Chia, Quinoa & Banana Granola Bars

For as long as I can remember I have needed, yes, needed, an afternoon snack.  And since the second trimester, I’ve needed a morning snack, too.  Rumor has it that breastfeeding requires snacks.  So in attempt to make my life a wee-bit easier, I made some granola bars to store in the freezer.

These bars are loaded with good-for-you-stuff like chia seeds, quinoa and oats.  (p.s. oats are also really good for breastfeeding mamas.)  Bananas along with a little maple syrup and dried fruit (I used golden raisins) add sweetness and you get even more crunch from the chopped almonds and pecans.  Peanut butter (or any nut butter) is the glue that holds all these yummy ingredients together.

The bars come together super fast and are then baked for about 25 minutes.  Let them cool completely before cutting into bars.  I wrapped mine individually so that they’re easy to grab for snacks.


Of course I couldn’t freeze them all without trying one.  Yesterday after my morning sweat sesh, I chowed down on one of the bars and let me tell you, they are delicious.  They’re crunchy yet chewy.  Sweet but not too sweet.  And incredibly filling.

I might need to make a second batch…


Strawberry Coconut Chia Seed Banana Bread

‘Tis the season for ALL the strawberries.  According to a local strawberry farmer, we have about two more weeks in NC of fresh, local strawberries.  Why can’t the strawberry season be longer?  Strawberries are so versatile – sweet, savory, breakfast, or dinner.  You can literally eat them anytime (or all the time).

I whipped up this loaf of bread last week in an effort to have something around the house for Big Guy for breakfast.  The bread is loaded with sweet,  juicy berries as well as bananas instead of more added sugar for sweetness.  Greek yogurt amps up the protein as well as makes the bread incredibly moist.  And chia seeds – they are a powerhouse ingredient and I love the texture they add to the bread.  Finally, coconut oil as well as flaked coconut add a hint of the sweet coconut flavor and add a little crunch to the top.


The house smelled amazing while this baked!  Once cooked, allow the bread to cool for about 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan.  I highly recommend storing this bread in the fridge (something I wish I would have done) so that it will last longer.  I made the mistake of storing at room temperature and I think the strawberries started to spoil.  No bueno – but learn from my mistake.

So whether you enjoy this bread for breakfast or a snack, I promise you’ll love it if you love strawberry season.


Blueberry Breakfast Cookies

Last week I had the privilege to take dinner to a friend that just had a baby.  I absolutely love being able to share my love of cooking with others and am that girl that takes “orders” when it’s my turn to deliver.  This particular mom requested something healthy so I made a quinoa casserole that I knew would feed them for a few meals as well as keep the calories in check while still being delicious.  Since it was a casserole and only one dish, instead of dessert I made her some breakfast/snack cookies.  I honestly had no intention of sharing this recipe but after getting a text message claiming she was going to have to hide them from her toddler, I knew they were worth sharing.  Big Guy also ate these cookies for breakfast last week – he liked to warm them in the microwave and add some cashew butter on top.


The cookies are absolutely full of good-for-you ingredients.  If you don’t have a lot of these ingredients on hand, I recommend heading to Trader Joes.  They have everything on the ingredient list and they’re priced much better than say Harris Teeter or Whole Foods.

In the mix (plus a few other ingredients)…

Coconut Oil – it doesn’t give the cookies a coconut flavor, so don’t be scared!
Coconut Sugar (I actually bought this at Walmart)
Banana – naturally sweetens the cookies
Flaxseed Meal – great source of Omega 3 and fiber
Cinnamon – not only does it taste delicious, it’s helps regulate hunger
Rolled Oats – a whole grain and full of fiber
Chia Seeds – a powerhouse ingredient!
Blueberries – full of good for you vitamins and fiber
Walnuts – sign me up for their antioxidant properties

They taste like a blueberry muffin and I promise you’ll love them!


Double Chocolate Banana Bread Bars

Whenever there are a few brown bananas on the counter I get the urge to bake something.  And last week was no exception.  As I stood there staring at them, I remembered the almond meal I stumbled across in the pantry during a pantry purge and organization session a couple of weeks ago.  And with that, I knew exactly what I was going to make with my browned bananas.

Double Chocolate {paleo} Banana Bread Bars are the perfect afternoon snack.  Or they would be awesome at breakfast with a little something-something added.

I used my Ninja to blend the bananas, eggs and vanilla and then combined the mixture with the dry ingredients: almond flour (I used one cup and left out the coconut flour – something I apparently “purged” during my pantry clean-out), cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  I then chopped up a chocolate bar and folded in half of the chocolate bits into the batter.

The batter is poured into a prepared pan (I used coconut oil spray and parchment paper) and then topped with the remaining chocolate.  My bars took about 25 minutes – but check them after 20.  These bars are rather forgiving – which you can’t say about a lot of baked goods.


Healthy and chocolate DO go together.

These bars have no added sugar and while I will never tell you they taste like a fudge gluten-filled brownie (which is absolutely delicious) I will tell you that it’s the perfect “fix” come 3pm when my lunch has worn off and all I can think about is dinner.

So if you’re scared of brown bananas…I’ll take ’em!

Mayan Sweet Potato and Polenta Bake

I typically need a hug by the end of Monday. And last night I not only got a hug but this dinner was incredibly comforting and satisfying.

Not to mention the flavors are out of this world.  I never imagined putting together refried beans, polenta and sweet potatoes – but boy did they work together in harmony to create a delicious Mayan Sweet Potato and Polenta Bake.

And there’s cheese.  And the most luscious sauce.

Big Guy compared the flavors and textures to a thick stew.  They reminded me a lot of enchiladas.

In case you’re not familiar with using polenta (in the tube) – here’s the brand I used.  

The recipe instructs you to use a 9 x 9 baking dish but I honestly thing a 13 x 9 dish would have worked better.  I was unable to use all the polenta in fear (yes, fear) that all the other layers wouldn’t fit.

The polenta is broken up in a bowl and then pressed into the bottom of your baking dish.  Top the polenta with half of the refried beans; slices of raw sweet potato; the saute of peppers, onions and garlic; half the shredded cheese and half of the sauce.  Then you layer on the remaining beans; sweet potato slices; sauce and cheese.

The casserole bakes for about an hour and 350 degrees.

I’m going to warn you – it’s not the most photogenic casserole – casseroles are rarely beautiful – but the taste is out of this world.

mayan bake

A sprinkle of cilantro and you’re ready to dig in.

Nutritious and delicious.

And almost as good as a hug.


Black Bean Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Remember our homegrown sweet potatoes?

Well, some of them are still up in the attic and ready to be cooked.  (p.s. I had NO idea sweet potatoes could hang out for that long.)

Black Bean Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are the perfect way to use up sweet potatoes.  And if you don’t have any hanging out in your attic, it’s the perfect excuse to grab a few at the store.

Though the potatoes need a little time in the oven – the rest of the recipe is easy-peasy and takes no time at all.

First, rinse your potatoes.  Ours were extra dirty.  Prepare a baking sheet by covering it with foil and spraying with cooking spray (I used a coconut oil spray – but any will work).  Pierce the potatoes a few times with a fork or knife and place on the baking sheet.  (I am not missing a step here – I did not wrap the potatoes.)  Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour depending on the size of your potatoes.

When the potatoes are almost finished baking, prepare the chili.  Diced onion and bell pepper along with garlic are sauteed in a small about of oil until soft.  Add in the spices:  cumin, chili powder, oregano and cayenne pepper.  Finally the tomato sauce and undrained black beans are added.  The chili is brought to a boil and then simmered until thickened.

The potatoes are split (and fluffed) before adding a generous portion of chili along with any topping you desire.  We topped ours with white cheddar cheese, green onions, Greek yogurt and cilantro.

I love how the skin was a little crispy from the direct heat of the oven but the inside of the potato was soft and sweet.  The cheese melted from the heat of the potato and the chili while the Greek yogurt cooled it all down.  A little freshness from the cilantro and green onions rounded out this incredibly filling vegetarian (and gluten-free) dinner.

What your favorite way to eat sweet potatoes?