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Homemade Granola Bars

Awwwww yeah, summer is in full swing now, y’all. I successfully graduated college, *crowd cheers* and now in my search for a big girl job, I find myself at home with a *lot* of spare time. It has worked out well thus far, however, since the Ryan and I just moved into the new house last weekend. Everything is pretty well finished being painted (the rooms that count, anyway), and I have had the opportunity this week to do a crap ton of unpacking. 🙂 I’ve run errands, met with people for services (like Verizon and plumbing :P), and generally tried to get stuff done around the house. I even hung a picture frame perfectly level. Ohhhhh yeaaaaah.

Anyway, one of the ways I occupied my time this week was walking around the new neighborhood, and on one of those jaunts, I walked up to the grocery store we’ve got here. I was going up there for chicken and other food items, but I decided to grab a couple things to make these quinoa granola bars I saw on Pinterest. I changed the recipe a bit, but overall, they looked awesome, and since the Ryan doesn’t like quinoa, I figured I could actually have something that was, well, just mine. That didn’t work, as it turns out, because though he doesn’t like quinoa OR coconut, he does like everything else in the bars, and has eaten them anyway. So..yeah. Marriage is sharing, y’all.

I changed the original recipe some to fit what I kept in my house, and my granola bars came out much more soft and squishy than the ones in the original recipe appear to have. I don’t know if it was the changes I made, or because she didn’t mention to refrigerate them (which works and keeps them nice and solid but still yummy and squishy), or if I didn’t cook them long enough, or what. Regardless, they’re delicious! So, let’s get started!

You will need:

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  • 1 cup of coconut flakes (the original calls for unsweetened, but I couldn’t find unsweetened so I got what the store had)
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts (she calls for cashews in the original recipe, but I didn’t have any – I did have walnuts)
  • 1 cup of slivered almonds
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries (original calls for cherries, but again, I didn’t have any – I had cranberries)
  • 2 cups of oats (she didn’t say whether they were instant or rolled oats, I have instant, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and dried
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds
  • 1/3 cup almond butter (I had peanut butter, so I used that)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Sea salt for garnish, if desired

Preheat your oven to 350, and line a 9×13 pan with wax paper.

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Meanwhile, toast your oats and quinoa until cooked warmed and fragrant. Allow to cool.

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After the oats and quinoa are cooled, combine them with your nuts, coconut, flax seed, and fruit.

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In a small pan, add maple syrup, coconut oil, peanut butter, and honey.

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Warm until melted, then mix together with the nuts and oats mixture until evenly coated.

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Bake at 350 for ~25-30 minutes until the edges are toasted and brown. Remove and allow to cool completely.

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I had to keep mine in the fridge to keep them solid, I am not sure what I did wrong, or if this is normal? But they’re delicious anyway. Once your bars are cooled and solid, cut them into strips.

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As suggested in the original recipe, I decided to dip the bottoms of mine into chocolate. Mmmm.

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I stuck them back in the fridge and let them harden. There you have it, delicious granola bars, all homemade and yummy! And healthy! Enjoy!!

 

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Summer Smoothie Spectacular!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but it’s getting HOT here! Like, H.O.T. hot! 😉 Do you know what that means? It means you’re going to want to cool down with some deeeelicious cold beverages. Now, I think the rest of you are with me when I say, “Ohmygod I love Slurpees, Frozen Yogurt, Italian Ice, Ice Cream” and all things just..freaking..amazingly cold and sweet!

But, sadly, as much as we want to deny it, those things aren’t healthy for us. They’re good, in moderation. Though, if you’re anything like me and swear that you’ll only have ONE SERVING and then eat it all anyway, that can be a *bit* of a problem.

This semester, with it being my last, and I have to say with it also being the hardest semester of my time in college, I have managed to just sort of stop caring. About me, about my body, about anything except homework. And it has had some consequences. I worked so hard to lose weight for my wedding, and I’ve gained back all but 7 lbs. Sitting endlessly in lectures, in front of the computer doing hours of programming, staying up late, snacking on whatever is nearby when I get hungry, giving in to my cravings….yeah. It has been a rough semester. Fall wasn’t too bad, but ever since Spring swung around, it has just been downhill.

So here I am, almost a week from graduating, and ready to get back on the horse and whip my butt into shape – literally! (sans the whipping, because…ouch) Plus, now that I won’t have homework anymore, I have time to go running, or take yoga, or do Zumba, or all of it! I can have a life!! I have downloaded an app called “Couch to 5k” by Active.com (the same people that sponsor the Color Run and other shenanigans), and also one called “Just 6 Weeks” that teaches you to do crunches, push ups, etc., in 6 weeks. I have started logging my food on MyFitnessPal again, and have, for the most part, stayed on the straight and narrow for the last week or so. I have lost about 5 lbs, buuut I think it’s mostly just water. I have also had a couple of bad days (can you say someone had a cookout and made bbq chicken, burgers, and grilled corn on the cob? Ohmygod), but I’m not terribly angry at myself over it.

What does this have to do with smoothies? Well, I was browsing Pinterest (because who needs to study statistics when there’s Pinterest?), and I kept seeing recipes for smoothies. Mean green smoothie, flax smoothie, glowing green smoothie, delicious smoothie, smoothie this, smoothie that. I pinned  bunch of the pins, but I wasn’t totally sold on any specific one that I thought I’d just love. So, I decided to kind of make up my own going off of other peoples’ recipes. And here we are. I don’t have anything to call it (like a snazzy name), but it IS good, and GOOD FOR YOU. I sat down and worked out all of the nutrition information (perks of taking a nutrition class, yaaaaay), and it’s loaded with nutrients. I’d recommend making it in the mornings, so you have a great way to start your day! My recipe includes green tea, which has caffeine in it. So there’s that benefit as well!

Are you ready? Let’s make a smoothie!

Yesterday, I went shopping for a bunch of fruits and some spinach (I’m taking baby steps – I know I like baby spinach, so I’m starting with that first), and brought them home and washed them. I usually just kind of scrub off my food before I eat it with water, but since I knew I was going to be slicing, freezing, and then storing my fruit, I figured I should give them a proper scrubdown. So I mixed 6 cups of water with 2 cups of white vinegar (3:1) and EWWWWWW! Check it out:

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That came off MY FOOD THAT I PUT IN MY BODY! When I poured it out there was brown sludge at the bottom of the bowl that looked like mud. Yeah, never just rinsing under water and rubbing with my hands again. Gross.

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Also, look how shiny everything was! 😀 I set my fruit out on the counter to dry and got busy with studying.

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I also made a container of green tea. It was exciting, because the first container I made, I just laid on its side in the fridge, but the hot water (I boiled water, steeped the tea, removed the bags, put on the lid, and stuck it in the fridge – but my fridge is stupid and things as tall as that container don’t fit, so I had to lay it down) caused pressure against the lid and BOOM! My kitchen and fridge were suddenly overflowing with green tea. It was amazing. T___T Not. Though, when I grabbed a nearby towel out of storage to clean up with, I found a $25 Bed, Bath and Beyond gift card, so all is not lost. I bought a serving bowl and a picture frame. Booyah. Anyway, I made this NEW container of green tea and left it on the counter all afternoon into the evening to cool down before I put it in the fridge. Lesson learned (for those of you wondering: one kettle full of water, 4 tea bags, steep 3 minutes, remove. Add a little honey if you want and mix).

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After all the veggies and fruit were dried off, I chopped them up and stuck them in the fridge on a cookie sheet and cutting board to get hard enough to put in bags. I also bought and chopped three different kinds of pears and grapes. The nutrition info I will be providing is strictly for the recipe with strawberries and blueberries in it.

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Once everything was frozen, I put them in their own bag for later use. The smoothie is much more smooth if your stuff is frozen. 🙂

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Meanwhile, you will also need some delicious yogurt. I prefer Chobani because it has less sugar and sodium than other brands, more protein, and important probiotics for your digestive system. Plus I think it tastes yummy. You can use whatever you want, though.

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Finally, you’ll need some protein powder. I make The Ryan protein bars for his workouts, and we have this sitting around. We prefer soy to whey, but whatever you wanna do, do your thing. That’s the nice thing about smoothies – there’s really no wrong way to do it.

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(Yes, that’s a Game of Thrones cup. Yes, that’s house Stark. Winter is Coming; Though Tyrion is my favorite. I haven’t read all the books, don’t tell me if he dies, I would lose it!)

When you’re ready, combine:

  • 2 tbls agave
  • One serving protein powder (for us that’s 2 tbls)
  • 1 tbls ground flax seed
  • 2 cups baby spinach, tightly packed
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sliced cucumber
  • 1 cup green tea

Throw it in the blender and process. NOMNOM. This recipe makes 4 cups, and I define one serving as 2 cups. Don’t worry, the other 2 cups will fit nicely into a mason jar. Add a little lemon juice to the leftovers and give it a whirl in the blender to help slow down oxidation, fill your mason jar all the way to the top to keep air out, and put a tight lid on it. VOILA, now you have one for later too! Stored in your fridge, it should last up to 24 hours. Check it before you drink it, though!

One serving of this smoothie as written contains:

  • 18.5g of protein
  • 31g sugar
  • 154mg sodium
  • 5.5g fiber
  • 57.5% DV of Vitamin A
  • 16% DV of Calcium
  • 108.5% DV of Vitamin C
  • 19.5% DV of Iron
  • 887mg of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • 287.3mg of Omega-6 fatty acids
  • 1% DV of Vitamin E
  • 24% DV of Vitamin K
  • 6% DV Thiamin
  • 1.5% DV Riboflavin
  • 2% DV Niacin
  • 3.5% DV Vitamin B6
  • 6% DV Folate (especially good for you if you’re pregnant!)
  • 3% DV of Vitamin B5 (Panthothenic Acid)
  • 28% DV Magnesium
  • 6.5% DV Phosphorous
  • 12% DV Potassium
  • 4.5% DV Zinc
  • 10.5% DV Copper
  • 44% DV Manganese
  • 2% DV Selenium
  • 12.5 mg Caffeine
  • And amazing antioxidants and probiotics!!

So there you have it, why wouldn’t you start your mornings with this from now on? What are you waiting for? Go get started!

(P.S. I would like to shamelessly plug my Ninja blender, which I got for Christmas. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT!! It makes things nice and smooth mmmm)

 

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Eight melon ballers and fibrous, vegetal material.

Ever had one of those arguments with your best friend wherein the sole purpose of said argument was simply to one-up the other? “You don’t like ham? What’s wrong with you?” “What do you mean what’s wrong with me? You don’t like corn on the cob!! What’s wrong with you??” “I like corn, I just don’t like the texture of it between my teeth! And besides,YOU don’t like cabbage, which is simply inhuman.”

It’s like being transported back to the playground in fourth grade: “MY dad is a spy! He shoots bad guys and drives super fast sports cars like 007!” “Oh yeah, well MY dad is an astronaut, and once, he strangled a velociraptor with his BARE HANDS after traveling back in time in a time machine!”

Under any circumstance, it should be noted that the velociraptor argument always wins.

But, I digress. In this scenario, the best friend is also my boyfriend, who shall henceforth just be known as the Ryan: because that is who he is. Anyway, all of this took place whilst driving to the grocery store for some “fibrous, vegetal material” that the Ryan seems to think covers the entire spectrum of fruits and vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, he will eat anything (well..most anything) that I put in front of him, but he doesn’t necessarily always like it.

With summer coming up, I find that I become less into the traditional meat and potatoes or hearty soup menu and go more into an overload of fresh fruits and veggies. Farmer’s Markets become my fourth grade playground, and I go gaga for corn, squash, berries, and anything else summertime can throw at me (that isn’t a mosquito). Does this happen to anyone else?

And what exactly do I do with this fibrous vegetal material? How do I keep it from getting old, sad and boring? And how do I incorporate it into the meat and potatoes-esque menu that the Ryan (and the cats, who scavenge any crumb they can get their paws on) seems to so very much enjoy?

That is precisely what I intend this blog to be about. I suppose that now would be a splendid time for a bit of an introduction, so here goes: My name is Beth, and I live somewhere on the eastern seaboard. Say, close to the Nation’s Capital and all that. In my grown-up life I work for Uncle Sam and am a student in university studying Anthropology and International Relations. I enjoy photography and play the piano in my spare time. I am also the rare breed they call “girl gamer,” but of the lighter variety (much Portal, Final Fantasy and WoW were played back before I had a life). As previously mentioned, the Ryan and I also have two furbabies we like to pretend we own by the names of Sam and Lestat. If anyone ever tells you they own a cat, they are selling something. If they try to disagree, let them lay in bed and be stomped on by an angry storm of paws at 5 a.m. when it’s time for breakfast. That’ll show ’em.

And of course, I love to cook, eat, and feed people. No, really, I LOVE it! Nothing makes me happier than a nice group of friends and a delicious meal. Or of course, a new recipe! I spent a short amount of time in a kitchen as a cook, and I am constantly looking for new and fun things to add to my repertoire. I’m not the *greatest* in the world, but that’s all part of the adventure – the adventure I hope to share with you lovely people.

And, to top it all off, the Ryan’s parents are a bit..hmm..They need some help in the kitchen arena. From what I understand, his last venture home ended up with him tossing out seven of eight melon ballers, three of five bread knives, and a whole slew of pots and pans that were rusted. Both parents are on special, separate health-related diets, so as a gift to the rents, we (and by we, I mean I’m cooking and he’s observing casually from the other room over an episode of Extreme Engineering) are working our way through many cookbooks and making parent-friendly adjustments as we go with the idea of creating them a custom cookbook/appendix by Christmas.

Let the mad science begin!

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