Granola Bars

Homemade granola bars are amazing! I just love that you can customize them to your own tastes with your own add ins.

You know I’m a huge fan of knowing exactly what’s in my food. When I make my own granola bars I get to be in charge of how sweet (or not) they are. Even before we went no sugar, no grains I liked making granola bars over buying them because I felt like there was more substance to them. Since really cutting back on refined sugar I haven’t made granola bars much because all the recipes I have are loaded with sugar.

A few weeks ago my favorite healthy food blog (Oh She Glows) featured two granola bar recipes! Yesterday, I tried one of them with great result. These granola bars are sweetened with banana and whatever add ins you choose. Plus, the base is oatmeal (no additional flour needed) and chopped nuts. They are filled with all sorts of good seeds too, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp hearts, and we added chia.

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I like to split my granola bar dough in half and make two kinds at once. We stirred mini dark chocolate chips and raisins in one half and coconut flakes in the other. We (my two little helpers and I) pressed them into different halves of the pan and waited to see how they would turn out.

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The result was fantastic! Chewy and flavorful, just sweet enough but not too much. The seeds add great texture and help to give the bars some real substance. And they are very portable as they hold their shape well without crumbling (a problem I’ve had with other no sugar granola bar recipes).

I will definitely be making these granola bars again and again!

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This Week…

This week has turned into a very unexpected week. It’s been a short week but very eventful. Lexi had a school field trip at a farm today. Brian worked from home so that he could take care of picking Izzy up from the bus and feeding her lunch. They fended for themselves for lunch and I packed a lunch for Lexi and me to eat at the farm.

The farm was neat. We got to feed and pet camels, donkeys, pigs, goats, and more. Plus we got to eat lunch with the class (very exciting for a preschooler!). I had packed a pretty basic lunch for us. Salad for me. Peanut butter oatmeal balls, carrots and pickles, and an apple for Lexi. What’s funny is as I’m looking around at what everyone else has for lunch I see a lot of capri-suns, sandwiches, goldfish and lunchables. A little girl across from us had a whole blueberry bagel filled with cream cheese and a side of goldfish crackers. That poor girl was eyeing our lunch so we shared our apple and she asked for carrots too (no way could I deny her of some fruits and veggies even if it means sharing some germs)! Meanwhile she, of course, could not finish her giant bagel.

When we got home I whipped up some more chocolate covered clusters. This time heavy on the raisins and with roasted almonds (a totally different feel from yesterday).

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Next, we were out of peanut butter so we made some of that as well. Separate post coming later.

We didn’t go to soccer practice tonight because Isabelle was having some behavior issues. Which means I had an unexpected free afternoon (yay!). I spent it making the aforementioned items, taking my time with dinner, and reading a whole lot of books to Lexi.

While Izzy was serving her time for bad behavior her tooth fell out! She was upset about having to be punished, but also excited about losing her top tooth.

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Now for dinner. I’ve made homemade tomato soup a couple of times and had some successes and some failures. I do not have a go-to tomato soup recipe because I’ve never felt very strongly about any of my attempts. Well, I should say I did not have because I do now! The Creamy Tomato Soup recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook is my new go-to. It was easy, tasted great, and I typically have all the necessary ingredients on hand. The soup is vegan so the cream comes from soaked cashews and the tomato flavor is a mix of canned peeled tomatoes, tomato paste, and sun-dried tomatoes. The combination is perfectly tomatoey but not too acidic and nice and smooth in texture. We have a winner!

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We served with some pumpkin seeds and roasted almonds on top alongside a basic salad topped with artichokes. The girls especially loved finding the seeds/nuts in their soup. Glad I found a great basic tomato soup recipe and while I’m sad that Isabelle had to be punished it was nice to have an off afternoon.

Uninspired

Today my head was swimming with so many thoughts but nothing very concrete or actionable. Maybe it’s the short week or not having much of a menu plan this week? Anyways, I was feeling very uninspired in the cooking department. I did want to make something today but I just didn’t ever figure out what it was that I wanted to cook.

Thankfully, I was able to give the girls leftovers from yesterday for lunch.

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As a bonus, I made chocolate covered peanut, almond, and raisin clusters. I’ve made lots of chocolate covered nut clusters in the past and for some reason never added raisins. The chocolate covered raisins were so good! Raisinets are a fond memory for me and I imagine my chocolate covered raisins to be similar to them. I’m certain that is not true, though, I haven’t had Raisinets in so many years and my tastes are so different now I would probably dislike them and much prefer the homemade version. I believe I’ve stumbled upon something special with the chocolate covered raisins. Brian was already dreaming about chocolate covered cranberries. =)

This dinner came together pretty well for no real plan. Of course, it was a veggie bowl since no real plan is needed for those. Tonight’s Veggie Bowl had a super greens base topped with roasted asparagus, green beans, onions, daikon (a first for my family), and almonds. I added a little ground turkey (seriously, had no idea where I was going with this dinner) and drizzled olive oil over the top.

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Despite not knowing what I was actually making these veggie bowls turned out delicious. How can you go wrong with roasted vegetables and olive oil?

To combat my uninspiredness (yep, I make up words) I have already planned a creamy vegan tomato soup (Oh She Glows cookbook!) for dinner tomorrow. The trick is when I will get the chance to make it due to field trips and soccer practice but it looks easy enough that I hope I can fit it in between the activities.

Low Key Tuesday

Both of the girls had no school today, amazing! A free Tuesday when we were just gone all weekend was perfect.

I went on my longest run since the half marathon this morning. It was maybe 6 miles, I say maybe because I haven’t been tracking my mileage or even timing the runs. After all the training, I’ve been enjoying heading out with just a watch to know when I need to be back. That is how I used to run pretty much up until marrying Brian. I enjoy running for running and don’t enjoy the pressure of pace, distance, time, etc. Maybe once I’m feeling better about my running I’ll get back into competing with myself.

I didn’t even ask the girls what they wanted for breakfast this morning. Honestly, I was afraid of the response I would get and didn’t want to make anything particularly complex (or filled with grains/sugar!). Instead I mixed up some basic peanut butter banana smoothies and served alongside leftover oatmeal almond flour pancakes.

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Not beautiful but tasty.

After working outside for awhile this morning I came in to make them this broccoli carrot slaw salad. They really enjoy this salad and I like how easy it is and all the good stuff it’s filled with (broccoli, shredded carrots, a little onion, pumpkin seeds, mixed together with a bit of ranch and veganaise). Apparently, I gave them too much watermelon because they both couldn’t finish their lunch!

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Lucky for us we had some lentil walnut loaf in the freezer that we needed to eat. We love this lentil loaf (girls included). It is filled with lentils, walnuts, apples, celery, carrots, and oatmeal. The original recipe calls for raisins but we prefer a more savory loaf and omit the raisins and sometimes the apple. It was wonderful to not have to prep this today because while it is delicious it’s a bit of work to prepare. With it we had smashed potatoes/cauliflower. The idea here is to get the family eating mashed cauliflower but I add it into smashed potatoes so that the taste resembles potatoes more than cauliflower. Mashed potatoes is one of Brian’s favorite foods so we have it on occasion and I healthify it but don’t want to take away the essence. (BTW I gladly accept the mashed cauliflower substitute, no potatoes needed!) I roasted some okra to go with dinner and served everything with a green salad (yay for going to Costco and getting my super greens blend!).

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Seriously, the lentil loaf recipe is a huge hit. The recipe was one of the first vegan recipes I ever made and it convinced me that I could transition my family to eating vegan food regularly. Plus, lentils are cheap and much less creepy than ground beef (and probably if you buy the expensive ground beef you don’t want to make meatloaf out of it). My mom always made her meatloaf with bacon on top and that’s how I used to make mine. With the lentil loaf I don’t even miss the bacon, I think it would change the flavors too much (not to mention the vegan factor of it all, ha). Ok, I will stop raving about the lentil loaf but I am so glad there is some leftover in my fridge for tomorrow!

 

Back at It

Memorial Day weekend camping trip was a success! We picked a place that there wouldn’t be a ton of traffic getting there and home (thankfully that was true). The weather was a mix of decent and rainy. Which really during May in Washington that’s all you can really ask for. The girls rode bikes, we took a long walk, had a few great campfires, and took some naps. Camping for the extra day really makes a huge difference.

The camping menu worked out so well. We didn’t have too much food and started running out of food. Our new trailer’s fridge is a little smaller than the old one and I had a hard time fitting everything, no more over packing. Also, since I was not at the mercy of somebody’s else’s cooking I was able to modify meals so that I didn’t feel awful. That is until we stopped off for Mexican for lunch on the way home (unfortunately the food was not great and definitely not worth feeling yuck for).

One of my favorite parts of camping is the morning we leave. Now that we live the trailer life it’s much more laid back and things like this happen:

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S’mores before breakfast! Side note: I love to roast things over the fire but would like to actually consume what I roast, what other options are there aside from marshmallows and hot dogs? There are only so many of those I can roast and I give away before it is a detriment to the rest of the family also.

While I was able to eat pretty normally (for me) during camping the same cannot be said of the rest of the family (lettuce wrapped chili dog, anyone?). The best thing for dinner after a trip like this is a big bowl of vegetables. Dinner was salads all around (surprised it wasn’t soup?). This salad was extra special with roasted chickpeas (we are all in love with them), curry roasted cauliflower and squash, regular salad toppers (carrots, onion, etc), a spoon of hummus, and drizzle of olive oil.

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Back on the clean eating wagon!

First Camping Trip of the Year

We did not used to be Memorial Day weekend campers. In fact, I really enjoyed lying low while everyone else fought the traffic and the crowds. Since Brian changed jobs last year and the new gig offers less vacation time we have to take advantage of long weekends. This is our first time camping for Memorial Day weekend since…well I don’t think we’ve ever done that together.

Also it’s our first camping trip since buying our newer trailer. Our first trailer was pretty old (1975 old) but did us well. The sleeping situation in there, though, was not ideal. We were often up in the middle of the night listening to Lexi roll around in the bunk above us, or trying to get comfortable in the twin mattress that we shared while the girls got the big mattress, or picking Izzy up off the floor when she falls out of the twin mattress that they shared while we slept on the big mattress. Bunk beds and a bed should solve that.

So what do we eat when we go camping? Well, I can tell you gone are the days when all we brought was a pack of hot dogs, buns, chips, s’more stuff and beer (maybe there was more but I don’t remember much else). Camping eats require a lot more of my prep time. However, having a trailer has really helped. It’s a little rough to bring lettuce in a cooler, strategic placement is key. Now I get to bring enough to fill a mini kitchen and don’t need to prep each meal fully before we go.

Our menu looks something like this:

Breakfast:
Zucchini chocolate chip pancakes and bacon
Omelettes and bacon
Eggs and grits

Lunch:
Lunch meat and lettuce
Mixed veggie and bean cold salad
Giant lunch salad (with blue cheese!)

Dinner:
Lentil sloppy joes on lettuce or tortillas with potato salad
Chili dogs and corn on the cob
Mushroom and broccoli baked casserole

Snacks and Desserts:
Apples, bananas, melon
Raw veggies and salsa or hummus
S’mores
Bananas with peanut butter and chocolate chips (cooked on fire, amazing!)
Popcorn
Peanut butter chocolate chickpea cookies

My Favorite Lunch and I Fed it to My Kids

Without a doubt not eating bread has allowed my kids to be more adventurous eaters. I used to get sandwich requests on the daily and now when I ask what they would like for lunch they mostly say whatever I make.

Ok then, maybe they will eat what I wanted. We happened to have all the ingredients for (one of) my favorite lunch salads. Considering how much my kids enjoy all the individual ingredients to this salad I thought putting them together just might work out.

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The salad has shredded carrots, chopped red cabbage, and kale. On top is a peanut butter, soy sauce dressing. The dressing is thick and on occasion you get a bite of crunchy vegetables and a chunk of peanut butter dressing, oh so good! Izzy loved the salad, Lexi didn’t love the dressing as much but by the end was coming around.

If I fed them sandwiches everyday opportunities to try stuff like this would never come up. When bread isn’t over powering your tastes those vegetable cravings have a chance to come up. Like this lunch from yesterday:

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Yes, it’s a wrap which isn’t bread free but this wrap is filled with vegetables. There are carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, and olives in this wrap. Izzy actually requested a veggie wrap for lunch. Her taste for veggies are ever-increasing. Let’s get in all the veggies we can before the allure of camping foods take over!

Healthy Brownies

Brian has been on a sugar kick lately (probably because he didn’t recover from the weekend with me and the girls). He’s not a huge sweets fan so I usually indulge him when it happens. I prefer to feed my family homemade sweets over store-bought goodies. At least that way we know exactly what’s in them (no weird oils or fake sugars, etc). For that reason any time I make cookies I freeze at least half the dough in cookie shape ready to be baked up whenever the desire strikes.

Currently, my freezer cookie stash is looking sad. So I made brownies for the family. These are my favorite brownies and they just happen to be relatively healthy (I mean really as much as brownies can be). We’ve made homemade brownies a number of times including the traditional sugar laden, butter filled kind and I always come back to these. Funny enough the recipe comes from the Deceptively Delicious cookbook (yes, the one where she puts vegetables into everything). Trust me, you won’t regret adding spinach to your brownies!

The brownies are made with oat flour and include more vegetable purees (half cup of carrot or pumpkin and half cup of spinach!) than flour or sugar. The real yum factor comes from using both cocoa powder and real melted chocolate.

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We shared a few with our neighbor and these two little brownies were all that remained of an 8 by 8 pan. Dare you to not do the same.

Grilled Tofu

Last night a very sad thing happened while I was grilling dinner. Our charcoal chimney starter broke! The metal fell out from underneath (with hot coals inside). The chimney starter is what makes it possible for us to ever use the charcoal side of our grill. We had the grill for years and only used charcoal once or twice until I discovered the chimney thing. It heats up the charcoal way faster and no lighter fuel required. A replacement is definitely in order. The first was a Father’s Day present for my husband. Since I do most of the grilling and Father’s Day is still weeks off I doubt I can duplicate that gift.

We managed to save the coals and I grilled a sugar snap pea stir fry, kale, and tofu. The tofu was marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and rice wine vinegar and then dipped in a spice mix before being put on the grill. Underneath the stir fry we had millet.

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We have all become fond of tofu. That is not something I ever expected to say about myself or my family.

Lunch was fairly simple I cooked up some frozen salmon burgers and served them on lettuce. Love the frozen salmon burgers, they cook up in mere minutes but seem like such a fancy meal. I slathered them with a little veganaise.

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This lettuce burger was not quite as messy. Much more kid friendly than little pieces of fish. Both girls think red cabbage is delicious and I try to put it on their plates as often as we have it. They also ate pickles, cucumber, banana, and steamed cauliflower. It was incredible how fast Lexi finished her burger. Not so incredible with the cauliflower.

Here We Go Again…

Yesterday was all about bettering our tummies from the food filled weekend. Soup just equals healing to me and breakfast is not too early for soup.

I used to be a sweet food breakfast eater (loved me a breakfast of cake and cup of coffee) but I have since changed my ways. Soup is a great way to start the day (or any dinner leftovers really). Brian used to joke that if you add an egg to anything it’s breakfast. My previous breakfast traditionalist self was appalled by such comments but now I’m like why bother adding the egg. Good food is good food any time of day.

Tummy healing soup for breakfast? You bet! Even the girls did not mind too much. The soup was hot and sour soup (no hot for the littles) which is mostly broth. Then I did add an egg in the form of omelettes stuffed with garlic broccoli, power greens, and a little shredded cheddar to win them over. Peaches helped my case.

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For lunch I couldn’t feed them more soup since that’s what I planned for dinner (mixed lentil soup with side salads). We went the smoothie route instead. Apple pie smoothies and raw veggies helped heal our tummies. I made the apple pie smoothie with raw apples chopped up and then blended into the smoothie. The smoothies were refreshing and needed no extra sweetener. I will save my smoothie versus juicing rant for another time (lucky you!).

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The girls got a bonus almond meal pancake that was leftover from last week. Lexi asked this is all we get for lunch but I believe she was full when she finished. Most importantly, everyone was feeling way better than the day before. Another successful weekend recovery day. I’d love to say we shouldn’t need another one anytime soon but we are going camping for Memorial day weekend. Our fate lies in the hands of how many s’mores and hot dogs we consume (uh oh!).