Sunday, March 30, 2014

Clean Breakfast Oat Nut Bars

In my quest to eat less processed foods, I realized one of the biggest culprits in our diet were those incredibly convenient granola bars such as Nutri-Grain, Quaker, or Nature Valley. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? They are filled with sugar and other less than healthy garbage. I was able to cut them out of my diet, but it was killing me to buy them for my husband, who had one almost every morning for either breakfast or a midmorning snack. He has a family history of diabetes so I am trying very hard to keep him healthy. Continuing to buy processed, sugary, and misleading granola bars is not the way to stay healthy.

I happened upon a recipe during the Clean Eating Challenge I did back in January and I have made a batch of these special oat bars almost every week for us to have for breakfast. They are healthy, mostly organic, and I know exactly what I am putting into my body. I change up the nuts and dried fruit to keep it interesting, and I am so good at making them now that I don't think we will ever have to eat those terrible processed bars ever again!

Here is my version of the recipe adapted from the Whole Living Action Plan:

Heat oven to 350 degrees

In a big bowl (dry ingredients)

3 cups of organic rolled oats
1 cup of nuts (pecans, walnuts, and cashews work well)
1 cup of dried fruit (organic raisins or cranberries are great, and even dried dates are good)
a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon over the top
pinch of kosher or Himalayan salt

In a smaller bowl (wet ingredients)

1/2 cup of raw honey
1/2 cup of almond butter
1/2 cup of organic applesauce (the only ingredients should be organic apples and water)
1/2 cup of pure 100% orange juice
tiny bit of vanilla extract (real please)

*Mix ingredients in each bowl separately until thoroughly incorporated
*Brush a small rectangular or square baking dish with either extra virgin olive oil or organic sunflower oil. Don't forget the sides!
*Add wet ingredients to dry and mix completely
*Add oat mixture to the baking dish and press down until packed down as much as possible
*Bake for 25-30 minutes. The sides should start to brown a bit.
*Be sure to keep an eye on it because they tend to be on the dry side if over-baked even a little.
*When done, cool completely before cutting. I try to get 10 bars out of a batch.
*Individually wrap in tin foil for easy grab and go in the morning. They go great with tea or coffee!

I have most of these items on hand all the time. I buy the oats in bulk at Whole Foods, along with the almond butter. One jar lasts for 3 or 4 batches. I also buy the raisins or cranberries in bulk at Whole Foods because it's so much cheaper than at a regular grocery store. I do get the apple sauce at Big Y although I am sure it's at Whole Foods too. I've been trying to cut down on special trips to the store and go to certain places before or after work, depending on what I need that week. I've already noticed I have more time on my hands to do more important things, like organize the house or walk the dogs.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do. My husband loves them and I know he doesn't miss those other bars at all.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Preparing for Week One of the Whole Living Action Plan

Hey everyone!

Week One of our natural cleanse is coming up in just a few days, so the time is NOW to start planning what you are going to eat. There will be no room for "eating on the fly" because, trust me, there are very few eating establishments that fit into the clean eating shoes!

I am hoping that everyone has read the cleanse by now, but if not, here is the link!

Week One allows us to eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils, oils and seasonings.

( I would like to point out that coffee is not allowed on the plan, although plain, unsweetened green or black tea is fine. The reason for this, and I don't think they mention it on the website but I remember it from last year's actual magazine, is that you may be addicted to coffee. Well, duh, right? Most people are, and they don't realize how very dependent they are on coffee. Of course, this is an optional choice, but I highly recommend at least trying to switch to tea now. The way I did it last year, was a few days before the cleanse started, I just tried tea instead to see how I liked it and how it affected me. Well, it was easier than I thought and I have switched over to tea completely and the thought of drinking a cup of coffee grosses me out! I never ever in a million years thought I could do it, but I did.)

Here is a link explaining why you should drink organic loose leaf tea, as opposed to say Lipton brand.

To the week at hand! I decided to write down a list of ideas for what I want to eat next week. I want things like sweet potatoes (because they are filling and nutritious), beets and apples (because they are natural cleansers from the inside), and a good hearty lentil soup (lots of protein and filling). I suggest writing down a whole bunch of items you enjoy eating and then base your meals and snacks off of that. As long as you stick with the guidelines, you're golden!

In the morning when I first wake up I have been having lemon water with cayenne pepper. It hydrates you and gets your body moving better than coffee or tea first thing. After I drink that I will have my tea at some point during the morning craziness of getting ready for the day. I have been doing this for maybe three months now, and I absolutely love it!

For breakfast I am going to have a mango smoothie I love this smoothie!! The tahini really adds a good flavor, but if it's not your thing, it's fine to leave out. I am also going to bring a banana, some dried dates, and a pre washed and cut apple for snacks throughout the morning. I am used to a decent amount in the morning, so it's my most difficult time to eat light.

For lunch and dinner, I am going to alternate a few dishes. I am going to roast a batch of vegetables with lentils Then, I want to buy about five sweet potatoes and bake them to have ready for this meal: Swiss chard is new for me, so I am going to give it a try!
This lentil soup needs a little adjusting for this week, so no honey or yogurt at the end. Also, I try very hard not to eat out of cans anymore because of BPA, so for the tomatoes I will use organic strained tomatoes in a glass jar.
I am also going to have a few spinach salads with toppings like pears, apples, walnuts or almonds, carrots, red peppers, roasted beets, etc. For dressing I will make a simple mixture of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.
 I may also make a mushroom and tomato sauce to have over roasted spaghetti squash if I run out of food to eat.

I wanted to add a note about exercise this first week. While of course it is very important to exercise, the plan advises to do gentle activities this week. Your body is adjusting to a new way of eating and you won't be eating as many carbs to fuel a sweaty cardio workout. I plan to do about 20 minutes of stretching each morning, much like yoga, to get my body moving and awake and of course I will take my dogs for their walks as much as possible.

I like this cleanse because you can eat as much as you want. While it's not about losing weight, you probably will. If you stick to the lessons learned from these three weeks, not only will you feel better in general, but your body image will improve, no matter what your weight is. When you feel good you look good, right??

I have learned that clean eating takes a lot of research and experimenting with new ideas regarding our food. It's worth the time to learn what you are putting into your body. You only get one body!?  There is always an alternative to a canned item or other processed food. Start looking at your ingredients and choose items that are organic as much as you can. Learn how to make a few things from scratch. Clean eating doesn't necessarily mean you will spend more money either. Think of all the money you will save by buying produce that's in season. You will eat less overall because your body will actually absorb the good ingredients you are putting into it and fill you up quicker. Or what about money saved by not having to go to the doctor or buying expensive medicines? I swear to you I haven't even taken an ibuprofen since last February when I started this!

Welcome to Clean Eating folks!  Let's do this!!!