Homestyle Hiking Bars

I'm not a picky eater until it comes to 'health' food. Then I hate everything. (At least that's what my co-workers say.) Last week, I attended an event called Outdoor Retailer. It's a huge trade show where every protein bar, energy bar, faux food company imaginable happily gives away free samples of their goodies. In high hopes you'll love 'em.

So I tried them all. (It was either that or go back to the trade show booth and do the work they pay me to do.) Tried 'em. Then tossed 'em after just a couple nibbles. I don't get that... why packaged protein bars taste so awful and cost so much when it's so very easy to make your own. Homemade energy bars take about 15 minutes make and you don't even have to bake them!

This is a very forgiving recipe. Doll it up with whatever strikes your fancy ~ such as different nuts, dried fruits, almond butter instead peanut butter, or a favorite type of cereal. I'm thinking Count Chocula would be quite yummy! But, then I'm not terribly committed to the health movement. :)

Homestyle Hiking Bars
Cook for just a couple minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, right before it boils:
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
Stir in:
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pour into a mixing bowl:
  • 1-1/2 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1-1/2 cups Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal
  • 1-1/2 cups craisins
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • I sometimes add 1 cup chocolate chips instead of the peanuts
Mix it altogether and voila! You've got an ultra tasty trail bar that makes Cliff Bars taste like tiles off the kitchen floor. Spread this gooey mixture into a brownie pan, no baking required! Let them cool. Then cut into bite size bars.



A Simple Sassy Soup

Are you a chickpea fan? Also called garbanzo beans, everybody loves them in hummus. I love them in soups and stews because they reflect tomato flavors so beautifully.

I'm celebrating an anniversary! Ten long, lovely years of being self-employed and working from home. Started out as a marketing consultant, evolved into a freelance writer.

This lifestyle is not for everyone but it certainly suits me. Of all the things I could (and probably should) miss about an office environment, there's really one. Lunch.

I really, really miss going out to lunch and letting someone else do the cooking. Preparing 3 meals a day in my own kitchen is... well, messy. And, boring.

So, soup is often my fall back plan. I'll make big pots of it and freeze it in single serving containers. This one was an experiment. It's not a fancy recipe by any means. Made with stuff I happened to have on hand (therefore you, too, could get creative with the ingredients.) But, the end result was so yummy I just had to share!

Simple Sassy Soup
  1. Finely chop an average size yellow onion + 4 cloves of fresh garlic
  2. Cut an average size pork tenderloin* into small bite-size (soup-sized) pieces
  3. Add 2 tbs olive oil to your skillet and stir fry, with the garlic and onion, until the tenderloin pieces are no longer pink.
In your soup pot, or crock pot ~
  • 2 - 32 oz low sodium beef broth
  • 1 - 14 oz can whole tomatoes 
  • 2 - cans low sodium chickpeas 
  • 1 - cup water
  • 3 - TBS chili powder
  • 1 - tsp. cumin
  • 1 - tsp. smokey paprika
  • 1 - tsp. oregano
Add your stir-fry concoction to the soup pot and simmer for about an hour or crock it for the day.

* You can, of course, use ground pork, beef or turkey instead of the tenderloin but I think that's what made it taste so yummy.
* Dried herbs are the better choice since this is a slow simmered recipe. They have a more concentrated flavor and they're way cheaper!
* Last but definitely not least, in winter months whole canned tomatoes are infinitely more flavorful than whole tomatoes in the produce section. Whole canned tomatoes are minimally processed, picked at the peak of freshness (when they're red, not green as fresh tomatoes often are) and canned within a half day of being plucked from the vine.


In Search of Normalcy

True Confessions: 
When I'm around health-conscious eaters, 
I always order the 'bad for you' stuff on the menu. 

I mostly do that to torment them because I'm pretty sure they're lying. Plus, a treat like that prevents me from launching into the great food debate...

You see, I think they're lying about how they'd prefer crunching on a carrot stick to savoring a sandwich wrapped in fresh-baked artisan bread. Or that they prefer Activia to ice cream. This list goes on and on and they drive. me. nuts.

But, are they lying about their preference for the ultimate in healthy foods? Or, is the whole "Eat Healthy!" message so pervasive that they're simply brainwashed?

I should probably make another confession ~ because it's the reason this makes me so crazy. I've worked in the food industry my entire adult life. On brands such as Healthy Choice, that hopefully everyone knows is not all that healthy.

Little did we know that 15 years after we started producing "Eat Healthy!" commercials that every food company on planet Earth would jump on this (mostly lies) bandwagon and follow suit.

These days, there's no escaping that 'healthy lifestyle' guilt trip advertising. It's on every internet page we view, every magazine we're flipping through. It gets worse every year all the while we get fatter. And, I've always wondered if that's because we're a contrary nation. The deep desire to be thin and healthy strikes a cord with a small minority. The lion's share of Americans simply flip the channel.

Last year, I traveled with 4 different women to horse shows and flower shows. (My two great passions.)

√ On the first trip my traveling companion lived off of celery because it's a negative calorie food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.
√ On the second trip, the woman relied on hard candy. (I'm guessing to curb her appetite.) WORSE, in the evenings she pulled out a journal at the restaurants to calculate calories before she 'went overboard.' That was so embarrassing.
√ And, the 3rd woman. Well, she's closer to normal though everything that enters the pie hole must be the healthiest selection on the menu.

And, then! A breakthrough!

In November, a friend joined me and my family on an impromptu road trip for a weekend of casual hiking. We stopped for lunch halfway there. I ordered a burger. She did, too. In fact we all did. (This joint makes killer burgers) But, I stared at her plate for just long enough that she demanded: What??? I'll burn this off in no time. 

I wasn't staring at her plate because I was appalled. I was staring at her plate because I was thrilled! I'd finally found a friend who was in the right frame of mind.

You see, I think if you are an active, mobile, fun-loving adult you have earned the right to enjoy your food. You don't talk about it, fret about it, or make apologies for it. You just eat it. And, those things like the killer burger? Yes, they're on the menu. As the special delicious treats they were always meant to be.

Thanks for listening to my rant. And, please weigh in with different points of view. Half the reason I posted this was to stir things up. ; > )