Apricot Ginger Energy Bars (LARA Copycat Bars)

I have been a big fan of LARA bars for a while now; they have a million flavors, are usually on sale for $1 at the grocery store, and are the sole reason I survived the Whole 30 this past January. I love having healthy snack options like energy bars stashed at my desk for weekday afternoons that are dragging, because they save me from caving to the unhealthy options in the break room.

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When my friend Annie texted me to tell me she bought a 5 lb bag of sun dried apricots at Costco and then realized she didn’t like them (I love her), I immediately thought of trying home-made LARA bars. Obviously flattered that I was the first person she thought of, I told her that I’d put her sad, unwanted apricots to use.

You might be wondering why it’s worth making your own at home, and that’s a good question… why mess with a good thing, right? Let me tell you, everything is better home-made. This recipe comes together very easily, and you can literally use whatever dried fruits and nuts you have sitting in your pantry- just keep the ratios similar to the recipe below. They are the perfect snack to toss in your lunch box, to enjoy before or after a workout, or for breakfast on the go.

I love the combination of the apricots with ginger and cinnamon, but you can experiment here as well! Almond extract, fresh ginger…whatever you’re feeling. But the lemon zest is a must. Don’t leave that out!

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Apricot Ginger Energy Bars

Makes 18 bars

3 C dried apricots

3/4 C pitted Medjool dates

1/4 C Chia seeds

1 t cinnamon

1 t ground ginger

1 C raw unsalted cashews

1/2 C unsweetened dried coconut

1 t lemon zest

2 t lemon juice

1/4 C honey

Pinch of salt

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Method:

Line 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with nonstick oil.

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until ingredients are well-distributed. Mixture should be sticking together easily. If it’s too dry, add 1 T more honey at a time until it comes together. Turn mixture into prepared pan and spray your (clean!) hands with more nonstick oil. Pat it down in even layer. Place into freezer for 20 minutes.

Take out of freezer and cut into ~18 pieces with chefs knife (I used a Norpro Scraper and it worked perfectly!) I also cut off the scraggly ends and ate those for quality control. Important step. Wrap individually with plastic wrap and store in fridge or freezer. Enjoy!

Autumn Quiche with Paleo Crust

It’s a lazy Saturday morning and I have a bunch of random vegetables laying around, so you know what what means- QUICHE! I haven’t made a quiche with a crust for a long time, and now that I’m avoiding gluten, I needed to conjure up a new recipe. I found a recipe from Paleo Running Momma that uses a combination of gluten free flours, but sounded simple enough. I tweaked it just a tad, and it came out wonderfully. This crust is quick and easy, and doesn’t require any rolling out!

I had some turkey sausage and fresh sage to use, so I thought I’d combine some autumn flavors for a hearty and filling paleo breakfast. Like my other quiche recipe, you can use any vegetables and meat you have on hand and as long as you stick to similar measurements, it will turn out great! For example, I used leftover cooked acorn squash as the carb-y vegetable in my quiche, but hash browns or leftover roasted potatoes would be great too!

I tried something new today by not adding any milk to the egg mixture and really liked the results. It came out a little richer, and had amazing flavor. The pinch of smoked paprika adds a nice amount of heat that perfectly compliments the flavors of the turkey sausage and fresh veggies. Matt is a tough judge when it comes to quiche, as he is not a fan of eggs, so his seal of approval this morning was a real success.

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Autumn Quiche with Paleo Crust

Makes 6-8 servings

For the crust:

1 C almond flour

2 T coconut flour

2/3 C tapioca flour

1/3 C cold ghee or vegan butter

Pinch sea salt

1 egg

For the filling:

1 C cooked squash, cubed (or substitute with hash browns or cooked potatoes)

1/2 bell pepper (about 3/4 C) diced

1/2 yellow onion (about 3/4 C) diced

3/4 lb turkey sausage

1 t fresh sage, chopped

6 eggs

Salt & pepper

Pinch smoked paprika

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°.

For the crust, combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl and use pastry cutter or two butter knives to cut butter and egg into dry ingredients. When dough starts to form, use clean hands to knead. Turn dough into pie dish and lightly spray your hands with nonstick oil. Press crust onto bottom and sides of pie dish lightly, until evenly distributed. Pierce with a fork to prevent crust from rising, and bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, and lower oven temperature to 350°.

In medium skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks. Drain fat and discard. Add onion and continue to cook for about 2 minutes, until onion starts to turn translucent. Add bell peppers and season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat. Add squash or leftover potatoes to pie dish, sprinkle sage, and add mixture from skillet, distributing evenly over crust.

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In large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika, and carefully pour into pie dish. Bake at 350°  for 40-45 minutes, until nice and brown on edges and eggs are completely set completely in middle of quiche. Let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, and use knife to loosen crust from sides of pie dish for easier serving. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve. Enjoy!

Tip** for a nice golden top, turn oven to broil for last 5 minutes of cooking. Watch quiche very carefully during this step so it doesn’t burn!

Cranberry Oat Bars (GF)

This morning, I needed a break from apple and pumpkin everything. Don’t worry, I’m okay… I think. I had some fresh cranberries in the fridge that I’ve been meaning to use, and the thought of warm oat bars fresh out of the oven to enjoy with my coffee was just too good to pass up. It’s Friday but my brain is already in weekend mode.

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These bars came together quickly and easily, and I love the way the crunchiness of the slivered almonds and the warm soft bursts of fresh cranberries is dispersed throughout the baked oatmeal. Cinnamon and ground ginger add some spicy warmth, making it a perfect companion for your Saturday morning coffee.

As with any breakfast I make, the goal is usually to have leftovers that I can store for on-the-go breakfasts. I think these will be perfect warmed back up in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. I’ll pat myself on the back now; breakfast for next week is ready to go!

 

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Cranberry Oat Bars

Makes 9 squares

2 C old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 C coconut flour

1/4 C tapioca flour

1/2 t sea salt

1 1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1/3 C coconut oil, melted

1/4 C pure maple syrup

1/4 C agave (or you can just do a full 1/2 C of maple syrup)

2 eggs

1/3 C  milk of choice

1 1/4 C fresh cranberries

1/2 C slivered almonds

Tip** If you have an orange laying around, try adding a teaspoon of fresh zest to this recipe!

Method:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease 8×8 square baking pan with nonstick spray.

In large mixing bowl, combine oats and both flours. Add salt, cinnamon, and ginger and whisk together until combined.

In separate bowl, beat coconut oil, maple syrup, agave, eggs, and milk together. Pour into dry ingredients and fold together until combined. Fold in cranberries and almonds and mix until evenly dispersed.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Cut into 9 squares. Serve warm topped with yogurt and nuts, or freeze individual squares for busy weekday morning breakfasts! Enjoy.

Spiced Apple Muffins (GF & Nut-Free)

Matt and I ventured to the Illinois/Wisconsin border last Sunday to pick some apples, and came home with half a bushel of McIntosh. Half a bushel doesn’t sound like an intimidating amount, but let me tell you it’s WAY more than our tiny kitchen can store. So I’ve been spending the last week finding ways to enjoy them and muffins was first on the list!

Most gluten-free muffin recipes center around the use of almond flour, but since I have some nut-free people in my life, I experimented with oat flour as a replacement and they turned out great! These little guys are packed with fresh apple goodness, are refined sugar-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and gluten free! They are filled with warm spices and will make your home smell like Fall. The sweet-cinnamony crumb topping is the final touch on these magical muffins. It sounds impossible, but they are even Matt approved and that’s how I measure a good muffin.

I was trying to use as many apples as I could, so please note that this recipe makes a double batch of muffins. Or, if you only have one muffin tin like I do, make 12 muffins and a loaf of bread! You could half the recipe, but you’d probably regret it.

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Spiced Apple Muffins

Makes 24 muffins, or 12 muffins + one loaf

For the muffins:

1 3/4 C oat flour (2 C old fashioned rolled oats)

1/4 C coconut flour

2/3 C tapioca flour

4 t cinnamon

2 t baking soda

Pinch cardamom (optional)

4 eggs

2 t vanilla

1/2 C coconut milk (or almond milk if you aren’t making nut-free)

1/3 C coconut oil, melted

1/3 C honey

2/3 C pure maple syrup

2 C shredded apples, excess liquid squeezed out

1 C small diced apples

For the crumb topping:

1 T vegan butter, melted

1 T honey

1/3 C old fashioned rolled oats (whole, not oat flour)

1 t cinnamon

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Method:

Preheat oven to 350° and line muffin tins, or grease and line loaf pan with parchment paper.

Make oat flour! I use my Vitamix for this because it’s a quick and easy clean up, but you can also pulse in your food processor or just buy oat flour at the grocery store. 2 C of regular oats makes about 1 3/4 cups of oat flour if you’re making at home.

In large bowl, combine oat flour, coconut flour, tapioca flour, spices, and baking soda. In a separate medium bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, and milk. Add coconut oil, honey, and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Shred 2-3 medium sized apples using food processor or by hand (these do not have to be peeled). Cut another apple into a small dice. Add all apples to wet ingredients and stir together.

Make a well in dry ingredients and carefully pour in egg/apple mixture. Using rubber spatula, carefully fold together until combined. Do not over mix! Spoon into prepared muffin tin or loaf pan.

To make crumb topping, combine ingredients and spoon on top of batter.

For muffins, bake about 18-20 mins, and for loaf bake about 35 mins or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

If you aren’t eating them all fresh out of the oven, keep refrigerated so they stay fresh longer. Enjoy!

 

Banana Bread

Banana bread is a recipe that took me a long time to get right, but now that I know what works, I make it all the time. It’s my go-to when I need a favor from someone, something to bring to a brunch, or when I’m leaving my husband for 4 days on a work trip. He won’t miss me if there’s banana bread in the fridge. I’d venture to say that this banana bread is the BEST, especially considering it’s dairy-free and all combinations of flour I’ve tried work well. There is nothing better than a house that smells like banana bread, and not feeling guilty when you need a second (or third) piece.

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Banana bread

makes 1 loaf or 12 muffins

3-4 medium over ripe bananas

2 eggs

1/4 C melted coconut oil (avocado oil or vegetable oil can be substituted)

1/4 C unsweetened applesauce

1/4 C milk of choice (I use almond)

1/3 C honey or pure maple syrup

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 1/2 t vanilla

3/4 t ground cinnamon

3/4 C almond flour*

1 C unbleached all-purpose flour

Any mix-ins work here! Chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds, etc. Add these at the end 🙂

*Tip: If you have a nut allergy or don’t have almond flour on hand, using 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour will give you good results. You can also use whole wheat flour, or a combo of both.

Method:

Preheat oven to 325° and grease 9″ x 5″ loaf pan (I line mine with parchment paper to ensure banana bread comes out easily). If making muffins, grease or line muffin tin.

In mixing bowl, combine bananas, eggs, oil, and applesauce. Add milk and honey/maple syrup and mix until well-combined. Add baking soda, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and mix until combined.

Add flour and mix until incorporated but do not over mix! If you get too mix-happy, you’ll end up with large air tunnels in your bread. Restrain yourself; I believe in you. If you’re including mix-ins such as chocolate chips or nuts, throw these in now.

Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out relatively clean.

**Note: the more bananas you add, the longer it will take to bake. I included 4 bananas in this last loaf, and it took a solid hour before it was fully set.

Store in fridge if you won’t finish it in 3 sittings like my husband does. Freezes well. Enjoy!

Farmer’s Market Crustless Quiche

Have I mentioned breakfast is my favorite? I love making this quiche on Sunday morning after collecting lots of fresh vegetables and herbs at the Farmer’s Market. Despite my efforts to grocery plan, I usually I end up with way more vegetables than 2 people can reasonably consume before they go bad, and this is a great alternative to freezing whatever I can’t use.

This quiche is another customize-able recipe, where vegetables can be substituted for whatever you have on hand, and meat can be omitted. I consider this recipe a real keeper because I can also make it Whole 30 by using compliant sausage and coconut milk. This recipe is dairy-free because as much as I love it, it does not love me. However, cheese would be really good mixed in the egg mixture, so include your favorite kind if you’d like.

Regardless of the veggies you choose, sauteing them before baking the quiche ensures that they are fully cooked and not too al dente in your finished product. The last plug I’ll give this yummy breakfast is that you can make it on the weekend and have something ready to go for busy weekday mornings.

Crustless Quiche

Farmer’s Market Crustless Quiche

Time: 20 minutes active, 45 minutes baking

Makes 6 servings

1/2 lb. sausage of choice

1 T avocado or olive oil

1/2 C butternut squash (I used Trader Joe’s zig-zags from the refrigerated section)

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1/2 red bell pepper

1 small yellow onion

6 free-range eggs

3/4 C milk of choice (I used full-fat coconut milk)

1 T garlic powder

1 t smoked paprika

Salt & pepper to taste

Fresh parsley for serving

Method:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease glass pie pan

Brown sausage (if using) in skillet over medium heat until cooked through, drain fat, and set aside. Using same pan, add oil and veggies and cook for 4-5 minutes or until onion is translucent and veggies are partially cooked and starting to brown. Combine with cooked sausage and add mixture to greased pie pan.

Beat eggs in large mixing bowl and add milk of choice, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper. *This is when you’d add cheese if using. Whisk together and pour slowly over meat and veggies in pie pan.

Bake on middle rack of oven for about 40 – 45 minutes, or until middle of quiche is set and toothpick comes out clean.

Top with chopped fresh parsley and serve warm. Enjoy!

Overnight Oats

Breakfast makes me happy. I don’t trust people who don’t eat breakfast. Oh- you don’t wake up hungry? You’re lying.

Today’s reason to get out of bed was pumpkin overnight oats. Overnight oats is one of the most versatile breakfast recipes ever, and most importantly, my husband approves.

Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Overnight Oats (4 servings)

2 C Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 T chia seeds

3 C Milk (I use unsweetened almond)

2 T honey

Optional: 1/2 C pumpkin puree or greek yogurt, pumpkin pie spice, pretty fruit on top

Method

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate covered, overnight. Thank yourself the next morning.

*Pumpkin Pie Oats pictured above made with pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, fresh figs, and dehydrated coconut