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Once upon a time, I wasn’t a blogger.
I was a blog reader just getting my feet wet in the basics of gluten-free cooking. As I learned to navigate the world without gluten, I turned to the blogging community for inspiration and guidance.
Day in and day out, I would hop onto the internet, pull up my favorite websites, and scribble down notes in one of many spiral-bound notebooks I still have to this day. In the course of blog-reading one day, I somehow—through a click here and blogroll there and a hyperlink over that way—stumbled upon a new gem: Simply Sugar & Gluten Free.
From the first post I read, I was absolutely hooked. Not only were the recipes things I could actually eat, but I could always count on them to be healthy, too. Far more wonderful than the food, though, was getting to know the voice behind the blog, Amy Green.
I find it amazing just how much you can learn about a person by reading their blog. For months, I followed Amy’s every post. I learned that she was maintaining a 60+ pound weight loss by eating gluten- and sugar-free. I learned that she was a dog-lover, like me, and that she loved taking them for early morning walks. I saw that she had a creative side through the pictures she would post of daintily packaged sweets and treats, all free of gluten and sugar. I felt my heart warm as I read about the wholesome meals she would lovingly make for her husband Joe after he came home from a long day of work.
After I began blogging, I eventually started emailing Amy with a question about this or that when it came to the technical side of the things. I got friendly, above-and-beyond responses from her within just a few hours. When I posted comments on her posts, she replied to nearly every single one. She cared.
Over time, Amy and I became better acquainted through her weekly blog carnival Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, a festival of fabulous food made healthier. To this day, it’s the highlight of my week to put up a post on Tuesday and link it back to the food-filled carnival. I feel such a sense of community and connectedness as I hop to one blog after the next browsing all of the delicious recipes from kitchens around the world.
Through emails, blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter, I’ve learned that Amy is the real deal. Genuinely warmhearted, always willing to help, sincerely supportive, and one heck of a gluten-free cook.
And now, Amy has written a cookbook, Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free: 180 Easy and Delicious Recipes You can Make in 20 Minutes or Less.
When she first announced her book deal last year, I came close to hugging my laptop in celebration. If anyone can write a high-quality, information-packed cookbook, it’s Amy Green.
I eagerly joined her team of recipe testers last fall and am honored to have had the privelege of making her Banana Oat Bars long before the recipe hit the press. You’ve got to make these bars. They’re easy, flavorful, and entirely free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar.
So far I’ve also made Amy’s Easy Chicken Cacciatore and Simple Oven-Baked Brown Rice from the book. Both are outstanding. The cacciatore, prepared in a slow-cooker, is one of the tastiest crock-pot recipes I’ve ever made. I’m not usually much of a slow-cooker fan, but I think Amy’s recipes may be changing my tune.
After years of reading Simply Sugar & Gluten Free and countless email and Twitter exchanges with Amy, I’m finally getting a chance to meet her in person at the Gluten and Allergen-Free Expo this April! Next to becoming an aunt sometime around my sister’s due date of May 18, I’m pretty sure meeting Amy will be the highlight of my spring.
Even though we haven’t met yet, Amy is already a dear friend to me. Not only has she inspired me and countless others through her weekly recipes and blog posts, but she’s motivated me to be a better, kinder, more “others focused” person. And isn’t that what the best friends are supposed to do?
With her cookbook perched on my kitchen counter (where it will stay for quite a while), I feel like I have a little bit of Amy there beside me as I preheat my oven, whisk up my flour blends, and turn my kitchen into a bustling gluten-free bakery.
Because of Amy’s blog and now her book, I’ve made huge strides in my gluten-free cooking abilities over the past year or two. Far more special, though, I’ve made a friend with the author. And that’s the sweetest treat I could ask for.
Banana Oat Bars
Recipe reprinted with permission from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free by Amy Green.
Makes 16 (2 x2 inch) bars
½ cup pitted Medjool dates
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats, divided (not quick-cooking)
½ cup walnuts
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons grade-B maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1 large ripe banana, sliced
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly mist an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a medium heatproof bowl, cover the dates with hot water. Set aside. Or, cover, the dates with water and microwave for 45 seconds.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process 1 ½ cups oats for several minutes until you have a coarse oat flour. Add the remaining ½ cup oats, the walnuts, baking soda, and salt. Pulse 10-12 times, for 1 second each, until the walnuts and oats are chopped but not fine. Add the applesauce, maple syrup, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Process until a dough forms. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the dates to the food processor, reserving the soaking liquid; there’s no need to wash the processor bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the soaking liquid, the banana, lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Pulse several times to combine, then process until smooth. The paste should be thick but still liquid. Add a little more soaking liquid as needed.
While the food processor is running, use wet hands to press two-thirds of the dough firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Once the banana paste is smooth, spread it evenly across the dough. Break the remaining dough into marble-size pieces, sprinkle them across the banana paste, and lightly press in.
Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the oat topping is golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. Cover and store in the refrigerator. These also freeze well.