Gluten-Free, Vegan Pear-Cranberry Tart Recipe

Why do so many people go on cleanses on January 2nd?  One word — SUGAR.  It starts on Halloween with an innocent bite of an Almond Joy and keeps coming until New Years Day with that “one last piece” of cake since the big diet will start tomorrow.  I’m the first to admit that although I may be pretty disciplined during the year, a few sweet indulgences here and there during the holidays throw me off for weeks.  Damn!  One of these years I’m just going to say “no, thank you” over and over in November and December because I really am much happier when sugar and I go our separate ways.  I am especially going to reject any food with the word “slutty” in front of it.  Or at least I need to stick to more natural desserts that don’t make me feel like I’m going to hell.

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s fun to give in.  It’s the holidays.  What about everything in moderation?  If you say so.  As for me, sugar is out to get me.   It makes me feel horrible afterwards, saps my energy, ruins my skin, and leaves me craving nourishment, among other things.  The worst part is I go back for that same punishment that next day!

I know it seems hypocritical that I started this post whining about sugar and now I’m encouraging you to make dessert.  HOWEVER, there are desserts out there that deserve a little more respect since they are made of higher quality ingredients that don’t leave you regretting what you’ve just eaten.  Like this Pear-Cranberry Tart!  When Jenni Kayne and The Chalkboard Mag asked me to create a vegan and gluten-free holiday menu which was also healthful, the dessert was what I figured would be the challenge.  But I have to say, this turned out great and may be one of my favorite desserts to date.  It’s seasonal, beautiful and just plain delicious.  The tart is sweet, but in a fresh and clean way that doesn’t make you feel like you just got a sugar injection.  And I love the contrast of the soft pears with the nubby crust and crumbly topping. Whereas this looks impressive, it’s really quite easy.  The press-in crust is the perfect answer for those who don’t feel comfortable making and rolling out pastry dough.  Plus it’s the perfect dessert for the holidays since you can prep much of it in advance (see my notes at the bottom of the recipe.)

Don’t let the gluten-free and vegan label throw you off.  Sometimes people, including my darling husband, rush to judgment about “alternative” desserts without giving them a chance.  But sure enough, my kids all loved it, although Mr. Picky picked out the “sour” cranberries.  No problem, send those over here.  I think you could even eat it with a dollop of whole yogurt and call it breakfast.  I did.  And I didn’t have any regrets in the morning.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Pear-Cranberry Tart
Author: 
Serves: 10
 
Ingredients
  • Crust:
  • 1 cup rolled oats (look for gluten-free oats, such as Bob's Red Mill)
  • ⅔ cup oat or whole spelt flour (look for gluten-free oat flour, such as Bob's Red Mill; spelt flour is not gluten-free)
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup unrefined coconut oil, melted
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Filling:
  • 3 firm, but ripe pears, cored and sliced into ⅛th-inch wedges
  • 1 handful fresh cranberries
  • 2 Tablespoons maple sugar or brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup (I use Grade A for a more subtle flavor)
  • 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Topping:
  • 1 cup oat or whole spelt flour (look for gluten-free oat flour, such as Bob's Red Mill; spelt flour is not gluten-free.)
  • ⅓ cup maple sugar or brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • pinch of sea salt (omit if using Miyoko's vegan butter or Earth Balance)
  • 4 Tablespoons cold Miyoko's vegan butter, organic Earth Balance, unsalted butter or unrefined coconut oil, cut into pieces (butter is not vegan; Miyoko's, Earth Balance and butter give a better result than coconut oil, but coconut oil works just fine.)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. If your tart pan tends to leak when baking, you should also line the bottom with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. Place all crust ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Press crust evenly on the bottom of the pan and into the rim. Freeze crust while you assemble the filling.
  3. In a large bowl gently combine filling ingredients and set aside.
  4. In another bowl, squeeze topping ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture looks well combined, pebbly and no longer dry or dusty.
  5. Remove tart pan from freezer and layer the pears and cranberries on top of the crust. Pour any juices from the bowl on top of the fruit. Spread the crumb topping over the fruit.
  6. Place tart on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until filling is bubbling and topping is lightly browned. Allow tart to cool slightly before serving. Best eaten the same day it’s made, but if you have leftovers, store in the refrigerator. Do ahead: you can make the crust up to a day ahead and keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator. You can also make the topping a up to 3 days ahead and keep that in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin oatmeal recipe

I always thought the strategy stopped once I served Thanksgiving dinner, but I actually think it’s just as challenging figuring out how to work efficiently with all the leftovers.  I really detest throwing away food, so I try to give away care packages to my guests before they leave on Thanksgiving lest I end up with more stuffing than we can consume in two days.  But instead of searching the internet for creative ways to use up our turkey and vegetables, my 14-year-old daughter had the answer all along — invite a bunch of teenagers over for dinner.  Brilliant!  Ten of her friends came over the day after Thanksgiving for a “pot luck.”  Each kid was supposed to bring a dish for everyone to share, but I think only one boy brought a tupperware of mashed potatoes and gravy.  Fine by me!  I don’t think there was a shred of turkey left in the fridge.

The only thing the kids didn’t consume were a few raw egg whites and some pumpkin puree leftover from roasting pumpkin for a couple pies.  The egg whites could easily find their way into a frittata, but I wanted to do something different with the pumpkin.  I love making oatmeal on Monday mornings.  It’s easy and starts the week off on a healthful note.  After the oats were finished, I stirred in the pumpkin puree along with the typical spices that I would use in a pie — cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Everyone added his or her own twist to this new oatmeal.  My husband added granola; Mr. Picky sprinkled on cinnamon-sugar; the girls ate theirs with pomegranates and walnuts.  But I think mine was the best of all — fresh diced pear, chopped pecans and this crazy delicious new maple syrup my husband discovered called Noble.  It was heaven — warm and comforting and nourishing at the same time.

I was really winging it with the measurements for pumpkin and the spices, so you can too.  I had a heaping 1/2 cup of puree, but because pumpkin doesn’t have a strong flavor, I think you can add up to a cup and not feel like you’re eating a bowl of squash with some oats mixed in.  As far as the spices go, cinnamon and ginger in particular are favorites of mine and they happen to be anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants, so I was fairly liberal.  But again, this is an easy “recipe” to adjust to suit your tastes.   Do you dare me to go roast another pumpkin so I can eat this again?  I just might….

Pumpkin Oatmeal
Author: 
Serves: 4-5
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel cut oats (you can also make this with rolled oats -- just follow package directions for cooking)
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • optional: additional drizzle of milk such as almond milk or raw milk
  • ½ - 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • toppings can include: fresh pear or pomegranate seeds, sautéed apples, granola, maple syrup, maple sugar, pecans, sliced almonds or walnuts, bananas, mini-chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. For overnight oats: Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add oats and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand overnight. The next morning, reheat over medium heat, stirring in some milk (I usually use about ¼ -1/3 cup) if desired for extra creaminess.
  2. If making in the morning, cook oats in water with salt until tender, usually about 35 minutes. Add enough milk to achieve desired creaminess.
  3. Add pumpkin puree and spices to oatmeal and heat through. Serve with optional toppings.
Notes
To make 6 servings, increase water to 6 cups and oats to 1 ½ cups.

 

Trail Mix Cookies Recipe

Having teenagers is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it’s kind of cool that my girls are old enough to have adult conversations and share clothes with me.  On the other hand, it bums me out that they prefer to be with their friends over their parents.  I don’t take it personally, of course.  But if all goes according to plan, Daughter #1 will be going to college in two years and her younger sister two years after that which means I don’t have a lot of time left with them in the house.  This is one reason I encourage them to invite their friends to hang out at our house or spend the night as much as possible.  Not only does it make the house more lively, but I know what they’re up to and sometimes I’ll even overhear some good gossip.  Just recently did I figure out how to make my home the place to be.  It’s called FOOD.

Teenagers are always hungry.  No, I take that back.  They’re always “STAR-ving.”  They don’t even know what the word means.  My daughters complain that they’re starving if they haven’t eaten in two hours.  My point is that if you want to have the house that the kids want to hang out in, other than breaking the law and supplying alcohol (not recommended), you need to have some good eats.  I don’t think my house is considered to have the “best” food by any means.  There are no Cheetos, no soda and no microwave popcorn.  But I do always have tons of fresh fruit, leftovers from dinner, the makings of a quesadilla and lots of homemade cookie dough in the freezer, especially in the fall when the kids are back in school.

These Trail Mix cookies are a new favorite around here.  They’re like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies PLUS.  There are so many goodies in the cookies, it feels like you’re eating a handful of trail mix held together with some oatmeal cookie batter.  In fact, you could use trail mix in this recipe, hence the name.  I’m not sure I’ve made this recipe the same way twice since I’ll often use it as an excuse to clean out the bottom of my nut and dried fruit jars.  Before you get excited about a cookie that sounds like it might be healthful, it’s still a cookie, just maybe a higher quality one.  If you want a cookie that you can eat for breakfast, make these.  This recipe uses whole wheat pastry flour, rolled oats, flakes of unsweetened coconut, and chocolate chips.  My kids love pecans, so I generally use them here, but if I have a handful of walnuts or macadamia nuts, those can go in too.  Same idea with dried fruit — use whatever you’ve got.  The key with these cookies though, is to make sure you don’t decide to just eliminate an entire ingredient without coming up with a substitution.  All the “stuff” helps give your cookies structure and without it, your cookies will go a tad flat.  If you can’t eat nuts, I have used sunflower seeds with success, or you can just add 1/2 cup extra of chocolate chips, dried fruit and coconut to make up for the 1 1/2 cups of nuts.  What I did struggle with was the sugar in the cookies. The quantity is quite a bit less than you would find in a comparable cookie, but I didn’t have as much success substituting coconut sugar or maple syrup for the white and brown sugars.  At the end of the day, it’s still a cookie which we should enjoy in moderation.

If you like to be prepared for weekday school lunches or unexpected playdates, it’s always nice to have some cookie dough on hand.  You can make this batter and keep it refrigerated for a week, baking off as many cookies as you like at any given time.  I also like to scoop the dough onto baking sheets with my ice cream scooper, freeze them raw (the same way you would freeze fruit), and when they are frozen solid, gather them up and put them in a container to freeze for a rainy day or the next sleepover.  And from the empty containers I generally see in the morning, I have also observed that teenagers are at their most STARVING in the middle of the night.

Trail Mix Cookies
Author: 
Serves: makes 3 dozen cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup natural cane sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup rolled oats (either old-fashioned or quick-cooking)
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans (or walnuts or macadamia nuts)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ½ cup unsweetened, dried coconut flakes (or use extra pecans)
  • ½ cup dried fruit, such as cranberries (or use extra chocolate chips)
  • (Or use 3 ½ cups trail mix instead of above add-ins; chop nuts)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 egg at a time until well incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add half the dry mix to the butter with the mixer on low speed. After the flour has been incorporated, add the remaining flour mixture and stir together.
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  5. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto the cookie sheet and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes. (If you bake the dough directly from the fridge, add 3-5 minutes.)
  6. Remove from the oven and cool cookies for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Peach and Blueberry Crisp Recipe

Were fruit crisps popular 30 and 40 years ago?  I can’t recall, but I feel like they started turning up everywhere about 20 years ago.  A fruit crisp was one of the first desserts I ever made on my own.  I think the recipe came from one of the Silver Palate cookbooks.  Remember those?  I am very certain it was an apple crisp with the classic oat and sugar crumby topping.  It was such an easy dessert, but so delicious and a total crowd pleaser.  What’s not to love?  It’s the ultimate comfort dessert.  Soft, sweet fruit with a crunchy, nubby topping that you would fight your best friend over.  Did you ever have a crisp warm out of the oven with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on top?  If you have, then someone loves you!

I’ll tell you the truth, I use the same basic recipe for all my fruit crisps the whole year long.  I’m sure I could put a little more thought into it and start adding liqueur to the fruit or different spices.  I like Giada’s idea of using crumbled amaretti cookies in the crisp topping.  But we already love this the way it is.  Why mess around with deliciousness?

Today I’m bringing you a Peach and Blueberry Crisp because my favorite fruit desserts all start with a peach.  Did you catch my Stone Fruit Crostata last summer?  My husband, kids and I are all obsessed with peaches.  We have a couple of peach trees in the backyard that produce a whole lot of great peaches for two weeks in the summer and that’s when we grill them, add them to salads, make pies and crisps and even peach margaritas (for adults, of course)!  Outside of those two weeks, I rely on our farmer’s market, but a high point for us is going peach picking on Long Island when we visit my parents.  Have you ever had a just-picked peach, warm from the sun?  Put that on your to-do list.  It will just make you happy.

Believe me, I am completely content eating a perfect peach and not messing with it, but I also know there’s a time and place for a good, homemade dessert.  This Peach and Blueberry Crisp is one of my go-to’s during the summer.  I don’t make it too sweet, in fact my fruit dessert mantra is “it should taste like fruit, not just sweet.”  Most crisp recipes toss the fruit with extra sugar and flour, which I don’t think is necessary at all.  I used to make crisp toppings with brown sugar until I discovered coconut palm sugar which I think is a great unrefined sweetener.  If you can’t find it, brown sugar works completely fine.  One of the best things about crisps is that you can make the topping way ahead and keep it in the fridge for a few days or even the freezer for a few months.  Do you even understand the implications of this?  You can freeze a whole gigantic batch of crisp topping right now and have a dreamy dessert at your fingertips whenever you want.  That means an easy dessert for summer entertaining or simply put a handful of fresh fruit in a ramekin and top with a handful of topping and bake away for a yummy crisp for you and only you whenever you need a little love.  Now we’re talking.

 

5.0 from 5 reviews
Peach and Blueberry Crisp
Author: 
Serves: 8-ish
 
Ingredients
  • 6 medium peaches, pitted and sliced, about 4-5 cups (you can peel if you want)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup whole grain flour, such as whole wheat pastry, white whole wheat or your favorite GF flour blend (I like Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur)
  • ¾ cup coconut palm sugar or brown sugar (coconut sugar is less refined)
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats (look for gluten-free oats if you gluten intolerant)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place all fruit in an 8- or 9-inch baking dish or pie plate. Toss to mix them up a bit.*
  3. Add all topping ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until mixture resembles small peas. This can also be done by hand or with a pastry blender. Squeeze with your hands to create small clumps.
  4. Arrange topping over fruit to cover.
  5. Place baking dish on a cookie sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, or until bubbly and topping is golden brown.
Notes
*You can toss the fruit with a Tablespoon of sugar and a Tablespoon of flour to thicken the juices that develop, but it is not necessary unless your fruit is really juicy.

**Crisp topping can be made ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

 

 

No-Sugar, No-Egg, No-Flour Breakfast Cookie Recipe

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:

Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful women.  I wish I could jump through the computer to give you a big hug.  The world is a better place for all you do.

5.0 from 4 reviews
Breakfast Cookies
Author: 
Serves: makes 12-16
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • ¼ cup almond meal or sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. 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.)
  3. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas and stir in the oil and vanilla.
  4. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir to combine.
  5. 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.

Overnight Steel Cut Oatmeal Recipe

We eat a lot of oatmeal in this house for so many reasons. It is nutritious, filling, inexpensive and incredibly easy to make.  Oatmeal is high in soluble fiber (the kind that helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol by the bloodstream), as well as rich in antioxidants and lignans, which protect against cancer and help stabilize blood sugar levels.    An oatmeal breakfast also allows me to employ the topping bar, which means everyone makes his or her own breakfast.  It’s a win-win.  During the school year, I usually cook a pot of oatmeal twice a week.  I prefer steel cut oats, also called Irish oats, because of their hearty, chewy texture.  They’re also only one step away from a whole oat groat since the grain has been merely sliced.  Old fashioned rolled oats have been steamed and rolled flat and are considered slightly less beneficial than steel cut.

When my sister told me recently that she brings instant oatmeal packets (loaded with sugar and who knows what else) with her kids to their day care for breakfast, I almost choked on my kale chips.  But I know my sister has a rough time of it getting two toddlers ready very early in the morning and out the door before 7:00 am.  Since steel cut oats can take up to 30 minutes to cook, it’s quite understandable why they don’t get made in her house on a weekday.  But since I can’t imagine life without steel cut oats (or maybe I can’t imagine life with instant oats), I sent her a crockpot as a very late new baby gift (I knew the right gift idea would come to me one day!) so that she could make the kids oatmeal overnight and have it ready when they woke up.  I was so pleased that I saved my sister from instant oatmeal, until she told me she loves her crockpot so much because she uses it for making dinner while she’s at work.

No problem!  I’m all about oatmeal solutions.  Turn to Plan B which is overnight steel cut oats, the answer for anyone who has absolutely no time in the morning.  You just boil water, add steel cut oats and a pinch of salt, cook for a minute and remove from the heat.  Keep it covered until the morning.  Then all you have to do is reheat, which takes about a minute.  You can also use this method in the morning if you wake up early and you want to go workout before everyone gets up and you don’t want to leave the stove on while you’re gone.  Just reheat when you get back.  It’s genius, really!

You know I have very little time to mess around in the morning with the two girls needing to be out the door at 6:40 am with breakfast AND lunches packed.  I can’t imagine what I would do if my kids didn’t like oatmeal.  But they sure wanted to find out!  Daughter #1 informed me a few months ago that she really doesn’t like oatmeal.  “Oh yes you do.”  “No, I don’t.”  “Haha! LOL!  JK!  Right?”  “Mom, you’re so weird.  I think oatmeal is boring.”  Well, stop right there, Missy.  I believe that when you have a problem with children, it’s best to nip it in the bud quickly before it turns into something major.  So, I took this recent turn against oatmeal VERY seriously.

Normally, I cook oatmeal in water, and stir in a little almond milk at the end for a creamy finish.  I set out a topping bar of cinnamon, dried fruit, jars of walnuts and pecans, homemade granola and whatever complementary fresh fruit I have on hand, such as bananas and berries.  Since this was no longer enough, I needed a new plan to bring her back.  Here are a few of the new versions that my daughter has approved of which really aren’t much trouble, but just make oatmeal seem special again.

  • Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (see photo)– upon reheating, stir in pumpkin puree (about 1/3 cup per person) + pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon and nutmeg, pinch of ginger and cloves), top with maple sugar, pecans and dried cranberries.
  • Chocolate Oatmeal (see photo)– prepare oats with water and finish with chocolate hemp milk, top with fresh berries and mini chocolate chips (and sometimes walnuts).
  • Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana — finish with chocolate hemp milk, add a spoonful of peanut butter and diced banana.
  • Oatmeal with Sauteed Apples or Pears (see photo below) — saute chopped, peeled apples or pears with a touch of coconut oil or unsalted butter, then cook with apple juice or water and a dash of cinnamon until tender.  Sometimes we add to oatmeal with walnuts or pecans.
  • Pamela’s Special — oatmeal finished with almond milk and topped with chopped almonds or walnuts, raw cacao nibs, goji berries or chopped dates, flaked unsweetened coconut.
  • The Hubby — hold the milk, but add fresh blueberries (when in season) or sliced bananas and homemade granola.
  • Mr. Picky’s favorite — oatmeal finished with raw milk and topped with 1/2 diced peach, 1/2 diced plum, a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkle of maple sugar.

Some of you mentioned to me that you like to stir in a little almond butter and that you freeze your oatmeal in individual portions.  I’m going to try that immediately.  Please share more of your oatmeal combos!

Overnight Steel Cut Oatmeal
Author: 
Serves: 4*
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • optional: additional drizzle of milk such as almond milk or raw milk
Instructions
  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add oats and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand overnight.
  2. The next morning, reheat over medium heat, stirring in some milk (I usually use about ¼ -1/3 cup) if desired for extra creaminess.
Notes
*To make 6 servings, increase water to 6 cups and oats to 1 ½ cups.

Healthy Granola Bars Recipe

Healthy Granola Bar

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?

Healthy Granola Bars
Author: 
Serves: makes 8-12 bars, depending how you slice 'em
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ cup chopped raw nuts (pecans or almonds are good)
  • ¼ cup ground almond meal
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup unsulphured dried fruit (such as chopped apricots, cranberries, cherries, blueberries)
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (my preference) or melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. 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.
  3. Place oats, seeds, coconut and nuts on large baking sheet and toast for 12-15 minutes. Do not allow anything to burn!
  4. 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.
  5. Pour mixture into pan and press down with a spoon, spatula or damp hands.
  6. 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.**
Notes
*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.

 

 

Vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookies recipe

A funny thing happens when people start cooking healthful food for family and friends.  They feel the need to announce that fact to everyone before serving it.  “Ok, guys.  Wait until you try this muffin!  It’s made with flaxseeds and almond meal and it has no sugar!  It’s unbelievable!”  Of course everyone else is thinking it’s probably unbelievably bad and unbelievably tasteless.   Or students will come to my class and go home very motivated (a good thing) to overhaul the pantry, the refrigerator and the family diet.  And even though I urge them not to, they feel compelled to sit the family down and tell them how “things are going to change around here!  There will be no more sugar!  Or processed snacks!  Suzy, spit out that gum.  Don’t you know aspartame is the number one food-related complaint to the FDA?”  Unfortunately, despite our well-meaning intentions, this strategy rarely elicits a positive response.

On the other hand, I love being able to share recipes that are delicious, easy, and just so happen to be good for you.  Take these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, for example.  Using a base of walnuts, maple syrup and a touch of coconut oil in place of butter and eggs, these are just darn tasty and not-so-shabby, nutritionally-speaking.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and if your school or office allows treats to be brought in, why not make a batch of these?  Like many cookie recipes, you can make the dough several days in advance and keep it covered in the refrigerator.  Take it out when you’re ready to bake and scoop it onto your cookie sheets.  You can even freeze the cookies unbaked.  Arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet and place the pan in the freezer.  Once the cookies are frozen solid, transfer them to an airtight container and keep them frozen until you’re ready to bake.  Then just place them on a prepared baking sheet directly from the freezer and add another minute or two to the baking time.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

Yes, I know it is so very exciting that they are full of fiber and contain no refined sugar.  No animal products either, if that’s important to you.  You can even make them gluten-free by using gluten-free oats.  But no need to go around saying, “OMG!  Try these cookies!  They’re gluten-free and they’re VEEE-GAN!”  Unless your motivation is to discourage any takers and to keep them all for yourself. Hmmmmm……

4.8 from 16 reviews
Vegan Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Author: 
Serves: makes 30 2½-inch cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups oat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  • 3 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 12 ounces or 1 ½ cups chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. *If you need to make oat flour, place 1 ¾ cups rolled oats in a food processor and process until powdery.
  3. Place oat flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and whisk together.
  4. Place walnuts in a food processor and blend into a fine meal. Add oil, maple syrup and vanilla and process until mixture has the consistency of natural nut butter.
  5. Stir walnut mixture into flour mixture. Fold in 2 cups rolled oats and chocolate chips.
  6. Use a 1 ¾ -inch ice cream scooper to form dough into balls, and place on baking sheets. You can fit 12 on a sheet. Flatten cookies slightly with a damp hand. Bake 13-15 minutes or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry.
  7. Cool a few minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.