Tag Archives: paleo

Stuffed Energy Dates – a natural, Paleo alternative to energy gels

Since going Paleo, I’ve started experimenting with natural race fuel – the chemical-laden Gu and Chomps just taste weird to me now and upset my stomach. I’ve carried dried fruit, made my own gels using fruit, chia seeds and sweet potatoes, and I’ve messed around with the recipe I’m about to share now – medjool dates stuffed with coconut oil and cocoa powder. It’s my absolute favorite way to fuel before, during and after a race, training run or workout.

Dates contain easily digestible simple sugars plus fiber that helps stabilize blood sugar. The high levels of potassium help keep your electrolytes balanced and the magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory. Iron and B-complex vitamins help boost energy. Dates also contain calcium, Vitamin K and phenols (antioxidant compounds that protect cells against damaging free radicals). So much nutrition in such a small package!

I use the coconut oil because of the MCT (medium chain triglycerides). Coconut oil is metabolized like a carbohydrate – The fatty acids are sent directly to the liver for conversion into energy and not into body tissues as fat. The cocoa powder is rich in potassium and contains energy-boosting caffeine and theobromine (which is also a mood booster). Potassium chloride AKA salt substitute helps strike a better electrolyte balance than sea salt (although for training sessions shorter than 3 hours, you don’t really need the extra potassium anyway, as long as you replenish post-workout).

Okay, so now you know why. Let’s talk about how!

Mise en place (Anne Burrell would be so proud)

Mise en place (Anne Burrell would be so proud)

What you will need to make a dozen of these little energy bombs:

12 large medjool dates (fresh are softer and easier to work with than dried)

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Potassium chloride (sold as “salt substitute” in your grocery)

The process:

Using a sharp knife, carefully slit each date without cutting completely in half and remove the pit in each, then spread the halves apart so they fold open like sticky little books.


Next, mix the 1/4 cup of coconut oil with 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder until it forms a brownie-batter like consistency. You can use less cocoa if you like. I won’t micromanage your taste buds.


Use a teaspoon to measure out the amount you’ll put in each date. You may use a bit more or less depending on the size of each date.  Spread cocoa/oil mixture inside each half and then sprinkle with the salt substitute.


Smush the halves of each date back together and pinch the edges slightly to seal. Now it’s time to wrap them!  I use Glad Press’n’Seal, although foil works well too. I wrap these as shown below (more info later on why, beyond easy wrapper removal):

corner to corner instead of edge to edge is easier to open on the run

corner to corner instead of edge to edge is easier to open on the rundates9

After wrapping each date individually, they’re ready to go into a baggie and then into your fuel carrying system. I can fit 6 dates into a snack-sized bag, which goes into my SPI belt. It’ll hold more, but this is usually all I need.


These are great for pre- and mid-run, but for fast post-run fuel (or for when I need a little change in flavor and a bit of protein), I like to stuff them with cashew butter or almond butter instead. Same concept, less mixing.


To tell them apart in my bag without having to inspect them, I wrap the ones filled with nut butter like candies, twisting the long ends of each. I usually mark a C or A on the wrapper depending on which nut butter I use, but it’s easier to feel the difference in wrapper than it is to read the writing when running.


There you have it! Natural, portable energy that can be consumed on the run, on the bench in a derby bout or between sets in the gym. Nothing fake and you can control what goes into your fitness nutrition.

For the sake of comparison, here are the nutrition facts for my recipe vs. Gu. Since it is not an exact 1:1 ratio on carbs, you may have to play around a bit with how frequently you consume these as opposed to how frequently you’d use Gu. As I become fat-adapted, I notice I need fewer and at longer intervals than I did when I was weaning myself off of the carb-heavy diet I used to consume.

Nutrition info for coconut oil stuffed dates

Nutrition info for coconut oil stuffed dates

Nutrition info for Gu (varies slightly by flavor)

Nutrition info for Gu (varies slightly by flavor)

I hope you enjoy these – please let me know what you think!  I welcome feedback and I’d love to know what works (and doesn’t work) for you. My next post will be about some of the other options I’ve tried – I’ll include the recipes for the homemade gel and sweet potato puree I like to use.

Stuffed Apples and Banana Sorbet with Caramel Swirl

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe (or anything, really), so today you get a dynamic duo.  Well, a terrific trio, technically.  We’ve been iced in for several days now in what Dallasites are calling Icepocalypse 2013, so I’ve been even more domestic than usual. (Mostly because the kitchen is the warmest room in this little old house.)

My dear friend Glo mentioned baked apples yesterday, which of course sparked a craving that I couldn’t shake ’til it was satisfied. I wanted to make a healthier version than the traditional recipes that call for sugar and butter, but a Google search yielded some disappointing results (since when are flavored protein powders, sugar-free artificially flavored syrups and packaged cereals clean?), so I threw together this recipe with the clean-eating  staples in my pantry.

Since the apples looked too virtuous on their own, I figured the perfect accompaniment would be a scoop of decadent ice cream.  Of course we have none in the house, so I tossed some bananas in the freezer for a sorbet. What I really was pining for was a scoop of Blue Bell’s Pecan Pralines and Cream – mostly for the caramel ribbon swirled throughout. I am a sucker for anything with caramel!  I didn’t have any cream and didn’t want to use a ton of butter, but I did have coconut milk, coconut palm sugar, raw honey and a basic understanding of how to make caramel – so I figured I could get pretty close to the favor profile I was looking for without a ton of calories.

If you have never made sorbet with frozen bananas, you are missing out on something special. I added a bit of Greek yogurt to enhance the creaminess, but it’s not necessary to achieve the right texture if you want to keep your dessert vegan. Maple syrup can be used instead of honey for the caramel, too.

The verdict: my husband proclaimed it to be “spectacular” and I not-so-humbly agree.

Blogs with 58 how-to pictures before the actual recipe drive me crazy (I know how to pour water without a visual aid, Pioneer Woman), so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Here’s the end result:


A few quick notes about these recipes:

The apple recipe makes 2 servings, and can easily be increased to feed more faces. The sorbet made about 4 scoops, so we had half with our apples  last night and we’ll have the other half with whatever I make tonight.

Throw the sliced bananas in the freezer an hour or two before you start the apples so they’ll be frozen in time for everything to come out together.

The caramel sauce makes a bit more than a cup, so use a bit for this and save the rest for homemade salted caramel mochas. I made the caramel while the apples baked but next time I’ll make and chill it ahead of time so it’s easier to make thick swirls through the sorbet.  (Completely blending the two together will result in a delightful dulce de leche flavored sorbet that begs for a light sprinkle of crunchy sea salt.)

Stuffed Apples:


2 apples (I used Pink Lady, of course)

2 tablespoons old fashioned oats

2 tablespoons almond butter

1 dried date, chopped (for sweetness/moisture – you could use a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey here instead if you like)

1 tablespoon dried cranberries, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 cup of water

Optional topping:

1 tablespoon chopped pecans, divided

2 teaspoons coconut oil, divided


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a paring knife, melon baller or other apple coring tool, remove cores from apples. (if I can save any apple flesh from the core, I chop it finely and add it to the filling).

In a mixing bowl, combine oats, almond butter, dates, cranberries, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix well to combine, moistening with a bit of water if it’s too thick to stir.

Pack wells of apples firmly with filling. Combine pecans and coconut oil and sprinkle on top each apple. Place apples in a baking dish, pour the water into bottom of dish and cover loosely with foil.  Place in oven for 20ish minutes, then remove foil and bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. Apple skins will be wrinkled and a knife should slide through its flesh easily when poked with a paring knife.

While your apples bake, whip up that sorbet.

Banana Sorbet 


2 bananas – peeled, sliced and frozen for 1-2 hours

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or you can scrape some seeds out of a vanilla bean, which I prefer)

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend ’til creamy, stopping the machine a few times to scrape mixture down sides of container and make sure all chunks are smoothing out. Spoon into glass dish and pop in the freezer to firm up while you mix up the caramel sauce.

Coconut Milk Caramel Sauce 


1 can (or 14 oz) coconut milk (full fat works better than light for texture)

1/4 cup raw honey (or maple syrup)

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Whisk first 3 ingredients together in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat so it doesn’t bubble over. Let it boil low uncovered at a low roll until it thickens and darkens, stirring frequently.  It’ll take about 15-20 minutes for your caramel to reduce to a little over a cup of dark amber goo. Remove from heat and add salt, stirring ’til smooth. Place in fridge to cool off a bit before adding to sorbet.

To assemble ice cream: swirl a generous vein of caramel through sorbet – if you really wanna get fancy, throw a teaspoon or two of chopped pecans in to further pay homage to the famous Blue Bell flavor.  Serve alongside apple, or split apple in half and top each side with a scoop of sorbet.

Try it and let me know what you think!  I welcome feedback.

Paleo-Friendly Banana-Pumpkin Muffins

It doesn’t really feel like fall yet here in Texas, but I’m already craving pumpkin EVERYTHING. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bisque, pumpkin ravioli…and of course my favorite, pumpkin bread.

Ah, but I don’t eat much wheat flour anymore, and I’m cutting way back on sugar and butter these days. So my grandmother’s old recipes don’t stand the test of time in my kitchen (sorry, Mam-Maw).  I’m keeping her recipe cards for sentimental reasons, but for a lighter alternative, I turned to Ye Olde Internet.

I wanted a recipe that called for almond meal (I’ve been experimenting a lot with it lately – it makes a beautiful coating for tilapia, FYI) so I started with this beautifully photographed blog. As with all recipes and IKEA instructions, I skimmed for the main gist and then whipped up a reasonable facsimile that worked for me.


Mix together in a large bowl:

3 mashed bananas (this is a great way to use up those overripe ones on your counter)

1 ½ cups pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

2 eggs

Then add:

2 cups almond meal

1 tsp sea salt

1 ½ tsp baking soda

½ cup hulled pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp chia seeds (because I put them in EVERYTHING)

1 tsp cinnamon

Mix again, then spoon batter into 12 muffin cups greased with coconut oil and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. They will look dark, but they will be juuuust right. Slide a butterknife around the edges to loosen them, then remove from muffin cups and let cool on a wire rack or plate.


The verdict? AMAZING.  Delicately crisp exterior, super-moist but not too dense interior.  The crunch of the pumpkin seeds and chia seeds added just the right amount of texture to keep it from tasting too much like cake (side note: I would MUCH rather have these than cake for my birthday this year). They’d probably taste sublime split in half and spread with a smidgen of coconut oil if you’re feeling indulgent, but they don’t need it.

These muffins are grain-free, dairy-free and contain no sweeteners beyond those delicious bananas. You can add more cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice mix or ground cloves if they’re not sweet enough for you, but I guarantee you will not miss the sugar or flour. Try them and tell me what you think!