From the Kitchen: Maple Pecan Granola Bars (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar Free)

In the last month, my family and I have finally made the leap into the world of gluten-free living. We feel great (well barring the fact that we’ve been sick the last couple weeks), but generally we have more energy, sleep better, and have betteer concentration. One of the drawbacks has been, however, that my husband can’t stop losing weight. I know, doesn’t sound like a very bad problem to have. Since I’m the one that got us into this mess, I decided I should try and find a way to make some calorie/energy dense snacks that would be easy to carry and easy to eat (something that tastes decent considering we don’t eat gluten or refined sugar). Inspired by these butter pecan granola chips, I decided to make some maple pecan granola bars. I could find recipes for bars and recipes for maple-pecan granola but none for maple pecan granola bars! And so I  fused a few recipes together, and this is what I came up with.

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups quick oats (gluten-free)

2/3 cup oat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups pecans (dry roasted)

1 cup raisins

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup maple syrup

3 Tablespoons coconut oil (melted)

Directions: First, start by dry roasting your pecans on a skillet. While those are roasting (and while you’re stirring them periodically), combine the dry ingredients and mix. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut oil, then add to the dry ingredients. Finally, take your now roasted pecans and either throw them in a food processor for a few minutes or just chop them (if you prefer chunky) with a knife, and add pecans and raisins to the mixture.



Preheat your oven to 350 and, line a 8×8 with parchment paper (for thicker granola bars. For thinner, crispier granola you could try something bigger.) Press your batter firmly into your prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes then cut with a serrated knife once completely cool. Store in an air-tight container.

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From the Craft Room: DIY Natural Glue

I recently finished The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. One of my favorite things about her book is the many, many tutorials from sewing projects to making natural glue. Yesterday, Auden and I experimented with her natural glue recipe. Since Auden still enjoys exploring the world via her mouth, this is a great way to let her explore glue without worrying overly much about the repercussions.

Ingredients 

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Directions: Place the sugar and flour in a saucepan, and slowly add cold water until it forms into a paste. Stir over heat until glue thickens. At this point add in the white vinegar. The glue will keep for a few weeks in the fridge. Let the glue warm to room temp prior to using it.

*I didn’t have white sugar in my pantry and so I substituted with brown sugar which also worked great!

From the Library: Wheat Belly


I just finished reading Wheat Belly. I inhaled this book like you’d inhale a good old Einstein’s bagel with cream cheese. I read it in three days. Perhaps it’s the fact that I put this book on hold three months ago and had to wait for 22 other people to read it before I got a hold of it, or perhaps it’s because it’s interesting and funny and I’m a bit of a health junky these days. In many ways I hate that I love this book, in the same way that I hate how much better I feel when I don’t eat wheat. I love  pizza and rolls and scones and cookies. So I hate loving this book, but I love it nonetheless.

William Davis isn’t just some guy with an interesting new health idea, he is a preventative cardiologist. In his book Wheat Belly, William Davis does a compelling job of looking more closely at the history, genetic makeup and physical ramifications of eating wheat. One of the main ideas of his book is that the wheat we are eating today is not the wheat our great-grandmas were baking with. The wheat we are eating has been significantly altered by human engineering (the crossbreeding and hybridization of wheat). We altered wheat with the desire to increase yield and efficiency while decreasing harvesting time. The intentions for this project where noble and good, this push for new, “stronger” wheat came out of a desire to help solve world hunger issues. But while the intentions where good, Davis puts forth a good argument that the ramifications have been devestating.

I enjoyed the straightforward structure of Wheat Belly. The book is divided into three parts, in the first part he provides a helpful sociological and historical framework for understanding wheat and the deconstruction of wheat, as he explains the shift from the wheat our ancestors ate to the current “dwarf” wheat that graces our tables. In the second portion of the book, he does a thorough overview of how wheat affects our bodies from head to toe (from affecting our cholersteral, to diabetes, to skin problems to aging, to how it affects our brains!). It gets a little thick in the middle, and people could probably skip around chapters to read about the health concerns that are most pertinent to them. The third part reads as a sort of how-to as he discusses how to live gluten free, and he provides lots of great receipes and food ideas. This book is a great collaboration of theory, medical research, and how tos.

He makes a compelling argument that this is not just a concern for those who suffer from gluten intolerance and sensitivity but that this is something that should be on everyone’s radar. I’ll admit, I’ve totally bought into his argument, and so I should offer a disclaimer: I am incredibly gullible. I hold a reasonable amount of skepticism when reading new research (asking questions such as who funded the research, how large was the sample size, was it a double-blind study, etc.), but when it comes down to it, if you throw enough compelling rat studies in front of me, I’m hooked. It’s a hard life being this gullible. If I’m equally compelled by The China Study as by Wheat Belly, then it can make eating pretty tricky (currently I’m experiementing with a vegan, paleo diet…I know sounds like it should be an oxymoron). One thing that I liked about his theory is that it is aligned with some other nutrion/health ideas that I have found compelling in the last year. A year ago I read “Is Sugar Toxic” by Gary Taubes. In this article he talks about the damage sugar does as it is high in the GI (Glycimix Index) scale and therefore causes our bodies to produce high amounts of insulin after we eat it. Davis’s argument is pretty much in the same vein, since wheat (white, wholewheat, all wheat) is actually higher on the GI scale than table sugar. So the fact that his argument fits in nicely with health arguments already out there makes it more compelling for me. Now I just have to figure out how in the world to avoid both wheat and animal products!

Fall Equinox Party with Two-Year Olds

This past week, Auden and I threw a Fall Equinox party for my two sisters and their two daughters. I am very lucky in that my two sisters and two nieces all live here in Oregon with me. Even though we all live within an hour of each other, we’ve had fairly busy lives the last few years and haven’t gathered just as sisters and nieces very often. And so I wanted to create a special space where we could gather and be with one another. I also wanted to do something with Auden to note the changing of seasons. As a child, I remember how magical each season felt. One of my biggest hopes for Auden’s childhood is that it is a childhood filled with magic and wonder. The magic of leaves that change colors, the wonder of the first snowfall, and of the blooming flowers that grace our presence in spring. I want her to experience the magic of imaginative play and of what it feels like to create something beautiful. When I think about what it will look like for me to facilitate this kind of childhood one of the things that stands out to me most is the desire to take time and space to note and celebrate the coming and going of seasons. Throwing a Fall Equinox party was fun both in the end result of the party itself, but also in being able to plan and prepare for it with Auden.

Menu:  To keep things simple and calm I did some baking ahead of time and froze the dough. When I’m in a rush I often have a harder time letting Auden bake with me, and so by preparing the molasses cookies and pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins ahead of time I was able to let her be a part of the process and allowed it to be a more relaxing time. We had a simple fall lunch of soup and biscuits, and I had caramel cider and pumpkin-spice lattes in my crockpots, along with some coconut whip cream that totally flopped!

Activities: I think it’s easy to want to fill our time with lots and lots and over-stimulate our little children. I wanted to keep things sweet and simple (I also personally do much better with less chaos). We had two activities we did with the kids. The week prior to the party I went to the library and checked out a couple of fall books, which we sat and read together. I highly recommend Leaf Man as far as fall books go. Next we did a fall scavenger hunt. Junie and Auden are two, and Eden is a year and a half behind them, so we weren’t going to be doing much with clues for this hunt. I put together a scavenger hunt with three clues (seemed to be the perfect length for them). Each clue was simply a large picture that I had printed. The first clue was a picture of Auden’s stove, and so they scattered off to Auden’s kitchen where they found the second clue which led outside to the garden where they found their last clue leading them to the hammock where I’d placed fall bags for each of the girls. I wanted the fall bags to be filled with things to help get them excited for fall. So inside I placed fall stationery, pumpkin-spice playdough,and a scarf and handwarmers that I had knit/crocheted for them.

By keeping things calm and simple it allowed me to be present with my sisters and nieces, and allowed all of us more space to be present with one another. It was a good reminder to me that you don’t need a whole lot to allow a child’s innate excitement and imagination to come out. A couple fall books, a warm cup of cider, and a 5-minute scavenger hunt did the trick for us. I’m looking forward to the next seasonal party Auden and I will host together.

From the Kitchen: Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Muffins (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

I’ve been going a bit pumpkin crazy these days. Making spiced pumpkin lattes in my crockpot, pumpkin playdough and my current pumpkin obsession: these chocolate-chip pumpkin muffins I’ve been eating all week. I was inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie’s single serving chocolate-chip pumpkin muffin (I enjoyed many of these last fall). But since then I’ve gone gluten-free and wanted to find a gluten-free version that could be just as good. I really like the addition of sorghum flour in this recipe as it adds a nice lightness.

Ingredients 

2/3 cup sorghum flour

1  1/3 cup brown rice flour

2  1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 T canned pumpkin

2  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 2 T organic sugar (such as sucrant or rapadura)

1 cup almond milk

1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat over to 330, combine all ingredients and mix well. Spoon into muffin/cupcake baking cups (or just spray muffin pan with pam). Bake for 20 minutes.

*Sometimes when cooking with sorghum, I find it can be quite dry. If it’s still dry add in more almond milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

From the Craft Room: DIY Pumpkin Spice Playdough Mason Jars

 

This last week Auden and I threw an Equinox party for my two sisters and two nieces. As part of it, I put together some “Fall Bags” for each of them. These pumpkin spice play-dough mason jars were one of the main fall components of each bag. I loved making these as they made my hands house smell amazing.

These were quite straight forward to put together.

1) Make the pumpkin spice playdough. I found this great recipe for the playdough. The only additions I made were to add orange food coloring and a little bit of allspice.

2) While the playdough is chilling out in the fridge, make the labels. Last year on pinterest I found these great mason jar labels. Print them on a thick card stock, cut out and modge podge it onto the lid (both front and back of label).

3) Tie a fun a fall cookie cutter onto the jar with some twine or ribbon or yarn.

 

*This is also a fun fall gift/craft to put together as you can do 3/5ths of it with your two-year old if you so desire. Auden was able to help make the playdough (except for the stove potion). And the modge podging I was able to do during her nap.

 

 

From the Craft Room: Knitting 101

A few weeks ago my mom took Auden for an impromptu baking date. One of the many benefits of living 5 minutes from my parents is having things like impromptu  baking dates happen. When you spend so much of your waking hours in charge of another being’s safety, well-being, and happiness, making sure they have decently nutritious food in their stomach, dry diapers, and aren’t eating inappropriate amounts of play-dough, the open space when they are gone can be deafening. When I have “free space,” I feel this overwhelming desire to A) do something with this time that I will deeply enjoy and that is B) empoweringly productive. Not sure this is necessarily a healthy response to “free time,” but that’s how I feel when I’m gifted with a few precious hours to myself. I’ve been crocheting for a few years but have had knitters’ jealousy for most of that time. So with a few extra hours on my hand I decided I’d finally sit down with needles, yarn, and the internet and learn to knit. I watched many videos, some helpful, some more confusing them helpful, and I’ve put together my list of favorite videos for each step of the process. For my first projects I’m making scarves, lots and lots of little scarves for my daughter and two nieces. Hopefully soon I’ll upgrade to the pearl stitch so I can start making cowls, handwarmers, and leggings. But for now, scarves. I’m really enjoying knitting, for whatever reason I find the movement of knitting to be more relaxing than crocheting.

4 Videos to get you Knitting:

1) Learn to cast on with this video

2) Learn how to knit your first row with this video (for some reason this was the hardest part for me to get the hang of, it took a few tries). This video isn’t the best quality but she gives a lot of helpful bits of information in her tutorial).

3) Learn how to knit the knit stitch 

4) And finally how to cast off  (I actually learned how to knit back in college but never learned this important step, and so I had a never-ending scarf that I just kept working on. Casting off is an important step apparently).

I’m looking forward to my first official fall as a knitter! I hope these videos help get you knitting this fall too.

 


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