I forgot how much I love a NO BAKE recipe! No heating up the kitchen and practically instant gratification! The only problem with these chocolate-peanut butter-oat bars is that they are so tasty and satisfying, I kind of can’t resist them. So after I made this batch, I gave them all to my sister-in-law and she and her family flipped for them!!Continue reading
Most people are not mind readers, so if you have a wish for the perfect Mother’s Day, you may need to drop a few hints. I used to dream of a day where I could relax in my bed for a few extra minutes, maybe with the newspaper and a fresh cup of tea. Then off to a rare workout or walk along the beach. I would wish for a little extra time to do my hair before having a yummy and healthful brunch with my favorite people in the world, my husband and my kiddos. Ha! Sometimes we moms keep doing for others and feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. You know what? We run around at 90 miles an hour every day of the year, it’s OK to have one day where you get put on a pedestal and your loved ones spend the day worshipping you.
But I’ll admit, I’ve never been very good at asking for things. Year after year, we would go out with my husband’s family for brunch to a crowded restaurant or hotel. The men spent a lot of money for average food and lots of noise and this wasn’t dreamy to me. Then two years ago my good friend Melissa told me that her Mother’s Day is spent at the home of her in-law’s and all the guys get together in the kitchen to make lunch for the ladies. LIGHT BULB! So last April, I made a few subtle suggestions and guess what? My husband can take a hint! He organized the troops to cook the loveliest lunch at our home. Never mind that the kitchen looked like something exploded in there, I didn’t have to lift a finger and my hair looked great.
This year we’re doing the same thing and I am totally excited. If this sounds good to you, but there isn’t enough advance warning for your family to mobilize, you can at least make a few suggestions for breakfast in bed…like these breakfast cookies! You can whip them together the day before and suggest that they be delivered bedside on a silver platter with a coffee or tea and some fresh fruit. A little bud vase with a beautiful flower would be nice too, but maybe we shouldn’t push it. These “cookies” are like having your oatmeal and toppings in a tasty and neat little package, and it kind of feels like you’re eating a cookie. Splurge! But look at the ingredients — totally clean and won’t offset that workout you’re going to get in!
If breakfast cookies aren’t your thing (really?), here are a few other ideas to give your family a little help:
Yogurt and Granola Parfait (make the granola during the week);
½ cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts and almonds, but pecans are great, too)
1 cup unsulphured dried fruit, chopped (I used dried dates and blueberries)
3 ripe bananas or 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, coconut, almond meal, cinnamon and salt. Add the nuts and dried fruit combine with the mixture, breaking up the dried fruit so it doesn’t clump together (I use my hands to mix this.)
In a medium bowl, mash the bananas and stir in the oil and vanilla.
Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir to combine.
Take scoops of the batter either with a ⅓ cup or ¼ cup measuring cup and drop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten with your hand to about ¾-inch thick. Bake for a about 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in the fridge after a few days or wrap and freeze.
Has school started in your neck of the woods? We’re back at it this week. I get a little bummed when the kids go back to school. I’ve really enjoyed spending more time with them and summer is so much less stressful, especially for my high schooler. That and, despite what you might think, I don’t love making lunches at 6:30 am everyday, as well as trying to keep a substantial supply of well-balanced snacks for the kids and their friends. You know I love to cook and it’s a major priority for me to feed myself and the kids well, but it’s definitely a challenging task which I know many of you try to tackle most days, too.
The fact is I don’t actually make all of the kids’ snacks, because I really don’t have that kind of time. But there are a few that I can make quickly, easily and that are more delicious (and healthful) than what you can buy in a store. I hope to post my guidelines next week for choosing a healthful snack, but making sure there’s some protein in there is super important, otherwise you run the risk of a blood sugar rollercoaster. One snack that I guessed wouldn’t be too tricky to figure out was granola bars. Last summer I tested granola bar recipes for about two months and had the tight jeans to prove it. I wouldn’t call it a low-calorie snack mostly due to the nuts and seeds, but I if the kids need something to tide them over until dinnertime or get them through soccer practice, goldfish and a fruit roll-up aren’t going to cut it. I am always going to look for something like these bars, which are made from real ingredients, contain protein and fiber and a minimal amount of sugar, plus a little love from Mom.
The problem is that these granola bars are so good, I have a hard time being in the house and not sneaking one or more when I’m not really even hungry. They have most of the same flavors as my granola, but with a little butter. What they don’t have is tons of refined sugar like so many granola bar recipes I see. If you are dairy-free or vegan, you can definitely use coconut oil, but I have a soft spot for the combination of butter, pecans and a pinch of sea salt. Yum! Like granola, you can adjust this recipe to suit you. (And yes, you can add chocolate chips.) I like my granola bars a little on the thick side (see bottom photo), but if you like yours thinner and crunchy (see lead photo), you can use an 8 x 10 pan. Try these out and if your family loves them, make a double batch and freeze them. Because in my world, September not only means school, but soccer games, scouts meetings, study groups and playdates. Need any more reasons to make these?
If you like thick granola bars, grease an 8 or 9-inch square pan with butter or coconut oil and line with unbleached parchment paper (this will help get the bars out of the pan.) If you like them thinner, say ¾-inch thick, grease an 8x 11-inch pan.
Place oats, seeds, coconut and nuts on large baking sheet and toast for 12-15 minutes. Do not allow anything to burn!
In a large bowl combine almond meal, cinnamon, salt and dried fruit. When oat mixture is out of the oven, add to bowl. Mix the melted butter, brown rice syrup and vanilla together and pour over the oat mixture, stirring well to coat evenly.
Pour mixture into pan and press down with a spoon, spatula or damp hands.
Bake for about 20-25* minutes, or until lightly colored on top. The granola bar will be soft to the touch when it comes out of the oven, but will firm up as it cools. Allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the bar. Invert the pan over a cutting board to remove. Cut into individual bars and eat or store in a covered container.**
*Baking it longer will result in a crispier, firmer bar, but it may be harder for little ones to chew easily.
**If the weather or your kitchen is warm, it’s better to store the bars in the refrigerator.