Zoodles with Meat Sauce

IMG_7681

Fun fact: I haven’t cooked pasta at home for myself in over a year. And, I’ve eaten it at a friend’s or out maybe once or twice in that same time. Which means that, basically, I don’t really eat pasta anymore.

It seems crazy when I think about that, because I remember just how hard it was in the beginning to transition from. Aside from really just loving all carbs at all times, it was also one of the first things that I “cooked” myself at home. Pasta dishes are easy and versatile and don’t really require a lot of thought. I ate it so frequently that I would do things like be snobby about spaghetti noodles (angel hair all the way!) and experiment with which noodles made for the best pasta salads (I personally liked farfalle). And oh man could I put away some mac and cheese like it was my job.

But then, I did the diet that was essentially paleo but even more restrictive and pasta was a definite no-no. And aside from the initial carb withdrawals, I didn’t really notice that it was gone. So, although it was never really a conscious decision to take pasta, specifically, out of my diet, it just happened, and in the end, I’m glad it did because it’s led me to learn how to make and eat more well-rounded meals where everything on my plate contributes something to my health. Plus, you’d be surprised at how much whole food you can eat for the same caloric content of pasta (or breads or grains).

But sometimes I remember with nostalgia the ease of making pasta-based dishes, and I kind of miss having it around (although when I do have it, I’m always underwhelmed these days). So, two weeks ago I got a spiralizer, and the easy world of pasta has opened up to me again. I’ve made a creamy, lemony zucchini pasta dish, a pesto cucumber caprese salad, and, getting back to the basics, these noodles for a classic spaghetti and meat sauce recipe, which is a favorite of Mr. Little Fish’s. We used to eat it, with noodles, regularly, but since I’ve taken over the cooking, it hasn’t been in the rotation as much. I’ve lightened and freshened up the original recipe from Allrecipes to take advantage of the abundance of fresh basil during the summer. And for an even lighter sauce, we’ve used ground turkey with equally delicious results. It’s great to have Italian food back on the table!

Zoodles with Meat Sauce
Adapted from Allrecipes
Serves 6

IMG_7652
Ingredients
:

Showerthoughts: Maybe Italian food is full of tomato, onion, and basil because it looks like the Italian flag.

Showerthoughts: Maybe Italian food is full of tomato, onion, and basil because it looks like the Italian flag.

1 pound ground beef or other meat
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 14-oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce
1 6-oz can of tomato paste
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 tsps dried oregano
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt+1/2 tsp, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 medium zucchinis (NOTE: if you do not have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler will work just fine. And of course, if you aren’t worried about carbs, then normal pasta will do too!)
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes.

2. Add in the diced tomatoes (both canned and fresh), tomato sauce, tomato paste, and mushrooms. Stir to combine.
IMG_76583. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Then, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing gets stuck on the bottom.
IMG_76594. Meanwhile, prepare your zucchinis for the spiralizer by cutting off the ends and then cutting each zucchini into thirds. Place a third into the spiralizer and, using the smallest blade, spiralize the chunk until only the bottom remains. Do this for all the rest of the zucchini. Then, use kitchen shears to cut the zucchini strands into manageable strands.

5. Put your spiralized zucchini into a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt (about 1/2 tsp). Use your hands to massage the salt into the noodles. Then leave the zucchini alone for about 20-30 minutes so that some of the water from the zucchini drips out.
IMG_76726. About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is done, put a large skillet over medium heat and add about 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Add your zucchini noodles to the pan when its hot, and saute quickly for 3-4 minutes. You want the noodles to be just a little wilted/pliable, but not over cooked. The heat from the sauce will do more to wilt them!
IMG_76767. Once the sauce is ready, add the noodles a plate and top with sauce! |
IMG_7685

Zoodles with Meat Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef or other meat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 14-oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)
  • 2 8-oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 6-oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt+1/2 tsp, divided
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 4 medium zucchinis (NOTE: if you do not have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler will work just fine. And of course, if you aren't worried about carbs, then normal pasta will do too!)
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
Directions
  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  2. Add in the diced tomatoes (both canned and fresh), tomato sauce, tomato paste, and mushrooms. Stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Then, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing gets stuck on the bottom.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare your zucchinis for the spiralizer by cutting off the ends and then cutting each zucchini into thirds. Place a third into the spiralizer and, using the smallest blade, spiralize the chunk until only the bottom remains. Do this for all the rest of the zucchini.
  5. Put your spiralized zucchini into a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt (about ½ tsp). Use your hands to massage the salt into the noodles. Then leave the zucchini alone for about 20-30 minutes so that some of the water from the zucchini drips out.
  6. About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is done, put a large skillet over medium heat and add about ½ tbsp of olive oil. Add your zucchini noodles to the pan when its hot, and saute quickly for 3-4 minutes. You want the noodles to be just a little wilted/pliable, but not over cooked. The heat from the sauce will do more to wilt them!
  7. Once the sauce is ready, add the noodles a plate and top with sauce!

Workday Halibut Ceviche

IMG_7080

Growing up in a place where I was 20 minutes away from the beach at all times, ceviche has pretty much always been around in my life. I remember going home during college one time and going to our favorite place for ceviche and being eager to down a whole ceviche appetizer by myself. I couldn’t do it, but getting to eat that wonderfully fresh, light, and simple dish was worth the effort.

It’s a pretty versatile dish. When we took a trip to Fiji about a year ago, one of my favorite dishes there was, unsurprisingly,  kokoda, which is essentially just ceviche with coconut milk. The recipe below makes enough for 2 servings, so when I wanted to spice up the second serving a little, I just added some coconut milk to completely change the flavor profile (and take me back to paradise!).  Also, while it’s traditionally eaten with tortilla chips, a Colombian restaurant we went to last week (which we went to solely because I was craving ceviche!), served theirs with fried green plantains, otherwise known as tostones, and I really, really liked the pairing.

The best part of making this is seeing how the lime juice literally cooks the fish. It’s almost unbelievable that it cooks right before your eyes, all while doing nothing more than sitting in some fluids. I remember taking this to a lunch with friends once and them remarking how “fancy” it was. I had to convince them that this is the easiest thing in the world!

In fact, the version I give you below is made so that it cooks while you’re at work! How’s that for a fancy workday lunch? Essentially, you prep all of the ingredients the night before, pour the lime juice over the fish in the morning, and then let it cook in your work refrigerator while you do, I dunno, work things (or watch the World Cup and dream wistfully of being in Brazil, anybody?). Come lunch time, which I imagine is about 3-4 hours later for most of you, you mix it with the baggie of pre-cut veggies and–voila–ceviche at your desk. Perfect for summer! Enjoy!

Workday Halibut Ceviche
Serves 2

 

Ingredients:

10-oz of halibut filet, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 large lemons)
1/4 cup fresh limit juice (from about 2-3 large limes)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
3 green onions, diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small jalapeno, finely diced
2 tbsps chopped cilantro
1/2 cup red cabbage, sliced

Directions:

The night before:

1. Divide the halibut cubes evenly between two medium-sized glass tupperware bowls, like the ones below (mine are Pyrex). Cover the dishes and place in the refrigerator.
IMG_70602. In another small dish with a lid or in a small jar, mix together the lemon juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate.
3. Gather together two small plastic sandwich bags and evenly distribute the cabbage, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion. Keep the avocado in its skin with the seed in (after dicing) a small glass container with a lid or wrapped in saran wrap (unless you don’t mind it getting brown, then add it to the baggy!).
IMG_7062The morning of:

4. Pour half of the lime and lemon juice mixture in each bowl (do this if you are planning on eating ceviche for both lunch and dinner, or two of you will be eating it for lunch. If, however, you plan on eating ceviche for lunch the next day as well, don’t pour the juice in one of the bowls. Keep the remaining half of juice covered in the fridge, and put both it  and the halibut back in the fridge. Repeat all these steps the next morning).
IMG_70633. Distribute the diced avocado in both bowls (so each bowl has half an avocado). Since lime juice prevents browning, you are safe to put the avocado in there. Mix well, cover the dishes, and take one to work with you, along with one of the prepared veggies baggies. Refrigerate until lunch time (about 3 hours), making sure to stir about halfway so that the marinade is evenly distributed. You’ll know the fish is done when it’s opaque and flaky, like in the picture above.
IMG_70744. When you are ready to eat, pour the veggies into the glass bowls, mix well, and then enjoy with crackers, plantains, or tortilla chips (I didn’t have my camera at work, but just imagine that the wine glass is the pyrex bowl!)!
IMG_7077

Workday Halibut Ceviche
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Light
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 10-oz of halibut filet, skinned and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 large lemons)
  • ¼ cup fresh limit juice (from about 2-3 large limes)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 3 green onions, diced
  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and diced into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 large avocado, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 tbsps chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup red cabbage, sliced
Directions
  1. The night before:
  2. Divide the halibut cubes evenly between two medium-sized glass tupperware bowls (I use Pyrex). Cover the dishes and place in the refrigerator.
  3. In another small dish with a lid or in a small jar, mix together the lemon juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate.
  4. Gather together two small plastic sandwich bags and evenly distribute the cabbage, tomato, cilantro, jalapeno, and green onion. Keep the avocado in its skin with the seed in (after dicing) a small glass container with a lid or wrapped in seran wrap (unless you don't mind it getting brown, then add it to the baggy!).
  5. The morning of:
  6. Pour half of the lime and lemon juice mixture in each bowl (do this if you are planning on eating ceviche for both lunch and dinner, or two of you will be eating it for lunch. If, however, you plan on eating ceviche for lunch the
  7. next
  8. day as well, don't pour the juice in one of the bowls. Keep the remaining half of juice covered in the fridge, and put both it  and the halibut back in the fridge. Repeat all these steps the next morning).
  9. Distribute the diced avocado in both bowls (so each bowl has half an avocado). Since lime juice prevents browning, you are safe to put the avocado in there. Mix well, cover the dishes, and take one to work along with one of the prepared veggies baggies. Refrigerate until lunch time (about 3 hours), making sure to stir about halfway so that the marinade is evenly distributed.
  10. When you are ready to eat, pour the veggies into the glass bowls, mix well, and then enjoy with crackers, plantains, or tortilla chips!

Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal

IMG_7102

Another oatmeal post, you ask? Why, yes, another oatmeal post. I’ve had this recipe on the back burner for a while now.  I’m always looking for new ways to cook oats that doesn’t involve that much work.  Especially now that summer is in full swing, the less effort I have to make on my busy mornings, the better. I’ve done slow cooker steel oats, which were delicious but seem more “fall” to me. I’ve done these day-off oats, which were also delicious but definitely too much work for a weekday. I’ve also done overnight oats, which are really the lazy-woman’s oats, but also require a little bit of forethought and planning. And now, I’ve discovered baked oatmeal, which requires a little work up front but then gives you a solid breakfast for the next 6 days!

My first encounter with baked oatmeal was through this Oh She Glows recipe for heavenly baked carrot cake oatmeal. As advertised, it was heavenly. If you ever want to trick your body into thinking you’re eating cake for breakfast, that recipe is the way to go. Especially if you slathered some cream cheese on top.  Yum.

But I couldn’t leave things well enough alone, and my mind started racing. Sure, this had carrots, but what if we took this another step further and add everyone else’s favorite veggies for baked goods: zucchini? Luckily, I’d gotten a steal of a deal at the farmer’s market and was overflowing with zucchini. I’ve also always been a fan of the whole “morning glory” muffins thing, so I decided to put those flavors into my own spin of the Oh She Glows recipe: morning glory baked oatmeal with apple, zucchini, and carrots.

I am so happy with the results. My parents, in town last weekend for Father’s Day, were too. 😉 I streamlined the recipe, a la my strawberry rhubarb bars, to make it as one-pot  as possible, aside from the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can definitely use a cheese grater or even just a julienne peeler. The accolades on this dish are plenty: it’s refined-sugar-free, gluten-free (make sure to get them certified if you are allergic), dairy-free, and vegan (and can easily be made nut-free, if necessary)! Plus, veggies! I like to top mine with Greek yogurt and a little maple syrup or with just coconut milk poured around it. Feel free to use any nut you have on hand! My pictures below show both a pecan and a walnut version, and I liked both plenty!

IMG_7530Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal
Serves 6

IMG_7085Ingredients:

2 cups traditional rolled oats (NOT instant)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated/shredded carrots (I bought this already grated)
1 medium zucchini
1 organic green apple, cored and quartered (apples are on the dirty dozen list, so if you get it conventional, make sure to also peel)
2 cups non-dairy milk (both coconut and almond work well here)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
1 tbsp maple syrup
Coconut oil, for greasing

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly grease a 9×6 or 8×8 baking dish with coconut oil.
2. Using the shred-blade on your food processor or the large holes on a cheese grater, shred your zucchini and apple. I also shredded my grated carrots because they were quite thick.

3. Dump the shredded fruit and veggies mixture onto a kitchen towel, and squeeze out the water.  Zucchini produces a ton of water, so this step helps to give you better control over how watery your oatmeal will be. The veggies will be in a compact ball when you’re done.

4. In the greased baking dish, add the dry ingredients: oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Whisk together so that the spices are evenly distributed.

5. In a small bowl, mix together your wet ingredients: the shredded fruits and vegetables, applesauce, milk, vanilla extract, and maple syrup.
IMG_75226. Pour the wet mixture into the pan with the dry ingredients, and mix together. Smooth out the mixture and press down the oats so that they are covered with the milk. Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top and press them down into the mixture as well.
IMG_75247. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden brown along the edge and top. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. These are not bars so they are not meant to stick together, but allowing them to cool will keep it from becoming a crumbly mess.
IMG_75258. Serve with Greek yogurt and maple syrup….
IMG_7534or in a bowl with milk poured over like normal oatmeal!
IMG_7106

 

Morning Glory Baked Oatmeal
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 cups traditional rolled oats (NOT instant)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup grated/shredded carrots (I bought this already grated)
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 organic green apple, cored and quartered (apples are on
  • the dirty dozen list
  • , so if you get it conventional, make sure to also peel)
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk (both coconut and almond work well here)
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Coconut oil, for greasing
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly grease a 9x6 or 8x8 baking dish with coconut oil.
  2. Using the shred-blade on your food processor or the large holes on a cheese grater, shred your zucchini and apple. I also shredded my grated carrots because they were quite thick.
  3. Dump the shredded fruit and veggies mixture onto a kitchen towel, and squeeze out the water.  Zucchini produces a ton of water, so this step helps to give you better control over how watery your oatmeal will be. The veggies will be in a compact ball when you're done.
  4. In the greased baking dish, add the dry ingredients: oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Whisk together so that the spices are evenly distributed.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together your wet ingredients: the shredded fruits and vegetables, applesauce, milk, vanilla extract, and maple syrup. Mix well.
  6. Pour the wet mixture into the pan with the dry ingredients, and mix together. Smooth out the mixture and press down the oats so that they are covered with the milk. Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top and press them down into the mixture as well.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden brown along the edge and top. Remove from oven, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. These are not bars so they are not meant to stick together, but allowing them to cool will keep it from becoming a crumbly mess.
  8. Serve with Greek yogurt and maple syrup....
  9. or in a bowl with milk poured over like normal oatmeal!

Almost-vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

IMG_7505

I have a slight confession to make: Not everything on this blog is 100% Mr. Little Fish-approved. While I generally won’t post anything that he outright hates, there are certainly things that are far more for me than they are for him. Most of these things fall into the breakfast category (although he LOVES these muffins), because he isn’t a huge breakfast fan and because he leaves for work earlier than I do on the weekdays, which generally means that I do quite a bit of experimenting for my breakfasts. So, chia seeds? Yes, please. Spinach in my pancakes? Sure. Quinoa bakes? Absolutely. Some of these Mr. LF likes; others he would rather not have again.

So when I saw rhubarb at the farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago and knew that I wanted to make a breakfast crumble with it (after having seen this crumble from Smitten Kitchen), it was with some trepidation that I offered him a piece. His review? “This tastes healthy.” After more questioning, it turns out he doesn’t really like oats. Go figure. You didn’t think I called him picky for nothing did you?

Lucky for me, though, a ton of other people do like oats. And, also lucky for me, I have a very pregnant coworker who is more than happy to be my taste-tester for breakfast goods (she also approved the quinoa bake!). From her, this crumble got rave reviews (in ALL CAPS!). She was even surprised to learn that this crumble was vegan (I made it with all coconut oil that time), gluten-free, and refined sugar-free! Plus, if you’ve been making home-made almond milk and have been looking for something to do with the leftover almond pulp, here’s your chance (check the recipe for notes on substitutions!).

Strawberry Rhubarb Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen  and Oh She Glows
Serves 6

IMG_7502Ingredients:

IMG_7459For the filling:

1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen, diced
1 cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen, diced small
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp real maple syrup
2 tbsp chia seeds (NOTE: if you can’t find chia seeds, you can also use 2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp warm water)
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crust:
2.5 cups traditional rolled oats, divided into 1 cup and 1.5 cups
1/2 cup dehydrated almond milk pulp (NOTE: if you do not have this, just add another 1/2 cup of rolled oats)
3 tbsp butter, melted (NOTE: substitute for another 3 tbsp of coconut oil if you’d like to make this vegan)
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking dish with parchment paper if you plan on serving these without the pan. I used a 9×6 glass baking dish, but an 8×8 would work as well.
2. In a medium pot, heat the strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, and maple syrup over medium heat until it comes to a low boil.

3. Reduce the heat to medium low, and stir in the chia seeds. Let the mixture continue to boil, stirring frequently, for about 3-5 minutes, until the chia seeds thicken it.
IMG_74774. When the mixture becomes a thick, porridge-like consistency, remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside.
IMG_74785. While the fruit is cooking, you can start the crust (or, if you aren’t comfortable multitasking, wait until it’s done!). In a food processor or blender, add 1 cup of oats and the 1/2 cup of almond milk pulp (or another 1/2 cup of oats if you aren’t using the pulp). Blend together until it becomes a flour.

6.  Pour the flour directly into the baking dish, and add the remaining 1.5 cups of oats, the baking powder, and salt. Whisk together until well-mixed.
IMG_74807. Add the wet ingredients to the baking dish: butter, coconut oil, water, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Mix together until no flour remains visible. Reserve 1/2 cup of the mixture to sprinkle on the top, and use a spoon or spatula to press the mixture remaining in the pan into a flat, smooth layer.

8. Pour the berry mixture over the top of the oat crust and smooth out into another layer.

9. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the top, and then bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is slightly golden brown.
IMG_749610. Allow the bars to cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve as a dessert with ice cream or whipped cream, or for breakfast with a dollop of Greek yogurt!
For leftovers, I like to reheat it for 45 seconds in the microwave, but it holds together better when its cold.
IMG_7510

And please tag me on instagram with pictures if you make these strawberry rhubarb bars so I can see your creations (@gwensfishfood or #gwensfishfood)! =) Happy cooking!

Almost-vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • For the filling:
  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen, diced
  • 1 cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen, diced small
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (NOTE: if you can't find chia seeds, you can also use 2 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp warm water)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the crust:
  • 2.5 cups traditional rolled oats, divided into 1 cup and 1.5 cups
  • ½ cup almond milk pulp (NOTE: if you do not have this, just add another ½ cup of rolled oats)
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted (NOTE: substitute for another 3 tbsp of coconut oil if you'd like to make this vegan)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup real maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking dish with parchment paper if you plan on serving these without the pan. I used a 9x6 glass baking dish, but an 8x8 would work as well.
  2. In a medium pot, heat the strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, and maple syrup over medium heat until it comes to a low boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium low, and stir in the chia seeds. Let the mixture continue to boil, stirring frequently, for about 3-5 minutes, until the chia seeds thicken it.
  4. When the mixture becomes a thick, porridge-like consistency, remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside.5. While the fruit is cooking, you can start the crust (or, if you aren't comfortable multitasking, wait until it's done!). In a food processor or blender, add 1 cup of oats and the ½ cup of almond milk pulp (or another ½ cup of oats if you aren't using the pulp). Blend together until it becomes a flour.
  5. Pour the flour directly into the baking dish, and add the remaining 1.5 cups of oats, the baking powder, and salt. Whisk together until well-mixed.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the baking dish: butter, coconut oil, water, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Mix together until no flour remains visible. Reserve ½ cup of the mixture to sprinkle on the top, and use a spoon or spatula to press the mixture remaining in the pan into a flat, smooth layer.
  7. Pour the berry mixture over the top of the oat crust and smooth out into another layer.
  8. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the top, and then bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is slightly golden brown.
  9. Allow the bars to cool for at least 20 minutes. Serve as a dessert with ice cream or whipped cream, or for breakfast with a dollop of Greek yogurt! For leftovers, I like to reheat it for 45 seconds in the microwave, but it holds together better when its cold.

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars

IMG_7166

When I first decided to start losing weight, I thought exercising was the way to go. I have not-so-fond memories of waking up before work in the middle of the DC summer to do Insanity workouts in the 1 bedroom apartment I shared with three people. Two of us shared what would normally have been a living room, but instead had two little twin beds on opposite sides of the room. I used my little corner to do workouts so intense that I would continue sweating through my shower and all the way until I got into my air-conditioned office.

The problem with all the intense workouts , though, was that they were making me hungrier, which, when you’re trying to lose weight and restrict calories, didn’t end up working out too well. So, when I decided to get serious with the losing weight almost a year later, I switched gears and mostly focused on food. I worked out here and there, but I figured exercising would come more into play when I got to the maintenance phase. And now, after 7 months of maintaining my weight loss, I figured right.  Here I am now in week 4 of P90X3, and not only is it helping me maintain the weight loss, but I feel no signs of slowing down. As expected though, that hunger is returning.

Enter: these energy bars. I’m sure more than a few of you buy  the energy bars found at your grocery store. Not all energy bars are created equal though, and most of them contain a lot of preservatives, sugar, or other unrecognizable ingredients. For awhile, on the recommendation of a friend, I was eating these Thunderbird Energetica bars, which unlike many other bars, used all whole-food ingredients, natural sugars, and no grains.  They weren’t cheap though.

So, I decided to simplify things and make my own, using the same concept. It’s a pretty foolproof recipe: 1 cup nuts, 1 cup dried fruit, and 3/4 cup dates. The dates act as both a binder and a sweetener. The berries and dates give you the complex carbs you need before an intense workout, and the nuts give you some lasting protein and fat. No grains, no added sugar, no unpronounceable ingredients. Win-win if you ask me.

Homemade Energy Bars
Serves 9

IMG_7146

Ingredients:

1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
Parchment paper, for lining
Plastic wrap, for molding
NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!

Directions:

1.  If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
IMG_71492. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will go from this:
IMG_7150To this:
IMG_7151And eventually get here:
IMG_7152Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck. Stop when you get to the ball shape above, about 10 minutes.
3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
IMG_7153

4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball.  Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8×8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
IMG_71544. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
IMG_71565. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
IMG_71576. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
IMG_71587. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

 

 

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Snacks
Cuisine: American
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
  • 1 cup almonds
  • ¾ cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
  • Parchment paper, for lining
  • Plastic wrap, for molding
  • NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!
Directions
  1. If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
  2. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will start with small bits and pieces of nuts and fruit, to more paste-like and, finally, to a big ball. Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck.
  3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
  4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball. Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8x8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
  5. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
  6. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
  7. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
  8. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.