Fruit and Nut Energy Bars

When you cannot count on being able to stop at a convenience store to find a snack, having readily portable snacks that do not spoil so you can always have some on hand becomes very important.  We discovered LaraBars a while ago and fell in love with them because they are yummy, healthy, and convenient.  Unfortunately they are also rather pricey, so I thought I’d try my hand at making my own.  I cannot claim to have started from scratch, I had a lot of help from Test Kitchen Tuesday (here is the link to the original: http://testkitchentuesday.com/2010/12/14/do-it-yourself-lara-bars/).  I have taken our favorite LaraBars and come up with something pretty close to the original and I’ve also invented a few of my own.  I highly recommend experimentation to find what works best for you.

These bars are primarily dates and nuts.  If you want, you can buy whole dates and pit them yourself, but if I can get someone else to do even a smidge of food prep at a reasonable price for me I’ll take that option.  Consequently, I buy the Dole California Whole Pitted Dates.  Do not use the Chopped Dates, they have dextrose which is a forbidden additive in our house due to its corn ancestry.  If you choose to use the whole Medjool dates you may need to fiddle with the ratios a bit to get the right consistency.  LaraBar uses a lot of cashews in their bars, but I don’t really care for the flavor of cashews and they are not particularly healthy compared to walnuts or almonds, so I use a lot more walnuts and almonds in mine.

Procedure:

Add all ingredients (unless otherwise noted) to the blender of your Ninja.  (These may work in a really good food processor, but I have not tried it.)  Blend on the highest speed until desired consistency is reached, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides and corners of the blender.  Finer consistency bars stick together better, but I like the crunch of a nut in mine.  Line a 1 lb loaf bread pan with a large sheet of wax paper and dump the contents of the blender into the pan.  Spread it out so that it covers the bottom of the pan evenly.  Wrap the excess wax paper around the fruit/nut mix and use another 1 lb loaf bread pan to squish everything together.  I usually set this on the floor and step into the pan to apply pressure to the entire brick.  Remove from pan and neatly re-wrap in the wax paper, place the brick in and airtight container (ie a zip storage bag) and then in the refrigerator to chill overnight (this helps the flavors mix.)  Cut the brick into 6 bars and wrap in small pieces of wax paper sealed with scotch tape.  Store in an airtight container at room temp.  If you decide to add any perishable ingredients, store the bars in the refrigerator (but this would kind of defeat the purpose of having and easy grab-n-go snack you can keep stocked in the car).

Ingredients:

Cashew Cookie

140 g dates

100 g cashews

Coconut Cream Pie

160 g dates

20 g unsweetened coconut

75 g unsalted roasted almonds

25 g cashews

10 g coconut oil

Chocolate Coconut Chew

160 g dates

50 g unsalted roasted almonds

50 g walnuts

20 g cocoa powder

20 g unsweetened coconut

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Disclaimer: Not totally grain-free or dairy-free due to the sugar and milk in the chocolate chips

160 g dates

75 g unsalted roasted almonds

25 g cashews

56 g mini chocolate chips (mix these in by hand after blending dates and nuts)

Fig Newton

80 g mission figs, stems removed

50 g dates

50 g unsalted roasted almonds

50 g cashews

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip

160 g dates

50 g unsalted roasted almonds

40 g unsalted roasted peanuts

20 g cocoa powder

40 g unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (mix these in by hand after blending dates and nuts)

Blueberry

100 g unsalted roasted almonds

80 g dates

120 g dried blueberries or blueberry flavored Craisins (not grain-free due to sugar content)

Pomegranate

100 g unsalted roasted almonds

80 g dates

120 g pomegranate flavored Craisins (not grain-free due to sugar content)

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Whipped Coconut Chocolate Crème Frosting

Dairy-free, grain-free frosting that tastes good is not as easy as it sounds, but I think I’ve got it.  This frosting is inspired by a recipe for whipped coconut cream from freeeatsfood.com (http://freeeatsfood.com/coconut-whipped-cream/) and is the same as the Whipped Coconut Crème Frosting with baking cocoa added for chocolate deliciousness.  It is important to use unsweetened canned coconut milk, not the coconut milk in the carton that you would drink with supper or something – you don’t want all those additives that keep it from separating.  I find it best to just keep a few cans of this in the fridge, ready to use when it is time to make up some frosting.  It takes a few days for the fat and liquid to separate and you need to take care not to shake the cans.

Whipped Coconut Chocolate Crème Frosting

1 can unsweetened canned coconut milk, chilled for many days

6 Tbsp powdered beet sugar (more or less to taste)

1 ½ Tbsp cocoa

1/8 tsp xanthan gum

Chill small mixing bowl and whisk attachment for electric mixer.  Carefully open can without shaking it.  Combine all dry ingredients and chill.  Scrape out all of the thick “fat” that has collected on top (~1 cup) and add to the chilled mixing bowl.   Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and whip until smooth.  Chill overnight.

Whipped Coconut Crème Frosting

Dairy-free, grain-free frosting that tastes good is not as easy as it sounds, but I think I’ve got it.  This frosting is inspired by a recipe for whipped coconut cream from freeeatsfood.com (http://freeeatsfood.com/coconut-whipped-cream/).  It is important to use unsweetened canned coconut milk, not the coconut milk in the carton that you would drink with supper or something – you don’t want all those additives that keep it from separating.  I find it best to just keep a few cans of this in the fridge, ready to use when it is time to make up some frosting.  It takes a few days for the fat and liquid to separate and you need to take care not to shake the cans.

 

Whipped Coconut Crème Frosting

1 can unsweetened canned coconut milk, chilled for many days

6 Tbsp powdered beet sugar (more or less to taste)

1/8 tsp xanthan gum

 

Chill small mixing bowl and whisk attachment for electric mixer.  Carefully open can without shaking it.  Combine dry ingredients and chill.  Scrape out all of the thick “fat” that has collected on top (about 1 cup) and add to the chilled mixing bowl.   Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and whip until smooth.  Chill overnight.  This is a nice white frosting that takes food coloring very well, great for decorating.

Grain-Free Chocolate Cake

8 months.  That is how long it took to get chocolate cake that I could feed both my family AND the “normal people” at my daughter’s birthday party.  8 months – my family ate a lot of cupcakes and didn’t complain about it even once.  Even less-than-awesome chocolate cupcakes are better than no chocolate cupcakes in the dead of winter.  Finally, with just a couple of weeks until the birthday party, I hit upon the right combination and when I made my best friend’s husband (aka my “normal people” guinea-pig) try it he said, “It tastes like chocolate cake, what is it supposed to taste like?”  Victory!!

This recipe is designed for a Bundt pan, but it can easily go into another pan or muffin tins.  It will make 24 cupcakes (I usually divide this recipe by three and only make 8 cupcakes at a time.)  The texture of the cake is much better if it stays at room temperature, putting it in the fridge makes it a little dense and firm.

Grain-Free Chocolate Cake

396 g all-purpose flour mix

1 ½ cups beet sugar

¾ cup cocoa

½ Tbsp baking soda

¾ tsp cream of tartar

¾ tsp salt

¾ tsp xanthan gum

2 cups water (lukewarm)

3 eggs, separated

½ Tbsp cider vinegar

¾ cup canola oil

½ Tbsp vanilla

Generously grease Bundt pan and dust with buckwheat flour.  Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and set aside.  Add wet ingredients (not including egg whites) to mixing bowl of Ninja (or food processor) with mixing blade attached.  Add dry ingredients to Ninja.  Pulse to incorporate all ingredients together, scrape down sides of bowl, and mix for 30 sec on dough setting.  In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 350 for 50 min.  Cover loosely with crumpled aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning.  Bake additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan ~5 minutes.  Invert onto cake plate and cool completely before frosting (do not refrigerate).

Sloppy Joes

My girls LOVE Manwich, they think it is one of the best things to ever come out of a can.  Since coming out of the can is no longer an option, I took a look at the ingredients and gave it a whirl.  After a few tweaks, I have come pretty close (or at least as close as we remember) to the taste of Manwich.  I mix it with ground turkey, but ground beef would be fine too.  Serve on the sandwich buns (or the Ninja sandwich buns) paired with some carrot sticks and safe potato chips (I recommend Utz of Hanover Plain Potato Chips) and you have an easy hot lunch.  There is one disclaimer: ketchup is not grain-free unless you make your own.  Most organic ketchups are at least made with cane sugar instead of corn-syrup.  If you can handle this incidental amount of cane sugar you are good to go.  If not, you can find recipes to make your own ketchup out there on the internet.

 

Sloppy Joes

1 1/3 lb ground turkey (or 1 lb ground beef)

1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

1 cup grain-free chicken broth (I use Swanson’s Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth)

2 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp chopped dried onion, crushed

1 Tbsp ketchup

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp beet sugar

 

Heat olive oil in skillet and brown ground turkey.  While meat is browning, combine remaining ingredients.  When meat is cooked, drain excess fat and liquid, add sauce to skillet and simmer for ~10 minutes.  Serve hot on sandwich buns.

Grain-Free Graham Crackers

Graham crackers.  So much happiness in a little cracker that you take for granted until you can’t have them.  There was a passable substitute I could buy when our only restriction was gluten, but as the rest of the grains had to be removed, those were no longer an option.  This meant no yummy graham cracker treats as part of afternoon snack and, more importantly, no more s’mores.  This was a BIG problem, especially for my youngest daughter who feels that the only purpose of a fire outside is for cooking hot dogs and making s’mores.  This past winter I made it a goal to have graham crackers ready before our Memorial Day weekend trip to camp and with only a few tries I nailed it!  This is of course due in large part to the hard work of others, but my girls are happy so I am happy.  My recipe is very close to what I found on freeeatsfood.com – check out the original if you want (http://freeeatsfood.com/2012/01/21/golden-honey-grahams/).  I would recommend floating around this website, it has a lot of good inspiration.  I just tweaked that recipe to make it safe for us and to suit our taste.  Feel free to play with it yourself and share your findings.  BTW you can find the recipe for grain-free marshmallows here and if you can handle the small amount of cane sugar in Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, you too can have s’mores again.

Graham Crackers

 

316 g all-purpose flour mix

1/3 cup beet sugar

1 Tbsp flaxseed meal

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp xanthan gum

½ tsp plain salt

½ tsp cinnamon

60 g (5 Tbsp) shortening

45 g (3 Tbsp) milk

63 g (3 Tbsp) honey

1 Tbsp vanilla

Mixture of ground cinnamon and beet sugar

 

Add dry ingredients in Ninja mixing bowl with mixing blade in place.  Pulse to combine.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until dough forms, stopping to scrape sides as needed.  Remove from mixing bowl and wrap in plastic, chill for about 1 hour.

 

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Divide dough into quarters, place one quarter between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Roll the dough out 1/8 inch thick between the plastic wrap and cut into 2 inch squares and prick with toothpick for traditional graham cracker look.  (If the dough seems like it is cracking while you work with it, knead it a bit in your hands to warm it up.)

 

Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon/ sugar mixture and bake on center rack in preheated oven for 7-8 minutes or until golden. They will seem soft when first taken out of the oven, but crisp up as they cool.

Grain-Free Marshmallows

When corn left our lives, so did marshmallows.  This made the girls VERY sad, especially when we were sitting around a campfire wishing for s’mores.  Over the winter, a friend mentioned that she made her own marshmallows and didn’t see why I couldn’t adapt the recipe to be grain-free.  She was right and marshmallows entered our lives again – yeah!!  These marshmallows are soft, but wonderfully yummy and keep for more than a month in a zip storage bag in the refrigerator.

Grain-Free Marshmallows

14 g (2 packs) unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup cold water

2 cups beet sugar

Pinch plain salt

1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp water

1 tsp grain-free vanilla

Tapioca flour for dusting

Grease an 8” x 8” pan and dust generously with tapioca flour.  Pour 1/3 cup cold water into large mixing bowl and sprinkle gelatin over water and set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine sugar, salt, and water.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, and bring to a boil.  Boil for 4 minutes.  With mixer on low, pour hot mixture into gelatin and mix until smooth.  Turn mixer to high and mix until doubled in volume.  Beat in vanilla.  Pour mixture into prepared pan, smoothing with wet hands if needed.  Let set for a minimum of 4 hours in refrigerator, or overnight.  Dust knife or cookie cutter with tapioca and cut into desired shape and size.  Dust each piece with tapioca and store in refrigerator in a zip storage bag.