Peach Berry Bars

IMG_2009While part of me is gravitating toward all things pumpkin these days, the more rational part (the part that actually goes outside in the 89% humidity) realizes that summer is still going strong, and the pumpkin extravaganza can wait. No worries, friends, pumpkin recipes are coming. But for now, I still have peaches to eat. Here in North Carolina, we will have peaches and blueberries for just a precious few weeks more and then apples and pumpkins will rein again. So, I’m loading up on peaches–freezing them, making peach jam, baking peach cobbler and trying new recipes like these delicious peach and berry bars.

These bars have an almond crust and topping, with thick, sweet peaches and blueberries in between. Summer deliciousness! You could substitute apricots, raspberries or whatever is fresh at your farmers markets. I may try this again with a thin layer of lemon curd over the crust to give some zing to the sweetness. They are great for picnics and late summer tailgating, so try them before the Polar Vortex returns and peaches are just a lovely memory of summer.

This recipe is based on one from Eating Well. I’ve changed up a few things to cut down on the sugar, but if you want the original recipe, you can find it HERE.

Peach Berry Bars (makes 18 bars)

Crust (also topping)

  • 1 cup almond chopped raw almonds
  • 1.5 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp. cold, organic unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large farm egg
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp. organic coconut oil

Filling

  • 4 cups, chopped fresh peaches
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and stems removed
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup quick cook tapioca
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare the crust by combining 3/4 cups of the chopped almonds, flour, coconut sugar, salt and cinnamon in a food processor. Combine well.
  3. Add butter and pulse just until butter is incorporated (about 5-10 seconds).
  4. Combine oil, vanilla and almond extract in a bowl. With the food processor running on low, add the oil mixture and the egg. Blend until moist and crumbly. Reserve 1/2 cup of the crust to serve as the topping. Combine the reserved topping with the remaining chopped almonds and set aside.
  5. Coat a 9 x 13 pan lightly with coconut oil. Press the crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the greased pan and set aside.
  6. In a saucepan, combine the fruit and orange juice and cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Fruit should start to thicken. Add the tapioca and vanilla, stir well, and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Fruit should be very thick at this point.
  7. Pour the fruit mixture over the crust in the pan and spread evenly.
  8. Top the fruit with dollops of the reserved topping, pressing the topping into the fruit a bit.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 20 minutes more.
  10. Let bars cool for about 15 minutes. Put cooled bars in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes more to cool.
  11. Cut cooled bars and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Mixed Berry Ice Pops

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I can’t tell you how much fun we have had making our own ice pops this summer! This mixed berry version is definitely my favorite so far. The berries are nice and tart–very refreshing on a hot day. The yogurt and almond milk mellow out the tartness and keep the ice pops just a bit creamy. We used a mix of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries since that is what we have at the markets now. You can use whatever is available to you locally or buy a bag of frozen berries. Maybe I’ll sneak some of these into the deep freeze for a winter treat 🙂

Mixed Berry Ice Pops (makes 10, 3 ounce ice pops)

  • 4 cups fresh berries (preferably pesticide-free)
  • 4 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups organic almond milk
  1. Put all ingredients into a Vitamix or good quality blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into ice pop molds.
  3. Add sticks, if needed, and freeze 4 hours or overnight.

Raspberry Vanilla Chia Pudding

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I am “of a generation” that grew up realizing Christmas was just around the corner when that magical info-mercial took to the television airwaves. Cha-cha-cha-Chia! Yes, Chia-pets, those crazy terra cotta animal head shapes that, once planted with chia seeds, sprouted hair-like grass. Available only during the holidays, so that you could be “that guy” who brought a grassy head to the office Secret Santa party. The 70s were a strange and bewildering time. Maybe it was the drugs. Or the fringe. It never occurred to us to eat those seeds, but now those same ancient seeds are the hottest superfood around.

I have to be honest with you. I was pretty skeptical about chia seeds. Not their nutritional value–they are definitely in the Super Food category, with tons of fiber, protein and omega-3s. As a matter of fact, they have the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids of any known plant source. These little seeds are nutritional powerhouses, I tell you.

So it wasn’t their content that bothered me. I just couldn’t get past their…well…texture. Chia seeds have the ability to soak up 10 times their weight in liquid, forming a bulky gel. This makes them a terrific natural thickener and their high fiber content keeps you full a long time. But, like tapioca, they also have a definite texture, and I wasn’t sure I could get beyond that. But this journey is all about learning, right? So we got ourselves some pesticide-free chia seeds and dove into the realm of all things chia, starting with what looked like the slimiest of all recipes–chia puddings.

Our first attempt at a chia pudding was okay, but not great–we made a mocha pudding with soy milk, raw cacao, some powdered coffee and a bit of maple syrup. Tom’s reaction? It didn’t have enough chocolate flavor, but he thought he might be able to get used to it after having it a few more times. Hmmmm. Not the enthusiastic endorsement I like to have! If I’m going to post a recipe, it has to be great, not so-so.

So I tried again with some fresh raspberries from the farmers market and some vanilla flavored yogurt and soy milk. The result? A hit! This no-cook pudding was creamy, rich with vanilla flavor and studded with lovely, tart raspberries. A keeper, for sure! Yes, the texture has a tapioca pudding-like thing going on, but it isn’t bad, and the seeds are actually smaller than blackberry seeds, so they aren’t SO noticeable.

One of the beauties of this recipe is that you mix everything together the night before and can take it to work for lunch. Or have it for a quick breakfast on the run! This lovely pudding was my lunch for the day and I was surprisingly full all afternoon. While it is genuinely no-cook, it does take time (several hours) for the chia seeds to do their thing, so you do need to plan a bit ahead.

I used a vanilla-flavored yogurt for our pudding because that is what we had on hand, but you could use plain Greek yogurt and add vanilla bean paste. Or you could go vegan and just use a vegan milk, leaving the yogurt out altogether. The yogurt did have some sugar in it, so our version was not sugar-free, but you can adjust that as you like.

What about you? Do you make chia recipes? What works best for you?

Raspberry Vanilla Chia Pudding (makes 2 half-cup dessert servings or one meal-sized serving)

  • 2 ounces vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup soy milk (any milk will work here)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pesticide-free chia seeds
  • 6-8 fresh raspberries, washed
  1. Combine all ingredients except berries in a small bowl and blend with a whisk until smooth.
  2. Carefully stir in berries.
  3. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Stir well before eating.

Pineapple Whip Ice Pops

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I love going to Disney World. I know it’s all manufactured happiness, but sometimes I really need that. Walking mascots to hug? I’m in. Lunch with princesses? Absolutely. Fake safari rides? Save me a seat.

Two of my favorite treats at Disney are the chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream pops in the shape of Mickey’s head and a frozen pineapple sorbet-ish treat called a Dole Whip. The ingredients in a Dole Whip are not very nutritious, but I’ve made my own ice pops to taste just like them–but without the sugar overload and preservatives. Now I can try to recreate the happiest place on earth in my own kitchen.

It’s a small world, after all…

Pineapple Whip Ice Pops (makes 10, 3 ounce popsicles)          One ice pop has 49 calories, 0.3 grams of fat and 39% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C.

  • 1 lb. fresh, chopped pineapple (or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup vanilla or honey flavored organic Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 cups soy milk (exact amount will depend on how juicy your pineapple is)
  1. Put pineapple, yogurt and 1 cup of soy milk in a high powered blender. Blend until very smooth. Add more soy milk if needed to thin the mixture enough to blend.
  2. Pour mixture into ice pop molds. Freeze 4-6 hours or overnight.
  3. Unmold and create your own happy place.

Mango Lassi Ice Pops

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Hello, Bollywood? You need to roll out the red carpet for these Mango Lassi Ice Pops. They are big stars, I tell you.

Have you ever had a mango lassi? Mango lassi is an incredibly refreshing Indian beverage, very similar to an American milk shake or smoothie, but without the heavy dairy fat and sugar. When Ellie was little, the owner of a local Indian restaurant we frequented usually offered her a mango lassi. She could never finish it, so I finished them for her (you know, a mother’s sacrifices are endless). Mango lassis use fresh mango, yogurt and cardamom, resulting in a sweet and spicy combination that is delicious, especially in the heat of summer. Why they aren’t a popular drink in North Carolina–where it gets about as hot as India–is beyond me.

These Mango Lassi Ice Pops are cool, creamy and delicious. They are also gluten-free and sugar free. Spiced with cardamom, they are just a teensy bit spicy in that lovely floral way that cardamom infuses everything. You can leave the cardamom out, but I encourage you to give it a try–it really makes something good, extraordinary.

A word about mango: I use frozen organic mango from Trader Joes, but you could also use fresh mango if you have ripe mangoes available. If you have an Indian grocery nearby, buy your mangoes there–they will have a greater variety of mangoes than the typical American grocery store.

This recipe makes about 1/2 cup more than you need for the ice pops, so the chef gets a treat at the end 🙂

I am listing this recipe under “breakfast as well because if you serve what comes from the blender, it would be a nice lassi smoothie!

Mango Lassi Ice Pops (makes 10, 3 ounce ice pops)
Each ice pop has 51 calories and .9 grams of fat and 2.6 grams of protein

* 4 cups peeled and chopped ripe mango or organic frozen mango
* 6 ounces organic Greek yogurt
* 2 cups organic almond milk or soy milk
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Put all ingredients in a good quality blender (I use my trusty Vitamix). Blend until smooth.
2. Fill your ice pop mold and freeze several hours or overnight.
3. Unmold ice pops and enjoy!

Chunky Monkey Ice Pops

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Well, my experiments with vegan, dairy-free ice cream were ok, but I have found greater success making creamy ice pops in interesting flavors! These pops are sugar-free, gluten-free, raw and vegan. And magically tasty! Like a fudgesicle that actually has loads of flavor instead of just sugar. I also like that we have individual servings all ready to go–no scooping needed, although I do need to tap the mold on the counter a few times to get rid of those pesky air pockets 🙂

The real secret to these ice pops is bananas. They give the popsicles a lovely, creamy, thick texture without any dairy (I’ve also used soaked and drained cashews–this works well, too). You do need to freeze the bananas ahead of time, but we always seem to have bananas on the brink of disaster, so freezing them before they turn too mushy is a regular habit. I take ripe bananas, peel them, cut them into slices and freeze them on a parchment lined baking sheet. When they are frozen, I pop the slices into storage bags and keep them in the freezer until I need them. They are terrific in smoothies!

Since ripe bananas are pretty sweet on their own, I didn’t add any sweetener, but you could add some raw honey if you wanted to (this would change the nutritional profile). As is, these are cool, creamy, and have a great banana/peanut butter/chocolate flavor.

Many thanks to fellow blogger, The Midnight Baker for sharing her success with the Norpro Ice Pop Maker. Check out her recipes–they look amazing. The Norpro mold makes 10, 3 ounce ice pops, is BPA free and is very affordable. Click HERE for more information.

Chunky Monkey Ice Pops (makes 10, 3 ounce ice pops)
Each ice pop has 100 calories, 5 grams of fat and 3 grams of protein

  • 2 organic bananas, peeled, cut up and frozen
  • 1/4 cup raw, unsalted peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 cup organic almond or soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Put all ingredients into a Vitamix or Magic Bullet blender and blend until very smooth.
  2. Pour mixture into the ice pop molds. Tap the mold on the counter a few times to release air bubbles.
  3. Freeze several hours or overnight.
  4. Unmold the pops and enjoy!
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