Homemade Chocolate Coconut Larabars

There are some things that aren’t worth making from scratch. They either are way tedious or expensive or the pre-made version tastes just as good. One food that falls into this category is pasta. I remember my dad convincing my brother and I that it would be fun to make our own ravioli. We had an old fashioned hand crank pasta maker. The kind that you have to feed the dough through umpteen times to make it then. Then you had to cut out each individual square and fill it with a tiny spoonful of ricotta. Let’s just say several hours later my brother and I were cranky and hungry. Now you can shell out over a hundred bucks for an automatic pasta maker attachment for your Kitchen Aid. Or you can pay 5 bucks for some fresh pasta at the grocery store or if you are lucky, local Italian market.

Then there are some things that are fun to make on occasion. Like ice cream. Every time (maybe 3 times a year) that I break out my ice cream maker I love the results. I declare that I will make a new flavor every week… then I forget to pre-chill the mixing bowl. Or don’t feel like making the custard base. And hey… Ben and Jerry’s really has ice cream making down pat. You can’t mess with Chunky Monkey.

And then there are those things that always taste better homemade. Like chocolate chip cookies. Chips Ahoy just can’t compete with fresh gooey right-out-of-the oven chocolate chip cookies.

Now enter Larabars. These tasty vegan snack bars have a simple ingredient list so they should be easy to replicate right? I have read oodles or recipes for homemade Larabars and so after my latest grocery store visit where I spent a bit too much… I thought hey, I should try to make my own too. After reading a few recipes, I struck out on my own to recreate one of my favorite flavors… Chocolate Coconut. These were literally a cinch! They took less than five minutes to make and tasted fairly similar to the real deal. Will I stop buying prepacked bars… probably not… but I will be experimenting with new flavors. Now I can have Larabars every day!

Homemade Chocolate Coconut Larabars

Yields: 5 bars

Time: Less than 5 minutes

Ingredients

2/3 cup raw almonds

1 cup dates (make sure to remove the pits!)

1/3 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until they form a powder. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until completely combined. Remove the mixture and form into bars or balls. I store mine wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer. I stick one in the fridge overnight to thaw.

The dates add a natural sweetness to balance out the unsweetened coconut. I used semisweet chocolate but you could go with dark or milk chocolate depending on your taste. I normally grab one of these bars for an afternoon snack but they would be as a part of a quick grab and go breakfast or for a healthy dessert.

Question: Do you DIY foods or do you prefer to buy pre-made products? I love experimenting with long complicated recipes. I love kitchen challenges. That being said, I love having quick things on hand for during the week.

WIAW: Season Confusion

Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather. Maybe it’s the fact that I am a sucker for sales at the grocery store. Maybe it’s just the fact that I love fall. Whatever the reason, my food today definitely had a distinctly fall flavor. Hopefully Jenn won’t mind and kick me out of her party.

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Breakfast

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Most of you probably used up the last of your pumpkin the day after Thanksgiving and never gave Libby a second thought. Last week I found myself craving pumpkin… and it was fate when it was on sale at the grocery store this week! This morning marked the return of the pumpkin custard oats. To up the “fall factor” I added some cranberries I had beenhoarding storing in the freezer. On top… cocoa nibs and a blob of Wild Squirrel Coconut Peanut Butter.

Morning Snack

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My first of the three new Chobani flavors. I love eating passion fruits when I am in tropical countries. Too bad they are so expensive here! The flavor of the yogurt was spot on. My only complaint was the seeds. While I am normally a big texture person, I prefer my yogurt super smooth and creamy. I have the same complaint about the pomegranate flavor. I think this would be delicious in a smoothie.

Lunch

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Leftover pasta from dinner last night. In the bowl: whole wheat penne, chicken sausage, peppers, onion, mushrooms, and garlic tomato sauce that Ryan and I picked up at Nundini’s when we went out to dinner on Saturday. It was delicious. The sauce was so much more flavorful than most jarred sauces. I need to make these types of diners more often. Pasta is so easy to change up by just adding different sauces and toppings.

Afternoon Snack

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Yes, I know that we are months past Halloween… but how could I resist buying a few when they were on sale for 50 cents? I think this is my favorite Clif Z-bar flavor. Although I have to keep my eyes peeled for the new oatmeal cookie one I have been reading about.

Dinner

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A “clean out the kitchen sink” salad. Spinach topped with leftover brisket, cherry tomatoes, Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain mix, and hummus mixed with fig balsamic.  This salad successfully emptied 3 tupperwares from my fridge! The fig balsamic was my favorite part. It’s amazing how better quality condiments can really elevate a whole meal.

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Great Harvest Raisin Craisin on the side. I love having frozen already in the freezer. It’s so convenient and you don’t have to feel rushed to eat the whole loaf right away.

Drink

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After dinner I was craving chocolate. Along with a few squares of dark chocolate I made some almond milk hot chocolate with cocoa powder, honey, and cinnamon. Sweet tooth satisfied!

Question: Do you often find yourself eating foods that are “out of season?”

Workout Review and my Upcoming Biking Adventure

Now that Insanity is over, I decided that I want to do a better job of tracking my workouts. I always try to have a few cardio and a few strength days but I didn’t have too much of a routine. One of my favorite thing about Insanity was that I didn’t have to think… every workout was planned out for me! So I bought a planner at Target this weekend and I hope to start mapping out my workouts. Here’s a summary of last week.

Monday

5 mile easy trail run

Tuesday

My first day back at the gym in 2 months! I did 20 minutes on the elliptical followed by a complete upper body workout.

Wednesday

BodyPump. I definitely wasn’t feeling the class. There were a lot of newbies and so we had to skip the ab track and the stretching because we ran out of time. I was also unsure of how much weight to use since I hadn’t taken the class in months. Many of the tracks ended up being too easy.

Thursday

A Crossfit workout I spotted on Tina’s blog

10 rounds of…

10 pushups

10 sit ups

10 mountain climbers

10 air squats

Insanity 30 minute ab workout – I love that it doesn’t include any crunches!

Friday

Rest day

Saturday

47 mile bike ride

Sunday

Run and strength outdoor workout courtesy of Lindsay.

And now for my big bike adventure announcement…

At the end of April my dad and I are going on a week long bike ride in Northern Spain on El Camino de Santiago!

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We booked our tickets for April the 29th… so it’s official! I will fly from Houston to Philly and then we will fly to Madrid together.

El Camino de Santiago is a route through northern Spain that leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Religious pilgrims historically traveled this route to visit the cathedral that houses the remains of the apostle Saint James. Today many modern pilgrims travel the same route, by foot, bicycle, or even donkey! I used mountain bikes and I bought that reading mountain bike reviews from here and they also have covered cheap mountain bikes which you must read and buy from there.

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My mom is actually hiking the whole route for 2 months this spring, so we will get to see her while we are there. We are doing a portion of the route that starts in Astorga and ends in Santiago.

I will do another post soon with more details but I just wanted to share my news! This will be the first long vacation I have taken since I went to Alaska in 08 right after graduation. I feel long overdue for 2 glorious weeks in Spain with my dad.

Question: What was your last vacation? Since i started working 3 and a half years ago i have done a few mini vacations. My last vacation was a week in Destin Florida over the summer.

Sunday Food and Fitness

Today was low key and featured my two favorite things… food and fitness.

Let’s start with the food.

For breakfast I tried out Tina’s Oat Bran minus the oats.

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It was a delicious switch up from my usual oatmeal. You whisk together flax meal, egg whites, almond milk, vanilla, and mashed banana. Then the whole mixture gets cooked in a pan until it gets a “oatmeal-like” consistency. I topped mine with my favorite of the four Wild Squirrel Nut butters.

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Bright eyed and bushy tailed is peanut butter with ground up espresso bean. I love the flavor as well as the gritty crunch. Tina wasn’t lying when she said that this breakfast was quite filling.

Lunch was a leftover mash up salad.

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Spinach base topped with cheddar cheese, sweet potato, and hummus mixed with balsamic.

After trips to both Kroger and Target I was able to get every new flavor!

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I predict that I will like the passion fruit the best… probably because it is the only 2 % one. The extra creaminess gets me every time. It will take a lot to overtake my favorite strawberry banana Chobani though:)

For dinner, I went out to dinner with Ryan’s family for his mom’s birthday. We went to Monument Inn which specializes in seafood. I ordered the Shrimp Creole, my favorite thing on the menu. It is a bed of rice topped with spicy marinara, shrimp, peppers, and onions. Nothing fancy but the sauce is out of this world. As are the cinnamon buns in the bread basket. Apparently on a busy Saturday they bake over 1000!

Onto fitness… it was another warm one in Houston… it hit 76! The warm weather definitely called for another day of outdoor exercise. It was a bit windy for biking so I opted for a run. Since my legs were a bit sore from my long ride yesterday I didn’t want to do a very intensive run. I remembered a fun workout I found over on Lindsay’s blog and hadn’t done in awhile. This workout was part of Lindsay’s 30 minute Thursday series.

It consists of 5 minutes of running followed by 15 jump lunges, 15 jump squats, and 15 pushups. This sequence is repeated three times. For the next three rounds the exercises change to 10 tricep pushups, 10 elbow to knee planks (each side) and 10 v-ups. At the end I did the following sequence inspired by Insanity:

10 Jumping Jacks

10 high knees

10 butt kicks

10 side to side jumps

10 Heismans

Repeat twice through. Last but not least, 30 seconds of plank walker on each side. I love the variety of this workout and being able to run and workout on the trails near my house is a breath of fresh air after the stuffiness of the gym.

Although it is weird not having cold weather this time of year, it is nice to be able to run outside in shorts and a t-shirt. Hey, I got to see snow in October :)

Question: Do you prefer to work out outdoors or in a gym?

Back in the Saddle

Today marked my first day back in the saddle after a two monthInsanity hiatus.

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I woke up bright and early at 6:15 to join a group ride at 7:30. I debated dropping back a pace group since I hadn’t ridden in awhile. But I decided to challenge myself and I’m so glad I did! It felt so good to be riding again. I completed 47 miles with an average speed of 17.6 mph.  I felt really strong the first half but for the second half the group broke into 2. The 13 of us that opted for the shorter route really picked up the pace. Apparently my max speed during the second 20 miles was 23 mph.

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Holiday flavored mid ride fuel definitely helped:) As did the 70+ degree weather. Couldn’t ask for a better day to be outside.

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Post ride fuel: Lentil soup and cheddar.

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And peppermint Metromint water.

After lunch I read, napped, and attempted to do some cleaning. I finally put away the rest of my Christmas gifts. I also finally displayed my latest Pier 1 purchase. I received more dishes than could possible fit in my kitchen cabinets. So I did some returns and picked up this baby.

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I’m not sure if this is where I am going to permanently display it. I am thinking about getting some mini fake flowers to put in the basket. Time to shower and get ready for dinner with friends at Nundini’s aka my favorite Italian restaurant in Houston.

Stay tuned on Monday for my latest biking news!

Question: Is the weather unseasonably warm where you live? How are you taking advantage of it?