Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bar Recipe

 

Sometimes, you don’t have time for breakfast or lunch and need something quick and portable. Maybe you need a before- or after-workout snack with protein. Or the kids are hungry and want a snack, but you don’t want them eating sugary fatty junk or ruining their appetite for dinner.

You’re at work, at 11am or 2pm, and hunger hits, but you can’t leave to get something and your next meal feels like hours away. Or you or your partner is hungry and staring into the refrigerator like a roast chicken may magically appear, but you can’t or don’t want to cook something right now.

This sounds like a job for the granola bar.

Granola has long been a popular breakfast food, differentiated from the similar muesli because it was sweetened and usually baked. To make granola, rolled oats, nuts, spices, honey or other sweeteners, and sometimes puffed rice are mixed together and baked into clusters of wholesome cereal.

The names Granula and Granola were trademarked in the 19th century in America by the Jackson Sanitarium, a prominent health spa near Danville, and John Harvey Kellogg (yes, that Kellogg). And then someone had the bright idea to take this loose granola, which is kind of messy, and press it into a bar shape. These can then be individually wrapped, and stuck in a purse, pocket, or backpack for later consumption.

Granola bar popularity took off, and continues to rise. According to theglobeandmail.com, “Granola bars, breakfast bars and cereal bars, which are referred to collectively as “snack bars,” are part of a food category that’s grown 5 per cent a year since 2005 and is worth an estimated $720-million in Canada, according to figures provided by PepsiCo Foods Canada, which owns the Quaker brand.” All across the Americas, New Zealand and Australia, Europe and China, people love the portability and growing options snack bars offer.

One of the many reasons people love snack bars so much is their perceived healthfulness. After all, they have oats in them, which are full of fiber, beneficial to heart and digestive health. Unfortunately, today’s granola bars’ nutrition facts don’t often match their health claims.

For example, Special K chocolaty crunch bars claim that each bar only contains 90 calories and that they can help reach and maintain a healthy weight. But the bars, which themselves weigh only 22 grams, contain eight grams (nearly two teaspoons) of sugar. Sugar is also listed as the first ingredient. Another popular All-Bran bar claims to be high in fiber, yet each bar contains only 4 grams of the daily recommended 25g (for women) or 38g (for men).

So what’s a health conscious adult looking for a perfect portable food to do? Make your own of course!

It is much easier than you may think. You could get very serious about it, purchase a candy thermometer, meticulously source and weigh ingredients in the pursuit of the perfect bar. But that’s not how we roll here. Soon you will see how simple making your own healthy homemade snack bars can be!

KIND bars have become a favorite of mine lately, because they have ingredients you can see and pronounce, with no preservatives, fillers, artificial flavorings, and each bar is held to high standards for a low calorie count and sugar content. I had no idea there were so many options now though! There are KIND fruit & nut bars, KIND Plus, KIND nuts & spices, KIND & STRONG… you get the idea.

And the best part is, this is a WAY healthier bar than a typical granola bar. There are no oats, just puffed rice, whole raw or roasted nuts, and some sweeteners that also keep everything sticking together. These are inherently gluten free. Obviously, if you or someone you know is allergic to nuts, please don’t make these. But if not, then dive on in!

I based my recipe loosely off of Kelly’s recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny. I personally most love the dark chocolate sea salt bar, so that’s what this recipe mimics. But you are free to add whatever you enjoy to create your own copycat, or a brand new kind of bar!

The general rule I follow is 1 cup nuts/dry fruit : 1 cup cereal : 1/4 cup sweetener. I would use organic plain puffed rice if I had it, but when I wanted to make these and went to the store, Kashi Go Lean puffed cereal was the closest thing I could find. It works.

I’ve tried peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews so far. I’m sure you could use just about any type of nuts in these, but I would recommend always including almonds. And I have not tried any with dried fruits yet, but that is the next experiment in line.

This recipe makes enough for a 9×13 pan, for approximately 30 of the delicious 1 inch x 3 inch bars.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring

The dark chocolate drizzle is of course optional, but highly recommended. For that you will need:

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea Salt

mixed nuts in a bowl

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.

Step 2: In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes. It is a balancing act, too short and you will get a syrupy bar, but the longer you boil, the more likely you will create a crunchy bark rather than pliant bars. But regardless, it will taste great in the end, I promise.

Step 3: Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.

Step 4: Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. You can use a spatula, your hand, or a cup sprayed with cooking oil if you want to make it extra flat and compact. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.

If you don’t want to add the chocolate drizzle, you can stop here and cut the bars to the desired size. I cut it into 10 strips, then cut each strip into 3 bars so they are about 1x2ish inches. I then wrapped each bar individually in wax paper.

But if you’re a chocolate lover like me, I definitely recommend continuing on to steps 5 & 6 below…

Dark chocolate drizzle for KIND bars

Step 5: In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.

Step 6: Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. You could dip the bottoms in chocolate too, but I found the drizzle on top was the perfect amount. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.

These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months. I doubt they will last that long though…

According to MyFitnessPal.com, these bars only have about 100 calories each, and 8 grams of sugar*. Not too shabby!

Recipe Nutrition Calculator

: 30

Total: 3,119 334 176 107 580 227
Per Serving: 104 11 6 4 19 8

*This calculation is for the bar without adding the chocolate.

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bars

Nuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt “KIND” Bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 3 cups whole nuts (almonds + peanuts/cashews + walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix all your nuts, cereal, and ground flax.
  2. In a sauce pot, mix the brown rice syrup, honey, and vanilla. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes.
  3. Pour your syrup over the nuts and cereal, and mix well to combine.
  4. Line a pan with foil, and press the mixture into the pan. Put it in the refrigerator for about an hour to chill and harden.
  5. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate chips, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until melted.
  6. Drizzle the melted chocolate all over the granola. Chill in the refrigerator again for about an hour to harden. Cut into desired bar size.
  7. These will keep well in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, or you can freeze for handy snacks for months.
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Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi

 

This recipe was inspired by one I saw on Hello Fresh (look for a review coming soon!). If you haven’t heard of Hello Fresh, it is a meal kit delivery company. There are many others, like Blue Apron, Plated, Home Chef, Sun Basket, and oodles more.

The whole idea is they deliver the ingredients, perfectly portioned, with a step by step recipe page. All you have to do is pull out a box of ingredients and some cookware and enjoy the process. A friend of mine gave me one of the “free trial” 3-meal deals, so of course I tested them out.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience, but would not purchase it again because of how food and cooking works in my house. But I can definitely see the appeal for many people. One of the best things about the trial run is that I have access to their recipes now though, and there are some great ideas there!

As I was just browsing through the vegetarian section, this recipe caught my eye, because I had just bought asparagus and happened to have half a pound left. I also had some gnocchi in the pantry (from the Dollar Tree no less!). Thus, this recipe seemed perfect.

I switched up the seasonings a bit and swapped plain Greek yogurt for sour cream (one of my many sneaky healthy food swaps!) and it came out so delicious, the meat-eater loved it and even asked for seconds!

If you don’t have or don’t like a specific herb, that’s fine, try a different one. Use basil instead of rosemary, or try thyme, tarragon, or parsley. If you don’t like walnuts, what about almonds, or cashews, or pecans? Not a fan of asparagus? Well, you’re wrong, but that’s okay try bell peppers, kale, or zucchini.

Spring Green Gnocchi Ingredients

Makes 4 ~1 cup servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnuts
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Pinch of chopped rosemary
  • 1 green onion, diced

Step 1: Boil the gnocchi for 5-7 minutes, until they begin to float in the water. Meanwhile, dice the asparagus, garlic, and herbs. Add the asparagus and peas to the boiling pot about 2 minutes before draining.

Step 2: Add the oil, garlic and onion to a pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Drain the gnocchi and vegetables, add to the pan. Add the stock and mix 1 minute, and then turn off the heat and add the yogurt and walnuts. Mix well to form a creamy sauce.

That’s all there is to it! You don’t need much to create a creamy, tasty sauce that clings to the noodles and vegetables. The walnuts add just a bit of crunch and texture, and you can sprinkle some sea salt on top if you like. (I like).

 

Spring Green Creamy Asparagus & Peas Gnocchi

Spring Green Creamy Asparagus & Peas Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnuts
  • 1 pound gnocchi
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • Pinch of chopped rosemary
  • 1 green onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Boil the gnocchi for 5-7 minutes, until they begin to float in the water. Meanwhile, dice the asparagus, garlic, and herbs. Add the asparagus and peas to the boiling pot about 2 minutes before draining.
  2. Add the oil, garlic and onion to a pan and fry for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Drain the gnocchi and vegetables, add to the pan.
  3. Add the stock and mix 1 minute, and then turn off the heat and add the yogurt and walnuts. Mix well to form a creamy sauce.
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Peanut Butter Banana Power Smoothie

 

This has quickly become one of my absolute favorite breakfast recipes! Just one ‘dish’ to wash when you’re done. Smoothies are amazing because they are so versatile, so quick, and so healthy! Of course, that last part does depend on what you put into it.

Many stores and fast food options that claim they have “healthy smoothies” are really not so healthy. They are calorie and sugar packed health bombs masquerading as health food. Just because it has a teaspoon of spinach powder or banana puree does not excuse a smoothie with 118 grams of sugar and over 500 calories!

Peanut butter banana oat smoothie ingredients

So why not blend one up at home? Far healthier, super fast and easy, and way healthier for you.

This recipe takes your typical banana base, and adds several other super health foods such as peanut butter powder (for all the flavor with a tiny percentage of the fat!), gut-helping yogurt, healthy fats from coconut milk, fiber packed oats, and the ultimate tiny nutrition powerhouse: chia!

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 2/3 cup yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp PB2 or PBFit
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Step 1: Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until well combined.

You could optionally add in a scoop of protein powder if you need it, or a cup of ice cubes if you want a different texture.

This recipe makes enough for 2 good sized glasses of about 16 oz each, so share with a friend or save the second serving for later, maybe after a good workout!

Healthy PB Banana Smoothie

 

Peanut Butter Banana Power Smoothie

Peanut Butter Banana Power Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 2/3 cup yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp PB2 or PBFit
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend on high until well combined.
  2. You could optionally add in a scoop of protein powder if you need it, or a cup of ice cubes if you want a different texture.
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Chocolate Chia Pudding

 

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to jump on the chia pudding band wagon! I’d read about so many uses for chia seeds, and how they are an amazing vegan source of omega-3s and fiber along with a host of other micronutrients, added chia to salads, smoothies, crackers, and bread recipes, and have made chia fresca and enjoyed it. But it took forever to try this!

Don’t make my mistakes people. Make this tonight!

Chocolate chia pudding ingredients

Chia seeds may seem expensive, but a little goes a LONG way! They absorb water and can swell up many times their size, creating a gel-like coating around the seed. It is a strange texture at first, but give it a try. The health benefits are worth it!

Chocolate chia pudding ingredients in bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c chia seeds
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 2-3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

Chocolate chia pudding mixing

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk, or you can put it in a mason jar with a lid and shake it like you mean it!

Chocolate chia pudding ready to eat

Step 2: Refrigerate one hour or overnight. It will thicken as it sits. If you want it thicker, add more chia, if you want it thinner add more milk. It makes about 4 1/2 cup servings and should last a week in the refrigerator.

Chocolate chia pudding with strawberries

Top with granola and fresh berries for an amazing breakfast or anytime snack! The thick gel consistency of the seeds makes it almost exactly like pudding. And if you really love chocolate, use chocolate almond milk, or double the cocoa powder. It’s the healthiest treat that tastes like dessert I’ve ever had!

 

Easiest Ever Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs

 

Sometimes you need to bring a dish to a potluck or birthday party. Or there’s a big game on and you’re hosting. Or maybe you just want to try something different for dinner, but don’t have the energy or time for something complicated.

Allow me to help!

This recipe for sweet and sour meatballs is a longtime classic in my family. There are only three ingredients, though one of them may be surprising to you. Trust me, the finished product is delicious!

Using a slow cooker makes this as simple as: pour, mix, turn on. Done.

Three ingredients sweet and sour meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar cocktail sauce
  • 1 bag mini meatballs
  • 1 ~12oz jar jelly (grape or blackberry work best)

Optional: You could add some vinegar for more tang, or some cayenne or other red pepper for a bigger bite.

sweet and sour crock pot meatballs

Step 1: Pour the meatballs in the crock pot. I poured them in right from frozen and it works just fine.

Step 2: Pour in the cocktail sauce & jam, and mix well. Turn to low for at least 4 hours, up to 12 hours.

sweet & sour meatballs in a slow cooker

You could serve these on buns, or with toothpicks, or on skewers like a kebab. The flavor is surprisingly complex for just two ingredients!

 

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Mini Apple Pie Bites

 

These little gems were inspired while searching for healthy options to make for Pi Day (March 14 = 3.14) to take to work and share. While I do love pie, I don’t love butter, preservatives, saturated fat, mountains of sugar, etc. But I also don’t want to eat a bland, tasteless pile of cardboard and call it “pie”.  So what’s a health-conscious dessert lover to do?

Make these!

Mini Apple Pie Bites

They are like a mix between apple pie and apple crisp, in a bite-sized muffin-like package! And with about 50 calories per mini muffin, you can easily have 2 or 3 and not even feel bad. They are very easy to customize too. Add raisins, mash in a banana, change the spices if you don’t like nutmeg. If you add some protein to the recipe these would make a great pre- or post-workout snack.

This recipe makes about 24 mini muffins, or you could make a dozen normal sized muffins. If I had known how delicious they would be, I’d double or triple the recipe! This will become a staple in my house I’m sure. Better stock up on applesauce…

Apple Pie Bites Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup pancake mix
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1 whole apple, diced small
  • 2 tbsp syrup or sugar
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

mini apple pie bites mixed ready to bake

Step 1: Wash your apple, and dice very finely. Once baked this gives your pies a sweet, chewy texture. If you don’t want any chunks at all, just replace with another 1/2 cup applesauce.

Step 2: In a bowl, mix all the ingredients well. If too dry, add a bit of water or apple juice. If too moist, sprinkle in more oats until you get the consistency you desire.

mini apple pie bites in tin

Step 3: Spray a mini muffin tin, and add 1 tbsp of the mixture. Bake at 375 for 17-20 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven, until pies are solid and turning brown on top. Let cool, then pop out onto a plate.

Mini Apple Pie Bites

Mini Apple Pie Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup pancake mix
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1 whole apple, diced small
  • 2 tbsp syrup or sugar
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Wash your apple, and dice very finely. Once baked this gives your pies a sweet, chewy texture. If you don't want any chunks at all, just replace with another 1/2 cup applesauce.
  2. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients well. If too dry, add a bit of water or apple juice. If too moist, sprinkle in more oats until you get the consistency you desire.
  3. Spray a mini muffin tin, and add 1 tbsp of the mixture. Bake at 375 for 17-20 minutes on the bottom shelf of the oven, until pies are solid and turning brown on top. Let cool, then pop out onto a plate.
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I can’t wait to share these at our Pi Day party!

 

Ahi Tuna Tacos

 

GUYS! I just found out my ALDI carries frozen Ahi Tuna steaks, 3 for $4.99.

While I love canned tuna and all it’s uses (tuna salad, tuna puffs, tuna noodle casserole…) this is a whole new level. A tuna steak is like, next-level-fancy tuna! It still has all the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, tons of protein, and trace minerals like magnesium and selenium, with the added benefit of looking like you’re at a 5-star restaurant when you serve it.

grilled ahi tuna steak

Finding these culinary gems called for some fish tacos! I adore fish tacos when they are well done. The combination of delicate fish, tangy crunchy slaw, corn salsa and spicy ranch is just unbeatable in my opinion. And yes, you have to have all those pieces to make it truly complete. But I guess, if you must, you could do something different with the toppings… we can still be friends.

Grilled ahi tuna steak

I didn’t even marinate or spice the fish, letting it’s true flavor shine and balance out the other toppings. This recipe makes enough for 3 hearty tacos, adjust as needed based on how many tuna steaks and how many servings you have.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tuna steaks
  • 1/4 cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt & black pepper
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup corn
  • 3 tbsp ranch
  • Chili powder
  • 3 tortillas

Ahi tuna taco with slaw and corn and avocado salsa

Step 1: Combine the corn and the diced avocado. Slice the cabbage thinly or shred it. Mix with the mayo and lemon juice and spices. Let sit while you cook the tuna.

Step 2: Grill the tuna steaks on an actual grill, or use a panini press/George foreman, or just cook on the stove top by frying in a greased pan 3-4 minutes per side, until just browned on the outside and still slightly pink in the middle.

ahi tuna taco with black beans and rice

Step 3: Cut or flake the tuna and place on the tortilla. Add a scoop of the corn and avocado, a spoonful of slaw, and a tbsp of ranch. Sprinkle the chili powder on top, roll up, and enjoy!

This is such a fresh, flavorful combination, I could eat these every week! And thanks to ALDI I probably can now. Just take out however many fillets you need the night before, and let it defrost in the refrigerator. You could also split up the steak into 3 smaller corn taco shells. Serve with a salad, fries, or beans and rice.

These also make a great lunch, grilled and flaked over a big green salad. That’s exactly what I did with the 3rd fillet that we didn’t use for dinner.

20170131_185623

 

Ahi Tuna Tacos

Ahi Tuna Tacos

Ingredients

  • 3 tuna steaks
  • 1/4 cabbage, shredded
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt & black pepper
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup corn
  • 3 tbsp ranch
  • Chili powder
  • 3 tortillas

Instructions

  1. Combine the corn and the diced avocado. Slice the cabbage thinly or shred it. Mix with the mayo and lemon juice and spices. Let sit while you cook the tuna.
  2. Grill on an actual grill, or use a panini press/George foreman, or just cook on the stove top by frying in a greased pan 3-4 minutes per side, until just browned on the outside and still slightly pink in the middle.
  3. Cut or flake the tuna and place on the tortilla. Add a scoop of the corn and avocado, a spoonful of slaw, and a tbsp of ranch. Sprinkle the chili powder on top, roll up, and enjoy!
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How to: Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker

 

One of my all-time-favorite money-saving appliances is the handy dandy slow cooker. It is amazing at taking tough (cheap) cuts of meats and slow cooking them to tasty perfection. It is great for making wicked frugal soups and stews. It makes dinner a breeze on crazy weeknights, keeping me from just ordering a pizza or take out. And it allows me to make staple items, like beans, for literally pennies per serving.

Beans aren’t usually listed on “top 10s” of superfoods, but I think they should be. There are so many kinds, black, pinto, navy, chickpea, green… And they are a fantastic source of protein for a very pocketbook-friendly price, I can usually find them about $1 per pound. And since beans plump when you cook them, you get much more than one pound out of that bag. If you find a good sale or buy in bulk, that price drops even lower. You can’t beat that in a can!

However, you also can’t beat the convenience of canned beans. Just sitting on a shelf, ready and waiting for a taco Tuesday or a last-minute decision to make minestrone. All you need is a can opener and you’re in business.

But you’re paying a premium for that convenience.

Someone else took the time to soak and cook dried beans ahead of time, and stick them in that can. They also may have chemicals or preservatives or flavorings or way too much sodium in the can. When you cook your own, you are in control of all these things.

So here’s the big secret: You can cook your own dried beans at home, with just a few minutes of effort, and have delicious beans ready to toss into whatever any time! For, like, a dollar!

Enter the slow cooker.

crock pot black beans with nori

Almost every Saturday, I toss a half pound or a pound of either black, navy, chickpeas, or pintos into a slow cooker with water to cover them, and let them soak overnight. Then on Sunday, I change the water and add some spices and let it simmer all day. The finished product gets canned, separated by cup into individual bags and frozen, or put in the refrigerator for use that week.

That way I have a stock of frozen beans ready at a moment’s notice, and fresh beans for recipes whenever I want! Hello, black bean and egg burritos, white chicken chili, tortilla soup, or red beans and rice anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Step 1: Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight. Drain, and cover again. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.

Slow cooker pinto beans canned

Step 2: You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.

The beautiful thing is that now you have this super-cheap base to use to make your own refried beans, hummus, (did you know you can make hummus with black beans too!), vegetarian burger patties, or you can can them for later. (By the way, do use a pressure canner, or keep them in the refrigerator. We don’t want botulism now do we?)

 

Slow cooker dried beans

Slow cooker dried beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beans
  • Water to cover
  • ~2tbsp vinegar (any kind)
  • Spices recommended: 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fennel seed, onion, chili powder, or oregano. Choose 1-2 you like and see what happens
  • Optional: 1 strip of seaweed

Instructions

  1. Cover your beans with water, and let soak 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain, and cover again.
  3. Cook on high for about 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.
  4. You can keep the cooking liquid, or discard, up to you. I usually keep it, especially when canning or freezing the beans, and then drain just before using in recipes.
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Make Ahead Egg Muffins

 

Usually, my morning routine looks something like this:

6:10 – hit snooze
6:17 – hit snooze
6:24 – finally get up, go make coffee
6:25-7:15 – enter a black hole in space and time
7:16 – realize I’m gonna be late if I don’t move it
7:17-7:20 – pack lunch, maybe breakfast
7:21-7:30 – run out the door and pray for light traffic

Now, I don’t know what your mornings are like. But if you’re anything like me, you like your sleep and don’t have time for a long and leisurely brekkie every day. And if you do, good for you! You can still use this quick-and-easy make ahead recipe and then have more time for you in the AM.

Make ahead egg muffins in muffin tin

These egg muffins are so simple, and you make a dozen at once. That way you can put 2-3 in baggies and refrigerate or freeze. Then breakfast all week is only a push of the microwave button away! You can scale up to feed a big family, or even make just one serving by mixing 2 eggs and desired ingredients in a coffee mug and microwaving. (Didn’t know that little trick? Oh yeah, it’s the best.)

You can also customize it to your taste preferences. Anything you would normally eat with or in scrambled eggs you can probably adapt to this recipe. Try sausage, or bacon, or ham. Vegetarians, this is a blank canvas! Add zucchini, shredded carrots, sweet potato, broccoli or cauliflower. And cheese is optional, but highly recommended!

Butter mushrooms and onion

Ingredients (makes 12 egg muffins):

  • baker’s dozen (13) eggs
  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 1 pint mushrooms
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • Optional: shredded cheese, breakfast meats, other veggies

butter and onions in pan

Step 1: In a pan over medium heat, add the butter and diced onion. Cook 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion becomes soft and see-through. Pre-heat the oven to 350, and spray a muffin tin really well with cooking oil. (Stuck, baked-on egg is the worst.)

scrambled egg and greased muffin tin

Step 2: Add the diced mushrooms, and cook another 5-7 minutes, until softened. You can add a few tbsp water or chicken stock if they seem to be sticking or burning. Just before pouring into the muffin tin, add the spinach to wilt.

scrambled egg in muffin tin and eggs

Step 3: Break all the eggs into a bowl, and whisk violently for a minute or two. Mix in the cooked onion, mushroom, and spinach. Pour into the muffin tins until 2/3 full; leave a little room because the egg will puff up as it cooks.

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Step 4: If desired, sprinkle with shredded sharp cheddar or whatever cheese you like. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until egg is fully cooked. Watch carefully at the end so that it doesn’t brown or burn.

I’d recommend letting these cool for a few minutes, then removing to a different plate or container quickly. You don’t want the egg to set and harden in the tin. It’s so easy to whip up a batch of these on the weekend, and you can even mix up the mix ins to have tons of options every day.

As for the cost? A dozen eggs is .99 – 1.29, or 4.50 for organic cage-free. Depends greatly on what you use to mix in, but the cost for an onion (~.50), mushrooms (.99 on sale), butter (maybe .50), and spinach (~.25 for 1 cup) for me comes to about 2.25. This makes 12 muffins, and I generally eat 2 for breakfast, so 6 servings. Let’s estimate high:

4.5 + 2.25 = 6.75 / 6 = basically just barely over a dollar per day, and that’s if I use the fancy eggs! For plain jane eggs, the cost drops to maybe 50 cents for an awesome breakfast that includes protein, fats, and a serving of vegetables! I can get behind that. I hope you can too!

 

Balsamic Berry Sauce

 

Fresh berries are nature’s candies. Bright and juicy, they are one of the most healthful natural foods. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, whatever the color they are super! If you want to use them for something other than snacking and parfaits, here is a great dessert sauce recipe!

This sauce is a perfect accompaniment to ice cream, or poured over angel food cake, or even by itself with some fresh cream. It would make a great sauce for chicken, duck, or pork as well. You may like it so much you just eat it from the pan with a spoon! Not that I would or did do that…

Frozen berries would work just as well, you would just have to cook it a little longer to evaporate the extra water. The longer you simmer, the thicker and more syrup-like this will become. You could even use it on top of pancakes! I used half blackberries and half raspberries, you could mix however you like.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

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Step 1: In a frying pan, mix berries with sugar, lemon juice and balsamic. Bring to barely a simmer, and cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes, until berries have liquefied and the mixture has become thick and syrupy.

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Step 2: Pour over some high quality vanilla or flavored ice cream, and enjoy warm!

This is delicious warm, and has a nice little tang from the vinegar. The lemon juice brightens it, but it is not absolutely required. You could try cherries too, I bet that would be the bomb diggity.

 

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