Oat + Almond Chocolate Date Cookies

Dropping in quick with a delicious and nutritious treat to share. May, my favorite and birthday month, is whirling by too quick. I want to grasp late-spring and hold on to it for weeks longer. Bury my nose in the spring flowers. But alas, we move and run on.

I’m on for a longish Friday morning run once I hit publish on this recipe share, and will follow it with a full weekend of running before next week’s rest week. I’m all for the higher mileage weeks in spring and summer, and somehow the busy work and life weeks are lining up with the higher mileage running weeks. Not sure if that’s a good thing but it’s nice to have the lighter running weeks also be the lighter work weeks.

It’s some sort of balance anyway.

Related, just a teensy bit, to the running commentary above, I found out this morning that my childhood and teenage riding instructor/coach/mentor passed away in the last couple days. He was 92 and lived a full life of loving, encouraging, teaching, and leaving a lasting impression on so many — horses and kids/people. He will be deeply missed. By me certainly, but also by so many others.

Even though I’ve barely seen him in person the last few years, he is a person I think of often. That’s what happens when we have wonderful mentors. They leave an impression far beyond the period of life when we needed them for riding lessons or whatever it is, and weave their good-life-advice into our minds where it shows up at just the time we need it over the years beyond.

So even though I didn’t run regularly when I worked with him back then, his advice has often shown up in the way I handle a tough run workout or a bad result, and certainly in my work life with how I want the best for those I work with, and wonder about how they’re doing long after I’ve stopped teaching or working with them.

Those impressions that rub off and are pressed in.

Oat + Almond Chocolate Date Cookies, makes 12
These are a delicious quick treat to make and eat. They’re excellent for those who are active and want to enjoy snacks or treats that contribute to optimal athletic recovery rather than take away from it with excess refined sugars and flours. For the same reason, they work well for most when you’d love a sweet treat but are eating a gut healing/therapeutic diet or learning to eat with less processed dessert products. Note these are flour-free but not grain free.
Helpful Notes:
– Grind old-fashioned oats into a smaller texture by pulsing a few times in a food processor or coffee/spice grinder.
– For certified organic and gluten-free oats in the US, my preferred supplier is Edison Grainery.
– If you’re avoiding nuts, use sunflower butter or tahini and grind raw sunflower seeds into a “flour” using a clean coffee grinder.
– Purchase a good-quality dark chocolate bar and chop it into chunks. You’ll taste the difference over purchasing a lower-quality chocolate. For a list of good quality/fair-trade chocolates and which ones are better to avoid, see here.

1/4 cup / 37 g packed pitted dates (about 3 large dates)
3 Tbs. / 45 ml warm water
2 Tbs. / 27 g coconut oil
2 Tbs. /40 ml maple syrup
2 Tbs. / 14 g ground flax seeds
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup / 128 g almond butter (or another nut/seed butter)
1/2 cup / 50 g quick oats
1/4 cup / 28 g almond flour
3/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup / 35 g dark chocolate chunks, (chop a dark chocolate bar until you have 1/4 cup of chunks)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pitted dates and warm water in a food processor or blender and soak for at least 5 minutes.
  • Add the coconut oil and maple syrup to the dates and water and blend until smooth. Then transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl.
  • Add the ground flax and vanilla, along with the almond butter. Stir until mixed well.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients until well combined. I haven’t tried it yet, but in enjoying some of this last batch, I’ve decided that just a little finely diced candied ginger added to the mixture would be a truly excellent addition. Try it if you think so too. :)
  • Drop the dough by tablespoons or using a cookie scoop into 12 equal portions on a baking pan and bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on your pan and oven. These will be a little softer at first, but will also stay softer for a few days compared to other drop cookies.
  • Let cool on the pan for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

chocolate energy bars, 2 ways: coconut mocha & chocolate, peanut butter + sea salt

chocolate energy bars, 2 ways: coconut mocha & chocolate, peanut butter + sea salt

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When I first changed my diet fairly drastically by removing gluten and then dairy, I did so with a totalitarian “whole foods only” frame of my mind. It was back in 2012, sort of at the onset of the gluten-free fad, when all sorts of new gluten-free processed foods were really starting to become mainstream. If I were going to be eating almost vegan and free of “normal flours,” I thought, I was going to do it all the way. I did not purchase or try gluten-free baked goods or vegan cheese.  If the ingredient wasn’t in basically the same form I could find it in nature, it wasn’t something I ate.

But there was also a double standard because I was really into baking then and still had a strong taste for sugar, so there were exceptions. Namely, I went through a phase of being obsessed with figuring out how to bake bread, pizza crust, desserts, etc. free of gluten and then dairy as well. Even though I don’t bake a lot anymore, and my flour cupboard generally gets much less use than ever before, I’m thankful for that baking phase because when I want it now, I have some really good staple recipes to draw from and the basic science of whole grain gluten-free and vegan baking down.

 

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These days, I’ve ventured into a way of eating that is a little less rigid than it was then–or perhaps it’s rigid in a different way and I can’t quite see it. In any case, I’m okay with a little more processing making its way into my recipes and meals. I began that because I recognized rigidity and eating perfectly is a hallmark of my disordered eating behavior. So recognizing that and doing something about it is why I started eating tofu and tempeh on an occasional basis. It’s why I nearly always have nutritional yeast in the pantry now, though I don’t use it super often. It’s why I made myself a big batch of Valentine’s cookies that were exactly what I wanted and then proceeded to eat the entire batch over the next two weeks, each day asking myself if I actually wanted a cookie, or perhaps many cookies, and each day eating exactly how many I was desiring. It’s also why I began to warm a little more to the idea of protein powder.

It turns out too that I might actually need more protein in my diet. Despite the general consensus (in the plant-based nutrition community anyway) that almost no one in the US actually needs more protein, I’m one of the few that might actually gain from eating more of it–for a couple of different reasons that have nothing to do with generally avoiding animal products but still add up to: providing our bodies with the right amount and types of foods is personal, and definitely not a constant. Adding more protein to my diet, strategically, is a current experiment I’m running. I’m not entirely sure it is necessary or will have the effects I’m looking for. But the protein powder is an easy way for me to adjust my eating patterns without making a drastic dietary overhaul.

 

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I want to mention too, I’m sharing these bars purposefully during #NEDAwareness week. If you aren’t familiar with NEDA, it is the National Eating Disorders Association and February 26-March 3rd is a week of increased advocacy about eating disorder recovery and awareness. If you’ve been visiting this space for some time or have read my About section, you’ll know I struggled with the eating side of that equation for several years, sometimes still do, and have since been doing much of the mental side of recovery more recently. Probably similar to many who have struggled with disordered eating behavior, I did not have much in the way of emotional support in the early years following reaching a restored weight. In fact, I often received, and still do to some extent, a lot of push-back about coming to a way of eating that works for me, and there were many individuals who really pushed me into stressful situations around food, for the sheer fact that they were completely unaware of my history or that struggling with food is about much more than a desire/dislike for eating too little or too much. And it is the part that tends to linger on. Often quite invisibly.

NEDA’s theme this year is It’s Time to Talk About It. As NEDA has stated:
It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time we bust the myths and get the facts. It’s time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It’s time to take action and fight for change. It’s time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care.

I couldn’t agree more. In the interest of keeping it really real for just a moment more, a few of you know I started writing even a little more personally about my continued recovery process in this last year. My general theme has been using that space as an online journal to completely lay out what I’m working with because writing and releasing it beyond me is immensely helpful. It has been the most intensely scary and sometimes challenging writing I’ve done. It has made me feel incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of the beliefs and views I hold on to. But acknowledging those challenging feelings has helped me to release and slowly grow beyond them as well. This is all to say, feel free to catch up with me there. And if you find that you, or someone you care for, is struggling with what might be an eating disorder, please reach out to someone. It ended up making all the difference for me.    

 

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Now, I’m sharing these energy bars because I think of them as my recovery snacks. I tend to eat granola/energy bars in the mid-mornings or mid-afternoons on a fairly regular basis and generally I make my own. I designed these with the idea of eating them after a run to kickstart the recovery process when a larger meal isn’t coming super soon. So they have more of the suggested endurance recovery carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3 or 4:1. But I also find I can handle a portion of a bar 30-45 minutes before a hard effort too with no problems. And because of the slightly higher protein content, I also have been using them whenever I just need a snack in general since they are a slightly better option right now than my old stand-by of mesa sunrise and almond milk.

I recognize these are specialty bars, designed for a specific person and purpose. But if you like the idea of a Coconut Mocha or Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar that is delicious and nutritious, these might be for you too. If you’re not overly concerned about needing more protein, there are options for alternatives as well.

 

Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Bars, makes 8
1/2 cup (100 g) peanut butter
6 (100 g) pitted Medjool dates
6 Tbs. (50 g) hemp protein powder*
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. (10 ml) raw honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups (50 g) crispy rice cereal, gluten-free if necessary
2 Tbs. +2 tsp. (40 ml) water
1 square (10 g) dark chocolate, broken into chunks
additional sea salt for topping

  • Puree the peanut butter, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and honey in a food processor until completely combined.
  • Add cereal and 2 Tbs. water and pulse a few times more until it just comes together. Add a little more water as needed. Then stir in the chocolate chunks.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Then, sprinkle with a few shakes of additional sea salt, and gently press in. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and then cut into individual bars, store, and eat as needed. They will last in the fridge for at least two weeks with no change in texture/consistency.

Coconut Mocha Bars, makes 8
1/4 cup (50 g) cashew butter
2 Tbs. (10 g) coffee beans, finely ground
1/4 cup (30 g) shredded unsweetened coconut
6 (100 g) pitted Medjool dates
6 Tbs. (50 g) hemp protein powder*
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. (5 ml) coconut oil
1 Tbs. (15 ml) maple syrup
2 cups (65 g) crispy rice cereal, gluten-free if necessary
2 Tbs. + 2 tsp. (40 ml) water
2 squares (20 g) dark chocolate, broken into chunks

  • Puree the cashew butter, ground coffee beans, coconut, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, coconut oil, and syrup in a food processor until completely combined.
  • Then add the cereal and 2 Tbs. water as needed. It should come together easily when you pinch the ingredients with your fingers. Add a little more water if needed.
  • Then stir in the chocolate chunks.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cutting, storing or eating.

*Notes: For a hemp protein alternative, try another plain plant protein powder such as pea or rice, or use the same quantity (by weight) of hemp, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.

a powerful place: running, faith, life lessons

a powerful place: running, faith, life lessons
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I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.  – Kurt Vonnegut

 

I’ve shared little snippets about my running injury over the last year or so, and even more about the upheaval to do with my eating disorder which came to the surface when I stopped running. My thinking about my body and my relationship to running was exceptionally anxious, fearful, obsessive, and controlling, and it took me a while to become aware, accept, and then work on that. At the same time, I feel less anxious and obsessive, and much more connected and active in my faith through running. This is a continuation of my processing, and I’ll share a summary at the end of this post:

 

Something changed one day. Or perhaps it was a gradual transition and one day it came into awareness. I was running in Alton Baker Park. It was mid-February and I was on the outer edge of Pre’s Trail and I had this thought: What if it all just doesn’t matter? What if all these things I’ve been worrying about and building up are not big deals? What if I set them down and walk away? What if this were my last run and tomorrow I go back to riding horses instead? Immediately, the response was there. It was a very noncommittal shoulder shrug saying, Sure, that would be fine. 

The manic part of my brain fired back, You’re thinking that because you’re in the middle of a long run, in your happy place. You won’t be so happy tomorrow when you’re not experiencing this. There was fear in that thought, the fear of the what-ifs related to my body and my desire to control it. Those fears have plagued me.

But over the next several weeks, I kept circling back to that shoulder shrug, that lets not give such a fuck attitude. And I think right there I set down a little of the load, the attachment to an outcome, and there has since been a little space between where I’m at in the moment and what I wish for the future with running.

I am a little less attached to it, and certainly less anxious. On days when my feet or legs or body hurts in ways that are unexplainable, I’m often able to set down the pain and feel it only in the moment, not worrying so much about whether it will be there in the next moment, in the next day, in the way of the things I want to accomplish out there. I’ve stopped printing my weekly training plan and some days I have no idea what the next day will bring, nor do I overly care so much. I used to know every detail of what the week ahead would hold. 

I really don’t know what led to the change in my relationship with running, but because it was important, I prayed about it. I prayed for well over a year, often desperately. In January and February of last year, when I was not running, I was at a low point. William tried to console me one evening, It’s just a little injury. Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll be back to normal. You’re fine. 

It’s not, though, I responded. This is major. This is going to take a very long time. I don’t know how but sometimes I just know things. I knew the ‘little’ injury no one could explain was not so little, that it went way beyond the physical, that it was going to change me. That I had a long climb down before I could start climbing back up. In my desperate conversations with Jesus, I asked him to make it obvious if the answer was no, if I needed to set down this running hobby. I asked him to slam the door shut in my face and please, oh please God, just take away my desire to run. Help me find other hobbies. Help me find balance that is healthy. Help me not trade one obsessive, addictive tendency for another, i.e. food for running and vice versa.

 

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He did not slam the door shut in my face. There was a crack, and I cautiously, fearfully tip-toed through it, all the while expecting it to still slam closed. Even so, I’d catch glimpses of affirmation, out of nowhere, often on days that were otherwise real downers. One came sometime in the fall. I was in the middle of a run, in pain, frustrated, and a little depressed about the situation. Even so, I was like an earthworm; I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel, even if I could not see it. That little gift of His affirmation was enough to keep me trudging upwards through the mud. 

At some point, months before that February run in ABP, I stopped praying about running or physical healing without even realizing it, and my conversations with Jesus were more friend-like, not so tied to an outcome, and more in line with asking for direction with the big-picture of life, and not some non-essential hobby.

It’s often hard to say where one story ends and another begins. I don’t know when I began identifying myself as perpetually injured, or not good enough, or not worthy enough to go after goals. Or when I decided to set down that story and begin another one. It probably doesn’t matter. And I can’t really explain it, not even to myself. Why running? And why share about it? Why write and have an often too-personal blog? During the past year of prayer, several things became clear: It’s not really about me and there’s a purpose here that I don’t get to understand right now. I have some unsettled, fuzzy, too-big-to-understand running dreams that won’t go away, no matter how much I try to make them. The door keeps quietly opening, little by little, and though I’m afraid to try, I hear Him asking me to keep walking with faith, a few steps each day.

Like that day in Alton Baker Park, more recently on another run that wasn’t going all that well, I had another flash of realization. I realized I feel in a very powerful place these days, truly as if there is an energy in my physical and spiritual self not entirely of me, as this unexplainable journey I’ve been on, with all its painful, difficult, individual traumas is part of the transition upwards, out of the mindset of I can’t, I don’t get to, and I’m not good enough that I’ve been carrying around during this lifetime. In that moment, the journey itself sparkled beautifully before me, with all its ups and downs. I realized then I want to explore a concept I haven’t explored in a while: What if I can? What if I get to? What if I am good enough? What if I stop worrying about whether the door will slam in my face and instead concentrate on finding out what’s on the other side of the door? 

 

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I want to find out what I’m capable of; I want to find out what He is capable of doing in me. I want to do His work. I want to walk to the edge where He leads and see what He has for me to see. Right now, for whatever reason, running is part of that. And even though I feel in a powerful place, there are still doubts. There are days and little moments where I take a step back, look at the bigger picture of how I currently feel physically and what quiet affirmations I feel in my heart, and tell myself, lady, you’re either really fucking crazy, or on to something. I prefer to believe I’m on to something.

 

Reflection: I want to make clear this is my journey, and I’ve had a whole slew of professionals advise me. I do not recommend running through an injury unless under the supervision of a professional. I also have explored, in depth, my relationship between running, my eating disorder, and other behaviors that allow me to gain control. Running has always been intricately linked to my eating disorder, as I began running shortly before I began controlling food, and it likely served as a catalyst for the ensuing food and body image problems to surface. With that being said, those problems were there long before I began running regularly, and running has become one of the ways I deeply connect with my faith, with where I learn about myself, with how I finally came to love and feel comfortable in my body, and where I let go of other life problems. Two great articles I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks include Gena’s reflection on How it Feels to Leave an Eating Disorder Behind and When Exercise Becomes an Addiction. I believe there is a place for endurance and/or competitive sports in the recovery process, and really enjoyed Julia’s podcast interview with Rich Roll on How to Take Ownership of Your Evolution, especially his thoughts on how athletic endeavors can fit into the recovery journey.