Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Banana Pecan Oat Bars

Looking for a healthier treat to take to a meeting or get-together?  These delicious banana oat bars are a great alternative to those sweeter snacks that are made with refined sugar and flour.  You could even grab a bar for a quick breakfast on the go, and they are great with a cup of tea in the afternoon.  They are also wheat and dairy-free.  Enjoy!

Banana Pecan Oat Bars
adapted from Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free by Ricki Heller
Makes 12-16 bars

1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon finely ground flaxseed
1/4 cup coconut or almond milk
1/4 cup avocado oil or melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon natural smooth almond or sunflower butter
2 medium, very ripe bananas
1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup whole oat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment or coat the pan with coconut oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut sugar, maple syrup, flaxseeds, milk, oil, vanilla, and almond butter until sugar is dissolved.

Cut the bananas into chunks and add to the bowl.  Mash the banana chunks with a fork, leaving a few smaller pieces here and there.  Stir in the cranberries and chopped pecans.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, oat flour, baking powder and salt.  Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and stir well to combine.  The mixture will be wet.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is dry and a tester inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.  Freeze any portion which will not be consumed within a day or two.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Purslane - is this super weed growing in your garden?

Purslane is a common weed found in most of our yards and gardens.  I call it a superweed, not because it is unmanageable, but because it is a nutritional powerhouse!

Check out these nutrition facts:

-purslane has more omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of ALA) than any other plant food.  100 grams of fresh purslane contains 350 mg of ALA.  Increasing our intake of omega-3's has been linked to better heart health and decreased systemic inflammation.

-it is a good source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamins C and E, riboflavin, beta carotene, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and calcium.

-purslane is also high in dietary fiber, contains antioxidants and is reported to contain compounds which help with depression.

Purslane growing among the thyme and rosemary.

In my garden, I practice selective weeding.  I'll pull other weeds and leave the purslane to grow.  It is actually beneficial to the surrounding plants as it provides a great edible ground cover which helps retain soil moisture and prevents other weeds from taking over.  It grows low to the ground so it doesn't impede my other plants from getting the sunlight they need - and it's such a cute and happy looking plant!

Purslane is an annual plant that reseeds itself each year.  The seedlings will appear when the soil warms to 76 degrees F.  The plant will grow in just about any soil conditions, even in the cracks of the sidewalk, and the seeds can remain viable in undisturbed soil for more than 30 years.  I will allow some of my purslane to flower and go to seed to ensure that I will have more purslane next year.

I think purslane is delicious.  It has a mildly tart lemony flavor. I eat purslane straight from the garden sometimes, but most of the time I'll add it to a salad along with other greens.  (Only harvest purslane in areas which you know have not been chemically treated.)  The leaves, tender stems and flowers are all edible.  Just pinch off the stems, or pull the entire plant and cut off the roots if you are trying to control the plant.  

I added olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the bowl of purslane in the photo at the top of this post and ate it all!  It can also be added to potato salad, soups, or anywhere you would use spinach or other greens.

In the case of purslane,  I'm happy to ask my kids, "have you eaten your weed today?"

Purslane as ground cover under my tomato plants.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Cookies for a Texas Barbecue

What would a Texas barbecue be without some Texas sheetcake and these great Texas-sized cookies?  I placed silver dragees on the stars to give them some bling and added a few hats and boots to the mix.  These cookies were made for the day-after-the-wedding family picnic a friend had recently for her newlywed daughter and son-in-law.  Congrats and YEE HAW to the newlyweds who will be spending the next chapter of their life in Texas!

PS...take a look at my veggie garden at eat.live.think!

Take a peek at my garden!

I am in love with my garden.  It's miraculous and meditative and rewarding and beautiful.  Just look at the growth that has happened this Spring already!

Our garden on June 4th...

Our garden on June 19th...

And to think, just 4 years ago, the garden was just another bed of grass and pachysandra!  What a huge difference!  (We also put an addition on the house - those doorways don't exist anymore.)

Tomatoes and sunflowers June 4th...

The same bed on June 19th, only two weeks later!  The sunflowers in the middle of my tomato bed were volunteers leftover from our winter bird feeder.  When they are done blooming, I will have to pull them out so the tomatoes can get more sun.  This is a new staking system for me this year.  I'm hoping it will hold up to heavy tomatoes.

Here's the same general space four years ago...

This photo was taken on May 8th.  Kale, spinach, lettuce and chard.

The kale has been the winner!  Here it is on June 7th and still growing, even after picking every few days.  (Let me know if you'd like any kale!)

My herb garden on May 8th...

 My herb garden today... parsley, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, lemon basil, basil, spearmint, peppermint, sage, chives, oregano, a little stevia, and a lot of lavender!

 I planted several things, many of which I've never grown before.  In this bed (photo below) there are peas, eggplant, green beans, carrots, radishes, lettuce, onions, spinach, chard, kale, and a watermelon!

 Like the sunflowers, there were other volunteers in the garden.  I think I pulled out about a thousand tiny tomato plants, and I'm not even exaggerating!  I let a few of them grow.  I think this is a cucumber plant that seeded itself from the compost pile.  I'll have certain identification when it blooms and fruits.  Maybe it will be a surprise!

We also have several flowers in this compact space to make everything beautiful.


Bee balm... the bees and hummingbirds love these...

and lilies are blooming right now.

 We bought two fig trees...new to us this year...

...and still have the old standbys...rhubarb (below) and an ever-growing raspberry patch on the other side of the garage.

Against the railing down below the garden is asparagus, corn, a few tomatoes, rhubarb and lilies and figs.

Is it any wonder that summer is my favorite season?!  Do you have any favorites growing in your garden this year??

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Healthy Colorful Coleslaw

With the arrival of summer and the season of barbecue, I thought I would share my favorite recipe for healthy colorful coleslaw.   Serve alongside burgers or pulled pork.  Happy Summer!

adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking
Makes 8 servings

1/2 cup mayonnaise (homemade mayo made with avocado oil or other healthy oil is ideal - more on that later!)
1 Tablespoon raw honey
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
4 cups shredded green and/or red cabbage
2 tablespoons sweet or red onion, grated (add more or less to taste- I often omit the onions altogether)
2 carrots, grated
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, honey, cider vinegar, and celery seed.

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, onion, and carrot.  Add the dressing, salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Twins! Baby Face Cookies

These are super cute cookies for a baby shower.  The mother-to-be was expecting twin boys and the guests were all couples.  Each couple went home with two cookies packaged in a cellophane bag together and tied with blue ribbon!  So adorable!  

Friday, May 30, 2014

What I'm Reading: May 2014

While I'm not a big reader of novels and fictional writing, I love to read non-fiction books and cookbooks, and I get most of them from my library.

The great thing about my library is that it is part of the Allegheny County Library System (which includes Pittsburgh) and that I can request any book I want and will get an email when the book arrives at my local library.  Rarely is there a book I'm looking for that they don't have.  Reading books from the library saves me a lot of time and money, and it helps save the environment.  If I read a book that I want to own, I'll look for a used copy on Amazon.  If I want to copy just a few recipes, I'll make copies of them at the library when I return the book and I keep them in a notebook.

I haven't yet embraced e-readers - I just like have a book in my hands, turning the pages, and visually seeing how far through the book I have gone.

On to the books.  This assortment pretty much sums up my interests right now.  I am soaking up all I can about natural living and nutrition and reducing exposure to toxins and chemicals.  But I still can't resist a good dessert cookbook!

Clean Gut by Alejandro Junger, MD - There has been a great emphasis these days on gut health and how it relates to numerous diseases, mood, mental focus, digestion and inflammation.  Dr. Junger describes his own health journey and how eating the right foods and avoiding others was instrumental in making himself and his patients healthy again.  Once you get past his existential experiences, the book was pretty good.  Not surprisingly, he advocates an elimination diet - a 21-day restart - and then adding certain foods back into the diet and assessing their effect on your digestion, energy level, and other things.  His recommendations are not far from the Paleo Diet.

If you are interested in reading more about the Paleo way of eating, I recommend wholeheartedly The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf which goes into detail, but in an entertaining way, about the biological processes in our bodies which are affected by certain foods we eat.  (This book changed my life!) Another great read on the subject is Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kesser. (His approach is more lenient about foods you can add back to your diet.  I follow this less strict approach to eating Paleo-style.)  Chris has a great website here.

Home Safe Home by Debra Lynn Dadd - I leafed through this book, but really couldn't get into reading it.  It had ALOT of detailed information about every line of products you can imagine and the chemicals that all these products expose us to.  It would be a good reference book, but not one you would sit down and read cover to cover.  It was written in 2005, so it's possible that there are many new natural products available that aren't listed in the book.  It definitely gives you something to think about though.

Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman - This is a gorgeous book that I definitely would like to own someday.  The photographs are beautiful and the recipes make you want to drop what you are doing to bake them.  This book showcases fall and winter desserts that warm the home and your heart.  Recipes like cast-iron apple cake with maple brown butter and the chocolate pavlova with pomegranate had me hooked!  Although the book is less than a year old, there are used copies on Amazon at half the price of new, and that includes shipping!

Are you reading any good books?  Do you like reading an actual book or a kindle/nook better?


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