Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's PantryAbout a year ago, when I still lived in central Illinois, I was given this recipe from a friend and fellow Mommy.  She was on a mission to get more fit and make some long lasting, healthy changes in her life.  One of her discoveries was this recipe that she got off Pinterest.  As a rockstar mom of boys, she was looking for a quick, homemade snack that she could make ahead and share with the whole family and this fit the bill.  (Personally, I think she just needed a quick bite of something that would keep her on the move.  Why are boys so exhausting?)  She was so surprised at how delicious they were, she made sure to share it with everyone she knew!  I recently started experimenting with all variations of no bake, granola-type, snack bite kind of recipes and thought I would start with this one.

Score!  I am a huge peanut butter and chocolate fan so this was one of the flavors that was top on my list.  Man, are they good!  I have several family members and friends that are gluten-free due to celiacs disease or other health issues so I am psyched to be able to pass this on to them!  My Mom used to make something similar to this when I was a kid so I can’t help but feel like these are kind of a retro snack making a comeback as a food fad.   There are so many recipes similar to this that are floating around the internet, I am glad to have narrowed them down to just one!  I am still working on another version; different flavors so that we all get some variety, but I’ll leave that for another day.  For now, know that these awesome little bombs of heart healthy flax and oats are a powerhouse of good things for your bod!

My initial taste testers of this recipe, who coincidentally eat GF and include at least one health professional, all gave a full stamp of approval.  They liked that you can really taste the ingredients, which in my opinion, makes them that much more scrumptious.  My kids went crazy for them and have requested they be tucked in their lunches, sent for snack, or both!  My husband is a runner and even though he has had them as a boost before and after his runs, the rest of the time I need to physically separate him from the container.  While they are healthy and full of good things, too many would really up your calorie intake.  So don’t eat them like popcorn!

Gluten Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's Pantry

via BP in Instagram

Ultimately, they are just a smart, easy, kid and adult friendly food that is a good idea.  They are a faster, more simple recipe than making a full batch of granola bars and easy enough for your kids to make by themselves!  They last for quite awhile stored properly in the fridge and can be frozen too.  Very convenient if you are little, grown, single, married, new parents, old parents…or a rockstar mom of boys.
Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's Pantry**This recipe is fourth in the healthy eating series I am featuring over on the J Rose Fitness Facebook page!  It is a great resource for healthy living tips, ideas, motivation, and the occasional challenge!  Check it out and ‘like’ it to get your daily dose of information and humor.  I guarantee it will make your day!  Jessica, the brain behind the page is ready to answer questions, give support, and keep you going!  I am loving being a contributor and you can see all my submitted recipes on her site.  I don’t receive any compensation for contributing-I just really love her page!  Check it out!

Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites
Recipe via Danielle (friend of BP) via Pinterest
These can be altered a bit depending on your tastes.  I have specified substitutions where applicable.

1 c peanut butter or almond butter
1 c ground flax seeds
2 c rolled oats, gluten free if desired
1/2 c mini chocolate chips or 1 c raisins or dried cranberries
2/3 c honey, preferably raw

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  Cover and chill until the mixture firms up.  Scoop by level tablespoonfuls and roll between the palms of your hands until they are smooth and round.  Chill.  Enjoy!  Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for…I don’t know! We always eat them too fast! :)  I like to freeze them in bags of six to pull out later and make them last longer.

Garlic Toast

Garlic Toast | Brittany's PantryA few days ago I posted a quick, weeknight worthy recipe for a simple Pasta Puttanesca.  It is essentially foolproof, is made with all things from your pantry, and if  you make it with whole wheat pasta, is actually quite healthy.  Like the main dish, the garlic toast that accompanied it was easy and fuss free.  My secret?

The freezer.

An earth shattering revelation, I know.  You see, my freezer and I have a special, mutually beneficial relationship.  I keep it organized (usually) and clean, and in turn, it provides me with quick meals and the occasional pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie.  When I am pressed for time or simply lack the energy and drive to make dinner, pulling something out of the freezer that requires little or no action is the best feeling in the world.  Am I right?  It is like winning the lottery.  Its 5:30 pm on a Tuesday and you are digging through bags of frozen edamame and blocks of ground beef when suddenly you find a quart container of Chicken & Barley Soup, ready to be microwaved.  I can’t be the only person out there who would hold it up in victory and shout Eureka!!  And it is equally gratifying if you are pulling out dinner for one or two people at eight o’clock at night after a long day of work, or if you are a stay at home mom without the time to whip something up between laundry, grocery shopping, homework checks, piano lessons, PTO meetings, and ballet rehearsal.  It is for these exact moments in life that I keep certain items in my freezer.

In this case, it is pre-sliced french bread.  Every once in awhile, I rifle through the day old section of baked goods in the bakery of my local supermarket.  When I find the big loaves of thinly sliced french bread for 1.99, I buy two!  I bring them home and toss them right in the freezer.  They aren’t perfectly wrapped to store long term, but it is enough to let them slowly dry out over the next few weeks.  Then, when I need a quick dinner, I have stale, frozen bread that I can use to make french toast, panini, bread crumbs, bread pudding, croutons, and in this case, garlic toast.  The smaller, chewier baguettes are better for crostini or bruschetta and can be a bit tough for just toast.  So for this, you want the softer, country type loaves that aren’t so crusty on the outside.  Perfect to slather with garlic butter.

Garlic Toast

thinly sliced french bread, preferably slightly stale
1/2 stick (4 T) of soft, salted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced finely

Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine the butter and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.  Arrange your bread in a single layer on a dry sheet pan and oh so very thinly spread with garlic butter.  You want this toast to get crunchy and crispy, so be sure to spread the butter to the very edges and use it sparingly.  Just a VERY thin layer.  Be sure the bread is butter side up on the pan and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Check the toast.  If it is firm and overall golden brown, then it is done.  If not, rotate the pan 180 degrees and let it go for a few more minutes.  Watch it closely!  Toast can go from nothing to burnt in a short amount of time.  Essentially, toast until your preference and enjoy!  This is fantastic served with chili too!  Leftover garlic butter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge to be used for more garlic toast but is also good spread on the outside of panini, stirred into mashed potatoes, rubbed on chicken before roasting, or anything else you can think of!

Weeknight Pasta Puttanesca

Weeknight Pasta Puttanesca | Brittany's PantryIts no secret the our family loves food with a tang to it.  We are just ‘tangy’ people, I guess.

It isn’t as though you couldn’t tell by the kinds of recipes I post here.  They are a direct reflection of what is on my table every day.  Hence, the evidence is in the Zesty Bolognese, the Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Panzanella, and the Sweet Potato Salad W/Vinaigrette.  We love the brine and sourness of pickles, lemon, vinegar sauces, and olives.  Our family recently discovered Zoes Kitchen, a restaurant chain here in the south that I had never heard of or been to, but am now obsessed with.  Why did no one tell me about this place?!  If you follow BP in Instagram you saw our excitement over our first meal!  They serve greek and mediterranean type food, sandwiches and salads and fresh ingredients with a famous chocolate sheet cake they sell for dessert, and it hits all our good food buttons.  Outrageously scrumptious.
via Brittany's Pantry InstagramItalian food is part of that whole category of great, regional food that uses an delightful excess of vinegar, feta, olive, and oils and…*drool* I’m making myself hungry.  Luckily, I have this pasta to keep me happy!  Isn’t it fun to say?  Pa-stah Poot-a-nesk-ah!  Mmm.  Also, if you and/or your kids have ever read Lemony Snickets: A Series Of Unfortunate Events, they will know exactly what pasta puttanesca is.  Score!  Its a famous dish!

It also happens to be quick, easy, and (my favorite part) is made with pantry ingredients.  That is always nice when you are in a hurry or trying to stretch what you have in your cupboards between grocery trips.  You literally dump all the sauce ingredients together and heat.  Did you catch that?  Dump and heat.  Could this recipe BE any easier?  Add the freshness of a vegetable on the side and you have dinner!  In this case, you also have garlic toast with it, but that is for a future post!  But trust me, you will want to come back.  Come baaaaack for garlic toooooaaaast…
Weeknight Pasta Puttanesca | Brittany's PantryWeeknight Pasta Puttanesca | Brittany's PantryWeeknight Pasta Puttanesca 
This is my version.  While it may not be perfectly authentic, it hits all the major puttanesca flavors.  This will feed four people with a serving leftover for lunch the next day!

3/4 lb of thin spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
large pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp anchovy paste, optional
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 c roughly chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 heaping T capers, drained
1 tsp dried oregano
1 T dried parsley
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for serving

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat until just starting to sizzle.  DO NOT LET IT BROWN AND BURN! As soon as it is fragrant, add the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Cook for about 15 seconds stirring well to dissolve the anchovies and dump in the crushed tomatoes.  Add the olives, capers, dried parsley and sugar.  Give it a few cranks of black pepper and let it come up to a slow bubble.  Taste it for salt and pepper seasoning, and let the whole thing bubble gently until the pasta is done.  Dump all the pasta into the sauce and toss gently with a tongs until combined well.  Serve with plenty of parmesan cheese.