Chewy, Crumbly Oat & Pecan Granola Bars

20140103-141524.jpg

The New Year feels like a breath of fresh air and a choke hold at the same time.  A fresh opportunity to start over, to make goals and plans but also a big lug of pressure to do do do and accomplish EVERYTHING. There are moments of brightness and there are moments when I just want to make the noise my puppy Boone makes when he can’t reach his tennis ball under the couch, a pathetic groan/moan/whimper. Sometimes I wish the New Year started in March when the weather warms up just a little bit, the sun is shiny enough for an afternoon walk, people start wearing jean cut off shorts and flowers peek through the dirt. In January I just want to snuggle in my bed. I don’t want to get up when it’s still dark outside to go to the gym. (I’m super thankful to live in the South where it might be 70 degrees in a couple of days).

But I AM so thankful that I get to take it day by day. I don’t know if tomorrow will even be here. It’s no guarantee. But I do know that right now I can play with my dog, I can try a new recipe, I can listen to a friend, I can drink a huge cup of water and take my vitamins. I can go on a 30 minute 10 minute jog and read a couple pages of a book, I can take food to a homeless person. Well maybe not all in one moment, but I can at least do two of those things today.

That’s what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for today. I’m thankful that as I choose to embrace this moment, then the next and then the one after that, all the moments will add up. They’ll add up to a day then a week, after that a month, and finally a year. And after a year, they’ll all be packaged up tidily or messily, but they’ll be packaged up nonetheless, to be reflected on, mourned over, laughed at, and proud of. In the meantime I may have a day where I don’t do much more than what I was supposed to do, but that’s OK. Because I can start again the day after that.

So today, in this simple recipe, I’m embracing a goal for the New Year. Maybe it’s yours to. By making a healthy (sugar free! wheat free! dairy free!) granola bar, I’m contributing to my goal of eating breakfast, which is contributing to my desire to be healthier, which is contributing to wanting to loose a couple pounds, which is contributing to having more energy and feeling better. Here’s to today!

Chewy, Crumbly Oat & Pecan Granola Bars

Makes 12-16 bars

20140103-143232.jpg
ingredients:
2.5 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons or so Sunflower seeds
4oz Medjool dates (pitted)
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup olive oil (used separately)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey

to make:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine oats, chopped pecans, coconut flakes & sunflower seeds in a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle maple syrup and 1/3 cup olive oil over top and stir with a spatula to coat everything well.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Combine honey, vanilla and remaining olive oil and pour into a large bowl. In a food processor, chop bananas and dates until smooth-ish. Scoop into the large bowl of liquid, add oat mixture to the bowl. Stir all the combine.

Pour/scrape mixture into an 8×8 baking pan. Line with parchment paper if you have it (I never do!) or just spray a little cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Store in the refrigerator! Enjoy them for breakfast on the go or crumble them into almond milk or Greek yogurt. Also delicious as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea!

20140103-141541.jpg


Eating with the Armstrongs

Image

First of all, Happy Father’s Day to my amazing dad, father-in-law, my Grandpa & my Papau! We are so thankful for these men who love us, generously support us, and have consistently cared for us for so many years.

When I was little my dad’s specialty was splatter: a combination of fried spam, onions and potatoes. And I have to tell you, it was delicious. He has since learned how to make gourmet omelets and is a grill master, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he brought out his splatter recipe again.  There are so many things I love about my dad. He is the funniest man I know, extremely creative, hard working, and generous. He definitely set the bar high in my mind of the kind of man I wanted to marry. I’m thankful that my husband fits the bill in every way. I love you, Daddy, and am happy to celebrate you today! I wish I could give you a head rub while you watch golf. Love from Baton Rouge!

Here’s what we’ve enjoyed lately!

Creamy Polenta w/ Chicken Sausage & Peppers

Definitely a recent favorite! Polenta is so easy to whip up and makes a delicious base for the sausage and peppers. I actually used a Cajun Sausage that I got from our Farmer’s Market, which added the perfect spice. This meal came together quickly and easily and was thoroughly enjoyed by both of us!

Spring Vegetable Potstickers

Well, I really only made the vegetable filling as I could not find wonton or dumpling wrappers at our local Whole Foods. But the filling was absolutely delicious served atop noodles. I did not use tofu but I did add ground turkey for some protein. The flavors in this recipe are fresh and bright.

Pepper Chicken Nachos

We love nachos, so the substitution of bell peppers for chips was excited to try. The recipe calls for mini peppers, but I just used regular bell peppers. This is another simple and flavor packed meal.

Tropical Chewy Granola Bars

These gluten free granola bars are packed with power-food ingredients and wholesome sweetness. I made quite a few recipe swaps: dried cherries for the dried mango, chocolate chips for the dried banana, pecans for the macadamia nuts, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds. Tasty and good-for-you!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

In the attempt to succeed at a gluten free summer diet, I have made this “pizza crust” twice! The flavor is delicious but I’m still working on getting a crunchier consistency throughout. A major adjustment I made to the recipe was to cook the crust at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes (periodically checking), instead of the 450 degrees the recipe called for. This created a much better crust, but I am going to try an even longer cooking time at a lower temperature. We topped ours with a simple tomato sauce, sausage, basil, spinach (from my garden!) and just a tiny bit of Parmesan. Try it!