Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars


What would you do if you had a few extra hours to yourself per week?

Someone asked me this recently, and I didn’t have to think very hard before answering: “I’d read more, watch my favorite ’90s movies, probably go shopping for some professional clothes for an upcoming conference, and bake. Definitely bake.”

This weekend, thanks to a much-needed housecleaning service mid-week, I found myself with a bit of extra time on my hands. And, true to my prediction of what I’d do in this situation, I decided I really wanted to bake. But I didn’t want to simply follow a recipe like I normally would.

For me, it’s the creative process that makes cooking (and especially baking) not just fun, but actually therapeutic. Still, because I often have a reason my finished product needs to turn out nice-looking or at least reasonably presentable, I’m usually a recipe-followin’ gal. The trial-and-error nature of free-form baking just isn’t worth the risk if I’m preparing dessert for company or bread for family breakfast. Give me a list of steps someone else has promised will lead to success and I’ll follow like a trusting puppy dog.

Sometimes, though, I get the chance to create my own recipe just for the joy of it. Art for art’s sake, let’s say. My canvas? Today, it was a mixing bowl, a baking pan, and a blend of go-to ingredients. The end result? Granola bars! To me, these DIY noshables are a great option for experimentation. They’re low-risk (’cause, hey, they’re just a snack) and generally forgiving, with their wide-open hodgepodge of various ingredients.

Making these Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars, I had a great time tinkering with the ratios of dry ingredients, binders, and mix-ins–and I’m happy to say they came out just right! These start with a flax egg to make them vegan (just kidding, it’s because I didn’t have any eggs). Then, wholesome additions like oats, whole wheat flour, and honey make their way into the mix, plus sweet treats chocolate chips and coconut. After a 30-minute stint in the oven, these bars emerge chewy and ready for snacking action. Our whole family loved them.

If you’re new to making your own recipes, I say start with granola bars. Or, if you’d like a recipe, start with this one! Tried and tested by yours truly, I can assure you these bars make a delicious homemade alternative to packaged snacks.

 


Print Recipe
Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars
Chewy, chocolatey, and coconut-y, these homemade granola bars are a yummy alternative to the packaged variety.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
bars
Instructions
  1. Prepare the flax egg: In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. flax seed meal and 3 Tbsp. water. Place in the refrigerator to firm up for about 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: oats, flour, coconut, chocolate chips, and salt. Mix in coconut extract, vanilla, honey, almond milk, vegetable oil, and flax egg. Spread in prepared pan, pressing down firmly to smooth.
  4. Bake about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then slice into 16 bars. Store covered at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter To Food Original Recipe.

Share this Recipe

Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins

Oh, breakfast, I love you. How can anyone not eat breakfast everyday? I know there are those who say they feel nauseous in the mornings, or they’re just not hungry first thing, but breakfast is MY JAM. When my kids were really little, eating an entire breakfast for myself with no interruptions was something I’d fantasize about. Sitting there with my coffee steaming, a buttery muffin or crunchy bowl of cereal in front of me (and only me) sounded like pure bliss–the perfect start to the day.

Now, when I have a great breakfast to look forward to, it literally extends its joy to the night before. Last night, knowing I had these Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins to wake up to was enough to curb my late-night sweets cravings and make me wait until morning to eat. That’s right, I said NO to the COSTCO CHEESECAKE in my fridge for these things.

See, I’ve been kind of obsessed with flax seed lately. (And planning a post all about it and how to use it–so for now I’ll restrain myself for the moment from launching into accolades about its many benefits.) Suffice it to say, a switch has flipped in my brain and I am in full-on Flax Seed Mode. Energy balls, smoothies, and, of course, muffins make excellent vehicles for this mega-healthy–and, I think, mega-tasty–ingredient.

In light of recent evidence that more dietary fiber reduces the risk of numerous chronic diseases, I’m digging flax seed’s enormous fiber content. A single tablespoon of the stuff contains about 3 grams of fiber. Plus, flax seeds contain plenty of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. So even if they’re not a familiar ingredient for you, why not try something new?

These Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins are springy with flax seed, chewy with oats, and bursting with luscious blueberries. Maybe you can see why the thought of them sustained me when Costco cheesecake was calling.

Oh, and did I mention that each muffin has only 125 calories?

Oh. YEAH.

So whaddaya say? Gonna try flax seeds in your muffins? (And if you put them in your muffins, I have a feeling you’ll want to put them in everything.)

 


Print Recipe
Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins
Ready for something a little different? These blueberry muffins use a combination of ground flax seed and oats to achieve their unique texture--and blueberries for juicy pops of flavor. Delish!
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all wet ingredients: egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, yogurt, oil, and almond milk.
  3. To the same bowl, add dry ingredients: flax seed meal, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Divide mixture among 12 muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes or until browned on top. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Running With Spoons.

Share this Recipe

Chocolate Mint Layer Cake

Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m a cake-aholic.

And I am also a nutritionist.

Do we have a problem here? Not necessarily. I mean, while I absolutely love cake, I don’t eat it every day, I maintain a healthy weight, and my diet is generally (I’d like to think) pretty healthy. In fact, I’m a big fan of the 80/20 principle when it comes to eating: stay on course nutritionally about 80% of the time, do what you like–within reason–the other 20% or so. (I even wrote an article about it here.) So do I feel bad posting a totally indulgent, party-perfect Chocolate Mint Layer Cake on the blog today?

No, I actually don’t. Especially because today is my birthday.

This cake isn’t actually for my birthday (mine will be a Neapolitan Strawberry-Vanilla-Chocolate sugar bomb I intend to make this afternoon), but rather, for my mom’s a few weeks ago. My mom and I have a little arrangement where, because I love making cakes and we both love eating them, I get to make her a cake of my choosing every year. Usually with chocolate.

This year mint chocolate was calling to me, and this recipe, modified from Lindsay over at Life, Love, and Sugar was exactly what I was looking for–except that with our family size, I didn’t actually need THREE layers. (Though I may have wanted them.) The cake came out fluffy and moist and kept well in the fridge, where it shockingly actually lasted a week. And though, with mint frosting, it can be tough to strike the right non-toothpaste-y, yet not-too-mild note, this stuff does so beautifully.

I’m no cake decorating expert–I’ve taken one single class at my local Michael’s with an instructor who was oddly enthusiastic about using Snickers to garnish cakes–but I have to say, I think this, with its pretty green color and tempting Andes mint pieces, turned out looking particularly appealing. And tasted amazing. What more does a birthday cake need?

P.S. I’m not including nutrition info for this one. It’s my birthday and I DON’T WANNA KNOW!



Print Recipe
Chocolate Mint Layer Cake
Minty, chocolatey, and totally indulgent, this cake makes the perfect choice for a birthday or other special occasion!
Course Dessert
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
slices
Course Dessert
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
slices
Instructions
Make the chocolate cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease two 9-inch cake pans well. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through salt). Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add egg, egg white, milk, and vegetable oil. Mix to combine. Add vanilla and boiling water and mix until well incorporated.
  2. Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Make the mint frosting:
  1. While the cakes cool, mix softened butter, shortening, and powdered sugar until smooth. Add water or milk, vanilla, and peppermint extract and mix again. Slowly add food coloring to your liking (I'd say go with about 2/3 green and 1/3 yellow) and mix until color is even.
  2. Place one layer of the cake on a platter and frost the top. Top with second layer of cake and frost the entire cake, reserving about 1 1/2 c. for extra frosting garnishes.
  3. To get the look pictured, use a cake decorating tip like Wilton 1M to pipe swirls around the outer edge of the cake's surface. Insert whole Andes mints into the swirls, press them into the base of the cake, or garnish however you like!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Life, Love, and Sugar.

Share this Recipe

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins

I’ll be honest and say I had pretty low expectations when I decided to make sweet potato muffins. In terms of baking, sweet potatoes have always seemed to me like pumpkin’s stringy-haired, less charming step-sister. I have no evidence to back up this notion. Maybe it’s just that in this country, in all the months that end in -ber, pumpkin gets all the glory in baked goods, while sweet potatoes dutifully play side dish. Probably there’s a Pumpkin Baking Lobby at work beneath this phenomenon.

At any rate, sometimes it’s good to get out of a rut, even if it’s just a pumpkin baking rut. So when I realized I had a heaping helping of leftover cooked sweet potatoes nobody in my family was chomping at the bit to consume, I went hunting for a recipe to repurpose them as breakfast. Am I glad I did? Well, I’ll just say, Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins, that…

These muffins come out with flavor as bright as their color. A hint of orange zest in the recipe adds just the right counterpoint to the heartier tubers’ taste. And despite the heft of sweet potatoes’ texture, these are light, moist, and even–dare I say–fluffy? With a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top, I’m kind of sad I only made about a dozen.

So there you have it. I’m a sweet potato baking convert. Are you? Next time you have extra cooked sweet potatoes leftover, remember to try out this recipe, and I think you will be in no time!

 


Print Recipe
Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins
These Cinnamon Sweet Potato Muffins will make you a sweet potato baking convert! They're surprisingly light, not too sweet, and only 150 calories each.
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20-25 minutes
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 14 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  3. In a small bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder.
  4. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, orange extract or zest, oil, and milk. Add the sweet potatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Williams Sonoma.

Share this Recipe

Pumpkin Butter Muffins

Fall may not technically start until tomorrow, but I’m calling it. My fall decorations are going up and I am ready to go Full Throttle Pumpkin. Are you?

I must say, however, that this year I am learning from previous pumpkin mistakes. Last fall, I made numerous batches of pumpkin butter and sold it to friends, family, and my husband’s co-workers. Major pumpkin love! When I circled back to see if anyone wanted to purchase a second round, though, the response was almost always the same: “We love it, but we haven’t used it up yet.”

That’s where these Pumpkin Butter Muffins come in. As far as I know, pumpkin butter is a beloved seasonal treat, but most people don’t eat enough toast to use up a whole jar of it as a spread. That means it’s time to get a little creative, because the last thing you want is for this pumpkin-y deliciousness to go to waste.

Swirling creamy pumpkin butter into tender muffins is a great way to use that extra bit of it hanging around in your fridge–and makes for a colorful breakfast that screams autumnal goodness. And hey, who’s to stop you from slathering more pumpkin butter on top of these after they come out of the oven? Not I!

 


Print Recipe
Pumpkin Butter Muffins
Who's ready for fall? These pumpkin butter muffins are a great way to use everyone's favorite seasonal spread!
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In a smaller bowl or large measuring cup, combine egg, milk, and vegetable oil. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups. Dollop a bit of pumpkin butter into each and swirl into batter using a knife or toothpick.
  5. Bake 20 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of muffins comes out clean. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Share this Recipe