No-Bake Granola Bars (gluten-free, low sugar)

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Wow. Let me just start by saying, it’s been a while. This summer has been absolutely insane, but in a good way! I’m working full time at two different locations (both of which I love), beginning my career as a therapist intern, and still conducting personal research on the relationship between nutrition and mental health. Speaking of which, if you haven’t had a chance to “like” becauseitsgoodforyou’s page on Facebook, you may have missed the link to the article I wrote regarding the relationship between food sensitivities and Autism Spectrum Disorder that was published on Psychologytoday.com. I was working with a mentor for several months to  perfect the article and I must say, I am pretty satisfied with the way it turned out. I also hope I am able to provide a little extra help and insight to those who read the article and are dealing with ASD.

Anyway, on to the good stuff.

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Although I may not have physically been on becauseitsgoodforyou.com, my heart has still been here and I definitely haven’t stopped experimenting in the kitchen. Some recipes have turned out amazing and some were, well, not so amazing. I’ll try to keep up with posting some of the better ones that I happened to snap pictures of before serving to friends (or devouring myself). The no-bake granola bars you see on this post are somewhat similar to my granola nut cookies that I posted back in April although these are actual granola, as they contain oats, and are slightly healthier in my opinion. The core of this recipe stemmed from another blogger’s granola bars  (see: Coco and Tea) and was adjusted to fit my needs. I’ve been on this low sugar kick for the past month so I opted against adding any additional sugar aside from the natural sweetness of nuts, fruit, and a little bit of honey and vanilla flavoring. The first batch turned out way too crumbly and would fall apart after taking one bite. This batch however, turned out just right! I think the almond butter is the secret to binding everything together in this recipe.

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1 cup raw mixed nuts (Brazil, pecan, almond, peanut, macadamia, etc)
• 1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used raisins and apricots)
• 1 cup ground seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower, etc)
• ½ cup raw, creamy almond butter
• ¼ cup sunbutter
• ¼ cup raw honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• dash of salt
• coconut oil cooking spray
• Optional: Chia seeds and/or coconut flakes and/or protein powder

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Pour oats, mixed nuts, dried fruit, and ground seeds to a large bowl. Toss well.
• Mix sunbutter, almond butter, coconut oil, salt, honey, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat on low, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until mixture is well combined.
• Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until the dry mixture is completely covered.
• Lightly spray your hands with coconut oil cooking spray.
• Press mixture firmly into a small baking pan (using your hands is the best and easiest way, hence the coconut oil spray)
• Option: Top with chia seeds, coconut flakes, or sprinkle protein powder for added nutrients
• Place pan in freezer for 20 minutes or until granola hardens
• Cut into rectangles and serve

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Grinding these seeds beforehand and keeping the granola bars un-baked were two very important factors when creating this recipe, as it optimizes the amount of healthy, Omega-3 fatty acids your body can absorb from the seeds. Omega-3’s help control the amount of inflammation in our body, lessening the risk of arthritis, diabetes, asthma, and even cancer.  Incorporating a small handful of nuts every day into your diet can help with weight loss, stress-reduction, reduce the risk of lung cancer, lower cholesterol, assist in healthy heart health, and prevent cognitive decline. A study performed by UCLA even showed that a small handful of walnuts per day could assist with men’s reproductive health. In addition, nuts are a great source of dietary fiber, protein, and B-vitamins.

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Healthy Granola Nut Cookies

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Technically to call a food item granola, you need oats – And these cookies definitely don’t have oats. However, granola is typically a breakfast item and these cookies are perfect to eat for breakfast! They’re sweet but not too rich, filling but not too heavy, and the mixed nuts add a nice little crunch. They’re also great as a snack or even a light dessert. I could go on and on about these addicting little treats, but instead I’m going to jump right into the recipe so you can try them out and see for yourself how delicious they are!

Bonus- These are gluten-free, grain free, and dairy free, so they work for just about any dietary restriction!

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 2 cups mixed nuts and/or seeds (think: Brazilian, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
• 2 cups coconut flour
• ½ cup coconut oil, melted
• 4 tbsp raw, organic honey, melted
• 2 tsp allspice
• 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• 2 cups organic apple sauce
• 2 tsp almond extract
• 1 cup raisins

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Preheat oven to 350°
• Add mixed nuts to food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds.
• Add allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and raisins to processor. Pulse for 10 more seconds.
• In a separate mixing bowl, combine coconut flour, applesauce, coconut oil, and honey. Mix well. Add nut and raisin mixture and mix well to combine.
• Using an ice cream scooper or a spoon, scoop “dough” into small rounds and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
• Place cookie sheet in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cookies begin to turn golden around the edges.
• Remove from oven. Let cool. Eat and enjoy!

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats and help maintain the structure of every cell in our body. They control inflammation, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Raw honey is honey that is unpasteurized, unheated, and unprocessed in any way. It is known to be an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal food. It strengthens the immune system and can even be used on the skin to help heal cuts and wounds. Raw honey is known to be a natural remedy for a variety of conditions such as allergies, acne, skin burns, and rashes. Coconut flour is a great alternative to baking flour. Not only is it gluten free, but also high in fiber and high in protein. Also- a little bit goes a long way, so one package will last for many recipes.

Paleo Style Avocado and Key Lime Pie

A couple of weeks ago my laptop took a turn for the worse. My photos wouldn’t upload, programs would randomly close, and the screen would black out at the worst possible moments. Fortunately, the good people of Apple were able to fix my Macbook and return it to me as good as new! Unfortunately, this little electronic hiccup has prevented me from posting. But while my laptop was in the shop I was busy in the kitchen, and now I’m back with a handful of healthy recipes to share. If you read my last post, you know that I promised to share some Paleo-friendly meals, so I did some research and a little experimenting and came up with a few recipes that I am pretty excited about. Another bonus- Most of these recipes are not only Paleo, but also vegan/vegetarian. The next few posts will be dedicated solely to food, so make sure you’re checking back often for new meal ideas! Now, without further ado….

AVOCADO AND KEY LIME PIE (Paleo/Vegan/Raw) – This is an interesting take on a traditional key lime pie because the “frosting” is made of avocado and coconut oil, the crust is gluten-free, and it’s raw. These little bites are great as an appetizer, dessert, or even as a breakfast snack. Don’t let the green tops fool you, these guys have a little sweetness and a lot of deliciousness!

Paleo Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 2 Avocados
• Juice from 1 lime
• ½ cup coconut oil
• 3 tbsp raw honey
• ½ cup coconut flour
• ½ cup dates, pitted
• pinch of salt

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

*before beginning this recipe I like to prep the honey and coconut oil by mixing them up a bit in small bowls and letting them sit to help soften. You can also throw them over the stove for a few seconds.

• Add avocado, lime, coconut oil, and 2 tbsp honey to a bowl. Blend well (this is the filling)
• In a food processor, mix together dates, coconut flour, salt, and 1 tbsp honey (this is the crust)
• Press crust mixture into lined or greased muffin pan
• Spoon in filling mixture on top of crust
• Freeze for 1 hour
• Remove pies from muffin pan and serve!

Avocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.comAvocado and Key Lime Pie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Coconut flour is a great gluten-free, grain-free substitute for baking. It’s packed full of fiber, helps improve digestive regularity, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. It also contains the same healthy fats that are in coconut oil / coconuts and has been shown to boost metabolism. Avocados are another source of healthy fat and fiber. In addition, they contain a third of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C and half the recommended dose of vitamin K.

There’s plenty more where this came from. I’ll be posting more Paleo recipes every couple of days. Stay tuned!

Green Coconut Smoothie

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Todays post is going to be short and sweet (literally).  If you read my previous post you know that I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with coconut lately, and I’m so excited to share this amazing coconut smoothie recipe that I finally feel like I’ve perfected. I’ve made many a’ coconut smoothie in my day – coconut milk, kale, and blueberries; coconut milk, peaches, and spinach; coconut milk, blueberries and spinach (you get the idea) – but none of them were anything to write home over. The great thing about this recipe is that it has coconut meat in it, which is the best part of the coconut for you. I guess it was about time to overcome my fear of cracking open an actual coconut, because it was the secret to this drinks delicious success!

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 Young Thai Coconut
• 1.5 cups coconut milk
• 1 tbsp organic raw honey
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• 1 large handful spinach/kale/baby kale

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

Serving size: 2 full pint glasses

Crack open coconut with a sharp knife by “hammering” on all sides and twisting to pop open (be careful!). Drain water from coconut into blender. Scoop out coconut meat with a spoon and place into blender. Add honey, coconut oil, and greens. Blend well.

And that’s it! This smoothie is so good you’ll be craving it every morning (I know I do)!

Enjoy!

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Young Thai Coconut meat contains only 65 calories and is a good source of manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Coconut water contains electrolyte levels similar to those in our blood and was even used for blood transfusions during WWII – It was known as the “fluid of life” among soldiers and medical staff. In addition, it’s also packed with B vitamins as well as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Kelp Noodle Soup with Coconut

Kelp Noodle Soup with Coconut Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

I’ve developed a minor obsession with two new types of food; Kelp noodles and coconut. To be honest, I was never a big fan of coconut or kelp growing up, but lately I can’t seem to get enough of either of them! I think this dish is really what changed it all for me. The flavors go well together and the kelp noodles are so thin you barely notice the ocean-y aroma that kelp products sometimes emit. Not to mention, they are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in calories and carbohydrates. This dish also fits under the “quick and easy” category as it only takes about 20 minutes from prepping the ingredients to taking the first warm and delicious bite! Another great quality that I love to find with food is the room for flexibility. Feel free to experiment with different vegetables and spices to adjust it to your liking!

Kelp Noodle and Coconut Soup Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 3 cups vegetable broth
• 1 12oz package kelp noodles
• 1 14oz can coconut milk
• 3 tbsp fish sauce
• Juice from ½ lemon
• Juice from ½ lime
• 1 large shallot, finely minced
• 2 tsp raw honey ( I recently decided to make the switch from agave to raw honey because of new information about agave that I discovered, particularly this article. This photo was taken before the switch. )
• 1 tbsp grated ginger
• 2 green onions, sliced
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• ½ tsp red pepper flakes
• 1 cup cooked or raw shrimp, cleaned and peeled (optional)
• 1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed

Kelp Noodle and Coconut Soup Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• In a large bowl, combine vegetable broth, fish sauce, lemon juice, lime juice, ginger, shallot, honey, coriander, green onion, coconut milk, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a low simmer.
• Rinse and cut noodles into a few smaller sections (they tend to get tangled and are difficult to separate without cutting first). Add to mixture.
• Let simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
• At the last minute, add cilantro and shrimp.
• Remove from heat, pour into bowls and top with an extra sprig or two of cilantro.
• Serve and enjoy!

Kelp Noodle Soup with Coconut Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Coconut milk is rich in antioxidants, as well as C, E, and B vitamins. It is a great substitute for cow’s milk as it does not clog arteries and is easier to digest. It also contains magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. Kelp is rich in sodium algenate, an element that is known to protect the body from radiation as well as remove it. It is also a good source of iodine which helps maintain healthy thyroid function. Chlorophyl is abundant in kelp and helps stimulate red blood cell production, increasing oxygen flow around the body.

Do you have any good recipes with kelp noodles or coconut? Please share in the comments section below!

Hearty Lima Bean and Barley Chowder

Bean and Barley Soup. Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Several months back I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and I immediately had to buy the cookbook.  For those of you who are not familiar with Forks Over Knives, it’s a documentary that shares success stories of individuals with major health issues (heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol) who have seen their illnesses literally reverse by becoming vegan and eating only whole or plant-based foods.  Personally, I’ve recently become more of a believer in the “eat right for your blood type” ideology (more about that concept in a future post), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great documentary with some amazing stories shared by people who have integrated healthy eating into their lifestyle and seen incredibly positive results.  Also, studies show that Americans typically eat way more meat and dairy than we should be eating, so incorporating more whole foods and veggies into a diet is never a bad thing.  Another pro is that the recipes taste good. I’ve tried a handful of Forks Over Knives recipes and I must admit, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them.  The only negative aspect of the book are the lack of food photos, so I figured I’d share a couple of my own.  I made this soup last week when we had a whole two days of rain and I felt like eating something warm and hearty.  Now we’re back to 90 degree heat and I’m back to eating salads.  California weather is always a surprise.

Bean and Barley Soup. Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

*Note: This recipe makes A LOT of soup. Unless you are making it for a dinner party, or plan on eating it for 3 days in a row (like I had to), I would recommend cutting the recipe in half. 

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 8 cups water or vegetable stock ( I used 4c water, 4c stock)
• 1 cup dry baby lima beans
• 1 cup chopped white or red onion (I used white)
• 1 cup chopped carrot
• 1 celery stock, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup pearl barley
• 1 tbsp crushed garlic
• 1 teaspoon thyme (or another herb. I used parsley)
• Salt and pepper to taste

BEFORE: Soak lima beans in water overnight then drain.

PREPARATION:

1.  Place water and lima beans in a large pot and bring to a boil.

2.  Add onion, carrot, celery, pearl barley, crushed garlic, and thyme.

3.  Bring back to a boil.

4. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 2 hours, or until the broth is creamy and
the barley and beans are tender.

6. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

OPTION: The next day I decided to sauté some mushrooms, garlic, and kale before adding the soup to reheat.  I topped it with a little Sriracha and the juice from a couple lemon wedges – It tasted even more delicious than the first time!

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

Barley may be used to help in the prevention and management of diabetes by slowing glucose absorption.  It is a great source of dietary fiber. Barley also contains phytochemicals which may reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, as well as antioxidants, iron, magnesium, zinc, and other vital nutrients.

Lima beans are also a high-fiber food. They’re considered to be heart-healthy because they are low in fat and contain no cholesterol. Lima beans are a good source of protein and aid in digestion.

Enjoy!

Makeover + Big News!

If you haven’t noticed, Because It’s Good For You just got a makeover! Big thanks to Hak Lonh of Champion & King for his amazing photography skills and help in adding a little life to this website. Also, thanks to the fruits and vegetables for being such amazing models! Who knew produce was so photogenic? I mean, just look at this artichoke!

artichoke becauseitsgoodforyou

Beautiful, right?! And check out these berries:

berries becauseitsgoodforyou

That just goes to show that the best looking things are natural, not artificial!

ALSO- Because It’s Good For You is now on Facebook! Anything I post on WordPress will automatically be linked to both sites, but I’ll also be adding extra health-related news and fun facts only on Facebook – so please follow both to stay informed! You can find the “Like” box in the upper right hand corner of this page, or you can find a link to it here.

Tumblr, Twitter, and (maybe) Instagram are soon to come as well! Stay tuned!

The Cutest Little Tapenade Stuffed Mushroom Recipe

I’m a big fan of bite -sized food.  Not only are you preventing a mess from forming around the corners of your mouth, but you’re also tasting every delicious flavor of a recipe- all in one bite!  It’s quick, clean, and satisfying.  And who doesn’t love a good miniature?! Like these baby bella mushrooms, for example:

baby bella mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

On that note, I’ll share with you a bite-sized recipe that I whipped up recently for a friends barbecue.  The host had already prepared an array of amazing food options, but I wanted to contribute by adding a snack that would appease omnivores and herbivores alike.  I immediately thought of mini stuffed mushrooms, and after some perusing around on the internet, I found this olive tapenade recipe that I thought would be a perfect filling!

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:

• 3 cups baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and chopped in half
• 1-2 square sheets parchment paper
• 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
• 1 1/2 cups green olives, pitted
• 5 cloves of garlic
• 2 tbsp capers
• 1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into 1″ sections
• 1/2 oz parsley
• 3 tsp lemon juice
• 1/2 oz basil
• 5 tbsp olive oil

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

PREPARATION:

1.  Place olives, pepper, capers, garlic, and about half of the mushrooms stems into a food processor.  Push the “pulse” button about 15 times at 1 second intervals.
*Although a  food processor is the easiest method, it’s not the only one.  You may choose to chop the ingredients up by hand, but it could take you a while.

2.  Add the basil, parsley, olive oil, and juice from the lemon.  Pulse again for about 15 times at 1 second intervals, or until everything looks well chopped. Remove from processor and set aside.

 

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

3.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

4.  Place the baby bella mushrooms, stems removed, on to a plate or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
* If you think you can spoon the tapenade on to the mushroom without making a big mess, a baking sheet may be the better option here, so you don’t have to transfer them to one later.  I learned this the hard way. 

5.  Spoon a small bit of tapenade in to the mushroom where the stem used to be.

olive stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

6.  If you haven’t done so already, place mushrooms on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in oven.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to “sweat” and are soft to the touch.

7.  You’ll probably need to do two rounds of baking unless you have an extra-large baking sheet. If not, wait a few minutes for the mushrooms to cool and enjoy your beautiful (and delicious) bite-sized creation!

olive tapenade stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

olive tapenade stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

Mushrooms are often used in weight loss programs because they are very low in calories, sodium, and fat, while adding fiber to your body with every bite.  Mushrooms are also a great source of potassium (1 large Portobello mushroom contains more potassium than a banana),  a mineral that has been known to lower blood pressure and reduce the chance of stroke.  Riboflavin, niacin, and selenium are also a part of  the health benefits of mushrooms and aid in the prevention of prostate cancer.1

Although olives have a high fat content (about 15-30 percent), they still offer several health benefits.  For example, olives are abundant in vitamin E as well as polyphenols and flavonoids.  They are also an anti-inflammatory and can prevent against certain cancers and heart disease.2  Olives originated in the Mediterranean, an area that still frequently consumes large amounts of olives and olive products/fats (such as olive oil).  Research shows that people in this region show fewer instances of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and colon cancer compared to the United States, whose residents typically consume a diet high in animal fats.3

RESOURCES
1. http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/mighty-mushrooms.php
2. http://www.livestrong.com/article/43114-nutrition-information-olives/
3. http://www.everynutrient.com/healthbenefitsofolives.html

An End of Summer Snack: Watermelon Salad Recipe

Watermelon Salad

Labor day has come and gone but the heat of summer is still holding on! For those of you who are searching for a delightful dish (with a kick) to bring to that end of summer BBQ- look no further. It’s here.

Watermelon Salad

I recently received a request to find a healthy snack that incorporates jalapeños. Being a fan of spicy items myself, I happily took up the task of researching and adapted this Watermelon Salad with Jalapeño and Lime recipe from vegetariantimes.com. This dish is not only light and refreshing, the recipe is also surprisingly quick and simple. The jalapeño and lime add  just enough flavor to compliment the juiciness of the watermelon without making it overly sour or spicy. I made it the night before going out to the beach and it held up wonderfully (even through an hour of traffic on the 10 freeway). But enough chatting- Here’s the recipe:

WHAT YOU NEED: 

• 2 cups watermelon (I found that one of those really cute mini watermelons from the farmer’s market worked out perfectly)

• 1 jalapeño pepper – chopped

• 1/4 cup sliced basil

• 1/8 teaspoon lime zest

• 3 tablespoons lime juice

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 teaspoon white or black sesame seeds

• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

watermelon salad ingredients

PREPARATION:

1. Cut watermelon into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a large serving bowl

2. In another bowl, combine lime juice, jalapeno, oil, and lime zest.

3. Drizzle lime juice mix evenly over the watermelon and toss lightly. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Watermelon Salad Ingredients

TO SERVE:

1. Add salt and sesame seeds. Top with basil.

2. ENJOY!

Sounds super easy, right? Also, the recipe serves about 4 and (the best part) – each serving is under 100 calories! So, while everyone else at the party is chowing down on baby back ribs and falling into a food coma, you’ll be prancing around in your swim suit, happily enjoying the last little bit of summer!

Watermelon Salad with Jalapeno and Lime

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

According to naturalnews.com, watermelon is a nutritional powerhouse. Watermelon contains vitamins C , A, and lycopene, all of which have been found to ward off or minimize various types of cancer. It also contains B vitamins which help improve nervous system functioning and help convert food into cellular energy.  Watermelons also offer potassium and magnesium – vital minerals that are important for cardiovascular health, kidney functioning, and brain health.1

Raw jalapenos are good sources for vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, niacin, folate, choline, vitamin K, and contain phenolic and flavonoid antioxidants.2

Lime juice is void of cholesterol and saturated fat, and only has 5 mg of sodium. It also has very few calories and is a very good source of vitamin C and potassium.3

 

REFERENCES
1 http://www.naturalnews.com/029157_watermelon_nutrition.html
2 http://www.livestrong.com/article/464669-jalapeno-nutritional-data/
3 http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1943/2