Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars

The kid in all of us reminisces about Chewy Granola Bars, Pop Tarts, and other hand-held sweet treats that were passed off for healthy snacks and/or breakfasts, right? I mean… who are we kidding? Are two S’mores Pop Tarts really part of a healthy breakfast, as advertised?

I love sweet. I love baked goods. I love the accessibility of having things like Chewy Granola Bars on hand when I need a snack or an on-the-go breakfast that will go nicely with tea or coffee. I don’t love preservatives. I don’t love factory-cooked foods.

At least, not anymore.

I found a fantastic recipe online for granola bars and although I didn’t have any nuts or dried fruits to add to the mix, adding lots of grainy, high-fiber goodness did just fine in the end. I’ll definitely be making these again, but with more mix-ins next time!

Regardless, I made these really POP! with flavor by making my own raspberry syrup in place of the maple syrup or agave the original recipe calls for. Any fruit or berry will do!

I always have a soft spot for recipes that are just basic — not mandatory ingredients… just the framework for a dish that can be adjusted for and catered to everyone’s individual likings. As a friend of mine just told me today, it’s always best to teach skills, not a recipe!

Vegan Raspberry Oat Bars
Inspired by Healthy. Happy. Life.’s “Kitchen Sink Granola Bars”.
Makes 8 bars.

For the bars themselves…

  • 2 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp oil (I used virgin coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax (or wheat germ)
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup reserved unsweetened coconut (I used macaroon sized flakes, but you can use whichever you’d like, depending on your preferred consistency)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I used organic granulated, but you can use turbinado, sucanat, or even a liquid like agave or maple)
  • 3/4 cup liquid sweetener (I made my own raspberry syrup – see the recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, salt-free nut butter (I used almond)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Any mix-ins you’d like, such as nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, goji berries, cacao nibs, dried fruit, pretzel bits, etc. I just didn’t have any on hand!

For the raspberry syrup…

  • 1 cup raspberries, washed (I used fresh organic, but you can use frozen if you’d like)
  • 2 tbsp liquid sweetener (maple, agave, etc.)

Make the syrup by putting both ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. When the raspberries begin to break down and the liquid bubbles, lower to medium-low and stir.

Break down the raspberries by using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula. Once all of the berries are broken down, remove from heat.

I ended up with exactly 3/4 cup, as the recipe calls for, but if you are short, just add a bit more liquid sweetener to it until it reaches 3/4 cup.

Set the sauce aside.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper on all sides and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the oil of your choice in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the oil gets warm, add the oats, flax (or wheat germ), and 1/2 cup of coconut to the pan. Stir every 30 seconds or so until the mixture becomes fragrant, set aside.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the sugar, liquid sweetener (this would be the raspberry sauce, if you made it), vanilla, cinnamon, and nut butter. Stir until combined. Add the oat mixture and mix with a spatula until combined.

Put the mixture into the baking dish. Top with the remaining coconut flakes (and any other toppings you want, really!) and push in so they won’t fall off of the bars when they’re done.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Using the parchment paper, lift the slab from the pan and onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 8 portions with a very sharp non-serrated knife.

These can be stored at room temperature in a tupperware for a few days, or as long as 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Delicious and very, very good for you! In just one bar you get tons of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and just enough sweetness to make it almost cookie-like!

The best way to eat these, you ask?

Slightly warm, with some almond milk!

Advertisements

Leeks, Another Way

My last post was all about my first leek experience, which was a definite success; however, I had one leek left from my batch of four that I’d purchased.

I found this gorgeous recipe on one of my favorite food blogs. I didn’t have enough bread in the house, so I decided to add some sweet potatoes I’d also purchased and wing it!

Sweet Potato and Caramelized Leek Bread Pudding
Yield 6 servings.

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 loaf of bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (approx. 4 cups)
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup shredded swiss or gruyere cheese
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and chopped very thin (white and pale green part only!)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter or margerine

Place the bread on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until dry, stirring cubes around once. (Stale bread will take much less time than fresh bread, so keep an eye on the oven.) Remove from oven when done and set aside.

During this time, put the sweet potato cubes in a microwave-safe bowl and add about 2 tbsp of water. Cover with a paper towel and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir, moving the cubes from the bottom to the top. Cover again and microwave for 5 more minutes. Set aside.

In a medium pan, add the leek and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add butter and wine, stir, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When golden brown, they’re done!

In a bowl, whisk the milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1 tsp garlic powder until thoroughly combined.

Spray an 8×8 inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray or olive oil. Put 1/4 cup of the cheese in the bottom of the pan. Top with 1/2 of the bread cubes and 1/2 of the sweet potato cubes, then all of the caramelized leeks. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese, followed with the remaining bread and sweet potato and the last 1/4 cup of the cheese.

Pour the cream/egg mixture on top. Let the pan sit for 5 minutes before putting it all in a 350 degree oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve as a side dish along with a protein for a full meal!

“Hollah”!

One of my favorite things about being Jewish is the food. (Hell, food is one of my favorite things about life in general!)

Every holiday has its own delicious foods: Passover is all about charoset; Chanukah has latkes; and Rosh Hashanah has challah.

Rosh Hashanah is the kick-off to the Jewish new year. The foods you eat to celebrate usually involve sweetness and roundness. The sweet foods consumed include honey and apples (usually together) and are supposed to represent “ringing in a sweet new year”. Round foods (apples, and round-shaped challah) are symbolic of how cyclical time is.

I’m not much of a bread-baker, as it tends to take a lot of time. Mixing, kneading, rising, kneading, rising again, kneading, shaping, baking… waiting… cooling… waiting…! I’m too much of a lover of instant gratification for me to do this all the time! But, I suck it up when Rosh Hashanah rolls around!

For those who are like me, you may be nervous to try baking bread for a number of reasons, but believe me when I say that this recipe is idiot-proof! All you have to do is make sure you have all the ingredients and that you have about 3 hours to spare.

Challah, like everything else around this time, is commonly eaten with honey, but it’s delicious by itself, too. Also, challah makes the best french toast. Seriously.

You’ll love challah, I promise!

Beyond Ramen and Udon: Why Soba is King

I’m a proud, proud carb-a-holic. I have no problem having a piece (or two…) of garlic bread alongside macaroni and cheese. I am guilty of eating ice cream for dinner. I’ll eat oatmeal with a super-sweet soy pumpkin spice latte without being fazed. Have no fear! I usually eat a more balanced diet than this, but I also listen to my body (which seems to be desiring grains at the moment) so if carbs is what I want, carbs is what I’ll have. As a back-up, I do have a multivitamin every day. *flexes wannabe muscles*

Our pantry is full of grains in many forms: oats (rolled and steel-cut), rice (basmati, brown, and arborio), cereal grains (amaranth, quinoa, and bulgar wheat), and pasta (the common enriched Italian-style varieties, udon, ramen, soba, and rice noodles). Each has its own purpose, but one is the latest discovery of mine and now reigns supreme in my carb-cooking kitchen: soba.

Soba is a Japanese noodle that is unlike any other. It’s thin and elegant, but sturdy enough that it won’t flop around and fall apart like ramen (another thin noodle) does. Like other Japanese noodles, soba cooks in very little time and requires precisely two neurons to prepare.

I mean… no measuring water? Sweet. I’ve never been one to measure 6 cups of water to boil for macaroni: I just eyeball it. The first step in the soba instructions is to put it into “plenty of [boiling] water”. Awesomely easy, no?

Soba is fabulously vegan and packed full of nutrients because it’s made with the superfood buckwheat. Yes, it’s high in sodium, so I wouldn’t make this an everyday food item, but I think the fiber, iron, and protein it contains (as well as the cholesterol and sugar it doesn’t) outweighs the 40% of your daily intake of sodium!

If this didn’t prove my point, just look at the stuff!

Tell me it’s not packaged in the cutest way ever? (I rarely use the word “cute” but I think this is an occasion that warrants it.) It has a little sash around each bundle so, unlike spaghetti, a serving size is really easy to measure. Yeah, I bet different brands of noodles have different packaging, but I officially love this one!

Previously, I’ve simply tossed freshly-cooked soba noodles in tamari soy sauce, crushed red pepper, and shredded zucchini. This time around, I wanted to do something different.

Orange-Scented Soba and Kale Salad
Makes two generous portions, or four side-dish-sized servings.

  • 4 cups kale, chopped into very thin shreds (about 3-4 large leaves)
  • 120 grams soba noodles (one bundle, if using JFC brand)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce (or regular soy sauce if you don’t have tamari on hand)
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro (use fresh if you have it available to you)
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha hot sauce (optional if you don’t like heat)
  • a couple of dashes of fresh-cracked black pepper

Cook the soba according to directions. Strain, then rinse in cold water until noodles are completely cool. Set aside.

In a medium glass bowl, whisk together all ingredients except soba and kale. When combined, add kale and toss until coated. Add soba noodles and toss again until all ingredients are evenly distributed. (Don’t be scared to use your hands!)

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

If I had other veggies in my fridge, I would have used them! Maybe next time I’ll shred carrots, zucchini, and summer squash and include these in the recipe. Regardless, I plan on eating this for lunch the next few days, topping it with some tofu and/or kimchee, or maybe I’ll be weird and add some falafel!

But leaving it just as-is would be fine, too. Nom.

What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW)

I follow a lot of awesome food blogs, health/wellness blogs, and other web sites and enjoy when they do “What I Ate Wednesday” posts. So, here’s my first!

On Wednesday 9/14/11 I enjoyed…

Fall officially begins when Pumpkin Spice Lattes return!
Starbucks soy pumpkin spice latte + “Two Moms in the Raw” blueberry granola bar (not pictured because I forgot!).

Soba noodles are amazing!
Lunch was cold soba noodles that I cooked last night and let marinate in the fridge all night and all morning in tamari soy sauce, minced garlic, and sesame oil. I topped it with some fresh basil.

Almond love!
Raw almonds for my afternoon snack, alongside a cup of coffee (not pictured because, again, I forgot!).

image
Creamy polenta with fresh basil (served with sautéed garlic spinach, not shown).

image
From-scratch vegan hot chocolate… check out this recipe I randomly thought of (because we are out of both dairy milk and non-dairy milk… whoops)!

Vegan Hot Chocolate
Serves two.

  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup raw or turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate (Ghirardelli semisweet bars are vegan)

Combine water, coconut milk, and vanilla in a small saucepan and heat on high until boiling. Add sugar and whisk until dissolved. Lower heat to medium-low and add chocolate, whisking until completely melted.

Pour in two mugs of your choosing, but beware: this stuff is molten hot and we needed to let ours cool for about 8 minutes before it was drinkable!

New Food Story: Sweet Potatoes

I think the best way to showcase my trial-and-error experiences with food is to write about my history, my attempt, and my success or failure upon trying it. First up: sweet potatoes.

My first memory of sweet potatoes is probably that of many Americans.

Sweet potatoes... made sweeter...??

Sweet potato casserole: sweet potatoes usually cubed or mashed, mixed with syrup or sweetener of some kind, topped with marshmallows. Broiled to a golden brown, most children go ga-ga over this stuff every Thanksgiving.

In that respect, I was a weird child: I absolutely hated it. I would eat the marshmallows off of the top of my mom’s serving, but if even a speck of orange was on my marshmallows… so help me!!! it would ruin my meal. Yuck!

Fast forward a couple of decades: I was 23 and living in gorgeous California.

Oh, how I miss living in CA!

The town in which I lived was Fremont, and it was the home to the Bay Area’s largest farmer’s market. I had just started what would become an epic 35-pound weight-loss journey so during this time I would visit the farmer’s market every Saturday morning to get some fresh produce (and the occasional hand-formed loaf of sourdough or wedge of local cheese). Every time I’d visit, I’d go as far as to pick up and investigate things I’d never tried before: asparagus, pluots, and… sweet potatoes.

Look at them... always judging!

My arch nemesis for so long… it would taunt me from afar every Saturday as I made my rounds. One day I caved and purchased one.

I recall exactly what I did with it: I made sweet potato fries.

GO-TO SWEET POTATO FRIES
Makes roughly two large servings of fries.

  • Two sweet potatoes, cleaned thoroughly, peeled, and cut into strips roughly 1cm thick.
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on the level of spice you want)
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • Dash of sea salt
  • A few dashes of garlic powder

Combine everything in a zip-loc bag or in a bowl with a lid. Shake and toss around until all of the wedges are evenly coated in toppings. Spread on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, making sure they are in just one layer. Sprinkle garlic powder on top and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, flipping fries after 20 minutes. You will know they are ready when the thinner ones are getting dark and the edges of the larger ones are mostly golden. Let cool for 5 minutes unless you want to burn your mouth!

Lo and behold, I loved them!!! After such a raging success, I now continue to love sweet potatoes as long as they are savory – not sweetened. I continue to dislike sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, but give me a cubed sweet potato topped with spinach, black beans, salsa, and vegan “cheez” sauce and you have a happy, happy girl.