our messy table

Category: Healthy Snack

buckwheat granola

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My toddler son has taken to exclusively playing with clothes hangers. The child-sized ones meant for his 4T stature.

This  began a few weeks ago when my mother was visiting. For whatever reason, we were sitting on the floor in my son’s room while he played with whatever he pulled out of the toy box, just chatting about this and that. And as her eyes scanned the room, she noticed that there were only a few clothes hangers swaying quietly in my son’s closet. “You need more of those”, she said curtly, which made me feel like a bad adult. So much so that the next time we were in Target I made it a point to purchase a pack of 15 child-sized clothes hangers.

When my mother came over again a week later, she also had bought a brand new bundle of 15 child-sized clothes hangers to suit my lack of adult responsibility. I dutifully hung them in the closet next to my previously purchased ones.

A few days later my mother came over coffee. And with her came another handful of used, child-sized clothes hangers that she had found somewhere in her basement. And then on Sunday, when we graciously received a large bag of hand-me-downs (yessssss) from a friend, we learned that the gift also included at least another 15 colorful child-sized clothes hangers.

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That very afternoon, my son, perhaps for the first time noticing the colorful assortment of fixtures, crawled into his closet and removed as many as he could from the wood beam meant for hanging clothes. He scattered them around the living room and began utilizing their hooks on every ledge or surface possible. He began using the hooks as a modified hand to open the fridge, pick up books and drag random things about. Yesterday, he insisted on walking our dog with the hanger hooked to the end of the leash, which proved to be more difficult than it sounds. Later, he took a nap with a clothes hanger gripped in each hand.

My son climbed into bed with me this morning, nestled deep in my pillow with his cold little feet pressed against my knees, and then, in a flash of concern declared, “Oh no! My hooks!”

Quickly, my 2-year-old wriggled from my bed, scurried across the hall into his room and returned with two child-sized clothes hangers.  He crawled back into my bed and handing me the green one. “This is yours”, he said.

“What if I don’t want the hook?”

“Sshh, just close your eyes”, he said.

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Later in the day, after my son had hung a pink and blue clothes hanger from each arm and declared himself a butterfly, and after I told him several times to stop picking up the live farm kittens with his modified hook hands, he tried to hook the loops of my jeans with his hook hands and succeeded more times that I will admit. And then I hid the clothes hangers in the tall grass hoping he would forget about them.

And after a while of breathless searching, he did.

Until we went back inside where there were many more clothes hangers scattered everywhere. Then, while I made dinner, he watched PBS with a clothes hanger in each hand, ready if any more fun should arise.

. . .

The summer is coming to a close, my friends. Which means back to school for me and back to full-time day care for my son. And I honestly don’t know what makes me want to sob uncontrollably more: the fact that I will no longer have the time every morning to close my eyes as my son brushes my hair with the end of his clothes hanger hook… or the fact that someone else will be tucking him and his clothes hangers in for his afternoon nap… or the fact that summer is over. It was a GREAT summer. Full of so little weed-pulling (just look away from my garden) and so much reading and swimming and making countless batches of granola for the most amazing two-year-old in the world.

My son has always liked granola, but this summer he took a special liking to the buckwheat granola recipe posted on the back of Bob’s Red Mill’s buckwheat groats package. I cannot blame him. For one, this recipe recommends that you boil the honey, maple syrup, coconut oil and spices together before folding them into the dry ingredients. I believe this brings out a deep, nutty flavor in each giant, crunchy cluster. For road trips, we like to toss this granola in plastic container with a bit of dried fruit. But at home, it is perfect with a simple knob of yogurt, splash of milk, or on its own in a little dish while watching your favorite episode of Go Diego Go.

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Buckwheat Granola

Adapted from Bob’s Red Mill

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine oats, buckwheat, coconut, nuts and seeds.

In a small saucepan combine honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil and hold at a steady boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and almond extract.

Pour syrup mixture over the oat mixture and mix well to evenly coat. Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake granola until browned and crispy, about 30 – 35 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 10 minutes.

Let cool thoroughly before breaking into clumps.

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10 things

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I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t a painfully self-conscious person. I remember as an elementary student that something in my body physically hurt whenever I was made to answer a question in front of the class. I remember the white streak of panic when I didn’t know answer. I remember feeling hot shame when the next person to be called on did know because it was apparently an easy question.

I am learning more and more that I am hardly alone in being painfully self-conscious as a kid. And it has been interesting to see how insecurity plays out in the adult world.

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. . .

I remember during a developmental psychology class in college when we were asked to make a list. On the list, we had to write 10 things that came to mind when we thought about ourselves. The room went quiet as we all got to work. I struggled a bit. Finally, I think I wrote something along the lines of:

  1. Insecure
  2. Confused
  3. Impatient
  4. Sinful
  5. Yada… yada…

You get it. I wrote down things that were bad.

When the class was asked to share what we wrote, I kept my hand glued to my side. Our professor called on the other eager students, and I was surprised by their answers.

A lot of the guys said:

  1. Funny
  2. Athletic
  3. Friendly

…. Things like that.

A lot of the women said things like:

  1. Nice
  2. Smart
  3. Christian

…. Obviously, our lists were quite different.

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That class period was a turning-point for my way of thinking about identity. As I listened to the students in the room sharing their very positive lists, I realized I didn’t have a healthy view of myself – that I was dragging around my insecurities like ball and chain.

. . .

It has been about 6 years since taking Developmental Psychology and learning that most people don’t and shouldn’t hate themselves. And during the 6 years, my personal identity has undergone a few shifts.

I have been influenced by strong and gracious people. I have had to overcome challenges and loss. I have had to eat dirt, be humbled, and let people help me when I needed it. For all of that I am a different person.

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Today, there are situations in which I feel quite confident. And there are also days when I am so self-conscious that I feel like a second grader all over again.

At any rate, the words on my list are different. They are no longer quite as ego-centric. But rather, my list is constructed of words given to me by the people in my life – the people who shape me – who depend on me – who give me a lot to feel confident about.

  1. Spouse
  2. Mother
  3. Sister
  4. Daughter
  5. Friend
  6. Teacher
  7. Artist
  8. Fearful
  9. Understanding
  10. Strong

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Maple, Peanut Butter and Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF)

From: Cookie and Kate

Yield: about 30 cookies

  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup, preferably grade B
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats ground for 30 seconds in a food processor
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with two racks in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, lightly grease the baking sheets).

Pour the peanut butter and maple syrup mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the melted oil and whisk until the mixture is well blended. Use your whisk to beat in the egg, scraping down the side of the bowl once it’s incorporated, then whisk in the vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Switch to a big spoon and stir in the ground oats, rolled oats and chocolate chips until they are evenly combined. Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto your prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies, reversing the pans midway through (swap the cookies on the top rack with the cookies on the lower rack) until they’re barely set and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the pans.

morning glories

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Our son is recovering from a spell of influenza, an ear infection, and with our luck, probably a few other things. However, the little guy seems to be in the home stretch. His night-coughing has eased. He has regained the energy to do more than doze off at any given moment. And I am no expert. but you would think that the flu shot should count for something?

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Anywaay… I was scheduled to start my first week of work on Monday, the morning after my son started showing symptoms of being sick.

Time, this week, seemed to be on our side. Due to early-outs and late-starts and school cancellations, I was able to guiltlessly spend time at home with my sick baby. On the days school was not canceled, my sister, in her last week of Christmas vacation before returning to college, was able to play nanny in my house. It was wonderfully lucky. My husband and I were spared the misery of hulling an un-well child outside in the negative 60 degree wind-chill. And after work, I was able to come home to healing child in a mismatched outfit with watercolor running out of his nose.

Thanks, little sister.

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You would think with all the unanticipated time-off, I would have been a picture of productivity. I had a to-do list the length of my freezer mounted in plain sight along with additional preparations for school. And yet, there is something about a snow-day, something about unanticipated time off that depletes my sense of urgency. For instance, on Thursday (a full snow-day), after I put sick baby down for nap, I took a bath while nibbling bittersweet chocolate. I took a second bath the following morning (a late start and baby still asleep) while drinking two cups of very hot coffee and finishing a book. From where I now sit, the thought of this is shocking. This is something I can never bring myself to do on a Saturday… mind you… anticipated time-off. Halfway through these bath-taking processes I wondered, “…. Who am I ?!”

Now that my son is on the mend, and the winter weather is supposed to regulate, I am both excited for and leery of a promised routine.

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I mean, I really enjoyed those baths. There was even one night where my husband and I got lost in Netflix like we used to. It felt like summer in January… in negative 60 degree wind-chill…

I want to wish my Midwest readers well as we all re-enter the time of routine. I hope you all are warm and safe and healthy. And since the weekend is upon us, I though a recipe for a hearty breakfast cookie would be a great way to start.

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. . .

I picked up on this recipe after a friend served them to us while we stayed with them for a weekend. This friend also introduced me to Sarah’s blog, My New Roots, from where the recipe originated.  I put my own spin on things when I make these cookies, omitting the anise and grating in orange zest, sometimes adding a splash of vanilla, sometimes not. At first I was puzzled by the ingredient list. Why pureed beans and an egg? Can we swap the brown sugar for honey or maple syrup? How about gluten-free flour? I have tried all of these options, all yielding very different results. I would trust Sarah on the original. The listed recipe is a reliably good one. But feel free to tinker around.

Like Sarah, we affectionately call these breakfast cookies “Morning Glories”. They go very well with a cup of coffee or earl gray tea. If you are a toddler, yogurt-dunking is mandatory. Yogurt dunking, and also your new favorite fox cup filled to the brim with water.

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Morning Glories

Adapted from: My New Roots

Yield 1 to 1 ½ dozen breakfast cookies

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole grain flour (we use spelt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. taking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 15-oz. can white kidney beans, great northern beans or navy beans, rinsed and darined
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
  • 1 large egg**
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 2/3 cups sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place a rack in the top third. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oats in a food processor (or blender) until they resemble a very rough flour. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt.

Pulse the beans and olive oil in the food processor until they are creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Add dates and pulse a few times until chopped and incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients start to come together. Stir until everything just comes together.

Place the sesames seeds in a bowl. With a tablespoon, scoop out some dough about the size of a golf ball, then roll it into a rough log shape. (Yes, the dough at this point is very wet, but it becomes very easy to handle once coated in sesame seeds.)

Roll the log of dough into the sesame seeds, remembering to dip the ends too. Set each log on the prepared baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten the dough just a bit, into a bar shape. You want the bar to be the same thickness all the way through – do not make the ends flatter than the middle. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least an inch or so between each bar – they’ll spread a bit, but not much. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Store in an airtight container for a week, if they keep that long!

Notes:

*Swapping brown sugar for a natural sweetener, such as maple syrup or honey has yielded, for me, a very messy and wet batter I didn’t like working with. Give it a try if you want!

** I have swapped out the egg for a vegetarian binder such as pumpkin or apple sauce with success.

maple popcorn

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It seems impossible to even think… but after all that comes with school and life, I might be creeping toward some sort of finish line.

I am a person who finds validation in finish lines. I love the feeling that comes with finishing a long and tedious race. But as I said… to even think about it seems a little delusional. I don’t want to get too comfortable in the triumph. Because if there is anything I have learned, it is that the triumph of finishing is fleeting. And finishing one long and tedious race often promises another. And another. And another…

. . .

My husband and I had to make an out-of-town trip on my son’s second birthday. We packed him a little over-night bag and left him with my parents. And while we were gone for just a 24 hour period, it seemed like he grew up a little. When we came to pick up his wired little body from my parent’s house, and he didn’t seem to have missed us in the least, the stunning realization hit: he turned 2 without us.

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. . .

There is this illustrated bedtime book we often read about a baby girl with tussley black hair whose parents are going about the bedtime routine. The little girl is putty in their hands… through clean-up time and bath-time and snuggle-time and book-time and finally, sleep-time. And the whole dang time the parents are smiling at their toddler. They seem totally engaged – as if nothing more is on their minds than giving her tender loving care. And, I know it’s dumb, but I often feel very envious of those illustrated people. I want so badly to align with the idealistic image of a contented and controlled parent. I want so badly to arrive at the end of each day and have nothing more on my mind than enjoying the company of my family.

And I can’t stop feeling in awe of my 2 year old son. That he didn’t need me there to hold his warm little hand for the transition.

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. . .

To celebrate our son’s birthday, the three of us went out last night for cheap spring rolls. To follow, we went to see the downtown lights display.

Today, after his nap, my son and I are making a little birthday cake. There will be finely ground graham crackers, cinnamon and lots of brown sugar. There will probably also be some confusion and spilt buttermilk and broken eggs. Either way, I am going to try and breathe easily about it. Because whether or not I am exhausting an old race or beginning a new one, whether I am thinking about a million things at once or able to zero-in, I am going to breathe. Because my son is healthy, and loving, and 2. And there is a lot to be thankful for in that.

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. . .

I thought you could all use a recipe for a little something for a holiday party. I love this recipe because there is a) no butter, b) no corn syrup, c) no refined sugar and d) is still perfectly addicting and delicious. Also, I often detect a funny artificial flavor with many homemade caramel corn recipes, and I really don’t know why that is. But let it be known, this recipe is perfect. It is quite sweet given the amount of maple syrup. Yet, with its hint of natural peanut butter and sea salt it tastes like real food – not just candy. You could easily play-up this recipe by adding ¾ a cup of peanuts, toasted almonds, coconut or a combination of all three.  Due to the lack of corn syrup as a preservative, I would recommend keeping this popcorn refrigerated until serving-time. This keeps it fresh and crisp.

Maple Popcorn

Once again, from Cookie and Kate

Popped popcorn, yields about 6 cups

  • ⅓ cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Maple caramel corn

  • 6 cups popped popcorn
  • ½ cup real maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

To pop the popcorn, place a large mixing bowl near the stove. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. Turn the heat up to medium, add 2 kernels of corn, and cover. Once the kernels pop, remove the lid and pour in the remaining popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and give the pot a little shimmy to distribute the kernels evenly.

Cook over medium heat, shaking the pot occasionally. Crack the lid just a bit so the popcorn stays crisp, and cook until the popping sound slows to about one pop per every few seconds. Remove the pan from heat and dump the popcorn your bowl, taking care not to pour in any unpopped kernels at the bottom of the pot. If necessary, pick out any unpopped kernels that made it into the bowl with a spoon.

To make the caramel sauce, in a small, heavy bottomed pot, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat. Keep a watchful eye on the syrup and continue boiling for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, reducing heat only if necessary to prevent overflow. Remove the pot from heat.

Add the nut butter, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon to the pot of maple syrup. Whisk until well blended. Drizzle the mixture over the popcorn and toss with a rubber spatula or big spoon until well mixed. Pour the popcorn on the parchment-covered baking sheet and arrange it in a single layer.

Bake the popcorn for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and salt, to taste. The popcorn will continue to crisp up as it cools. Once it’s cool, break the popcorn into pieces and serve.

 

on baby books… and cornbread

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Last night, I took my son out in the snow for the first time this year. When I set his booted feet down in a freshly fallen blanket, he stood there, frozen, with a worried look on his face. “I stuuuuuck…” He said nervously, raising his arms to be carried out of what he possibly assumed would cement him there forever.

Once I gently eased him into walking in the snow himself, he reminded me much of Bambi. He raised his feet high with each step. He looked around, memorized by the glistening trail of footprints as we made our way through the yard.

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Suddenly, he pulled off his mittens, stuck his hands directly into the fluff and threw it in the air. A look of exuberance lifted from his small, rosy face. And then, as I imagined, he panicked. He held his hands out to me and said, “hot!”.

I quickly came to his rescue. Cupping my hands around his, I breathed until the snow melted.

It was a simple moment. But one I wanted to remember it.

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I decided to record the endeavor in my son’s baby book.  That night, after my son went to bed, I slid his baby book out from the book shelf, brushed off the dust with a few good swipes and opened it in search of a page to record something like “reactions to new discoveries”.

Much to my horror, bleak pages with blank lines danced before my eyes. It turns out that I was supposed to be recording a lot of what has been going on in the past 6 months…

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Milestones such as getting his last tooth is a date that has been forgotten. There have been funny translations (“poot” for “poop”, “lelele” for “elephant”), first sentences (“That’s a mama whale! That’s a baby whale!” or… “Iroh eat the apple”) cute grammatical errors (“It’s a pink” instead of “It’s pink”), first time counting (“2…..4….”), color matching and singing his ABC’s (“A,C,D,D,D,”) have come and gone without being recorded.

I could no longer tell you how old my son was when he first tried to put his shirt on by himself. The exact date he decided that he was capable of brushing his own teeth (he decided, meaning, I still wish he would let us do it… but that ship has long sailed). I can’t remember if it was last week for the month before when he started noticing when my fingers covered the pictures of his books (and pushing them out of the way in annoyance). I don’t even know how tall he was at his 18 month doctor’s appointment.

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Upon realizing this frightful reality – this act of pure negligence – I spent the next lamenting hour tossing and turning in bed. What kind of mother with only one child forgets to record the first time her toddler brushed the dogs teeth with Daddy’s toothbrush?

Today, I am trying to sort through these forgotten milestones and rekindle the hope to ever becoming an adequate parent. I am referring to my digital albums (which I might say are very organized, month by month) for guidance. And in doing so, I stumbled across pictures from a weekend not long ago when we made this amazing cornbread.

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It only seems appropriate to dig out a cornbread recipe on a day like this – when the snow has collected in thick blankets over the trees and is illuminating your whole house with the brightest of light.

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This recipe has all kinds of good things in it: chia seeds, corn flour, quinoa and parsley… Its tastes amazing as a side to any warm soup or on its own with a slice of sharp cheddar for a snack. We personally recommend it with my husband’s wildly spicy chili after a night of being “stuck” in the snow.

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Quinoa Cornbread with Parsley

Yield 12 muffins

Adapted from My New Roots

Remember to rinse your quinoa. Without this step, your quinoa will taste very bitter. I simply drain mine over a fine mesh strainer with a coffee filter inside. I run waster over it until the water runs through clear, swirling it around ever so often (picture above shows this). Also, if you do not have corn flour, spelt or whole wheat flour will substitute nicely. However, it will no longer be gluten-free.

  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup milk, dairy free works fine
  • 3 Tablespoons chia seeds + 9 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey or agave
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Put 12 muffin liners in a cupcake pan.

Mix chia seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Add the cooked quinoa.

Check the chia gel to make sure it is thick a gloppy (it should take 15 minutes or so to obtain the right consistency). In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients together, including the chia gel.

Add the wet to the dry and combine in as few strokes as possible. Fold in the parlsley.

Spoon batter in to muffins cups and bake until the edges are golden brown and they pass the toothpick test, about 15-20 minutes

skinny

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I suppose this blog is due for a summer salad recipe… something green and fresh from my garden, toppled with fresh herbs, dried fruit or sharp cheese and some tangy, inventive dressing. But to be honest, I have not seen or heard from my garden in two weeks. The carpet in our house is getting washed today, so I plan to visit my mom’s for a bit of garden-time while they dry.

I feel ready to tackle the massive bed of weeds that has most surly made its home there. But before I hack away hopeful heads of leafy greens, I will write once more about breakfast. For my purposes, the non-green kind.

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I am not shy about that fact that, when it comes to using dairy products in cooking, baking or straight up drinking from the carton, we don’t fear fat. That’s not to say we frequent McDonald’s for Oreo Blizzards (and that’s not to say I would turn down an Oreo Blizzard if you offered me one… right now…). But when it comes to stocking our fridge, we welcome the whole milk yogurt and cheese, the sour cream and butter. We don’t deprive ourselves because, lets me honest, everything is better about these products. The flavor, the texture. The minimal processing. The way they function in a recipe.

Aside from the groceries we used for baking, we didn’t start buying a lot of dairy until our son was old enough to drink cow’s milk and eat solid food. As you probably know, it is recommended that you start offering babies whole milk because the calorie content is good for them. And after a bit of research, I learned that the same applies to yogurt and cheese. Babies need that healthy fat for their brains and bodies to develop. And after sampling all the full-fat dairy we were buying, we learned that it straight-up tasted way, way better than the skimmed versions we knew so well.

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This wasn’t terrible news for us. Whole milk, especially organic milk since the cows eat grass and not grain, has many unique fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Research has found that people with high levels of these fats have lower rates of obesity and diabetes. Also, the fat in whole milk is proven to help the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin A and D.

Some researchers suggest there may be bioactive substances in milk fat that alter our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies.

((On another note, whole-milk dairy products are relatively high in saturated fat. And eating too much saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease. So many experts would agree that adults with high cholesterol should continue to limit dairy fat.))

I personally suspect that I may be bit lactose intolerant. But I find that full-fat dairy products agree with me better than 0% fat Greek yogurt, for example. When we can afford it (and when I can even find it here in the Midwest), I like to buy goat or sheep milk yogurt because it is easier for me and my son to digest. A little more information on that here.

http://www.mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/.

And of course, there are healthier fats, like virgin coconut or grape seed oil, which frequent our shelves as well. I am not recommending you bask in cream-based gravy every night (though I don’t think my husband would be opposed). But in moderation, we believe whole-milk is our delicious, satiable friend.

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I am also convinced that calories are not my enemy. And that I would rather model a healthy life after my most admired cookbooks authors than the dull-faced, skeletal “6 hour workout!” diet models I see every. dingle. day. on pinterest.

a few sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean

http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/sc/1301/whole_milk_dairy.html

Ok. Enough of that soap box. I promised a recipe.

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This quick jam comes straight from Megan Gordon’s beautiful book, Whole Grain Mornings. We have been through three separate batches of this and I plan on making another later this week. The classic strawberry-rhubarb combo pairs wonderfully with tangy yogurt, mellow vanilla ice cream, and spread over scones, waffles, crepes and pancakes. This week, we have loved spooning it over yogurt or ricotta along with these oat-based, toasty little cardamom biscuits, found on My New Roots. I know the amount looks to be a lot. But with how addictive and healthy these are, I don’t recommend halving this recipe. You will surly regret it.

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Lemon Cardamom Biscuits

Makes about 80-90 biscuits

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup natural cane sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • rice flour for dusting (any flour will work)

In a food processor pulse the oats until you have a rough flour. Add the baking powder, cardamom, salt, lemon zest and coconut sugar. Blend for a few seconds to combine.
In a measuring cup, measure out the applesauce, then add the coconut oil and vanilla, whisk to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the food processor and pulse until fully incorporated. The dough should be sticky and wet, but not pasty. If it is too wet to work with, add a little more oats or oat flour. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Dust a large, clean working surface with flour. Empty dough out on to the floured surface and gather into a rough ball shape. Divide dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, roll dough into a log, approximately 10”/25cm long. Then slice log into ½” / 1¼ cm rounds. Place on a lined baking sheet.

Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden on the bottom, then turn the oven off and let the cookies sit in there until the oven is cool. Once cool, store biscuits in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Quick Jam

Sadly, I have almost no desire to make real jam. Like Megan, all the fuss with sterilizing isn’t appealing to me. Maybe I will change my tune one day. Until then, we love this quick jam.

• 2 cups chopped rhubarb (approximately 4 medium stalks)
• 1 pound fresh strawberries hulled and chopped (about 3 cups)
• 1 ¼ cups natural cane sugar
• Pinch salt
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, stir rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together. Let them until macerate until the sugar has begun to dissolve into the fruit, about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a heavy bottom pot. Bring to a moil at medium heat. Stir in salt, lemon juice and zest and decrease heat to medium-low.

Gently simmer the fruit until it breaks down and the mixture starts to cook down, 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. If the fruit isn’t breaking down on its own, you can use the back of a fork or a potato masher to help it out.

Ideally, when the jam is close to done, the mixture will still be loose. Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl to fully stop the cooking process. Let cool completely and transfer into clean, glass jars. This jam should keep easily for up to 3 weeks, and in the freezer, up to 6 month.

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To Serve

Spoon whole milk yogurt, honeyed ricotta or cream into bowls and drizzle with cooled quick jam. Sprinkle a few biscuits on top and enjoy!

“healthy”

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Adding the word “healthy” in front of a dessert recipe has become quite the popular marketing strategy. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel less guilty about eating dessert? I spend a lot of time scanning the internet for these recipes… healthy cookies, healthy muffins, healthy tiramisu… what? It is out there. It doesn’t taste very good. But it’s out there. Shameless in its grossness.

Fortunately, there are a lot of tasty, “healthy” cookie recipes, many of which source from one of my favorite online recipe journals.

My husband is often dismayed by the amount of time I spend scouring this site for new healthy baking ideas.

“What’s the point of eating a cookie,” he wails, “if they taste healthy?”

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It’s easy for him to say. The guy could swim open-mouthed through a river of gravy twice a day without gaining a pound.

Lucky for me, I have an open mind about these kinds of things. Obviously I would never turn down a blessedly butter-rich, crispy and gooey chocolate chip cookie. But if you ask me, there is something very rewarding about eating a cookie that tastes a little more interesting. A little more… yeah, healthy.

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This cookie recipe calls for carrots. I know what you are probably thinking… but stay with me. These cookies have that pleasantly crispy edge from the coconut oil, a nice chew from the carrots, oats and raisins, and will fill your house with the sweet fragrance of maple syrup baking into whole wheat flour.

My toddler son, I should note, loves these. Especially if yogurt-dunking is involved. I love them with coffee or tea.

Also, when it comes to dessert, I tend to make small batches. The recipe I have posted below yields a batch of roughly 12 little cookies. Feel free to double it or triple for a crowd.

Wishing you all a happy long weekend!

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Yields: about 1 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil, warmed until just melted

Preheat oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the raisins and carrots. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the maple syrup, and coconut oil. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.

with salad

 

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Though buying them in bulk is so much cheaper, I have had my qualms with dried beans. Don’t get me wrong. Grocery shopping feels like a small victory when I slide up the bulk handle and watch hundreds of marbley beans fall into my bag for only a few dollars. But I have learned the hard way that sometimes, when dried beans have been loafing in those bins for too long, the seed membrane can become extremely hard and never, ever soften. Therefore, the battle of crock pot vs. old bean has an unfortunate and predictable end (I’ll give you a hint… crunchy bean chili… crunchy bean tacos… crunchy bean non-paste).

Also, there is all the buzz about soaking your beans… whether or not soaking away the small amount of the phytates and tannins is worth also soaking away the… eerm..  flatulence-related substances.

Whatever, people. Black beans have their value either way. They have an ever-amazing protein-plus-fiber content that helps regulate the digestive process and blood sugar. Black beans also contain an impressive amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients which reduce the risk of certain cancers, particularly colon cancer.

Most often, I buy them canned because, as stated before, I have learned to not trust those bean bulk bins. I often wait until I see someone re-filling them , or if I can find a processing date that is fairly recent… like the last six months. But usually, canned beans and I are friends.

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Carrots. I recently learned (from Martha Stewart Living’s May addition, thank you) that Carotenoids, the antioxidant that gives this root vegetable its orange pigment may protect against heart disease, cataracts, and certain cancers. It’s a good thing, too. Because carrots are one of the few veggies I can confidently feed my son without have to guise with cheese.

We have all heard that brown rice is better for us than white… that white rice is just naked brown nice, almost fully stripped of its nutrition. By removing the hull (the outer most layer of the grain), you are also removing almost all of the Vitamin B, Vitamin B1, and Vitamin B6. You also lose half the manganese, phosphorus, iron, dietary fiber and essential fatty acids.

I mean, in my house, we still like white rice. We like our Arborio rice made into creamy risotto, a bed of long-grain white rice for grilled meat and vegetables, and Jasmin rice, fluffed with coconut and served with walnuts or cashews. It is hard to beat the easy and fluffy texture of well-prepared white rice. Regardless, with the help of black beans and carrots, the heft and heartiness of brown rice certainly has a place to nutritionally shine in this salad.

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This salad is a really nice one to have around for a quick pick-me-up snack, a filling on-the-road meal, or those its-late-and-I-don’t-want-to-think-about-dinner nights. I have enjoyed it under a fried egg, wrapped in a warm whole wheat tortilla, and cold, straight from the fidget. I think my son likes how tangy the dressing is because he rolls his finger around the bottom of the bowl to collect every drop. I also like how just a little of this salad fills me up for a long, long time.

You could probably substitute the rice for another grain, like farro, amaranth, or quinoa (or, you know, white rice;)). You could also swap the kale for another dark, leafy green or even chopped cabbage. All salads are adaptable! Let me know how your salad adventure goes!

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Black Bean and Brown Rice Salad with Roasted Carrots

Yield: 2-3 servings

  • 1 15 oz. can  black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (approximately ½ cup uncooked)
  • 5-6 medium carrots
  • ½ Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ Tablespoon maple syrup
  • Good pinch sea salt
  • ½ small yellow onion
  • ½ large handfuls baby kale
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

Dressing

  • 1 ½ Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 glug (eye-ball a teaspoon) maple syrup
  • Good pinch sea salt
  • Good pinch ground paprika

Cook brown rice and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and remove tops from carrots, but leave the skin on.  Slice them however you like so long as the pieces are the same size so that they can cook evenly. Toss carrots with cumin, olive oil, maple syrup and salt. Lay out on a baking sheet and roast until carrots are fragrant and soft, about 20 minutes.

While carrots roast, prepare the rest of the salad. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside. Fold the cooled cooked brown rice and black beans with kale and onion. When carrots are cool, add them as well.

In a dry skillet, roast pumpkin seeds over medium-high heat until they pop. Allow them to cook before adding them to the salad.

Drizzle dressing over salad. Enjoy.

whole wheat banana nut scones

 

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We have had an eventful past few weeks, which is surely not a bad thing. And yet, after this holiday weekend I hope to settle back into a more steady, more comfortable pace. I don’t particularly like being busy, for lack of a better word. And I have gathered that my son doesn’t  like us being busy either.

My son has gone to bed unexpectedly early tonight. He rubbed his eyes through his favorite dinner of mac and broc. He nestled deeply into my lap while we read books. He refused to take his bath. We pretty much just laid him in bed and he was out like a small light. His long, dark eye lashes resting heavily against his soft, wind blown cheeks.

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I am very uncomfortable with the idea of not understanding my son. I want to settle on answers to all the little mysteries about him. I want to decide that, yes… yes this is our routine, this is what he likes to eat, and this is what he understands and doesn’t. And then I proclaim it. I tell everyone who he is and how he is and what he will be like. Only for him to suddenly, quite drastically change. For him to outgrow his morning nap. For him to refuse to eat cheese. For him to decide that he simply must dunk all of his crackers/biscuits/cookies in yogurt.

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Its a funny phase that his 16-month-old little brain is imposing on our day. If I give him yogurt, he needs a biscuit to dunk. If I give him a biscuit, he demands the yogurt.

As endearing as his new craving may be, it gets a little boring spooning the yogurt and pulling out the box of belVita oat crackers (thanks for recommending them, Lisa) and bunny grahams.

So this morning, before we took off on a family affair, we made these fabulous scones inspired by one of Cookie and Kate’s latest post. I used loosely ground almonds instead of her choice of pecans or walnuts, though I trust going either way is an equally good choice. These scones are very hearty, nibbly, biscuit-like and just faintly sweet before the glaze. But with the maple glaze, they are both hearty and sweet-tooth satisfying. Along side a cup of black tea, these scones make for the perfect mid-morning snack. And if you ask a certain toddler, he would likely recommend dunking them in yogurt.

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Whole Wheat Banana Nut Scones

Yield 8 scones

Scones

  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 2 cups whole wheat, spelt, or other whole grain flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 5 Tablespoon cold, unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium banana’s worth)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Maple Glaze

  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast the almonds in the oven until fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Chop the almonds into very fine pieces. I ran mine through a food processor until they resembled a rough flour.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, almonds, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a bowl and whisk together.

Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, use a fork or your finger tips.

Measure the cream in a liquid measuring cup. Pour in the maple syrup and vanilla extract, and mix well. Then stir mashed banana into the cream mixture.

Pour the banana mixture into the dry mixture and combine with a big spoon. At first it will seem like there isn’t enough liquid to wet the dough, but keep mixing until you have thoroughly incorporated the wet and dry ingredients. When it comes to batter as dry as scone’s, I use my hands to knead the last of the flour into the dough.

On a flat surface, form dough into a circle that’s about an inch deep all around. Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut the circle into 8 even slices.

Separate slices and place on the baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes to 17 or until lightly golden brown.

While the scones are baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Let the scones cool for a few minutes, then drizzle the glaze generously over the scones. Drink with tea. Dunk in yogurt. Or eat on the go. Happy Easter!

 

 

 

 

an introduction

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Our table isn’t even usually messy. I am a little obsessive when it comes to clean counters. This could be the root of all my stress – this claustrophobia. This insatiable need for space.

When I asked my husband what I should name this blog, “Our Messy Table” was the first things he said. I didn’t like it. It was too literal. Too blunt. It even looks heavy up there, its Times New Roman font weighed down by the belligerent “O” and the stocky “M”. And as I said before, I don’t function well in messy spaces, let alone around messy tables.

And then I thought about it quietly. I let the name float around in the back of my thoughts for a few weeks. “Our Messy Table” resonated with me somehow.

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One day, it clicked.

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Much to my self-diagnosed OCD horror, tables can’t always be clean. Counters can’t always be clear. Floors are never spotless.

Because sometimes you have to cook dinner and chicken fat sprays everywhere. Sometimes your 16-month-old pushes a chair to the counter and knocks the 3 day’s-worth of accumulated compost onto the floor. Sometimes your husband wears his work boots through the house again. And sometimes you are babysitting two toddlers and also trying to make cupcakes… enough said.

So here we are. With the name I didn’t like very much, and still don’t really like that much, to serve perspective.

That as we cook dinner…

… as I let toddlers taste-test peanut butter honey sauces and make play dough and water color paintings…

… and as I watch my dog shake fur all over and into my wine glass…

… it is going to be okay.

Our table is a little messy. And thank goodness, life goes on.

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I don’t like the idea of a foodie… to me, the word just sounds stupid. And it implies a type of snobbery I don’t ever want to convey to my friends or family. I will eat almost any kind of food set before me. I will drink any kind of wine. And though I don’t personally like beer, my husband’s favorite beer is the one in front of him. We like food. We like drinks. We like to be social about. Especially if it is fried in oil or all done up with cream, butter and all that tastes like heaven.

But I also believe in the power of nutrition on a day-to-day basis. I think there is definitely a place for indulgence. For late-night ice frozen custard and third helpings of frozen pizza and celebratory cake. But I am also a minimalist who fears excess. In our home, my husband, son and I eat simply. We try to eat locally and whole, and even shop organic when we can afford it. We want to be good stewards of the earth and to our bodies. And therefore, we want our son to grow up knowing the value in eating healthfully, but also the restorative balance in taking on the spoonful of salted caramel buttercream frosting.

SO… about these granola bars:

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I have used many granola bars recipes, all of which have included time on the oven. What I love about these is that there are only 5 ingredients and that they require no bake-time. Just let them set in the fridge for 15 minutes and you are good to go.

Did I mention they only require 5 little ingredients?

Oats… I just love them. My 16-month-old and I eat old fashioned oatmeal every morning – his with a bit of brown sugar and coconut milk, mine with a bit of peanut butter and honey. For me, oats are the ultimate whole grain because they contain a special fiber that decreases bad cholesterol and contain unique antioxidants. Oats also stabilize blood sugar.

Some fun facts about honey- I buy raw honey (straight from the comb) because not only is it more flavorful, but it also contains all of its original nutritional properties. Most commercial honey (the little honey bears, for instance) have been pasteurized so that it contains little to no pollen. Without pollen, it isn’t technically honey. It’s just sweet, mild-flavored syrup. Pasteurized honey also lacks most of the healthful benefits of raw honey (Vitamin A and C, digestive properties, stabilized blood sugar, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-viral and fungal properties.. I could go on..)

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I love dates because they are so naturally sweet and chewy (I also love prunes, but lets not get into that now). And like most items, they are cheaper when purchased in bulk. However, dates have a sticky surface that can harbor bad bacteria and germs. When I buy dates in bulk, I am always sure to wash them. Otherwise, dates and loaded with fiber, iron, potassium, and manganese and copper (good for your bones!).

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Like most young American families, we blow through every jar of peanut butter as if it were a season of House Of Cards. For us, natural peanut butter is the way to go. Not because we think we are better than everyone who buys commercial peanut butter. But because we honestly like it better. And it is much, much better for you.

Commercial brand peanut butter, though it is certainly a source of protein, is also a source of much sugar, sodium and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Natural peanut butter is closer to nature and is high in Vitamin E (for your immune system) and B6 (for your brain and metabolism). Natural peanut butter also contains potassium, fiber, and the saturated fats your body needs.

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And almonds. Unfortunately, my husband is really allergic to all tree nuts. So when I make these bars for him, they contain chocolate chips instead of almonds (which is obviously still delicious). Almonds are a “high satiety food” that aid in weight management. Almonds have also been proven to reduce bad cholesterol. They are high in Vitamin B6, Vitamin A (good for your vision and immune system) and also contains Vitamin E.

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Did I put you to sleep?
I hope not! Because here is the good part!

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Roasted Almond Granola Bars

Yield 10 bars

• 1 cup packed dates, pitted
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
• 1 cup almonds
• 1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain. It should form a “dough” like consistency, or roll into a ball.

Toast your oats in a 350 degree oven for 15-ish minutes or until slightly golden brown.

Place oats, almonds and dates in a bowl – set aside.

Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.

Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8×8 dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.

Press down firmly until uniformly flattened. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let set in fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden.

Remove bars from pan and chop into 10 even bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days. I kept mine in the freezer to keep them extra fresh, but it isn’t necessary.

Notes

*You can easily substitute the honey for maple syrup or agave.
*If your dates don’t feel sticky and moist, soak them in water for 10 minutes then drain before processing. This will ultimately help hold the bars together better.
*Optional additions: chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut, etc.
*A loaf pan might work, but will yield thicker bars.