peanut butter chai granola bars...or just granola

IMGP0701 Ok. I've been trying to make decent granola bars for about a year now. They are always okay...but never great. They also never stay bars...more like large granola chunks. So this Sunday I decided to be okay with the large chunks and go for it using my own recipe. As you know, when I cook for myself (not using a recipe) I very rarely measure anything...and of course I am not talking about baking. For that (if I even try it at all) I use a recipe and still fail miserably.

Granola is one of those sweet treats that doesn't require exact amounts of anything, thus I run straight for it. I was shocked how good this turned out. Feel free to play with any measurements given...I certainly do! Happy to share! And before you get stressed out, I know that's a crap ton of ingredients...don't worry, this is not hard.

Peanut Butter Chai Granola

Ingredients

body of granola: 4 cups rolled oats 2 cups toasted wheat germ 3 cups rice crispies 1/2 cup of flax seeds 1 cup shredded coconut 4 tbsp melted vegan butter (I use soy free Earth Balance) 1/3 cup canola oil couple handfuls of raw almonds couple handfuls of raw cashews couple handfuls of golden raisins ground cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom to taste

binding/coating:

2 tbsp coconut oil 1 tbsp of vanilla extract 1/4 cup of molasses 2/3 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup coconut sugar 1/2 cup of natural, unsweetened peanut butter 1/2 cup of coconut water

In big huge bowl, toss oats and shredded coconut with melted butter, kosher salt, and canola oil. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Once this is finished, add toasted mixture back to big bowl and add all other ingredients in top list. Toss to evenly distribute ingredients and insure that spices coat everything.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring all ingredients for binding/coating to a boil, whisking vigorously. Once hot and bubbly and fully combined, pour over granola mixture while simultaneously tossing/stirring with rubber spatula. Continue to stir/toss until all pieces are evenly coated with sugar mixture.

Spread granola out on the same rimmed baking sheet and press evenly to all sides. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Let cool and then slice. And inevitably break/crumble into granola. Enjoy! IMGP0703IMGP0700

almost vegan homemade peanut butter cups

2014-01-21 14.24.20 I'll always be grateful to blogger + yogini Katie Levans of Honeystuck for posting her Vegan Reese's Peanut Butter Egg recipe. I first attempted it last year and after a few tweaks of my own, it's one of my good-to desserts. Again, like I've said before, I can't bake...I've kinda stopped trying. So if I'm going to try my hand at making homemade dessert, it has to be something like this.

While Katie's original recipe works great, I've made a couple small changes. I'm not vegan, but make a lot of vegan recipes. I use no milk, butter, or cream, so I think calling things "almost vegan" might become a trend on this here blog. I've got a lot of recipes in my "almost vegan" arsenal that I hope to share with you.

Warning: making these peanut butter cups is kinda messy and takes a little bit of practice. Patience might be needed...but they are worth it! They are also very rich, which is great because one can be your whole dessert for the night!

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Almost Vegan Peanut Butter Cups adapted from Katie Levans

Ingredients (all according to taste + texture...feel free to play with measurements)

1 cup dark chocolate chips 1/2 - 3/4 cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter 1-2 tbsp coconut oil 1/4 cup nondairy milk (I always use almond) 2 tbsp coconut flour 1-2 tbsp Nutella 1 tbsp agave nectar a sprinkling of kosher salt

In an electric mixer, beat peanut butter with Nutella, coconut flour + agave nectar. 2014-01-21 12.37.37

This mixture will be very thick and should resemble a tough dough.

Take it out and place between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick..look, Nutella swirls! 2014-01-21 12.43.29 Sprinkle kosher salt very lightly over top of dough, replace top layer of parchment and roll over it one last time. 2014-01-21 12.46.46 Freeze dough in this thin layer for about an hour.

After dough is cold, put chocolate chips in a medium bowl with coconut oil + nondairy milk 2014-01-21 13.15.55 Melt in the microwave and whisk until smooth 2014-01-21 13.22.40

Get dough out of freezer and begin to cut your circles. I use a shot glass and it works like a charm. You get perfect, muffin tin sized disks! 2014-01-21 13.27.31 Using cupcake liners, fill up a 4 x 3 muffin pan.

Place a small spoonful of chocolate mixture in the bottom of each liner. Keeping the pan on a counter or table, strongly shake back and forth until chocolate evenly spreads and covers the bottom of each cupcake liner. You might need to get in there and help a little with a spatula. No big, just shake again if you want to even things out. 2014-01-21 13.26.32 Place one peanut butter disk in each liner. Top with another spoonful of chocolate mixture. Repeat shaking process. Use a spatula to cover any visible peanut butter. Place entire muffin tin in the freezer for a few hours. If you have leftover peanut butter dough, wrap up in parchment then plastic wrap and freeze for later use.

After a couple of hours, you can remove them from muffin tin and store in a freezer bag (in the freezer). Because of the coconut oil, when these guys are below a certain temperature, they hold their shape brilliantly. However, the chocolate is not at all hard, but amazingly soft like a ganache. So good. Enjoy!

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5 healthy foods that taste like heaven

Eating healthy is easy when you have these staples in your kitchen. Recipe possibilities are endless--must haves in my book.

Frozen bananas. They taste like candy  ice cream. period...especially if they are almost too ripe. Have bananas that are covered in brown spots? QUICK--peel them, chunk them, throw them in a baggie, and freeze. Blend them up with greek yogurt and a little almond milk and you have the richest tasting "milkshake" ever.

Canned pumpkin. NOM. NOM. NOM. Very seasonal I know, but I use it September through May pretty much. Soup, muffins, pasta sauce (recipe coming soon!), smoothies, etc. Can never get enough, tastes so good.

Avocado. Enough said.

Light coconut milk.  Again, soups, stews, curries, desserts, etc. So wonderfully rich, tastes so wonderful, but is redonks healthy & vegan.

Toasted coconut.  Between its milk, its oil, and its flesh, coconut is the king of richness. So delicious.....(get it!?)

Greek yogurt.  It's a little ridiculous how often I buy these big tubs. My ultimate staple in the kitchen--always use it in place of sour cream, but also of course in smoothies, desserts, cold soups, etc. This photo is not my favorite brand--if I get my pick, I love Fage. 

Vegan Banana and Toasted Coconut Muffins

I made these last week and they were (surprisingly) so good! After reviewing my resolutions, I am back on the baking train. I started off with this recipe, but made so many changes that I consider these muffins an original creation.

I have been experimenting with vegan baking for a couple of years and concluded that there is one secret weapon to success:

Everything is better with a little coconut oil, but mostly it adds a richness that is woooonderful.

The other secret to these muffins is toasting your coconut:

Recipe:

  • 2 cups whole wheat white flour (I'm assuming that these could easily be gluten free as well if you substituted coconut flour for the whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  •  1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
  •  1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup toasted unsweetened coconut 
First, toast your coconut in a skillet over medium high heat. Watch it carefully, it can burn in two seconds!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray muffin tin with cooking spray
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, & cinnamon in a large bowl.
Combine mashed banana, oil, sugar, vanilla, & almond milk in a medium bowl. Add to dry mixture.
Fold in toasted coconut.
Spoon into muffin tin, filling them up about three quarters.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes (another secret: NOT overcooking these)
Enjoy!

I eat what I eat

Next month will be one year since I stopped buying meat (still buy lots of seafood). I am by no means a vegetarian. I enjoy it when eating at others' houses or if I'm inclined to order it in a restaurant. I don't believe in rules, but both Andrew and I have consistently "leaned" in the direction of vegetarianism and now, veganism. I love to cook and above all else I want my food to taste good and make me feel good. Often people (especially within the yoga community) ask me, "Oh, are you a vegetarian/vegan?"

The answer is no, I simply eat what I consider  healthful and I have more and more trouble supporting the industrialized meat industry. That's where it stops. I have a major problem with all the moral judgments we place on diet.

These photos are from an especially yummy meal I made the other night. Salmon rolls from Lotsa Pasta, chilled avocado soup with cucumber, grape tomatoes, and cilantro, spinach salad, and roasted corn.

many thanks to Joy the Baker for the soup recipe!

About six weeks ago I quit buying eggs, milk,  and butter. However, I can't even think of giving up parmesan and greek yogurt.

No milk is no problem if you have this for your coffee.

In other words,  I see no point in giving yourself strict rules that ultimately end in a feeling of deprivation. Maybe I'm dense and it took too long to reach this conclusion, but once I did, it's became easier to sift through all the food chatter.

The more I cook, the more I love it. Our trip to Jungle Jim's this weekend was heaven...and of course we bought tons of wonderful cheese:

Happy eating!

Listen to this!

I'm so excited to start this new series. I plan to blog my top five shows each week...podcast/public radio-wise. For anyone who knows me "in real life," they can attest that I am a bit of a NPR/podcast-aholic.

I want this series to be almost like a weekly digest--the best of the week.

So...this week if you need something to listen to while folding laundry, I suggest clicking the following little purple links:

"The High Cost of Cheap Fashion" On Point with Tom Ashbrook -- June 6, 2012 Interview with Elizabeth Cline, author of the new book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

 "'Obama's Secret Wars' Against America's Threats" Fresh Air with Terry Gross -- June 4, 2012 Interview with David Sanger, who has written a new book about Obama's approach to foreign policy.

"There's No Such Thing as a Sold-Out Concert (Even for Justin Bieber)" All Things Considered -- June 4, 2012

"Assessing Consumer Concerns About the Meat Industry" Fresh Air with Terry Gross -- June 7, 2012 Interview with Tom Philpott, agricultural journalist for Mother Jones

"An Exploration of Strange Creatures" NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour -- June 8, 2012 This is always a must-listen, but I particularly enjoyed this week's episode...mainly due to the mention of Carly Rae Jepsen.

So, there you have it!

I'll be back next Friday with five more links--happy listening!