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Granola Bars: Homemade and Amazing

I have referred to my daughter’s cooking in past blogs and I can’t resist sharing her latest treat with everyone.  These granola bars with blueberries (or any berry of your choice) and yogurt drizzle are not only healthy, but incredibly delicious.  They are a good source of protein, omega-3, biotin, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber.  I never considered making my own granola bars until I tasted these and I have a feeling you will agree.

There is only one caveat – resist the urge to eat the entire batch at once.  We wrap them individually and keep them in the refrigerator so we don’t finish them off as fast as we make them.

Note – the yogurt drizzle contains sugar (the only non-healthy item in the entire recipe) so you can choose to skip it altogether as we sometimes do, or just lightly drizzle the bars with it.  As an additional note, the directions below will make much more yogurt coating than we have ever needed or used.

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Ingredients for the bars:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice krispies
1/4 cup whole roasted almonds, roughly chopped
2 tablespoon chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter or almond butter (I typically use peanut butter)
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 (rounded) cup fresh blueberries or 3/4 cup dried blueberries

Ingredients for the yogurt drizzle:

1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon gelatin
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions for bars:
  • Skip this step if using dried blueberries.  Roast fresh blueberries in 350 degree over for 30 minutes or until they pop and shrink.  Best to coat baking sheet with parchment paper – then blueberries won’t stick
  • In a large bowl combine the oats, rice krispies, almonds, chia seeds and salt.
  • Combine almond or peanut butter with honey and microwave for about 40 seconds or until mixture is pourable
  • Add vanilla to warm honey mixture
  • Add honey mixture to the dry oat mixture and combine – it will be thick!
  • Add dried blueberries
  • Coat a 9 X 13 pan with parchment paper and pour mixture into pan and press down evenly and until tightly packed
  • Place in freezer for one hour, then cut into bars
  • Bars should be stored in refrigerator to keep fresh and hold their shape better.

Directions for yogurt drizzle:

  • Combine water, vanilla and then whisk gelatin in and let thicken for about 5 minutes
  • In another bowl, combine yogurt, honey and salt
  • Microwave yogurt mixture for 15 seconds, mix and repeat till warm, but do not let it boil
  • Add gelatin mixture to yogurt mixture and whisk together
  • Add in powdered sugar and whisk until thick, but pourable
  • Drizzle bars with the yogurt
  • The bars will be sticky now – we usually just wrap them (one or two together) with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for later eating. The yogurt will harden in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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Take Dinner to a New Level!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of cooking with my teenage daughter, Lexi.  She just came home from 2-months in Hawaii where she worked and lived on an organic farm.  Lexi had so much information to share and couldn’t wait to cook dinner for our family.  She cooked with some unique ingredients that I had not used before and made a delicious and healthy meal.  If you are like many cooks and feel like you could use some new recipes and tips – read on…

Our meal was stir-fry vegetables with sticky rice and tofu.  Yes, tofu!  Don’t let it scare you.  It was truly delicious.  Even my two young boys loved it (until I told them what it was)!  Of course, if you choose, you can skip the tofu or use chicken instead.  I have made stir-fry many times and it is often just ‘ho-hum’, but with some new healthy ingredients, we had a super tasty dish that was loaded with vitamins and minerals.

We started with coconut oil to sauté our vegetables.  I knew that this oil had a bad rap because of it high content of saturated fats, but I learned that the fats in coconut oil are Medium Chain Triglycerides, which are healthy fats.  Because of the way these fatty acids are metabolized in the body, they provide unique benefits such as increased energy expenditure, which has shown to increase weight loss.  In addition, it has been shown to improve cholesterol ratios, fight off yeast and fungus in our bodies and improve thyroid function.

We added the basics – carrots, broccoli, kale, mushrooms and red onions – but you could use any vegetables that you like.  These five ingredients together are full of vitamins such as Vitamins A, C, D and K, as well as calcium, copper, potassium and fiber and many others.

We flavored the dish with brown rice miso.  Many of us know miso from the soup that is served in Thai restaurants of which I have never been a fan.  But the small amount that we used added an amazing complex flavor to the dish, as well as more nutrition.  Brown rice miso is made from soybeans and brown rice.  It is high in fiber and complex proteins.  It also has a dense concentration of nutrients and antioxident properties. And, it is high in polyunsaturated fats, which are known to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Coconut milk. This ingredient is filled with benefits.  To name just a few:  High levels of manganese which helps to metabolize glucose, which in turn helps the body’s metabolism work at a better level. It also contains lauric acid, which has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It also contains high amounts of Vitamin C, E & B, as well as phosphorus which can help strengthen bones.

We added raw sunflower seeds, which I originally thought were just for a little crunch, but I discovered that these little seeds pack an amazing punch of nutrition.  One-quarter cup of these little seeds contains over half the daily recommended value of Vitamin E, as well as high amounts of Vitamin B1, manganese, copper, tryptophan, magnesium, selenium, Vitamin B6, phosphorus and folate.

Then we added lemongrass – it is a perennial plant grown is Hawaii and much of Asia. It is know to have anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and antioxidant properties.  The list of its health benefits really makes me wonder why we don’t all eat it every morning. It has been shown to provide relief from all types of pain, aid in digestion, as well as have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic abilities.  It adds a delicious lemon flavor to foods.  If you can’t find it fresh, you can get a jarred or dried version.

We also flavored the dish with fresh cilantro, which is rich in Vitamins A, C & K. It is a good source of folates and many minerals, such as potassium, calcium, manganese, iron and magnesium.

Lastly, tofu!  Its benefits are numerous and too long to list, but include: high in protein, lower risk of cancer, help lower bad cholesterol, alleviate symptoms of menopause and great source of calcium and Vitamin E.

The amounts below are approximates.  Taste as you go!

Vegetable Stir Fry

stir fry photo

Ingredients:

Coconut oil (1 – 2 tablespoons)

½ Red Onion finely chopped

1 large head of Broccoli chopped

3 – 4 large Carrots chopped

8oz package of Mushrooms (any kind)

½ bunch of Kale chopped

1 – 2 cups Coconut Milk (you can also use Lite Coconut milk )

1 Tbsp Brown Rice Miso

½ cup Sunflower Seeds

1 tsp jarred Lemongrass

1 Tblp fresh Cilantro diced

½ Tbsp Curry

Salt

To prepare:

Heat coconut oil in bottom of pan

Start adding vegetables – Onions first, then broccoli and carrots, then mushrooms, then kale.  Cook until veggies just begin to soften.

Combine Miso and coconut milk and then add to pan.

Add curry, sunflower seeds, lemongrass, cilantro and salt.

Cook for about 5 more minutes.

Sticky Rice:

Ingredients:

1 cup of coconut milk
1 tsp of honey

Sprinkle of curry powder

3 cups water

1 tsp Lemongrass

2 cups of sushi rice rinsed till water runs clear

To Prepare:

Add all ingredients except honey and bring to boil, then cover and simmer till water absorbs. Add honey, mix and serve.

Tofu:

1 package firm Tofu drained

So that tofu absorbs flavors better, do the following to force out the water:

Lay down dishtowel with paper towels on top of it, then place single layer of tofu

Cover tofu with more paper towels on top

Lay something heavy on top to aid in release of water. (cookbooks work well)

Let sit for 30 minutes at least

To Prepare: 

Combine and warm up in sauté pan:

1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

1 Tbsp Honey

½ Tbsp Miso

Sprinkle Curry

Sprinkle Lemongrass

Once heated, gently add tofu and stir until coated. Let tofu cook till brown on one side and then gently turn over.  Keep the heat on stovetop high so it browns nicely.  Remember you are not making scrambled eggs!! Be delicate.

Dig in and Enjoy!

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And so we begin.

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