Category Archives: Snacks

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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Last Minute Apps & Snacks

 

So, rumor has it tonight is some big sportsball thing…

Just kidding, of course as an American I’m aware of what is basically a national holiday, the Super Bowl! This year we even get back Roman Numerals (remember those things from history class? dare you to remember what more than 3 letters stand for…)

SuperBowlLILogoThis is a little ironic for me this year, as I just moved from CT (New England) to NC (the South, like Atlanta). While I could root for either, I think I like the Falcons’ colors better TBH.

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Whether you’re hosting or attending a party, you may not have had time to fully prepare, or you may have realized you have way more guests than you have chicken wings. In that case, you could panic and spend this week’s paycheck at the deli or getting a pizza…

OR you could try any of these super-simple app and snack ideas, each guaranteed to cost <$10 and take minutes to put together! I know which one I’d go with.

*Twice baked potato skins: Rinse and poke holes in a dozen medium potatoes. Bake at 350 for 45 min – 1 hour, until soft. Cut in half, scoop out the insides into a bowl and mash with some cheese or milk. Load back into skins, top however you want, and bake open-faced for another 15- 20 minutes. You could even build a “pick-your-own-toppings” bar, or let them keep warm in the oven until needed.

*White bean dip: Open a can of white beans, drain. Puree in a blender, and add garlic salt and lemon juice to taste, slowly pour in olive oil until you get your desired consistency. Serve with pita chips and fresh veggies.

*Bruschetta: Slice Italian bread thinly, top with diced tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar. Bake at 350 for 15ish minutes, sprinkle with basil, parsley, and/or garlic salt.

*Mac-n-cheese bites: Make a box of mac n cheese, then scoop into a greased muffin tin. Sprinkle with bread crumbs or crushed crackers, bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Portion control!

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*Bacon-wrapped asparagus: Take slices of bacon and wrap around 2-3 bunched asparagus spears. Lay on a pan and bake in the oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until bacon is crispy but asparagus is soft.

*Football deviled eggs: Make deviled eggs as normal (hard-boil a dozen, cut in half, take out the yellows. Mash with some mayo and mustard, fill back into the white halves) but then make them cute with football “laces” made from chives, black olives, etc.

*Caprese salad: Super simple, just layer sliced fresh mozzarella and tomato with some basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil. Bonus points if you get baby mozarella and grape tomatoes and put them on a skewer!

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*Quesadillas! Who doesn’t love quesadillas, they are a perfect hand-held food. Just take 2 tortillas, fill as you like with beans, avocado, guac, hummus, any kind of cheese, and fry on both sides until golden. Slice into quarters and serve with dips and toppers.

*Crock Pot Meatballs! There are so many options, but the best ones are just toss-it-in-and-wait. Swedish Meatballs are a classic, of course you could do regular tomato sauce and serve with thick hoagie buns, or try sweet and sour for an Asian twist.

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*Loaded nacho bar: Open a bag of chips and dump into a big bowl. Line a table with smaller bowls of beans, salsa, guac, sour cream, sliced olives, shredded lettuce, cheese, etc and let your guests customize to their heart’s content.

*Black bean hummus: open and drain a can of black beans. In a blender, combine with a clove or 2 of garlic, 2 tbsp peanut butter (yup you read that right), and olive oil. Whir until smooth!

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*Spinach Artichoke Dip: there are so many variations, but I’d go for any crock pot version. This way you can toss all the ingredients in, turn it on high when you arrive, then by halftime that dip is ready to keep the party rockin when all the wings are gone

*Football pepperoni roll pinwheels: roll out a tortilla, cover with a thin layer of pizza sauce, mini pepperoni, and cheese. Roll tightly, press down to make an oval shape. Cut into slices, lay on the side, and draw football laces with mustard, sour cream or sliced pepperoni

*Football shaped fritter: these are the cutest darn things, and actually quite healthy! Don’t let the beer-chugging manic shushing everyone know there’s a serving of veggies in there

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*Classic cheese or veggie tray: if you have some carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, or radishes, just serve with some ranch dressing or any dip. And if you’ve a brick or chunks of random cheeses, now is a perfect excuse to lay them all out artfully and clean your fridge at the same time

Whatever you make or eat, make sure you enjoy the company. That’s what any party is really all about!

Refrigerator Pickles

 

Just imagine biting into the perfect pickle. It is softened, but still crunchy, with a tangy note accented with just a touch of sweetness and an after-bite of pepper. The delicious, fresh taste of summer, to be had any time you have a hankering! I have some awesome news, friends, you are capable of making your very own pickles! Yes, you!

You don’t have to buy sad, soggy pickles that were jarred in a factory months ago. And it doesn’t have to take hours of boiling water and hard work, expensive or obscure pickling spice mixes, or waiting months for the pickling process to be complete.  You can have the fresh, irresistible crunch of summer time bounty any time you want it, within hours, and using items you likely already have in the house. Well, as long as you stock your refrigerator with these pickles!

Refrigerator pickles in containers

My family always had these in spades during summer and fall, they are the perfect side dish, topping to burgers or hot dogs, or snacks eaten right out of the bowl by the handful. I have also heard them called “Dutch Pickles” by some crazy people.

They are also quite easy to customize. If you don’t like super puckery pickles, go easier on the vinegar and use more water. If you’re the sweet pickle kinda person, I will try not to judge you too much as you add up to a 1/2 cup of sugar. If you gag at the taste of black pepper, leave it out. If black pepper is for wussies, feel free to pop a jalapeno or habanero into the mix! You can also add other herbs and flavors like garlic cloves, fresh dill, sliced peppers, or mustard seed.

Whether you call them Refrigerator Pickles, or Dutch Pickles, or just pickles, you should definitely make this recipe at least once in your life! They are able to be eaten within an hour, best after 6-8 hours, and will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Though after you get a taste, I doubt they will last that long. 😉

Refrigerator pickles ingredients

Ingredients (1 quart):

  • 1 large cucumber or several smaller (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 – 3/4 cup vinegar (to taste)
  • Black pepper & salt to taste
  • Optional: thinly sliced radishes/ zucchini / carrot/ peppers

Quart of pickles

Step 1: Slice your cucumber and onion as thinly as humanly possible! If you are using other veggies, slice those up thin as well. Be very careful and be aware of knife safety of course, or use a mandoline if you have one. This is important to get all the lovely juices distributed as quickly as possible to pickle your veggies!

Pickles!

Step 2: Heat the water just to boiling, and dissolve the sugar. Press your cucumbers and onion in layers into a quart container, adding black pepper and salt as you go. Add the vinegar to the water and pour it all over the pickles.

Pickles fresh from the refrigerator

Step 3: Wait about 8 hours to overnight or longer. Now you have the perfect summer snack! Eat them straight from the jar, pile them onto sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, tacos, or dice them and add to potato or tuna salads. These delicious pickles are a great way to enjoy summer’s bounty, and will keep long after the cold chill of autumn rolls in.

And did I mention this recipe is fat-free, vegan, gluten-free, and barely 100 calories even if you eat the whole quart in one sitting?!? I won’t tell if you don’t…

 

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber or several smaller (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 - 3/4 cup vinegar (to taste)
  • Black pepper & salt to taste
  • Optional: thinly sliced radishes/ zucchini / carrot/ peppers

Instructions

  1. Slice your cucumber and onion as thinly as humanly possible! If you are using other veggies, slice those up thin as well. Be very careful and be aware of knife safety of course, or use a mandoline if you have one. This is important to get all the lovely juices distributed as quickly as possible to pickle your veggies!
  2. Heat the water just to boiling, and dissolve the sugar. Press your cucumbers and onion in layers into a quart container, adding black pepper and salt as you go. Add the vinegar to the water and pour it all over the pickles.
  3. Wait about 8 hours to overnight or longer.
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Smoothie Freezer Bags

 

Happy 500th Post! Time flies when you’re having fun  😉

Let me describe for you a typical American’s morning.  We wake up to the alarm going off, maybe hit “snooze” once or twice or ten times.  Realize what time it is, maybe freak out about everything we need to do today. Finally coerce ourselves out of bed (probably with the promise of coffee soon).

We stumble into the kitchen and autopilot the caffeine of choice (hot tea, cocoa, Moutain Dew, but probably coffee. So much coffee).  Glance at the clock, think “oh crap I’m gonna be late!” run back to our room, look through closets and drawers trying to find something to wear that is appropriate / cute / in season / matches the weather / doesn’t smell like rotten garbage / still fits.

Finally clothed, we rush to the bathroom.  We shave, shower, do our makeup, brush our hair, bonus points for time to blow dry or style it, brush our teeth (hopefully!). Now with negative two minutes to go until we need to leave, we rush out the door, maybe with second coffee in to-go mug in hand, and off to work we go… And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous circus that is a morning when there are children involved!

Where is the breakfast in all this rush?

You know your entire life your mom always said breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and of course she is right. A healthy breakfast helps you wake up, gets your metabolism revved to create and repair cells, pump blood and oxygen, filter out the bad stuff, and move your muscles all day.

It keeps you from getting hangry right around ten or eleven am and making a trip to the vending machine / coffee shop / donuts in the break room and gets you through until lunchtime. It keeps your neurons firing so you can think and be your best all day.

But you just don’t have the time!

I get it. I’ve been there a million times. Drive through bagels, donuts or muffins from heaven when someone has a birthday or there’s a meeting and its catered, a granola bar hidden in a desk drawer. Some days you gotta do what you gotta do.

But there is a better way.

Enter: The Smoothie Freezer Pack!

Smoothie freezer bags

Oh yes, this thing is a busy persons’ dream. Just pull it out, dump in a blender with some milk or juice, push “go” and walk away for a few minutes. Pour it into a glass or travel mug and you have a real food, super healthy, breakfast of champions with almost no work! It just takes a few moments of prep and a bit of planning ahead.  Don’t get scared now, I believe in you.

On a weekend or whenever you grocery shop, just stock up on 5 bananas, 2-5 other fruits you like, and some sort of green (spinach is a good starter, but you can also use kale, swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, etc). Then grab some plastic zip top baggies and a knife, and here we go!

Smoothie Pack Ingredients

Step 1: Cut up all your fruits. You will notice avocados, and that may worry you. But trust me, if you’ve never tried it, avocado is AMAZING in smoothies! And it is a super way to sneak in some healthy fats and a creamy texture that no one will even know is there! It will be our secret 😉

Freezer Smoothie Bags

Step 2: In each baggie, add 2-3 types of fruits, one whole banana, and a big ol’ handful of greens. I used avocados, pears, peaches, blueberries, pineapple, spinach, and beet greens. Try different combinations until you find what you like the best.

Smoothie Bags

Step 3: Zip up the baggies, and pop them in the freezer. That’s it! Now all you need to do when you want breakfast in a hurry is take out a bag, pour it into a blender. Then add about 1/2 – 1 cup of liquid of choice, I recommend milk, juice, green tea, or kefir, and blend until smooth.

Smoothie to go

These smoothie packs can also be a great after-workout refresher, or a snack / treat anytime you want a blast of healthy fruits and veggies. You can add some protein powder or a tablespoon of peanut butter for an extra protein punch. Now go forth and conquor your day!

 

What is your favorite smoothie mix? Do you have a super quick breakfast you love? Share here!

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Dark Chocolate Cherry Popcorn

 

If you know me at all, you know I’m a total popcorn addict. Like for reals.  A night without it feels weird.  I can eat about a dozen cups’ worth and not think anything of it.  I prefer stove-top to bagged, but in a pinch it will do.  Don’t even talk to me about weird toppings, I want my good old-fashioned salty delight.  Until.

Until Christmas rolled around, and I wanted to give my family I’ve been tutoring with for a long time a heartfelt gift.  In my list of last-minute gift ideas I included peppermint popcorn, and thought that might be a great idea.  But I didn’t have peppermint at the time, and y’all know I’m frugal, so I try to use what I already have.

In my cupboard, I had some dried cherries and several bits of different dark chocolate bars.

Bingo. Dark Chocolate Cherry Popcorn.

This was created on a whim, but turned out absolutely splendid!  You can of course customize it with other dried fruits or types of chocolate, for example a white chocolate apricot might be tasty, or try adding in some nuts or seeds for extra crunch.  It looks adorable in a clear plastic baggie with some colorful ribbon or a bow.

DCCP

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. dried cherries
  • 1 oz amaretto liquor (optional)
  • Sprinkle of salt and sugar

Step 1: Soak the dried cherries in the amaretto 1 hour.  This softens them enough so that they aren’t hard and chewy later.  If you don’t want to do this step, it is optional.

Step 2: In a microwave-safe bowl or double boiler, add the chocolate and oil. Microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring each time, until melted. Or use a double boiler, but do not bring to a boil.

Step 3: Pop your corn on the stove top or in an air popper if you have one.

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Step 4: In a large bowl, pour your popcorn and cherries. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate, stirring with a spoon or spatula, to coat all of the popcorn. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and sugar, and you’re done!

Now your homemade snack is ready to be packed into a cute tin and given to someone you care about for Christmas, Valentine’s day, birthdays, or just because. Or you can just eat the whole thing, I won’t judge.

 

 

Dark Chocolate Cherry Popcorn

Ingredients

  • 3 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. dried cherries
  • 1 oz amaretto liquor (optional)
  • Sprinkle of salt and sugar

Instructions

  1. Soak the dried cherries in the amaretto 1 hour. This softens them enough so that they aren't hard and chewy later. If you don't want to do this step, it is optional.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl or double boiler, add the chocolate and oil. Microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring each time, until melted. Or use a double boiler, but do not bring to a boil.
  3. Pop your corn on the stove top or in an air popper if you have one.
  4. In a large bowl, pour your popcorn and cherries. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate, stirring with a spoon or spatula, to coat all of the popcorn. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and sugar, and you're done!
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How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

 

Has anyone ever seen a field full of happy go lucky sunflowers and not smiled to themselves?  These giant beauties can be seen all over farms and more recently suburban front yards soaking in the sun and brightening people’s days.  Sunflowers are large, pretty, and one of the few species that really take heliotropism seriously!  They turn their entire heads, leaves, and bodies to the sun and track it across the sky throughout each day.

Sunflowers are an abundant source of nectar as well, attracting friendly insect like bees and butterflies.  All summer long these     pretty, helpful creatures can find the nectar they are looking for in abundance.  And when the sun starts to wane, so too do the flowers.  They tell you when they are ready to drop seeds by tilting over, and the backs of the flowers and stems turn yellow, and then brown.

This is the sunflowers’ final gift: abundant, protein-filled seeds for all.  Birds, squirrels, and humans all love these tiny seeds and seek them out.  Luckily one flower can produce up to a half pound of seeds alone!  Leave the seed heads on the flower, and birds will perch on the stalk to harvest.  As they dry, seeds will fall to the ground where squirrels and other vermin can scoop them up.

To harvest seeds for your own use, drying & roasting or saving to plant next year, there are several options.

  1. Place a paper bag over the seed heads as they start to droop.  Let the flower dry on its own, and shake the bag every so often.  Be sure it doesn’t get wet.  As seeds dry out and fall they will collect in the paper bag.
  2. Cut off the seed heads, bring them indoors, then hang them somewhere and place a bag over them.  This ensures they will not get wet and no critters can interfere with your harvest.
  3. Cut off the seed heads and scoop out the seeds by hand.  This way you don’t have to wait for the seeds to fall out on their own.

Large Sunflower With White Seeds

You can see that each individual floret has turned into a seed.  One tablespoon of sunflower seeds has 4.5 grams of protein! And one seed is capable of producing a giant flower next year which will give you thousands more seeds. Amazing.

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

The way I harvested the seeds is to simply use my fingers to gently rub the seeds back and forth.  You can feel them loosening, and when they fall out.  The easier & faster way to do this is to use a spoon to scrape the seeds out.  Be sure you do this over a large bowl or basket to catch all the seeds. It does get messy.

Bag of Sunflower Seeds

Now you have a big basket full of seeds.  Pick out any large petals, leaves, or debris.  If you are saving seed to plant next year, spread them on a flat surface and dry fully for a week or so, then store somewhere cool, dry, and dark until next spring.

To roast your sunflower seeds, there are two ways to do it:

  1. Rinse the seeds 3 times, and dry them in a salad spinner or on a large cloth.  Place in a frying pan over medium heat with a pinch of salt, and shake them around over medium heat until they sound like pebbles rolling around.
  2. Rinse the seeds & dry.  Bring 2 cups water + 1/2 cup salt to a boil, and boil the seeds for 5 minutes.  Spread them out on an oven-safe pan, and roast at 350 for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally and being sure not to burn them.

Roasted sunflowers make a great snack, and if you grow the flowers yourself with nothing sprayed on them, you know they are nothing but organic, healthy protein! You can try using different spice mixes to liven things up too.  Unfortunately you need heavy machinery to de-shell them easily, but you appreciate things more when you have to work for them. =)

 

Have you ever harvested sunflowers? What do you do with the seeds? Feel free to share in the comments!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

 

One of the best things about fall is all the wonderful scents and flavors that come into season.  Of course the powerhouse is Pumpkin Spice, undisputed king of the fall flavors.  But I’m more of a fan of the littler-known seasonal delights, like nutmeg, fall squash, citrus, and cranberries.

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And of course, cranberries & oranges go together like peanut butter and jelly in the fall. Cranberry & orange tastes great on chicken, pork, or fish, they go together in relish for your Thanksgiving turkey, or baked into bread, cookies, and of course muffins!

These muffins are light and moist, with a lovely sweet tang from the juice and the berries. Perfect for snacking, quick breakfasts, or midday snacks. These muffins can also be frozen in single layers and popped into baggies for an on-the-go treat later. Simply microwave or pop in a toaster oven for a warm fluffy breakfast.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large orange
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fresh, dried, or frozen cranberries
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

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Step 1: In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, ) and in another bowl mix all the wet ingredients (egg, oil, juice). You can juice an actual orange for the juice if you have the ability.

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Step 2: Grate the peel of one orange, and mix it into the wet ingredients. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients, and fold together until moist. Add in the cranberries. If you’re using frozen cranberries, thaw and drain them first so your batter doesn’t get too watery.

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Step 3: Either spray muffin tins with cooking oil or line them with muffin papers. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into each opening. Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are browning on the top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Remove your lovely muffins and let them cool enough to take out of the pan. Then enjoy at least one (or three, I won’t tell!) while they’re still warm.  MMMM MMM! So delicious with coffee, hot tea, or some fresh hot chocolate.

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Cranberry Orange Muffins

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 large orange
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fresh, dried, or frozen cranberries
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, ) and in another bowl mix all the wet ingredients (egg, oil, juice). You can juice an actual orange for the juice if you have the ability.
  2. Grate the peel of one orange, and mix it into the wet ingredients. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients, and fold together until moist. Add in the cranberries. If you're using frozen cranberries, thaw and drain them first so your batter doesn't get too watery.
  3. Either spray muffin tins with cooking oil or line them with muffin papers. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into each opening. Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are browning on the top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
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Homemade hummus & Flatbread

 

If you haven’t jumped on the hummus bandwagon yet, you should definitely consider it! Hummus is super heart-healthy, especially when made at home. And it is so very easy! Just put all the ingredients into a blender and whir for a minute or two, and presto! A tasty, healthy, fiber-full dip or snack.

This recipe is a basic recipe, great for pre-dinner appetizers, a party snack, or really anytime. You can get creative with roasted peppers, beets, green veggies, or really anything you set your mind to. Feel free to experiment with different nut butters if you don’t want to buy tahini. I’ve also made black bean hummus before, so you don’t even have to use chickpeas.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  •  1/4 cup tahini
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-6 tbsp lemon juice
  • Optional: Dash of paprika

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Step 1: Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high until well mixed. Taste, and add more of this or that until it’s perfect.

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It’s best to serve with fresh cut veggies, or toast your own pita chips. To make pita chips, spray a cookie sheet with oil, and place 2-4 tortillas on it. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, until crispy but not burnt. Cut into wedges. Enjoy!

Chili & Greens Smothered Potato

 

Whether for a quick snack or a hearty, filling meal, smothered potatoes are a go-to for me. A plain potato has 150-200 calories, along with magnesium, B vitamins, and a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C. Potatoes get a bad rep mostly because they are usually served or cooked with other things that are far less healthy for you, like butter, margarine, sour cream, and cheese.

The better options for topping your tater include: greens, fresh veggies like broccoli, onion, peppers, avocado chunks, beans, salsa, corn, and of course, chili! I used my delicious vegan three-bean chili. You IMG_7594will use leftover chili, or store-bought, whatever kind you like. If you don’t have chili, looking up this recipe is silly isn’t it?

This baked potato takes mere minutes to put together, and is perfect for a portable lunch. You will need a heavy plate and utensils though, no eating while literally on the run here. It is packed with vitamins and nutrients, filling fiber, healthy fats, and staying power from protein. And it’s totally vegan! But you won’t even know the meat is missing, it’s that good.

I used homemade sauerkraut on mine, because I totally love this tangy, salty stuff. If you hate it, don’t worry about it. Not required for the experience. Sauerkraut is ridiculously easy to make, by the way, and crazy good for your digestive health. I’ll have to post on that soon…

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium baking potato
  • 2/3 cups vegan 3-bean chili
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/3 cup broccoli florets
  • 2-3 large kale leaves or 1/3 c spinach
  • 2-3 tbsp sauerkraut

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Step 1: Rinse well, and poke holes in the potato. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, turn it, and microwave another 4 minutes.

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Step 2: Cut the hot potato in half, and place on a large plate. Top with the greens, broccoli, and chili, and microwave another 1-2 minutes. Add the sauerkraut and avocado, season if needed and enjoy!

 

Chili & Greens Smothered Potato

Ingredients

  • 1 medium baking potato
  • 2/3 cups vegan 3-bean chili
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/3 cup broccoli florets
  • 2-3 large kale leaves or 1/3 c spinach
  • 2-3 tbsp sauerkraut

Instructions

  1. Rinse the potato well, and poke holes all around it. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, turn it, and microwave another 4 minutes.
  2. Cut the hot potato in half, and place on a large plate. Top with the greens, broccoli, and chili, and microwave another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the sauerkraut and avocado, season if needed and enjoy!
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