Monday, February 8, 2016

Blueberry and Quinoa Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Bars

Okay, it's February now ... I can't blame Christmas anymore for falling behind on things that I want to do or get done. One of my big changes last year was deciding to take a stand and stop buying granola bars. That simple little task was able to save me a lot of money with 5 people eating a granola bar everyday. However, as the holidays rolled around that task got pushed on the back burner. I still wasn't buying them, so we just didn't have them. Then, I had to spend more time pulling together other snacks for the fam ... I should've just make a batch!

Blueberry and Quinoa Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Bars

Throughout January, things kept coming up that I would say to myself, 'I'll make granola bars tomorrow.' Well two weeks ago, I finally pulled the trigger. I was making a quinoa meal for dinner and I decided to just make extra quinoa, toss in some other goodies and throw it in the oven! As I began throwing things in, I realized the list was a little long, a lot longer than most of the granola bars that I make. However, they turned out so good that it was all worth it and I love having it all go in one bowl. Even with all the ingredients, it's very fast to put together. The mixture tastes like a warm oatmeal mixture so I make them in the morning and steal a little of the batter for a quick breakfast for myself!

For the last two weeks I have make three different batches of these using different dried fruit and nuts. It's crazy that one little recipe can make you feel like you're getting life back together. That may sound crazy, but I just want to say ... 'Thank you, New Granola Breakfast Bar.'

Blueberry and Quinoa Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Bars

Blueberry and Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Bars

Makes 10-12

1/2 c quinoa
1 c water

3/4 c oats
1/2 c walnuts, chopped (or other nut)
1/2 c dried blueberries (or other dried fruit)
1/3 c coconut milk, or other milk alternative
1/3 c maple syrup
1/2 c applesauce
1/3 c mashed banana
1/4 chia seeds
2 T coconut oil
1 1/2 T cinnamon
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t salt

Preheat oven for 375º.

Bring water and quinoa to boil in a pot. Once it is boiling, lower heat all the way and cover. Once water is soaked up, the quinoa is done. It should be nice and fluffy.

As the quinoa is cooking, put all ingredients in a bowl. Once the quinoa is done, add it to the mixture and stir it until everything is mixed together. Have a few bites of the delicious mixture!

Blueberry and Quinoa Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Bars

Spray a 8x8 pan and pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes for until the bars start to firm. Let them cool for a bit before cutting.

Blueberry and Quinoa Cinnamon Toast Breakfast Bars

Monday, January 25, 2016

25 Must-Know Uses for Lemons

The one ingredient that I couldn't live without would arguably be lemons! They seriously do a little bit of everything ... from home, to garden, to body (both inside and out!). Nothing can substitute the wonders that a lemon can hold.

Those cute little plastic lemons do contain lemon juice, but it's sure doesn't taste like a lemon! The juice is mixed with preservatives which makes it have a very harsh off flavor. Nothing like the amazing fresh lemon scent! Those little preservatives are called sulfer dioxide. Why should we care? Sulfer dioxide is a chemical used as a bleaching agent to treat chlorinated waste water. When exposed to sulfates, it is hard to take full, deep breaths because it inhibits your lungs from over-inflating. This can also cause asthma-like symptoms. Sulfer dioxide is harmful to animal and plant life; it is the precursor to acid rain which can kill fish and stimulate the overgrowth of algae.

You still want more? How long has that bottle been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long in that little yellow bottle. sucking in all the plastic and BPA flavor. I know people love the convenience of that little squeeze bottle, but buying a bag of lemons is not hard. That little bottle can no way substitute the vitamins and minerals that the amazing lemon will give you.

Real Lemon Juice = Real Benefits and Real Results!

Home and Kitchen

1. Freshen Up. Put a little lemon juice on your lightbulbs. When the light bulbs heat up, the fresh lemony scent will fill the air. Make sure the lightbulbs are cool before you add it!

2. Clean-Up!

  • Limescale Build-up: Lemons are great and removing limescale build-up from sinks and faucets. Cut a lemon in half and rub it around the effected area. Let it sit for a couple minutes before rinsing with cold water and wipe off with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Make your own All-Purpose Cleaner.
  • Clean the windows: Simply rub a lemon wedge over a mirror or window, wipe with a dampened cloth then buff with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Clean the floors: Tile, hardwood, pergo, laminate. Lemon can help clean them all! Mix 1/2 c vinegar to a bucket of warm pater. Add 10 drops of lemon oil (essential oil) and start cleaning as usual. I also like adding a little tea trea oil to this mixture for extra antibacterial properties.
  • Keep your fridge smelling fresh. Put some lemon juice on a cotton ball and place it in your refrigerator for a few hours to help knock out those icky odors.
  • Freshen up your cutting board. In almost every meal, I'm cutting onions and garlic, delicious, but the odors can really get into the pours of a cutting board. Rub a slice of lemon around on your cutting board to help release those juices that have gotten in the grains.
  • Freshen up the disposal. Don't always compost your lemon rind. Once a week, I'll drop my down the disposal. Them lemon juice helps get out the odors that can linger and get stuck in your disposal.
  • Clean the dishwasher. Stab half a lemon and stab it onto the prongs inside your dishwasher. The acid with help degrease your dishwasher while leaving it lemony fresh.
  • Clean the oven. Get those tough to remove stains and help degrease the oven. I use 2 Tbs baking soda mixed with 1 cup of water and juice from one lemon and scrub away. Make sure your oven is completely cook before starting. (This mixture works great on the stovetop too).

3. Decorate! I will buy a bag of lemons at a time. They are used as the centerpiece to my table as I use them.

25 Must-Know Uses for Lemons


1. Flush out toxins. I still do love a glass of tea in the morning, but lately I have been sticking with warm lemon water. It helps detox by flushing out the toxins as well as helps aid in digestion.

2. Boost immunity. I love keeping lemons part of my daily diet. Lemons are a great source of vitamin C and the pectin fibre in lemons help stimulate the production of antibodies.

3. Help the cough and sore throat. Lemons help expel mucous and soothe your throat. I love putting lemons in my daily tea but if you want to take it one step further, Mix 1/4 lemon juice, 3/4 c raw honey and 6 Tbs of olive oil. Heat the mixture up so until it is thoroughly mixed but do not boil, it will hurt the honey). Let cool and enjoy 1 tsp every two to three hours.

4. Kick nausea to the curb. Simply smelling a lemon can help relieve your queasy feelings.

5. Dark patches. Under the arms, on the elbows and even age spots. Lemon juice is a natural skin bleacher. Dilute juice in water before applying. Be careful though, it can dry out your skin so make sure to moisturize afterwards or add a little honey or aloe vera to the mixture. *Make sure to try on a test patch before being too liberal with use.

6. Quick freshen-up. Next time your need a quick freshen and don't have any deodorant, use a little lemon wedge and rub it on the pits! It will only last a few hours but it does the trick when you need it to.

7. Natural Sun-Kissed Hair. Remember the days of Sun-In and other natural highlighters for your hair?!? All you need is a little lemon. Mix 5 Tbs with 1 cup of water and wet your hair. Now the best part ... go sit out in the sun until your hair dries. (If you have dark hair, red tones usually come out instead of blonde).

8. Strong and Shiny Nails. To increase shine and strength, soak nails in juice for 10 minutes then, brush them with a small mixture of equal amounts of water, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. This can also help remove yellow and discolored nails.

Outdoor and Garden 

1. Deter Pests and Creepy Crawlers: Most insects do not like the smell of lemon. Either squeeze healthy amounts by your doors and windows to keep them out or leave the cut strips of peel and pulp out. 

2. Fill your compost: Citrus is great for your compost pile. It will help strengthen your soil quality and help regulate the flow of water and oxygen to your plants. 

3. Weed killer: Use liberal amounts in your pathway cracks or patio. You can also use it around your plants, just make sure not to get it on your plants ... you don't want to harm them.

Cooking Tips

1. No more fresh 'brown' foods!: As soon as you cut your apples, potatoes, bananas and more, they start to brown. Simply squeeze a little lemon over them or keep them in lemon water until you are ready to use them.

2. Avocados don't brown right away, but they can turn after awhile. I always rub a little lemon juice on the half of the avocado that I'm not using before putting it in the fridge. Make sure that lemon juice is part of your guacamole recipe too! Keeps it looking fresher longer.

3. Sour it: Add a little lemon to milk or cream when in need of sour milk or sour cream.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Squash and Chocolate Chip Granola Bars or Muffins

The past few seasons, I have canned or froze pumpkins for the winter. I don't know where the time went this year, but it just didn't happen. It's been painful to have to buy pumpkin purée from the store, but I keep telling myself it's really not that bad! However, the one thing my basement is full of is squash. It's January and I still have at least 10 squash to go (and a good variety of them too!). I decided earlier this week that I needed to start making one squash a week and leaving the purée in the fridge for quick access. Lately, I haven't been in the mood for 'squash meals', but if it were already cooked a figured adding a little here and there would be easy.

So far, this week, I have added 1/2 a cup to the kids' mac and cheese (they had no idea), I added a cup to my enchilada mixture and I added a cup to my fruit & nut pancakes instead of bananas. I had a little bit left, so I decided to make a batch of granola bars. It started as kind of a kitchen-sink mixture, little of this ... little of that until the consistency looked about right. Little did I know that we would eat the whole batch in two days!

Since that was the last of my squash purée for the week, today, I decided to put another squash in the oven and make some more bars for the weekend. Working extremely hard to recall my memory of two days ago I put another batch together. I did change a few things ... my first batch I used almond butter and my second I used tahini. I couldn't taste the difference, but I like to get more tahini in my diet because I just love it and it is a great source of protein and the variety is always important! Secondly, I used honey on my first batch and maple syrup on the second, again, I couldn't tell the difference. You could really make this recipe your own by adding in different nut butters, nuts and dried fruit ... have fun with it!

All I know, it it's great to sneak vegetables into everyday food! It might be one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen and when it works out, I'm one happy momma!

Squash Granola Bars or Muffins

Makes 9-12 granola bars or muffins

1 cup squash purée (pumpkin purée works great too)
1 c oats
1 c almond meal
2 eggs
1/2 c tahini or nut butter
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c chocolate chips
1/4 c maple syrup or honey
1 T cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
dash of sea salt

Preheat oven to 375º

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated.

Place mixture into a sprayed 8x8 pan or fill your muffin tin 2/3 way full.

Bake bars for 35-40 minutes. Muffins take about 30 minutes. Wait a couple minutes before cutting.