Chocolate Chunk Banana Baked Oatmeal Bites

Healthy? Check. Delicious? Check. Portable? Check.

All the makings for an awesome breakfast-on-the-go that keeps the waistline slim and trim. 🙂 And OF COURSE! It’s food storage! 🙂

Okay. Honestly you guys… you have GOT to try these. These little gals are so tasty and so good for you, that it would almost be a crime NOT to try them. I eat these as a breakfast, a snack, and even as a dessert (if I’ve been naughty the rest of the day). 🙂 It’s baked oatmeal, yes, but don’t let that deter you. I am actually not a fan of traditional baked oatmeal. And neither is Hubby. But when he tried these, he LOVED them. Now he even requests them!

They’re gluten free (in case that’s an issue for you), chock full of good-for-you ingredients, and have just enough sweetness to keep you coming back for more… and more… and more. 🙂

So give ’em a try! I promise you’ll be happy that you did!

Chocolate Chunk Banana Baked Oatmeal Bites

Download Printable Version
Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick oats)
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (or reconstituted egg powder)
  • 1¼ cups milk (or reconstituted powdered milk)
  • 1 cup mashed bananas* (about 3 medium)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 ºF. Lightly grease roughly 18 muffin cups with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine the oats (note: if using old-fashioned oats, I like to lightly grind mine in a food processor for a bit), brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir together.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, eggs, milk, and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and give it a good stir until fully combined. Add the chocolate chunks and stir again. {Note: Use 1 cup of chocolate chunks for a regular amount of chocolate, or up to 1½ cups if you like it really chocolatey.} 🙂
  5. Spoon the oatmeal mixture into the prepared muffin tins. (Note: These will not rise a lot–if at all–so go ahead and fill each cup at least ¾ full.)
  6. Bake uncovered for about 18-20 minutes, or until oatmeal is lightly browned and starting to turn dark at the edges (and/or a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean).
  7. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days, or these are great to throw in the freezer (in a freezer baggie) and have on hand for a quick breakfast/snack/dessert. Just toss one in the microwave (on the defrost setting) for about 1 minute (or about 20 seconds on HIGH) and it’s ready to go! 🙂

Yields 16 – 18 oatmeal bites.

*Store bananas in the freezer for food storage. See tips HERE.

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What’s For Snack? Guacamole!

Y’all are going to get a kick out of this recipe. It is Pantry Guacamole made from all shelf stable ingredients. Are you wondering how we got shelf stable avocados? Me too! But actually, we didn’t. This recipe uses canned peas instead of avocados! Crazy. I know! When I first came across this recipe, I thought it was so bizarre that I just HAD to try it. I figured there was no way this could pass as guacamole! So I whipped up a batch, chilled it in the fridge for a few hours, and then when Hubby came home from work I told him I had some guacamole for him to try (this is before I had even tasted it). He tasted it, his eyes lit up, and he said, “MMmm! That’s good!” I looked at him skeptically and said, “Really?” He assured me it was and then wondered why I was skeptical (as he kept putting chip after chip with this ‘guacamole’ in his mouth). I told him it was made from peas instead of avocados and he totally paused in disbelief. I went ahead and tried it, and knowing that it was made from peas, I could taste a hint of the pea flavor, but seriously… I was impressed! The kidlettes ate it with no problem whatsoever, and I’d say we’ve got ourselves a go-to little snack for when fresh avocados aren’t around (or are just too dang expensive)! 🙂

Pantry Guacamole

Download Printable Version
Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 (15 oz) can peas, drained
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup salsa or picante sauce, plus 2 Tbsp
  • ¼ tsp chili powder (more if you like it hot!)

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, soak the onion in some warm water for about 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. Using a food processor (or other similar blending device), blend together the peas, garlic, salt, lemon, the 1/3 cup salsa, and the chili powder until smooth.
  3. Stir in the remaining salsa and onion. Chill for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to come together.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips or on your favorite Mexican dish. Enjoy!

Recipe originally from SimplyPrepared.com

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What’s For Snack? Homemade Kettle Corn!

Hey y’all! I am so. anxious. to get into some Fall recipes! Unfortunately, the weather here in Texas is not cooperating very well. We’re still dealing with some warm temperatures, and have yet to feel that crisp chill in the air that says, “Ah… Fall is here.” *sad* 😦
However, my family and I did just go to the pumpkin patch this past weekend, which is getting me excited for the season, so I’m getting my ‘Fall Recipes Thinking Cap’ on. But while we were there at the pumpkin patch, our friends picked up some kettle corn that we all  had to agree left a little to be desired. It was still good, but it just didn’t have that salty-sweet balance just right. And that got me to thinking… I’ve got a recipe I recently found for some homemade kettle corn that would be perfect to share with y’all as somewhat of an intro to the fall season recipes… And it is 100% food storage friendly!
And seriously you guys… Once you have tried this homemade kettle corn, you will never go back to the microwave version again. (And in case any of you do not know what kettle corn is… it’s a salty sweet popcorn that is OH-SOO yummy!) This recipe tastes just like the kettle corn you would buy at the country fair (and apparently not a pumpkin patch :))… only you can have it in your kitchen any day of the week! Sweet!! It has become a new Sunday night tradition for my family. We just love it! And it’s super easy to make… just be prepared to give your arms a little bit of a workout (but my arms need it anyway). 🙂 Whoever said food storage was boring?! 😀

Homemade Country Fair Kettle Corn

Download Printable Version
Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup white sugar*
  • ½ cup popcorn kernels
  • salt to taste

(*You can use brown sugar in place of the white to get more of a caramel corn taste to it.)

Directions:

  1. Get a large pot with a lid and with handles on each side (mine’s a 6-qt pot). Also get out a large bowl for dumping the kettle corn into (you will want this out and ready in advance).
  2. Pour the oil into the pot and place three kernels in varying spots on the bottom (this is for our 3-kernel pop test) and place the lid on the pot.
  3. Turn the heat to about medium high (maybe just a tad bit higher) and let the oil heat up. You will know it is hot enough when all three kernels have popped (the 3-kernel pop test).
  4. Once the kernels have popped, add the sugar and give it a quick stir, making sure there are no clumps. Then add the rest of the popcorn kernels.
  5. Immediately put the lid back on and, using your hands to hold the lid securely on (use hot pads to protect your hands!), give the pot a good, quick shaking to get the kernels coated with the sugar. Place immediately back on the heat.
  6. Now all you have to do is let your popcorn cook, but continue to shake the pot for about 3 seconds at about 10-15 second intervals (this prevents the sugar or popcorn from burning on the bottom and keeps the heat evenly distributed among the kernels). Cook-shake-cook-shake-cook-shake**. You get the idea. 🙂
  7. The popping will really get going after about a minute or so. Continue to cook and shake until the popping slows to 2-3 seconds between pops.
  8. Immediately remove the popcorn from the heat and dump directly into your large bowl. (The sugar will continue to cook and potentially scorch if you leave it in the pan, so don’t wait to dump the popcorn out!)
  9. Sprinkle on some salt to taste, give it a toss in the bowl, and enjoy your country fair style kettle corn! Yee-haw! 😀

**Update (11/21/2010): It has come to my attention that there is some clarification needed regarding the “cook-shake-cook-shake” process. When you ‘shake’ your pot, you need to pick it up off the burner and give it a good solid shaking for a few seconds. Do NOT just leave it on the burner and shake it in place over the heat. Two things can happen: 1) you will likely burn your popcorn, and 2) if you have a glass-top stove (like my mom does) and your brother happens to be shaking the pot quite vigorously ON the glass-top, you may end up with a scratched glass-top stove. Ugh! Sorry Mom. 😦
So remember… pick the pot up before you shake, then replace it back on the heat for another 10 seconds or so, pick it back up to shake, back on the heat, etc. Hope that helps.

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What’s For Snack? Guilt-Free Cookies!

What’s this? Cookies? For snack?! You betcha! And after you see this healthy lineup of ingredients, you won’t feel bad eating them for a snack either. They are 100% {almost} guilt free! 😀 Okay, okay… so the chocolate chips aren’t entirely guilt free, but who’s telling? 🙂 Don’t forget to use the same trick with freezing bananas that we learned in our banana bread to make these a food storage friendly treat (with electricity, of course).

{Almost} Guilt-Free Cookies

Download Printable Version
Ingredients:

  • 3 large, ripe bananas (roughly 1½ cups)
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, barely warm (so that it isn’t solid), or olive oil
  • 1 tsp natural sweetener (i.e. Truvia (1 packet), agave, or honey)… I used Truvia
  • 2 cups quick oats (or old-fashioned)
  • 2/3 cup almond meal*
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut (the baking kind)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 packet Truvia (or 2 tsp sugar)
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • chocolate chips**

*You can make your own almond meal by pulsing almonds in a food processor until it is the texture of sand. ( Just don’t  overdo it, or you’ll end up with almond butter.) About 1/3 cup of almonds will get you 2/3 cup of almond meal.
**The higher the cacao percentage, the healthier the cookie will be for you. Bittersweet chocolate is about 70% cacao, which is what I used the first time I made these. But that’s a bit too much for my family’s liking. Semisweet works better for us. I didn’t have semisweet this time around though, so I used a mix of bittersweet, milk, and white. Turned out pretty good. 🙂

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash up your bananas until there are no longer any chunks (you need them well mashed). Add the vanilla, coconut oil, and natural sweetener of your choice. Mix well and then set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the oats, almond meal, shredded coconut, cinnamon, Truvia (or sugar), salt, and baking powder.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined, then fold in the chocolate chips. (The dough will be a bit looser than regular cookie dough, but that’s how it should be.)
  5. Drop dollops of the dough (roughly 2 teaspoons in size) onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You can put them pretty close together because they won’t melt down as they bake… they will hold their form almost exactly.
  6. Bake for about 12-15 minutes (as long as possible without burning the bottoms). Makes about 3 dozen bite-sized cookies. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Nikki’s Healthy Cookie Recipe

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What’s To Eat? Banana Bread!

I just LOVE banana bread. It’s a deliciously moist mix between a dessert and a snack. This recipe is one that I’ve tweaked until it’s just the way I like it. The sprinkled cinnamon-sugar topping is optional, but adds a sweet, fun addition without too many extra calories. 😉 Hope you enjoy it!

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups flour (I use half white and half whole wheat)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • dash of salt
  • 1 egg (2 Tbsp egg powder + 4 Tbsp water)
  • 3 medium to large overly ripe bananas*, mashed
  • ¾ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray or grease an 8x4x2 bread loaf pan (or three mini loaf pans).
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Push the flour mixture toward the edges of the bowl to create a well in the center; set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the egg, mashed bananas, sugar, and oil.
  4. Add the banana mixture all at once to the middle of the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy).
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Sprinkle a little bit of sugar (anywhere from ½ to 1 Tbsp) evenly over the top and a little bit of cinnamon as well (about 1 tsp).
  6. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out nearly clean. (If you are using mini loaf pans, reduce the baking time to 35-40 minutes.)
  7. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on the wire rack. (I like to place a clean kitchen towel over it to help prevent it from losing too much of its moisture while cooling.)
  8. Once the bread is completely cooled, you can wrap it with plastic wrap or store it in a plastic bag. (Note: do not wrap until completely cooled or your bread can get soggy.)
  9. Enjoy your delicious banana bread or give it away as a gift!

*A tip for being able to make banana bread with your food storage is to freeze your bananas when they get to that ‘overly ripe’ stage. This is especially helpful if you don’t have the time to make banana bread right away when your bananas are going bad. Frozen bananas are also great for smoothies! Of course, this means that you have to have electricity in order to keep your bananas frozen, so this recipe is for ‘With Electricity’ (unless you happen to know someone who grows bananas and have access to them fresh :)).
How I Freeze Bananas: 1) peel the bananas, 2) divide into segments, 3) give them a flash freeze by laying them on a cutting board and popping them in the freezer for about an hour (this helps to keep them from sticking to each other when stored in the bags), and 4) place them in freezer strength plastic baggies and store in the freezer. Then, when you want to make your banana bread, simply pull out the bananas and let them thaw prior to use, or just use them frozen in your smoothies. Ta-da! Food Storage bananas! 🙂

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

What’s For Snack? Healthy Green Smoothies!

Alright… I’m fudging a little bit on this one. I don’t make this from ‘food storage’ items because I try to use completely fresh for these ingredients. BUT, each of these ingredients could be stored in your freezer, or you could grow some of it in your garden, so you could make it from food storage… so I say it still counts. 🙂 But the main reason I want to share this recipe with you is because it is a delicious way to get TONS of healthy vitamins and nutrients into your diet… and your kids’ as well! My kids actually request this smoothie… green and all! We just made the fact that it’s green part of the fun. Lately we’ve been having it just about every day. And it’s so simple to make! You’re gonna love it! And seriously… these really are good. I’m not the kind of person to just blend something and drink it just because it’s healthy. So for all you skeptics out there who I know are going to turn up your nose the minute you see ‘spinach’ on the ingredient list, try it at least once! You’ll never taste a more delicious way to sneak vegetables into your daily diet. 🙂

Healthy Green Smoothies

Ingredients:

  • 1½ to 2 ripe bananas (the more ripe, the sweeter this will be)
  • 1 to 1½ cups of fresh pineapple chunks (you can use frozen, or even canned as well)
  • 2 to 3 cups fresh spinach (I use baby spinach leaves)
  • water to preference (however thick or thin you want it), but 1½ cups is probably a good estimate.
  • ice* (about 6 cubes)

Directions:
-Add all the ingredients to your blender and mix until smooth! It’s that easy!
-Makes  2-4 smoothies, depending on the size of your serving.

*Tip: Be sure that if you’re using fresh ingredients you add the ice. One of the keys to making this enjoyable is to make sure it is nice and cold. A warm smoothie just doesn’t cut it. 🙂 But if you’re using frozen ingredients you can do without the ice.

Photo courtesy of cari-fit.com

What’s For Snack? Homemade Granola Bars!

Homemade granola bars are one of the BEST discoveries I’ve made in the past year or so. They are less expensive than their store-bought counterparts, more healthy (or at least you can make them as healthy/unhealthy as you so choose), and a heck of a lot more tasty!
Back when I was on the hunt for a delicious, nutritious, homemade granola bar recipe I came across a lot that still had all the ‘un-nutritious’ ingredients I was trying to avoid. And then I finally came across THIS recipe, and after reading through some of the rave comments for them, I decided these had to be worth a shot. And seriously! They’re so good! They’re way better than what you buy in the store, cheaper, a lot more healthy, AND I can have them in my food storage! Is there a down side to this?! …other than that now I will be having to make my granola bars instead of spending two seconds to throw them in my grocery cart? 🙂 But actually, that’s half the fun too! And really it is, because this recipe is so versatile that you can customize it to be pretty much anything you want!
Well, after tweaking this way and that, here is my grand finale granola bar recipe:

Homemade Granola Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats (not the quick oats)
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ/milled flax seed combo*
  • 3/4 cup coconut
  • 1 cup finely chopped nuts (I use about half and half of walnuts and pecans)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar (you can use honey instead, but it has a much stronger flavor. I definitely prefer the agave.)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (if you have nut allergies, you can use 4 Tbsp butter instead, but that makes it no longer shelf-stable)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup dried fruit (I generally use Craisins, but it’s fun to try dried blueberries, dried cherries, etc as well)

(*for the wheat germ and milled flax seed, I just take a 3/4 measuring cup, fill it half way with wheat germ and the rest of the way with milled flax seed. You could also do all wheat germ or all flax seed (especially if you need this to be gluten-free. The wheat germ is the only gluten item in this recipe, so just omit it). Also be sure to use milled flax seed and not the whole flax seeds. I have learned that your body cannot actually break down the shell of a whole flax seed, thereby rendering its healthy attributes useless to you unless the shell has already been cracked in some way. So whether you mill it by hand or buy it milled, just be sure you’re not leaving them whole.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix the oats, nuts, flax seed, wheat germ, and coconut on a baking dish (with sides) and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, stirring about half way through so that they don’t get burned.
  3. While they’re toasting, get a 9×13 glass baking dish and line it with parchment paper (you can use wax paper with a nonstick spray if you don’t have parchment, but be aware that you may end up having to pick wax paper out of your granola bars! -don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
  4. Put the brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla, and salt into a saucepan, then turn the heat on to about medium-high and bring it to a simmer, stirring constantly.
  5. Once it comes to a simmer and the top is covered with bubbles, remove it from heat (you don’t want it to boil for more than about 30 seconds, otherwise you’ll end up with crunchy granola bars). And your grain/nut mixture should be done now too, so take it out of the oven (and you can turn the oven off too… we’re done using it).
  6. Throw the toasted mixture into a large bowl and pour the melted mixture on top, along with your dried fruit. And mix, mix, mix.
  7. Mix some more. 🙂 You want to make sure that everything gets coated with the “gluey” syrup.
  8. Dump your granola mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread it out as evenly as possible.
  9. Using another piece of parchment (or wax paper, but again, watch out for sticking), press down HARD all over the top of the granola. You want to compact it together so the bars won’t fall apart when you cut them.
  10. Wait 2-3 hours, or until the granola has completely cooled.
  11. Turn the granola onto a large cutting board and peel away what is now the top layer of parchment paper.
  12. Cut the granola into bars by firmly pressing down with a big cutting knife (not sawing). You can make the bars whatever size you like, but if you make them the general “granola bar” size, you should be able to get 18-22 bars out of this.
  13. Finally, you can either wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap** so they’re ready to grab and go, or you can just store them in an airtight container (with a piece of parchment placed between any layers).

Ta-da! Homemade granola bars. Enjoy! They’re tasty! 🙂

**P.S. If you want the convenience of ‘grab and go’ but don’t want to waste all the plastic wrap (not to mention the time it takes to wrap each one!), try sticking the bars in the little ‘snack-size’ plastic baggies and then just save them to reuse for the next batch of granola bars. And again, enjoy and have fun!! 🙂

Tips & Tricks
1) Make sure your nuts are finely ground. I put mine in a food processor and get them down to tiny chunks (half of it almost ends up in a powder). Large chunks of nuts will make your granola bars more apt to fall apart.

2) In step #4, turning the heat on after the ingredients are all in the pan is a trick I developed to help keep the sugar from cooking longer than the rest of the ingredients–which would turn the granola bars a bit more crunchy and crumbly.

3) Press down HARD once you’ve got the whole mixture spread out in the pan. I usually press for several minutes to make sure it is completely compacted together.

4) Make preparation time a snap! When you make a batch, make extra batches of the dry ingredients (the ingredients that get toasted) and just put them in a ziplock bag and store in the freezer. Then, the next time you go to make some granola bars, just grab the bag out of the freezer, let it come to room temperature and then continue on as usual with the directions. (And you can just save the bags and reuse them to stock up again when you’re all out of the mixes.) 🙂