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Nikole Goncalves is the author of The HealthNut Cookbook.Kyla Zanardi

Nikole Goncalves’s cookbook was borne out of her own bad habits. The author of The HealthNut Cookbook, says she used to be a workaholic, who drank coffee for breakfast (until noon) and then gorged on “processed junk.”

Feeling lethargic, unmotivated and generally crappy about herself, she decided to get her life in order. She started working out and no longer made excuses for not having the time to shop for and make healthy food. “I began to understand the connection to food and how it makes us feel,” she says.

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Kyla Zanardi

The goal of this cookbook, her first, is to motivate people to eat better by giving them recipes that can be made in less than 30 minutes. These granola bars, for instance, are a staple in her kitchen. “They’re packed with nutrients, are super simple to make, and my mom raves about them all the time,” says Goncalves, whose YouTube channel, HealthNut Nutrition, has 600,000 subscribers.

“I grew up in a pretty healthy-eating household but I got into unhealthy habits. These recipes represent my own personal eating style,” Goncalves says. “And I hope it inspires people to eat better and feel better – because the two go hand-in-hand.”

Chewy Trail Mix Granola Bars

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Nikole Goncalves says her mother 'raves' about these granola bars.Kyla Zanardi/Supplied

Ingredients (Makes 10 bars)

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup hemp hearts
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt (omit if using salted peanut butter)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper long enough to fold over the edges.

Mix together the oats and almonds on the baking sheet and lightly toast for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In a food processor, process the dates until they are smooth and form a ball of “date dough.” Leave the dates in the food processor.

In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup, peanut butter, and vanilla. Heat over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is melted and has a caramel-like texture. Pour into the food processor with the date dough and process for 15 seconds, or until smooth.

To the toasted oat and almond mixture, add the pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, cinnamon and salt, if using. Give it a quick stir to combine. Scrape in the caramel date mixture and stir with a wooden spoon (it won’t stick as much) until well combined. I like to use my hand, but be careful – the caramel can still be hot, so let it cool slightly.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking pan, pressing down firmly with the bottom of a cup or jar to compress the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow it to harden.

Lift from the pan and cut into 10 even bars. Store the granola bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Excerpted from The HealthNut Cookbook by Nikole Goncalves. Copyright © 2019 Nikole Goncalves. Photographs © 2019 by Kyla Zanardi. Published by Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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