Coconut Crunch Granola Bars: GF, Vegan, Peanut and Tree Nut Free

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My girls have pretty active sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) just like their Mommy.  One of their favorite treats is a granola bar.  Cascadian Farms makes two granola bars we have found that are egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free.  They are Harvest Berry and Oatmeal Raisin.  The girls love them, but they can be difficult to find.  Stores around us are inconsistent carrying these and the other Cascadian Farms flavors are not safe for us.  It can be quite frustrating to search for a product in two or three stores where you have seen them before and come up empty handed.

This seems to be happening more and more, which is driving me to find or create more recipes for the foods we love.  There is nothing more safe or guaranteed healthy than a homemade version because I can control the ingredients and the process.  I know these are made in an allergen free facility because I’m the kitchen manager.  (Self proclaimed, of course.)

I started by searching for yummy looking granola bar recipes that I could modify.  I found these on the Bless This Mess blog, which I love, and they looked so good to me… Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars.  Of course, for us, there are at least three reds flags in the name alone (chocolate=dairy, PB=nuts, pretzel=gluten), so I knew I would be in for some big changes.

My version does have coconut, so if you can’t have that, all you have to do is replace the coconut oil with safe “butter” alternative of your choice and omit the coconut flakes.

These are going to be a new staple at our house.  The best part is, I will never have to go on a hunt for safe granola bars again.

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Coconut Crunch Granola Bars

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey (substitute molasses or agave for vegan version)

1/2 cup WowButter

2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

3 1/2 cup gluten free oats

1 cup brown rice cereal (I use Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal)

2 cups Glutino pretzels

2/3 cups Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

4 tbsp. Unsweetened shredded coconut

2 Tbsp. Chia seeds

First, the fun part.  You need to schmoosh your pretzels.  The girls helped with this task, as they are professional food schmooshers.  We do it with ziplock bags and toy hammers, but any way you want to crumble them up will be acceptable.

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Combine your pretzel pieces, oats, rice cereal, coconut flakes, and chia seeds in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil, brown sugar, honey, Wowbutter, and vanilla over med heat, stirring constantly.  It will bubble slightly as you stir.  Keep stirring until it looks smooth and the sugar looks dissolved, then remove from heat and pour immediately over the oat mixture.  Stir together until well combined.

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Press the mixture into two square 8×8 pans or one 9×13 rectangular pan, which has been lined with parchment paper.  If you have two helpers, like I did, I recommend using two pans.  Then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and press them into the bars.  They will begin melting, so be quick or your hands will be covered in melted chocolate.  Resist the urge to cut them right away.  I tried and they fell apart.  Place them in the fridge until they are cool and solid (about 15-20 minutes should do it).

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Then lift them out of the pans, paper and all, cut them into your desired shape and enjoy!

A good sharp knife works best.  I thought a pizza cutter would be clever, but it didn’t work too well.  A good sharp knife.

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Recipe: E&B’s No Nutz Buttercups (Egg, Dairy, Peanut, Tree Nut, Gluten Free and Vegan)

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I feel like I have struck gold with this one.  It’s hard to admit this, as an allergy mom, but my all time favorite holiday candy has always been the peanut butter cup.  I used to get so excited when the special edition holiday shapes came out because those were always the freshest and yummiest versions of all.  I don’t actually remember the last time I had one, but I would guess it has been a couple of years.  Then I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade chocolate peanut butter cups.  These looked so easy, delicious, and best of all, perfect for our usual substitutions.  This recipe is definitely a game changer.

How easy are these to make?  All you need is a microwave and a freezer.  In fact, you could probably do it without either.  That’s right, I’m pretty sure that if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing but these ingredients and some cupcake liners, you could still make these.  Although, good luck getting an internet connection to view the recipe.

I used a mini muffin pan and mini cupcake liners.  You could make these full sized, but they are very rich, so the minis are definitely the way to go.  Also, there is no serving size.  Eat as many as you want.  I know I do.

Ingredients:

1 10 oz. bag Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup Wowbutter (or your favorite safe peanut butter alternative)

1/4 cup powdered sugar (watch for hidden wheat in the ingredients)

2 tbsp. Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread, softened

Directions:

Line muffin pan with mini cupcake liners.  If you don’t have a mini muffin pan, you can just put the liners on a cookie sheet.  Melt Enjoy Life chocolate chips.  I microwaved them for 1 minute, stir, 45 seconds, stir, then 30 second increments until smooth.  Spoon just enough melted chocolate into the bottom of each liner to cover the bottom.  Be careful not to use too much or you won’t have enough to cover them.  Place the pan in the freezer while you make the filling.

For the filling, mix Wowbutter, powdered sugar, and EarthBalance.  Taste the filling and you can add a little more powdered sugar if it needs it.  I added about a teaspoon more, then it was perfect.  After these ingredients are combined, check the cups in the freezer to see if the bottom layer is firm.  When firm, remove from the freezer.  Spoon about 1/2 tsp. of filling into each cup and press it down to fit the space.  After you have filling in each cup, spoon enough melted chocolate on top to cover the filling.  The thinner the chocolate is, the easier it is to get the amount right, so warm it for a few more seconds if it has begun to thicken.  Then pop them back into the freezer and wait about 10 minutes, if you can.

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I had more filling than I needed, so I wrapped it in plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge to make more the next day.  You can also freeze it and thaw for a quick treat another time.

If you do happen to exercise some self restraint and have a few of these left over, you have some options for storage.  You can keep them in the refrigerator, but it’s not necessary.  In fact, I tried both ways and we liked room temperature storage the best.  The chocolate doesn’t melt, but it stays a bit softer, which I prefer.

Why are they  called E&B’s No Nutz Buttercups?  My daughter, Elena, and her friend, Blake, share a very special bond.  They both have the same food allergy profile (allergic to egg, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts).  I just love the fact that every time I modify or create a recipe for Elena, I already know of another child who will benefit.  I know they will both enjoy their very own allergen free butter cups!

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*A special thanks to Eric Reavis for coming up with the name.

July 4th Treats: Top 8 Allergen Free

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Here is what we will be bringing to our 4th of July celebration this year.  These are free of the top 8 allergens and are also oh so yummy.  With just a few tweaks on the classic recipe, these are the perfect allergy friendly patriotic treat.

Ingredients:

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10 cups Rice Krispies Cereal or Gluten Free Rice Krispies Cereal, depending on your needs

6 tbsp. Soy Free Earth Balance Spread

8 cups miniature marshmallows

Mix ins:

1 cup dried blueberries

1 cup dried cranberries

2 cups miniature marshmallows

That’s it!  These are so easy.  All you do is melt the Earth Balance and 8 cups of mini mallows on medium heat in a large pot.  I mix everything in the same pot, so I use a really big one.  When it looks nice and smooth, remove the pot from the heat and mix in the cereal.  I have found that a giant spoon-ula works best.

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When you feel like the cereal is well coated, just throw in your mix ins and give it another stir.  It gets a bit stiff, so you can count this as your daily workout.  I do.

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Spoon it all onto a big jelly roll pan.  You can grease your pan with Earth Balance, or just line it with parchment paper like I did.  If the “stuff” sticks to your spoon-ula, just give it a little spritz with safe cooking spray.   I like to put another sheet of parchment paper on top and just press it down with my hands until it’s all flat and smooth.  Then let it cool for as long as your will power allows and cut it into squares.

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The pot can be a nightmare to clean, so it helps if you have a few little kitchen dwellers who are willing to remove the stuck on bits for you.  Mine are always willing.

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The blueberries don’t look super blue, but they have blue in the name, so it totally counts.  Hey, it’s better than eating neon blue food dye, right?

Have a safe and happy 4th!

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Decadent Dark Chocolate Banana Muffins

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Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas (mashed)

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

⅓ cup vegetable oil

⅔ cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup dark chocolate cocoa powder

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

½ cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°

Combine mashed bananas, applesauce, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients in the mixer and mix on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times during mixing to make sure everything gets blended in.  The batter will be sticky.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly among 12 lined muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Use a toothpick or cake tester to check for doneness.

These muffins are very decadent and really taste more like a dessert than a breakfast treat.  They also require major willpower to avoid devouring the whole pan as soon as they’re cool enough to eat.

Reviews from the Critics:

Elena (4 years old):  “Yum Yum Yum”

Olivia (1 ½ years old):  “More cupcake peeeeeeeze”

Justin (32 years old):  “These are incredible.  They taste more like cake than a muffin.”

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