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2011 was pretty good to us.

We saw some beautiful places, spent time with friends and family, went on adventures, ate amazing food, tried new things, enjoyed our little house and each other…

{This pic is from the inside of a car wash. Sweet, huh?! It has nothing to do with 2011.}

Every bit of it was great, but I do have some yummy little discoveries I’ve made in 2011 (or grew to love even MORE) that are my favorites

Okay, okay. If you ask the Husband, he might even go so far as to say obsessions.

Nah.

Well, maybe just a little bit.

A few are little odd (I mean, If I say “I love hummus”, you’ll just roll your eyes and say, “duh!. You and everyone else on the planet!) So, get ready to find some new things and branch out a little bit… totally worth it.

1. La Croix Sparkling Water – Coconut and Pamplemousse flavors:

I discovered this delightful, bubbly water in a can a few years ago, and I have one almost every day. No sugar or artificial sweeteners, no sodium, no artificial flavors or colors: just pure water, natural hint of fruity flavor and bubbles. Gotta love bubbles. I often mix half of a can with a dash of fruit juice and a handful of ice for a late-night TV watching snack. Easy to pack for lunches, good for you, and a great way to “quit” a pop habit. Find them a Kroger, Wal-Mart and lots of other stores in the “drink mixers” section!

2. Pineapple Chobani Greek Yogurt:

This yummy treat packs protein AND a grandma’s-amazing-marshmallow-fruit-fluff-salad-like flavor that makes my mouth water just thinking about it. We love a lot of Chobani’s flavors (lemon and blood orange are also favorites. But beware – passion fruit has funky crunchy seeds in it…).

Great 3:00p.m. office snacks and easy to pack. Grab ‘em on sale for just a buck, or get a coupon here. Beware. Your man might ALWAYS steal the last one. Not that I’m bitter…

3. Morning Wheat Grass Smoothies:

I originally hated the cliche, and hated the taste. That is, until I tried one that was perfect for a “long weekend detox”!

And may or may not have tasted like an old favorite from Arby’s.

“JaMocha” Detox Shake

Makes one shake

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop wheat grass powder (I like Amazing Grass Wheat grass powder. They have a lot of great products for kids and adults who need a little green in their lives. Or, substitute a few handfuls of fresh spinach)
  • 1/2 to 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I’ve been using Designer Whey - 100 cal per scoop, no artificial sugars – but there are a lot of great options out there)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin (Weird, but totally necessary for texture. You can’t taste it!)
  • About 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 T instant coffee powder
  • 6-8 Ice cubes
  • Splash of water
  • Directions:

Just toss everything in and blend until smooth! A ton of vitamins, protein and fiber, with  a slightly “green” mocha flavor. For a richer chocolate flavor, add a little unsweetened cocoa powder or use chocolate almond milk. It might take a few tries for you to adjust or find the right mix, but I wake up craving these quick little meals!

4. Sweet-Potato-in-a-Bag:

Sounds weird, but it’s the been the best thing for my lunchbox since sliced bread. Just wash a sweet potato, cut off a little of each end, poke several holes, then place in a heavy-duty Zip-Loc bag. When you’re ready to each, just open the bad a little at one corner to vent, and pop in the microwave for a few minutes until tender. I like to chop it up with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a little salt and pepper – filling, easy and delish with a side salad, an icy cold La Croix and an apple for dessert.

5. Thinly Sliced Apples with Cinnamon:

Simple, yet so, so good.My “yay for good life decisions” movie snack of choice, I love to slice a huge apple (Honeycrisp!) as thin as I can and sprinkle it with heavy dose of healthy cinnamon. It fills a whole plate and I can eat is slow…

Love that crunch!

6. Plain Yogurt with Starbucks VIA dust or Powdered PB:

You know of my love for zero fat FAGE – just mix in a quarter of a packet of Starbucks VIA  or a 1/4 t instant coffee (note: it won’t be sweet – tastes like black coffee! Add a drizzle of honey or agave for a little sweetness) and you have an awesome treat with maybe just a couple of added calories! PB2 is a fun, quirky product made of peanuts that have had the oil squeezed out of them. You end up with a powder packed with peanut flavor, but with 85% less fat! Nothing artificial and perfect for smoothies, sauces, spreads and… making PB “mousse” with plain or vanilla yogurt. Mmmmm….

7. Justin’s Maple Almond Butter – On anything.:

I’ve tried a LOT of great nut butters over the years, but Justin’s Maple Almond Butter is my favorite. All of Justin’s  butters are available in cute, perfectly portioned to-go packs that are ideal for traveling or packing in your lunch to take to the office. Add it to hotel oatmeal or an apple at the airport for a great snack and a filling breakfast, or use it in your “emergency stash” for when you get stuck at work late… don’t be too proud to eat it right out of the container.

8. Homemade Mocha Protein Bars:
I love me some bars. Of the granola, protein, chocolate, I-might-not-even-really-need-a-snack variety. Sadly, a lot of those chewy little suckers also pack a list of ingredients my little sister can’t pronounce. And that’s the rule: if your nine year old sister can’t read the ingredient list, you shouldn’t be eating it.

Try these instead….

Mocha Protein Bars

Inspired by MaMa Pea’s Chocolate Chip Zee BarsMakes 10 bars

Ingredients:

    • 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
    • 1/2 c. oat flour (aka old-fashioned oats ground into a flour)
    • 1/2 c. chocolate protein powder
    • 1/2 t. salt
    • 1 T. baking powder
    • 1/2 c. + 2 T. sweetened applesauce (if you use unsweetened, add sugar to taste)
    • 1/2 c. + 2 T. almond milk
    • 1 t. vanilla
    • 1/4 t. cinnamon
    • 1/4 c. + 3 T. chopped dark chocolate
    • 1 T instant coffee powder (do you see a trend here?)
    • For topping, if desired: 3T dark chocolate, 1t. coconut oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine oat flour, oats, protein powder, baking powder, salt, coffee and cinnamon.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine applesauce, vanilla and milk.
  • Add applesauce mixture to oat mixture and stir until just combined. Add stevia to taste. Fold in 1/4 c. of chopped dark chocolate.
  • Pour mixture into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until bar is set and pulling away from edge of pan.
  • Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
  • For chocolate drizzle (optional – you may, like me, choose to put all of your chocolate inside the bars!), place 3 T. of chocolate chips in a resealable plastic bag and microwave in 30 second increments, kneading bag until chocolate has melted.
  • Add coconut oil to melted chocolate and knead again.
  • Snip a tiny corner of the bag with a pair of scissors. Pipe chocolate across cooled bars and stick bars in fridge or freezer to allow chocolate to set, if desired.
  • Store remaining bars in the fridge, or freeze for later!

The Husband totally thought I was kidding when I told him these puppies were good for him. At about 135 calories a piece and more than 10g of protein, I’m not lyin’!

9. Frozen Grapes:

Ok, kind of a “duh”, but always so good! The perfect snack to eat while reading a good book… or any time you shouldn’t mindlessly eat chip after chip… (grape after grape isn’t nearly as bad).

Speaking of chips:

10. Baked Hummus Chips, or Sweet Potato Chips Dipped in Greek Yogurt:

Tie. I love both for the crunch… sometimes you’ve just got to have a little snap with your sandwich or wrap (that isn’t a carrot. Let’s face it. They don’t always cut it.). Try Humbles Lemon and Feta or Sesame Garlic nestled by your next lunch (TONS of flavor, 55% less fat than potato chips! Find them at Whole Foods, or… TJ Maxx, like me!). Another fav is to grab some more FAGE and a few Food Should Taste Good sweet potato chips to scoop just like a sour cream dip. Touch of salt, bunch of crunch, hint of creamy… just do it.

Well I hope these ideas inspired you to branch out a bit with your snacking and lunch items this fresh, new year. Dive in. It’s so fun!

Do you have any healthy snacks to share?

Here are a few other “Best Snack” lists to try:

Peas & Thank You: Snacks and Treats

Eat, Live, Run: A Good Snack

Oh She Glows: Kid-Friendly Snacks

Iowa Girl Eats: Best Healthy Snack Ideas

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On a totally different note, here are my favorite Christmas presents:

{Ahhh – who knew they made Nutella “To-Go”?!}

And yes, the camera did beat the cocoa-hazelnut spread by a small margin.

Get ready for some beautiful new photography…. as soon as I figure out how to turn this thing on.

Jk.

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