Oat Bran Cereal & Fruit Bars – Absolutely Delicious, Vegan, and GF!

Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

If you’re looking for a snack that is vegan, high in fiber, tasty, and portable, then you’re going to love my Oat Bran Cereal & Fruit Bars! BTW, I have been meaning to share these for years now. You can probably tell that from the style of photos taken during my early blogging days.

These Oat Bran Cereal & Fruit Bars are delicious. They’re sweet and a healthier version of rice cereal treats. The base is made with marshmallows and your choice of butter, including vegan butter. Add any high-in-fiber oat bran cereal (I use Nature’s Path Multigrain Oat Bran Flakes) and 2 cups of other mix-ins, including your choice of dried fruits, almonds, coconut flakes, and pumpkin seeds/pepitas.

Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

I’ve made these bars with all kinds of bran cereal, including using combinations of bran buds and oat bran flakes. This recipe is a great way to use up the last bit of cereal in a box and the last of any dried fruits on hand. Think of these bars as a ‘clean out the closet’ dessert option.

Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

In terms of the dried fruit, I’ve made these bars with combinations of dried apricots, dates, sour cherries, and dried pineapples. Figs would also be delicious as would dried mangos. I’ve used flaked coconut when I didn’t have coconut flakes on hand.

This Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit recipe is forgiving. Add vanilla, or don’t. Eyeball the marshmallows if you are using miniature ones or jumbo ones. Adjust the cereal amounts accordingly.

Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

One trick I have is to use a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap to smooth down the cereal bars. Don’t use the spatula or spoon you used to mix the bars together — it’s just too sticky!

I hope you enjoy these. I have gained weight from eating too many of these, as have some of my visiting guests! Let me know if you try them and what variations you make.

Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

Oat Bran Cereal & Fruit Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c butter, margarine, or vegan butter
  • 40 regular marshmallows (about 5 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 c Oat Bran Flakes
  • 1 c coarsely chopped dried fruit (think apricots, dates, pineapples, cherries, figs, and mangos)
  • 1/2 c coarsely chopped almonds
  • 1/3 c pumpkin seeds/pepitas
  • 1/2 c flaked coconut

Method

  • Melt the butter and marshmallows over low heat
  • Add vanilla to melted butter and marshmallows
  • Turn off the heat and add the cereal and mix-ins
  • Spread out and smooth in a greased 9 x 13 inch glass pan
  • Smooth down with a piece of wax paper
  • Cool and cut into bars
  • Store at room temperature in a covered container
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars
Oat Bran Cereal & Dried Fruit Bars

Variations

  • To make these vegan, use vegan butter as well as marshmallows that don’t use animal gelatin ingredients, e.g. Kosher marshmallows
  • Use gluten-free flakes
  • Use flaked or shredded coconut

Enjoy!

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Reviews Of My Summer 2020 Reads

Summer Reading 2020
Summer Reading 2020

I love to read all year round, but especially in the summertime ! There is nothing more peaceful for me than reading outside on a sunny, warm day or evening. It’s how I self-care, and it’s how I relax.

Here are my quick reviews of some of the books I read this summer.

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Salt Houses hit close to home as it is set in the Middle East. It follows four generations of the Yacoub  family as they are forced out of Palestine and into neighboring countries such as Kuwait and Lebanon. We follow the family’s experience during defining moments of Arab history starting in the 1960s. And, as happens in many Arab families, various members end up living all over the world, including Paris and Boston.

Each generation faces challenges, including political and religious leanings, as well as family and relationship struggles.

I loved this book because I could identify with the emotions of having to leave one’s home and country and having to find one’s way in the world while still struggling with growing up, day-to-day issues, and living within cultural expectations. Continue reading

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No-Bake Cheesecake – A Perfect Summer Dessert

No-Bake Cheesecake
No-Bake Cheesecake

No-bake cheesecakes are a perfect summer dessert: they use ingredients you regularly have at home, don’t require an oven, and are easy to decorate with in-season summer fruits!

This recipe has been around for a long time. I remember it from when I was a kid, and I see it all the time on the Internet. It’s got a graham cracker crust that is topped with a cream cheese, condensed milk, and lemon/lime juice and zest. That’s it. Place it in the freezer or fridge to set, and top with whatever berries you have on hand. You can also top with cherry pie filling.

I make this no-bake cheesecake in a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. It’s easier and more presentable if you use a springform pan, but you can use a regular pie plate or dish. You can even buy a ready-made crust from the store.

No-Bake Cheesecake
No-Bake Cheesecake

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How To Make & Gift A Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake !

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

If you find yourself craving those large, decorated chocolate chip cookie cakes you can get at the mall, then you’ll love this post about making one for a celebratory occasion or as a gift for someone special.

I love classic-sized chocolate chip cookies as much as anyone else, but making a huge chocolate chip as a cookie cake is truly something fun and different. I can thank the Covid-19 pandemic for inspiring me to make chocolate chip cookie cakes as gifts. My daughter and I have made them for Canada Day, as graduation gifts, and as hostess gifts. You can check out my last post (click here) on making graduation day memorable with lots of desserts, including this cookie cake.

There are many recipes online for making a chocolate chip cookie cake. I like this recipe from Garnish and Glaze, which I’ve also included at the bottom of this page.

The point of this post, however, is to share my tips for making and gifting this chocolate chip cookie cake!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

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4 Graduation Party Desserts To Celebrate Your Grad!

Graduation Desserts
Graduation Desserts

During the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been bittersweet celebrating my daughter’s graduation from high school, but we’ve done our best to celebrate in many ways, including making as many sweet treats as possible!

We love dessert in our family and, yes, we understand the need to balance healthy food with yummy treats. But, what I”m sharing today is purely sugar based! The best part about making these celebratory desserts was searching for some of the ideas, choosing a theme (pink and blue), and decorating the house.

We received a lawn banner from the school and bought and received balloons as gifts. We decorated inside with balloons, garland, and streamers on archways in the house. And, one night I spent quite a bit of time going through old photos of the first day of school, group school photos, and other fun school and family moments. I put these on poster boards in the hallway and put up a long ‘congratulations’ banner underneath the boards. She absolutely loved this idea and the photos and boards are still up!

Celebrating 2020 Graduates
Celebrating 2020 Graduates

We were still in the ‘shelter at home’ phase when my daughter had her virtual graduation, so it was a nuclear family celebration. My daughter helped me make and decorate these dessert menu items, and we had a lot of fun decorating and catching up together.

Here are the Graduation Desserts we made: Continue reading

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Chocolate Almond Energy Bites – GF & Vegan

Chocolate Almond Energy Bites
Chocolate Almond Energy Bites

I always have energy balls or squares on hand because they’re the perfect snack right before a workout! Sometimes you don’t have time to eat something that takes a lot of prep time before you go for a run or before you head out the door. These chocolate almond bites are perfect as a grab-and-go healthy option.

BTW, you can also check out my recipe for Vegan Chocolate Fudge that I have shared in the past. The ‘fudge’ recipe is date-based whereas the recipe I’m sharing today is made with almond flour.

I’ve tried making energy balls with almond flour in the past and I love the texture and taste of almond flour, so I was very pleased when I came up with this recipe with the addition of cocoa powder.

Chocolate Almond Energy Bites
Chocolate Almond Energy Bites

What I like about making energy balls is the different ways you can ‘dress’ up these treats. Here, I’ve topped them with sea salt, peanuts, and slivered almonds. I highly recommend topping them with either peanuts or almonds  so everyone knows that these energy balls contain nuts! Plus, it’s a fun way to decorate these bites and to make them presentable for gifting.

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Sharing My Qatayef Recipe… Along With Sweet Ramadan Memories

Qatayef
Qatayef

Eid Mubarak to all of my friends and followers celebrating this week! Today marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. And, it’s time to celebrate with lots of traditional desserts, like Qatayef!

I grew up in Saudi Arabia where I was lucky enough to experience all of the activities, sights, sounds, and tastes of Ramadan. The night life in the souks was incredible, full of music, open shops, lots of fun foods, and lots of staying up late. One Ramadan night my brother was invited to hang out in a tent under the stars in the desert and I will always remember his description of how magical that experience was.

When I was a kid, Ramadan fell during the hottest months of the year but, because it’s a lunar holiday, it moves back about 11 days a year. That means that it takes about 33 years for Ramadan to complete its cycle and that some years it’s easier to fast than others. For example, the winter months are easier in that the days are shorter, and the summer months are the hardest.

There are many traditions around Ramadan, including the daily Iftar, which is the meal eaten after sunset when breaking the fast for the day. Iftar is a meal often shared with family and friends and there is always lots of food. I loved being invited to my friends’ homes for Iftar and just hanging out. In the Middle East, it’s very common to be invited to business Iftar meals as well. You always wonder what the host will serve and you almost always hope it includes qatayef!

Qatayef are similar to a pancake stuffed with cheese or nuts or ashta (a type of cream). Qatayef are traditionally fried and served with simple syrup and a sprinkling of nuts on top. The qatayef I’m sharing here are not fried because I wanted to keep things light. If you want them fried, shallow fry them in a pan or bake them in the oven after brushing them with some oil. I stuffed these qatayef with a mixture of crushed walnuts, sugar, and orange blossom water.

Qatayef Stuffed With Crushed Walnuts
Qatayef Stuffed With Crushed Walnuts

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Kale Salad With A Tamari Tahini Dressing

Kale Salad With Tamari/Tahini Sauce
Kale Salad With Tamari/Tahini Sauce

One of my favorite salads is kale salad: it’s versatile, healthy, and delicious. As someone who has a salad for dinner almost every night, I have to say that kale salad is at the top of my list. I like it on its own, with added protein, or as a side salad.

Kale is high in antioxidants and full of nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K. In the last few years, kale has been a popular addition to many menus and vegan diets. It’s perfect in salads as well as in soups and other cooked meals.

I love kale because it’s a heartier and a ‘darker greens’ option. It offers a change from romaine, arugula, and spinach salads. When I make kale salad, my husband and kids always like the different ingredient add-ins. I almost always include grated carrots, red peppers, and cucumbers. I add whatever fruits I have on hand, which is great in the spring and summer. And, I have been adding mint and basil, which truly elevates the flavors in the salad.

Kale Salad With Mint
Kale Salad With Mint

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Guacamole Dip – Inspired By Chipotle Restaurants

Guacamole Made With Cilantro
Guacamole Made With Cilantro

Guacamole has got to be one dish we can all agree on! It’s a great snack and the perfect appetizer for any gathering. It’s also the star of any Mexican-themed dinner: without guacamole, it’s just not the same.

The recipe I’m sharing here is inspired by the guacamole served at Chipotle Restaurants. I used to make guacamole by smashing avocados, adding salt, pepper, dried basil, and some lemon juice. That wasn’t good enough for my kids and husband. They kept talking about the Chipotle recipe. Of course, everything tastes better when it’s made my someone else…I get it! But, I really wanted to understand how Chipotle made their guacamole.

For some time, Chipotle had their recipe on their website. But, lately I can’t find it. If you search for the recipe online, there are several blogs that reference the original recipe, which means it was posted somewhere, at some time in the past. The tastiest ingredient in this guacamole is the fresh cilantro. It gives this dip its signature taste. Of course, the red onion and lime add their own flavors for an overall delicious and tasty dip.

Guacamole Made With Red Onions And Cilantro
Guacamole Made With Red Onions And Cilantro

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How To Make Caramel Popcorn At Home!

Caramel Corn With Sprinkles
Caramel Corn With Sprinkles

Caramel popcorn is my favorite way to eat popcorn and, thank goodness, it’s very easy to make at home! As you know, I have a very sweet tooth, and this popcorn makes it to the top of the list for many reasons.

Caramel corn takes me right back to my childhood when one of my friend’s moms used to make it and sell it out of their house. I would treat myself to it after school on many occasions. Of course, caramel corn also has a nostalgic place in my heart because it reminds me of street fairs and festivals.

To make this caramel corn, I have to admit that I cheat a little bit with the recipe: I use micro-waved popcorn. It’s just easier and  you get to the end result quicker. Of course, it’s healthier and more economical to make it with fresh popcorn that you make in a pot or in a popcorn maker or air popper. But, microwaved popcorn works just as well.

The secret to making this recipe is the baking soda. It makes the caramel sauce foam up and that’s how it becomes easier to spread over more of the popcorn. It ‘grows’ in volume with the soda.

I’m kind of a plain Jane person with my caramel corn, adding sprinkles to it occasionally. You can add many other toppings like candy, pretzels, peanuts, chocolate chips, chocolate drizzle, etc. You decide!

Caramel Corn With Sprinkles
Caramel Corn With Sprinkles

Here’s how I made the Caramel Corn in these photos:

Caramel Corn

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of popped popcorn (or one 85g or 3 oz package of micro-wave popcorn)
  • 1/4 c butter (salted or unsalted)
  • 1/2 c dark brown sugar
  • 2 T white corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T sprinkles

Method:

  • Prepare popcorn and place it in a large mixing bowl, leaving plenty of room to toss the popcorn with the caramel sauce. Make sure you remove any kernels.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and stir until everything is melted together and combined well. It will start to bubble slightly on the sides.
  • Add the soda and vanilla and keep stirring until the mixture foams up. Stir and let it cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Quickly spread the caramel over the popcorn and toss with a spoon until all the popcorn is coated.
  • Add the sprinkles after the popcorn is fully coated and toss again.
Caramel Corn With Sprinkles
Caramel Corn With Sprinkles

Notes:

  • To ensure you separate all the kernels out, I recommend you place the micro-wave popcorn in a bowl and give the bowl a few light tosses so that the kernels settle at the bottom. Use your hands to carefully lift out the popped corn, without any kernels, and place them in your large mixing bowl.
  • Do NOT leave the caramel on the stove while you go do other things. It will burn. And, once you add the vanilla and soda, the mixture may splatter from the vanilla, and it will foam from the soda. You cannot walk away!
  • Work quickly to spread the caramel over the big bowl of popcorn.
  • Do NOT use your hands to toss the caramel and popcorn together – the caramel mixture is super hot!
Caramel Corn With Sprinkles
Caramel Corn With Sprinkles

What have you added to your caramel corn? Comment below!

Enjoy!

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