Quick & Easy No-Bake Granola Bars

The last month or two have been action packed, from celebrating birthdays and scaling a volcanic mountain while visiting family at their lake house, to wake surfing and hiking while houseboating in Northern California and in Southern Utah.

I have been so full of gratitude and happiness having the opportunity to take these memorable trips and spend so much time with so many of the greatest people in my life.

A few snacks that have tagged along in our travels so far this Summer are graham cracker chocolate chip cookieschocolate black bean cookies, and salted caramel candies. These no bake granola bars made with only 5 ingredients would also serve as a quick and easy snack for on the go traveling.

Packed with energy and replenishing nutrients, protein, fiber, and deliciousness, these bars can be put together quickly and are a healthy grab and go snack for energy, working out, munching between meals, or as a lunchtime dessert.

Quick & Easy No-Bake Granola Bars
makes 10 bars

-1 cup pitted dates, packed
-1/4 cup maple syrup
-1/4 cup nut or seed butter
-1 cup roasted almonds
-1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1. Line 8x8 pan with parchment paper, set aside.
2. Process dates in food processor until a dough forms. Warm nut or seed butter with maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir and remove from heat.
3. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl, once thoroughly mixed and evenly dispersed, transfer to prepared pan and press down evenly. 
4. Cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and let set in refrigerator or fridge for 15-20 minutes. Remove, use parchment paper to lift out of pan, cut into 10 bars, and enjoy. 

store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for up to a few days.
adapted from this recipe by Minimalist Baker
optional additions...
-dried fruit: shredded coconut, cranberries, raisins
-seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, chia, flax
optional substitutions...
-dates: dried figs, raisins
-maple syrup: brown rice syrup, raw honey
-almonds: pecans, walnuts, peanuts, or any other nut

Mangia! Mangia!

Salted Caramel Chews

It is a cherished family tradition to celebrate my lovely sister's birthday up at our grandparents' lake cabin in the woods.

Countless happy memories have been collected over the years during our time spent at the lake and we look forward to those trips year after year.

This year, I packed two treats for the trip, fudgy black bean cookies for an engergy-packed dessert [requested by the beau], and these tasty caramel chews.

Amidst the volcanic mountain hiking, boating, wake surfing, location scouting, beach barbecuing, and relaxing, these sweet caramels were very much enjoyed, with barely enough remaining for the trip home.

These caramels are fantastically sweet and buttery. They have something of a butterscotch flavor to them, and rather than containing corn syrup, they are sweetened with maple syrup and your choice of sugar.

Creamy Salted Caramel Chews
makes one pan of caramels (loaf or 8x8" depending on desired thickness)

-1 cup non-dairy milk (5+ grams of fat per cup, the higher the better)
-1/2 cup cane or coconut sugar
-1/4 cup maple syrup
-1/3 cup non-dairy butter
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
-1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

-1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1. Line pan with parchment paper (8x8 pan or smaller, depending on desired thickness of caramels).
2. Heat all ingredients except vanilla, lemon juice, and salt in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once mixture begins to boil, add candy thermometer and allow to boil without stirring until it reaches between soft ball and soft crack stages (250-270F). 
*It will take some time to get up to 250F, once it reaches 250F, it will move up rather quickly, so don't walk away, it will burn soon afterward. They can be removed any time after 240F if you don't want to wait, they will soften quicker at room temperature but be just as tasty.
3. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Pour into lined pan and refrigerate 30 minutes. Remove from fridge, cut into pieces, and wrap in small pieces of parchment or wax paper. Store in refrigerator and enjoy!

adapted from this recipe by Fork and Beans
I cook the mixture to about 269F and the texture is hard enough to last yet still somewhat chewy, remove immediately from the stove as the hot pot can continue to cook the mixture.
optional substitutions...
-non-dairy milk: canned coconut milk's high fat content is fantastic in this recipe, I have used both lite and full fat coconut milk with success, hemp milk is delicious as well. Any non-dairy milk with 5 or more grams of fat per cup does great.
-sugar: organic sugar, coconut sugar, turbinado sugar, brown sugar
-non-dairy butter: coconut oil, coconut butter

Mangia! Mangia!

Graham Cracker Swirl Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Caramels

After filling our weekend with gatherings and visits with out-of-town family and friends, we came home to a batch of this delightful deliciousness.

Last week we enjoyed more than our fair share of date-based chocolate covered caramels, and before heading off on our weekend of visits, I whipped up a batch of vanilla ice cream to toss the remaining caramels in.

While the ice cream was churning, I entertained the thought of including a graham cracker swirl.

Needless to say, what resulted was a welcome delight from the ice cream Gods to enjoy upon our return home.

This weekend we will be heading to my grandparents' cabin by the lake to celebrate my sister's birthday which lands on that of our country's.

Celebrating at the lake has been tradition all our lives and typically consists of browsing a local craft fair in sun hats, relaxing on the beach, boating on the lake, and enjoying a show of evening fireworks off the peninsula after sundown.

Whether celebrating with a barbecue and brews, enjoying a vacation, or relaxing at home, I hope you have a fantastic Independence day enjoying these long Summer days.

Graham Cracker Swirled Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Caramels
serves 6-8

ice cream
-2 (13-14 ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
-1 Tablespoon arrowroot starch
-1/3 cup maple syrup
-1/3 cup sugar
-1/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
-1 1/2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
-1 1/2 Tablespoons whisky

graham cracker swirl
-1 cup crushed graham crackers
-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
-2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted

chocolate covered caramels
-1 batch 4 ingredient caramels

1. Start by preparing ice bath: Fill two large, heat-safe mixing bowls (I don't recommend glass or plastic) that can nest together. Fill the larger of the two about one third of the way full of ice. Place the other bowl on top. Set aside.
2. Empty the entire contents of both coconut milk cans into a medium-sized pot. Remove a few tablespoons of the coconut milk liquid and place in a small bowl along with the arrowroot starch. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
3. Pour the entire starch mixture back into the pot and the coconut milk, along with the maple syrup and sugar.
4. Heat over medium heat and whisk the ingredients until fully combined. Bring to a boil, whisking every minute or so. Boil for about 1 1/2 minutes, whisking slowly.
5. Pour the entire mixture into the dry bowl of your ice bath, then whisk in the vanilla and whisky and let sit until ice cold, whisking every so often. It will take at least 1 1/2 hours to fully chill, but waiting for the mixture to fully chill will improve the texture.
6. Once cold, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
7. Crush graham crackers, add sugar and oil, thoroughly mix. Set aside.
8. Prepare chocolate covered caramels according to directions.
9. Once vanilla ice cream is fully frozen according to manufacturer's directions, pour into 8x4" loaf pan or freezer-safe, sealable container. 
10. Evenly spread graham cracker mixture and chocolate covered caramels over top, swirl into ice cream to evenly distribute. Press parchment paper over surface of the ice cream to prevent crystals from forming. Freeze and enjoy.

store in freezer
ice cream adapted from this recipe by Edible Perspective 
optional substitutions...
-sugar: coconut sugar
-whisky: vodka (helps keep the ice cream from freezing to a rock solid state)
-brown sugar: turbinado sugar, coconut sugar, white sugar
-coconut oil: non-dairy butter

Mangia! Mangia!