No Bake Chewy Chocolate Cranberry Bars

Hello.  My name is Kristi and I’m a chocoholic.  I’m also vegan and learning to love myself and take care of myself.  So, to combine those two things, I made chewy chocolate cranberry bars.  It could be love.

First, grab these ingredients:

Old fashioned oats, raw organic almonds, organic cocao powder, sea salt, medjool dates, maple syrup, organic coconut oil, chia or flaxseeds, dairy-free chocolate chips (I used mini, but whatever you like will do) and organic dried cranberries.  All of this is easily found at most grocery stores, but Whole Foods and The Fresh Market have all of them for sure.

Next, toss 1 cup of the oats and 1/2 cup of the almonds into your processor. I’ve found that these two items are a must in my vegan pantry, by the way!

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Mix them until they are well processed, almost like a flour, then toss 1/2 cup of cocao and a pinch of salt in and blend.

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Then add 1/2 cup of chia or flaxseed and pulse for a few seconds.  Add around eleven to thirteen dates.  The moisture content will determine how many you want.  I used eleven in this batch, but have had to use as many as thirteen. If your dates aren’t moist enough, soak them for 30 minutes and they’ll be fine.  After blending these ingredients, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.  I used the coconut oil because it’s good and because of it’s well known use in keeping blood sugars level.  I added the maple syrup one tablespoon at a time and pulsed between the additions.

Place this mixture in a glass bowl and add 1/2 cup of dairy-free chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of the cranberries.

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Mix these ingredients together by hand until they are well incorporated and then place them in a small glass casserole dish.  I used an 8 x 8 one that worked great.  Press the mixture down with your fingers and try to make it as uniform as you can.  I always have a few chips left over in the bowl, so I dump them on top and press them into the mixture because who wastes chocolate, right?

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Place the casserole dish in the fridge for 30 minutes so the mixture can set and it cuts much easier, as well.  (Or you can spoon it out now.  No judgement from me, folks.)

Then, cut it into bars and eat up.

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These are chewy fabulousness and so easy to take with you if you’re on the run.  As a bonus, they are sweet and healthy!

Enjoy!

Kristi  🙂

A Very Berry Spinach Vegan Smoothie

Spinach is pretty much the Incredible Hulk of vegetables.  It has Calcium, Vitamins K and C, as well as good amounts of complex B vitamins.  It has potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper and zinc.  It’s also rich in Omega 3 and iron.  That’s not even close to all, but you get the point.  I love spinach in salads, but I know lots of people don’t like the taste.  Here’s a great alternative that will still give you the benefits, and then some, while hiding the flavor behind more deliciousness!

Grab a handful of spinach and toss it in your blender.  I have a Ninja with individual cups and that’s what I use.  (it’s the biggest reason I bought this particular Ninja and I love these cups!  Every blender/processor should have these!!)

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Toss your spinach in first, then top it with 2/3 cups of unsweetened, organic frozen mixed berries, 1/2 cup of unsweetened frozen mango pieces, 1 tablespoon of agave nectar and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds.  Then start with 1/2 cup of vanilla almond milk.  Sometimes, I have to add another 1/2 cup of almond milk, depending on how well the frozen fruits decide they want to fall in the mixing process and also how thick/thin I want my smoothie to be.  My kids want it to be like ice cream and I like a more traditional smoothie feel.  Whatever floats your boat will work!

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Mix well and serve!

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This is yummy and filled with so much goodness for your body and it could not be easier to make!  You can substitute kale for the spinach, if you’d like.  I do sometimes and it’s equally yummy!

Enjoy!   Kristi  🙂

Homemade Vegan Vegetable Soup

I don’t love soup.  Actually, I really hate creamy, no chunk soup.  You will not find pureed butternut squash on this blog or in any of my recipe stash.  In my taste bud world, soup is chunky and rich.  Here’s a great, chunky vegetable soup that is chock full of veggies, homemade veggie broth and spices that make it divine and one of the few traditional soups that I really enjoy!

I use a very large ceramic coated dutch oven to cook this recipe and next to my Ninja, this is my favorite kitchen accessory.  I may secretly refer to it as my Precious.

First, dice one large onion, 2 large celery stalks and 2 large carrots and toss them into the pot with 1/2 cup of water.  Salt and pepper liberally.

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Let these cook until the onions are transparent and the carrots just start to get soft, but they should still be crunchable if you bit them.  While that’s happening, I get everything else I need out and toss my “scraps” into my veggie broth bowl.  (Per a friend’s advice, I save all my veggie scraps in the fridge and use it to make homemade veggie broth in the crock pot.  Great advice! You can totally steal it.) Here’s the beginning of my new bowl:

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Here’s the rest of the ingredients:

1. 2 cans of whole kernel corn or 1 large bag of frozen.  (I always drain and rinse any canned veggies that I use.  What do they pack those things in?!  I prefer frozen, but use what you’ve got)

2. 2 cups of green beans or snap beans. (again use what you’ve got)

3. 1 cup of frozen peas

4. 1 large can of diced tomatoes (28 oz. or larger)

5.  8 small red potatoes sliced in half (this is a personal preference, but white potatoes work just fine. I’d use four of them and quarter them)

6. 1 finely diced clove of garlic

7. 1/2 tablespoon of thyme

8.  1/2 Tablespoon of onion powder

9.  3-4 cups of veggie broth. (I think the homemade really makes this, but if you don’t have any then again, use what you’ve got)

10. 2-3 cups of water

11. 2 bay leaves and a pinch of basil

12. salt and pepper again to taste

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Now, make sure your temp is on low and put your lid on and walk away for about an hour. (or until the potatoes get almost done. Every stove is different, so keep an eye out the first time)

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Now, check your potatoes for “almost” done and then add cabbage and brussel sprouts.  Cook for about 15 more minutes and then taste test for doneness and to make sure it’s spiced the way you like it.  Remove the bay leaves and eat up!

Here’s a pic with the brussel sprouts and the purple cabbage we used tonight:

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We eat ours with cornbread because it’s awesome!  (I used unbleached whole wheat flour, cornmeal, grated onion, a pinch of salt and unsweetened almond milk to make this and it was yummy)

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(Sorry for the quality of this last photo, but I was starving. I snapped it, shut the camera down and dug in. You get the point, though.)

This is healthy and hearty on a cold winter night.  Enjoy!

Kristi  🙂

Raw Vegan Chocolate Oatmeal Energy Bites

These little bites of energy are so good they make me want to do a happy dance.  I’ve made no secret that sugar is my vice and my biggest food weakness.  I love sugar and I once thought that the only kind of sugar that could satisfy was the kind that eats away at our cell walls and the kind that helps make Krispy Kreme so successful. (You know, the kind that makes us obese and creates a low-level addiction?  Yeah…that kind.)  I was wrong.  (again)  These babies have chocolate in them, too! (it’s dairy and soy free!) In my world, that’s a win-win.

Get yourself some old-fashioned oats and pour two cups of them into a bowl:

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Then, add 3/4 cup of dairy-free chocolate.  I use this kind:

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They also make mini-chips if you don’t want the large chunks.  I prefer the chunks in these, but the minis will work just fine and may suit some people’s taste better. 

Next, add 3/4 cup peanut butter. (I used organic, all natural peanut butter, so I had more peanut oil in mine. If you use the PB with more additives in it, you may need more or less depending on your personal preference)  Add 1/2 cup of local, raw, unprocessed honey or organic maple syrup.  I know some vegans don’t eat honey, but I do and because of its superfood status will continue to do so. The maple syrup may call for less than 1/2 cup. I’ve never used it, but it could be substituted here.  Finally, add 3/4 cup of chia seeds or flax seed, whichever you prefer and  3 or 4 drops of vanilla extract and mix everything together very well with a large spoon or fork.

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Once everything is mixed, take a spoonful and roll them into balls with your hand.  Also, keep a small bowl of water handy to dip your fingers into.  These are sticky and the water keeps it from sticking to your hand and helps it to form and hold its shape better.  (You could always just eat it by the spoonful, too.  Wanna guess how that thought came to mind?)

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These are packed with fiber, antioxidants and goodness.  They are sweet enough that one or two is plenty to stop your sweet tooth in its tracks, too.  (always a bonus for me)  I’ve found that having this kind of food on hand helps me to focus on eating more raw and healthy foods because I’m not obsessing over a Snickers.  You may, or may not, struggle with a sweet tooth (I’m giving you the stink eye if you don’t), but I do and I’ve made an effort to find things that satisfy and create health at the same time.  These are easily portable, too, and that’s another bonus for me.  Slap a few of these in a ziplock and your afternoon craving or slump just took a fast hike!

Enjoy!

Kristi  🙂

Mason Jar No Bake Oatmeal

Food continues to surprise me as we make our way into this new lifestyle. I’d always believed that I had a pretty broad range of food choices and that I sought out ways to incorporate more into our diet.  (you should picture me laughing mockingly here)  I was so wrong.  What I really did was grab a hunk of carcass and find something green and a potato to go with it.  Now, I’m finding that there’s an entire world of food out there that I’d somehow ignored.  Did any of you do that, as well?  Without even realizing it?

Anyway, I also didn’t eat breakfast.  I’ll be really transparent in saying that I still don’t love breakfast.  I just don’t wake up hungry.  But, I have noticed that I don’t wake up feeling repulsed by the thought of food any longer and the majority of my family wakes up acting like they haven’t had a bite of food in a week, so I tried to find things that were satisfying AND good that had nothing to do with loops of fruit or marshmellowy sugar floating in milk.  (not always the easiest task if it’s what you’ve primarily done for decades)

…Cue majestic music… Then, I found overnight, no bake oatmeal in a mason jar and people, I’m telling you I heard a choir sing when I made this stuff the first time!  My kids love it, and I not only eat it, but I look forward to it.  So, if you were like me and breakfast was kind of yucky for you, this may be the ticket.

Keep in mind that I cook for six, so adjust your recipe accordingly.  I use pint jars because it’s what I have from canning, but you use whatever works for you in your world.

The night before you want to eat this, pour steel cut old fashioned oats into your jars. (DO NOT USE QUICK COOKING OATS!)

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I added one tablespoon of organic, grade A maple syrup and one tablespoon of organic, brown sugar to each jar:

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Then, cover the oats with sweetened, vanilla almond milk, or whatever kind of dairy-free milk you like:

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Stir it well and put a lid on your jars.  Slap ’em in the fridge and walk away.  When you get up in the morning, add some fruit and you get this beauty:

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We’ve also made applesauce and cinnamon, as well as blueberries and vanilla.  I sweetened both of those options with one tablespoon of organic, raw honey. They were all wonderful!  (we used unsweetened, organic applesauce!)  This entire breakfast took me about six minutes to make the night before and when you wake up it’s ready in less than a minute!  It’s filled with fiber, protein and antioxidants and it’s wonderfully yummy!

Enjoy!

Kristi  🙂

A New Year To Go With Our New Life

We started our new journey less than two weeks before Christmas.  I thought it would be so hard and had mentally played the martyr.  (I’m dramatic, OK?)  It turns out that meat just isn’t that big of a deal.  The only thing that’s crossed my mind is a cheeseburger, which hasn’t been often.  My husband has sort of mourned a fat steak, but not overly much.  My kids miss eggs, which I think is funny considering we didn’t eat them too regularly to begin with.  They missed ice cream, but then I found this:

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Mix a spoonful of this baby with some dark chocolate almond milk, chia seeds and a few slices of banana and I’m pretty sure we’ve discovered ambrosia.  (For real, you have to try this!)

Mostly, I haven’t thought much about what I’m “missing” so much as I’ve thought about all that I’m gaining.  In the three weeks since we first stepped tentatively on this path, we’ve already experienced one huge benefit:  The afternoon slumps are gone.  I was a case study of the 3:00pm can’t go on, I’m too tired to breathe, 10pm can’t get here soon enough, type of person. I’m an early riser, but I knew that I shouldn’t be that tired or that worn out every afternoon. Within one week of following a plant based diet, my afternoon slumps disappeared. (Can I get an amen?!)  I’ve also lost six pounds in three weeks without changing anything else about my lifestyle. (Another amen?)

So, this New Year begins with this: In 2014 my goal is simply to fully grasp and accept that my choices affect my life.  I am the boss of myself and I am responsible for what I allow to happen to me. What I eat affects my life and what I get out of it.  Even in three short weeks I’ve already begun to see the benefits of plant based eating.  I want to fully grasp that I am the steward of the body that God gave me and no one else but myself can take full responsibility for that.  What’s more, I want to share what I’m learning with everyone I know.  I know people who suffer from severe arthritis, high blood pressure, weight issues, diabetes, depression, anxiety and more, but all of it can be either alleviated or severely reduced simply by taking responsibility for what you eat.  Food IS the medicine.  It really is that simple.  Believe it.  I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind with the Word and transformed by the renewing of my mind and body toward the food I allow to cross my lips. 

The more I read, learn, and study, the more I’m convinced that medical doctors simply do not have enough information about nutrition.  Did you know that less than 6% of ALL medical doctors have ANY nutritional education? That’s not acceptable.  However, the truth remains that we, as stewards of our own body and selves, are not excused from taking responsibility for ourselves. 

I hope that 2014 is a year that I can learn, grow and educate myself and my family about the medicinal benefits of the food that God Himself provides.  I pray that 2014 is the year that I can share what I learn and understand more fully the relationship that food plays in our lives, our health and our well-being. 

Happy New Year!!! 

Up next:  More recipes, more raw foods and the first step on the path to eliminate more processed foods and refined sugars.

Kristi  🙂

Raw Vegan “Chocolate” Coconut Date Rolls

I want something sweet.  I’m not really saying that as a present tense statement.  That’s just more of a general statement because I always want something sweet.  I would love to be like those women that say, “Oh…I don’t really like sweets.”  Alas, I’m not that woman.  I’m that woman that loves sweet things like a baby loves its blanket.

I was fiddling with some dates the other night and really wanted a base for lots of sweets, not just one particular thing.  So, when you’re reading this recipe, think of it as a base for whatever you’d like to have at any given time.  The bonus?  It’s healthy, raw and vegan.  It could be love.

First grab some Medjool dates.  They’re sweeter.  I got mine at the local Fresh Market, but I’d say any Whole Foods or even some grocery stores will carry them.  I used 15 and had to do two batches.

First, pit them.  It’s super simple.  Just slide a knife firmly along one edge and then squeeze each end.  It pops open and the pit comes out.  Like this:

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Pit them and then put them in your processor with one heaping tablespoon of organic, unsweetened cocao, and 1/2 cup of unsweetened, organic coconut.

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Mix it until it becomes “dough”.  You’ll know or your processor will let you know.  Mine took about 45 seconds and I pulsed it a few times.

Place your “dough” on a piece of wax paper or whatever floats your boat that it won’t stick to.  Caution:  It sticks to everything like super duper glue that happens to taste good.  And it looks like dog poo.

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You can get a spoon and scoop it up to form small log shapes, but I just tore it off and rolled it up in my hands.  It’s funner that way.  After you form them, roll them in whatever you like.  We rolled ours in more unsweetened coconut and then zested an orange over them.  My hubby tried some lime zest but it was super tart.  You could use walnuts, pistashios, pecans, agave nectar, etc…  Really, anything that you want.  Again, this was a base and the whole point is to have something sweet that you can add to or take away from depending on what you want at that time.  This entire process took less than 15 minutes.  (even cooler!)

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Enjoy!  I’d love to hear if anyone makes these and if you add something that’s super awesome!  We thought peppermint would rock during Christmas.

Kristi  🙂