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  • The Beginning + Easy Vegan Granola Bars

    So it starts! Welcome to the dirty sifter. I am still figuring out and tweaking the details on here, and hope to get them all straightened out soon. I am not tech-savvy, so patience is key! Other than that, I'll dive right in, since these amazing granola bars should be made as soon as possible! Since we have begun the new year, I know that many of us are making resolutions, or are making every effort possible to stick to resolutions that are already underway. If you have resolved to eat more grains, get more fiber and healthy fats into your diet, reduce or eliminate refined sugars, or to bake more healthy treats, these bars are for you. Still craving a sweet treat in the afternoon (like a holiday cookie + coffee)? Try one of these with a cup of tea. It will tame an afternoon sweet tooth in a nourishing way!

    Since the new semester starts in two weeks, I am hoarding healthy go-to snacks and meals in my freezer. This is a normal thing for me-so don't be alarmed. And I am certain I am not alone. When embarking on a new journey or phase in life (big or small!), I find it comforting and reassuring to go into it armed with healthy fuel. Case in point: I feel awesome about myself even when I wake up late, 10 minutes before I have to leave for class, and grab one of these filling bars with a quickly made mason jar of tea and piece of fruit for breakfast. Sitting in lecture, instead of dwelling on how hungry I am or how late I slept, I feel smug while snacking on my meal, because hey...it only took me 30 seconds to put together and literally throw into my bag. But then I realize I forgot to put deodorant on...oh well! Win some, lose some. Regardless, quick meals and snacks for the win in 2015!! 

    These bars orginated from a recipe on ohsheglows. Is there any recipe that Angela whips-up that isn't amazing??These are no exception. I absolutely love that the binder and major sweetener in here is ripe bananas-an ingredient that is easy to source, affordable, great-for-you, and almost always on-hand. I have made these bars 5 times now, and have tried the following variations with great success:

    • Added up to 1/4 cup chia seeds
    • Added 2 TB ground flax seeds (these make the bars a bit gummy-but still delish)
    • Used sesame seeds in place of hemp hearts
    • Used other fruits and nuts 
    • Added 1/3 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (the large shreds or the finely shredded)
    • Added 1 to 2 TB liquid sweetener, like agave, brown rice syrup or maple syrup, for more sweetness 
    • Used 1 1/2 cups + 1/2 cup oat flour OR spelt flour if I don't have time or patience to process 1 cup of the oats into a coarse flour
    • Added other spices to compliment the add-ins: nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and ginger are my favorites

    My favorite combination so far has been pecan, cherries, coconut and pepitas (pumpkin seeds), but so far, all of the combinations I have thrown together have been wonderful (and approved by my boyfriend). A close second was the date, walnut and coconut combo. However, as I was making this batch (which is also super tasty), I was thinking about using dried apricots next time. And maybe some dark chocolate too....So, please be creative and have fun with what you put in these. It may even be great recipe for kids to help with!

    The recipe below contains the general guideline for quantities of how many nuts, seeds, and spices to add, so as long as you keep that in mind while keeping the amount of oats and/or flour and bananana as-is, you're golden. Cut into standard bar-sizes, or smaller for quick bites. I like to wrap my bars indiviudally either in aluminum foil or parchment tied with kitchen string. Store wrapped bars in a container or zip-lock bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. 

    We're all in this together-so I wish everyone a year filled with wellness, veggies, and energizing food! 

    What are your goals or resolutions for 2015? And what did you choose to mix into these bars? Do share!

    Note: use certified gluten-free oats and/or oat flour if needed, and do not us the spelt as it is not gluten free, rather it contains a more "soluble" form of the two proteins that make gluten. If allergic to nuts, sub-in more of your favorite seeds (and vice-versa). 

    Cherries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, dried cherries and coconut version of these bars! Yum!!



    Quick and Simple Vegan Granola Bars (refined sugar-free, gluten free, oil free)

    Yield: approx. 12 large bars

    • 2 cups rolled oats OR 1 1/2 cup rolled oats plus 1/2 cup oat or spelt flour (see note above)
    • 3 medium or large ripe bananas
    • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
    • Other desired spices, such as nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
    • 3/4 to 1 cup dried fruit, like cherries or dates, chopped into small chunks
    • 1 1/2 cups nuts, chopped into small pieces, or use sliced almonds
    • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds or sesame seeds or pepitas
    • 1/4 cup hemp hearts (or more sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or pepitas)
    • 1 to 4 TB chia seeds
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • Optional: additional seeds, nuts, dried fruit for sprinkling on top of the batter pre-baking 

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.

    2. Line a 9"x13" pan with parchment paper (or a pan of similar size; a larger pan will give you thinner bars and vice versa with a smaller pan).

    3. Measure out all nuts, seed and dried fruit, and toss to mix in a bowl. Set aside.

    4. Peel, and remove strings from bananas. The riper the nana, the sweeter and more banana flavor. Smash thoroughly in a large bowl. Mix in the vanilla, salt and cinnamon. 

    5. In a food processor, blend 1 cup of the oats until a coarse meal forms. Alternatively, use 1/2 cup oat or spelt flour, and measure directly into the bowl with the mashed bananas.

    6. Mix in the remaining ingredients, taking care that the batter it thoroughly mixed. Taste it for sweetness, spices and salt, and adjust if necessary.

    7. Dump batter into the prepared pan, and using your hands (I find that wetting my hands slightly makes the batter stick less), firmly and evenly pack it into the pan. Sprinkle additonal nuts, seeds and/or coconut on top for looks. 

    8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, baking more for a firmer bar. Allow to cool completely before cutting and wrapping. Store wrapped bars in a container in the freezer for up to 2 months. This helps keep the nuts and seeds crunchy, dried fruit soft, and the bars fresh-tasting. 



    The mix in's all ready to go! In the bowl: walnuts, dried cherries, large-flaked coconut, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

    The riper the banana, the sweeter and more banana-flavor these bars will have. Peel, and mash those 'nanas!

    I am in love with the new whisk I got from my boyfriend for the holidays...

    Mix the oats, priocessed coarse oat flour OR oat/spelt flour, and mix-ins. Taste, and adjust spices, sweetness (you can add 1 to 2 TB liquid sweetener, like agave, if desired) and salt. Once to your liking, plop the mixture into the lined pan. The final mixture should be sticky, moist, but not overly-so. If it is a tad runny, add a TB or two more of oats and/or oat/spelt flour.

    Using your hands or a pastry roller, flatten to an even layer, pressing into the pan. If needed, wet you hands a bit to help prevent the dough from sitcking to you.

    Sprinkle on addtional nuts, seeds, dried fruit for looks (aren't they pretty?). Bake the bars at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then cut into desired bar size. Wrap individually, and freeze for up to two months. These aren't at all super firm when out of the freezer, so enjoy straight from there or throw into your bag for later in the day.

    My bars are fairly large, but cut them in whatever size you feel like.

    Place into a container or bag (remember: re-use those plastic bags!), and stash in the freezer.

    And have a snack-because you deserve it! :)

    Thanks for stopping by!