Monday, March 12, 2007

Heidi Swanson's Do-It-Yourself Power Bars

Super Natural Cooking with Super Delicious Results

picture photograph of heidi swanson super natural foods cookbook photograph 2007 copyright of sam breach

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.

picture photograph of heidi swanson super natural foods cookbook photograph 2007 copyright of sam breach

Local Resources
One stop shop for a wide range of natural ingredients | Rainbow Grocery
Dried Pluots | from Bella Viva
Walnuts and Almonds | Alfieri
Grown in California | Lundberg Organic Rice Syrup
Heidi Swanson blogs | Mighty Foods and 101 Cookbooks

2006 | XYZ at The W
2005 | Marin Sun Farm Eggs - two years later I am still buying these delicious eggs despite their increase in price to $8 a dozen.

© 2007 Sam Breach at "Becks & Posh", This RSS Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, or at the aforementioned url, the site you are looking at might be guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact[AT]gmail[DOT]com to report any suspected violations. Thank you.
Heidi Swanson's Do-It-Yourself Power Bars


  • At 11/3/07 22:23, Blogger Pamela said…

    Pluots and Kumquats.... I'm already in over my head. I didn't even know there were dried pluots available, I've only had them fresh.

    And those teeny weeny kumquats???? you actually slice them??? I've never cooked or fixed anything with them. I just look a them in the store and say, "Oh... pretty!"


    I'm coming to your house for dinner.

  • At 12/3/07 02:41, Blogger Steffi said…

    It sounds very delicious!Thank you!

  • At 12/3/07 04:15, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Beautiful photographs and I love the sound of those you, they might lure me into a health-food store soon to source ingredients.

  • At 12/3/07 04:18, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    enidd particularly likes the sound of the salad. it's reminiscent of peter gordon's walnut, passion fruit and celery salsa (which also has celentine juice for the citrus taste, but it's not sharp enough in enidd's opinion - mandarin would be better). the salsa is used as an accompaniment to griddled turbot.

    she's a very big fan of peter gordon, whose recipes always sound as though they won't work, and then nearly always do. have you eaten at the providores, his london restaurant? well worth it when you're over in blighty, enidd thinks.

  • At 12/3/07 04:25, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What are you trying to do to me? I was all set to make beccy's Flapjacks, but yours sound so good too with the pluots and all...I don't know which to make first!

  • At 12/3/07 06:26, Blogger Joy said…

    You were at Rainbow and you didn't come visit me????

  • At 12/3/07 06:29, Blogger Sabrina said…

    It all looks so tasty and healthy! Thanks!

  • At 12/3/07 07:27, Blogger Amy W said…

    My kids would DEVOUR these, thanks!

  • At 12/3/07 07:53, Blogger said…

    quick question, i'm new to food blogging and was wondering why it is that about half of all food blogs i seem to read are located in the Bay area! It seems that i read about 6 from there alone! Is it that you guys are massive foodies or massive techies there? Maybe it's the perfect mixture of both! On the other hand Ireland where i am from seems to have about 4 all told! maybe it's worth making a food pilgrimage to the Bay Area!

  • At 12/3/07 08:27, Blogger Linda said…

    stunning photograph! i adore 100 cookbooks as well.

  • At 12/3/07 09:00, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    These look better than their over-processed cousins you can buy at the grocery; I think my entire family would like them with slight moderations.

    Wow, Sam, great photography, too!

  • At 12/3/07 10:06, Blogger Amy Sherman said…

    I love kumquats, actually unlike other citrus fruit their rind is sweet and their flesh is sour. Bring on the kumquat recipes!

  • At 12/3/07 14:30, Blogger Cabriola said…

    Amazing blog !!

    Congratulations !!

  • At 12/3/07 15:41, Blogger Trig said…

    Sounds like Spring is well and truly sprung over there.

  • At 12/3/07 18:40, Blogger Catherine said…

    wait till you taste my vegan sausage rolls! I tried a kumquat for the first time last week -I think I'm still wincing. the bars do look fab. if man likes them, maybe child will too! there's a serious shortage of healthy " i'm growing like crazy "snacks for the young 'uns.

  • At 12/3/07 21:36, Blogger Passionate Eater said…

    If Fred doesn't want to eat those, can I come over then? I am stunned speechless by your fabulous pictures!

  • At 12/3/07 21:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    between your yummy descriptions and photos and salon's recipes from this book, i am really planning to buy it. and i don't even really cook. i just love to eat good food and have also been wanting to improve the way we eat. so, i am inspired now. thanks for that.

  • At 13/3/07 01:05, Blogger Beccy said…

    Sam, I've had trouble accessing your blog. They look delicious but I'm stumped st some of the ingredients: crisp brown rice cereal (brown rice krispies?); pluots(???); brown rice syrup (anything like golden syrup?).
    If I include ginger I wouldn't be tempted to eat them but then I probably wouldn't bother making them!

  • At 13/3/07 06:57, Blogger Sarah said…

    Hi Sam,

    About Heidi's recipes... Delicious! You should try making her Mashed Potatoes with Kale and Olive Oil. The recipe is on her front page of her blog. I am super excited to try it out. The pic. looks amazing. I am glad that her wrote about her and her recipes. It's good to see other chefs write on others and just not themselves all the time.

  • At 13/3/07 16:43, Blogger Diane said…

    amazing pictures and recipes. do you deliver?????

  • At 13/3/07 19:22, Blogger s'kat said…

    First of all, those both look absolutely amazing.

    Secondly, I hadn't realized that Heidi's book was out! Thanks so much!!

  • At 13/3/07 21:30, Blogger JTa said…

    Tart kumquat rinds? Usually it's the other way around -- kumquat rinds are sweet. It's their insides that are tart. No?

    I love kumquat rinds and slice them ever so thinly in salads exactly b/c of their tartness.

  • At 14/3/07 08:37, Blogger sallywrites said…

    Yummm......... the salad looks deicious!

  • At 14/3/07 09:02, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    Looks like one damn fine bar...wish I had that for an afternoon snack today!

  • At 14/3/07 11:50, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anyone who can make an 'energy-bar' that a French person would eat (let alone like) deserves a lot of credit. Bravo to Heidi on her book and thanks for letting us know it's available.

    Can't wait to start cooking my way through it too!

    (But please...send plouts asap!)

  • At 14/3/07 14:01, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam, thanks again for the nice words - you're a tough critic, and I'm thrilled you've been enjoying some of the recipes.

    I've been meaning to tell you for weeks now how amazing your photos have been looking - really, really beautiful.

    Looking forward to our next round of bubbles ;) -h

  • At 16/3/07 01:12, Blogger Passionate Eater said…

    Hi Sam, I just wanted to apologize for posting your image on TasteSpotting and not attributing it to "Sam Breach." I think I was overwhelmed by the beauty of your pictures. Sorry about that.

  • At 17/3/07 03:55, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'll have to try this dish!

  • At 18/3/07 22:25, Blogger Sam said…

    Hi everyone - thanks for all the comments - I won't amswer them all - just the ones that ask Qs

    it's not so difficult to try out these ingredients that push our boundaries with Heidi as your guide.

    thanks for the cooking tips enidd

    Private Chef - SF is definitely a food pilgrimage kind of town - you wont be dispointed - and as for 6 food blogs in the Bay Area - I think there are closer to 200 at least!

    amy and janice - you both got me - I guess I have only popped a whole kumquat in my mouth before and they tasted pretty tar and bitter to me. In this recipe, thinkly sliced, they are mush more easier to eat, the bitterness doesn't show.

    catherine - i used to be a vegan and sainsbury's sold frozen vegan sausage rolls which i lived on at the time. can't wait. you would love this book!

    trig - yes - i caught a bit too much of the sun today, driving through wine country in my convertible. Spring is here.

    passionate eater - unfortunately my colleagues polished them all off!

    sarah - well - i am not a chef - and i always like to write about other things i find - chefs, bloggers, writers, artisans, etc.

    david - will pluots get through customs tu pense?

    Heidi - bubbles - always - they are on me next time.

    diane - I deliver to some people ;)

    sheri - thanks for the salon tip

    s'kat - she was being coy fr a week but she has announced it now

  • At 18/3/07 22:30, Blogger Unknown said…

    I made these tonight, but we didn't have a few of the ingredients. They're still delicious, and next time we're getting the crystallized ginger like you made.

    And, I'm just going to boast, I get to share an office with Ms Sam Breach and when she says "I made these last night" and there was extra, I'm usually first in line in the morning to taste it. WoOt!

  • At 4/4/07 02:24, Blogger niamh said…

    Just to say cool blog , I'm a fan of Heidi Swanson too , I'm eagerly awaiting her book enroute to Ireland form the States , I think i will try those power bars for easter treats this weekend

  • At 27/11/07 20:55, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi there -- Just wanted to let you know that I linked your entry to my entry about these delicious power bars!

  • At 1/11/08 11:08, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Love your site! If you are enjoying her book, you should check out REBAR. It is from a restaurant in Victoria, BC Canada. I have found some wonderful recipes in there. I, too, am not vegan but I have changed my whole way of cooking and thinking. They have a recipe in there called VEGAN ENERGY BARS with raisins, prunes, almonds, sunflower seeds, carob chips and they use applesauce as part of the wet mix. Sooo good! I make them with dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips (sub carob chips to stay strictly vegan). Mmm mmm good!

  • At 10/5/09 08:09, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    These bars get me through the day! I'm a letter carrier in Canada and need a source of energy mid afternoon. When I make them I omit the coffee and add a few tablespoons of whey protein powder, chopped crystalized ginger and chocolate chips. Fantastic!

  • At 14/11/09 18:56, Blogger A Toronto girl out West said…

    I love Heidi's book and especially the power bar recipe!!!!

    They're awesome for an on the go breakfast or a quick energy boost. The Fiance loves them too and barely notices they're healthy! Since they keep him away from vending machine cookies I'm thrilled!

    Having said that I would LOVE to know if anyone has found a modification that keeps them from falling apart!?! If I freeze them I'm golden but as soon as they thaw they're no longer bar like.




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