Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites & A Book Review

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Back in 2008, I was a real Larabar junkie. As I walked to my car after work, I was often desperate for a boost in energy to fuel my 75 minute commute home. Larabars gave me enough energy to get through the long stretch until we had a late dinner around 8pm. I was rarely without a bar in my purse.

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Granted, my once a day habit became a bit costly after a while so I decided to take a crack at making my own homemade bars to save a bit of cash. At the end of 2008, I discovered that they are quite easy to make in a food processor for a fraction of the cost. I soon made Banana Bread, Cashew cookie, Cherry Pie, and Chocolate Chip Cookie dough, among other knock-off flavas.

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I now buy Larabars once and a while for convenience (if I’m out somewhere on the road and need a healthy vegan snack), but it’s comforting to know that I can also make something similar in my own home if I have the chance.

Ever since the move last week I’ve been on a big energy ball kick and relying a lot on no-bake recipes, as you’ve seen with vegan overnight oats and Green Monsters. Energy balls also provide long-lasting energy for busy days and are great for traveling and fueling before and after workouts. You wouldn’t think they dissipate hunger, but I find they really do a good job at delaying hunger in between meals. Nuts are a magical food! Just tuck a few in your purse and you have a portable, emergency snack on hand if you find yourself with a grumbling tummy and a lack of healthy food options.

I’m also working on a nut-free energy ball and granola bar recipe for those of you with allergies, as well as a bar inspired by one of the new Uber Larabar flavours. I told ya, I’m on a kick…

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Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites

These energy bites are inspired by Larabar’s new Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte flavour. I prefer to roll them into bite sized balls rather than bars because it’s much faster, but shape them however you wish.

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Yield: 15 small bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 120 grams pitted Medjool (not honey) dates (about 8 )
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cherries
  • 3 tbsp dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Camino brand)
  • 1/4 cup raw pecans
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste

 

1. In a food processor, process the almonds until finely chopped. It’s ok if some bigger pieces remain. Just be sure not to pulverize it into a flour as you want some texture.

2. Remove 1/3 cup of the processed almonds and set aside for the final step.

3. Now, add the pitted dates in (along with the almonds already in the processor) and process until finely chopped and sticky. A dough will start to form. Add cherries and process again until combined. The mixture will likely form into a large ball. If this happens, break it up with a spoon and process more if necessary.

4. Add in the chocolate chips and pecans and process until they are just chopped. Add salt to taste. Pulse in the reserved 1/3 cup almonds for texture. Roll into small balls. Place in a container or baggie and store in the fridge or freezer. Oh yea, don’t forget to pop a few in your purse!

Nutritional info (makes 15 small balls, per ball): 108 cals, 7 grams fat (1 g sat fat), 40 mg sodium, 13 grams carbs, 3 grams fibre, 9 grams sugar, 3 grams protein.

This recipe makes 1 and 1/2 cups of packed dough….mmm. I’ve concluded it’s impossible not to eat it straight from the processor!

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Get ready for a burst in energy…these bites are irresistible!

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The Book Of Vegan Swaps Review

Recently, I was asked to participate in the Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps book tour along with several other bloggers. You may be familiar with the sassy & no nonsense vegan crusader Kim Barnouin – co-author of the famous Skinny Bitch book, along with several other guides and cookbooks. Kim holds a masters degree in Holistic nutrition and she’s counseled countless celebrities, athletes, and models to follow her plan. While I’ve personally never been a fan of the term “skinny bitch”, I’ll be the first to admit that her first book was largely responsible for my decision to try eating vegetarian back in university. It was also one of the first wake up calls I’ve had about how cruel the industry can be to animals.

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Kim is now back with her Book of Vegan Swaps – a guide for finding vegan products in your own grocery store, airport, or restaurant.

The Book of Vegan Swaps is a guide for newly transitioning vegans who are in those first awkward stages of figuring out what – and where – to eat. The chapters feature where to shop, a restaurant guide (most are in the US only, fyi), vegan options at airports (also mostly in the US), decoding labels (how to detect hidden animal ingredients- very useful), and grocery store swaps for dairy, meat, condiments, frozen foods, desserts, alcoholic beverages, and more.

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When I first made a gradual shift to a vegan diet in 2009 I had no clue what to eat, so I instantly related to the need for this book, even though it’s now been a long time since I’ve felt confused about what to eat. Now, my only difficulty seems to be choosing what to make among so many options. Like anything new, it can take time to feel comfortable with the change and I totally get that.

When I first started out on my vegan journey, I filled my cart with a variety of imitation meat and dairy products like Tofurkey, fake sour cream, and Ives ground round. I really had no clue what a vegan diet should (or could) look like and to make matters more challenging, I also didn’t know how to prepare my own balanced vegan recipes at home. Well if I’m going to be really honest, I didn’t know how to cook at all. As they say, I could barely boil water!

Not surprisingly, I realized that I didn’t feel so great eating these imitation products every day and my body started to crave more natural stuff. I finally had to teach myself how to cook and bake my own vegan meals and that’s exactly what I’ve documented on this blog for the past 3 years. I revisited naturally vegan foods (beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, veggies, and fruit, etc!) to fill up most of my diet, with the occasional splurge on imitation products as I saw fit. When I made those gradual changes, everything started to fall into place and I realized I didn’t miss my old go-to products at all. My energy also increased, my skin broke out less, and I knew I was on my way to being the vegan ninja I always wanted to be. Of course, everyone’s experience will be unique, but this has been mine.

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I think this guide is very helpful for locating tasty vegan products and vegan brands, especially when you have a killer craving for a cheese pizza or bowl of rich and creamy ice cream and you don’t know where to turn. There are so many vegan options out there now, many of which taste as good (or better) than the real thing. Best of all, these vegan products are cruelty-free, allowing you to satisfy your craving without contributing to the harm of animals. You’ll find all of Kim’s recommendations in there – and let me tell you, there are hundreds of specific brand suggestions for every kind of food you can think of from wine to waffles and everything in between.

With that being said, I believe it’s equally important to keep in mind that a vegan diet does not have to rely on packaged, imitation, and/or processed products. This is also a sentiment that Kim mentions in the beginning of the book and I appreciate that she’s honest when a food mentioned isn’t the healthiest or contains many artificial ingredients. I wish there would have been more emphasis on this though. She also includes about 10 of her vegan recipes in the book and I found myself wanting many more recipes, but I realize this guide was not intended to be a cookbook.

So go on and enjoy your Dandies marshmallows or soy jerky as a splurge or when time is tight. Just don’t forget to add some natural vegan staples in your cart while you’re at it and take pleasure in making something from scratch in your own home. Really, there’s no better swap than that.

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{ 148 comments… read them below or add one }

Kris | iheartwellness.com March 28, 2012

I love Larabars too, in PEANUT BUTTER! OMG! But I have to say, I like mine better when I make them! They are very high in sugars, but no real protein, so I’ll throw some protein powder in and make it FABULOUS!

I must try your balls ;)

xxoo

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Lynn Schadler March 28, 2012

I would love to try your peanut butter Lara bars…sounds extra yummy…those are my weakness!
Thanks!
Lynn
Wyomissing, PA

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Jenn March 28, 2012

I found the book “the complete list of vegan substitutions” about a year go when I started my vegan kick. I have to say that book is great – lots of natural substitutions and substitutes for favorite non-vegan recipes. Is also small and has lot of fun color which makes any book more fun :) I looked at Kim’s book and was extremely disappointed. She has good name recognition but if people buy this book they will think its all about eating processed junk.

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Hedwig March 29, 2012

I totally agree! I just read the “Skinny Bitch” book and at first thought it was great until I saw the list of the foods she recommends. It’s all processed crap. I’d rather eat real turkey, before I’d eat Tofuturkey, yuck!
That’s why I like Angela’s blog so much. It’s all real food and it tastes really really GOOD!!!!!

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Lisa [With Style and Grace] March 28, 2012

These will certainly be made a-sap. I like how Lara Bars have just a few ingredients – all that are natural & practically whole foods. These little energy balls sound like the perfect pick me up.

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Trish March 28, 2012

Love the dark chocolate bites, especially how you add pecans to them. I make something similar but as a bar and only use almonds…will have to try your delicious version.

The cookbook sounds informative. I’ll keep that in mind for vegans. Love Kim’s approach and voice. Thanks for sharing :-)

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Andrea March 28, 2012

Oh my gosh! I just had the cherry chocolate torte about 10 mins ago! I was sitting there wondering how I could make it myself to avoid the cost and extra packaging. You are the BEST!!!!!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 28, 2012

I hope you like it!

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Heather March 28, 2012

Hooray for the nut free version on its way. I’m allergic, but need something I can whip up. Sunflower seeds are a decent sub, and pea protein powder would be a good boost.

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Vegyogini March 28, 2012

I’m bummed those new Uber Larabars aren’t vegan and contain honey. :( Your Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites look fantastic, though, and I’ll definitely try them!

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Angela March 28, 2012

They also aren’t available in Canada, even more reason to make them at home. :)

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Jazz March 28, 2012

My favorite thing to throw in my ‘power balls’ are coffee beans.. gives me that quick buzz before I go out for a run!

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Kristina @ Love and Zest March 28, 2012

I agree! These balls are great pre-workout.. easy to eat early morning.

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Angela March 29, 2012

Coffee beans…I want to try that. Can you just use the whole raw bean? I wasn’t sure.

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Dana March 26, 2013

Do not use raw coffee beans… They are greenish in color and are ROCK hard… They must be roasted first for them to be reasonably consumable, and to actually taste like coffee. You can roast them using a $15 heat gun from a hardware store, or in an oven or in a pan, but beware of the smoke and lingering scent! It takes patience and practice to do it well. You may wish to just get pre-roasted coffee beans and go with that for simplicity’s sake.

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Hailey March 28, 2012

Angela, these chocolate cherry balls look super delicious! I can’t wait to try making them. And by now I know that if it’s on your blog and looks delicious, then it will be!

I have been following your blog for a few months now, and I must say that one of the biggest appeals has been that you just cook normal, healthy, whole foods…you don’t cook imitation foods that are supposed to taste like meat products. It’s very refreshing, and while I’m not totally vegan myself, I do feel much healthier than I did a few months ago. So, thank you! :-)

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Angela March 28, 2012

Thank you Hailey, I’m so happy to hear that you are feeling so good. Enjoy the balls :)

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Hailey March 29, 2012

Thanks, I definitely will!

Do you have any specific advice for going out to eat and getting vegan foods? Honestly that’s probably one of the biggest reasons that I’m not totally vegan. I’ll go out to week 1 or 2 times a week and blow it. :-( I did try Karyn’s on Green in Chicago (I had read about it in one of your previous posts) and it was DELICIOUS! But most of the time, I find it very, very tough to eat healthy when I’m out or on a business trip or something. That could just be because I’m in Indiana where people’s focus is NOT on being healthy, but there’s got to be some way to make it work, right? I get sick of cooking all the time! :) I’m not sure if you’ve already done a post on this or not, but I would love to hear your advice on the topic.

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Sarah March 29, 2012

I totally agree, Hailey! Eating out has been my nemesis :) I live in the rural midwest, and finding vegan options while dining out is very difficult. I’ve probably become pretty annoying to go out with because now I ask lots of questions and make substitutions when able. Luckily, my husband puts up with me :) Good luck!

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Hailey March 30, 2012

Haha thanks Sarah! I agree about the midwest! Have you found that many people are willing to make substitutions and not look at you like you’re totally crazy?! :-) I’ve found that Indian or Middle Eastern places are easier to eat vegan than all of the chain American places that are ALL over the midwest.

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Sarah March 30, 2012

Yes! And we have a great mexican restaurant nearby that has vegetarian options that I order without cheese and sour cream. I was so frustrated at Applebees a few months ago….there was absolutely nothing on the menu that didn’t have meat….except maybe french fries :)

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Stephanie @ Legally Blinde March 28, 2012

Ooh, the flavor combination of your energy balls sounds awesome! I am a Larabar fan, too, but I like to make my own snacks at home when I have time. Thanks for the recipe! (Still impressed that you’re coming up with new recipes in the process of your move!)

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Kristina @ Love and Zest March 28, 2012

this is a fantastic recipe.. I made a homemade version of lara bars (dried figs, coconut flakes, pecans) last weekend, and was so impressed at how easy it was!!

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Madison @Peanut Butter Lover March 28, 2012

I read a review of the same book over at Steph Chows. She also said that it would be great for beginner vegans, but it had a lot of processed choices in it.

Those energy bites look great! One thought: For those who have nut allergies, would they be able to consume sunflower seeds? Those have a very similar make-up as nuts, but might be a useful substitution for those with nut-allergies.

I love making homemade versions of store-bought food! It saves so much money. One of my favorites is my homemade nutri-grain bar.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 28, 2012

you read my mind..the nut free one Im working on has sunflower and pepita seeds. I think I liked it just as much, although the other ingredients might need a bit of tweaking.

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Miriam March 28, 2012

75 minute commute, geesh! I bet you don’t miss that! These look really tasty Ange! Can’t wait to make them! LOVE the skinny bitches :)

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Dawn March 28, 2012

Angela, What brand/type of food processor do you have? I am getting ready to purchase one…because I’ve noticed it’s used in a lot of healthier recipes. And I’ve always wanted one too.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 29, 2012

recently purchased a 14 cup Cuisinart and LOVE it!

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Katie @ Creature of Habit March 28, 2012

I learned how to cook while learning about a vegan diet as well. The world of food bloggers taught and inspired me along the way. Since I wasn’t actively trying to be a Vegan for most of this time, I was just giving these delicious recipies a try, I never had he moment where I didn’t know how to eat as a Vegan. When I finally realized this new way of eating was what made me feel so much better, I had already built up a wonderful base of knowledge. Your blog was easily on of the most influential in my cooking style. I credit you for teaching me that a Vegan diet is real food.

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Angela March 29, 2012

Katie, I can relate so much to your experience. Aren’t blogs wonderful? I’m so happy that I could be part of your journey.

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Bri Carpenter March 28, 2012

I just started making my own Larabars at home because they don’t sell them here. I’ll definitely have to try out this flavour as my choc cherry one was a bit too sweet, thanks for the recipe!

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Averie @ Averie Cooks March 28, 2012

I don’t even know what these are “Uber Larabar flavours”. I’m guessing they have a new line out? I never buy bars and don’t pay attention. Between what I can make and what I am given, we are in full swing over here :)

The book review. I was approached by a PR contact for Skinny B*tch wanting to know if I wanted to review the book a month or so ago and I declined because I know that some people have very strong opinions about it and I just decided enough had already been said. But I didn’t realize there was a new book out, a followup.

I agree with everything you said and I would take it one step further and say that it’s probably “healthier” to just eat the real anything rather than use copious amounts of fake food substitutes or highly processed this or that’s. It’s all a balance though and everyone just has to do what’s right for them and the best they can :)

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Ava March 28, 2012

I would be SO EXCITED if you made something similar that was nut-free. I’ve been having a lot of trouble making/finding energy bars that are nut-free. I’m allergic to everything but peanuts, but those don’t always seem to cut it as a substitute.
Larabars are crazy expensive where I live, so my boyfriend does make them himself, and they seem like they would be so good…if only they wouldn’t kill me!

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Karen March 28, 2012

Quick question.. I was going to make my own cherry larabars this weekend but wondered if there was a difference and why everyone says to use Medjool dates only? HELP!

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Angela March 29, 2012

Medjool dates are larger, tend to be softer, and in my opinion taste a lot better than honey dates. However if you are in a real pinch and only have honey dates, use those, but just make sure that you use 120 grams pitted. You also might have to soak the honey dates prior to use depending on how firm they are.

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Carrie March 28, 2012

Can’t wait for your nut-free version! My husband is allergic and we are going on a backpacking trip in May.

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K March 28, 2012

This recipe looks so yummy! Will have to try it out- love dried cherries!!!!

I think processed soy and for the most part vegan food is not worth it in terms of money or nutrients. There is a lot of junk in them that I wouldn’t want to put into my body. I agree- it should be a once in a blue moon type of thing if you’re in a bind.

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Kaila @healthyhelperblog! March 28, 2012

That looks like such an awesome book! I love it! The Skinny Bitch girls really know their stuff.

And the fruit and nut balls looks amazing too! I have been on a such a larabar kick lately! Especially the blueberry muffin!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table March 28, 2012

I couldn’t agree more about from-scratch food fueling your body better. I feel the same about raw foods, too. I couldn’t do an all-raw diet, but I know I feel better when I’m getting at least one big, funky-veggie-filled salad each day!

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Ali @ Project Kale March 28, 2012

I am a total Larabar addict. I have a few recipes for them, along with all the ingredients, so maybe this is the kick I need to make my own! The recipe looks awesome, thank you!

The book sounds awesome….just like what we’re doing…helping people through the transition. It can be so overwhelming at first, which is why I say it’s about creating your new “normal.” Yes, there are growing pains, but once you get the hang of it, living a vegan lifestyle is pretty effortless and it will be totally “normal.” And the rewards are, of course, totally worth it :)

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Lynn Schadler March 28, 2012

SOOOO excited to find this on my Facebook page today…LOVE, LOVE Lara bars, but the cost can stop me! Now I can make my own…HOORAY! AND…a healthier version too….Guess what I will be making this coming weekend??
Thanks!
Lynn

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Victoria March 28, 2012

I totally relate to this post, and your sentiments on vegan substitutes. In high school, I read Skinny Bitch and was inspired to try the vegan lifestyle, but I didn’t realize that I had to figure out how to round out my meals instead of eating tofurky.. I ended up eating a lot of bread and feeling frustrated with myself. I know now how important it is to make things from scratch. Great post! I wish I had read it a few years ago as I began my journey.

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Angela March 29, 2012

Thank you Victoria. I also wish that I had found some vegan blogs when I was making the initial transition.

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Shanda Bezzant March 28, 2012

These look super yummy! About how how
Many dates did you use?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 28, 2012

8 medjool :)

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Beth March 28, 2012

YUM! And I have everything on hand to make these!

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Eva @The Healthy Party March 28, 2012

Yumm those home made law bars look great! I have to try!
I’m excited to check out the Skinny Bitch Swap Book. I think its especially useful though for people to learn more about how their bodies work and WHY those foods aren’t the best choices for their bodies, cause just swapping out animal products from your diet definitely doesn’t make you automatically healthy. But yay for more plant-based food books!

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Angela March 29, 2012

totally agree. I wish there has been more emphasis in the book on eating naturally vegan foods.

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Miranda March 28, 2012

Do you prefer this shape just for ease of forming? Or when eating? I think I would like the balls more… Eating them, I mean… What a horrible sounding comment! Hahaha

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Angela March 29, 2012

hah…TWSS!
I find the balls are much easier to make rather than pressing it into a square pan and rolling it out.

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Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon March 28, 2012

I’ve read several reviews now of this book and the common complaint is that most of the swap suggestions are for processed vegan alternative products. I’d love to see some recipes for natural alternatives–a homemade cashew cream sauce as a replacement for heavy cream, banana soft serve as a replacement for ice-cream, etc.

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Angela March 29, 2012

I think someone above mentioned a vegan swap book that does just that, but I’m not sure. The complete vegan guide of substitutions it’s called

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Blog is the New Black March 28, 2012

These sound WONDERFUL!!!

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat March 28, 2012

I haven’t read that book yet, but I totally agree with you on the processed imitation foods. Coming from a non-vegan, I find a lot of made-from-scratch vegan dishes SO tasty and I don’t imagine any sort of imitation cheese or imitation meat could even begin to compare! Maybe you need to write a vegan swaps book too, Ange! ;)

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Amanda March 28, 2012

I will definitely be making these balls as soon as I can get myself to the grocery store! Love the combination of chocolate and cherry.

I enjoyed reading your book review. I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time, but vegan for about a year. I have to agree with you – there’s nothing better than whole foods. The imitation stuff is great while you’re transitioning, but I find that I much prefer the taste and how I feel when I’m eating mostly straight up produce. :)

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Lindsay March 28, 2012

I loved your chocolate chip larabar recipe – which reminds me, I haven’t made it in awhile so I’ll be adding that to my list of things to do this week :) I was searching for larabar recipes and that’s how I found your blog. I’ve been a faithful reader ever since – I can’t believe that was almost 3 years ago!!

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Angela March 29, 2012

Wow, that’s awesome. Thanks for reading Lindsay!

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Jess March 28, 2012

Those looks delicious! Can’t wait to see a nut-free version : )

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Vicki March 28, 2012

Yum. What are the yellow-ish pieces in some of the pictures?

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Angela March 29, 2012

Not sure, maybe it’s just the lighting?

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Vicki March 30, 2012

I really see some yellow/orange ingredients coming out of a jar in the background of your photo. Looks like dry mango or something.

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melissa March 30, 2012

Almonds : )

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Sharon March 28, 2012

Too funny about loving larabars but not loving the inflated price we pay here in southern Ontario. This is exactly how I found your blog to begin with! I did a search for ‘make your own larabars’ and came up with oh she glows. I’ve been reading avidly ever since and have truly enjoyed being a part of your journey. It’s been inspiring to witness your transformation and now feel like it is possible to have a happy balanced life and to follow your heart, especially when it comes to having a fufilling career that you love. Thanks for allowing us readers into your life and thanks so much for all the great advice, useful insight and last but certainly not least, the delicious recipes:)

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Angela March 29, 2012

Hey Sharon, Thanks for your lovely comments! I’ve had several readers tell me that they found my blog through the homemade larabar posts. Too funny. So glad that you have stuck around. Take care!

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Katie @ Nutrition in a Peanut Shell March 28, 2012

I just had to drop by and say it made me smile that in the medjool dates part {where is says (about 8) } somehow turned into a smiley with sunglasses- it totally made my day!

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Angela March 29, 2012

haha whenever you type 8 ) it makes a smiley face like this 8)

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Tia March 28, 2012

I’ve been on a “Lara Ball” kick, as well! Love how easy they are to make and so good for you :)

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