Chocolate Chocolate Chip Granola

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     Almost exactly the same recipe as the Chai Spice Granola, except instead of having to make and use Chai Spice, you just use raw cacao powder, and add in some chocolate chips. I used raw cacao from Navita available on Vitacost here. I used 100% (so completely unsweetened) Chocolate Chips from Pascha Organics, available online at Vitacost here. There is no added sugar so they are bitter, but if you love the taste of raw cacao, you might love these. They are too bitter to use on their own, but in the granola with the little bit of added sweetness from the maple syrup they are perfect. If you would like a little bit of extra sweetness/less bitterness, try their 85% chocolate chips (semi-sweet) available on the same link. These can be used on their own, and are more ideal for other bakes such as cookies, and brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of rolled oats

  • 1/3 cup almond butter

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes

  • 1/2 cup pecans (broken)

  • 1/2 cup 85% or 100% dark chocolate chips (Pascha Organic)

  • 1/4 tsp. himalayan salt

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

  • 2 tbsp. raw cacao

  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 325

  • Prepare a baking sheet by using nonstick, or lining it with parchment paper

  • In a large bowl combine oats and nuts

  • In a smaller bowl combine almond butter, maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla extract, and raw cacao.

  • Scoop wet into dry and after using a utensil to try an and incorporate, use your hands to fully combine.

  • Scoop mixture onto baking sheet and press down.

  • Bake for 15 minutes, then mix, press down again, and bake for another 15 minutes

  • Let sit out for a few hours to dry out or over night (covered). Add in chocolate chips. Store in a mason jar and enjoy!

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Chai Spiced Granola

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     Once you start making your own granola, I can assure you that you won’t turn back! You can control exactly what goes into it and make it much lower in sugar than anything you will find in the store. Here is my recipe for Chai Spiced Granola.
 
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup pecans (broken)
  • 1/4 tsp. himalayan salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. Chai Spice*
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 325
  • Prepare a baking sheet by using nonstick, or lining it with parchment paper
  • In a large bowl combine oats and nuts
  • In a smaller bowl combine almond butter, maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla extract, and spice mix.
  • Scoop wet into dry and after using a utensil to try an and incorporate, use your hands to fully combine.
  • Scoop mixture onto baking sheet and press down.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then mix, press down again, and bake for another 15 minutes
  • Let sit out for a few hours to dry out or over night (covered). Store in a mason jar and enjoy!
* To make your own Chai Spice you just blend the following ingredients:
  • 4 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Ginger
  • 1 tsp. Cardamon
  • 1 tsp. All Spice
  • 1 tsp. Cloves

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Mediterranean Salad (VGN, GF)

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This Mediterranean Salad was something I had in the back of my mind for a while but had yet to try. This year my goal is to try to do everything I have thought about doing in the past and that includes creating and trying new recipes. This one was inspired by recipes I saw online, but developed by myself.  This recipe creates 5 meals worth and is perfect for a large family, leftovers, or meal prep.  This recipe is high in protein and fiber, and full of healthy fat (omega-9 from the olives and olive oil).

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) Roasted Red Peppers
  • 1 jar (6 oz.) Olives
  • 1 bunch Italian Parsley
  • 1 Box (8 oz.) Chickpea Pasta (I used Wegmans Organic Chickpea Pasta)
  • 1 cup dry quinoa (pre-washed/rinsed)
  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
  • Himalayan Sea Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • *Optional Add-ins – Feta (I recommend Kite Hill Vegan Feta Cheese)

Instructions:

  • Cook Quinoa (I found that I used 3 1/2 cups of water on medium heat, turned off when almost done and covered to steam cook the rest of the way.)
  • While Quinoa is cooking, cook pasta per instructions on packaging
  • While everything is cooking, chop cucumber, parsley, roasted red peppers, and slice olives in half. Mix everything into a large bowl.
  • Set the cooked ingredients aside to cool.
  • Take a small mason jar and pour in the juice of half a lemon, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper. Shake to incorporate. Pour over chopped ingredients.
  • Cover chopped ingredients and refrigerate while the cooked ingredients cool.
  • Once the cooked ingredients have cooled to room temperature, gently incorporate all of the ingredients together. This salad is best served chilled.

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Things to Do Over Winter

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     I deliberately did not title this: Ways to Pass the Time in Winter, because I do not see that as the goal. Time is not something we should wish to speed up, it goes by just fine on it’s own.  I do however recognize that winter can be a difficult time for some people, especially those with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Although winter can at times be something that we wish for to pass, I find it to be a wonderful time of year for reflection, goal setting, tackling projects that seem to have gotten away from you previously, and all around growth.  It is a time where whether we like it or not, tend to have to spend most of our time indoors. That is not healthy long term, but I find that with the right mindset, winter can be a great time of rejuvenation and quite enjoyable.  Here are some ideas for things to do over winter:

Give Back

  • Look for ways to get involved in your community.  Whether that is volunteering for a soup kitchen, or keeping an eye out for someone who you may be able to help out on a one on one level, after a season packed with materialism, it is refreshing to get back to what truly matters.

Engage Your Mind

  • There are so many ways to do this, but reading is certainly tops. Choose a genre that you generally gravitate to, or branch out and something new. Regardless, reading is a great way to captivate your mind that does not rely on a screen.  Or, although technically requiring a screen (but only for a brief time), Podcasts are a great way to engage your mind and learn new things. Listen while driving, doing chores around the house, or going through your morning regime.

Get Active

  • Just because it is cold and dark by the time you get home from work does not rule out exercise. My favorite exercises actually require very little equipment. Just YouTube, a yoga matt, and 2 kettle bells. Exercise is not only great for your physical health, but mental health as well.

Try Something New

  • Is there a restaurant you have never been to but always wanted to try? Now is a great time to check it out.  Although it will be dark out, having an outing can always brighten things up.  Not wanting to go out? Now is a great time to try out one of those many recipes on your Pinterest board that you always wanted to try.

Plan an Adventure

  • Travel is one of my favorite things in this world. Come up with some plans to go on an adventure. It may be as simple as a day trip, a weekend getaway, or a week or more trip to a farther destination. Having something to look forward to is always a mood booster and helps create anticipation.

Refresh

  • This could be your diet, your lifestyle, your hair, clothes, or décor. But doing a refresh can make things feel new again, and that is always a good feeling.

Get Your Hands Dirty

  • Engage your creative side and get your hands dirty. It can be anything from trying to learn to knit, or paint, taking a class, or going to a DIY studio. But being creative will help engage your mind in different ways than you normally do, and no matter what your creation turns out like, it feels good to try.

Find Reasons to Celebrate

  • Is there something that you can celebrate? It could be something like a raise at work, or even speaking up for yourself, breaking a bad habit. If you can find a reason to celebrate, do so! It doesn’t have to cost any money. It could simply mean making hot chocolate and watching your favorite movie. But doing something outside of the ordinary and trying it to a success for accomplishment is a sure way to brighten your day.

Enjoy the Simple Things

  • Do you really enjoy a freshly ground cup of coffee? Why not make that something that you do each evening? Look for ways that you can easily incorporate things that bring you joy into your daily life. For me that means dark chocolate every single night.

6 Ways to Have a Relaxed and Productive Year

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    Here are 6 ways to help you to have a more relaxed and productive year. No, the two are not the antithesis of each other, but rather complement each other quite nicely in a yin and yang way.  Without being relaxed, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and have difficulty focusing.  This leads to things being left undone, or at worst burnout.  By implementing methods that increase time for relaxation, it is easier to be more productive.

  • Minimize
    • You can use the principles of The Minimalists or Marie Kondo, but whatever method you choose, downsizing can have a profoundly positive impact on your life. Owning and maintaining less things means having the freedom of not having to pursue materialistic goals, and freeing up resources (time, money, and energy) to spend on other endeavours. Having a less cluttered home can make it a more relaxing space, and having less options means less choices.  And that is not a bad thing, because it could mean no more standing in front of the closet trying to figure out what to wear.
  • Organize
    • Regardless of how many items you own, being organised is critical. It saves your most valuable resources of time, energy, and sometimes even money (repurchasing something because you couldn’t find it or didn’t realize you already had something similar. When you combine minimising with organization, it is a winning combo to allow you to have more time, energy, and money to focus on other things.  
  • Delegate
    • Whether it’s on the job or at home. Delegating is imperative. Sometimes we have the instinct that we need to shoulder all of the responsibilities, that it is our job, or that if we don’t do it it won’t get done right. And both of those are simply untrue. Is is something that benefits other members of the household or your colleagues at work? Then look for ways to delegate responsibilities. It may get done a different way, but different does not equate to wrong, you might even learn a new way of doing something, or allow someone else to find a skill they didn’t know they had. Either way, if everyone shoulders a few different tasks vs. 1 person shouldering many, the tasks will be done better because more attention can be given to each one, and no one is at risk of being burnt out.
  • Create a Routine
    • I talked a little bit in my last post about having a routine and it really is so important. It becomes the backbone of your day to day life. It should not be seen as confining, but rather as freeing. It allows you to get everything you need to get done done, while still making room for self care, and some fun.  A routine is only not good if one approaches it as never being able to stray from it if extraneous circumstances present themselves, not have a realistic routine, or not creating space in a routine for self care and fun.
  • Implement Goals
    • I also talked about this in my last post. Goals are so important because they prevent us from becoming listless.  It is when one is not actively working toward a goal and making progress that they start to feel that everything is always the same, they they are on a circular path, that nothing ever changes and it never ends. Properly structured goals serve as road signs that show how much farther we have to go. We no longer feel like we are on autopilot driving endlessly, but that we are the driver of our life and know where we are going, and how much further we have till we get there.
  • Disconnect & Reconnect
    • Disconnect from your job, social media, and anything that creates stress in your life as often as possible. Do not check work emails off hours, do not check your social media except when on your breaks at work. Reconnect with things and people that bring relaxation to your life, relationships that energise your, hobbies than inspire you. By disconnecting and reconnecting we allow our batteries to recharge and not be constantly drained.