No Bake Pumpkin Bars: Gluten-Free, Vegan, & No Refined Sugar!

No Bake Pumpkin Pie Bars

 

Today I give to you a delicious pumpkin dessert recipe just in time for Thanksgiving! If you are trying to make a dish your gluten-free aunt, vegan cousin, and everyone in between will enjoy, then you can breathe a sigh of relief–your search is over (that’s one more thing to be thankful for).  These festive no-bake bars may be gluten-free, vegan, and contain zero refined sweeteners, but they are definitely not lacking in flavor or sweetness from a lot of natural, and healthy ingredients!

 

The crust is made from oats, pecans, dates, and coconut oil, which also doubles as a crumbly topping. The pumpkin filling is made from pumpkin puree, dates, banana, real maple syrup, and coconut oil. The coconut oil helps the filling set up without needing eggs or cream cheese. I wouldn’t go so far as to say these bars are low fat or necessarily low calorie (because they aren’t), but the fat is coming from heart healthy pecans and unrefined coconut oil, which is way better for you than the trans-fat laden shortening found in most crusts. Plenty of sweetness comes from the dates and banana, which are naturally sweet and nutrient-dense foods. The added maple syrup gives it that classic pumpkin pie taste, and adds even more sweetness, plus a little extra minerals like calcium, manganese, and zinc that are absent in your white sugar. So go ahead and get cooking (or not cooking, since no oven is required) and you will have a crowd-pleasing dessert in under 30 minutes.

 

 

No Bake Pumpkin Pie Bars--Vegan & GF--pan

 

Creamy Broccoli, Bacon, & Mushroom Chicken Casserole

Broccoli Mushroom Casserole_bowl

 

Today I converted a childhood comfort meal into a much healthier and even more delicious version, which makes my heart and stomach very happy! I used to love this creamy chicken and mushroom casserole my mom used to bake–probably because the chicken was wrapped in bacon, and honestly, how can you go wrong when food is wrapped in bacon (you can’t). The list of ingredients was mostly processed and not so healthy: canned cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, bacon, chicken, and white rice. The only healthy food was the chicken. While the go-to Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup does contain mushrooms, it also contains a lot of other unnecessary ingredients like sugar, soy protein, and several preservatives, and much healthier alternatives are available at most grocery stores.

 

So, how did I make the casserole healthy? A few simple changes did the trick! I found a delicious boxed portabello mushroom soup that only contains real food like mushrooms and spices in the ingredients, subbed Greek yogurt for sour cream, brown rice for white rice, and added some fresh broccoli. Don’t worry though, I kept the bacon and the chicken. I did opt for uncured, nitrite-free bacon, but it’s bacon nonetheless (everything in moderation right). As an added bonus the prep for this easy dish only takes 15 minutes, and you only need a 13×9 pan. You can have a warm, comforting, healthy meal in no time flat. Did I mention that I normally hate mushrooms? I do. But I love the flavor the mushrooms bring to this meal so much that I’m willing to set aside my normal disgust for the fungi. I bet you’ll love it too! There’s bacon in it after all–what more do you need?

 

Matcha Green Tea & Ginger Lemonade

Matcha green tea & ginger lemonade 017

 

Sometimes I feel like I have my work cut out for me. Like now, when I’m trying to convince you that this seaweed colored liquid with a pretty lemon garnish on top isn’t absolutely disgusting. I promise it’s a delicious lemonade! It’s my new favorite drink, and I know you are going to love it too. So just close your eyes, drink the greenish water, and enjoy! This green tea lemonade is actually very refreshing, tart, and bubbly. It’s full of fresh lemons, ginger, healthy matcha green tea, and absolutely no seaweed. This recipe is reminiscent of my green tea rehydration mix, but better because you don’t need to work up a sweat before you drink it!

 

Matcha green tea is a high quality green tea powder made from dried green tea leaves, so it’s different than bagged green tea that you steep–you are actually drinking the entire leaf. Matcha has about three times the antioxidant EGCG level of regular green tea; EGCG is the healthy compound that’s found in high amounts in all types of green tea. The research is still up the air, but studies are looking into the effect of the EGCG and polyphenol content of green tea and its ability to help with weight loss and decreasing appetite (there are already some thinner mice out there because of EGCG, so we can only hope we humans get some benefit too). Please don’t take this to mean you should consume EGCG in pill form–you shouldn’t. Regardless of weight or appetite, I personally just like knowing that I’m drinking something healthy over a Diet Dr. Pepper (which I guiltily also love, but contains zero healthy compounds).

 

You should be able to find matcha green tea at most grocery stores with a health food selection. It’s found with all the other green teas. The Matcha love brand was on sale at my local Sprouts for 1/2 off, so I stocked up! I got the organic kind for $8, and it has about 8 servings in the little container. You can also buy matcha powder online from Amazon, or direct from a store. Once you have your matcha powder, all you need is some ginger, a couple lemons, a little honey, and some fizzy water! I only used 1 tbsp of honey for 24 oz of liquid, but you could definitely add more if you prefer less tartness!

 

Sweet & Spicy Fish Tacos

fish tacos

 

I’m one of those people that could eat seafood every day, it doesn’t matter whether it’s fish, shrimp, sushi, crab, or calamari–I’m not picky in that department. It’s one of the many reasons why I’m super excited to be going on a trip to Seattle in a few short weeks. I will be documenting my seafood pics like you would expect any instagram happy food blogger to be.

 

I’m always surprised when I hear someone say they hate all seafood. While I completely understand some people not liking canned tuna or other “fishy” types of seafood, there are several extremely mild tasting options like tilapia or cod that should be given a fair chance on the palate. The beauty of a fish taco is that all the great tasting flavors of the slaw and sauce are a complement to the fish, so you never feel like the fish taste is overpowering the meal. Plus, this is one of the simplest fish taco recipes you’ll find; I made sure it fit my #HealthyInUnder30 criteria. So you won’t be in the kitchen for very long before you are enjoying these flavorful tacos.

 

This sweet and spicy fish taco recipe is so speedy because it uses pre-cut broccoli slaw, which you can buy in the fresh produce section of the grocery next to the salad mixes. I also used canned diced pineapple to save time, but feel free to use fresh if you have the time to cut it (nothing beats fresh pineapple)! The only time you need your knife is to cut a lime into wedges, and possibly again if you want to top your tacos with diced avocado.

 

 

Crockpot Mexican Shredded Chicken Soup

mexican chicken soup 010

 

Don’t you just love all of the spicy and savory flavors found in Mexican food? I’ve been known to eat one too many homemade fluffy tortillas covered in queso at my local Mexican restaurant–those things are addictive–and terrible for you. Most Mexican restaurants are anything but healthy; the only vegetable in sight is usually salsa. The fact that there might be some tomatoes hiding in your sour cream and cheese covered enchiladas probably doesn’t count for much. Thankfully, you can have all the wonderful flavors of a Mexican dish at home, without all the cheese-covered guilt! Although, don’t feel like you can’t add a little shredded cheddar on top of your soup (I know I did).

 

This meal most definitely meets the #HealthyInUnder30 criteria. Prep time is 15 minutes to get all the ingredients into the crockpot, and then an additional 5 minutes right before eating when you mix in the cilantro, lime, and avocado. This meal is also packed full of veggies: tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno, onion, and avocado. The lime juice, cilantro, and cumin add that classic Mexican taste. All you need to complete this delicious soup is a little dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of cheese, and your taste buds (and waistline) are guaranteed to be happy.