Hello, Pumpkin

October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Bar

Don’t you just love pumpkin? I think pumpkin pie is my favourite pie. And don’t you find at this time of year, if you’ve made Thanksgiving pie or cheesecake (I noticed pumpkin cheesecake was particularly popular this year) that you have a small quantity of leftover pumpkin puree? I bet a lot of you have some pumpkin puree kicking around in a frozen state. I did, and that’s what inspired me to make these bars.

Makes about 12 – 4″ x 1″ bars

36 dried dates

1/2 cup whole almonds

1/4 cup pecans

1/2 cup pure unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, chopped

Soak the dates in enough boiling water to cover, set aside. In the bowl of a food processor measure in almonds and pecans and pulse briefly a few times to crunch them up. Drain dates, discard water, and add to the nuts along with pumpkin puree, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and sea salt. Run processor off and on until mixture begins to clump. Add the sunflower seeds and pulse once or twice to combine, they add nice texture if you don’t obliterate them into the mixture. Turn into a plastic-lined rectangular tart pan or container and pat neatly down. Sprinkle the chopped pumpkins seeds evenly on top, over wrap with plastic wrap and press seeds gently into the bar. Place in fridge for a few hours to firm up and then portion into bars, wrap individually and store in fridge. They make a fine fall four o’ clock.


Have you ever?

October 25, 2010

Watermelon Red

Have you ever seen an apple this beautiful? It’s kind of like the blood orange of apples. The outside of the apple is nondescript, it’s no crapple, but there’s nothing alluring about it. I would have passed right by it except for the sign on the apple bin declared it a Red Fleshed Apple. Huh? I asked “Is the flesh of this apple red?” I know, right? Sometimes my mouth speaks before consulting my brain, it’s not a good short cut. A quick google shows that there are many types of red fleshed apples, with fitting names such as Hidden Rose and Grenadine. Just lovely, a little shock of colour on a grey and rainy morning.

Smart and Pretty

One Year Crunch

June 10, 2010

Cracker Stack

I have had “write gluten-free cracker recipe” on my to do list for many months. In fact, it may have been on my list for almost a year. June 8th was the one year mark for Baker’s Balance. Huh, a whole year. Just like that. Let’s consider these crackers a celebration of sorts. A crunchy nod to the passage of time. I’m rather pleased with these crackers. And, in retrospect, I’m rather pleased with this past year.

Makes approximately 2 dozen crackers

6 tablespoons brown rice flour

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon xantham gum

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon agave

a generous sprinkle of Maldon salt

Preheat oven to 375° and place rack in the middle of the oven. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together brown rice flour, buckwheat, sea salt, baking powder and xantham gum. Add water, olive oil and agave and stir with a fork until a shaggy ball forms. Turn out onto your work surface and knead lightly into a smooth ball of dough. Set onto a sheet of parchment that is cut to fit your baking sheet. Place parchment on your work surface and press the cracker dough into a thick rectangle. Dust top of dough with a little brown rice flour and roll out gently with a rolling pin. Roll out to almost the same size as your rectangle of parchment, the dough should be very thin. Now set down your rolling pin and carefully lift or slide the cracker covered parchment onto your baking sheet. Dock crackers with a fork and, using a knife or pastry wheel, cut out any squarish or rectangular shapes that you like. Don’t move them, you can bake them all together. Once baked you can break them apart along the cut lines. Brush lightly with a pastry brush dipped in water and then sprinkle generously with Maldon salt. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they’re a dark, nutty brown.

Macademic Research

April 29, 2010

Roasted and Sea Salted

You know when you kind of lie to yourself? Well, not quite a lie, maybe, but more sort of not admitting? For the last week I have been pretending that macadamia nuts are good for me. You know, because nuts are typically good for you. I have been consuming them with mounting guilt (there is no way that something this good and fatty can be good for you) and tightening of bikini straps. They are fatty little globes of crunchy delight. Now that I am home, I must come clean. However, a few moments of searching on the internet finds me not so guilty. Macadamia nuts, while high, high in some good fats, are also full of protein and fibre. Perhaps, though, I should consume them with a little less abandon. Now that I am home there is no longer an unlimited supply, so I will ration myself. I bet if I search hard enough I will find some evidence that chocolate coated macadamia nuts are good for me, too.

Four o’ Clock Bar

March 29, 2010

Your Favourite New Bar

This is the cure for four o’ clock. Four o’clock is the time when your entire day of healthy, conscientious eating can go to hell. It’s late afternoon, you’ve been good, but you’re hungry and, maybe, you’re cranky. And maybe, in your cranky state, you’re contemplating Peanut Butter Cups. Or a Japadog from down the street. Maybe you’re thinking f*#k it, I’m starving. Don’t do it! Be prepared! Make these, your new favourite bars. Now, this bar isn’t for everyone. Take Michael, for example. He’s all “I can’t breathe” when he eats peanuts. You, however, like peanuts. And peanut butter things. A tremendous amount. That’s why you were thinking about Peanut Butter Cups. Think about making these instead. At 4:10 you are not going to feel guilty that you ate convenience store chocolate or a Japanese-inspired hot dog. No, you will feel satisfied and smug. And a little bit sorry for Michael that he can’t eat peanuts.

Makes 12 Bars

45 dried dates

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, plus 1/4 cup more to finish, chopped

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

If you’ve made this, this or that, the method is pretty much the same. Coincidentally, this is the fourth bar. So naming it the Four o’ Clock bar is especially apt. If this is your first bar of mine, here is the method. Soak dates in hot water for a few minutes. While they’re hydrating and soaking in their little bowl of a bath, measure the almonds and first quantity of peanuts into your food processor. Grind away for a couple of minutes. Drain the dates and turn them into the food processor bowl and whir together, just enough to get the ingredients clumping. Blob in the peanut butter and sprinkle in the sea salt. Pulse on and off to combine. You can the round the mixture into balls, or press into a pan. Either way, finish with the chopped peanuts. If you’ve panned them, chill for a while to firm and then portion into bars. Well done.

Granola Bars

February 4, 2010

Flax and Whole Grain

Granola bars are one of those food things, like muffins, that have a tendency to parade around as a health food. They come across as a good choice, clad in their earthy green and nut-brown wrappers, with words such as ‘nature’, ‘flax plus’ and ‘whole grain’ in bright capital letters. Know what I think? Pffft. Have you ever read the fine print, the ingredients? There is likely as much refined sugar and low-quality fat in a supermarket granola bar as there is in a cookie. At least a with a cookie you’re aware of what you’re eating, you know? I had half of a friend’s packaged granola bar on Friday and it was suspiciously good. Here’s my take on granola bars. I suspect you’ll find they’re pretty good, with a nice crunch and crumble.

Makes 18 bars

2 cups large flake oatmeal

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup cashews, chopped

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup ground flax

1 large egg white

1/4 cup agave

1/4 cup date sugar

2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus a little more for the pan, melted and slightly cooled

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup raisins

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Spread oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds and ground flax into an even layer on a sheet pan and toast for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until pale gold and fragrant. Remove from oven and lower heat to 300º. Lightly coconut oil a 9″ x 11″ baking pan and line with a rectangle of parchment paper, ensuring that the paper covers the entire bottom of the pan and runs up the long sides so that it will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after baking. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a large-ish bowl, whisk egg white with agave, date sugar and coconut oil. Whisk in vanilla extract and sea salt. Shake the warm, toasted oatmeal et cetera into the egg white and agave mixture. Add raisins and mix well with a spatula. Turn this mixture into your prepared baking pan, press down on mixture with an offset spatula to flatten and even out the top. Slide into oven and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once halfway through so that it bakes evenly. Let cool completely before lifting carefully from pan onto a chopping board. Use a sharp knife to portion into bars.

PS – you can substitute the suggested nuts and seeds for your favourites. Same with the raisins. All you raisin-haters can use any other dried fruit that you wish.

In a Hot Oven

December 17, 2009


Okay, seriously, who has an open fire these days? Not too many of us. So there will likely be no chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost, yes, some mornings. But chestnuts roasting in a hot oven, you can make that happen. Turn your oven on and up to 400º. Make a cross-cut in the bottom  (truly easier said than done) – the rounded end – of every chestnut and place in a roasting pan or cast-iron frying pan or cookie sheet, or whatever you have that’s oven-proof. Now slide into your hot oven. I turn them over ten minutes in. It only takes about twenty minutes to bake chestnuts. When you determine that they are done, I go by smell (delicious) and colour (gorgeous toasty-brown), remove them from oven until they are cool enough to handle. Peel back the shell to expose and extract the rich, meaty inside. Consume. Put on a yuletide carol or two.

Brown Bag

November 30, 2009

Snack Time

Lunch Time

I have been pretty good at maintaing a mainly healthy way of eating at work. It’s been kind of easy because we had an amazing cafeteria full of fresh food – from lots of salads, vegetables and fruit to delicious, not-so-healthy hot food like lasagna and a parade of endless cakes and sweets, which I rarely made eye contact with, fyi. As of today, that’s all over. We have moved to a new and fancy and still-under-construction location and staff meals are going to have to wait. So I’m going to brown bag it. If you have some recommendations, let me know. I just made some bars, and I have packed some fresh vegetables. And leftover soup to reheat. What else? Please send me some recommendations. I am determined not to fall into the habit of going for lunch everyday, followed by a late afternoon coffee. Well… the coffee’s negotiable. I know if I keep eating well that I can make it through these busy months at work and maintain my energy and positivity without flagging. Some of you are expert lunch-packers, so share your knowledge. Or your lunch!


November 19, 2009


Coconut Banana Ginger Bar

I love Blondie. I love Debbie Harry. I wanted to be her. Parallel Lines was my first album. That might be a lie. My first album might be Kenny Rogers, The Gambler. It was one or the other, I think I got them in the same year. But Blondie’s Parallel Lines is way cooler. CBGB’s was a bar in New York where Blondie – and a whole lot of others –  rose to fame (I don’t mean to make it sound as though I were there, I wasn’t). CBGB stands for Country, Blue Grass and Blues. My CBGB stands for Coconut Banana Ginger Bar. I suggest you crank up Sunday Girl or Rip Her to Shreds and blitz together some of these bars. One Way or Another.

Makes 4 – 6 cm x 4 cm bars, or 4 small spheres

15 dates

1/3 cup whole, raw almonds

1/3 cup dried banana chips

1/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut, plus more for sprinkling

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

Place dates in a small bowl, and cover with boiling water. Let sit. In the bowl of a food processor dump in almonds, banana chips, coconut, coconut oil, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Drain dates and add those, too. Now buzz everything up for a minute or two. Give the mixture a stir and then pulse on and off until it comes together in a sort of batter. Don’t overdo the processing or you will end up with a greasy mixture. Form into bars or balls and finish with a sprinkling of coconut.

You may or may not be interested to know that I can sing along to every Blondie song. And I also know all the words to The Gambler.

Ready for Bread

October 21, 2009

Warm Banana Bread

Warm Banana Bread

We all have bananas that, before you know it, are speckled and tired-looking and ready for bread. I concocted this healthy recipe for my friend Julie, as per her request. I see Julie every morning – we run*, Crossfit, and visit farmers markets together. Good grief, there are not many people I like to see everyday! That says a lot about her, and I’m lucky to call her my friend. She is witty, kind, sincere and sarcastic in equal measure. I know that every morning, without fail, she will meet me at 6:00 for a tough workout. There has been the odd time, literally once or twice, that we’ve gone for coffee instead of exercising. When you meet Julie you will be surprised that this slim chick can do a full pull-up, hanging from a bar like a monkey – it is so impressive and no easy feat. It’s not surprising that Julie likes banana bread, is it?

Makes 1 – 8.5″ x 4.5″ (6-cup) loaf pan

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup ground flax

1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

2 over-ripe bananas, pureed

1/4 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350º, line a loaf pan with parchment and set aside until batter is ready. In a large-ish bowl combine all of the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. In a smaller bowl, whisk eggs with melted coconut oil, and then whisk in the banana purée, agave, almond milk and vanilla. You know how this is done – pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Pour into lined loaf pan and slide into warm oven for about 50 minutes. A bamboo skewer will emerge cleanly when it is done. If there are wet crumbs clinging to your skewer continue baking for another five minutes, that should do it. Let cool on a rack for as long as you can before cutting yourself a nice, warm, thick slice.

Note: you can make muffins instead. I added 1 cup of frozen blueberries to the batter. It made 12 medium-sized muffins and took about half an hour to bake.

Ready for Bread

Ready for Bread

* Julie is yet another amazing Parkside Runner. Julie, I will always be there for you at the 20k mark!