It’s been a year-long journey for Jo and me as we put together these four sets of recipe cards. She did all the heavy lifting in writing, testing and executing the recipes while I handled all the creative (designing, photographing and editing). She and her sister cooked for hours before I arrived to take the photos for each seasonal set. Once the styling and photographing of the food was done, we’d sit around and chat and munch on the dozen recipes we’d just photographed. Let me tell you, I was always full by the time I headed back home! One of my favorite things about these cards is that every single bit of food you see in those photos is real. No fillers, no fakes, no tricks–just beautiful and, might I add, delicious food. Jo and I both hope you’ll enjoy this final set of recipes. Plenty of love and hard work went into completing them.
Yesterday, Jo sent out a story and recipe about an afternoon spent teaching Alex, an 8 year old who’s gluten-free. Together they developed a “power bar” fit for an afternoon snack or a dessert for the lunchbox. So, being antsy and bored this afternoon, I had to try it. Below is the original recipe:
Alex’s Power Bars
3 cups cereal (1 1/2 cups gluten free rice crispies and 1 1/2 cup Perkys Crunchy Rice Cereal by Enjoy Life)
1 generous cup roasted peanuts (Alex loves peanuts)
2 teaspoons Ceylon or True Cinnamon (yes Alex also LOVE cinnamon) you can use whatever cinnamon you have—this particular cinnamon is a bit “sweeter” has a delicious flavor and aroma and can stand on its own very well.
1/2 cup creamy organic natural peanut butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt (optional if peanuts are salted)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 11 x 7 pan. Mix cereal, nuts and cinnamon together in a large bowl. In a saucepan, heat peanut butter and syrup together bring to a boil to thicken just a bit; remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt.
Pour over cereal and mix well. Pat into prepared pan and bake 10 minutes.
Alex wanted to add a chocolate layer much like some protein bars they purchase—so we melted 1 1/2 cups chocolate with 2 teaspoons coconut oil over low heat. Pour over the cereal mixture and cool. Refrigerate to harden.
For added protein stir in protein powder or Omegas add flaxmeal or hemp seeds.
I was missing a few ingredients and I’m not concerned about the gluten-free aspect, so I did my own little variation.
This is what I came up with:
3 cups cereal (1 cup rice crispies and 2 cups Kashi [high fiber and high protein!])
1 generous cup roasted almonds chopped
1 teaspoon Saigon Cinnamon (it’s what I had on hand!)
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave nectar
I admit I totally forgot the vanilla from the original version.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch pan. Mix cereal, nuts and cinnamon together in a large bowl. In a saucepan, heat almond butter and honey/agave nectar together bring to a boil to thicken just a bit. Pour over cereal and mix well. Pat into prepared pan and bake 10 minutes.
I also added a chocolate layer and melted 1 cup chocolate with 1 teaspoons coconut oil over low heat. Pour over the cereal mixture and cool. Refrigerate to harden.
Even my husband liked them! Quick, easy and a nice little treat without all the guilt.
Trying to up your hydration as part of your 2012 resolution? Are you in the market for a new reusable water bottle? Check out the ones from Liberty Bottleworks. I’ve had several different brands over the years based on what the new trend or new health warning was (Nalgene, Sigg, Klean Kanteen, etc.) and I have to say that THIS one meets all my criteria for a reusable bottle:
1) Made in America. The ONLY American made reusable on the market, in fact. This is a biggie for me.
2) BPA free. Who wants to be poisoned while drinking water? Uh, not me.
3) Recycled AND recyclable. Another fact that sets them apart from anyone else on the market.
4) Sturdy and well designed. Nothing worse than denting your lovely new bottle after only a week’s worth of use! They also have a cool lid that only requires a quarter turn which means no more scrubbing to get gunk outta the threads of the lid and bottle and it seals nice and tight. The lid has a nifty design so you can hook it onto your backpack too! The shape of the bottle means less spilling down the front of your shirt. You have issues with that too, right? They come in 24 or 32 ounce sizes.
5) Affordable. I’ve spent more than I care to admit on reusable bottles and this one was the most reasonably priced.
Check ‘em out. Super cute and practical. Mine goes with me everywhere.
Confession: I love pumpkin. Put it in anything savory or sweet and I’ll be yours forever. Around October 1, I buy pumpkin in bulk—half a dozen cans of the packed pumpkin and at least 3 whole ones to roast myself. In my house, eating pumpkin-y goodness is serious business. Since it’s a late summer/fall squash, we gorge ourselves on it while it lasts. And then when the first snow hits, I die a little inside because I know I’ll have to wait 365 long days to eat my beloved antioxidant filled beauty once again. I’ve got a few more weeks before that happens and I’m going to savor every morsel including this modification of Jo’s Banana Oatmeal Bars. Because of my aforementioned obsession, I thought pumpkin might make a delicious substitute for the banana in the oatmeal bars and I was right! Pumpkin and spices and raisins and oatmeal made this a fall treat. Note that the amount of spices and molasses are based on your tastes. Trust your tastebuds to guide you and give it ago. I hope you enjoy!
Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars (modified from Jo’s Banana Oatmeal Bars)
2 cups oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cups finely shredded unsweetened coconut
2 cups of pureed pumpkin (I think sweet potatoes could be really awesome in this too!)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon molasses (I used the darkest, most robust one I had on hand. I just love molasses but maple syrup or honey would probably be delicious as well if molasses isn’t your thing.)
Dash of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1/4 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients together and pat into a lightly oiled 9 x 9 square pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set. Let cool, cut and eat your pumpkin creation. I let mine sit out a day so they’d be extra chewy like a granola bar. Yum!
Facts about Pumpkins
Pumpkins are thought to have originated in North America. Earliest evidence is from as early 7000 BC in Mexico
They are packed with beta carotene and lutein
Pumpkins are one of the most popular crops grown in the U.S.
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are a powerhouse of protein
Pumpkins are high in fiber
Morton, Illinois is the self-proclaimed pumpkin capitol of the world. They’ve held a pumpkin festival every year since 1966 and are the site where 90% of all canned pumpkin eaten in the U.S. is packaged.
Jack o’lanterns were first associated with the harvest season, not specifically Halloween.
Last week I sat in on the last class of Jo’s “Healthy Lifestyles Series 1″. I observed many things while there, and of course snapped a few photos too!
I witnessed dialog. It’s amazing how inspired you can become by surrounding yourself with people genuinely interested in food who come from all different backgrounds. Every one of those women had at least a few tips and tricks that they willingly shared with the group to make our cooking experience more efficient, or tasty, or even just more educated.
I witnessed passion. For food, for family, for health, for experience—all that life has to offer. Our differences allowed us to see the world through the eyes of a stranger/friend.
I witnessed comfort. Not just in the skillet, but in the sense of community. Jo and her kitchen invoke a type of sanctuary where you can feel confident, where you can share yourself when you would usually be guarded. There is something about being gathered around the stove with a group of like-minded people that can allow you to open up about yourself and your life experiences. It’s a place with no judgement that allows you to empower yourself in more ways than one.
I witnessed newness. New recipes! New ingredients! New skills! Hooray for new things!
I can’t wait to get back into her kitchen and mix it up!
Have you taken a class with Jo? What did you think? How have her recipes changed the way you cook?
I did a photoshoot about two months ago with Jo for her fall recipe cards. This shot was one of the outtakes. This is the beginnings of her squash dunk. When I look at it, I feel all warm and cozy inside, don’t you?! To me, the squash dunk is the epitome of what she’s all about. Simple, delicious, flavorful, and above all, heartwarming. During the grueling all-day shoot (okay, so it wasn’t all that grueling, since Jo and her sister did all the cooking!), I got to taste 15 different recipes that Jo created. While my belly was full of the yumminess, my heart was also full. I knew that we were just making these recipes for beauty shot purposes (who knew kale pesto was such a diva?) but still, I felt loved. That’s what makes Jo’s food great and that’s why you should make them for yourself or your loved ones. If you make it, they can taste the love.
I get overwhelmed by the barrage of emails, texts, facebook messages, twitter links and phone calls that are part of our modern world. I admit it. I know it makes me tense, but I usually keep myself plugged in to this craziness of instant information so I don’t miss out on that valuable nugget of news that just can’t wait. But not yesterday afternoon. In the time it took me to ride my bike home from work, I had received 23 new emails, 3 texts and a voicemail! What is this craziness?! Enough is enough. I made a decision to take the dog for a walk in the glorious sunshine and leave the phone behind on the counter. I’m glad I did. I was rewarded with my dog’s boundless energy, the warm fresh air, the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze and this little guy! He was lying all alone in the grass near the park, as if he’d been knocked out of a bouquet, looking vibrant and perfect. He needed a new home, so I brought him in and gave it a place on the windowsill. Isn’t he a beauty? And to think I could have missed out on this unexpected beauty in my path. Sometimes, whatever or whoever it is can wait.
If you haven’t bought Jo’s recipe cards, GO BUY SOME NOW! This week, my grocery list was full of the ingredients to make several of her recipes from the cards, including her squash dunk. I’m most obsessed with it. She made it for the photoshoot using squash. I knew that I could use sweet potatoes instead and since I’m head over heels for sweet potatoes and I’m too lazy to roast a squash, I added them to the list. Fast forward to yesterday. I had just arrived home from work and was absolutely starving. I tossed some sweet potatoes in the microwave and whipped up the dunk for my late afternoon snack. I used almond butter instead of sunflower butter and I used lemon for the citrus element. You guys, you need to make this. I want to eat it every day. It goes well with veggies for a guilt-free, satisfying treat. Yumm-o!
Jo’s style of cooking is all about improvising and making your meals work based on what you have on hand. On a recent trip to Michigan we stopped at one of those side of the road farmer market stands and bought some gorgeous produce, including half a peck of peaches. Eek! How did I think we’d eat them all before they went bad?! We’d eaten all but 5 and they were a little worse for the wear. Then I remembered that Jo has a simple recipe for roasting pears and thought, “Why couldn’t peaches work too?” So I preheated the oven, washed them gently, cut out the bad spots and the pits, left them in halves, drizzled them with a little honey and roasted them in the oven for 30 minutes. Talk about a treat! They were stunning while warm and made an even better addition to breakfast the next day chilled. I poured myself some high fiber cereal, put two halves of the roasted peaches on top, dolloped with plain yogurt, walnuts and some ground flax seeds. Yum!