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.

 


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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.

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Lemon Raspberry Smoothie

When I think of smoothies, I don’t often consider lemon as a particularly tempting flavor. Lemon in cocktails, muffins, or chicken recipes? Yes, all the way. But lemon in a smoothie? Sounds a little odd. I would think the tangy taste would be a bit too overpowering for a snack as tame as a smoothie–or that putting lemon juice in with dairy would produce something curdled.

Then again, lemon yogurt was always my favorite growing up, and I think we can all agree that lemon sweets are some of the best around. (P.S. I just counted, and just on this blog I have 13 recipes with lemon as their primary flavor.)

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the flavor of lemon–especially when paired with raspberry–in this easy smoothie turned out refreshing and delicious. The sunshiney tartness mixed with that pretty rosy color just stole my heart. And my mouth.

Plus, a lemon raspberry smoothie gave me an excuse to use the candied lemon slices I bought from Trader Joe’s, which I didn’t actually need, but were so cute and appealing I couldn’t resist. (Like so many other things at Trader Joe’s.) Now that the package is open, I guess I’ll have to go and make those other 13 lemon recipes and garnish the heck out of ’em.

Looking for more lemony goodness this winter season? Try some of my other recipes!

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

Lighter Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade


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Lemon Raspberry Smoothie
This lemon raspberry smoothie with the prettiest pink color makes a refreshing, tangy snack.
Instructions
  1. Place raspberries, yogurt, honey, and among milk in a blender. Zest lemon directly into the blender, then juice the 1/2 lemon directly in as well, straining for seeds. Blend well and top with whipped cream, if desired.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food original recipe.

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Apple Cinnamon Energy Bites

Energy bites are one of those trendy foods that seem to be popping up everywhere. These golf ball-sized snacks with vaguely nutritious connotations have appeared at bakeries near my house, and my husband and I saw several varieties on display at a cafe on our vacation in England a couple weeks ago. As a bit of a food traditionalist, I tend to shy away from anything that strikes me as super hip (see also: kombucha, golden milk lattes, anything with matcha). So until recently, I definitely had not jumped on the energy bites bandwagon.

Then again, I never realized how ridiculously easy they are to make, or that they don’t even require turning on the oven–two factors that pretty much seal the deal for a snack-slash-breakfast item to add to my repertoire.

This particular Apple Cinnamon Energy Bites recipe was inspired by a mailer I received from my grocery store. Anyone else feel like grocery stores are seriously stepping up their marketing game these days? We’ve long since left the territory of mere boring newsprint circulars. My local store now sends me books of custom-curated coupons that include glossy, colorful sheets of recipes. Though I don’t generally pay much attention to the recipes in these mailers (I tend to gravitate immediately to the 50 cents off of cream cheese, thank you) this one caught my eye. Something about the small size and roundness of these bites made them seem so delightfully poppable, like donut holes, but healthier. Inspired, I even went out and bought flax seed meal just so I could try these. (Ironically, however, I went to a different store than the one that sent me the recipe. Ha.)

Once mixed and molded–with some ingredient adjustments based on my preferences–these energy bites turned out remarkably tasty with a texture I could eat all day–smooth and chewy for the most part, but with snappy crunches of chopped pecan. Everyone in my family was a bit surprised by how they were a bit sticky to handle, but that didn’t stop us from finishing these off in 24 hours. I’ll definitely be making them again for a nutrient-packed after-school snack for my kids (and myself). And maybe from now on I’ll keep my eyes open for more successful recipes on grocery store mailers.

Where do you get new recipes from? Tell me in the comments!


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Apple Cinnamon Energy Bites
A tasty mix of chewy and crunchy gives these apple cinnamon bites their appealing texture. And did I mention they're no-bake?
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients from oats through cinnamon. Using a box grater, grate green apple (complete with peel) directly into the bowl and mix.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Using your hands, form mixture into 1.5-inch balls. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe, inspired by a Fry's Foods mailer.

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Naan-chos with Gazpacho Salsa

In a perfect world, every culture would have its own version of nachos. I can see it now: German nachos with a crispy potato base and sausage crumbles on top, Indian nachos with lentil crackers and chicken tikka masala… the list goes on. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands, nacho-wise.

Since I’m such a fan of the Mediterranean diet, and that region doesn’t exactly have its own native nachos, I’ve been meaning to make something like these “naanchos” for ages, especially after coming across Rachael Ray’s version years ago. I’m so glad I did! These made the perfect light lunch for my day off yesterday.

With a naan flatbread base, hummus swirl, and gazpacho-flavored salsa, this twist on the usual nachos takes your tastebuds on a tour around the Mediterranean. The gazpacho salsa on top (a riff on my regular gazpacho), is a refreshing pico de gallo-style dip, with manly chunks of red pepper, tomato, and cucumber. Put together with chewy flatbread, cool hummus, and salty feta, I could also see this combo serving as a unique appetizer for entertaining or a nutrient-packed afternoon snack.

Like their namesake, these naancho nachos might just make you go…

 


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Naan-chos with Gazpacho Salsa
Nachos with a healthy Mediterranean twist!
Instructions
  1. Make the gazpacho salsa: Place garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Process for a few seconds until garlic is minced. Add the chunks of cucumber, tomatoes, red pepper, and red onion and process another few seconds until the mixture reaches a pico de gallo consistency.
  2. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Stir in olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Toast the naan in a toaster/toaster oven. Spread with a layer of hummus, then slice into wedges.
  4. Place wedges on a serving dish. Top with gazpacho salsa and sprinkle with crumbled feta. Serve immediately, and store any extra salsa tightly covered in the fridge.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Cranberry Salsa

How often do you eat cranberries in their fresh, raw form? It seems to go without saying that sweetened dried cranberries have pretty well monopolized the Cranberry Market in recent years, edging out their plump, juicy originators by a long shot.  I’d wager few of us ever go around eating raw cranberries as our go-to fruit of choice. As a matter of fact, when my six-year-old daughter saw them in our fruit crisper the other day and asked to try one, I told her to do so at her own risk. Raw cranberries are so stinking tart, they’re almost inedible on their own.

Not surprisingly, it took about two seconds before she made a horrible face and spit it into the trash.

That’s why this Cranberry Salsa–which I had the fresh cranberries in the fridge for–is so special. It features raw cranberries combined with apple, jalapeño, red onion, and a couple of other fresh ingredients for an unexpected, interesting appetizer that’s sure to be a hit at holiday parties. (It was at mine last night! The bowl I served this in was practically licked clean.)

Being a nutritionist, I’m a bit self-conscious about the food I serve when I entertain. Maybe no one is thinking about it but me, but I feel like my title obligates me to make at least some fairly healthy options for my guests. Plus, the nutritionist in me likes to offer allergy-friendly options for friends and family in the “something-free” club. This salsa fit the bill for both, since it’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free–basically everything-free, since it’s made entirely with fresh fruits, sugar, and salt. Heck, it’s even RAW, if you’re into that, too.

Oh, and it’s easy. And make-ahead. And a balanced blend of sweetness and spice. And seasonal.

Can you tell I’m sold? Give this one a try for any upcoming Christmas parties and tell me how it goes!

 


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Cranberry Salsa
This Cranberry Salsa is a festive, healthy, allergy-friendly holiday appetizer.
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, process the sugar until very fine (to create superfine sugar). Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Place cranberries, apple, red onion, and jalapeño in the food processor and process until the mixture reaches a finely chopped pico de gallo-type consistency. Add to the bowl with the sugar and stir to combine.
  3. Add orange zest and juice, lime juice, and salt and stir to combine. Cover and chill 2-24 hours. Stir in cilantro just before serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Home is Where the Boat Is, who adapted it from Southern Living.

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