Healthy Gluten/Dairy/Sugar-Free Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

I’m always on the hunt for the next awesome granola bar recipe. I love experimenting with new ingredients! I read through a handful of recipes this week and decided to mash them all together and make my own, like usual. This recipe didn’t disappoint. I love that it uses ground up oats for oat flour, and pretty much every seed I had in my pantry. The other thing I loved, is it used the majority of the dates that I had sitting on top of the fridge as the binder. Blending the dates in water creates a paste that acts as a binder with the oat flour. It’s perfect and sweet without any added sugar. Woot! Seriously addictive and the perfect snack for my purse. For a little added visual appeal, I sprinkled unsweetened shredded coconut on top. Now they look perty.

Here are the little squares of fruit that I picked up at the Bulk Barn. I can’t for the life of me remember the name of them, they have strawberry, raspberry and mango – and they’re pressed together with other fruit. I liked the way they looked so I bought a small bit of them to try in this recipe. The kind I used is the raspberry ones.

Dried fruit

I use an 8 x 8 baking pan instead of the 9 x 11 glass baking dish because I wanted the bars to be square instead of rounded at the corners (I am very specific about how my baking comes out, okay! :)). I had some left over after pressing it into the square pan (didn’t want them to be too thick) so I decided to make mini bites out of the leftover and used the mini-muffin pan.

When lining the pan, overlap your parchment paper so it covers each side. Much easier to remove and prevents breaking after they’re cooled.

In the pan

 

Mini

 

I baked them for about 15 minutes and they came out PERFECT. I threw a couple in a ziplock and into my purse they went. Nice easy bite-sized snack.

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After the original batch finished baking, I let them cool (DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP) and then cut them into bars!

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Mmm… just perfect. They were easy to cut and even easier to eat! Enjoy!

Finished product

 

Ingredients:
• 3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats, ground into a flour
• 1 cup water
• 3/4 cup packed pitted Medjool dates
• 1/2 cup chia seeds
• 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
• 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
• ¼ cup red oat bran
• ¼ cup hemp seeds
• ¼ cup sunflower seeds
• 1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice, chopped to desired size
• ¼ cup your favourite nut butter (I used almond)
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325F and line a 9-inch square pan with two pieces of parchment paper, one going each way.
2. Add rolled oats into a high-speed blender. Blend on highest speed until a fine flour forms. Add oat flour into a large bowl.
3. Add water and pitted dates into blender. Allow the dates to soak for 30 minutes if they are a bit firm or your blender has a hard time blending dates smooth. Once they are soft, blend the dates and water until super smooth.
4. Add all of the ingredients into the bowl with the oat flour and stir well until combined.
5. Scoop the mixture into the pan and spread it out with a spatula as evenly as possible. You can use lightly wet hands to smooth it down if you need to.
6. Bake at 325F for about 23-25 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then lift it out and transfer it to a cooling rack for another 5-10 minutes. Slice and enjoy! I suggest freezing leftovers to preserve freshness.

Harissa Paste Recipe

Ready to spice up your kitchen? Move over boring salsa and ketchup! This red raven condiment is sure to make your taste buds pop. I usually make a batch and keep it in the fridge, although it never lasts longer than a few weeks.  I add it to my homemade hummus, roasted veggies, chicken, pork, rice dishes and everything in between.

This lovely Tunisan chili paste is so versatile. I came across a recipe about a year ago that called for it, and knowing that it wasn’t at my local grocery store, I knew I wanted to learn how to make it. Each paste will be different, some are made with roasted red peppers (like the one I made last year), some with tomatoes, some with chilies and some with a combo of all three. So you will get something a little different with each one you buy. Today I decided to make one with JUST chilies. We are having friends over for dinner tonight and I am making baked chicken with harissa chickpeas and leeks. I’ll use 1/4c of the harissa in the recipe, which will give it a little bit of a kick, but not blow off your lips hot :).

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Ingredients
4 ounces dried chiles of your choice (see Recipe Notes)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for storing
Optional additions: fresh lemon juice, preserved lemon, fresh or dried mint, fresh cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, cayenne, paprika

Equipment
Heatproof bowl for soaking chiles
Skillet for toasting spices
Spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle for grinding spices
Food processor or mortar and pestle for mixing paste
Airtight jar for storage

Instructions

  1. Soften the chiles. Place the chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. You can usually de-seed and de-stem the chilies prior to putting them in the bowl. or the stems fall easily off after soaking. If there are seeds left in them, let them fall to the bottom of the bowl and just fish out the soaked chilie. No need to de-seed and de-vein the chilies if you don’t have time.  Let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Toast the spices. While the chiles are soaking, toast the caraway, coriander, and cumin in a dry skillet over low-medium heat, occasionally shaking or stirring to prevent burning. When the spices are fragrant, remove them from the pan.
  3. Grind the spices. Grind the spices in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or coffee grinder. I used my magic bullet and it worked like a charm. My food processor was too big for such a small amount of spices.
  4. Drain the chiles, reserving the liquid for step 6.
  5. Combine the chiles with spices, garlic, and salt. Combine the chiles, ground spices, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. (You can also use a mortar and pestle or your handy magic bullet.)
  6. Make a paste.

    With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process to form a smooth and thick paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. If a thinner paste is desired, blend in a little of the chile soaking liquid until the paste has reached your desired texture. I added 1 tbsp of the chile liquid with 1 tbsp of olive oil at a time into my magic bullet. It was a little slow to come together but I just had to keep shaking it around until it mixed.

  7. Taste and adjust seasonings. The flavor of the harissa will deepen over the next day or two, but you can taste it now and add more salt or other optional ingredients to your liking. The raw garlic will really come through when you smell it, and will soften up a bit over the next few days.
  8. Top with olive oil and store. Transfer the harissa to a jar and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil. Cover the jar and refrigerate for up to a month, adding a fresh layer of olive oil on the top each time you use the harissa.

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Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Corn

I make popcorn on a regular basis, it’s one of my favourite snacks, but lately I want sweet caramel corn. Instead of the plain-Jane caramel corn I wanted to mix it up a bit, so I’ve opted to add salt, peanuts and vanilla bean. Sounds like heaven, right? It is.

Oh yeah, this is happening on a Monday night.

I didn’t want to use corn syrup for my sweet treat, so I knew I had to work with brown sugar and butter. Hey – that’s not a bad thing. I did some research and came up with the simplest way to make it. No corn syrup, no baking… just sauce and let cool caramel corn.

Here’s what you do my friends… make yourself some focaccia, then for dessert, make this. Park your ass on the couch and cuddle up. This makes for one helluva meal 🙂 (sorry for the awful pics, the lighting was terrible in my kitchen tonight!)

  • 1 cup organic popcorn
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 c light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 c water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2-4 tsp coarse sea salt
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pop popcorn as per usual then spread it out on the lined baking sheet.

IMG_2986Melt butter in a pan.  Add brown sugar and stir until mixed, then add the water. 

IMG_2987Stir until boiling stage and cook for 5-10 minutes until mixture hits soft-ball stage (put a few drops in a glass of icy water until it can form a soft ball).

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Remove from heat and add vanilla and soda, continue to stir while it goes puffy.
Add peanuts and mix well.

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Drizzle over popcorn and lightly stir.
Salt with coarse sea salt.
Allow to cool (if you can).

Eat.

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Caramel Corn

Worth The Wait Focaccia!

In addition to my bread obsession, I have discovered a love of fresh homemade focaccia.  If you have never tried to make this wonder-bread before, you must try. It is SUPER simple, but takes patience as does any good bread. You can however, make a quick version of it and it will be great but if you’re looking for the moistest, fluffiest and most flavourful focaccia? Well you had better take a nap, find a hobby or play some video games while you wait. The good news is that most of the waiting can be done overnight, so just find something to do for 3 hours or so 🙂

This recipe is not mine, I found it while scouring online and OH MY am I ever glad I tried it and am thrilled to share it on my blog.  It is now filed in my ‘keep’ list because it’s just absolutely perfect. I’ve made it once and will be making it again for an upcoming family gathering. Caution: people WILL swoon.

in the tray

I had some crispy garlic infused oil from some Filipino garlic rice I made recently, and I decided to throw it into the dough mix right at the beginning. Excellent idea! (Pats self on back).  If you have any infused oil that you like, I suggest adding it to the mix. It adds another dimension of flavour you can’t get from just adding fresh/dried herbs to the top of the dough before baking. Don’t add too much, I’m talking a 1tbsp or two at max.

The tray

The rest of the directions in the recipe I followed to a T. I did let it rest from 9pm at night until 11am the next morning before starting to ‘turn’ the dough. It had plenty of time to ferment and create oddles and oodles of delicious pillowy bubbles. Right before baking, I halved some cherry tomatoes and carefully pushed them into the dough. I picked some fresh rosemary, sprinkled it on top along with some chopped kalamata olives and thinly shaved red onion.  I finished it off with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and popped it in the oven.

close up

My batch was the perfect size.. I think I was able to get over 30 pieces from the rectangle tray. Only three pieces were left over at the end of the night. It was a HUGE hit, and I know it will be in your home too!  Thank you SO much to Jenny for posting this recipe on her awesome blog, which I recently discovered. You will want to bookmark her page folks, she’s a keeper! 🙂 To find the full recipe, click here.

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Three perfect pieces

This months obsession: Dehydrating!

If you have been reading my blog for a while you probably know that every few months I adopt some sort of new food obsession.  Lately it’s been sprouting and raw food… this month it’s DEHYDRATING!

I’m the type of person who doesn’t spend a lot of money on fancy kitchen appliances. When I want to try something new, I usually look for it used on Craigslist or Kijiji.  I refuse to spend oodles of moolah on some new kitchen ‘essential’, use it for a couple of months then surrender it to the dust bunnies in my basement. Nope. Not gonna do it.

A couple of years ago I wanted to try juicing. I know a good juicer isn’t cheap, so I got it used from a very nice gentleman on Craigslist. I paid $40 bucks for it. Sweet, right? I juiced for a month straight, loved it… then I moved and didn’t have the kitchen counter space for it, so it sat in the pantry. When we moved into our new house it made another appearance and I have been using it off and on for months. Definitely not a waste of $40. I love it and bust it out when I’m alternating between smoothies and juicing. I even keep the pulp from the juice so I can bake with it. See? Not a fad. I like to call it a ‘periodic obsession’. I have many of those.

This is a loaf of zucchini banana bread with carrot, ginger, apple and beet pulp. It was super dense and very yummy. Perfect for breakfast and really awesome toasted.

Banana Zucchini Bread

Yumm, that looks good huh! Hm… haven’t had bread in a while. Could totally go for… Nope. Stop. Not eating wheat.

Anyway. Where was I?

Right.

Enter dehydrator!

Nesco Dehydrator

Okay, so I have desperately wanted a dehydrator for a reeeeaallllyyy long time now.

Like

months.

That’s a long time to obsess over something, right?  I picked this gem up at Home Hardware for $39 on sale.  Shazaa!

I started with apple slices on Sunday. Read in the booklet that you should pre-treat them with something acidic like orange/grapefruit juice and water so they don’t brown. I had a bunch of apples left from the orchard and got to work. I didn’t core the apples for two reasons; 1) I don’t have an apple corer, 2) I think it’s a waste of time. As long as the seeds are removed the little shell around them gets crispy when the apple dehydrates so you don’t notice it anyway. I tossed the pre-soaked apples in cinnamon and put them on the tray.

I didn’t take a picture of the apples. They turned out so good I ate the whole batch. So uh, here’s a picture of the sweet potato chips and kiwi that I did yesterday!

Sweet potato and kiwi

I only seasoned the sweet potato chips with salt and a little garlic powder.  The kiwi was just sliced and put straight up on the tray. Looks groovy, huh?

The kiwi is a huge favourite in my house. It’s a little chewy and tart, with the right amount of sweetness.  I grab a piece every time I walk by the counter. Totally addictive. Perfect snacks to keep in my purse so I don’t go hangry. Those raw power breakfast bars I made don’t last long and the chocolate can melt quickly in the summer, so these are prefect in any weather and won’t make your fingers messy!

The sweet potato chips turned out really bland. Garlic powder is NOT the right spice. I made another batch with another batch of apples yesterday and seasoned the sweet potatoes with chipotle pepper (ground). They were so spicy!  I’ll take it down a notch next time. Also way too salty. I need to find a happy medium with the salt.  I also did zucchini chips with the last of the sweet potato. I used a black peppercorn seasoning and I didn’t realize it had salt already in it, and added more. Oops, ew. They are awful to eat on their own, but I’ll throw them into a salad for a salty crunch so they don’t go to waste, or throw them into a soup and rehydrate them. Huh. Let me think about that one some more.

Definitely need to figure out the salt ratio though. I think I will try paprika or onion powder next time.

On the 2nd batch of apples, triple the amount of cinnamon, FELL onto the apples. Oh well. Who hates cinnamon? Not moi. So I decided instead of rinsing them off, to just let it be. Mental note for next time: use a cinnamon shaker and don’t free-shake.

New batch! IMG_2642

We have a ripe pineapple on the counter, so tonight I’m going to dehydrate half of that.  I really like having both fresh and dried fruit in the kitchen. I will most likely bake something in the near future with my dried fruit goodness.

I’m thinking of dehydrating some carrots, celery, potato, onion etc., and making my own vegetarian soup mixes in mason jars to give friends over the holidays.  Sounds like a fun project but I don’t know that I’ll have time to research and get it all together before we leave for holiday.

Ah well… it will be my next obsession I’m sure. I must create and move on to the next!  Here are some pictures of the goodies I’ve obsessed over this week. Enjoy friends!

Oh and here’s a picture of my cat, Art. Just cause he looks freaking cute in the box.

Art

sweet potato - chipotle

zucchini

Ready to go!

Kiwi

apples

Raw Food Reset (Day 10-12) and Final Thoughts

Ah ha! I did it!  I actually loved every day of this ‘reset’.  I did it for 12 days overall, and while I may have veered off the raw path here and there, I have pretty much stuck to clean, healthy eating, sans meat, wheat and dairy.

The summary:

  • I’ve lost 7lbs
  • Feel fantastic
  • Have much more energy
  • Sleep better at night
  • More focused at work
  • More productive at work
  • Less sluggish in the gym
  • Ran my first 5k in a very very long time
  • Enjoy running (more than before) because I am mentally able to focus better
  • Don’t crave junk food
  • Don’t eat anything processed anymore
  • REALLY enjoy eating raw, vegan, and now prefer that most of my meals are raw
  • Dramatically reduced bloating
  • Reduced my alcohol intake
  • Have started dehydrating my own food (veggies and fruit) for nutritious snacks
  • Have been turned on to a whole new world of really yummy vegan raw food

In a nutshell (hehe that’s vegan and raw) I am super happy with my new eating an exercising habits. I am loving how I feel and want to continue this new lifestyle.

I’ve had a great time blogging about it as well, and it has helped keep me on track. In the next few weeks I’ll post updates about all the new fun food stuff I’m dehydrating and eating!

If anyone has any awesome raw, vegan or vegetarian recipes they’d like to see, or SHARE, please leave a comment!

Raw Food Reset – Day 7

I made it! 7 days!

Although I’ve cheated here and there, I’ve really done a great job of keeping the 90/10 split of raw/cooked. Nothing special to report today.  Feeling fantastic and looking forward to eating new raw recipes this week.  I am going to keep this going, I am feeling great and tomorrow night’s spinning class will be a testament of how my body feels on this raw ride. OH, right, – I managed to convince B to go to a spin class near by tomorrow night, so we’ll probably have salad for dinner with avocado and head off to class.  I’m REALLY excited to do this with him. I look forward to posting pics of us all sweaty after class 🙂

On Wednesday night, I’m going to make raw yam noodles with miso sauce. Another awesome recipe from This Rawsome Vegan Life. Seriously. If you haven’t been over to her blog yet, get on it!

Here’s what I ate today:

Breakfast: Frozen mixed fruit with cinnamon and a banana

Morning Snack: red seedless grapes

Lunch: sundried tomato and zucchini hummus tart with a salad (beets, spinach, cucumber, herbs and arugula)

Afternoon Snack: power protein bar (1/4 bar)

Dinner: B brought home some chicken byriani so I had a couple of spoonfuls of rice with an avocado chopped up. Not really satisfying but the rice tasted so good. A coworker of his made it and it so I had to try a little.

That’s it friends!  I really can’t tell you how much fun I’m having experimenting with this new way of life. I am even waking up before the alarm in the AM and having the most wonderful sleeps.  Not having any alcohol is a huge driver of that, but still.  I give the eating habits a high-five. I’m honestly excited about the yam noodles.

Okay, I’m having some yummy David’s Tea before bed.. it has chili peppers in the green tea! Divine.

Night friends! Have a rawsome Tuesday!