wonderful way to use game meat and requires less than twenty minutes of active cooking time. Even better, you can easily double it and make more than one sauce (transfer one flavor to a saucepan to simmer together) giving you multiple options in the same amount of time.

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As a side note: I also discovered that, for me, slow cooking during the day is too long because I’m often gone for 12 hours on weekdays, especially in the summer. Instead, I do the first cook overnight, let the sauce simmer while I’m getting ready for the day, and then store it in the fridge. That way it just needs to be heated for dinner since it’s all cooked and ready to enjoy.

This method works equally well with either venison or elk roasts, and as mentioned it’s easy to increase the amounts for extras. Either make multiple flavors (as shown from my pictures) or just shred one of them and store it in the freezer. Then you can simply pop the shredded meat into some sauce and you’re ready to go once it’s warmed through.

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This would be a great holiday dinner, either for the big day or for one of the days after when the excitement wears off and the exhaustion sets in and everyone is like “holy crap where did 2018 go?” I don’t know where it went, but I do know I can enjoy some tasty dinners while I try to figure it out.

Pulled Venison/Elk

Makes one 3-4lb roast1

Ingredients

3-4 lbs venison or elk roast
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice (or lemon, but I prefer lime)
1 – 1 1/2 cups water

Chipotle sauce (great for tacos!)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2-4 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo
2 cloves garlic
2-3 tsp chili powder
1-2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Apple cider sauce (great for winter salads!)
1 bottle hard apple cider
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne (for a little kick)

Directions

  1. Turn slow cooker to low and mix together vinegar, lime juice, and 1 cup of water.
  2. Slice roast (the short way) into 2-3″ wide chunks, and gently place into the liquid mixture.
  3. If necessary, add additional water. The meat does not need to be completely submerged but it should be mostly covered.
  4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until it shreds easily.
  5. Remove meat from crock, and pour out the liquid. Be sure the outside of the crock is wiped clean then return it to the heating element.
  6. Shred the meat and put it back in the crock.
  7. Mix the sauce ingredients (use a blender for the chipotle sauce) and then stir into the meat. (Or use 8-12oz of your favorite sauce.) If it’s too thick, stir in additional water; mixture should be loose but not super watery.
  8. Continue to cook (can bump it to high if you are in a hurry) until the sauce is heated through and most of the liquid is heated through, at least 30 minutes.
  9. Meat is great for sandwiches, tacos, salads, toast, scrambled eggs, or just straight out of the pot. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers.

Notes

You can easily double the recipe to feed a crowd or put some in the freezer for later. Start with one recipe of liquid and twice the meat first as you may not need fully double the amount of the initial cooking liquids.

Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding

Sometimes during the hectic holiday season, we forget to take care of ourselves. We forget to make time for the things that are important to us, and get wrapped up in balancing holiday preparations, year-end work projects, and the usual plague of household chores. The past few weeks have been a bit more difficult to balance as Michael focused on defending his thesis (success!) and I had a number of work projects dividing my time unevenly. Last week I opted to postpone this blog post in favor of a little self care; working late always makes me want a relaxed evening by the time I make it home.

Pumpkin Chia Pudding {{Baking Bytes}}

One thing that always helps me during these periods is to ensure I’m eating well even when life is full. I always prep my lunches over the weekend and I try to prepare a couple breakfasts for my weight-lifting days as well. This makes my mornings a little more relaxed and provides a healthy and filling lunch even if I only take a fifteen-minute break to eat it.

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If you are also feeling a bit rushed in the mornings, this is a great option to prepare for the week ahead. Make enough jars for the week all in one go and they will be ready to eat as soon as you need them. I typically enjoy mine with a cup of hot cold-brewed coffee, a quick and healthy breakfast that is just the right amount before a weight-lifting session. I sometimes add a scoop (or half of one) of protein powder, but just as often I don’t. Know that it will change the texture slightly (and the taste, depending on your powder of choice) but it’s a great way to bump up your morning protein intake.

Pumpkin Chia Pudding {{Baking Bytes}}

 

Enjoy those fall flavors and give yourself an extra couple of minutes in the morning to enjoy a ready-to-eat meal. As an added bonus, making these in a jar gives them portability for those of you that don’t eat until you get to work, or want to wait until after your gym session. I like to make two on Sundays so my Monday and Wednesday breakfasts are all set. (One of these days I’ll share my Tuesday/Thursday recovery meal with you guys too.) If you’re making several servings, it works great to mix it all at once and then portion it into jars, but I don’t usually bother dirtying an extra bowl when I’m just making two at a time.

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PS – Not a pumpkin fan? I haven’t personally tried it but I’m pretty confident sweet potato puree would work just as well. Just make sure it’s blended smooth before you mix it into your pudding.

 

Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding

Makes one serving

Ingredients

1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk)
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp hemp hearts
1/2 – 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix
1/2 tsp maple syrup, to taste

1/2 cup 100% pumpkin puree (I buy Libby’s)

optional toppings
1-2 Tbsp toasted, chopped walnuts
extra drizzle of maple syrup
cinnamon

Directions

  1. In 12oz jar, whisk together milk, chia, protein powder (if using), spices, and syrup until completely combined.
  2. Gently stir in pumpkin until well mixed.
  3. Seal jar and place in the fridge overnight, or until ready to eat (up to one week).
  4. Enjoy plain or top with hemp hearts and/or toasted walnuts.

Carrot Ginger Soup

At the end of fall many folks are left with an abundance of root vegetables and winter squash and no idea what to do with them. Although M and I don’t quite have the garden space to have a surplus of anything (except mint), we are sometimes fortunate enough to share in the bounty of our friends. If you are bored of eating carrots raw or roasted, this is the recipe for you.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Cozy but light and with a little spice, this carrot ginger soup is perfect for those crisp fall days when you want to eat healthy but also want something cozy. It works great for both lunch and dinner, either as an entree or a side dish. I like to add lots of ginger and sometimes punch it up with the ground version, but you can keep it milder to fully appreciate the carrot flavor.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

The slight sweetness from the carrots and coconut milk complements the ginger and turmeric flavors beautifully, resulting in a warm dish both in temperature and flavor. You can peel the carrots or not, according to your preference, which means this soup has relatively minimal prep work involved as well. Conveniently, it is inherently vegan and gluten-free which makes it appropriate for almost any diet, and also reheats nicely for all my meal preppers out there.

For a different flavor you can incorporate other veggies too: grated zucchini lightens it even farther and I think a beet or two would be a lovely winter addition. Play around with the base to your heart’s content and be sure to report back on your favorite iterations.

Carrot Ginger Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I like to serve mine with toasted bread, either a baguette or slices of ginger cider bread (skip the rosemary and use your favorite ginger cider). It’s also excellent with some unsweetened shredded coconut (as shown in my pictures) sprinkled on top or an additional swirl of canned coconut milk. This is a super easy option to serve alongside although heavy Thanksgiving leftovers, so make sure you have an extra pound of carrots on hand.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Adapted from Everyday Easy Eats
Makes 4 (~1-cup) servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 carrots, chopped (peeled if you want)

2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger, to taste
1 tsp ground turmeric, to taste (optional)

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

Directions

  1. In a 4-quart pot heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and carrots and sauté until onions are translucent.
  3. Stir in broth and spices and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  4. Use an immersion blender to completely puree the soup, then blend in coconut milk.
  5. Taste and adjust spices as necessary, or thin with additional broth or coconut milk. If you add more spices, simmer another 5-10 minutes to allow them to blend.
  6. Serve hot and refrigerate leftovers up to one week.

Thanksgiving Slaw

Coleslaw is something I’ve never enjoyed; it took me until my late twenties to realize I really just didn’t enjoy the mayo-based versions. Shredded cabbage or other veggies in a lighter dressing is just a salad that’s easier to eat, but in my opinion mayo is not intended to be the focal flavor of a dish. (Cue Midwest outcry.) If you disagree, that’s just fine, but I hope you’ll still give this non-mayo coleslaw a try.

Thanksgiving Slaw {{Baking Bytes}}

A few months ago when my mom visited, we took a cooking class from Olivelle. The one that happened to fit with our schedule was a paleo menu, and even though neither of us are paleo I figured the menu sounded great and Olivelle has yet to disappoint me, so we gave it a whirl. As it turned out, it was one of my favorite classes to date (I’ve done…several…) and I loved every single recipe on the menu.

One of those recipes was a Brussels sprouts slaw. I don’t usually care for cruciferous vegetables in their raw state, but somehow after being shredded with cabbage and toasted pecans, folded with blueberries, and lightly coated in a fruity balsamic dressing, I was in love. Not only is this one of the few class recipes I’ve gotten around to making on my own, but I’ve made it three times since August despite having to borrow a food processor eat time.

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Since it’s vegan, paleo, gluten-free and pretty much every-diet-ever friendly, this is a wonderful dish to take to potlucks and gatherings. Even better, it’s great chilled but just fine at room temperature, and best when made ahead, giving you all the time to relax and actually enjoy the party. It also makes a great lunch alongside your protein of choice if you’re fortunate enough to have leftovers. As a bonus, the green sprouts contrast nicely with the purple of the cabbage and the red pomegranate seeds, making it aesthetically pleasing in addition to its fantastic flavors.

I made a few tweaks for an autumn version, resulting in a perfect Thanksgiving side that doesn’t need oven space, and/or a healthy addition to Christmas that maybe even the kids will enjoy. (No guarantees, this recipe was not tested on children.) The Brussels and cabbage base remains, but I opted for walnuts since I prefer them over pecans, and pomegranate seeds for their color and tartness. I 100% cheated and bought a container of seeds, but if you want to get in your work out and seed a pomegranate then by all means, please do so.

Thanksgiving Slaw {{Baking Bytes}}

The dressing is a lovely mix of Olivelle products, so if you’ve not jumped on their bandwagon for some reason then now (or actually, Black Friday) is the time to make the leap. If you’re still not ready, a substitution of regular olive oil and white balsamic vinegar with some splashes of blood orange and pomegranate juices might work out, but I have not tested it. (If you go this route and you like the result, share your recipe in the comments!)

Thanksgiving Slaw {{Baking Bytes}}

If you’re in the market for a healthy but different addition to your holiday table, and cannot stomach the thought of putting yet another dish in the oven, this is the recipe for you.

Thanksgiving Slaw

Adapted from Olivelle
Serves 6

Ingredients

1 lbs Brussels sprouts
1/2 small head red cabbage
1 cup walnuts (or nut of choice)
1 cup pomegranate seeds

dressing
1/3 cup Olivelle Harvest Fig or Vanilla Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar(Or a mix of both!)
1/3 cup Olivelle Blood Orange Olive Oil1
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp Olivelle Vanilla Bean Sea Salt (or regular salt)

Directions

  1. Use a food processor (or a grater and a lot of patience) to shred the sprouts and cabbage. (If you’re a novice at food processing, this works best if you do it in relatively small batches.) Add both to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Coarsely chop walnuts (by hand, or with the food processor). Add to a dry pan and toast lightly over medium heat until fragrant. (Or skip this step if you’re lazy or in a hurry – it’ll still be good just a slightly different nuttiness flavor.)
  3. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until well mixed. Taste for flavor preferences, and adjust if necessary.
  4. Pour over the sprouts and cabbage and stir with a rubber scraper until well coated.
  5. Fold in toasted nuts and pomegranate seeds.
  6. Store in the fridge until ready to serve – overnight is better – then enjoy chilled or at room temperature. Will keep for at least five days in the fridge.

Notes

If you have not purchased the entire Olivelle store, a substitution of 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, and pomegranate + blood orange juice to taste might work. This is an untested substitution so let me know if you try it!