Cacao-Coconut Macaroon Bites {sugar-free, grain-free}

Have you seen the new LARABAR macaroon bites?

Well, there is a chocolate macaroon flavor that I'm currently swooning over...

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Soooo naturally I've been messing around with my own version. Mine is filled with raw cacao powder instead of the LARABAR's chocolate chips to keep the added sugar away.

There's something so fun about a bite you can just pop in your mouth. And even better when it's filled with all natural goodness.

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Food is a bit like our personalities - best when natural and honest. That's when it shines. And there is nothing fake about these little guys!  

Cacao-Coconut Macaroon Bites

(Makes 18-20 bites)

  • 12-14 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon raw cacao powder (you can use cocoa powder)
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut flour (plus extra for rolling the balls in)
  • 1/2 tsp. coconut oil
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions: 

  1. In a food processor, place all of the ingredients and blend until combined. 
  2. Note: If the dates are not soft, place dates in very warm water for 5-10 minutes until softened. If the mixture is way to dry after you process it, just add 1/2 teaspoon more coconut oil. 
  3. After you process the mixture, it's okay if the mixture is a bit crumbly. You will press it into balls and it will stick together! 
  4. Roll the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls. Then roll the balls in coconut flour. 
  5. Store in an air-tight container
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Pop 'em like candy. Without the sugar crash... 

Cranberry Sesame Raw Bars {grain-free, sugar-free}

Chad and I took a road trip to Nashville two weekends ago. A chance to just go off the grid and explore a city with no plans.

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We hooked up our bikes and escaped after work on a Friday evening. Saturday and Sunday we spent biking, hiking and exploring the city. 

For me, being active is when I feel the best. Some recharge by resting and lounging - I do by sweating. It calms me and being outside and moving just makes me feel alive. Plus, when exploring a city on foot and by bike - you see so much!  

And we always work up an appetite :) ...

 We biked and hiked in Percy Warner Park - one of our favorites!

We biked and hiked in Percy Warner Park - one of our favorites!

On our last day in Nashville, we grabbed coffee at Bongo Java in East Nashville. I spotted a raw cranberry bar on the counter. It was sweet, nutty and I was reeeally into it. 

I recreated that bar as soon as I got back to St. Louis. So now I don't have to wait until my next trip to Nashville to have it!     

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Cranberry Sesame Raw Bars

  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I prefer Eden Food dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice)
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 3/4 - 1 cup almonds (or cashews)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds  
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions: 

  1. In a food processor, process the dates and cranberries until finely chopped. 
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and process until finely ground and beginning to stick together. 
  3. Line a square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and press the mixture into the pan and smooth out the top. Place the bars in the freezer to harden, about 20-30 minutes, then remove. 
  4. Cut the bars into desired shape and size.  Store in air-tight container. 
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At the coffee shop, these bars were individually wrapped in plastic wrap. Easy to grab and go on the run... my kind of bars! 

Almond Butter Energy Shake {dairy-free}

Man oh man, it's hot out! We must make something cold...  

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This is an almond butter energy shake - but, I'm going to also call this my post-run shake or post-yoga shake. Because it is marvelous after both!

The helpful chart below was shared with me by eReplacement Parts - I think mostly because I post a lot of nut butters on my blog, i.e., I have an obsession with nut butters. Aaaand it just so happens that I have a new Vitamix blender in my kitchen! After using it for a week, I've quickly realized that my life is divided into two parts:  My life before a Vitamix and then my life with a Vitamix in it. (If I don't show up to work, it's because I'm in my kitchen, making smoothies and nut butters, cant-get-me-away-from-it)

If you need a post-workout snack, whip up this almond butter energy shake. It's so good, I'll even eat it for dessert.  

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The recipe is in the box below, but I basically blend 2 cups almond milk (or coconut milk), 2 frozen bananas, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons almond butter. The recipe says to add ice, but I don't.  I'm sure if I do it would be thinner, but I scoop mine up with a spoon so I prefer it thick.  And I freeze the extra, so it's scoop-able the next time I have it (just thaw it out for a bit to soften).

Now, get blending!

Coco-Macadamia Raw Cookies {sugar-free, grain-free}

Life has been a bit busy lately (I'm getting married this Saturday, eeek!). With work and wedding planning, blogging seems just as important, no?  (No, probably not.)  

But, when I have a raw "cookie" bite that I'm totally into right now -  I must write about it. 

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I call these "cookies" mostly because I press the tops down with a fork in a cross-hatch pattern like a peanut butter cookie. But in all seriousness, these are a healthy dose of energy. 

Pair a few with your afternoon apple or as an after-dinner treat.

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Coco-Macadamia Raw Cookies

(Makes about 16 "cookies")

  • 12 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup whole almonds  
  • 2 tablespoons almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder (or cocoa powder) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • pinch of sea salt  

Directions: 

  1. In a food processor, place all of the ingredients and process until mixture becomes crumbly and then begins to stick together.
  2. Roll the mixture into inch-sized balls. Using a fork, press down in a cross-hatch design. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  

 

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Hope everyone has a great week. Next time I write a post, I'll be married! 

So, until then...  :)

Roasted Almond Coconut Butter

Ever read the labels on nut butters at the store? If you find yourself looking for a natural one, you'll likely see two ingredients, if that. One being the nut and two being the salt. 

So, do you know what this means? That's how easy it is to make your own!  

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But, I sometimes want a little more oomph than a plain nut butter, but without the added oils and sugar. And that's very hard to find at the store.  

So, it's a good thing you can whip it up at home!  

I used to blend nut butters more while in law school. Watching the nuts go round and round until it formed a paste was instant gratification. Or maybe it's because I needed a longer distraction from studying than just opening a jar. 

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Fast forward to today, and every once and a while I crave my own homemade nut butter. Sure, buying a jar at the store is easy, and the totally natural ones are just as healthy. But, do you know how gratifying it is to spoon your own homemade almond butter on a banana or apple slices? Or put on a pbj? It feels pretty good! 

I recommend you buy some raw nuts in bulk and give this a whirl! If you don't have almonds, you can also use walnuts, peanuts or cashews.

Roasted Almond Coconut Butter

  • 2 cups almonds  
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut  
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt  
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon   
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  

Directions:  

  1. Roast the almonds: In a 350 degree oven, toast the almonds for about 10 minutes. Take out and cool slightly.
  2. In a food processor, place the almonds and coconut and process for 3-5 minutes. You want to stop it periodically to scrap down the sides. When it looks like it is just coming together, blend it for 1 more minute, that's the key to making it creamy! Add in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt and process 20-30 more seconds to combine. If you think the mixture is too dry, you can add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil to help it blend.
  3. Pour the nut butter in a jar and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
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Your pbj just got a whoooole lot better! 

Blueberry Muffin Squares {grain-free, sugar-free}

When our lives are already packed with to-do lists, work, exercising, socializing, hobbies... it's relaxing to know that what you eat can be very, very simple to prepare. I'm talking pure, real food.

I'm talking no-bake fruit & nut bars. 

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Chad and I came to the conclusion that we are blueberry people. The Blueberry Muffin LARABAR might be one of his favorites. And I'll take any excuse to buy dried blueberries and make my own homemade version. Because then I get to throw the extra dried blueberries together with roasted nuts or top spinach salads at dinner. Or eat them plain, my favorite way. :) 

 

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These are sweet without the sugar and super chewy. Cut them into squares for that perfect bite of a blueberry muffin meats granola bar.  

To make sure these are sugar-free, I buy unsweetened blueberries - but these may be hard to find! I like the Eden brand.

 Blueberry Muffin Squares

  • 10 large Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup almonds (or cashews)
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • juice from 1/2 lemon or its lemon zest
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, place all of the ingredients. Process until finely ground and sticking together.
  2. Line a small baking pan with aluminum or parchment paper. Spray with coconut oil spray.
  3. Press the mixture into the pan and smooth out the top with a spatula or with your hands. If the bars don't fill the pan you are using, just push them to one side. 
  4. Freeze the bars until firm, about 30 minutes. Then, cut into squares or bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or refrigerator.
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Remember - real food tastes reeeeal good! 

Lemon & Lavender Blueberry Muffins {grain-free, sugar-free}

Having had this baking blog for six years now, there are still times I feel conflicted. My love for baking cookies, rolling dough and icing cupcakes comes from somewhere within me that's completely opposite of how I eat on a daily basis.

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For me, it's about edible art. It's about creating something with your hands. It's about creating something for others. And on top of it all, it's about finding a healthy balance in your own life.

Because the world should be sweet... but not too sweet that it rots your teeth. 

Almost two years ago, my sister told me about the Whole30 program. She picked me up one night and we went shopping. As she was on day five, she explained to me how you cut out sugar, bread, dairy, alcohol... and she was feeling so good. This was also at a time I was hooked on candy - eating it instead of real food - and I was overly stressed at the law firm I was at. That, and my IBS was causing serious stomach problems. My gut knew I needed to buy It Starts With Food and take 30 days to only put real food in my body. So, the next day I bought the book and I started my 30 days. This turned out to be not only 30 days...but it became my lifestyle and continues to be today.

Which means I've cut the sugar. If you do the strict 30 days, this means no sugar or any sweetener - even the natural kinds like honey or coconut sugar! They all stimulate that reward center in your brain that gets you hooked on the sweet stuff.  

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As you begin your 30 days without sugar, you begin to realize how naturally sweet foods are, without anything added. Strawberries are heavenly and pineapple tastes like candy. And dates are a game changer. 

After my 30 days, it became a Whole30 lifestyle, in a way. Eating more fruits and vegetables instead of candy has become a habit I no longer think twice about.

And now, when I do bake (you shouldn't make baked goods with whole30 ingredients during the strict 30 days), I make grain-free and sugar-free muffins, breads and snack bars. The wholesome flavor is just as much nourishing as it is delicious.

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And no matter if you've experienced the Whole30 program or not, we could all cut down on the added sugar in our daily diet. I mean, the average person eats 15 teaspoons of sugar a day, when The American Heart Association and World Health Organization recommend at most, 6 teaspoons! 

Sugar is soooo sneaky - it hides in your milk (even non-dairy!), breads and muffins. But, if you make these items yourself without the added sugar, you begin to appreciate the flavor that vanilla extract and cinnamon bring to the end result.

It's not about tricking your taste buds into thinking you're eating something bad for you - it's about realizing that real, healthy food simply just tastes really really good.  

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Okay, so that was my long-winded explanation that brings me here. With these almond flour muffins filled with fresh lemon, lavender & blueberries! Not only does the combination sound heavenly, but it tastes heavenly... aaaand it's healthy! No sugar needed.   

Lemon & Lavender Blueberry Muffins

(Makes 12 muffins) 

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (or almond milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender, muddled or finely chopped 
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, whisk the almond flour, coconut flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon until combined. 
  2. Then, using a wooden spoon, mix in the vanilla, coconut oil, coconut milk and eggs until well combined. Then, stir in the dried lavender, lemon juice and zest and combine well. You can add more almond flour if the batter seems too thin, but it should be moist!
  3. Add in the blueberries and mix until incorporated throughout the batter. 
  4. Spray a muffin pan liberally with nonstick spray and using an ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the tins. You can also use muffin liners. Top each muffin with a few extra blueberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon,
  5. Bake at a 350 degree oven for about 22-25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking and checking on the muffins around 20 minutes. Take out when the tops are golden. 
  6. Let cool for a few minutes. Run your knife around the edge of each muffin to loosen them from the pan before taking them out. Take out and let cool completely on a wire rack. Store up to 4 days in an airtight contained at room temperature, or place in the refrigerator.
  7. I like to enjoy these muffins warm with a thick spread of chunky almond butter. Try it out! 

 

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Life is too short not to indulge in your favorite cookie or treat. But, it's also so precious that we need to indulge in nourishing treats even more.