If you are watching your sugar intake (or you just like delicious food), then get a load of these Coconut Blueberry Lemon Bars. Which, by the way, are gluten-free, vegan-friendly, sugar-free. And definitely NOT flavor-free.
I’ve got some exciting news for you! I’m going to MIA for a couple weeks thanks to vacations, camps, and all that summer jazz. Thank to some incredible blogger friends, you all will still be supplied with lovely posts just like usual!
Round of applause! (I love the blogging world – there are some sweet sweet people out there)
But this post is actually from my best friend, Hannah. She was the baker and health conscious athlete long before me and she is a talented writer, baker, and friend. I’ve written about her before here; she has been such a huge part of the blog, supporting me with encouragement, a little kick to the pants sometimes, and a whole lot of baking experiments. She has graciously written an incredible post on the benefits and pitfalls of sugar free and also made and photographed a recipe for Blueberry Coconut Lemon Bars! She went above and beyond what I could’ve asked for (its one of the reasons I love her to pieces) and I’m so excited to have her post today. If you have the time, read the whole post, I was encouraged and challenged!
Twenty-four. Twenty four teeny, tiny, itsy bitsy grams. According to the American Heart Association, that’s the maximum amount of sugar the average women should consume per day… PER DAY! (Men luck out at 36 grams of sugar per day. Yes, I’m jealous.) It sounds like a lot… until you put it in terms of food. Eat a muffin with some innocent (Greek, even!) vanilla yogurt and you’ve probably exceeded the daily guideline. Think you’re safe with a bowl of granola? You probably consumed over half your sugar calories… just like that. Drizzle some low-fat poppy seed dressing on your grilled chicken salad, and voila! You just consumed a third of your sugar… on your salad. Not to be depressing, but… does anyone have a tissue? Correction: Make that a box of tissues.
Before I get carried away, l want to thank Mary Frances for allowing me to guest post on her blog. Guys, this girl is amazing. If you want encouragement, wisdom, giggles, or brownies (or any combination of the aforementioned awesomeness), she’s got them all down to an art. And, her blog is my favorite. I might be a little biased, but have you seen her black bean mug brownies? And her raspberry marshmallow cheesecake? If you want creative, delicious food served up with a balanced mindset, then you’re in the right place.
Balance. These days, finding balance is about as easy as finding a decently-priced cup of coffee at Starbucks. Good luck. When it comes to sugar, it seems like half the population is completely eliminating sugar from their diets. And the other half? Sugar is their diet. Guess what? I’ve tried both. And neither touted the wonderful benefits I thought they would.
Some go completely off sugar because they feel noticeably different more energetic and healthier. I respect that. But honestly, I think a ton of people eliminate all sugar from their diet because it makes them feel more in control. I eliminated sugar from my diet for several years, guys, and one of the advantages was that powerful, I-can-conquer-the-world! feeling. I was actually pretty conceited, feeling highly superior to my “less self- controlled” friends. However, it only made “unhealthy” foods that much more appealing. Like, so appealing that I would go around stores sniffing dessert-scented candles for hours. And my favorite aisle in Hobby Lobby (Hobby Lobby!) was the candy section. Even though I would never have dreamed of eating a single bite of a chocolate bar, a girl could dream. And that’s what I did… I daydreamed about the forbidden…All. Day. Long. Before bed I would picture the Dairy Queen Blizzard that I could never have. I was obsessed with the sugar I refused to eat.
Fast forward three years later, when I finally started eating sugar again, and became equally obsessed with consuming it. The years of envisioning sugar made it that much more tantalizing when I allowed myself to enjoy it. Unfortunately, I made it my drug of choice. When I was sad, happy, stressed, or, ironically, feeling fat, I would dive into my bag of chocolate chips. And, while the pain wasn’t gone, I was definitely distracted from it… at least until my binge was over, and I stared, horrified, into an empty bag.
Maybe I took it to a bit more of an extreme than you folks, but I think we all might struggle a little bit with finding balance. One thing I have noticed about our culture is how food-obsessed we are. Now, I know ya’ll are food bloggers, and you have to be food-focused to do your job, but hear me out. Food is a fuel. It makes our bodies function. And it’s pretty easy to make sure we keep fueled, considering how darn good food tastes. But, just like gasoline doesn’t fix the car if it has motor problems, food won’t fix the other problems in our life. It will fill our stomach, not our loneliness. It will give us energy, not happiness. It will provide temporary pleasure, not long-lasting joy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my various eating issues, it’s that food doesn’t satisfy for long. I need Jesus. (With brownies on the side, of course. ) Because everything else in this life is so, so empty without Him. So yes… that’s my opinion on the matter. J
Now, these bars:
First off, I highly recommend you freeze them, not refrigerate them. They are pretty runny at room temperature, but a night in the freezer will transform them into creamy, lemony heaven! The addition of blueberry adds a nice sweetness to offset the tang of the lemons, and the coconut contributes texture. One of my food pet peeves is eating something completely… pureed. I feel like an infant who still hasn’t gotten his molars. Really? I have adult teeth! Give me something to chew on. Unless it’s ice cream… then it’s suddenly okay. J Anyways, the coconut gives it substance. Finally, the recipe I adapted/added to originally called for dates in the crust. Unfortunately, I cook with what I have on hand, and dates were nowhere to be found in my pantry. But, if you have them on hand, give it a go! I think it sounds like a great option. Oh, and one last side note: I added three drops of yellow food coloring in an attempt to make it look more like lemon bars and less like cream cheese. I admit I was a bit timid, due to a fear of them looking like someone ran Big Bird from Sesame Street through the blender. But they still look like cream cheese, so I’d add a few more drops. Thanks for reading!
- ¾ cup oats (or buckwheat oats if you want it gluten-free)
- 5 tablespoons raw honey(or maple syrup if true you’re a true vegan)
- ¾ cup coconut shreds
- Lemon layer:
- ⅓ cup melted coconut oil
- ¼ cup raw honey
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- ½ cup coconut shreds
- 1 banana
- Few drops of yellow food coloring, if desired.
- Blueberry Swirl
- ⅔ cup blueberries
- 3 tablespoons raw honey
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- To make the base: pulse the oats or buckwheat goats and coconut shreds in your food processor until they become a rough flour. Add the honey and process until it all sticks together. Press into the bottom of a square baking pan and put in the fridge.
- To make the lemon layer: blend all the ingredients until smooth. See if you like the taste and adjust if you would like more honey. Add yellow food coloring, if desired.
- For the blueberry swirl, combine the blueberries, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan and boil for one minute. Transfer to food processor, add honey and vanilla, and puree until smooth. Spoon onto top of lemon topping, and marble using knife. Cover and freeze overnight. Enjoy!