Dog Training: Progress Report


Pupdate: Junior and Bear are doing great with their training!  Things take a bit of trial and error, but here’s what we’re doing now:


Bear’s biggest issue is fear-based reactivity.  Since it doesn’t seem like he was socialized much as a pup (and was a stray for the first few months of his life), he is especially anxious around other dogs.  But, because he’s a big shepherd mix, when he gets scared and anxious (and starts barking and lunging and growling), people get scared of him!  He also has a tendency to…”take it out” on Junior when he gets stressed, and will lunge at the poor little guy.  This is probably my biggest issue with walking the two of them (by myself, I can’t separate them!!).


So serious!

Anyway, we’ve been working on desensitizing him to other dogs.  Translation: when he sees another dog on a walk (regardless of his behavior), he gets cookies.  Or cheese.  Or hot dogs.  Our goal is to re-wire his brain in a certain sense so that instead of having an immediate (negative) emotional reaction to other dogs on walks, he has a positive association with it.  So far, it seems to be working!  He still gets scruffy and sometimes growls, but he has started looking at me when he sees other dogs!  Now that he seems a little less reactive, we’re going to work on “touch” (he touches his nose to my palm, a command he’s already super good at) as a response to seeing other dogs.  Bear also seems to have a negative reaction to people speaking other languages (which makes me wonder what happened to him before he came to us!), so we’re employing the same desensitization techniques to deal with that.

Because Bear is so food motivated, training him has been pretty easy.  He’s picked up on “heel” already–he doesn’t always stay right by my side, but if I tell him to heel, he’ll back track and come next to me!

We have to continue working on his reactivity, but hopefully that keeps going smoothly.   He’s made a lot of progress so far, which I’m happy with!


Training Junior is proving to be a bit harder than training his brother.  He’s not nearly as food-motivated and he’s naturally a much more independent dog!  His biggest issue is over-excitement.  It manifests in many forms: pulling on the leash to get to the next exciting smell, jumping on new exciting visitors, trying to wiggle his 60 lb body onto every visitor’s lap…  He’s SO friendly and loving (and some visitors encourage him) but I would like him to maybe be a bit more polite about it and only be a lap dog if he’s asked to be!


He really does think he’s a lap dog

The leash pulling is what we’ve been mostly working on.  I have a harness for him that has a leash clip both in the front and in the back, so I can use the front clip when we’re walking and I want him to pull less (clipping it in the front prevents him from pulling) but I can use the back clip when we’re running together.

The front-clip harness does a pretty good job of preventing him from pulling, but I want him to actually learn that he doesn’t need to yank my arm off to get where he wants to go (we’ll walk there together!).  We worked on “heel” for a while but, unlike Bear, he doesn’t seem to be picking up on it as quickly.  If I ask him for a “heel”, he’ll come back to stand by my side but won’t stay there.  If I try to “hold” him in place with a treat, he quickly loses interest in the treat and heads forward again.

I realized that this wasn’t working very well so I switched to something that will hopefully be a little easier for him.  He and Bear both know the command “look” (pausing to look at me), but Junior doesn’t do it every time.  The food reward for looking at me isn’t enough for him to turn and stop eyeing the squirrel across the street!  So, instead, I’ve been asking for “look” and then waiting (as long as it takes) for him to look at me and then I say “let’s go!” and we get to jog forward so he can investigate whatever he’s after.  The reward of getting to move forward seems to have much more value to him than the treats I carry, and he’s getting much better at checking in with me.  My hope is that I can do the same thing with “heel”–make him realize that if he walks by me for a short amount of time, then I’ll let him charge forward and check out the interesting sights and smells on his path.

Anyway, with all of this, he does seem to be getting better at walking on a leash.  He always pulls the most right when we leave the house, but a few minutes later (after he’s burned off his initial excitement!) his pulling decreases and, although he typically walks in front of me, at least he does it with a loose leash!

We’ve been working on other little things to make him a bit more polite, too: if he comes up to us when we’re sitting and watching TV, I ask him for a “sit” before petting him (he wants to be pet more than he wants a treat for sitting), and ignore him if he shoves his nose into my lap.  I’ll ask him to “sit” and then invite him to sit on the couch with me.  He does seem to understand that sitting nicely gets him more attention than him forcing his ways into our laps, but he seems to get frustrated if he isn’t pet or loved soon after sitting.  We’re working on his patience (waiting longer in a sit before he’s rewarded with pets!) and he’s doing well so far!


Junior loves snuggles!

Finally, we come to the jumping.  Junior has been a jumper since the first day I got him.  He has a weird thing about sniffing people’s mouths…he just wants to smell your mouth, then he’ll leave you alone.  But, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable!  He doesn’t jump on Dan or me, but he springs up on most visitors.  I know how to fix it, too: Dan ignored Junior and Bear every day while he went upstairs to change out of his work clothes, and now they both politely wait outside of the bedroom (with the door wide open!!) while they wait for Dan to hang up his dress clothes.

Similarly, if Junior ever jumps on me, I know he’ll stop jumping if I completely ignore him and walk away, but most of our visitors seem to have a hard time with that.  I’ll ask them to “completely ignore him” if he jumps up, but instead they’ll laugh or make weird noises and hand gestures or yell “down” at him, all of which IS NOT ignoring him.  It’s frustrating–training the humans is harder than training the dog!  I think I’m going to have someone I trust (and believe will actually ignore him when I ask him to) come over and enter the house over and over again.  Hopefully that will carry over to other visitors.  If not, I think I might have to leash him when people arrive, but I’m worried about doing that because he gets so frantic on a leash.  Anyway, it’s a work in progress.  Junior has made some progress on jumping and I know he can make so much more, as long as the humans actually do what they’re told.


Overall, both pups are doing great with their training!  I’ve had to get a bit more creative with Junior, but both dogs are so smart so it’s been a lot of fun to see what they’ll do.  We will keep working on Bear’s reactivity and Junior’s pulling/jumping, and I’d like to get them out to a dog park soon to practice some off leash skills (especially for Bear).  We have a lot of fun working together, so I’m excited to see what happens in the next few weeks!


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dog Training: The Beginning

Welcome to a new mini-series: How to train your dog!  This doesn’t have much to do with baking, but I figured this was a good a place as any to detail my adventures in dog training.


Junior and Bear both came into my life as adolescent shelter dogs.  Bear had come from a previous owner who’d clearly put some time and effort into training him–he knew how to walk nicely on a leash, was house-trained, didn’t jump on people, and didn’t counter-surf.  He also seemed to know the command “can I have it?” as a cue to drop his ball/rope/toy/etc.  However, he didn’t seem to know anything about sit, stay, or come, and it didn’t seem like he’d ever been on an off-leash adventure before.  He certainly didn’t have any socialization–he was scared of every dog that came his way!  And, of course, when a 90 lb shepherd mix gets scared, he comes off as ferocious to many other dogs and people…. No good.  Bear had (has) a lot of anxiety in general; he freaked when he saw other dogs, stepped in something soft (sand, dirt), was passed by large trucks, saw bikers, walked through tall grass, and a myriad of other seemingly innocuous things.

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As for Junior, well, he didn’t know anything.  He wasn’t house-trained, yanked my arm off every time we went outside, was incredibly mouthy (the play-biting puppies do), and jumped on every single person he saw.   In short, he was nuts.  He’s a smart guy, so easily learned to sit, shake, lay down, roll over, etc.  Because of his energy level, we spent a lot of time at dog parks, and by some miracle, he loved every other dog.  At the park, he learned pretty quickly to “come” and not to jump on other other humans.

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Today, Junior and Bear are pretty good dogs.  I wouldn’t say I know much about dog training, but I could at least teach them the basics.  However, they’re not great dogs.  Junior still jumps on some of our house-guests and still pulls my arm off on a leash and Bear still has anxiety–he is still afraid of dogs larger than him and gets pretty reactive when he sees other dogs on walks.  He’s also not very good at coming when called at parks and off-leash adventures.

Therefore, I’m starting a new mission: teaching Junior and Bear to be well-mannered in every aspect.  I want them to be able to come with me to dog-friendly bars and restaurants and I want to be able to walk them calmly on leash, even when they see distractions.  I want them to have access to as many parts of my life as possible!  So, I’ve armed myself with a clicker and a mountain of training treats and am using my free time to work on some of their skills.

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We’ve entered the world of positive reinforcement training and my goals for this include:


  • stop pulling on leash
  • stop jumping on people
  • get better at the “leave it” command
  • be less reactive toward squirrels and cats
  • work on calming down in exciting situations
  • develop the ability to sit still or lay down for longer periods of time
  • have a rock-solid “come” so I can take him on more off leash adventures!


  • get better at “come”
  • decrease reactivity towards other dogs
  • decrease anxiety by identifying triggers and avoiding them
  • walk next to me on leash, don’t lag behind
  • don’t beg for food in the kitchen or by the table

Ultimately, I want to teach both of them the skills they need to calm down; Junior needs those skills when he gets over-excited (it leads to pulling on walks, jumping on his favorite people, lack of ability to sit still) and Bear needs those skills when his anxiety kicks in (which leads to his reactivity).

We’ve started training already and Bear is responding wonderfully to the clicker and treats because he’s an incredibly food motivated dog.  Junior is less food motivated, so it’s proving to be a bit more challenging with him.  I hope to keep you posted through the milestones of our training adventures!

Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies

Gluten-free baking is a constant adventure for me.  I love finding experimenting with new recipes or modifying old recipes to make them work as gluten free!

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I was gone for two weeks at a conference in Princeton, New Jersey.  I took a ridiculous amount of silly selfies to send to Dan and my mom while I was gone, and I’ll spare you the brunt of them, but I can’t resist sharing at least one:

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Two weeks is a long time, though!  I missed my puppies SO MUCH!  Thankfully Dan took great care of them and send me about a zillion snapchats of the puppies while I was gone.

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When I got back, I wanted to do something nice for Dan and I also wanted to do something nice for one of my classmates who worked hard subbing for my class when I was gone.  In my book, something nice = cookies, so I set out to make some delicious gluten free sugar cookies!

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While they were cooking, I made some buttercream frosting, but honestly, the cookies didn’t really need it!  I frosted them anyway, but found that the frosting made them a bit too sweet for my tastes.  Regardless, the cookies have the perfect texture (amazingly chewy) and have a great flavor coming from the vanilla and brown sugar.  No one guessed they were gluten free!

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The ingredients might look a little strange to you (yogurt?!? in cookies?!?) but I promise it turns out wonderfully!

Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies
makes about 25-30 cookies

1 3/4 cup ATK gluten-free flour blend
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (DO NOT OMIT)
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 heaping tablespoons Greek yogurt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla

Whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and xanthan gum, and set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix together the sugars, Greek yogurt, and melted butter until mostly combined.  Whisk in the egg and vanilla until smooth.  Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until well-combined and you have a soft dough. Cover the dough with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees,  Roll the dough into balls, about 1.5 – 2 tablespoons each, and roll each ball in white sugar.  Place the cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat, and gently press each cookie to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a pinch more sugar and bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, frost with a simple vanilla buttercream.  Store the cookies in an airtight container.

Cinnamon Quick Bread

Remember a few posts ago when I said a backlog of recipes?  Well, I’m working on it, but I’m only up to Mother’s Day!

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be with my mom in person on Mother’s Day (although I did get to see her earlier in the week) but my brother was driving over to my parents’ house so I sent him with a care package, including:

  • Prosecco
  • Strawberries
  • Flowers
  • Cinnamon Quick Bread

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This bread is SO easy to make (one bowl, baby!) and is completely addicting, inspired by this recipe.  You may actually want to eat the entire thing yourself and not send it to your mom.  For my own self-control, I forced myself to NOT slice into it and send my mom the whole loaf.  I knew if I even sliced the tiniest piece off, none of it would make it home!

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Anyway, my mom is AMAZING.

She’s put up with my brother and sister and me through all of our ups and downs and crazy impulse decisions.  Case in point: this happened… “Hi Mom!  I’m starting grad school in three weeks but I just got a dog!”  And not just any dog; this particularly crazy one:

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And of course she supported me through dog number two (probably because, in the interim, I had inspired her to get a wonderful pup of her own!):

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She deserved a lot more than just a loaf of bread, but at least I was able to send her something to show her how much I love her!

Also, note that this bread is not gluten free, but I’m working on converting it to a gluten free recipe!

Cinnamon Quick Bread
makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup milk (I’ve used both skim and whole)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling (abut 2 teaspoons cinnamon mixed with about 1/3 cup sugar)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a standard (9 x 5 inch) loaf pan.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.  Add the vanilla, egg, milk, and vegetable oil and whisk until just combined.  Pour about half of the batter into the loaf pan and sprinkle the top evenly with the cinnamon sugar.  Slowly (and evenly) pour the remaining batter on top of the cinnamon sugar.  Bake the loaf for about 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the bread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Wrap the loaf in foil and enjoy!

Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza

Brace yourselves, everyone.  I have found a gluten-free pizza that TASTES DELICIOUS.

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If you’re gluten free, and want a pizza that doesn’t taste like toppings on a piece of cardboard (Pizza Hut, I’m talking to you) make this.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be advertising it like this if I hadn’t already made it a bunch of times and gotten rave reviews from one of the pickiest eaters you’ll find (ahem Dan).  He even requested it for his birthday dinner!

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It’s a little bit of work, but no more work than homemade non-gluten free dough.  It takes some time to mix and rise and you also have to par-bake it (bake the dough alone before you top it) but I promise that it’s worth it!  It uses almond flour to add some necessary fat to the dough (to help give it some chew) and it pretty sticky (so you can’t throw it in the air like the traditional Italian pizza makers) but everything about it yields a gluten free dough that’s actually amazing.  Honestly, though, if you’re really into gluten-free baking, you probably have a pantry something like mine…

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I’ll stop touting its perfection and give you the recipe!  If you’re been in search for a gluten free pizza, hopefully your search can finally stop!

PS Obligatory dog photos:

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Gluten-Free Pizza 
makes 2 10 x 18 inch pizzas 

3 1/3 + 1/4 cup ATK gluten free flour blend
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon almond flour*
4 1/2 teaspoons powdered psyllium husk**
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast***
2 1/2 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Vegetable oil spray, parchment paper, and plastic wrap
Pizza toppings (ideas: marinara, mozarella, parmesan, pepperoni, Italian sausage, chicken sausage, sweet peppers, olives, basil, anything your heart desires!)

In the bowl of a stand mixer (using the paddle attachment), mix the flour, almond flour, psyllium husk, baking powder, salt and yeast together until combined.  Slowly pour in the water and vegetable oil and increase the speed to medium.  Beat the dough until sticky and well-combined, about 6 minutes.  It will seem more like a thick batter than a pizza dough.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a moderately warm spot until the dough has risen a little and the inside of the dough is bubbly, about 90 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet and spray with vegetable oil spray.  Divide the dough evenly onto each sheet and spread the dough out toward the edge of the pan using a well-greased spatula, stopping to re-grease the spatula as necessary.  Spray the top of the dough with vegetable spray and cover it with a large sheet of plastic wrap, gently pressing the dough to about 1/4 inch thick with your hands.  It should take up almost the entire pan.

Adjust the oven racks to the lower and middle position and place the baking sheets in the oven.  Turn the oven on to 325 degrees and bake the dough until firm to the touch and golden on the underside, about 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.

Transfer the crusts to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before topping, or cool completely and store in the freezer.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and place a pizza stone or foil-covered inverted baking sheet in the oven.  Top the pizza crust with marinara sauce, cheese, meat, vegetables, or whatever your heart desires.  Place the pizza on the preheated stone and bake for 6-10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown.  Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

*I’ve made this with almond meal, instead of almond flour, and it’s worked just fine.

**Do NOT omit the pysllium husk.  It’s necessary for the structural integrity of the dough!  If you’re wondering, it comes from mushrooms, and you can buy it in bulk at most organic-type grocery stores (I get mine in bulk from PCC or Whole Foods).

***I’ve used both instant and regular yeast, and both have worked out just fine.

Naturally Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

I have come to the realization that I am a terribly inconsistent blogger.  I get too easily distracted by the rest of the world!  But, I have a crazy backlog of recipes to share with all of you and I am excited to share!

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First up is this PERFECT gluten free chocolate cake.  It’s spectacular!  AND!  Hold the phone.  It doesn’t have ANY flour!   So even if you’re not a regular gluten free baker (and even if you are), you don’t have to worry about concocting a particular gluten free flour blend.

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I made this cake for my birthday and it was so easy (it’s made almost entirely in a blender) and was a huge hit.  I found the recipe here and was immediately attracted to it because of the no flour situation and because it is made with a secret ingredient!  Any guesses??



It’s quinoa!  And not quinoa flour or something that you have to grind to dust–just regular old cooked quinoa.  I make a lot of quinoa already so was excited to try making a cake with it!  It has almost a nutty flavor so I figured it would work well in a cake.  If the quinoa scares you, though, worry not!   You (pinky promise) cannot taste it.  I mean there is absolutely no way anyone would know there is quinoa in this cake unless you told them!

The cake turned out wonderfully, and, for the second year in a row, spent my birthday at Seattle’s Muddy Mutt Run!  This year it was at a new location complete with obstacles, mud pits, and a lake for the pups to swim in!

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If you’re in the Seattle area, they’re having another one in September that you should definitely consider going to!  Junior and Bear both had an absolute blast both times we’ve gone.  Dogs of all ages and sizes are welcome!

Anyway, back to the cake: I have a few notes about the recipe.  First off, I frosted it with the recommended chocolate whipped cream and it was a a perfect fluffy balance to the decadent chocolate cake.  But, I made this recipe into cupcakes a week or two later and frosted them with a vanilla buttercream and that was equally delicious, so pick your frosting of choice.  However, when I did make cupcakes out of this recipe, they sunk pretty dramatically in the middle!  It’s not a big deal to fix with some filling or frosting, but be warned that the cake might not translate to cupcakes without a few alterations.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
makes 2 8-inch rounds 

2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (about a heaping 1/2 cup dry quinoa)
1/3 cup milk (I used whole)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

If you haven’t cooked quinoa before, first rinse the dry quinoa in a few rounds of water.  Place the quinoa in water (a 1:2 quinoa: water ratio) and place over high heat to bring to a simmer.  Then, turn heat to low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed.

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two 8 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and lightly spray them with cooking spray.

In a high powered blender or food processor, add the milk, eggs, and vanilla, and blend until combined.  Next, add the quinoa, butter, and espresso powder.  Blend well until smooth.

In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Pour the quinoa mixture into the sugar mixture (it’ll be pretty thick) and whisk until everything is combined.  Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 28-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  I recommend keeping the cakes upright on the parchment paper until ready to frost (the wire rack can sink into the cake otherwise).  Frost as desired (or with the whipped cream frosting below!)

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting 
makes enough to frost two layers 

2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Pinch of salt

Add the chocolate chips to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Heat the whipping cream in a small pot gently over low heat until it simmers.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let it sit for about five minutes.  After five minutes, stir the chocolate and cream until combined.  Cover the bowl with plastic and chill until very cold (about 3 hours in the fridge, less if you use an ice bath).  You need the mixture to be very cold to whip properly!  Once chilled, add a pinch of salt and, using the whisk attachment, whip the chocolate cream to soft peaks.  Use the frosting immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

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No-Bake Granola Energy Bars (Vegan & Gluten Free!)

Dan and the pups and I got back yesterday from a spontaneous trip to Leavenworth!

If you’ve never been to Leavenworth, it’s an adorable Bavarian town about 2-ish hours outside of Seattle. And, it’s so dog-friendly!

We went on a few hikes along the Wenatchee river and near Stevens Pass, and took the puppies to a few outdoor lunch and dinner spots!

It was a great trip and we were all so tired when we got home yesterday. We’d been eating a really random selection of food (beer, sausage, burgers, etc) so this morning, I wanted to do something healthy and energizing to get my body feeling back to normal!

In an effort to do that, I went to yoga and made these delicious no-bake granola bars!

I’ve been making these for a while now, and love them because they’re customizable, easy, healthy, no-bake, and pack a hunger-killing energy punch!

The bars have a base of dates, oats, peanut butter, and a bit of maple syrup. On top of that, it’s up to you what you put in them! I used almonds, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, raisins, and just a bit of dark chocolate (like the 75% chocolate stuff–real dark chocolate!).

Other great variations are almond chocolate chip (swapping the peanut butter for almond butter), or bars stuffed with all sorts of seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) for a higher protein content.

The bars remind me a little bit of a cross between a Kind bar and a Larabar. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Energy Bars 

1 cup pitted, chopped Medjool dates
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, etc)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup unsalted peanut butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dark chocolate, for sprinkling

Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a food processor, purée the dates until a paste forms. In a large bowl, add the dates, oats, nuts, dried fruit, and salt. In a small bowl, microwave the peanut butter and maple syrup for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the date mixture, and stir well to combine, making sure the dates and peanut butter are evenly distributed.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and press down evenly. Sprinkle with chocolate, if desired. Refridgerate the bars for 1 hour, then cut into pieces. Store the bars in the refrigerator.