Love and Lemon Barsūüćčūüíē

I think homemade food is one of the greatest gifts of love there is. We have almost completely lost touch with cooking and baking from scratch because of how our lifestyles have progressed. It’s sad to me that kids now think cookie dough comes in a plastic tube from the grocery shelf. Or that soup comes from a can or box. When we prepare food for ourselves or for others we are literally putting our energy into the food. That’s why a home-cooked meal can feel so comforting. Especially when it’s made for us by someone we love.

On Mother’s Day I packed up all of the ingredients to make lemon bars and took them to my mom’s house. I know she loves them and I wanted her house to smell good from the baking. This was my gift to her and I poured love into every step.

  
It wasn’t long until my boyfriend started bugging me to make him his own lemon bars. He requested several times and because I love him I made them yesterday just for him. I am not even eating them right now because I’m on a clean 2 week meal plan.

Baking has always been therapy for me. It’s meditative and consuming. It’s hard to worry about “big stuff” when you are measuring out spoonfuls of powder and mixing up yellow batter to a frothy foam.

This recipe is super simple and basic. Real ingredients, real lemons, real love

  
Base:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Combine and press into an 8×8 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes

Filling:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

Juice of one whole lemon

1 tablespoon lemon zest- use a grater lightly over washed lemon skin

pinch of baking powder

Pour over crust and bake 20-25 minutes until golden. Lightly sprinkle top with powdered sugar.

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Homemade Energy Bars

I haven’t bought an energy/power/protein bar from the store in years. OK, maybe a stray lara bar earlier this year because of an emergency, but that’s it. The marketing and packaging lead you to believe these bars are healthy and good for you, but one look at the ingredients and it’s obvious that’s not true. Check out the ingredients listed for the “Power Bar”:

GLUCOSE SYRUP, RICE AND SOY CRISPS (RICE FLOUR, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, ALKALIZED COCOA), CHOCOLATE FLAVORED COATING (SUGAR, FRACTIONATED PALM KERNEL OIL, COCOA, WHEY, NONFAT MILK, SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL FLAVOR), WHOLE OATS (CONTAINS WHEAT), ROASTED PEANUTS, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, OLIGOFRUCTOSE (FROM CHICORY ROOT), PEANUT BUTTER (PEANUTS ,SALT), RICE CRISPS (MILLED RICE, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY), INULIN (FROM CHICORY ROOT), VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, AND LESS THAN 2% OF: CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SOY LECITHIN, SUGAR, NATURAL FLAVOR, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, GROUND ALMONDS, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), FERROUS FUMARATE (IRON), BUTTER (CREAM), PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2).
That is not what I call healthy, clean, or powerful.
I made these oat-y, seed-y, fruity bars the other night from a recipe adapted from the kitchn. I changed it slightly because I wanted to add more ingredients.
Mix in a small saucepan: 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup brown rice syrup, 1/4 cup coconut oil. Stir well over low heat until blended.
brown rice/peanut butter
Remove from heat and add 1 and 1/2 cup apple sauce,  2 tablespoons ground flax seed (I used flax meal), 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well.
100_2977
In a separate large bowl combine:
3 cups whole rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 pumpkin seeds
1/2 sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins
oat bars
All of these dry ingredients can be adjusted to your taste. Be Creative! I chose to also add:

shredded coconut
cinnamon
cacao nibs
chia seeds
homemade granola bars
Combine wet and dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly and spread evenly in a greased ¬†8×8 baking pan.
100_2983
Bake at 325 for 40 minutes.
chocolate covered granola bars
I wanted a little extra something on these so I melted some organic chocolate chips on top and spread with a knife. Not enough to cover them, but enough to get my daily chocolate fix in a healthy way! Check out my recipe for homemade protein balls here!
homemade energy bars

Snack Like a Boss

I am big fan of snacking. I sometimes create whole meals out of snacks. Truthfully, I think snack is a useless word. If you’re going to eat; eat, right? The food industry has created an entire market around “snack items” which I think is total bull****

The highly processed, sugar-laden, refined carbohydrates that they stuff in a colorful can or a bag and call “snack packs” are about as filling and nutritious as a foam peanut. ¬†And yes, that includes packaged granola bars which are basically candy bars with fancy names. ¬†I feel strongly about being tricked into buying small-sized items out of convenience that majorly lack nutritional value. ESPECIALLY because most snack items are marketed directly at kids.

Take charge and make up your own snacking rules! Slice and chop up some fresh fruit and veggies and store in the fridge for the week. Make them easily accessible by storing in clear containers in the front of the shelves. Use hummus, pesto, yogurt and nut butters as kid friendly dips. Try food items you wouldn’t normally consider snacks; 1/2 cold baked sweet potato, green smoothies, overnight oats, a pita stuffed with hummus and sprouts.

I made a meal out of this rice cake snack the other night by topping with hummus, cottage cheese, sliced avocado and a sprinkling of seasonings.

high protein rice cake snack

I know what you’re saying “Carole-Ann, rice cakes taste like foam peanuts, ¬†they have no flavor, they are awful, blah blah blah” I hear your complaints, but does THIS look awful? Naturally salty, crunchy peanut butter topped with golden raw local honey oozing over the sides?

sweet treat honey and PB

Maybe you have to use your imagination and work a little harder to make rice cakes interesting but they are a great canvas for snack art.

I also love using whole wheat tortillas for quick small meals. I cut into half and fold into quarters. I packed this one to take to work with peanut butter, thinly sliced apples, and cinnamon.

peanut butter apple sandwich

It folds up neatly and is easy to eat without being too messy, unlike the honey dripped rice cake.

peanut butter apple wrap

Be creative- add raisins, nuts, sunflower seeds, sliced bananas, almond butter, etc.

My other favorite snack is baby carrots- either plain or dipped in hummus or pesto. My dogs love them too!

homemade pesto

Make your own “instant oatmeal” by packing whole oats, cinnamon, nuts, raisins, etc. into individual containers and take one out when you need some healthy carbs. ¬†Here is a jar of overnight oats I prepared for a client. All she had to do was add almond milk and honey and refrigerate overnight.

overnight oatsEat when you’re hungry, forget about the correct “meal time” and feed your body what it needs. Don’t let yourself get famished between meals in the name of “no snacking”- that is counter productive to maintaining a healthy metabolism. But for the love of real food- please stay away from vending machines. Save your money and carry your own!

Patriotic Parfaits

I know I know, why didn’t I wait until the 4th of July for this post? Well, strawberries are in season right now and isn’t there a flag day coming up? So it’s still timely! I am in love with my new mason jars that my BF bought me. A whole case of these replaced my old drinking glasses that were caked with lipgloss. Gross.

I started with freshly-picked, juicy, local strawberries from the 12South Farmer’s Market

strawberries in mason jar

Add a layer of plain greek yogurt, it’s like thick whipped cream but not too sweet!

strawberries and yogurt

Spread homemade granola with almonds on top of yogurt-

yogurt parfait with granola

Top that with fresh organic blueberries. I got mine on sale at Whole Foods.

berry yogurt parfait

Another spoonful of yogurt-

yogurt berry parfait

And top with more berries and chopped walnuts.

Nuts, Berries, Yogurt parfait

I sprinkled mine with cinnamon and drizzled with local raw honey before serving with a long handled spoon.

I told myself I would just have a few bites because it was so much. That didn’t really come true.

Sexy Vegan Fudge Brownies

OMG How can something so healthy be so……delectable?? I love chocolate and when I crave it I really crave it! ¬†I don’t mess around with drugstore candy- ¬†I go for the extra dark, rich, exotic chocolate bars that you find in bookstores or coffee shops. I love the pretty packaging, the interesting names, the intoxicating smell, the thin shape, and the melt~in~your~mouth goodness of just one square. ¬†Nothing else will satisfy me when I need my dark chocolate. Until now….When I tried these black bean brownies I wanted to shout out “YES! It worked! I’m satisfied!” ¬†I get very excited about healthy food.

Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe courtesy of whole foods:

black bean brownies

2 cups cooked black beans, 10 medjool dates, 2 tablespoons raw almond butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. I was forced to splurge on a new one after  getting dates and beans stuck in my old one that gave up on me midway.

I bought this perfect size processor this weekend and the world’s best boyfriend bought me a matching waffle iron! Can’t wait to try that next Sunday!

food processor

I had to add a tiny bit of water with the dates and beans because they were really thick. The cocoa powder smoothed it all out.

cocoa powder

Spread mixture evenly in a lightly greased 8×8 baking pan and bake 1 1/2 hours at 200 degrees. I ALMOST messed up and kept my oven at 350. These need to cook low and slow.

brownie batter

Let cool slightly before icing with the following:

I melted 1 tablespoon coconut oil and 1/2 vegan chocolate chips (or whatever version you like) to spread over warm brownies

making chocolate frosting

The icing sort of melts into the brownie and gives it a sweet subtle coconut flavor!

black bean brownies

I am in love with these brownies!¬†¬†Did you know chocolate releases the same hormones that we feel when we’re falling in love? Can that explain why we CRAVE it so much and have an almost worship-like adoration for the dark stuff? ¬†I can’t wait to try these again and add nuts and also experiment more with my new food processor.

black bean brownies with icing

Weekly Nosh-Up

Happy Spring! I am enjoying the green grass and wild violets that have taken over my backyard and it’s been warm enough to go barefoot, which is my favorite thing in the world!

photo (11)

I had an interesting food week this week with lots of mini-meals and cravings for green vegetables and comfort food. I guess I was in need of all of it. I enjoyed warm steel cut oats in the mornings as it was still a little chilly here and I know when summer arrives I won’t want hot cereal much. But I also made overnight oats a few times with my new dried goji berries and raw pumpkin seeds. Goji berries are considered one of the superfoods because of all the nutrients and antioxidants in them. They have a slight tartness so they are good in recipes.¬†See a list of more raw superfoods from David Wolfe here.

goji berries in oatmeal

I was also craving greens so I bought: Broccoli, shredded broccoli and carrots, baby bok-choy, kale, and brussel sprouts. I ate the kale and bok choy in coconut oil as usual and I roasted the B.Sprouts with a drizzle of olive oil and topped with slivered almonds. I noshed on them all week, hot and cold.

brussel sprouts w/sliced almonds

For the sweets I was craving, I swirled frozen berries, banana, honey, cinnamon and walnuts into some plain greek yogurt. This has become a daily ritual for me. I want to try shredded coconut in it soon.

berry yogurt swirl

I found some cara cara oranges and bought a huge bag as they are in season right now and won’t be back again until next year. These taste like CANDY to me, they are so hydrating too. I think the extra vitamin C has kept me from getting sick all year while most everyone else I meet has suffered colds or flu.

cara cara orange

Earlier in the week I attended a vegetarian dinner at a local university and got a lot of good ideas I want to try at home. I spent most of the meal trying to figure out the ingredients of what I was eating.

I also visited a new juice bar in my neighborhood (Finally!) called The Urban Juicer

The Urban Juicer

and had a yummy raw cacao powder smoothie. Cacao is another superfood so I guess I’ve had a Super week!!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Nut Muffins

The grey day this weekend inspired me to bake as it always does. It’s funny how weather can affect what we feel like cooking. I also wanted a chance to try brown rice flour which I had just purchased for the first time. I normally bake with whole wheat flour but am branching out to some of the other great flours available like brown rice, almond, and oat flour (which is easily made by blending whole oats in a blender until fine).

I had some pumpkin in the freezer that needed to be used as well so I came up with these nutty, healthy muffins made with honey and unsweetened apple sauce.

brown rice flour muffins

Combine 2 cups brown rice flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder.

In separate bowl combine 2 eggs, 1/2 cup honey, 1 cup mashed pumpkin, 2 cups unsweetened apple sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil (or avocado, coconut).

pumpkin muffins batter

Add generous sprinkle (about a teaspoon or more) of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of all-spice

spiced pumpkin muffins

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Stir in any or all of the following:

Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Shredded Coconut, Raisins. I used all but the coconut, I just thought of that one!

nuts and seeds

Pour into muffin tin and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

healthy pumpkin muffins

These muffins have a lot of liquid ingredients ¬†so be sure and bake thoroughly, use a toothpick to check. Some of mine came out a little too “doughy” for my liking because I didn’t leave them in long enough. Patience has always been my weak spot.

These are SO good!!! Moist, chewy, full of flavor and texture. Plus NO white flour or white sugar (of course!)

I spread mine with almond butter while still warm!

pumpkin nut muffins

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