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!

Apple Cobbler (GF)

My friend Jillian and I have been avoiding gluten and refined sugar for 3 weeks now in an effort to get our eating habits back on track, and the goal was to make it to Halloween. I’ll say it’s been a pretty valiant effort, despite the beer (or two) I’ve had along the way, and the hot dog I saw Jillian eat at the 5k we organized…

This weekend, I was really craving apple cobbler, and this presented a challenge because traditional apple cobbler contains flour, butter, and at least one type of refined sugar. I have been searching for coconut sugar to use in paleo recipes and finally found some yesterday at Whole Foods. I thought apple cobbler would be the perfect chance to  experiment with my new ingredient, and turns out it perfectly enhanced the natural sweetness of the apples in this warm, gooey dessert! Lemon juice adds some balance to the sweetness and keeps the apples from browning as you make the crumb topping, and the warmth of cinnamon and nutmeg comes through really nicely in the finished product.

This recipe makes about 4 servings if you’re anything like Matt and I,  but you could probably stretch it to serve up to 6 people, especially if you’re serving it with ice cream or whipped cream. It  reheats so beautifully, I might venture to say it’s even better the next day!

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Apple Cobbler

Makes 4 servings

4 medium apples (Granny Smith or McIntosh work best)

Juice from 1/2 lemon

2 t cinnamon

3/4 t nutmeg

2 T coconut sugar

1 T arrowroot powder (or corn starch)

For the topping:

3/4 C old fashioned rolled oats

1 t cinnamon

1 t vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

4 T butter of choice, melted (I use Earth Balance vegan butter)

1 T coconut sugar

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Method:

Preheat oven to 325° and grease 8×8 square pan.

Peel and thinly slice apples, adding to greased dish. Sprinkle lemon juice on top of apples and toss. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut sugar, and arrowroot powder and toss again.

In medium bowl, combine oats, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, melted butter, and coconut sugar and mix until it clumps together. Sprinkle evenly on top of apple mixture, and top with a few more teaspoons of whatever butter you’re using.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the apples are nice and soft and it’s bubbling around the edges. Your whole house should smell like Thanksgiving 🙂 Let cool for 15 minutes before serving warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped coconut cream. Enjoy!

 

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.

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Rewind to 20 years ago in our tiny kitchen on Parkside, where my mom would be cooking apples on the stove, and my sister Liz and I would take turns turning the mill to strain the applesauce. We loved the fun, messy, time-intensive process, but nothing topped eating the fresh applesauce hot out of the pan. Fast-forward 20 years to my current tiny kitchen, where I’m up to my ears with apples from our trip to the orchard. I decided it was time to make applesauce.

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Since I don’t own a food mill, I decided to give slow-cooking applesauce a try.  Not only did it make my tiny kitchen smell aaaaamazing, it turned out so delicious that I am convinced I’ll never want to buy applesauce from the store again! It was so simple, and the apples we picked were so juicy and sweet that it didn’t require any added sugar.

I love this recipe because you toss the ingredients in the crock pot, set it on low, and can go work on something else. I let it cook all morning and afternoon, and this gave the applesauce a chance to really break down and let the flavors mingle. The result is perfectly chunky, cinnamon-y, naturally sweet applesauce that is perfect on its own or baked into breads, muffins, etc.

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Slow Cooker Applesauce

Makes about 8 cups

3 lb. apples (about 9 medium-sized)

Juice from 1/2 lemon

3 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick, whole

3/4 C water

Method:

Peel and thinly slice apples and add to crock pot. Squeeze lemon juice over apples and add spices and water. Give it a stir and set to low for 7-8 hours. Stir every hour or so.

Tip** If you let it cook long enough, the apples will break down on their own and shouldn’t have more than a couple little lumps. If you want a perfectly smooth consistency, you can use an immersion blender to get your desired consistency.

Keep in airtight container in fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months. Enjoy!

Chia Berry Jam

I’ve been looking for something to step up my breakfast game, but have always been intimidated by the whole jam-making/canning process. I came across some chia seed jam recipes on Pinterest and it sounded so easy, I had to try! Because this recipe uses frozen fruit, it’s something you can make and enjoy year-round, swapping out fruit depending on the season. Since I made it the other night, I can’t stop looking for things to put it on! It’s amazing on toast, oatmeal, yogurt, pizza…just kidding. I haven’t tried that yet.

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Why bother making your own jam? This jam takes about 2 minutes to make, requires zero cooking, and the inclusion of chia seeds makes it extra good for you! Chia seeds are full of antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids, and have a considerable amount of fiber, helping keep you full longer throughout the morning. I used equal amounts of raspberries and blueberries in this batch, and the color is so pretty. You can use sweetener such as pure maple syrup like I did, or leave it out depending on your diet.

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S/O to my sweet husband for photographing my jam when he was supposed to be reading for class. He also made dinner tonight. How lucky am I? How boring must his reading be?

 Chia Berry Jam

12 oz frozen blueberries

12 oz frozen raspberries

1/4 C chia seeds

1/4 C pure maple syrup or honey (optional)

Method:

Let berries partially defrost. Place in food processor or blender and pulse for 20 seconds. Slowly add maple syrup or honey if using, and pulse until combined. You can keep mixing for a smoother consistency if you’d like, but I kept lots of full berry chunks in mine. Add chia seeds last, mixing until evenly distributed. Store in airtight jar or container in refrigerator and enjoy!

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I spooned some chia berry jam on top of my oatmeal this weekend, and it was soooo good with peanut butter, bananas, and coconut!