So I cook now!

Or bake, or whatever.

In a nutshell, the story starts with me losing 25 lbs since last summer (I swear this is the short version). Anyway, yay me! My secret? Get ready for this! I got a Fitbit and realized that I naturally tend toward economy of movement. Which is just a nice way of calling myself a lazy fatass who doesn’t like to sweat. Who, me?? Say it isn’t so! I decided to kick my own butt and walked my daily 5 miles no matter how long it took. Oh, also I cleaned up my diet.

Now that I’m feeling better (SO MUCH BETTER) and looking better (take the Hubs’ word on this one), I see my healthy choices as a lifestyle, rather than a d-word that is stopped & started in an endless cycle of frustration.

A game-changer for me was my decision to completely cut meat from my diet, and severely limit eggs & dairy. I’m not “vegan” because I don’t obsessively label read to see if honey snuck into my fave granola bar (I’m looking at you, Kind bars!) and I still luuuuurve me some leather Coach handbags. Also when I’m out I stick to vegetarian food choices, because being vegan outside of the house? Is pretty damn hard! So no, I’m not vegan, but close. This choice was based on a lot of personal factors, stemming from my desire for a healthy physical body and also concern for animal welfare & the environment.

[soapbox] I don’t believe that humans need to eat animals or animal byproducts for food to be healthy! Nature holds some amazing sources of protein, without fat, hormones, or cholesterol. Also, human beings’ desire for cheap meat is leading to the pollution, exploitation & destruction of some of our world’s most amazing natural resources- farmland, rainforests, and water. How can I be a fully conscious traveler on this earth & still choose to cause harm to it & my fellow travelers (animals included) on a daily basis?[/soapbox]

Phew, glad I got that out! Wait, where was I? Oh right! I cook now! Partway into this journey to health I realized that the absolute best way to control exactly what I eat is to just make it myself. Sure I’ve got my share of Amy’s Kitchen vegan meals in my freezer, and I’ve found some killer tofu dishes at our favorite chinese takeout place, but I’ve also taken back over my kitchen. I’ve found so many amazing healthy recipes online that I don’t even bother checking out cookbooks from the library anymore. Want an easy dinner with quinoa and squash? Google it! My favorite recipes so far have come from Angela Liddon’s blog Oh She Glows, and John & Dana who blog at The Minimalist Baker.

The other day I decided to make my own granola using applesauce for sweetener along with dates, dried blueberries & walnuts, and googled for a recipe. I found a recipe over at The Chic Life but ended up altering it so drastically, I came up with what I like to think of as a new recipe altogether.

blueberry walnut date granola

(vegan, oil-free, no added sugar)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Baking time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill organic)
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal (I used Now Foods organic)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (or one container) unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp agave nectar (I used Madhava Agave 5 which is lower cal, but you could easily substitute regular agave or even maple syrup for your liquid sweetener)
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped (I used Made in Nature organic and ran them through my Ninja for about 30 seconds to chop finely)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used Fresh Market organic, you could easily substitute almonds or pecans)
  • 1/3 cup dried blueberries (I found some at Big Lots of all places and used the entire package. The blueberry flavor works wonderfully with the chopped dates but can be omitted if you have difficulty finding them)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Combine oats, flaxseed meal, walnuts, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl, mixing well
  3. Combine applesauce and agave nectar in a small bowl, mixing well (I used a wire whisk)
  4. Add sweet mixture to oat mixture, blending gently (use a spatula because the flaxseed meal likes to stick to the bottom of the bowl)
  5. Pour granola onto a nonstick baking pan (I used two large metal casserole pans for this batch), spreading the layer evenly
  6. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until granola is slightly browned, about 45 minutes
  7. Mix dried blueberries and chopped dates into the cooked granola and pat into pan firmly. Return to oven for 10 minutes (the stickiness of the dates helps bind the oats & flax in this last step and makes some pretty sweet granola chunks!)
  8. Let finished granola cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. I enjoy mine with almond milk and topped with fresh strawberries, banana or blueberries. Also try topping apple slices with peanut butter and dipping them into the granola….yum!
  9. Makes approximately eight 3/4c 280-calorie servings. Calories will vary with liquid sweetener used and changes to the mix-ins.

xo,

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