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.

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Bar One

August 24, 2009

Plain and Simple

Plain and Simple

Finally I have concocted an easy, energy-filled, raw, portable bar. Sometimes when I’m out and about I become ravenous. I usually have snacks with me – dried fruits and nuts or a bought bar, such as a Lara Bar. Taking my cue from the short ingredient list on Lara Bars, here is my version. I anticipate this being Bar One. Meaning I will use this as the basic recipe to create some other flavours. You could do the same, no need to wait for me. I think the next one will probably be a Sour Cherry Cocoa Bar.

Makes 4 – 6 cm x 4 cm bars

15 dried dates

1/2 cup whole, raw almonds

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon coconut oil

pinch of sea salt

2 teaspoons hemp seeds

You need a food processor for this. If you don’t own one, I ask you “Why not?” They are affordable and you can buy a small one that doesn’t take up too much space. Place dates in a small bowl and cover with hot, boiling water. Let soften for about five minutes. Meanwhile, put almonds, coconut, coconut oil and sea salt into the bowl of your (new?) food processor. Drain water from dates and add. Now all you need to do is process these ingredients until they form together into a soft ball. It takes a couple of minutes, check it here and there. It will be chunky and rather loose at first. Keep processing, the ingredients will lump to one side of the bowl, then it’s done. Don’t process more than this or you will create a greasy mixture. Turn your lump onto a piece of parchment and, using a ruler, press into a long 4 cm x 24 cm bar, making it as square as possible on all sides. Finish by sprinkling the top of the bar with the hemp seeds and portion into four 4 cm x 6 cm bars. Too fussy, squaring up the sides and such? Then divide up the batter and roll into four spheres and finish by coating with hemp seeds. I individually wrapped mine and I’m storing them in the fridge. I don’t know if I necessarily need to store them in the fridge, but it’s not going to hurt. They firm up quite a bit, enough so that I can tote them around in my bag and they won’t fall apart like I tend to when I’m hungry.

This Poem

August 19, 2009

Poetry

Poetry

This is kind of cheesy of me, but I was wondering if you know this poem? It has stuck with me for years, I like it so much. I’m not the type of person who knows poems, not really. Just snippets and bits. Funny, but I always pictured the plums in this poem to be those dusky bluish-purple ones. Prune plums. Probably because they littered our lawn, so many we didn’t know what to do with them. But these ones, so vibrant and almost florescent! And dripping with sweetness. These ones are irresistible.

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Why so good?

August 17, 2009

Before

Before

After

After

There are million fruits and vegetables in season right now. Including the wallflower that is cauliflower. It’s hardly an eye-catching vegetable, dressed in homely drab-green leaves that modestly cover pale, thick florets. Some others might catch your eye as you whirl through the market – sweet berries, snaky purple beans, tart cherries, demure and blushing peaches, and lush lettuces – but do put cauliflower on your dance card shopping list. Something amazing happens when you turn up the heat and give this little white flower a drink of extra-virgin olive oil and a generous shot of salt.

Makes: enough for 4 for a side dish. Or use it as a garnish if you eat almost all of it before your guests arrive. I’m just saying. It could happen.

1 head of cauliflower

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

Pre-heat your oven to 500º – somewhat shockingly high heat, isn’t it? As I said, you want to really heat things up. Cut up your snowy cauliflower into little florets. Toss with the olive oil and salt and spread out into a single layer on a parchment-lined pan. Slide this into your hot hot oven on the middle rack. As it’s roasting/frying/baking you will hear it snap, crackle and pop. This is good. About ten minutes in, pull out your tray and move the cauliflower about. Return to oven and repeat two more times. I roasted my cauliflower for about 40 minutes, total. You could roast yours a little less, or be bold and push it a little longer for a more sizzled, roastier and nuttier cauliflower, but don’t go anywhere – it’s a fine line between crisp deliciousness and charred too-late-you-can’t-eat-that-now. So let’s say your cauliflower is done. Taste it. Why so good? What happens in that oven? Some kind of crazy chemical romance goes on and suddenly this cauliflower is the most delicious vegetable you’ve ever had in your whole life. It’s kind of like an extreme makeover. It pays to have a hot, salty tango with a wallflower.

Delivery Guy

August 11, 2009

Crunchy!

What's Your Number?

Everyone should meet our friends Guy and Mel, they are fun and funny and generous. Four years ago they built a raised garden and every year they grow all sorts of vegetables. I like the idea of a garden, especially a raised garden. It doesn’t seem as back-breaking. But gardening is a lot of work. I’m concerned that if I planted a vegetable garden my interest would fizzle as my laziness skyrocketed. And really? Grubby soil? Bugs and slugs? Bluh, no thank-you. The other morning Guy and their daughter Brynn (who is delightful, she’s one of my favourite people) delivered fresh produce to us. How great is that? Beautiful, flowering zucchini, pretty cream and violet beans, crisp peas, fragrant, spicy basil and superb-looking cucumbers. Guy claims the cucumbers are extra-crunchy, and I have to agree. I want to try pickling a whole, large-ish cucumber, I think it would look great in a jar. Anyway, why do I need my own garden? Guy delivers! Maybe I will give them a jar of pickle.

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L1020572

L1020573

Gnocchi

August 10, 2009

Out of the Pan

Out of the Pan

Wow, gluten-free gnocchi is better than the original. That never happens. These simple potato dumplings are the lightest I’ve ever had. And, if you choose to finish them in a close-to smoking pan of olive oil as I did, they puff up into the most golden, crisp little pillows imaginable. Actually, they puffed and lightened so much that they lost their smart textural lines. No matter. Have you made gnocchi before? I had my friends Suzanne, Courtney and Richard for dinner, they wanted to learn. Richard was by far the best at rolling the gnocchi dough into narrow, even ropes. And Courtney was a natural at pressing the gnocchi across the lined wooden paddle – it’s called a cavatelli. Suzanne made sure they both knew what they were doing, she is an excellent project manager and enjoys eating more than cooking. Try this recipe. I swear, you won’t be disappointed.

Serves 4

1 pound russet potatoes, about 2 medium, baked and cooled

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 large egg yolk (save the white to add to your morning frittata)

a few swirls of extra-virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

* some variations

Set a large, covered pot of water on the stove to boil. Prepare a sheet pan with a small puddle of olive oil and set near the stove for when the gnocchi is done. Peel your cooled potatoes and grate, mash or rice into a large bowl. Add the brown rice flour, cornstarch and salt and mix together with a fork. Add the egg yolk and briskly stir together. A shaggy or rough dough will begin to form. Turn this shaggy dough out onto a lightly cornstarched surface. Knead gently several times to form an uneven ball. Divide ball into four pieces. Knead each piece of dough into a somewhat tidy ball and then roll and form into a long, narrow rope. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi dough. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut the ropes into bite-size, 1/2″, dumplings. Now create texture. You can do this by pinching each dumpling in its centre, creating a chunky bow-tie-like shape, or by running each dumpling quickly down either a fork’s tines or an inexpensive ($3) lined paddle, a cavatelli. In four separate batches, gently boil the gnocchi. They pop up to surface like miniature bouys when they’re done, and cook very quickly so don’t leave the stove. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and turn them onto your waiting olive-oiled pan. They are ready to use now, you can serve them in pesto or tomato sauce or garlicky olive oil. Or you can take them one step further and turn them into crisp, golden pillows. Set a large frying pan over high heat and swirl in some olive oil, get it really hot, just this side of smoking. Add the fresh, still-warm gnocchi, let it sear and crust, toss the pan after a couple of minutes. Keep cooking and tossing until the gnocchi have crisped all over, throw in a little sea salt. Tip out onto a platter and finish with some freshly ground black pepper. Be careful not to blister the roof of your mouth with your fresh, ultra-hot potato dumpling .

Fresh Gluten-Free Gnocchi

Fresh Gluten-Free Gnocchi

* There are endless variations for gnocchi. Try the plain potato gnocchi first, and then you can tweak it as you get more practiced. Some suggestions: a couple of cloves of minced garlic; fresh chopped herbs; use one yam or sweet potato in lieu of one russet; or add a handful of parmesan. I’ve added a little cooked, grated beet to create a bright magenta gnocchi. You can experiment.

Tomato Rainbow

Tomato Rainbow

… for these tomatoes. I love heirloom tomatoes and, as I’ve said before, I don’t often buy tomatoes out of season. Once you taste an organic heirloom tomato you can never go back, they spoil you. An heirloom is “something of special value handed on from one generation to another”. In regard to agriculture, heirloom is defined as “a horticultural variety that has survived for several generations usually due to the efforts of private individuals”. How to thank these individuals? I am grateful to know what a real tomato tastes like. They are a fine balance of sweetness and acidity. They are rainbow-bright, and run the spectrum from dark red-black to butter yellow and striped sulphur green. There are over 5,000 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they have great names. Better, even, than nail polish names. Black Krim. Mystery Keeper. Green Sausage. Hillbilly. Japanese Oxheart. Mortgage Lifter. Long Tom. Trucker’s Favourite. Get some – slice them onto a plate. Sprinkle with your choice of salt. Eat. Be thankful. As the season marches on there are other ways of enjoying tomatoes – simple salads with olive oil, vinegar and basil or pesto, gazpacho, batches of tomato sauce, oven-roasted. If you freeze sauces or roasted tomatoes, or even whole ripe tomatoes, you can prolong one of the best things about summer.

A Summer Highlight

Worth the Wait

Tomato Seedquins

Tomato Seedquins

Freaking! Fudgesicles!

July 30, 2009

A Freaking Fudgesicle

Reason to Freak

You need to make these. Like, now. Or at least today. You will thank me. They’re close to being nutritious. This icy cold frozen scrumptious chocolate-y treat is just a freeze away. I’ve been meaning to make these for a while now, but I cannot find my super awesome Tupperware popsicle molds that my favourite sister* Colé gave to me. I gave up and used mini silicone muffin moulds, which were a gift from my charming and generous friend Ellis. Evidently, I’m always accepting gifts. The mini size is probably better. They are a perfect two-bite fudgesicle that will whip you back to your childhood, lickety-split. They have just the right chocolate flavour, a bit of creaminess and that sort of low-quality but desirable iciness that is usually only found in cheap fudgsicles made with crap ingredients. They are also a perfect pop-the-entire-puck-in-your-mouth-size, too. If you’re the childish and piggish sort.

Makes 24 mini fudgesicles

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup water

4 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons agave

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

teensy pinch of sea salt

Pour the almond milk and water into a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. In a medium-sized bowl, set on top of a damp cloth to keep it from moving, whisk eggs yolks together with agave, cocoa and sea salt. Remove hot almond milk from heat and whisk a ladleful into the yolk mixture, whisk immediately and efficiently so that you don’t end up with bright yellow bits of cooked yolk. Then pour in the rest, whisking to combine. Turn custard back into the pot and place over low heat. Stir constantly, custard will thicken as it heats. It won’t take long. As soon as it’s thick, better to err on not-quite rather than scrambled, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl, or a large-enough measuring cup. I should tell you to cool and chill overnight before freezing. Whatever. Cool slightly and then pour into whatever sort of mould that you want to use. If you use a flexible mould make sure you place it on a tray before filling. (Duh, but I’ve done it). Now into your freezer, don’t mind the wafts of steam that are coming from the fudgesicles-to-be. Be patient. If you haven’t used proper moulds you will need to insert some sort of stick into your fudgesicles when they’re semi-frozen – set enough to hold the stick upright but not so frozen solid that you need to chisel in a stick. Are they ready now? Have you tried one yet? Are you freaking?

Chocolate-y Cold

Chocolate-y Cold

* Colé is my husband Michael’s sister, Nicole. His other sister is Marina, or Meenie. She’s also my favourite sister. I have another favourite sister named Cheryl, she will love these because she loves ice cream more than anyone I’ve ever met.

Bright Idea - Get Organized, Eat Well

Bright Idea - Get Organized, Eat Well

My eating habits have gone a bit sideways lately – lots of dinners out, more chocolate than I should and hot fudge sundaes. I love hot fudge sundaes. For the next two weeks I’m going to be quite strict and eat lots and lots of good, healthy food. It’s easy to eat well this time of year, there’s so much to choose from. The key to healthy eating is organization. You should be able to throw a crudité party with a moment’s notice. The first thing to do is to clean out your fridge – get rid of the bagged swamp experiment lurking in the back of your crisper drawer. And toss out those murky condiment bottles, you are not going to finish up of the rest of that sticky Asian sauce that was best before 2002. Be ruthless and honest. I have to tell you, I didn’t make up the swamp experiment and murky condiments, they were actually in my fridge. Ugh. The next thing to do is to go to your local market or produce stand and load up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Go to a farmer’s market and buy produce from the person who grew it. Pick out all of your favourites and try some things you’ve never had before, it keeps things interesting. Buy a baby fennel bulb. Pick out a variety of apples, my favourite is Pink Lady. In season, you can find striped and rainbow beets, chard, carrots and radishes. Throw a bunch of mustard greens into your basket, and greens you’ve never seen or heard of before. They are (almost) as delicious as a sundae. Treat yourself to some cherries and berries. Lemons and limes add delightful pucker to almost everything. Fresh herbs make for lively additions in salads and cooked dishes. And mushrooms – there is such a variety. What about jicama? I think if an apple was going to be a vegetable it would be jicama. Well, you get the idea, I could go on. Maybe I have. Once you’re home, wash everything but the berries, and prep what you can. Carrots are great peeled and stored in a container in water. Celery is best with its stalks pulled apart, not cut, because that will oxidize them. Spin torn lettuce leaves almost dry and wrap in a clean tea towel and store in a container. Sprout some grains and legumes, slow roast a panful of tomatoes. Have some hemp protein and boiled eggs on hand for quick, portable protein. Choose green tea in the afternoon for a pick me up. Make delicious hummus, I eat more vegetables when this healthy dip is around. Have nutrition-laden snacks handy so you don’t succumb to poor food choices when you’re hungry. Instead, go for nuts, seeds and unsweetened dried fruit. I always have a snack container with me. When I’m hungry I become impressively irritable and then make irrational decisions that involve sugar and chocolate. Pass the damn nuts.