Honey Quinoa Bars


(Honey Quinoa Bars)

Floods and heat waves aside, the year has started pretty well for me personally. In fact there’s almost nothing to complain about unless I need to vent over lacking any material that requires a grumble or two to be lodged on this blog.

I’m loving my new job and have been able to spend marginally more time with the bf. Plus one of my closest friends recently moved across the road and my brother is on the brink of tying the knot with his long-term girlfriend, hence a big family reunion is in the works. In terms of social math, this equates to feeble forays into reviving a near-extinct social life.

So unless butter and egg supplies dwindle, and my physiotherapist moves to New Zealand (oh wait, she did), it appears as though I have nothing to write about!

I’ve been experiencing a health food store kick recently. Mind you, it’s not quite the same thing as being on a health kick, because that would probably mean having to eschew these lovely sweet and chewy bars. A recent visit yielded some interesting ingredients including puffed quinoa and amaranth, black tahini and coconut butter which I used in a Babycakes NYC recipe (more on that in a future post). The puffed quinoa went into some honey bars that we enjoyed as breakfast and midnight snacks for the rest of the week..

The honey quinoa bars started life as..

Honey Hemp Bars :
(from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich)

24g puffed rice or millet cereal [I used puffed quinoa]
66g hemp seeds
53g pecan or walnut halves, medium-finely chopped
2 tablespoons black (or white or tan) sesame seeds
47g raw pumpkin seeds [I used sunflower seeds]
2 teaspoons flax meal (ground flaxseed)
2 tablespoons dried currants [I used wolfberries/goji berries]
140g honey
1 tablespoon date paste or mashed dates
rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 150′C.

In a large bowl, toss the cereal, hemp seeds, nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax meal, and currants to mix.

In a small saucepan, warm the honey, date paste, salt, and vanilla, stirring and mashing until the date paste is dissolved and/or evenly dispersed. Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and fold until all of the ingredients are moistened and sticky. It may seem at first that there is not enough honey, just continue to fold.

Scrape the mixture into an 8 inch square pan (greased and lined with baking paper) and spread it evenly with a fork. Using the back of the fork tines, press the mixture very firmly all over to compact and adhere the ingredients.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is barely golden (if in doubt, take it out so that the honey does not get scorched). Cool in the pan on a rack. Lift the ends of the baking paper to remove the bars from the pan. Gently peel off the paper. Use a heavy sharp knife to cut bars or squares. May be kept in an airtight container for 2 weeks or more.

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My life in 5 (cent) pieces


(Banana, cashew and sesame flapjacks)

Recently while trying to reduce the clutter in our house, I found the coin pig which B keeps his change in. He has a thing for not carrying spare change around. I have a thing about clutter. We don’t actually own that much stuff (aside from (ahem) cookbooks) but the truth is, my brain has a crazy way of coping with stress. When stressed, some people shop. I declutter.

So I made it a mission to get rid of every single coin and for the past week have been walking around with an extremely heavy wallet, slightly fearing that I would be caught out on a lie if anyone were to ask me for spare change. Interestingly, I’ve discovered that :

1) A friend will hear of my plan for total spare change dissipation and call it crazy. Why don’t you just take it to a bank? Well I could.. but how boring is that?

2) Twenty 10-cent pieces buys you a pretzel from the Swiss Bakery on Oxford Street. But I have a strange propensity towards apologising when paying in small currency (why? It’s still legal tender) so I’ve given up buying pretzels for the time being.

3) The local newsstand seems to welcome spare change, so I guess I’ll be getting the newspaper from them more often.

4) When a scruffy lady approaches you with a request for a donation to a charity you hadn’t heard of before and you offer her your 5-cent pieces, she will say no thanks and walk away. B says this only further confirms his theory that carrying too much spare change makes you a social leper.

5) Twenty 5-cent pieces also buys you bag of rolled oats from the supermarket. But the lady behind the counter will inspect every single coin closely and hand back to you the rogue New Zealand coin lying innocently in the pile. Once you’ve gotten over the embarrassment however, you can use the bag of oats to make Dan Lepard’s halva flapjacks. Trust me, after you make these, you’ll never use or want another flapjack recipe ever again.

For my flapjacks, I used roasted cashews and whole dried bananas (chopped) instead of the dates and walnuts. The lovely sesame flavour and chewiness of these flapjacks reminded me of Jupiter Caramel Bars (for those of us who are of an age substantial enough to remember those..). Spare change never tasted so good.

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A week of baking vegan

Vegan-MousseCake2

(Silken Chocolate Mousse Cake)

Since my last post, I have been much busier. A little too busy to blog regularly, even though the weekend baking pursuits have continued to produce some interesting things I wish I had more time to share.

I’m taking time out from my regular butter-fests, to write about something a little different today : margarine. The reason being that I recently spent a week baking vegan. Not because I’ve run out of money for butter or grown tired of my leather shoes, but because what seems like eons ago, Hannah sent me a copy of her cookbook. In case you weren’t already a fan, Hannah Kaminsky is the voice behind BitterSweet (a blog I love and visit frequently) and the author of My Sweet Vegan.

I may be fairly inconsistent in my road towards a healthier lifestyle, but vegan baking is not something I often considered gravitating towards. Like most non-vegans, I’ve long held the view that this style of baking meant being prepared to search for hard-to-get (and often more expensive) ingredients such as vegan “sour cream”, brown rice syrup and soy creamer, or willing to make odd substitutions such as applesauce and bananas to replace butter in a recipe, or use tofu in a cheesecake.

Vegan-HazelnutOrangeBiscotti

(Hazelnut Orange Biscotti)

Rather unexpectedly then, my favourite recipe from My Sweet Vegan turned out to be a Silken Chocolate Mousse Cake (pictured above), which had a fantastic gluten-free, no-bake base, and a luscious, rich and flavoursome chocolate mousse featuring silken tofu as one of the main ingredients. Also high on my list of favourites, was the Orange Hazelnut Biscotti which featured items you’d find in most typical pantries.

The only recipe that I would not make again, of the handful that I tried, was the Black Bottom Blondies (not pictured), because I didn’t like the texture of the blondies, even though the brownie component was really delicious.

Apart from the blondie, the recipes I tried from the book were met with considerable praise from my taste-testers (all of whom were non-vegans). There were some detractors for the chocolate mousse cake who did not like the consistency of the tofu in the mousse, but you know what they say about pleasing some people some of the time..

Vegan-CrumbtoppedBrownie2

(Crumb-topped Brownie)

After much use of margarine, soy milk and soy yogurt, I can safely say that Hannah’s book was a pleasure to bake from. In fact, I even have a renewed respect for Hannah’s talent and her passion for what she believes in.

My Sweet Vegan makes for an excellent introductory guide for those who aren’t vegan but like to try something different, or for those who already have margarine in their kitchen, and would like to expand their vegan repertoire. Refer to it when you’re feeling virtuous, or if you’re making a treat for a vegan friend. Either way, it’s a bit of a sweet win-win situation (especially when you end up with something like Sesame Chews. Who cares if it’s vegan when it’s this delicious!).

Vegan-SesameChews

(Sesame Chews)

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