Thursday, January 17, 2013

To be blessed in the midst of it

Two of my boys were sick last week on Wednesday and Thursday.  That's pretty typical of sickness in our house.  If we get something, and occasionally we do, it  doesn't hit too hard and it goes away fairly quickly. So, no big deal.

On Friday, I took my hubby to have the meniscus in his knee repaired.  A pretty easy surgery to recover from, if you spend the first four days on the couch with ice on it 24/4.  Again, no big deal.  I loaded up the fridge and had plans to stay in all weekend to care for my man and do a thorough cleaning on the house!  I was looking forward to being home and getting much accomplished.  

However, other plans were being made for me!  

While at the surgery center I could feel the start of a cold in my lungs.  I am all about food as medicine and anything homeopathic and natural that I can use to fight invading cells, but I had nothing with me! Which is unfortunate b/c the sooner you attack, the more likely you are to succeed.  So I just sat and let it fester!! Ugh!

I take pride (right there is the problem already!! PRIDE!! Ugly, foul, nasty thing!!) in the fact that we aren't sick much and attribute it to our lifestyle.  We exercise and do our best to feed our machines with the best fuel for the buck!  While certainly not perfect, we do pretty good! (See 100 days of real food and you'll get the idea.)   Anyway, such an arrogant little fool I have been to think I would be completely immune to such attacks!!

I got nailed! Hit by a freight train on it's way out of town, and drug all the way out to the woods, through a cold, dark, dank tunnel full of sleeplessness, coughing spasms, headache and nausea. And then left for dead!  

Don't I look it!?  That's the view my family had of me all week.  

And this... the view I had of them.

Sadly, this is the same weekend, remember, that I was going to impress my man with just how attentive and caring I could be, while at the same time accomplishing the greatest feat of the American woman with multiple kids at home - a clean HOUSE - not just one floor or one room - I'm talking the WHOLE house!!!!!

This did not happen.... 

Instead, in the midst of my miserable discomfort, cloudy vision, and aching head, I was very humbled and blessed by the love and care of others!!  

I could barely stand, let alone help my hubby with anything! So the kids did! 

Guess who learned how to make soup!

I kept saying "no" to offers from friends who wanted to bring over dinner, until one friend insisted and said she'd be here at 5.  And Wow! Did she bring dinner!!

Imagine this....

...loaded chock-a-block full of food - fruit plate, veggie plate, dessert, jello, roasted chicken, little gift baggies for each boy containing juice box, hot chocolate mix, and a packet of popcorn. Plus, b/c there wasn't enough room in the box, a hot dish of homemade mac n cheese!!!  This woman knows how to love on a family! The kids ate ALL the veggies and fruit and powered through all they could eat like they had never tasted such exquisite food! There was so much food we had a main dish for two nights!! AND... to top it off, a card blessing me and my family with such thoughtful and kind words! 

Tears.  I was overwhelmed by the abundantly generous gift!

That night I get a text from my brother who lives a half hour away...  "breakfast, lunch and dinner on the front porch" - or something like that.  And sure enough... two Whole Foods bags full of soup and salad, a blackberry crumble coffee cake, OJ, and paper bag lunches full of foods my kids love!  

Again... overwhelmed!

Then my sister dropped off her favorite soup in a little bowl just for me!!

Will others' thoughtfulness never cease!!

I kept thinking, "it's just a cold!  I'll be able to make dinner tonight, or  breakfast tomorrow...",  And really, I probably could have, if their lives depended on it - very poorly, I might add. But then, friends wouldn't get to bless, and kids wouldn't learn to cook and care, and a family wouldn't get to experience the pure overwhelming gratitude and humble acceptance of such rich gifts!  

More friends kept praying and many offers kept coming for food or groceries,  to which I continued to say "no thank you", until I really did want more OJ.  So I accepted an offer from a dear friend who dropped my request at the door with her own little, cheerful touch!

A little bright, in my dark! A little color in my monochrome!

And today, I think I am headed to the light, out of the woods, and back to myself.

I cannot thank my friends and family enough for their prayers and kindnesses! They opened my eyes to the gratitude and relief others might feel when they receive dinner from me!  They shamed me to think of the times I knew a friend was sick and I didn't do a whole lot about it! They humbled me, inspired me and blessed me! 

The kindness we experienced did far more than feed my family.... it fed our souls!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

To Crepe or not to crepe?

Intimidated by crepes!?  No need to be!! They are some of the easiest things to make and don't take that long! The crepes we make are actually "Swedish pancakes" from a recipe that has been in my brother-in-law's Swedish family for many years.  It is made of flour, milk (or water), salt and eggs, which is the same as most French Crepe recipes though those are often made with whole wheat or buckwheat flours and this recipe doesn't specify the type of flour.  Use what pleases you!

My brother-in-law makes "Sweedies" for his family as their traditional Christmas morning breakfast.  We don't have a traditional breakfast, it's pretty much whatever I feel like making! And this year, I feel like having Sweedies! But I don't feel like making them!  Not that they are difficult, but why "milk" the cow when you can get the milk for free!? ;0)  Let me explain...

You see, my brother-in-law makes the Sweedies for his family and taught my husband, who now makes them for us on a fairly regular basis! I have only made them once -  which I shouldn't have done at all! Why let on that I can make them?! I have someone making my breakfast for me with the pride of a patisserie chef!  No reason to ruin a good thing!  It's one of the few times I can sit back and relax at meal time!  

Just so you don't think my husband and brother-in-law are some kind of masters in the kitchen, and the only ones able to perfect the art of Sweedie/crepe making, let me clarify. Both men grill meat (and veggies when insisted on by their wives) and mine makes sausage and bacon with the occasional egg for breakfast! Not exactly Iron Chef material! If they can make Sweedies, so can you (or better yet, your spouse!!) to the delight of the whole family!!

So, if that doesn't convince you that anyone can make Sweedies/crepes, take a look at the recipe and the steps below and decide for yourself!!

Swedish Pancake Recipe

4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2TBS sugar - eliminate if you want to fill your Sweedie with savory ingredients like mushrooms and sausage or spinach and cheese.

Butter for pan - not to be mixed into the recipe!

The How To:
The batter is easy to whip up.  It's just like a pancake batter.  Throw all the ingredients in a bowl (EXCEPT BUTTER)  and mix until well blended. Little lumps are ok.

The pan is important! It can be as big as you want but it should have sloped sides and helps if it's a non-stick surface.  The IKEA pans shown here (IKEA 365) are my favorite pans bc they work great on all stove tops - including induction - AND are super cheap!  

Set up your work station: Two pans on the stove top, spatula at hand, batter nearby, and butter melted in a bowl with a brush with which to butter the pans.

Heat the melted butter over medium heat in the pan before adding the batter.

Pour about a 1/4 cup batter into a 7 inch diameter pan while swirling the pan so the batter covers the bottom.  You can adjust the amount with more or less batter according to your desired thickness and pan size.  

When the edges firm up and bubbles appear on the top of the Sweedie, flip it!

Allow for a little time on the flip side for browning and then serve it up to the first kid holding out his plate with a smile on his face!

Let's make it pretty!! 

These are my favorite things with which to decorate my Sweedie!  (If you haven't tried Noosa yogurt, it's a must!!!  High protein, low carbs and absolutely delicious!!!)

My children, however, like to make theirs look like a snowy landscape with powdered sugar, as evidenced by the mess they leave!  

If this much misses the plate, you can imagine what the plate looks like!  I hope that when their tastes refine, they'll experiment a little with something like yogurt and berries!!  They don't know what they are missing!

Smaklig måltid!
(aka - Bon Appetit!)

I hope you all have a
Merry Christmas!!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Football and Freedom

It was a game! A silly little showdown to stop the endless smack talk between my son and his friend, over who was in the better football league. This game would decide it - bragging rights to the winner! 

However, this game became so much more!  It had more spiritual mojo than any Billy Graham convention. It had greater depth than the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, and was presented to me in such a tender way, by such a merciful God, with the most perfect timing, that it opened my eyes to see the lie I had been drowning in! Yes - I know! A tackle football game of neighborhood boys with a macho-mini-man point to prove!  

While both boys gathered their brothers and friends to form their teams, my son took it a bit further.  He wrote up plays, practiced the plays with his team. He came up with new plays and they practiced those too.  They talked strategy daily for two weeks and the excitement at our house was overflowing! 

Finally it was time for The Sunday Showdown. I understood how important this was to my boys.  They had something to fight for - something they felt they needed to defend!  They were on a mission.  So, I insisted that my husband be the referee in order to keep things fair and to keep tempers from boiling over.

Myself, along with another mom, didn't want to miss out on this big event so we found ourselves a spot on the top of the drainage ditch to cheer on all 14 boys that came to play.

And play they did....

My boys immediately gave up a touch down.  Then when they got the ball, they fumbled it a couple times before they turned it over. Things weren't looking too good, but regardless of all they pressure they surely felt, they continued to encourage each other and not place blame!  When it was their turn again with the ball, they got their first 7. But soon after, they gave up a touchdown and then quickly answered in kind.  After that it was off to the races for my boys. 

Eventually, though the other team would try so hard, they came up short and my boys' team would win.  They would be good sports about it.  Shaking hands, complementing the other team on a great run or pass - which is not above and beyond, but expected.  So what is it that spoke to me?  I didn't figure it out fully til the next day, but that Sunday, this is what I saw...

I witnessed my boys play with more heart than ever before! I didn't know they could run as fast as they did! I didn't know they could cut and spin and put their moves on like I saw that day! They played with true, full-throttle, all-out abandon and grateful, excited, passionate joy! They had nothing to lose and everything to gain!  There was no fear of upsetting a coach or letting down a parent.  There was no thought that they might upset a teammate. There was no selfish ambition among them. Each kid got equal playing time including the tough-as-nails, tiny first grader who mixed it up with the rest of them!! Each kid got to carry the ball and play in important downs.  Each kid got to play different positions in order to put the team at it's best advantage while allowing each kid a shot for glory!  They encouraged each other - brother to brother and friend to friend! They played their hearts out!! Fully exhausted, yet fully alive!!

My friend and I, lounging on the sidelines, laughed til we almost cried and praised the boys for their gallant efforts and amazing plays!  We couldn't get over the way our kids were playing!!!  It was beautiful!!! We truly sat there flabbergasted with our eyes wide open in delighted surprise that our boys could do things we had NO IDEA they could do!!!

Let me clarify something here...our boys play organized tackle football! (Thus the reason for this game) They do a great job!  They are players you can depend on.  They make some great plays and they make some mistakes - big and small - but they don't play all out.  They play cautious! To me, it seems they play with a bit of fear that they might do the wrong thing or they might get hurt or they might upset the coach or embarrass themselves or disappoint their parents.  

Ugh! Doesn't THAT sound like life?!  Hold back just a little, play it safe, bc if you screw up or make a mistake then you know it was because you weren't totally trying.  But if you give everything and go at it with total abandon and then upset someone or make a mistake then you are vulnerable bc there is no excuse for you.  You gave everything you had and still "failed" to impress or succeed.  That's much harder to accept!  

Another reason we don't play all out is bc our hearts aren't in it.  It's too much work to defend what needs defending.  The priority isn't urgent enough.  Our mission is too vague.... 

But not on this day for these boys! Our boys played with ownership!  Our boys played the game their way, as they were meant to play! They were on a definite mission and they gave it everything they had until they accomplished it!!!  What a beautiful thing!!!

While these amazing positive things are happening on my boys' team, the opposite is happening on the other team.  Please do not get me wrong - I know the boys on the other team and I think they are great kids! They are not the devil incarnate nor are they bad kids, but they responded to the pressure quite differently!

While there was much encouragement and equal playing time on my boys' team, there was dissension in the ranks on the other boy took over and started telling everybody where they needed to be and what they needed to do.  He started calling his brother names who, in turn, wasn't gonna take it and returned the favor.  There was much blaming and shaming when a good play was made by my boys' team. There was little regard for people's feelings or playing time, so a few boys ended up sitting out a lot.  At one point, my refereeing husband said to me, "I didn't come here to babysit.", as he was having to remind the team that they had some players who had been sitting out a long time and that name calling wasn't allowed.

Why do I go to such great lengths to tell you all this....  to glorify my children?! No!  To try and entertain you with a story that makes my kids look like angels so you think I'm a good mom?  No, no!!  Because I have nothing better to write about?  Hardly, I finally feel inspired! This was a life changer for me!  This was a glimpse into my life that I didn't recognize until I flushed it out with a good friend of mine the next day! 

I live my life like the other team played football -  a prison of my own making - that does NOT lead to success but rather to exhaustion, frustration and failure.

I am always...

     Needing to be the one in control - Just like the boy on the other team that started telling others what to do, I have the best idea how this should go and it will all work out if you do this and you do that.  Stressful!
     Judging others - Just like the boy on the other team, I make judgement calls on who is good enough to play and who isn't.  Who is allowed in my circle and who isn't. The worth and value of another based on what I see and what opinion I form of them with or without knowing them! Ugh!!
     Striving to be the best yet not measuring up -  These boys tried so hard but still came up short.  Sometimes just in the trying I end up working against the goal and those on my "team" only to find myself sprinting alone on the Giant Gerbil Wheel of Futility. Exhausting!
     Stirring up competition within the team - or family in my case - Brother was knocking down brother by calling names and not encouraging the other. Sadly, there is competition in my family.  It's very subtle, and other times not so subtle, but it's there and it breaks my heart that I have been a big part of the problem! It breaks me down and the relationship.  Destructive!! 
     Blaming - The boys would put the blame elsewhere so that it wouldn't be their fault for not winning!  I love to do this one!! Sadly, to the one person who loves me most in this world - my husband!!  If only he would... then... I would be so much happier and this family would be better off if only he would....  Sick and WRONG!!
     Shaming - "Why didn't you... cover the pass tighter? I told you... it was coming?"  Sadly, I fill in my own blanks here for those I love and the effect is devastating!!! 

And just like that boy on the other team, I have pulled my family into the same behaviors!! We all live in this same prison!! But Sunday gave me a glimpse of something else!! That a little piece of heaven can mix it up with the bitter taste of earth and come out the winner! That gracious-love will defeat performance-based-love every time! That unconditional-acceptance will out-do conditional-acceptance always! That value-just-bc-you-are-you will overcome value-if-you-can-prove-it time and time again!  That playing in your God given freedom if you would just reach out and accept it, is way more fun than playing in a prison of blame and shame.  

I am on my knees in gratitude and humility that my eyes were opened to these simple, undeniable and profound truths through a neighborhood football game.  The stage was set.  The timing was perfect.  My eyes saw the game on Sunday and my life through the game on Monday. When I "saw" it, I was a sniveling mess!! I didn't want to be on the "other team" anymore!! I wanted to be on Team Freedom and live with wild joy just to be playing! I was crushed to see just how long I had been living in this prison and how I had sucked my family in with me!! But by God's grace, then and there, He said "enough!".  He spoke truth to me through a friend.  He sent me home and sat me down in front of his word for more truth.  And I have broken out of that prison of lies and grabbed freedom! I can have this little piece of heaven right here on my little patch of earth! 

This freedom!! This remarkable joy that occurred on Sunday, that brought me to my knees on Monday is mine b/c on Friday a loooong time ago, my Lord and Savior was brought to his knees with the weight of my sin and imprisonment only to declare freedom on Sunday for all who would reach out and receive it!!! I have finally received IN FULL , here, right NOW, what he has had for me all along!

I may have grabbed on to my eternal freedom a long time ago but Monday I grabbed on to the promise of freedom here on earth!! Oh yea, Satan's coming after me with his lies and I'll likely screw up and believe him for a bit, but I see him more clearly now.  I know his "plays" and this time I'm prepared! I've been working out a bit of strategy with the winningest coach ever to play the game!!  I'm confident, and excited!!  And I'm going out to face my opponent with wild abandon and grateful joy bc I'm playing in the freedom that nothing I do will make this coach love me less or take me out of the game until it's time!  So, regardless of the score, I will play this game with everything I am, bc I already know the outcome!  My team wins!!! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Protein Bars

I love this time of year!  

My tomatoes are ready for harvest...

the peaches are begging to be picked.... 

the zinnia's are blooming heedlessly...

 and my grapevine is..... 


Grrr.... I hate those little spider mites!  If my vine makes it through this year to live another summer and those mites come back next year, they are soooo dead!!!  I let them go too long not knowing it was insects that were yellowing-up my vine, but thought instead, it was the dry heat.  I started my battle against them much too late! And sadly, my birds didn't come back to their nest this year.  It's tucked right in the arbor!  Too bad for them, they would have had feasted 24/7!!

But aside from all the yummy (and not so yummy) food stuff going on in my yard, I love this time of year because this is when my boys are rushing home from school to put on their pads, pack up their water, and lace up their cleats before they grab a snack and run out the door on their way to tackle their teammates in the high heat of the late afternoon sun.

I love going to their practices! It's my excuse to watch my boys, peruse magazines, chat with other moms, and catch the last warm rays of fall!

Two hours of sprints, tackle drills, running plays and simply paying attention after a full day of school, requires energy and brain power. So, I want to be sure my boys have a highly nutritious snack with carbs to get them going and protein to keep them going.  For awhile I was buying Cliff Bars but at a dollar plus a bar and with some form of sugar as their 2nd, 3rd and 4th ingredient, I wanted to see if I could come up with something a little cheaper with less sugar but just as yummy.  After searching the internet I found a recipe I liked and, of course, I had to change it to please my own sense of taste and texture.

This is what I came up with....

2 1/2 cups oats - old fashioned
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup chia/flax seed
1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds)
1/2 cup dried fruit (blueberries)
1/2 tsp cinnamon 

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup nut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses

Prepare a 7x11 pan by placing foil in the pan and allowing for the edges of the foil to come up the sides.

Mix the first 8 ingredients (oats to salt) in large bowl until all the ingredients are well blended.

(This is how I chop my almonds)

 Mix the nut butter, honey and molasses in a small bowl. 

Pour the nut butter mixture over the cereal mixture. Mix until well blended and all of the cereal mixture is coated.

Transfer mixture to prepared pan. Using a the back of a large rubber spatula press the mixture down into pan firmly.

To remove the bars, lift the edges of the foil out of the pan.  Cut into 16 bars or squares. 

Wrap each bar in plastic wrap. 

Store the wrapped bars in a zip-top bag or plastic container in the refrigerator. 

That's it! There you have it! A cheaper - I can't honestly say (I never did the math) - great tasting snack with less sugar to provide energy for strong bodies to do some seriously hard.... play!  ;0)

Go get 'em, boys!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beans, beans the wonderful fruit...

I LOVE chickpeas!  

Mostly for their texture and flavor but also for their health benefits!  Being high in fiber, they help manage blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and keep you feeling fuller, longer.  They contain high amounts of folic acid to repair DNA and produce healthy red blood cells. They contain minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium and iron which are essential to the body's functioning. And as a low-fat, high-protein powerhouse they pack a huge energy punch!

Let's get back to that flavor thing I mentioned! I love chic peas so much I will often just open a can and eat them right out of my hand.  Just toss em back! Soooo yum!! Which makes it a bit of a mystery to me as to why I am posting my least favorite chic pea recipe.  I have made the world's - well, MY world's - most comforting and delicious soup with a chic pea base, and the most healing, indulgent, garlicky warm bean dip using... yes, you guessed it... chic peas, but for some reason I got a wild - must have been grey - hair to make hummus and post it for you! 

I do enjoy a good hummus aa great way to eat veggies and feel like I ate something a bit more substantial.  However, a good hummus to me requires that the chic peas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic don't stand alone, but instead, team up with some other flavors that give the hummus a little more... drama.  I need it to be a little unexpected...a little bit more creative and bold.  So, here's to healthy, unexpected and somewhat dramatic eating.

Been called Drama Queen before? Well, make the title stick! Below I have given you a base for hummus with which you can create some dramatic flavor!   Make a simple batch from the recipe below and then create a wild blend of flavors that you can toss in! For example, I am a huge fan of MUCH roasted (in a skillet containing a bit of olive oil - til a bit crunchy) garlic with almost equal amounts of rosemary.  Another favorite is sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, basil and pine nuts.  At the bottom of this blog there are many other ideas for add-ins! Find your favorites and get.... dramatic!!  

1 can garbanzo (chickpeas), partially drained
3 TBS lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup sesame seeds (or tahini paste)
1 tsp salt
olive oil 
additional add-ins

Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor.

Process until smooth and creamy... 

...or creamy with texture - whichever way you prefer.  

Place in a serving bowl.  Take two swirls around the bowl with the olive oil - lightly.

Use veggies, pita bread or pita chips to dip. 

Super easy!!! And by using organic, you can be sure you are avoiding any preservatives such as EDTA found in most canned beans! 

Additional Add-Ins

Some additional flavors: chopped olives, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, oregano, rosemary or thyme, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts.... the ideas are limited only by your creativity!  Maybe a little goat cheese sprinkled over the top?  Mmmmm... Kale chips? Pepitas, hemp hearts, or flax seed?  I don't know - just throwin it out there! ;0)  Let me know what you try!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Homemade Nut and Fruit Bars

I am a nut lover, a chocolate addict and a fiend for tangy, sweet fruit.  So, I put them all together in a delicious and nutritious bar. These are a go-to snack in my house!  Yes, I know, I'm not the first to come up with this brilliant and healthy treat, but I believe I have found just the right combo of flavors and textures at a better price than what's available in the market, without all sorts of weird fillers, additives and preservatives. (To ensure the lack of nasty things in your bars, buy the purest form of each of these ingredients.  Organic if you are able.  I found out this morning what has been found on almonds and almost started crying!  (more info on chemicals found on all foods here - probably more than you want to know!) Is nothing safe anymore!!?)

How much money do you suppose I'm saving? I did a quick search online and found Kind bars (which these closely resemble, as mine are not organic either) online for about $1.49 as the cheapest price out there - I'm not sure whether or not this included shipping.  I usually see Kind bars in the store for $1.99.  Eek!!! That's a LOT considering I can make mine for a budget-conscious $0.67!  

I know!!  Cheapo!!  And $0.67 is the price I came up with for the second recipe below - the one with the almonds.  The first recipe - with the peanuts - is very basic and would certainly be cheaper.  Granted, I shop around for the best prices on the ingredients. My cost doesn't doesn't include gas, since these ingredients are picked up along with other products on my regular grocery list, and it doesn't include your choice of wrap, the cost of which would be rather miniscule - unless you're wrapping your bars in gold sheets studded with diamond bling, which I am not! 

The added benefit is that these are so easy to make your kids could throw them together! You may have to do the chopping - OR just leave all the ingredients whole.  No chopping necessary! I chop b/c I like a little bit of everything in each bite.  Whole, uber-chopped or somewhere in between! It's your bar!! You decide! That's the beauty!!

Homemade Nut and Fruit Bars

Preheat oven to 325.

Option 1 - For those who like simple flavors - like my boys - and who don't want to be picking flax or chia seeds out of their teeth for the next 30 minutes, go with this option.

1  1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 
1 cup rice
1/4 cup brown rice syrup

You can find brown rice syrup at Vitamin Cottage or another health food store, as well as online.  I use rice syrup because it makes the bar crunchy instead of soft and gooey like honey would.  

To measure all things syrupy...

I loooove this little contraption for syrup, honey, molasses and nut butters. Simply pull the bottom out to the measure you want, fill to the top with your ingredient and then press the bottom back in. It scrapes the sides clean and you scrape the bottom clean for no waste!

Option 2 - For those who like stronger flavors and want the added nutrition from flax and or chia seeds, both of which are high in omega-3's, try this option at $0.67 a bar, it's a bargain! (More benefits of chia seeds and flax seeds - tiny power-houses of all things good!) 

1  1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 
1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
2 TBSP chia seeds or flax seed
1 cup rice
1/3 cup brown rice syrup

Chop chocolate... dried fruit... and nuts.

Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  

Mix until thoroughly combined. 

Line 8x8 pan with foil and grease it lightly.  Press nut and fruit mixture into pan with back of a scraper spatula.

Bake 18 mins and remove from oven. When able, lift the foil out of the pan and continue cooling. Wait until mostly cooled before cutting into 8 bars.  Peel back foil and wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap or in snack sized ziplock baggies. 

Mmmmmm.... look at all that chocolate-y, nutty, fruity goodness!!!  Enjoy!!

It is possible to mix and match different nuts, fruits, chocolates and seeds.  In fact, you could probably squeeze a 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas in either recipe and still have enough syrup to make the ingredients all stick together.  If you find that it's not moist enough, add a dash more rice syrup and you're good to go!  

Let me know what fun combinations you come up with by leaving me a comment.  And if you can't leave it here, leave it on my FB page!! I love to hear how you guys re-vamp a recipe!