Marshmallow Free Crispy Treats

Marshmallow free crispy treats are a fun snack or dessert reminiscent of rice crispy treats but made healthier with puffed millet and a mixture of almond butter and honey instead of marshmallows! 

Happy Tuesday everyone! Apologies for the lack of a new recipe post yesterday. I always want to start Monday out with my favorite recipe of the week, but I was traveling this weekend and woke up with bad cold Sunday morning. When I got back home, the last thing I wanted to do was anything that didn't involve laying in bed with a box of tissues and watching the debate.

Hopefully these marshmallow free crispy treats will make up for it!

Did you love rice crispy treats as a kid? I actually did not. There are very few foods in this world that I just do not like, but alright right at the top of the list are marshmallows. So weird. So gross. The only food that makes less sense to me is jello. Apparently I have a thing about jiggly foods.

So I won't say these taste exactly like rice crispy treats, but in my book, that's a good thing! Taking a cue from my friend Min, I used a mix of almond butter and honey. This helps the crispies stick together, sweetens and adds satiating fats. So the result is a bar that can double as dessert or a snack bar.

Also, these bars aren't actually made with puffed rice because for some reason, my grocery store was out of puffed rice cereal. Hrumpf. So I decided to experiment with puffed millet, which I loved, and it's fun to switch things up. Feel free to use puffed brown rice too if that's easier to find. And you probably can skip the toasting step if the brown rice is crispy enough.

To make these bars, I used a jar of acacia honey sent to me as a sample from Heavenly Organics. I was really excited to learn about their sustainability initiatives and work providing ethical job opportunities in India. Plus, when you're making something where honey is one of the main flavor profiles, it's nice to use something a few steps up in flavor from the honey bear :)

I also added a couple fun extras, because I can't help but bling out my recipes a bit. First, chopped almonds for extra crunch and satiating fat. Then I threw in a bag of Crunchies freeze-dried strawberries, another sample I was sent. It added a pretty color and hint of fruity flavor.

One thing not to forget - use parchment paper or aluminum foil to line the pan. I forgot this step when I made my second batch of these and it was pretty much schllacked on there!

Marshmallow Free Crispy Treats

Makes 12 squares

I used puffed millet from Arrowhead Mills.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups puffed millet

  • 1/3 cup honey

  • 1/3 cup almond butter

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped and toasted

  • 1 ounce bag freeze dried berries

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread millet evenly on a large baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn or brown. Taste and make sure they're nice and crispy. Remove and set aside until ready to use.

  2. Mix honey, almond butter, coconut oil and cinnamon in a large pot on medium heat. Whisk until fully combined. Stir in puffed millet, almonds, freeze dried fruit and chia seeds.

  3. Line a large casserole dish with aluminum foil, wax paper or parchment paper. Spread millet mixture evenly in the dish and flatten with a spatula. Place in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour before cutting into 12 squares.

More snackable sweet squares: 

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars

Homemade Fig Newtons

Homemade Fig Newtons

Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars

Chocolate Hazelnut Chia Bars

Almond Trail Cookies

Gluten free and vegan, these lightly sweetened, whole grain almond trail mix cookies are the perfect snack to fuel your hike.

I was asked to participate in the “#CrunchOn ” campaign as a member of the Healthy Aperture Blogger Network. I was compensated for my time and also received free samples for recipe testing.

To me, food is one of the most important parts of travel. Before we take a trip, even a quick weekend jaunt within the South, I'll spend hours online, learning local specialties, researching the best restaurants and figuring out how to work in as many tasty yums as possible. There are few things in life that make me more sad than a subpar meal while on vacation.

Scott and I love camping, but that type of vacation doesn't exactly lend itself to good eats. We've taken a few camping trips in the last couple years, and in each case, crappy food was pretty unavoidable. Even if a can of beanie weenies was the panacea of health, you still wouldn't catch me eating it. I have no problem not showering or peeing in the woods, but eating rehydrated food for dinner? NOPE.

When we decided to camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains for my birthday, I planned ahead to ensure the weekend was filled with deliciousness. I prepared a gourmet meal of potatoes, grilled vegetables and halloumi cheese with smoked paprika, cooked over an open fire. We packed a nice bottle of wine, which I think we were judged for by the, um, mountain folk at the campsite next to us. The second night, we drove into Asheville for dinner at my favorite brewery and birthday cake from my favorite chocolatier (Asheville has all my favorites!). And lastly, I made sure to pack plenty of tasty snacks to fuel our hikes - olive oil popcorn from Trader Joes, honeycrisp apples, wasabi peas and these trail cookies, stuffed with all sorts of almond goodness.

Y'all, these are kind of the perfect trail food. I get pretty hungry when I'm hiking, which isn't that different from my usual state of being, but of course when hiking, there's no refrigerator nearby. Portable, compact, full of healthy fats, protein and a boost of energy from honey, these were perfect for munching on while we stopped to rest our legs. Sure, we could have just packed an energy bar, but I mean, cookies.

These cookies incorporate almonds in four different ways:

WHOLE ALMONDS // For satiating crunch!

ALMOND MEAL // My favorite gluten free flour for baking, it adds a nice crumbly texture and nutty flavor.

ALMOND BUTTER // Used instead of butter and other added fats.

ALMOND MILK // Mix 3 tablespoons almond milk with 1 tablespoon chia seeds to make a vegan egg for baking.

Besides the obvious fact that they taste amazing, there's a lot to love about almonds:

  • Almonds are a rich source of monounsaturated fat, the type found in extra-virgin olive oil and avocados, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol.
  • With 1/4 cup providing 40% your daily needs of vitamin E, almonds are the best nut source of the fat soluble vitamin. The antioxidant vitamin helps protect against heart disease and protects fats in the brain against oxidative damage and inflammation.
  • Almonds also top all other nuts in calcium content, one of the reasons (besides it's creamy deliciousness) that I love homemade almond milk so much!
  • Some people still avoid almonds because of their fat content, but study after study have shown them to be beneficial for weight management. And not that I recommend calorie counting, but recent studies with more accurate methods of measuring calories, have shown an ounce of almonds contain only 130 calories versus the previous count of 160.
  • With 6 grams of protein in each ounce, a serving of nuts is one of my favorite post-workout snacks.
  • Snacking on crunchy food like almonds can actually help combat stress!

Feel free to mix in your favorite trail mix ingredients. I like using freeze dried fruit, which is less sweet than dried fruit, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Dark chocolate chips never hurt anything. Because these are vegan, you can always skip the whole baking step, roll into balls and enjoy like cookie dough!

Almond Trail Mix Cookies

Makes 20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1 cup freeze dried blueberries
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix almond milk and chia. Let sit 10 minutes or so to gel.
  2. In a large bowl, mix chia "egg," almond butter, coconut oil, honey and vanilla with an electric beater. In another medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Using electric beater, mix wet ingredients into dry. Stir in oats, blueberries and almonds. Cover dough with saran wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 325.
  4. Scoop tablespoon sized balls of dough onto an oiled baking sheet. Press down lightly with the back of a spoon to flatten. Bake for 16-18 minutes until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Flourless Sticky Chocolate Plum Cake

This gluten free and vegan flourless sticky chocolate plum cake is naturally sweetened with California dried plums. Perfect for dessert or snacking alongside a cup of coffee.

“By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Dried Plum Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”

Before this recipe contest, I hadn't had a dried plum since I was, oh, 5 years old maybe. In my mind, I remembered them tasting...well, not that great. But, we all know taste buds change so I when a pack of dried plums arrived on my doorstep, I was curious to see what they actually tasted like. Seriously, I can't believe I was missing out for so long. Hands down, favorite dried fruit and maybe even snack food in general. Since creating this recipe, we've already gone through two bags. I think I may need an intervention....

I'd heard dried plums could be used in place of butter and sugar in baked goods, but it always seemed a bit retro to me. Like something you'd see in a 1970s issue of Good Housekeeping alongside jello salad. No thanks.

But after trying my first dried plum in 25 odd years, I got it. The fruity and slightly tart flavor would pair perfectly with chocolate. The sticky texture seemed just right for a dense, flourless cake. Plus, I've been baking with other dried fruit pastes for awhile now, so it didn't seem that weird anymore.

When it comes to cake, I'm kind of a snob. I pass on anything described as light and fluffy. I much prefer cakes that are rich, dense and could be accurately described with that 'm-word' we all hate so much. That's exactly what this cake is. Especially the m-word.

Before we get to the recipe, lets talk dried plums, or as I like to call them, the artist formerly known as prunes.

May is National Osteoporosis Month, so it seems a good time to highlight dried plums role in supporting bone health. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak and porous, causing them to break more easily. Although it mainly affects elderly women, especially those on the thinner side, men (even larger men) are susceptible, especially with our modern American diet that's low in bone building nutrients. It's also very serious. You might not think of a broken bone as being that big of a deal, but as you get older, it can seriously impact your quality of life and ability to do the things you love.

When you think bone health, you probably think calcium, vitamin D and of course, dairy. However, there are many other bone building nutrients, and research is even beginning to show dairy may not play as big of a role in bone health as we once thought. Other nutrients, like vitamin K, phosphorus, boron, copper, magnesium, and potassium, are just as important as calcium and vitamin D. And guess what? Dried plums are a great source of these nutrients! Dried plums are actually the best fruit source of vitamin K, a vitamin which increases bone mineral density. In fact, studies have found that 1-2 servings of dried plums a day increases bone mineral density and markers of bone formation, even in people who already have osteoporosis.

Other health benefits:

DIGESTIVE HEALTH // Dried plums are not only high in fiber, but also in naturally occurring sorbitol. This sugar alcohol isn't fully digested, so it pulls fluids into the gut, helping to promote regularity.

HEART HEALTH // Animal studies on prunes have found they may be effective in both lowering cholesterol and reducing atherosclerotic plaques in blood vessels.

ANTIOXIDANTS // Dried plums are a rich source of antioxidants, mainly phenols, which seem to be especially beneficial for heart health. Dried plums are also a good source of vitamin C, another antioxidant vitamin.

Now, back to the recipe. I've never been into the whole cup of coffee and a baked good thing, but if I were, I imagine this would be exactly what I'd want next to my cup o' Joe. It's not too sweet, so if you prefer it more dessert-like, feel free to increase the honey to 3 or 4 tablespoons. The rich cake would also be delicious served with whipped coconut cream. Because it's so dense and sticky, the old stick a knife in the center of the cake thing doesn't work here. Just eyeball it, you'll begin to see when it's beginning to puff around the edges. It's pretty forgiving, so no worries if you over or undercook it a bit.

Sticky Chocolate Plum Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chia seds
  • 6 tablespoons almond milk
  • 3/4 cup California dried plums
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together chia seeds and almond milk. Let sit to gel for 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a food processor, blend dried plums into a puree. Add chia gel, honey, almond butter, and vanilla and blend again until combined. Add almond meal and cocoa powder to the food processor and blend again until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Line a loaf pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper with some hanging over the sides then cover generously with oil. This makes it easier to remove. Scrape in batter and spread even with a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes, sprinkling with coconut halfway through cooking.
  5. Remove from oven, let cool in the pan. When ready to serve, lift out by pulling on the foil or parchement paper and cut into thin slices before serving. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

Canned pumpkin and coconut milk seem like an unlikely duo, but when blended with herbs, spices and bit of citrus, it makes a rich, creamy and complex pasta sauce. Top with sauteed leeks, mushrooms and peas to make it a meal.  

Since my teenage years, on a semi-regular basis, I've been mistaken for Italian. I've got German, Scottish and Latvian blood, but not a speck of Italian, at least to my knowledge. There's been some awkward moments, like when I was walking through Little Italy and a little old lady spoke to me in Italian...then gave me a death stare when I couldn't respond. Then there was that time a woman in Williams Sonoma asked me how I make pasta from scratch, to which I replied "uhhh, I put it in boiling water." And of course, we can't forget the rumor that went around in high school that my dad was in the mafia. Don't even ask how that one started.

I always presumed it was my olive complexion and dark hair, but after creating this dish, I think I've figured out the source of confusion. Rumor must have somehow got out about my excellent pasta sauce making skills.

If you've made my pasta primavera with cauliflower sauce, dairy free mac and cheese or horrendously photographed but amazingly delicious almost cheeseless pasta casserole, then you know this rumor to be true. This creamy pumpkin sauce blows them all out of the water.

This bowl of pasta was one of the most comforting things I've ever experienced, right up there with fleece-lined leggings and snuggles from my fur babies (one of which is doing a little better - thanks for all your well wishes!). Comfort food to the max. Plus, it's got the whole carb and carb thing going on - never a bad thing in my opinion.

I've used pureed pumpkin in pasta sauces before, most notably my vegan mac and cheese (one of the most popular recipes on this blog). But for this sauce, I wanted it to be almost alfredo-like and silky smooth. And for that, you need fat and lots of it!

I used two sources of fats to create this sauce. First, coconut milk, which adds only a faint hint of coconut flavor that actually melds together really nicely with this sauce. I also mixed in a couple tablespoons of almond butter, although you could use cashew butter or tahini even if you have it on hand. Both of these fats lend a nice mouthfeel to the sauce, but also a complex flavor as well.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Peas
Dairy Free Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Peas

Speaking of flavor, there's so much going on in this bowl! I added lots of sage, picked from our "herb garden," aka sage garden because that's what took over! Fresh orange juice brightens the sauce and sweetens it a bit as well. The turmeric adds a little peppery flavor, but mostly I added it in for the health benefits and gorgeous color.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Sauce: 

  • 14-ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter

Remaining Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 ounces shiitakes, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 8 ounces 100% whole grain spaghetti (I used quinoa spaghetti)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, whisk together sauce ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add leeks and saute 5-7 minutes until tender. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook until their liquid has released and reabsorbed, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in peas and cook until defrosted and warm. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Toss spaghetti with the sauce. Top with vegetables and serve.

No Added Sugar Cinnamon-Spice Cookies

No Added Sugar Cinnamon-Spice Cookies

Yes, these cookies are gluten free, vegan and made with no added sugar. They are also insanely delicious, dense, and chewy. You may be doubtful such a cookie exists, especially the whole 'insanely delicious' part. Let me assure you, these cookies are all I've made them out to be...and more. The trick is a quick golden raisin paste to sweeten the cookies! 

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Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies

Everything but the kitchen sink cookies are loaded with crunchy almonds, dark chocolate, toasted coconut and oats! Gluten free, vegan and made with whole grains! Plus, you can make them in a food processor, so you don’t have to dirty a ton of bowls!

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