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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!

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    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!

    snow & pancakes

    Sunday morning we woke up to a beautiful snowfall in Southie!  We only got about 8-10 inches in Boston…it was nothing like other parts of the Northeast, but it was still beautiful!
     
    Pictures of the snow on our porch! 
     
     
     
     
    We decided to make a perfect ‘snowed-in’ breakfast of whole-grain pancakes with chocolate chips and raspberry syrup – YUM!  Brant whipped up the batter and the pancakes, while I worked on the raspberry syrup (and staying out of his way!).
     
    Whole-Grain Pancakes (from 101cookbooks.com)
    makes about 12 pancakes
      
    Ingredients:
    • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
    • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/3 cup natural granulated sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
    • 2 1/4 cups organic buttermilk
    • 2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
    • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

    Directions:

    • Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
    • Add the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter.
    • Stir all the ingredients until they are just combined. Don’t worry if the batter is a bit lumpy, you don’t want to over mix.
    • Heat your skillet, pan, or griddle to medium-hot and brush it with a bit of butter. Test for the right temperature. If a drop of water dropped onto the pan starts to dance, you are in the ballpark.
    • Pour about 1/3 of a cup of batter into the skillet. Wait until the pancake bottom is deep golden in color, then flip with a spatula and cook the other side until golden and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter.

    We decided to make these pancakes extra special and add chocolate chunks to them!

    Yum!

    huge pancakes cooking on the skillet

    flip once nice and golden brown

    On to the syrup!

    While Brant was cooking all of our delicious pancakes, I decided to use Heidi’s idea (from 101cookbooks.com) and make a flavored syrup.  We didn’t have blueberries like she suggessted, so instead I used some frozen raspberries we had in our freezer.

    Ingredients:

    • 6 ounces of raspberries
    • 1/4 cup natural granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup real-deal, PURE, maple syrup
    • 2 tablespoons water

    frozen raspberries

      Directions:

    •  Add 6 ounces of raspberries, 1/4 cup natural granulated sugar, 1/4 cup real deal, pure maple syrup and 2 tablespoons of water to a saucepan over medium-low heat.
    • Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then simmer for 5 or 6 minutes.
    • Remove from heat and press the raspberry mixture through a fine strainer into a bowl.
    • Mash the fruit to get all the juiciness extracted.
    • Throw out the solids.

    raspberries and syrup simmering on the stove

    Pour syrup over pancakes and top with more raspberries and chocolate chunks.  

    ready to eat!

    Enjoy!

    After our delicious breakfast, we ventured out to dig out our cars!  Living in Southie, people are very meticulous about their spots…and use “space savers” to save those spots when they leave!  Luckily, shovelling was not too bad this storm, and we are fully prepared with our cone!  

    Having fun shovelling!

        

    holiday cookies

    My mom and I spent all day Sunday getting into the Christmas spirit and baking christmas cookies!!  We had a lot of fun creating multiple types of cookies in all different shapes, sizes and colors so that they will go nicely together to create a cookie plate.  My mom really knows her stuff…I have given a few cookie plates out and friends have loved them!

    Since we were having so much fun while making the cookies, I forgot to snap some photos, so below are the finished products (much prettier anyways!) and recipes, of course!

    Peanut Butter Balls (my favorite!  I just wish they were healthier!)

    (from Cooks.com)

    peanut butter balls

    all wrapped up

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups peanut butter (we like chunky for texture)
    • 1 lb. powered sugar
    • 1 stick butter
    • 3 cups Rice Krispies
    • 6 oz. chocolate (we used dark)

    Directions:

    1. Melt butter in microwave or on stovetop.
    2. Mix together PB, butter, sugar and rice krispies.
    3. Using hands, roll into tablespoon size balls.
    4. Place on cookie sheet and chill in refrigerator, approximately 1 hour.
    5. Once chilled, melt chocolate in micro or double boiler.
    6. Dip each ball half way into chocolate and place on wax paper to harden.
    7. Once hardened, package for gifts or enjoy!

    Ginger Crinkles

    (Mom’s Recipe)

    ginger crinkles

    Ingredients:

    • 3/4 cup butter, sofened
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup molasses
    • 2 tsp white vinegar
    • 4 cups flour, sifted
    • 1.5 tsp baking soda
    • 4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1.2 tsp ground cloves

    Directions:

    1. Cream butter and sugar in medium bowl.
    2. Stir in the eggs, molasses and vinegar and beat to combine.
    3. Add flour, baking soda and spices and mix well.
    4. Form the cookie dough into one inch balls.
    5. Sprinkle sugar on a plate and roll cookie dough balls in the sugar to coat.
    6. Grease a cookie sheet and position cookies 2 inches apart.
    7. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

    Chocolate Mint Crinkles (the addition of mint is to die for!)

    (adapted from All Recipesthis is not the exact recipe we used, but it is the closest I could find online!)

    chocolate mint crinkles

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup margarine
    • 4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 cups white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon mint extract
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

    Directions:

    1. In a medium bowl beat eggs and sugar until light.
    2. Stir in the oil, vanilla, melted chocolate.
    3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt;
    4. Stir into the chocolate mixture.
    5. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips.
    6. Refrigerate dough until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
    7. Once firm, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    8. Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll them in confectioners’ sugar until heavily coated.
    9. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets and bake for 11 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven.  Cookies should be firm to touch.

    Lemon Wreaths

    makes 6 dozen

    (from Martha Stewart)

    lemon wreaths

    Ingredients:

    • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
    • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 7 to 8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white nonpareils, for sprinkling

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Make the cookies: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Pulse sugar and zest in a food processor until combined, about 2 minutes.
    3. Beat sugar-zest mixture and butter in a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
    4. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
    5. Add vanilla and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low.
    6. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until combined.
    7. Scoop 1 tablespoon dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface.
    8. Roll dough into a 4-inch rope. Bring ends together, overlapping slightly, and press together to form a ring. Repeat with remaining dough.
    9. Transfer rings to parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart, as you work.
    10. Bake until pale golden on the bottoms and around the edges, about 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks, and let cool.
    11. Make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth.
    12. Dip the top side of each cookie into glaze, letting excess drip off.
    13. Return cookies to wire racks, glaze side up, and sprinkle with nonpareils.
    14. Let dry completely.