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granola bars

I decided to have a little more fun while my fruit was dehydrating, so I whipped up some homemade granola bars that I found on another blogger website: Katheats.com

They were super easy to make.  I substituted some of my own ingredients in the bars, since I had them on hand.  You could basically use any type of dried fruit and/or nuts you have on hand!

Homemade Granola Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit (I used 1/4 cup raisins, 1/4 cup craisins, 1/4 cup apricots)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.25 cups skim milk
  • 1 egg or egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Directions:

    1.  Preheat oven to 350°.

    2.  Mix dry ingredients.

    3.  Mix wet ingredients.

    4. Pour wet into dry.  Stir to combine.

    5.  Pour into a 9 x 9 baking dish either coated in cooking spray or lined with parchment.

    6.  Bake for 40 minutes.

    7.  Cut into 9 squares.  Wrap individually and freeze for an on-the-go treat!

    These smelled delicious while they were cooking!  Upon taking them out, I dug right in to try a piece and I was a little disappointed.  I would like them to be a tad sweeter.  Next time I will add some agave or honey or brown sugar!  My husband doesn’t agree though, he loves them!

    dried fruit

    I got a few fun new toys for Christmas that you will get a glimpse at in the next few weeks!  My first new toy is a dehydrator!  How fun is that?!  I love heathly eating and loved dried fruit, but hate that so much of the dried fruit out there is full of added sugar!!  And, when you find the types that are not full of sugar, they are so much more expensive.

    So, on our way home from NY, we stopped at Stew Leonards in Connecticut to pick up some fresh fruit to dehydrate!  We got a pineapple, 2 pears, 5 kiwis, a mango and some bananas.  I could not wait to try my new toy!

    It was much easier that I had expected.  Basically, you cut up the fruit (trying to make them the same thickness so that they dehydrate at the same speed), place them in the machine and plug it in!  The manual says that some fruit should be pre-treated (dipped in lemon, or something else acidic, to keep them from turning brown), but I did not pre-treat anything.  I wanted to see how everything worked naturally!

    My fruit all cut up and ready to go: pineapple, kiwi, mango, pear and banana.

    Then, I placed the fruit on the 4 trays:

    There are different settings for fruits, veggies, jerky, etc.  I stacked the trays together and turned this to 135°F for fruit.

    The fruit I chose, dried at similar times according to the owner’s manual, but the kiwi’s and mango’s dried a little faster and ended up a little harder.  I set the machine up before bedtime to let it work it’s magic overnight!  10 hours later, I had homemade dried fruit!!

    It is delicious!  (And, I had some taste testers make sure I wasn’t being biased!)  This fruit, especially the pineapple, is still sweet and delicious and much better tasting than any store bought dried fruit.

    christmas!

    I love the holidays and I am a little sad that Christmas is over!  We spent the holiday at my in-laws and celebrated holiday cheer all weekend!  We started with our own Christmas at our condo before heading down to New York.  We opened gifts and watched A Christmas Story by our Christmas Tree!

    Next up, the in-laws tree!

    On Christmas day we made the trek out to the east end of Long Island for dinner with my mother-in-law’s side of the family.  We ate, drank, sang Christmas carols and had the famous yankee swap!  Some snapshots below of all the fun times!

    Merry Christmas!!

    nutty for coconut

    I was just doing some research, for my own personal benefit, and came across all of these tremendous health benefits of coconut!  I absolutely love coconut – the coconut meat, water, oil – everything about it!  And, it is all good for you!  Many people try to stay away from coconut (and do the same thing with nut butters!) because of the high fat content, however, those people are missing out on the super health benefits that this fruit (and all of it’s parts) have.

    I have read about the benefits of coconut before, during my marathon training, because I had seen coconut water in the grocery store and wanted a healthier alternative to boost my electrolytes (instead of drinking gatorade) after my long runs.  I now drink coconut water multiple times per week just because I love it!

    I was interested in more research on other parts of the coconut, so I began again…

    I found a great website, Coconut Research Center, which highlights the importance of coconut in a diet, as well as, for medical purposes.  I read through their list of health benefits, and have included a list of 10 highlights (or benefits that stuck out to me!):

    • Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
    • Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
    • Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
    • Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
    • Supports tissue healing and repair.
    • Supports and aids immune system function.
    • Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
    • Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
    • Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
    • Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.

    Why wouldn’t you want to eat and/or drink something that has such amazing health benefits?!

    When I embarked on my healthy eating adventure, I completely replaced all bad oils in my pantry with healthier oils, such as coconut oil.  Therefore, when a recipe calls for a different type of oil, I reach for my favorite resource, Super Natural Cooking, and try to find a healthier fat to use in it’s place.  In most baking recipes, I substitute coconut oil for canola or vegetable oil.  Canola and vegetable oil are not bad to use, but coconut oil provides many more benefits to your health, and is a healthier fat.  You will see that I did not do this for all of my holiday baking!

    I could go on and on with all of the articles and websites that I have read about coconut, but instead I leave you with some interesting articles on the benefits of coconut:

    Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Coconut Oil, Healthy Living Magazine’s Interview with Bruce Fife, CN, ND.

    The Fat That Can Make You Thin, by Bruce Fife, CN, ND.

    Coconut Oil, by Raymond Peat, PhD


    vegan treats

    I am not a vegan, nor am I a vegetarian…but, I do stay away from red meat (personal preference) and don’t eat too much other meat.  I love grains and beans and veggies and fruit!  I also love sweets, so when I found a few blogs with numerous recipes for vegan sweets, I decided to try some out!  It seemed like the perfect time, being the holiday season and all.

    These are the types of recipes that I love because they are made with minimal, healthier ingredients.  I am not saying that all of the ingredients in these recipes are healthy, but they are healthier than normal sweets can be (so you don’t have to feel as guilty when you induldge)!

    (recipes borrowed from LoveVeggiesandYoga.com)


    Vegan Peanut Butter Cups

    makes 2 huge PB Cups (next time I will make mini’s)

    Ingredients:

    • 6 ounces dark chocolate (they recommended baking chocolate, but I have lots of dark chocolate bars on hand that I used).
    • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
    • small handful chopped unsalted peanuts
    • optional: dash of vanilla (or agave)

    Chocolate & PB

    Directions:

    • Melt 3 ounces of chocolate (in microwave or stovetop).

    ready to melt...

    • Pour chocolate evenly into 2 muffin liners and place in fridge or freezer to harden a little.

    melted chocolate in muffin liners

    • In the meantime, mix 2 tablespoons of PB, peanuts (or just use crunchy PB – we were out!) and vanilla in a small bowl.  I popped it in the micro for 15 seconds to make it more easily blendable.

    PB, peanuts and vanilla after 15 seconds in micro

    • Take muffin liners with chocolate out of the fridge and place a scoop of PB mixture into each.

    scoop PB mixture onto hardened chocolate

    • Melt remaining chocolate and pour over the PB.

    making a mess with melted chocolate!

    smooth out a little after pouring over PB

    • Refrigerate until hardened (I put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes).

    waiting to be eaten in the freezer!

    ready to eat!

    with muffin liner off - check out those ridges!

    • YUM!  So rich and chocolatey – delicious!

    showing off the PB filling!

    These were delicious!  Next time I would make the PB cups in the mini muffin liners, because these were too big and rich for me to eat in one sitting.  After licking all that chocolate off of my fingers while making these babies, I could only get myself to eat a few bites of this.  Mini PB cups would be awesome!

    Next up:

    Vegan Chocolate Coconut Snowballs

    makes 12-15 snowballs

    Ingredients:

    • 1.5 cups shredded coconut
    • 3/4 c maple syrup or agave
    • 3/4 c cocoa powder
    • Dash Vanilla Extract
    • Optional: 1/4 c coconut oil

    Ingredients for Snowballs

    unsweetened coconut

    Directions:

    • Put all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix by hand.

    before mixing

    after mixing

    • Roll into tablespoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet.

    ready for freezing

    snowballs!

    • Place in freezer until hard, about 1 hour.

    hardened and ready for eating!

    • Eat and enjoy!

    YUM YUM YUM!  These snowballs were to die for…I will seriously have these on hand in my freezer all the time!  And, they were so simple to make!