Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola

I’m always looking for healthy and great-tasting food that’s also gluten-free and vegan. This granola is SO good. It tastes like a decadent treat, and is really healthy! It took a few times of making it to get this recipe how I liked it. Even my kids like it. In addition to just eating it by itself, I like to have it in a bowl topped with unsweetened almond milk. The milk turns chocolately–yum!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER GRANOLA

Coating Ingredients
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (I use organic to avoid GMOs)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (I use organic Grade B)
15 drops liquid stevia
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I use organic)
1/4 cup oil (I use grapeseed oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Dry Ingredients
2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats–not instant (I use gluten-free oats)
1 tablespoon ground flax seed, also called flax meal
1/2 cup various nuts and seeds (I like raw sunflower seeds and chopped pecans)

Topping: 1/4 cup chopped dairy-free dark chocolate (about 1/4 candy bar) — sometimes I use dairy-free chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 275°.

-Grease or line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

-Place coating ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk together until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook at a very low simmer for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.

-In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

-Pour the coating mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until everything is evenly coated.

-Evenly spread the mixture in a thin layer on the prepared baking sheet.

-Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

-Remove from oven. While still warm, sprinkle the granola with the chopped chocolate and gently stir. Leave granola evenly spread on baking sheet to cool.

-Store in an airtight container for several days. Freezes well.

I hope you enjoy this healthy, high-fiber, whole foods treat!

My Favorite Healthy Products

When I first started shopping for “health food,” I had no idea what I was doing or if I would like any of these new products. With that in mind, I know that there are many products out there that claim to be healthy and either really aren’t healthy or they taste terrible. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite products that I think work and taste great.

Earth Balance Buttery Spread

This product wasn’t around when I stopped eating dairy 12 years ago. I remember using some yucky substitute that wouldn’t even melt at high heat! So I was VERY excited when it came along. I promise you will love this. It tastes so good that I don’t even tell house guests or my children’s friends that it’s a healthy butter substitute. They all like it. It’s made of 4 different oils and other natural ingredients. I can’t imagine my life without it. I spread it on toast, bake with it, fry with it, and melt it for popcorn. It’s available in health food stores and I’ve even seen it at Walmart. It comes in a few varieties like whipped organic, soy free, and original. The jumbo tub is a good deal so I get the original in a jumbo tub from Earth Fare and just keep refilling my smaller container.

Tamari

Tamari is a naturally-brewed, gluten-free soy sauce with only a few natural ingredients. It’s my go-to ingredient whenever a recipe isn’t tasting quite right. Of course, it’s awesome in a stir-fry but I also add it to soups, casseroles, sauces, almost anything. But keep in mind that tamari is sodium, so using it is just like using salt. Note that tamari is a little stronger tasting than regular soy sauce so a little can go a long way in flavoring a dish. Make sure to read the label for any colorings or other chemicals. Organic tamari is best since it doesn’t contain genetically modified soy beans.

Kukicha Twig Tea

Kukicha twig tea is my daily drink. I like to start the day with a cup of hot tea. Luckily, this tea is also super healthy! Regular black tea is made from the leaves of the tea bush and it contains caffeine and is acidic to the body. Kukicha is made from the roasted branches of the tea bush so it has minimal caffeine and has an alkaline, healing effect. It’s energizing and also helps digestion. It tastes similar to black tea but with an added roasted flavor. I drink it straight but my kids like a few drops of stevia to sweeten it. You can make iced tea with it, too. I only buy the Eden brand which most health food stores carry. You can also order it from my favorite on-line store, Swanson Vitamin (www.swansonvitamin.com). One tea bag makes a lot of tea so use a jumbo mug like I do! To make iced tea, bring 8 cups of water to a boil, turn off heat, and add 5 Eden Kukicha Twig Tea bags. Let steep for at least 10 minutes. Let cool and store in a glass pitcher in the refrigerator. To drink, I add a few stevia drops to a glass and pour in the iced tea. Very refreshing!

 Almond Milk and Coconut Milk 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never been a milk drinker so I mainly use these milk substitutes for smoothies and in baking. I’m sure it makes fantastic chocolate milk, though. I like these two brands. They both work similarly in smoothies and baking so I buy whichever one is on sale. I always have 2 or 3 in my refrigerator. The best price I’ve found on these is at Kroger and Target. Since I like to control the amount of sugar I eat, I always get the unsweetened versions. For using over cereal, I think the Almond Breeze works better. The coconut milk (which doesn’t taste like coconut, just kind of neutral) is a little thicker. Both of these are great milk substitutes.

I hope you find this information helpful and that by learning a little more about these great products, you’ll give some of them a try.

I wish you good health!

Jill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Simple Things You Can Do TODAY to Improve Your Health

1.  Drink Lemon Water. Start the day with warm water and lemon juice (from ¼ lemon). Even though it is acidic, once digested, lemon juice has an alkalinizing effect on the body and blood. Acidic blood is vulnerable to disease; alkaline blood allows the body to heal. Lemon water can relieve symptoms of indigestion, such as heartburn, bloating, gas, and cramping. Drinking lemon water regularly can aid in cleansing the bowels and stimulate the elimination of toxins and waste products in your liver, helping to purify your digestive system. Add lemon juice to room temperature or warm water rather than very cold water, which can shock your stomach when you drink it.

2.  Fast for 12 Hours a Day. At first glance, this might sound really difficult, but simply means not eating from a few hours before bedtime until breakfast. So, for example, not eating from 8:00 pm until 8:00 am. That doesn’t sound too hard. Giving your body a break for those 12 hours can help you live longer. Twelve-hour fasts can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and increase both HDL “good cholesterol” and beta-hyroxyburyrate, a brain-protective chemical. Twelve-hour fasts give the brain a chance to fight the chemical byproducts of stress and also trim down the figure by decreasing bloat and swelling.

3.  Chew Well and Eat Slowly. As Marilu Henner says, “your stomach doesn’t have teeth!” Chewing is one secret to a long, healthy life. Digestion actually starts in the mouth, especially for carbohydrates. When you chew, you incorporate alkaline saliva. Thorough chewing can help with weight loss, improve your health, and allow your body to get more nutrition from your food. The goal is to chew your foods so thoroughly that you can no longer identify what the food is, based on its texture. Eating slowly gives your brain a chance to realize you are full so you will actually eat less. You should even chew soft food like yogurt. At least one meal per day, sit down, slow down, and chew. Take the time to savor the colors, flavors, and textures of food and enjoy the health benefits of chewing.

4.  Sleep. Your body heals itself while you sleep. Your body produces extra protein molecules while you’re sleeping that helps fight infection and mend your body at a cellular level. Sleep helps reduce the levels of stress and inflammation in your body and can help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. Sleep helps regulate the hormones that control your appetite. When your body is deprived of sleep, normal hormone balances are interrupted and your appetite increases. For adults, 7-8 hours is ideal. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule and create a bedroom environment that promotes relaxation. TV, computers and cell phones can be too stimulating close to bedtime. Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth twice the health benefits as the hours after midnight.

 5.  Walk. The benefits to this simple exercise are endless. Walking can help you lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, raise HDL “good” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce risk of or manage type 2 diabetes, manage weight, improve your mood, and stay strong and fit. Regular, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack by the same amount as more vigorous exercise. It helps protect the brain by increasing blood circulation and the flow of oxygen and glucose to your brain. Walking boosts cardiovascular fitness and can increase longevity.  All it takes to reap these benefits is a routine of brisk walking—aim for 30 minutes a day.  

And the best part is that these 5 simple steps that can positively affect your health are FREE (with the exception of a few lemons.) So why not try one of these steps for a week? And maybe add another each week? Before you know it, you will have some very healthy habits.

 Here’s an easy, tasty recipes for you to practice your chewing skills!

 Marinated Black-Eyed Pea Salad

-2  15-ounce cans black-eyed peas (make sure no chemical preservatives–organic is best)
-2 carrots, diced small
-1/2 – 1 cup red onion, finely diced
-1 clove garlic, peeled
-Optional: 1 cup greens, like kale or collard greens (leaves chopped/stems sliced very thin)
-1/4 cup pure maple syrup (organic grade B is my favorite)
-1/2 cup vinegar (like red wine, brown rice, umeboshi, apple cider)
-2 teaspoon natural vegetable oil
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
-1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (or to taste)

    Rinse and drain black-eyed peas. Place in a medium bowl along with carrot, red onion, and greens. Cut the garlic clove in half, stick a wooden toothpick through and add to the bowl.
    In a small bowl, add maple syrup, vinegar, oil, sea salt, and hot sauce and whisk dressing until well-combined. Add dressing to bowl of vegetables and toss lightly to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours, stirring every few hours. Remove the toothpick and garlic before serving. Enjoy!

 I hope you have a healthy day!

 Jill

 “Having good health is very different from only being not sick.” – Seneca The Younger, 50 AD