Breakfast · Snacks

Chunky Bran Muffins

When was the last time you had a bran muffin? Was it good? Most bran muffins I’ve had are either dense and gritty or dense and too sweet. The common denominator? Dense.

These muffins are soft and light. And healthy. Made with whole wheat flour, wheat bran and flax seeds, the muffins stay light and moist thanks to unsweetened applesauce and a mashed banana. A little honey and the addition of raisins (plus the banana) adds sweetness, but not so much that you feel like you’ve crossed the line into full-on dessert. They’re perfect for breakfast or a nice, light snack to tide you over until your next meal.

Chunky Bran Muffin

Based on Konosur. Makes about 11 muffins

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp grounded flax seed

1 egg

1 large banana, mashed

1/4 cup no sugar added, natural applesauce

1/2 cup milk (almond milk)

1/3 cup honey

1 tsp grated orange zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a muffin tin with 11 paper liners.

Whisk the egg in a medium bowl. Mix in the milk, applesauce, orange zest and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the egg mixture. Mix until just combined. Add the mashed banana, honey and raisins. Stir a few times, just to combine.

Spoon into lined muffin tray until 3/4 full. Bake at 400°F for 15 – 20 minutes until a thin knife inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

Snacks

Homemade Larabars

I’m always looking for healthy snacks. I had given up on energy bars because, nutritionally, most of them are no better than candy bars when it comes to added fat and added sugar.

Then I discovered Larabars. Larabars are made from whole foods – mostly dried fruits and nuts. Most bars contain three items, dates being the main ingredient, and none of the bars contain more than nine items. My favorite, cherry pie, is made of dates, almonds and dried cherries. That’s it. And while I love to have one of these bars in my purse and work drawer at all times, they can get a little pricey at $1.25-$1.99 a bar.

So when I came across a few recipes for homemade bars, I had to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. These cherry pie bars came together in a snap. The most laborious task was pitting the dates and even that wasn’t too difficult. A few weeks ago, I made almond milk. There’s quite a bit of almond ‘pulp’ left after straining the mixture. I couldn’t bear to throw it away so I kept it hoping to find some use for it. It worked really well in these bars.

Experiment with the dried fruits and nuts for different flavor combinations. I think dates, apricots and almonds would be delicious. Or dates, walnuts and dried apples. I can’t wait to get to work on the next batch.

Vegan. Gluten free. Soy free. Delicious.

Homemade Larabars/Energy bars (Based on Larabar)

1 cup dried, pitted Medjool dates

1 cup raw almonds, toasted (I used 1 cup of almond pulp from homemade almond milk)

1 cup dried cherries

If using whole almonds: To toast the almonds, place them on a baking sheet and bake at 400°F for ten minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the almonds to a plate to cool.

Place the dates and cherries in a food processor and pulse until a gooey paste forms (Start slowly. The dates are really sticky and may get caught in the blades of the processor. If this happens, stop pulsing, scrape down the sides and continue to pulse ). Transfer the dried fruit into a large bowl.

If using whole almonds: Put the almonds in the processor and pulse until small bits remain. Transfer the almonds to the bowl (or the almond pulp, if using) with the dried fruit. Knead the dried fruit and almonds together until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan, lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, to about 1/2-inch thickness and refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes. Invert the contents onto a cutting board and slice to desired size.

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Salad · Snacks

Roasted sweet potatoes

 

I roasted some sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar) and tossed them with sauteed kale, dried cranberries and pecans for a quick, on-the-go lunch. I walked by the stove as the light was hitting the sweet potatoes and couldn’t resist taking a quick shot.

Snacks

Kale chips

Kale.

Salt.

Pepper.

Olive oil.

Often, the most  simple recipes are the most delicious.

There’s really not much to say about kale chips. They’re delicious. They’re addictive. They’re healthy. Did I say they’re addictive? I dare you not to eat to eat the entire serving.

Oven-baked kale chips

1 bunch of kale, stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces

Olive oil

Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the kale pieces onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil (about 2 teaspoons). Sprinkle with salt. Toss with your hands and spread the kale on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 8-11 minutes, or until crisp.

Snacks

Refrigerator Pickles

I’ve never canned anything. The process of canning kind of scares me. I’m afraid I’ll mess it up and poison myself, my family and my friends. I know it’s irrational, but there you have it. On my ‘to do’ list is learning to can. Someday, I’ll share the rest of that list with you.

An easy alternative to canning? Refrigeration. I was at the market yesterday to get tomatoes (I’m slightly obsessed) and I came across some pickling cucumbers. That was all I needed to see to push me to finally make my own refrigerator pickles.

Last year, I made dilly green beans, which were delicious, so I knew the basics of  ‘quick’ pickling. So I went online to look for recipes and after looking at approximately 294 recipes, I finally just closed the browsers, went to the kitchen and came up with this recipe. The basics are sugar, vinegar and salt. What kind of vinegar you use is really your decision. For the first batch, I used white distilled vinegar, but I think I’ll try cider vinegar for the next batch. Herbs, spices and all the extras are up to you. Really, think about what you like in a pickle and add it.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

3 pickling cucumbers

1 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1-2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, whole and peeled

1 handful of cilantro, stems attached

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

Wash and dry the cucumbers and slice into 1/4 inch slices.

Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let the brine cool for a bit.

Place the sliced cucumbers and remaining ingredients into a glass jar(s). Top with the brine. Cover. Shake and refrigerate.

Refrigerate for a minimum of  6 hours before eating.  They will last about 2 weeks (probably longer if you don’t eat them all in 2 days) in the refrigerator.