Sundays with Samantha: Coconut & Almond Bars

These amazingly delicious bars are a cross between a granola bar and dessert.  I wanted to create a kid-friendly snack or mid-afternoon treat as an alternative to packaged granola bars or cookies.  These bars would be great as a pre-sports-practice-snack, play date treat or dessert with friends.  They’re loaded with good-for-you ingredients like oats, nuts, and dried fruit and because no treat is complete without chocolate, I added some cocoa powder to give it a chocolatey kick. They’re sweetened with raw honey (and dates) instead of sugar or corn syrup, which keeps them almost completely unprocessed.

Try them out and let me know what you think!  I think you’ll love them as much as we do ;).

Almond & Coconut Oat Bars

Makes about 16

Ingredients:

2 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)

¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup raw honey

1/3 cup almond butter

1 tablespoon unsalted butter (plus a smidge for greasing baking pan)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

20 dried pitted dates

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8” x 12” baking dish.

Combine oats, coconut and almonds on a sheet pan.  Mix.  Roast for 8-10 minutes, tossing halfway through.  Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put honey, almond butter, butter, coconut oil, salt, and vanilla extract in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat.  When butter melts, mix and simmer an additional 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and pour into the large bowl with the oat mixture.

In a small blender or food processor (I use my Nutribullet), add the dates and cocoa powder.  Process until dates form a cohesive sticky ball.  Add the dates to the large bowl.

With a spatula, mix everything together.  Firmly press the dates into the mixture so they become evenly distributed and final mixture is sticky.  Transfer to prepared baking dish, gently pressing into an even layer.

Freeze for 30 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Store remaining bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Serving size: (1 bar)  Calories: 290  Total Fat: 13 g  Saturated Fat: 5 g  Cholesterol: 2 mg  Sodium: 40 mg  Carbohydrates: 45 g  Dietary Fiber: 6 g  Sugars: 31 g  Added Sugar: 6 g  Protein: 5 g

Note: If you are feeling extra generous, drizzle them with dark chocolate.  Uh huh. It’s good.

Favorite Recipe Friday: 5 EASY bread and cheese appetizers

 

From left to right: Ricotta & Fig, Brie & Peach, Sundried Tomato & Shaved Parmesan, Fig Cream Cheese & Prosciutto, Herbed Goat Cheese & Roasted Red Pepper

 

Fresh bread and good cheese are a match made in heaven.  Add a bit of fruit, a sprinkle of salt, fresh pepper and herbs and everyone’s tastebuds are in for a serious treat.

 

These 5 bread and cheese apps are incredibly simple and perfect for your summer BBQ’s, bunco nights, wine parties, office potlucks…you-name-it.   The ingredients are easy to find and once put together, they are sure to impress even your foodie-est of friends.

Here’s the How To:

  1. Slice your favorite fresh baguette (whole grain, seeded, french, sourdough, etc.) into 3/4 inch pieces (my 20″ baguette yielded 32 slices).
  2. Toast bread: Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.  Place slices on a sheet pan, spray with a little olive oil (or use a silicon brush to lightly brush each piece with olive oil). Toast for 5 minutes, remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Pick the combo(s) that tickles your fancy and continue on with your toppings:

Ricotta & Fig

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

7 fresh figs, thinly sliced

1/3 cup honey

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Divide ricotta evenly among bread slices. Top each with 3 slices of fig, a drizzle of honey, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.

Brie & Peach

5 ounces (1 cup) brie cheese

2 small peaches, thinly sliced

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Directions: Spread brie evenly among bread slices (roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons each). Top each with 2 slices of peach, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.  Garnish with thyme.

Sundried Tomato & Shaved Parmesan

1 (8.5 ounce) jar sliced sundried tomatoes in oil, drained, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 cup tomato paste

Freshly shaved parmesan*

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh chopped basil (for garnish)

Drizzle olive oil (optional)

Directions: In a medium bowl, combine drained tomatoes, a tablespoon or 2 of the reserved oil, garlic, and tomato paste.  Stir to combine.  Divide mixture evenly among bread slices.  Top each slice with a few shavings of parmesan, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with basil and drizzle with olive oil, if using.

*Use a vegetable peeler to thinly shave fresh parmesan.

Fig Cream Cheese & Proscuitto

8 ounces whipped cream cheese

2 tablespoons fig spread*

4 ounces (8 thin) sliced proscuitto, cut into quarters

Fresh chives or basil

Directions:  In a small bowl, combine cream cheese and fig spread.  Mix.  Evenly distribute spread among bread slices. Top each slice with 1/4 piece of proscuitto, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with chives (or basil).

*Fig spread is typically found in the deli section, with the gourmet cheeses.  Trader Joe’s has a “Fig Butter”, which would probably work too.

Herbed Goat Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper

8 ounces goat cheese with herbs

1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, sliced

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Directions: Divide goat cheese evenly among bread slices. Top each with a few slices of red pepper, a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste.  Garnish with thyme.

 

 

Sundays with Samantha: Berry-licious Lemonade

We Hazards are so incredibly lucky to live in California, where many of our friends and family have lemon trees. This means, bags of beautiful juicy lemons are graciously passed down to us.  Upon receiving them, my mind immediately wanders into lemon dessert land (see Lemon Ricotta Cookies) while Samantha’s goes straight to lemonade.

Fresh lemonade really is delicious, but here’s the dilemma: When you make fresh lemonade at home, you witness the copious amount of sugar needed to tame the tartness of the lemon juice.  It’s A LOT.  Or so we thought.

Together, Samantha and I came of up with a better way to combat the tartness.  Sweet, ripe berries!!  We were able to cut the sugar to only 1/3 cup by cutting it with fresh strawberries and blueberries.  That’s huge!  The result: Berry-licious, just as delicious, Lemonade!  Perfect for sippin’, selling at a lemonade stand or even pouring into popsicle molds for a frozen tart treat.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 large or 6 small lemons)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4-5 cups of water, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 3 ounces fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:

Step 1: Halve and juice lemons.

Step 2: Place 1 cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar in a small pot over medium-low heat.  Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.

Step 3: Rinse berries and hull the strawberries.  Place in a small blender and process until very smooth.

 

 

Step 4: ​Pour puree into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl.  Press puree through the strainer with a rubber spatula, like so…

Step 5:​  Pour strained puree, lemon juice, water/sugar mixture and 3-4 cups of water (depending on taste) into a large pitcher.  Stir, stir, stir!

Step 6: Pour over ice and enjoy.  Alternatively, you can cover the pitcher and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Makes 6-7 cups.

Favorite Recipe Friday: DIY Fruit-Flavored Yogurt

Unadorned plain Greek yogurt is a healthy snack.  Per cup, you get a whopping 23 grams of protein.  With the exception of meat, it’s hard to find a single food with that much protein power.  (Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues and muscle, as well as making enzymes, hormones, blood, and much more.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I like using Greek yogurt in recipes but as a snack, straight up, it’s really tart.  In order to balance out that tartness and make it a more palatable snack, yogurt companies add a lot of sugar and an itty bitty teensy weensy amount of fruit and/or flavoring.  And unless you buy those with artificial sweeteners, you can get as much added sugar as you’d get in a donut.  Yep. Not really worth it.

Fruit and yogurt is such a delicious combination so, instead of skipping it all together, I decided I’d make my own.  Turns out, it’s tastier and much lower in added sugar than what you’d find on the shelves.

I made Strawberry, Mango, (and for those who like dessert-flavors) Banana and Peanut Butter with Dark Chocolate Zest.  Feel free to use any fruit you like.  They are super simple and the only added sugar is 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of pure maple syrup and in the Banana variety, there’s maybe 1 extra gram from the grated chocolate garnish.  You can substitute honey if you’d like…I just prefer maple syrup. Also, make sure to use the sweetest, ripest (read: delicious) fruit you can find!

Without further ado, here you go!

Strawberry

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

Directions:

In a small bowl, with a fork, mash the strawberries. Mix in maple syrup, then yogurt and serve.

Calories: 130  Total Fat: 2.5 g  Saturated Fat: 1.5 g  Cholesterol: 10 mg  Sodium: 40 mg Carbohydrate: 15 g  Dietary Fiber: 1 g Sugars: 12 g  Added Sugar: 4 g  Protein: 12 g

Mango

1/2 cup chopped mango

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

Directions:

In a small bowl, with a fork, mash the mango. Mix in maple syrup, then yogurt and serve.

Calories: 160  Total Fat: 2.5 g  Saturated Fat: 1.5 g  Cholesterol: 10 mg  Sodium: 40 mg Carbohydrate: 23 g  Dietary Fiber: 1 g  Total Sugars: 21 g Added Sugar: 4 g Protein: 12 g

Banana and Peanut Butter with Dark Chocolate Zest

1/2 ripe banana

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

Good quality dark chocolate, grated

Directions:

In a small bowl, with a fork, mash the banana. Mix in peanut butter, maple syrup, then yogurt. With a small grater, zester or microplane, grate chocolate over the top and serve.

Calories: 270  Total Fat: 11.5 g  Saturated Fat: 3.5 g  Cholesterol: 10 mg  Sodium: 110 mg Carbohydrate: 27 g  Dietary Fiber: 3 g  Total Sugars: 18 g  Added Sugar: 6 g Protein: 16 g

 

Don’t-Get-Too-Wild Card Wednesday: Strawberry Vodka

When I imbibe, I prefer to keep it vodka.  I mean…simple.  Yes, I sound like a total boozer but I promise, I’m not.  Seen that one too many times.  I’m a vodka girl because sadly, most wine gives me a headache and while I really enjoy beer, I don’t enjoy beer bloat, burps and the overall heaviness I get from drinking multiple beers.  So, when only an adult beverage will do, I go for vodka with club soda and real fruit flavor like a lime or lemon wedge (I’m not a fan of the “naturally fruit flavored” varieties).

This particular experiment was inspired by an adventure with my besties.  One of my most favorite humans was visiting, we had a babysitter on duty, so out we headed to a local bar here in San Diego. Upon arrival, I ordered a fancy drink that featured vodka infused with fresh strawberries.  Oh yum.

I definitely enjoyed my fancy mixed drink, but after 1, I was done. I asked the bartender if I could just have the strawberry vodka mixed with soda water and he very graciously obliged. I immediately thought to myself, “Self, when you are sober, make this at home”.  And so, 6 months later, it’s berrypalooza and thus, Strawberry Vodka was born.

Please be forewarned.  You have to plan ahead and be patient.  Brewing time is at least 3 days.  My strawberries swam for 7 days.  But, it’s TOTALLY worth the wait.  See above pic.

Also, PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY.  It is vodka.

Wanna make some too?  Here’s how:

Step 1. Pour a 1 L bottle of vodka* into a 1 L glass jar or container that can be tightly sealed.

*Generally, lower quality vodka is recommended because you don’t need any special nuances (like floral notes, hints of fruit, etc.).  You want the strawberries to be the star of the show.  I opted for a slightly better than bottom of the barrel (no pun intended) because lets face it, low quality liquor=high quality headache.

2. Slice 1/2 a pound of strawberries, add them to the vodka and seal lid tightly.

3. Allow to infuse for 3-7 days.  The longer the better.  Give her a gentle shake once a day.

4. When ready to drink, strain over a fine mesh strainer.  Discard strawberries. Prepare glass (optional :))

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5. Pour your beautiful Strawberry Vodka back in the container (or another tightly seal-able glass container).

6. Enjoy over ice with club soda, add to your mimosa or try making a strawberry mule.  Oooo, you could even line the rim with sugar.  The possibilities are endless!

Visit Skinnytaste.com for my guest post!

 

(photo credit: Sarah Fennel)

Good morning. I’ve got HUGE news! My recipe, Enchilada Chicken Roll-Ups (see above), is featured on the Skinnytaste blog TODAY! CHECK IT OUT!

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve had the absolute honor and privilege of working with Skinnytaste author Gina Homolka (and advising dietitian Heather K. Jones, RD) for the past few years.  I help with nutrition analysis, recipe proof reading and meal planning for the cookbooks and do some recipe development for the Skinnytaste blog.  Crazy, right?!?!

I absolutely love Gina and her blog.  For those who aren’t familiar, her motto is, “Delicious healthy recipes from my family to yours”.  And boy is she right.  Her recipes are healthy and delicious.  They appeal to kids and adults alike.  She has a magic touch when it comes to packing in flavor and nutrition without making you feel deprived or like you’re eating “diet” food.

Her recipes work because they are easy to follow, use easy-to-find ingredients and promote portion control (though if you need a higher calorie meal, you can double the recipes ;)).  She incorporates her culture, tradition and travels into her recipes all while keeping things familiar and family friendly.  Oh, and her photographs will leave you wiping drool off your face.

Don’t just take it from me.  Both cookbooks are NY Times Best Sellers and her most recent book, Fast and Slow, was nominated for a James Beard Award!

So add her to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest feeds, email, etc. to get her latest recipes and updates.  I promise, you’ll love it.  And you may just see something that I helped create.

If you don’t have the Skinnytaste Cookbooks yet, you can get them on Amazon:

  • The original Skinnytaste Cookbook HERE.
  • Skinnytaste Fast and Slow HERE

She also has a Meal-Planner which you can get HERE

Favorite Recipe Friday: Dutch Baby

Dutch babies hold a special place in my heart ♥.  My mom used to make them for us as a kid and any day that started with a Dutch baby was a good day.  These fluffy, souffle-like pancakes are so simple to make (kids can do it), require few ingredients, 1 bowl, and a whisk.  That’s it.   These babies are beautiful, delicious and the perfect vehicle for a mound of fresh fruit.

When I started making them for my kids, I initially used this NYTimes Food recipe.  It’s awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I thought it had a bit too much butter and I wanted to add a little more flavor.  The great thing about Dutch babies is they are versatile like that.  Feel free to play around with it yourself.  They’re pretty forgiving.

Here is my version of the amazing, the beautiful…Dutch Baby.  Make it for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.  Heck, make it as a snack.  These babies don’t discriminate.

Dutch Baby

Serves 4

Adapted from: NYTimes Food

Ingredients:

3 large eggs

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole or reduced fat milk

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch cinnamon

Pinch kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups fresh mixed berries (or any other fresh fruit)

Juice from ¼ lemon

Powdered sugar, for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs until light and starting to foam.  Add flour, milk, sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.  Whisk until just combined.

Place butter in a 10-inch oven-proof skillet or metal pie dish*. Place in oven and allow butter to melt, 1-2 minutes (keep your eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn).  Pour batter into skillet/dish, return to oven and allow to bake for 18-20 minutes, or until set and browned on top.

Top with fruit and a squeeze of lemon, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

*If you use a pie dish, spray the sides with oil after your butter melts so the Baby doesn’t stick.

Per serving: (1/4 pancake)  Calories: 220  Total Fat: 10.5 g  Saturated Fat: 5.5 g  Cholesterol: 158 mg  Sodium: 85 mg  Carbohydrates: 24 g  Dietary Fiber: 2 g  Total Sugars: 10 g  Protein: 8 g