Homemade Vegan and Grain-Free Almond Joy Bars

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This is the kind of recipe that should always be shared with loved ones. When I know I will be inviting a group of friends over or attending a potluck, I like to prepare the most decedent side dish or dessert I can come up with. The kind of thing I couldn’t consider making on any random day because I would single handedly finish it. Sometimes it’s dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. Other times it’s baked brie drizzled with fresh fruit preserves and slivered almonds. For this weekend’s ladies clothing swap, enter: the homemade Almond Joy Bar. This grain-free, dairy-free, no-bake dessert has six simple ingredients and is incredibly delicious! It was certainly a hit among the 20+ ladies surrounding the snack table in my kitchen on Sunday. Injoy!

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Ingredients:

   Crust:


1 cup almond meal

2 Tbls maple syrup

1 Tbls melted coconut oil

1/4 tsp pure almond extract

Pinch of salt

   Coconut Filling:


1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 Tbls maple syrup

2 Tbls. coconut oil

1 Tbls water

   Chocolate Topping:


1/4 cup raw cacao powder or cocoa powder

1/4 cup melted coconut oil

2 Tbls. maple syrup (at room temperature)

Instructions:

  1. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
  2. To prepare the crust, combine almond meal, maple syrup, coconut oil, almond extract, and salt in a medium bowl, and stir well until dough is formed. Press it evenly into the bottom of the lined loaf pan, and set aside.
  3. To prepare the coconut filling, combine all of the filling ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir well. Spread the coconut mixture over the crust, then use a spatula to smooth the top. Set aside.
  4. To prepare the chocolate topping, combine all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl and use a whisk to create a silky smooth chocolate sauce. (If any of your ingredients are cold, this sauce will firm up. If that happens, simply place the bowl in a hot water bath briefly to liquify the ingredients again.) Pour the chocolate sauce over the top of the coconut layer and smooth the top with a spatula.
  5. Place the pan in the freezer to set until firm, about one to two hours.
  6. To serve, pull on the parchment paper to easily remove the solid bar from the pan, then slice into bars and plate directly from the freezer. These bars will soften fairly quickly at room temperature, so it’s important to keep them chilled until ready to serve. Injoy!

 

Make Your Own: Almond Milk

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One of the most simple and satisfying things you can create in your kitchen with a high-powered blender are nut milks. It’s easy, quick, saves money and is so delicious and creamy without those pesky preservatives. One additive that is found in nearly all store bought brands of almond milk is Carrageenan, a gumming agent derived from seaweed. Unfortunately, Carrageenan, found also in organic versions, is known to cause inflammation in the digestive tract and has been linked to irritable bowel disease and colon cancer by several peer-reviewed animal studies. It is a controversial additive found in many processed foods and best to avoid it when possible.

Which brings us to the simple task of making your own! One of the things I love about making almond milk (besides the base ingredients literally being almonds and water) is the flexibility of flavor and creaminess depending on what you’re using it for. The recipe below is for a moderately creamy version. I use it as a milk substitute in baking and to add to smoothies and coffee or tea. Also below find variations and flavors to add to truly make it your own.

I did not filter the almonds in my recipe, which I recommend if you want it to resemble a purely liquid consistency. I like to leave more of the protein and fiber in tact, so I leave the meal incorporated. If you do not have a Vitamix or high-powered blender, you will be left with some almond bits in the bottom of the pitcher and will want to run the milk through a milk bag or cheesecloth. Simply pour it through the cloth and squeeze, and I mean SQUEEZE, the liquid into jars to store in the fridge. Use the leftover meal in baked goods (I love it as part of a crumble topping for seasonal fruit) or add it to smoothies.

Also, I like to keep some pre-soaked nuts on hand so I can make milk on a whim without having to wait for them to soak overnight. It is a good idea to soak all nuts and seeds anyway, even the ones you eat in trail mix etc., and especially almonds and walnuts. The bitter tannins are released which adds to the smooth natural sweetness, and the sprouting process begins which increases the nutrient profile considerably. A certain enzyme is released which makes digestion easier for many people as well. Be sure to take nuts out of the shell before soaking and discard the leftover liquid; do not add it to recipes.

Almond milk is truly and delicious and nutritious alternative to cow’s dairy. Soak, blend, pour. It’s really that simple! Give it a try and let me know what you think! Enjoy!!

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Ingredients:

1 cup raw organic almonds

3 cups water

pinch of sea salt (optional but recommended)

Recipe:

1. Place almonds in a small bowl and cover with purified water. Soak at room temperature for 8-12 hours or overnight.

2. After the almonds have soaked, rinse them well and place in blender with water and salt.

3. Blend on high 2-3 minutes until you have a very smooth milk. If you have a Vitamix, blend only for about 1 minute as the liquid will start to warm up.

4. Pour liquid through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth into a container to filter.

5. Store in a covered glass jar or container for 3-4 days.

Variations:

1. Add 2 tsp. vanilla

2. Add 2 Tbls. maple syrup

3. Add 1-2 tsp cinnamon while blending

4. Add 3/4 cup of freshly squeezed OJ for a creamcicle-like beverage

5. Add 2 dates for sweetness

6. Use half almonds and half cashews for a variation on flavor and texture

7. Use 1/2 cup almonds for a more liquid consistency

8. Use 1 1/3 cup almonds for cream substitute