What kind of granola bar eater are you? Do you like soft and chewy granola bars or are you more of a crispy, crunchy fan? Are you in it for the sweetness and the chocolate or do you prefer simple, healthy ingredients? There are so many granola bars on the shelves of supermarkets today that it can be overwhelming to choose. As for me, I'm a crunchy granola bar fan who's mostly in it for the sugar. (Just being honest.)
Has anyone else been disillusioned by a protein bar that was mascarading as a granola bar only to be disappointed after first chalky bite? The best part about making homemade granola bars is that you can create exactly what you like. Sweeten em up, load em with fruits and nuts or pack them full of heart healthy whole grains. Whether your goal is to keep them on the healthy side or your aim is to create an all out sweet treat - there are a few things you need to know before you get started.
There are a lot of options when it comes to sweetening your granola bars. How much you add what type you add can really affect your end result. Here are some sweet choices to consider when making homemade granola bars.
* Brown Rice Syrup
* Maple Syrup
* Brown Sugar
* Sugar (White or Brown)
* Coconut Palm Sugar
Obviously, this isn't a comprehensive list of possible ways to sweeten a granola bar - it's just the ones that I've tried and had some good luck with. I normally use a combination of 2 or 3 of these sweeteners in my recipes. Did I mention that I like them sweet?
As for the grains - or the meat - of the granola bar, you've got plenty of options here too. These are my favorites.
* Oats (obviously)
* Puffed rice cereal
* Puffed Millet
* Wheat Germ
You can even boost the protein by adding a protein powder to your bars.
Next to the sugar, the nuts are the most crucial element in a great granola bar - in my opinion. I'm a huge nut lover so I have strong opinions about which nuts are best for granola bars.
* Almonds (Whole, Chopped, Slivered)
* Sunflower Seeds
* Pumpkin Seeds
Now for fillers. This is where I like to get creative.
* Dried Fruits (Craisins, Cherries, Apricots, Blueberries)
* Coconut Flakes
* Chocolate Chips
* Speculous Cookies (Biscoff)
* Peanut Butter
* Spices (Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, Cloves)
Salt and vanilla are a non-negotiable. They are an absolute must have in all of my granola bar recipes. Occasionally, you'll run across recipes with added fat like butter, shortening or some sort of oil. A lot of soft granola bar recipes will also include an egg as a binder. Some recipes require baking and others do not. Granola bars are personal and there is unlimited number of options when it comes to making them.
Overwhelmed yet? Don't let the number of options scare you away from making your own batch of granola bars though. My goal is to give you some options so that you can make your own personalized granola bars. If you feel like you need some more guidelines, follow my simple instructions on the blog for Nut Bars or check out some of my other granola bar recipes.
1-1/2 cups whole roasted unsalted almonds
1 cup whole roasted unsalted peanuts
1 cup roasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup puffed millet, rice
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
I'm not going to sugar coat it - I love these granola bars. There's very little filler - mostly sugar and nuts. What's not to like about that? If you're a fan of Kind Bars - you will love these granola bars. I haven't calculated the calorie content in these nutty little bars of sweetness but they're definitely sweet enough to be a satisfying dessert. Just make sure that you store these in the refrigerator - they tend to get sticky if left at room temperature too long.
Great things never come from our comfort zone. Do you agree?
I'm the kind of girl who likes to live with familiar and comfortable routines. Don't we all really? I prefer a predictable and reliable lifestyle. Why mess with a good thing? But great things usually happen when I'm OUTSIDE my comfort zone and not living my comfortable and predictable life.
Travel is one of the best ways that I've found for me to stretch my boundaries and get outside my comfort zone. I get accustomed to viewing the world from my own front door. My little circle of existence gets very small when I spend too much time without leaving it. It doesn't take a long or expensive vacation to broaden my perspective and get me out of my comfort zone though. A day trip to the mountains, a hike through the forest or an afternoon spent on the lake can really reset my navigational beacon. It's not in my normal routine to do any of those things but they really are great ways to expand comfort zone.
I also have a cooking comfort zone but today I'm going to challenge myself to get just a little bit out of my culinary comfort zone. Adding a new grain or a new kind of olive into my diet can be just the thing that I need to break myself out of my comfort zone cooking. Pulling out the slow cooker, picking up some farro and Castelvetrano olives and putting together this uber-tasty chicken dinner for tonight. Great things happen when I break out of comfort zone cooking.
Mediterranean Chicken and Farro
2 Tablespoons oil
4 split chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked farro
1/2 cup chopped onion
10 pitted Castelvetrano olives, sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 glove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Garnish with additional parsley.
The beige pictures of this chicken dish don't really do it justice. The briney olives, the bright lemon zest, the crunchy almonds, the spicy red pepper and the fresh parsley all work together beautifully to create a dish that is absolutely bursting with flavor. I love the way that the farro perfectly compliments the chicken and visa versa. And the fact that you can toss it all in your slow cooker and walk away for 8 hours is just an added bonus.
Are you the kind of person who prefers a cup or two of coffee in place of a morning meal? According to my research, you're not alone. 31 million Americans are skipping breakfast on a regular basis. SKIPPING BREAKFAST! I'm not opposed to coffee but I just can't understand why in the world would anyone want to miss out on the most delicious meal of the day. Crispy multigrain toast, chewy bagels, crunchy granola, yogurt with fresh fruit, Belgian waffles, fluffy pancakes, gooey cinnamon rolls, hearty muffins, avocado toast - do I even need to go on?
Why in the world someone would want to miss out on indulging in some of these amazing confections? I love breakfast food so much that eating it once a day doesn't seem like nearly enough. I eat breakfast for dinner at least once a week.
I'm not a morning person by any means. I love breakfast but I don't want you to get the wrong idea about my morning routine. If you're picturing me in my kitchen at 6:00 AM preparing coffee cake and vegetable egg white omelettes for myself - you couldn't be more wrong. I'm more of a prep breakfast before I go to bed, kind of girl. I climb in bed at night thinking about the scrumptious nourishment that I already prepped for my morning meal. If you need some make ahead breakfast ideas, check out my recipes for overnight oats, yeast waffles, overnight cinnamon rolls or egg casserole.
Clearly, there are some people who crawl into bed at night dreaming about the steaming cup of hot coffee that they will drink in the morning but that has never been the case for me. Whole wheat muffins packed with carrots, pineapple, raisins and coconut - now that's the stuff that MY dreams are made of. As long as there are morning glory muffins around - there's just no excuse NOT to eat breakfast.
Morning Glory Muffins
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used melted coconut oil)
3 large eggs
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
3 large carrots, shredded
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Cool on wire rack. Enjoy.
The best part about this recipe is that they freeze beautifully. I pull one out of the freezer and after one minute in the microwave, they're perfectly defrosted, warmed and ready to enjoy. And since they're loaded with carrots, I feel like I get to count them as a serving of vegetables too. 🤣
One of my all time favorite blogged recipes is Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad. It requires a little bit of a time commitment to grill all of the vegetables required for this recipe but it's so worth it. The results are amazing. Grilled veggies, al dente pasta, a light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese - simple and delicious.
If we're going to call my previous Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad the "original", then this Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Orzo Salad, is version 2.0. (If apple can upgrade their iPhone every couple of months, I can do it too.) It's not that I'm all about the latest and greatest (Heck, I may be the very last person on the planet that still uses an iPhone 5) or that the original version is outdated or obsolete, it's just that I felt like I could add a few more features to the original recipe.
Some strips of lean protein, a zesty honey citrus dressing and some ricotta salada crumbles are just a few of the upgrades that you'll find in my Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Orzo Salad 2.0 recipe.
Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Orzo Salad
1 cup uncooked whole wheat orzo
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 ears fresh corn
1 zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
3/4 cup ricotta salada
Divide orzo among 6 plates and top with sliced chicken and sprinkle with cheese.
Giving a little cheer today for this perfect grilling weather. Here's to some really great grilled dinners this April.
Spaghetti sauce day has become a time honored tradition in our house. We spend hours mixing together our trio of meat into perfectly round balls before popping them into a giant pot of sauce so it can simmer away on the stove all afternoon. My pot of marinara slowly cooks down and thickens for the better part of an entire day. By the time it's reduced to the perfect consistency and developed complex flavors, I've invested at least 8 hours into the preparation of this revered spaghetti sauce.
To say that I treat the vibrant red sauce as though its liquid gold, would be an understatement. My family teases me about being way too stingy with my precious sauce. They are fully aware that if any trace of sauce is left on their plate after our spaghetti dinners, I will expect them to mop it up with a piece of crusty Italian bread. I just can't handle the thought of wasting spaghetti sauce. It's way too good for that.
My mom's spaghetti sauce recipe is one recipe that I don't mess around with. The only issue that I have is that sometimes, we run out of meatballs before we run out of sauce. I'm hesitant to try and adjust the meatball to sauce ratios though, so occasionally I'll make batch of extra meatballs to add to my sauce. These turkey and sausage meatballs were a delicious addition to our spaghetti dinners.
I served these meatballs and sauce along with a side of Italian bread for dinner. My family LOVED the idea of having a meal centered around meatballs without pasta. I packed up the leftover meatballs in ziploc bags, popped them in the freezer and served them with my prized spaghetti sauce when I ran out of of meatballs.
Cheesy Turkey Meatball Skillet
1 pound 93% lean ground beef
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1/2 cup whole wheat panko
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
Uncover and add mozzarella. Cover and cook until melted.
Garnish with chopped parsley.
Serve right out of the skillet or transfer meatballs to a bowl.
If you prefer, you can always serve pasta with your turkey meatballs.
I've only got a 2-3 containers of spaghetti sauce and meatballs in my freezer right now so it won't be long before I have another sauce day. Having an adequate supply of spaghetti sauce stored in my freezer helps me sleep better at night. Spaghetti sauce is my ultimate comfort food.
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