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10th. Apr, 2010 | 07:06 pm
music: Punch - Punch.
I've been trying to think of ways to get more portions of vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds into my diet. Now, I've never been one for "healthy eating" per se, but I like to eat whole foods wherever possible and get my nutrients, without constantly worrying about fat and calories. I like to nourish my body with the food that I eat, and once I'm satisfied that I've done that, I allow myself treats. Admittedly, I eat too many treats, but so long as I'm covering all of the vitamins and minerals that my body needs to remain healthy, I'm happy.
I'm trying to make some of these treats a little healthier, so I decided o make granola bars. I hate throwing misleading labels around, though, so here's a disclaimer:
"Healthier" does not mean using low fat margarine instead of 'normal" stuff, or using chemical low calorie sweeteners instead of sugar. Overly processed food and chemicals = not healthy. Ok, so I haven't banned it totally from my diet, but I'm trying to cut back on it. Yes, these granola bars contian sugar, but it's ok to consume some sugar. I'm far more concerned with nourishing my body than worrying about calories or fat contents. So, these granola bars still contain a pretty decent amount of sugar, but it's brown sugar and not white (= less processed) and agave instead of corn syrup, and more importantly, the rest of it is largely made up of whole foods that are full of good stuff. Nuts and seeds are packed with fat, but it's good fat. There's nothing wrong with eating fat; it is vital to a healthy diet, but of course, there are better and worse ways to get your daily intake. I will not use hydrogenated oils in my baking because it's frankenfood and I can easily avoid it. But healthy fats found in unprocessed food? Sure, go nuts (boom boom!).
I've been adding flax seeds (linseeds) to smoothies, as they're a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Buying them whole is much better than buying them pre-ground as flax meal, because once they're ground up, the oils inside them are exposed to the air and start to go rancid, losing their nutritional value. Just stick them in a cheap coffee grinder or in the blender and you're good to go.
If you've been brainwashed into thinking that you can only get a good source of calcium from cows milk, you couldn't be more wrong. Animal-free sources include leafy greens (including my beloved kale!), dried fruits (particularly figs), and for seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds are great.
Eating more whole grains reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, yet an estimated 80% of people don't even manage a single portion a day. They're also a great source of fiber, which means your body can flush out crap more easily. This means better poo. Hurrah!
Other things you'll get from these granola bars, owing to the various dried fruit, seeds and nuts in them, include Chromium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin, Selenium and Zinc, to name a few.
So, why not just buy granola bars from the supermarket? Traditionally, store bought American granola bars will contain either honey or high fructose corn syrup, neither of which I eat (for different reasons). Plus, they're fricking expensive. So, I made my own. They're seriously easy, and if you buy nuts and seeds in bulk and just store them in the fridge or freezer, you will save money and can add them to cereal, baked goods, salads, whatever you like. You don't have to eat them like bird food!
So, despite containing sugar and fat, have I convinced you that these do still qualify as being healthier? Good.
This recipe is a bit of a mish mash of all the various ingredients from my cupboards, but you can play around with this recipe as much as you want, so long as the proportions are kept roughly the same.
3 cups oats
1/4 cup wheatgerm
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup peanuts
2 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp poppyseeds
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup agave
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup PB
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup cranberries
Preheat oven to 450.
Mix the oats, wheatgerm and seeds in a bowl, then transfer to a large baking tray. Bake for 12 minutes, turning every 3-4 minutes or so to make sure they don’t burn.
Half way through baking, put the wet ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and bring to boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat to medium/low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove wet ingredients from heat. Turn off the oven and remove the dry ingredients. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add fruit. Transfer both wet and dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and add fruit. Mix VERY well – you want to ensure that everything is coated with the wet ingredients, which will act as a sticky glue.
Line a large pan with greaseproof / wax paper and transfer the mixture to it. Spread it all out evenly, then cover it with some more greaseproof / wax paper / a Silpat and press down very firmly. This will make sure that it all sticks together and won’t crumble when you cut it. Be sure to push down the sides as well so the surface is nice and even. Leave the cover on top and place a heavy-ish object on top of it to keep it flat.
Leave to cool for 2-3 hours. If that seems like too long to wait and you're impatient (like me), then have a look at the mixing bowl. See the amount of mixture still stuck to the sides? It's probably stuck fast by now, so stick the bowl into the oven for a minute and melt the sugar. Now scrape the sides and roll it into a bowl, being careful that it's not too hot.
Once completely cooled, tip out onto a large cutting board, remove all paper, and cut into bars using a very sharp knife.
Store by either wrapping in cling film (ready to go for lunch boxes), or in an airtight container with wax paper in between each bar to prevent sticking.
And finally, because arranging food into the Black Flag logo will apparently never get old to me...