Sprouts and Cookie Bars

Today was spent prepping dinner, which was sausage, steak and chicken kabob. They were speared with onions, green peppers and carrots. On the side, I had Brussel sprouts and bacon sticks and a salad heavy with mixed greens, cucumber, onion, carrot, celery and hard-boiled egg. Oil and vinegar for the dressing and I was full before my plate was empty. Therefore, my lunch is already packed for tomorrow: leftover kabob emptied out onto a bed of mixed greens.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found this idea on Pinterest.

Sprouts and bacon. Always good. I found and re-pinned this idea on Pinterest. Click the photo for original publication.

I know I’ve mentioned my love of Brussel sprouts and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading about it, but they are my favorite. I love how they grow and every time I pick up a stalk at the grocery, I inevitably have 1 or more strangers ask what it is. Great conversation starter, who knew?! I think I planted brussels last summer just to see that gorgeous stalk in my own back yard. Of course, homegrown taste EVEN MORE delicious. I hope to have success again this summer.

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I’m currently awaiting the finished product of a little snack we like to refer to as “Cookie Bars”. It’s like a grainless granola bar without weird ingredients, but more of a protein bar, if you ask me! Plain and simple, it’s a recipe that can be varied in so many ways. Once you make them, it’ll be a go-to treat for the kiddos, if not for yourself.
Cookie Bars

In a food processor add

  • 5-7 Medjool pitted dates and handful of other dried fruit of choice (we used banana tonight)

Process till the dates start breaking down then add

  • handful of pecans
  • handful of whole almonds

Process till the really big chunks are gone then add

  • handful of crushed walnut
  • handful of coconut powder
  • a big squeeze of honey (probably 1/4 cup)

Pulse till mixed around a bit and add 1/4 cup or less of maple syrup, grade B preferably. Pulse till mixed. Must be sticky enough to lump together, if not add a bit of honey and syrup till satisfied.

Once the mixture is fully combined – sometimes, I put it in a larger bowl and use a spatula to smash it around some more, but did fine with just the processor tonight – line a baking sheet with parchment paper and flatten the mixture to an even thickness of about 1/4 an inch or your likeness. I then sprinkle it with cinnamon.

Bake at 325 for approx 20 minutes. I check on mine every 10. Timing depends on the thickness and for thicker bars, I usually flip the entire thing after 20 minutes and bake it off for 10-20 more.

Once the bar is browned, I add some sort of chocolate to the top. Sometimes a high cacao dark chip, melted in the microwave and spread on but tonight I used Enjoy brand chocolate chips because that is what I had. I sprinkled them lightly across the bar, placed it back in the oven for 1 minute then removed, spread the chocolate in a very thin layer then removed the parchment paper, with the cookie bar on top, from the sheet to cool on a rack.

As it cools, it will harden. Once cooled, I break it apart by attempting to cut it into rectangles. Sometimes it cuts well and other times, it’s more of a break line that I create.

If you use the same recipe, slightly less honey and syrup, you can toss the mixture while roasting and create a delicious cereal to be enjoyed with some milk of you choice. Warm it for an oatmeal like sensation.

They were so eager to eat tonight's bars that the chocolate isn't even dry in these photos!

They were so eager to eat tonight’s bars that the chocolate isn’t even hardened in these photos!

My husband couldn’t wait to get his hands on one of these. While I was getting the girls dressed after bath, and before they were cooled entirely, he went ahead and cut them. Warm and delicious! A comfort treat. The girls had one before bedtime tonight. Yet, they are entirely acceptable for breakfast.

Once cool, I store them in Tupperware, with parchment or wax paper between layers in the fridge and the girls help themselves when they wake up or feel a little hungry. I’ll also grab a few and toss into a ziplock bag when we’ll be running around all day. Easy pick-me-up and a delicious treat.

Savings note: Use the ‘candy bins’ at the grocery store to bag your own nuts. It ends up to be more like $2 or less for more than enough compared to $6 for the prepackaged nuts. This is why we always have a variety in our house.

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Stubborn Belly Fat

I love/hate those commercials “Got stubborn belly fat?” uh…yeah!  Who doesn’t? Selling a ‘cure’ for something that is a result of the food you eat, without changing the food you eat, will either 1) not work or 2) backfire. Everything we buy between the produce and the dairy sections in the average grocery store has sugar added for taste – yes, even the healthy/organic foods and most of the dairy too. If it’s packaged, it’s usually not very healthy after all. We are taught that food is bland without sugar. So where do you think that layer of stubborn fat comes from, and why it doesn’t go away with regular ‘dieting’ and exersize? Because you’re still filling your body with sugar. 

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Sugar, sugar everywhere!

After a year of working out at the Y and watching what I ate through calorie and portion control (and losing a significant amount of weight), I thought I had reached my new ‘thinnest’ and had a handle on the belly fat. While I realize everyone’s post-baby belly is different, I was blessed with a pronounced gut which cut off like a ledge right above the bikini line – not attractive – I thought I was stuck with it as well as the layer of fat that extended straight up over my ribs, my thicker thighs and fat butt because it was genetic. Too much information? We’re all friends here and it is what it is… or it WAS what it WAS

During my 1st two weeks of going strict Paleo, I lost 2-4 pounds but more amazingly, my stomach was actually flattening and my gut didn’t seem so gut’y! I had cut all sugar from my diet, only eating fresh vegetables, eggs and meat whenever I was hungry. I knew I was going to see more progress as time went on and I did. Of course I also joined CrossFit towards the end of the summer 2011 which helped firm and tone what I got down through diet. CrossFit strengthens your core through complex moves without even trying. Hundreds of sit-ups have never done for me what a random routine of deadlifts, burpees, squats, v-ups, sprints, kipping pull-ups, wall balls (kill me) and the like have done for my ‘stubborn belly fat’. Now my ‘gut’ actually smooths right into the rest of my body, I forget where that ledge once lived and I can see fitness lines that I thought I’d only see in magazines.

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                                                         V-ups

Remember, fitness takes time. It isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. My gut a year later is what I was aiming for in the first month, silly woman. Instead of refined sugar, choose alternate sources, when necessary, like honey or dark maple syrups or puree some dates for a sweet punch to a yummy meatball or loaf. Also keep in mind, natural sugars ARE sugar and too much is not a healthy choice. If you’re in a weight-loss frame of mind, cut the fruit out of your diet other then a special treat. Otherwise, keep it to a minimum. Moderation is key and too much of one thing is never going to end well. But most importantly, sink your money into fresh produce and not the gimmick-of-the-day that promises to make you lean and toned – only YOU can make that happen through smart choices and hard work. No really, you can. 


My Farm(s) – Buy Local

Last night, as the pork loin had just reached perfection and salads were almost complete, I realized it was 5:58pm! I turned off the oven, grabbed my keys, shouted “I have a farm pickup!” and ran out of the house to the car. I pulled up to another house, about 10 blocks from my own, where Brooks Miller was well bundled in front of a truck filled with coolers containing packages of pasture-raised meats and eggs as well as raw, grass-fed dairy products and more. Beside him stood a man I wasn’t familiar with yet, but am presuming was Emanuel Smucker.

North Mountain Pastures is spread across 84 acres in Perry County, Pennsylvania

Brooks and Emanuel, along with their wives, are local farmers. Their families’ own and operate North Mountain Pastures and Sunset Valley Farm respectively. Specializing in complimentary products, they recently teamed up by offering the North Mountain Pastures Buyer’s Club new items like raw, pastured milk, cheese, yogurt and honey as well as a super delicious grade b syrup (seriously, I had my first taste this morning). I’ve participated in both the Meat CSA and the Buyer’s Club with North Mountain and can’t emphasize enough how humble, generous and inspiring the Miller’s have been during our brief interactions or email exchanges.

We first participated with a medium ‘everything’ share which includes cuts of beef, poultry, lamb and pork. The packaging was by portion and sometimes offered a new challenge by introducing us to a cut of meat that I would not have otherwise chosen. Cooking was fun and interesting and the Millers offered recipes in their newsletter and on their website to help with culinary inspiration. Our family, however, is not a huge fan of the pastured pork. Next time we join the CSA, we’ll elect a pork free share instead. The medium-sized meat share fed our family of two adults and two small children almost an entire month.

More recently, I’ve chosen the Buyer’s Club option with North Mountain Pastures, which allows anyone to purchase as little or as much from their store as they’d like. I enjoy the ground beef, roasts, ribs, whole chickens and parts the most. The lamb has always been delicious, but more of a treat and less of a monthly staple. Their once monthly deliveries to Harrisburg and Camp Hill always include eggs for us, as well.

Sunset Valley Farm is operated by Emanuel and Barbie Smucker

Of their newest offerings through Sunset Valley, I was most excited to see pastured butter and grade b syrup, which I have a hard time finding in the average grocery market. Another exciting purchase was local, raw honey. I first learned of the benefits of local honey from the Fredricksen Library’s Bee Local Festival last September. The immune boosting qualities of local honey alone had me hooked before I even found a source. I typically use honey as a sweetener in place of refined sugar, but may start adding a bit to tea for more frequent exposure. Sunset Valley Farm products are also available in the same building as Nino’s Bistro and Italian Market at 18th and Market Streets in Camp Hill, PA every saturday from 9am-2pm.

As I look forward to our next meal, provided by local farm(s) I also look forward to the expansion of North Mountain Pastures’ facilities. Check out their video in the link below (since I can’t figure out how to embed it, yes I pasted to HTML) for more information about their background, the work they do and their plans that will impact our community. You could help.

 

North Mountain Pastures’ proposed expansion project – CHECK OUT THE VIDEO!