Heidi Swanson's Do-It-Yourself Power Bars
Super Natural Cooking with Super Delicious Results
Last year, when local blogger Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks first told me about the book she was writing, I wasn't 101% convinced. Talk of nutrition, healthful ingredients and using whole grains reminded me of some of the bad food I ate during my vegan days and when I cook, I like to make dishes that people will love simply because they taste good, regardless of what ingredients were used. "Heidi", I said, "I'll never get that stuff past Fred."
Recently published, Heidi's Super Natural Cooking appears to dispel the myth that healthy food is not delicious food. But having only tried a couple of recipes so far, don't expect a solid confirmation of that statement just yet, and in the interests of transparency let me confess straight up that my copy was a gift from the author herself.
Heidi's gorgeous pictures and my first successes with Super Natural Cooking have already got me hooked and I am now fired up to try out more of Heidi's suggestions. In fact, it is completely Heidi's fault that I found myself at Rainbow Grocery yesterday, filling my basket with all manner of things I normally pass by without a second glance like wheat berries, farro, oat bran, rice syrup and brown crispy rice. Look! Already she is changing the way I eat and the way I shop.
The first recipe I tried was Heidi's Do-It-Yourself Power Bars. Wanting to highlight local fruit I swapped out the cranberries for dried pluots which are a personal favourite of mine. I also included almonds along with the walnuts suggested in the original recipe.
My sister, Beccy, is hosting her first blogging event this week - she is part of a group who participate in a regular challenge called Fun Mondays. It is not generally a food event, but Beccy has declared it to be so this week and she has asked for entrants to post an inspiring recipe. Because I genuinely am feeling inspired by Heidi's book and because Beccy has recently been on a Flapjack roll, which apparently her kids love, I thought Beccy might like to try out these bars which could be a similar way to deliver nutritious ingredients to her children without using too much sugar. Beccy probably won't like ginger (although it is subtle, not overpowering in this recipe), but these bars are adaptable and you can swap out the nuts and fruits for your own favourites without ruining the result. You could even add chocolate chips if you wanted (I thought about it).
I think Fred must have overheard me talking words of self congratulation to myself when I first sampled the results of my power bar efforts. After a short wait I noticed him sneak into the kitchen to try it for himself. "Oh, F***!" he exclaimed, clearly surprised, "yes it's good. Mmmmmm". Like a grown up rice krispie cake - all gooey and crunchy at the same time and they are so unbelievably delicious without being too sweet, this is a recipe I know I'll experiment with again and again.
Here follows my adaption of Heidi's recipe which, apart from the couple of ingredient swaps already noted, follows the original pretty closely. For your information, these bars are soft set, prone to falling apart and are fairly sticky and gooey too. All adds to their deliciousness.
1 tablespoon coconut oil (this is basically just to grease the pan so you could conceivably replace it with a healthy nut or vegetable oil)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup walnuts or nut of your choice(toasted and chopped)
1/2 cup flaked almonds or nut of your choice (toasted)
1/2 cup oatbran
1 1/2 cups crisped brown rice cereal
1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used pluots)
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup unrefined cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- First grease a 9" x 13" baking pan with the coconut oil
- In a bowl gather the next seven dry ingredients.
- In a small saucepan stir together the remaining ingredients over a medium heat until they start to bubble and boil and thicken slightly.
- Pour the hot liquid in with the dry ingredients and mix until they are fully coated in the syrup.
- press down the mixture in the baking pan and leave to cool.
- cut into bars before serving
PS - Plutos can be fairly sour and sharp. I like them but Fred is not so keen and he asked me to choose a different fruit next time I make these bars.
PPS I have also made the Tangeloquat version of the Clemenquat Salad in Heidi's book which is fabulous if you are a celery fan. (Fred clearly isn't.) I have never really cared much for Kumquats, because of their tart rinds but in this recipe, once they are sliced wafer thin and then married with celery, parmesan, toasted walnuts, citrus flesh and a lemony dressing the Kumquats show what simple magic they are capable of working.