Ahh…the granola bar. A lunchbox staple since the beginning of time.  Okay, maybe not.  But definitely since the 80s when I was in school.  They’re self-contained, quick, kid-friendly, and nowadays, available in a million nut-free versions that are safe for school.  Sadly though, it can be tricky to find ones that are nut-free AND vegan.  (And that don’t contain copious amounts of sugar – but that’s another story.)

My kids are hit and miss on granola bars (much like me).  They like the idea of them, but have never really been sold on any particular commercial brand.  Grade 4 has found some that she likes (but not loves).  Kindergarten, not so much.  If they came out with a broccoli flavoured one, she might be more excited. But the standard options out there aren’t really her thing.

So I set about creating a homemade version that was just as interesting as the packaged ones, but had less (or no) refined sugar, and incorporated real ingredients.  And of course they had to meet all our lunchbox requirements (vegan, nut-free).

What my kids love most about these granola bars is that they taste amazing. What I love is how flexible the recipe is.  Right now we are hooked on a dark chocolate cherry version, but you could easily swap out the cherries for any other dried fruit and skip the cocoa powder too.  Mixed berry. Apple cinnamon. Tropical Fruit Medley. The combinations are endless.  

These granola bars harness the natural sweetness of medjool dates to give them the stickiness and sweetness we all expect from a granola bar.  And because dates are all natural, there’s no refined sugar or other processed stuff used as a sweetener.  On that note…this recipe does call for the use of a nut-free substitute butter.  I use wow butter, but sun butter, pea butter, etc also work well.  We are fortunate that our school board allows them to be served at school (I always clearly label their wrapper with the ‘made with wow butter’ stickers that come with the jar). Since starting this blog though, I’ve heard from many parents who have kids in school boards that (very understandably) don’t.  If you aren’t able to send a nut-free butter to school, simply swap it out for an equal amount of tahini.  

I classify this as a no-bake recipe, because the bars themselves don’t have to cook.  But I do find that the flavour is enhanced if you toast the rolled oats first.  So there is a teeny, tiny bit of oven work involved.  I use rolled oats in baking a lot, so I tend to toast up a big batch of them on any given weekend and store them in a glass mason jar for the week, so they are always ready to go.   Also, if you’re looking for a gluten free option, simply swap the regular rolled oats for certified gluten free ones.  

I hope you like these as much as we do!  

No-Bake Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
400g pitted medjool dates
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds 
1/4 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp cocoa powder 
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 wow butter, sunbutter or tahini
1/2 cup total dried cherries and cranberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. 

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread oats out in an even, single layer.  Bake for 10 minutes until oats are lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.  (This step can be done in advance.)

in a food processor, process dates until they form a ball (like a dough).  Transfer to large bowl and add in cooled oats, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruit.  Using your hands, mix well.

Melt wow butter in microwave until liquid (about 25 seconds or so). Pour over mixture and (again, using your hands), mix thoroughly.  If the mixture is a bit too stiff, dry, add hot water, 2 tbsp at a time, to loosen it a bit.

Press into an 8×8 parchment lined baking dish until it fills all four corners of the pan and is packed solid.  refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set; cut into bars and store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.


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With back to school just around the corner, extra curricular activities starting up again, and the general easy-breezy-lazy days of summer fading away, I’m starting to prepare myself for the busy days ahead.  Which, if you’re like me, means a whole lot of running (ok, driving) around shuffling little people to and fro, and constant trips to the grocery store, Walmart, etc., all while still trying to manage a career.

Morning breakfast rush, school lunches, after-school-on-the-way-to <insert activity here> snack – all perfect examples of times where quick, make-ahead, healthy snacks (like these no-bake, low sugar chocolate chip energy bites) are a lifesaver.   

These delicious little bites pack a bunch of protein and energy in a cute little package that stores well, travels well, and is just sweet enough to let the kids think they’re getting a treat.  (Hint: they have the same effect on moms too!)

Best of all, they require no baking; take less than 15 min to make and travel well. They are a staple in our house/lunch box/diaper bag/snack pack.

We keep ours nut-free so that our entire house can enjoy them, and so we can send them to school, but you can easily swap out the NON-nut butter for peanut or almond butter too.

Ingredients:
(makes about 20 bites)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wow butter (or natural unsweetened nut butter of choice)
1/3 cup sticky sweetener of choice (we use Mama Vegan #NoBeesvegan honey but maple syrup or agave works well too)
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup unsweetened chocolate chips
​1/4 cup chia seeds 
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients together.
Refrigerate mix for 10-15 min to make it more firm.
Scoop out mix a tbsp at a time and roll into bite size balls.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

School mornings…they are just around the corner now.  And if they are anything like my house,  they involve a lot of rushing around  trying to get everyone out the door and on the school bus/dropped off at school on time, while searching for lost shoes, misplaced homework, the pink-with-purple-sparkles-and-a-unicorn hair clip that MUST be worn today even though it hasn’t been seen in a month, and filling out permission slips that were due yesterday (that were found while searching for the above-mentioned misplaced homework).  Oh, and in among all that chaos is the challenge of getting a quick and healthy breakfast in their tummies.  Bonus points if it can be eaten on the go, right?

Well, I can’t help you find that hair clip or shoe (we are still looking for ours), but I can help out on the breakfast front.  

A year or so ago, in an attempt to sneak a few extra veggies into my (then) non-veggie loving vegan kid, I came up with these oatmeal muffins.  They taste like cinnamon oatmeal cookies, but are loaded with veggies, low in sugar and pass the “school safe” test too!

The key to making these muffins fly under the kid-veggie-radar is to shred the veggies very finely and double up on the vanilla and cinnamon.  Trust me – they’ll never know these are healthy.  

Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

(yields 12 large muffins)

​ingredients:

1 1/2 cup organic flour (I use light spelt but all purpose or half AP and half whole wheat is good too)
1/2 cup quick cook oats (not instant)
1/2 cup hemp hearts (or another half cup oats if you don’t have or want hemp)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 flax “egg” (1 tsp ground flax mixed with 2 tbsp hot water)
1 cup alternate milk of your choice (I used soy so I could send these to school)
1/4 cup oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup total shredded carrot and zucchini

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk  flax egg, oil, soy milk and vanilla. 
Pour wet ingredients on top of dry. Add shredded veggies. Mix until just combined. 
Scoop into paper lined or greased muffin tray and bake for 20 min. Let cool before serving. 

(Optional: mix 2 tbsp granulated sugar with 1 tsp ground cinnamon and sprinkle on top before baking for a crunchy topping).

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We call this ‘Bacon Candy’ in our house. For any herbivore missing the sweet, smoky, chewy taste of a good strip of bacon, this recipe is for you.  We prefer it with tofu (my kids haven’t quite hopped on board the tempeh train yet), but you could absolutely swap the tofu for tempeh.

We use a pre-smoked tofu for this recipe, but you can just as easily use plain, extra firm tofu and add liquid smoke to the recipe.

Maple Smoked Tofu Bacon

Ingredients:

2 tbsp tamari or dark soy sauce

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

3-4 drops of liquid smoke** (ONLY if you are using plain extra firm tofu)

1 tbsp olive oil (or vegan butter)

1 210g block pre-smoked tofu (or 350g extra firm regular tofu), sliced into wide strips

Directions:

1. In a bowl, whisk together soy sauce, maple syrup and vinegar (and liquid smoke if using). Set aside.

2. In a deep pan, heat oil on medium high heat.

3. Saute tofu slices until brown on each side  (about 7-10 min).

4. Add marinade to pan and cook until almost all liquid is gone and tofu strips are sticky and caramelized (about 2-3 minutes).   

5. Serve immediately!


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We are in the dog days of August, where the air is so thick and humid you can cut it with a knife, and the mere thought of turning on kitchen appliances makes you break out into even more of a sweat, but yet somehow, that wasn’t enough of a deterrent for this carb-loving mama yesterday.

I’ve had garlic bread (and all things garlicky and buttery) on the brain lately – ever since my Dad and Stepmom were visiting us from Florida and my hubby made his signature homemade garlic bread rolls with dinner one night.  But it’s been a crazy week and I needed something quick to put on the dinner table.

One-pot pastas are a great way to serve a full meal without slaving over (and washing) a million dishes.  I’ll be honest and admit I haven’t found too many that I love and that my kids would eat.  So I was a little skeptical about testing out this one.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  The kids devoured it. Like there-aren’t-enough-for-leftover-camp-lunch devoured it.  (I may have had a hand in that too…)

What I love about this dish is how creamy the sauce is – without the use of any plant-based dairy alternatives.  It’s garlicky and rich and buttery…and there’s just the perfect amount leftover in the bowl for sopping up with a crusty baguette.  

Best of all, it’s on the table in less than 30 minutes, which makes it a perfect weeknight dish. 

Vegan Garlic Butter One-Pot Pasta

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp + 2 tbsp (divided) vegan margarine

½ medium onion, diced

4-6 cloves of garlic (depending on your tolerance), minced

½ lemon, juiced

3 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

2 tbsp vegan chicken soup base (or 1 bouillon cube)

¼  cup nutritional yeast

1 500g package dry pasta shells

Black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, heat oil and 2 tbsp of vegan margarine on medium high heat.  

2. Add onions and saute – stirring frequently – until onions are golden coloured (about 7-8 minutes).  

3. Add garlic and lemon juice and saute an additional 1 minute. Pour in veggie broth, water, veg chicken soup base (or bouillon cube) and nutritional yeast. Stir to combine.

4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting.

5. Stir in pasta, then cover and cook on lowest setting for 15-20 min depending on your choice of pasta (I used shells and cook for 18 min).  Stir occasionally to keep pasta from sticking. Pasta should be softer than al dente and most of the liquid should be absorbed when done.

6.Stir in remaining 2 tbsp margarine, and season with black pepper to taste.  


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