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!

 

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Zucchini Pesto and Goodbyes

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This week has been full of goodbyes. My garden vegetables and herbs spring up with their last hopeful reach for the sun before returning to the earth until next spring. Autumn is right around the corner, so the time has come to bid farewell to long, warm summer nights and hot, sunny days on the lake. And my least favorite goodbye, a good friend Kelly is moving out of state. Portland gets all the cool kids!

Like tend I to do, out of necessity in the process or simply as an excuse to cook and eat, I invite Kelly over for one last meal to share before she hits the road. This is also the exact meal at which summer fades into fall within my kitchen. Huge zucchinis and tomatoes plucked from the vines will be replaced by Crockpot whole chickens and bone broth simmering on the stove. For tonight though, we basque in summer, and fresh zucchini with sundried tomatoes and fresh basil pesto is about as much summer flavor as a plate can handle.

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Ingredients:

2 large, fresh zucchinis

1 cup walnuts

2 cups fresh basil

½ cup high quality olive oil

2-4 cloves garlic

1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. salt

Dash of pepper

¼ cup sundried tomatoes (jarred in oil if store-bought)

Instructions:

  1. Grate the zucchinis on a box grater, through the food processor or if you’re super fancy a with a zoodler!
  2. Combine all other ingredients besides sun-dried tomatoes in food processor and blend until incorporated, but slightly chunky. Mix in tomatoes by hand.
  3. Serve like a cold pasta dish… Place zucchini in a bowl and top with pesto. Viola! Injoy!

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And farewell, Kelly Dear! So many well wishes, new meal memories and southward visits coming your way!

Lemon Walnut Green Bean Salad

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I recently needed a quick, fresh side dish idea for a potluck picnic. This time of year, delicious green beans are in season and offer the perfect spring flavor to any meal. This recipe is a breeze to prepare and with the balance of nutrients in the fresh vegetables and the awesome healthy fats found in walnuts, it is a wonderful complement to a community gathering.

This dish can be made ahead of time, but I suggest leaving the walnuts out until serving to maintain crispness. Injoy!

 

Ingredients:

1 ½ pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed

1 cup walnuts

2-4 Tbls fresh snipped chives

2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ tsp lemon zest

½ tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Bring a medium sized pot of water to boil. Add green beans and blanch for about 4-5 minutes until tender but still crisp.
  3. Drain using a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Place into a large bowl.
  4. Place the walnuts into an 8 x 8-inch baking dish and roast for about 10 minutes. Watch carefully as they burn easily.
  5. Place on a plate to cool, then chop and add to green beans.
  6. Wisk the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add to the green beans and walnuts. Injoy!!

 

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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This is a deliciously hearty spring supper. Simple and quick to prepare, stuffed bell peppers are a crowd pleaser every time! I used zucchini and portabella mushrooms in addition to red peppers and served them with a helping of lightly blanched asparagus. Make a larger batch and freeze the leftovers for quick meals throughout the week. Injoy!

Ingredients:  

2 Bell peppers, halved, cored and seeded

1 Tbls. Coconut oil

½ Large onion, diced

Sea salt and black pepper

4 Cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 lb. Ground beef, bison, lamb of turkey

2 cups fresh spinach

Fresh basil to taste

Instructions:  

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Place the belle pepper halves facedown in a roasting dish and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  3. While the bell peppers are cooking, heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, adding salt and pepper to taste, until translucent. Reduce to medium heat and add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the meat and cook until nearly done.
  5. Mix in the spinach and cook until wilted. 1-2 more minutes.
  6. Add salt, pepper and fresh basil to taste.
  7. Remove the peppers from the oven (they should be just a bit softened) and flip them over. Spoon the stuffing into each one.
  8. Put peppers back into the oven and roast for another 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
  9. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.
  10. Optional- use zucchini and portabella mushrooms in place of red peppers.

 

Bacon Wrapped Zucchini

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This is my favorite new, incredibly versatile recipe. It makes a great side dish for a fresh salad dinner or lunch, is wonderful with eggs for breakfast and is a tasty snack all on it’s own, too! The seasoning is a delicious blend. I often experiment with adding turmeric, curry powder and cumin as well. Injoy!

 

Ingredients:

3 medium zucchinis

8 pieces of bacon

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp of oil

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F

2. Cut the bacon in half, widthwise and place the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with foil.

3. Bake for 10 minutes. Don’t make too crispy, as it will be hard to wrap around zucchini

4. Meanwhile, peel the skin of the zucchini (optional) and trim the ends.

5. Cut the zucchini into pieces that are 1” thick and 11⁄2” long (it should yield 16 pieces of zucchini).

6. Add the zucchini to a large bowl with the garlic powder, chili powder, and oil.

Stir to coat.

7. Remove the bacon from the oven and drain the renderings.

8. Wrap one piece of bacon around each piece of zucchini and secure with a tooth- pick.

9. Place each piece of zucchini on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy and the zucchini is tender. Flip the zucchini halfway through so the bacon cooks evenly.

10. For crispier bacon, broil it for the last 3-5 minutes of baking (keep an eye on it).

 

Asian Steak Salad

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I made this delicious salad from the Make it Paleo cookbook for a group of friends that came by over the weekend. It is tasty and colorful and makes for a wonderful presentation when serving to guests. I recommend marinating the steak overnight for ultimate flavor. If you cannot find coconut aminos in your local grocery store, you can order it here. Or tamari and soy sauce can both work as substitutes. Also, a mandolin works great with this recipe to cut down on time chopping vegetables. I have found mine to be a lifesaver on many occasions! And lastly, I love to make a double recipe of this salad and keep it in the fridge for a quick lunch to go. Just leave the oranges and dressing on the side and the cabbage and other ingredients keep beautifully for 5-7 days. Injoy!

 

Ingredients:

Steak Marinade

2 Tbls. coconut aminos

2 Tbls. fish sauce

½ tsp. each, salt and pepper

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 clove garlic

½ tsp. fresh ginger, minced

 

Salad

10 oz sirloin steak

2 cups shredded cabbage

¼ cup red belle pepper, sliced thin

1 radish, sliced thin

1 medium carrot, shredded

8 grape tomatoes, halved

½ navel orange, chopped

1/8 cup slivered almonds

½ green onion, chopped

 

Sesame Ginger Dressing

½ Tbls. garlic, minced

½ Tbls. fresh ginger, minced

2 Tbls. toasted sesame oil

2 Tbls. coconut aminos

2 tsp. sesame seeds

½ tsp. each: salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

 

Instructions:

1. Whisk together all ingredients for sesame ginger dressing and steak marinade

2. Marinade steak for at least 3 hours before cooking

3. Grill sirloin steak on high for approximately 4 minutes per side, flipping once

4. While letting the steak rest, rinse and chop all vegetables as well as the orange and toss together

5. Slice the steak thinly

6. Plate salad, and top with strips of steak

7. Drizzle with dressing and serve

Ginger Macadamia Nut Energy Bars

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I love to make these tasty treats for hiking trips or road trips or simply with a smoothie for a light breakfast. They’ve got a subtle nutty flavor with the cinnamon and ginger giving a great little kick! The perfect amount of natural sweetness with the dates, too! Injoy!

 

1 ½ cups raw macadamia nuts

1 cup pitted medjool dates (about 10)

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cardamom

Pinch of sea salt

 

1. Place nuts into a food processor and blend with the ‘S’ blade for 60-90 seconds until finely ground.

2. Add the dates, spices and salt, and process another 60-90 seconds until incorporated.

3. Press mixture into an 8×8 inch pan and refrigerate 4-5 hours.

4. Cut into bar shapes and individually wrap in waxed paper. You can also roll the mixture into balls and then roll in shredded coconut.

 

…And now a somewhat unrelated tale of caution about macadamia nuts for you dog owners. I have had a dog my entire adult life and I had no idea that macadamia nuts are extremely toxic to our little four-legged friends.

A few weeks ago I made these tasty energy treats. I had about a ½ a bag of the nuts leftover and stashed in my pantry. Miles, my Boston Terrier, sometimes gets board on days home and entertains himself by rummaging through closets and cupboards (child safety locks have since been installed in my kitchen). On this particular day, he found the bag of macadamia nuts and ate roughly ¼ cup of them.

Later when I got home from work, I walked in the door and he did not come to greet me. He just lay on the couch and stared in the opposite direction. This is a surefire sign that he has gotten into something and knows he will be in trouble. I found the evidence. A chewed up bag with a few crumbs left.

A few minutes later I called him to come outside and take a walk. He didn’t budge, which is very odd behavior for him. I kept calling, then went over and picked him up and placed him near the door, at which point he crumpled into a pile on the floor, unable to hold his body weight up. I tried to get him to move and help him to stand but he just couldn’t. He was essentially paralyzed. I started feeling his limbs and spine to see if he had an injury of any kind. Miles is 10 years old and while he’s a spry little old man, we also have a 2 year-old rambunctious Boxer with 50+ pounds on him. A roughhousing injury is entirely plausible.

There was no sign of broken bones or a specific strained muscle, it just seemed like his nervous system wasn’t firing. We rushed to the Emergency Vet. As I’m racking my brain filling out the paperwork, it doesn’t even occur to me that the macadamia nuts could have been a problem. Now, I realize this next statement makes me sound like a terrible dog owner. Miles has eaten many a nuts in his day. He once ate and entire bag of trail mix on a backpacking trip. Raisins and all (which are also very toxic to dogs). I don’t even want to think about the things he’s gotten into. He’s a terrier. A very food-oriented little dog, with guts of steel!

As I’m sitting in this terrible waiting room, with bright lights and sterile furniture, people sobbing and sick pets coming and going, stressing with thoughts that they are going to come back and say he needs some crazy surgery or will require a little cart for his back legs, a good friend calls and asks if I mentioned macadamia nut specifically. She informs me that they are a neuro-toxin to dogs and can cause paralyzation. What?! Crazy. I update the vet tech and the entire plan changes. (Unfortunately not until after they had done X-rays and lots of other unnecessary, uncomfortable and expensive tests. Lesson learned). They give him a little doggy charcoal detox, pump him full of fluids and 2 hours later he walks out of the vet’s office. A little slower, but walking none the less.

The next day, he is 100% better and back to getting in trouble in the kitchen. Thank goodness!! The moral of the story, no macadamia nuts for your fur babies! And now, when I make this recipe, I buy the nuts in bulk and don’t keep any leftovers in the pantry.

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Radish Home Fries

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I am always looking to incorporate great breakfast recipes that don’t include eggs or grains. These delicious radish home fries make a wonderful breakfast with a handful of greens or spinach, or along side a scramble or omelet. In this simple and tasty preparation, the radishes soften much like potatoes and have a wonderful flavor, especially cooked with the bacon. Top with green onion for a fresh zing. Injoy!

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Ingredients:

1 lb radishes

3 pieces of bacon (or more if desired)

1⁄2 cup diced sweet onion or shallots

1 clove garlic, minced

1⁄2 cup chicken bone broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Instructions:

1. Trim the ends of the radishes and cut each radish into quarters (cut smaller pieces in half).

2. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy and cooked through.

3. Set the bacon aside on paper towels to drain. Leave the renderings in the pan. (if you used more than 3 slices, drain off all but 2 Tbls. fat)

4. Add the onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the garlic and the radishes and stir to coat.

6. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Add the broth and cook for 5-7 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.

8. Crumble the bacon into pieces and add to the radishes.

 

Breakfast Chicken Sausage

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While shopping for breakfast protein recently, I discovered that my beloved turkey bacon brand had begun to include carrageenan in their ingredient list. This is bad news. Carrageenan is an additive with no nutritional value that is derived from raw seaweed and is widely used as a thickening agent in milk alternatives (boxed soy, almond, rice milk etc.), ice cream and yogurt. One of the main reasons I started making my own Almond Milk.

Carrageenan is known to cause inflammation to the digestive system, and in the past, drug investigators actually used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues in order to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. In addition, when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes. More bad news for our country’s already soaring diabetes rates. Best to stay away from Carrageenan.

Alas, a delicious homemade breakfast sausage recipe, nutritious and free of pesky preservatives! Injoy!

 

Ingredients:

1. 1 lb ground chicken

2. 2 tsp fennel seed

3. 2 tsp dried rosemary

4. 1 ½ tsp garlic powder

5. 1 ½ tsp dried sage

6. ½ tsp salt

7. ¼ tsp black pepper

 

Instructions:

1. Grind the fennel seed and the rosemary in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to break down the spices (recommended).

2. Combine all of the spices together.

3. Incorporate the spice mixture into the chicken.

4. (Optional) Fry 1-2 tsp of the meat in a skillet to see if you need to adjust the seasoning.

5. Form into 10 equal patties.

6. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat and brown the patties for 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through.

7. Serve with your favorite vegetable.

 

The 21-Day Sugar Detox

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Diane Sanfilippo with Balanced Bites has quickly become one of my favorite authors and educators in the field of nutrition and health. She wrote the wildly successful New York Times best seller Practical Paleo, has an incredible podcast with Liz Wolfe, and offers a fun and approachable perspective to creating healthy habits in our lives.

Her new book, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, is an extremely informative and easy to follow guide to busting carb cravings and breaking the blood sugar roller coaster. Though the book has only been on shelves a short time, the 21-Day Sugar Detox has been followed by thousands of people over the years, through Diane’s work as a certified holistic nutrition coach. The program outlined in the book is broken down into three levels. The varying factors are based on your experience with detoxification and what your current diet consists of. For instance, if you already eat primarily vegan, you will likely begin on the more advanced level that does not include dairy.

The book contains an extensive list of foods to avoid and foods to include, a full menu plan for the 3-week program and over 100 delicious (gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free and Paleo-friendly) recipes that are worth trying anytime! The supplement recommendations and descriptive section on what to expect during the 21 days are both very helpful as well.

This simple, straightforward, practical plan is a whole-foods-based program created to help you reset your habits, your taste buds and your entire relationship with food. If you are someone who wants to take control of your sugar cravings, and experience better energy, improved sleep, and freedom of symptoms from a myriad of health issues, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the 21-Day Sugar Detox.