Happy Sunday and Mother's Day to all the beautiful moms out there!  I'm missing my mom extra today.  She is a wizard in the kitchen and always taught us to eat well.  I remember her spending lots of time in the kitchen on Sundays: preparing Sunday roast for me and all my siblings, or baking and preparing meals for the week.  As a single mom working multiple jobs, she was always really organized and very rarely relied on convenient and processed foods to make our meals.  This is just one of the bajillion things I am grateful to her for and I've enjoyed getting my hands dirty in the kitchen today, thinking about her.  I love and miss you, Mama!

I recently purchased a couple of cook books to inspire me to get in the kitchen, one of them being "Joyous Health" by Holistic Nutritionist, Joy McCarthy.  A friend at work tried out Joy's Chocolate Protein Squares recipe and brought them into work for me to try (thanks, Perveen!) and I decided to crank them out today cause they're absolutely delicious and a great on-the-go or post-workout snack.  I'm always looking for snacks packed with protein that don't have 25 ingredients that I can't pronounce in them, so why not make our own, right?  I adapted the recipe slightly, so here's what you'll need to make my version:

Hemp Protein Cacao Bars

3 cups of organic quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup of organic hemp protein powder
1/2 a cup of organic cacao powder
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup of roasted chopped almonds
1/4 cup of coconut sugar
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of ginger
1 cup of organic smooth almond butter
1/4 cup of organic coconut oil
1/2 cup of organic unflavoured and unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 13x9" baking dish with coconut oil
* In a large bowl, combine all your dry ingredients, and mix well
* In a small saucepan over low heat, melt your almond butter and coconut oil and add that to your dry ingredients
* Then add your almond milk and pure vanilla.  Give it a taste: if it's not sweet enough for your liking, you could add some maple syrup.
* Pour the mixture into your baking dish and press it down evenly (it helps to have wet hands to do this!) and bake for 15 minutes.  I cut mine while hot and then put them in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool slightly, before transferring them to a greased cookie sheet.  Bake them for another 12 minutes (until edges start to look crispy)
* Let them cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  You'll probably find that they'll crumble a bit during your transferring.  Joy recommends keeping the crumbles to use as a topping on yogurt which is a great idea - personally, I chose to eat what crumbled ; )

I'm storing mine in an airtight container in the freezer so they'll keep longer.

appreciating mom,