Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beans, beans the wonderful fruit...

I LOVE chickpeas!  

Mostly for their texture and flavor but also for their health benefits!  Being high in fiber, they help manage blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and keep you feeling fuller, longer.  They contain high amounts of folic acid to repair DNA and produce healthy red blood cells. They contain minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium and iron which are essential to the body's functioning. And as a low-fat, high-protein powerhouse they pack a huge energy punch!

Let's get back to that flavor thing I mentioned! I love chic peas so much I will often just open a can and eat them right out of my hand.  Just toss em back! Soooo yum!! Which makes it a bit of a mystery to me as to why I am posting my least favorite chic pea recipe.  I have made the world's - well, MY world's - most comforting and delicious soup with a chic pea base, and the most healing, indulgent, garlicky warm bean dip using... yes, you guessed it... chic peas, but for some reason I got a wild - must have been grey - hair to make hummus and post it for you! 

I do enjoy a good hummus aa great way to eat veggies and feel like I ate something a bit more substantial.  However, a good hummus to me requires that the chic peas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic don't stand alone, but instead, team up with some other flavors that give the hummus a little more... drama.  I need it to be a little unexpected...a little bit more creative and bold.  So, here's to healthy, unexpected and somewhat dramatic eating.

Been called Drama Queen before? Well, make the title stick! Below I have given you a base for hummus with which you can create some dramatic flavor!   Make a simple batch from the recipe below and then create a wild blend of flavors that you can toss in! For example, I am a huge fan of MUCH roasted (in a skillet containing a bit of olive oil - til a bit crunchy) garlic with almost equal amounts of rosemary.  Another favorite is sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, basil and pine nuts.  At the bottom of this blog there are many other ideas for add-ins! Find your favorites and get.... dramatic!!  

1 can garbanzo (chickpeas), partially drained
3 TBS lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup sesame seeds (or tahini paste)
1 tsp salt
olive oil 
additional add-ins

Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor.

Process until smooth and creamy... 

...or creamy with texture - whichever way you prefer.  

Place in a serving bowl.  Take two swirls around the bowl with the olive oil - lightly.

Use veggies, pita bread or pita chips to dip. 

Super easy!!! And by using organic, you can be sure you are avoiding any preservatives such as EDTA found in most canned beans! 

Additional Add-Ins

Some additional flavors: chopped olives, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, oregano, rosemary or thyme, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts.... the ideas are limited only by your creativity!  Maybe a little goat cheese sprinkled over the top?  Mmmmm... Kale chips? Pepitas, hemp hearts, or flax seed?  I don't know - just throwin it out there! ;0)  Let me know what you try!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Homemade Nut and Fruit Bars

I am a nut lover, a chocolate addict and a fiend for tangy, sweet fruit.  So, I put them all together in a delicious and nutritious bar. These are a go-to snack in my house!  Yes, I know, I'm not the first to come up with this brilliant and healthy treat, but I believe I have found just the right combo of flavors and textures at a better price than what's available in the market, without all sorts of weird fillers, additives and preservatives. (To ensure the lack of nasty things in your bars, buy the purest form of each of these ingredients.  Organic if you are able.  I found out this morning what has been found on almonds and almost started crying!  (more info on chemicals found on all foods here - probably more than you want to know!) Is nothing safe anymore!!?)

How much money do you suppose I'm saving? I did a quick search online and found Kind bars (which these closely resemble, as mine are not organic either) online for about $1.49 as the cheapest price out there - I'm not sure whether or not this included shipping.  I usually see Kind bars in the store for $1.99.  Eek!!! That's a LOT considering I can make mine for a budget-conscious $0.67!  

I know!!  Cheapo!!  And $0.67 is the price I came up with for the second recipe below - the one with the almonds.  The first recipe - with the peanuts - is very basic and would certainly be cheaper.  Granted, I shop around for the best prices on the ingredients. My cost doesn't doesn't include gas, since these ingredients are picked up along with other products on my regular grocery list, and it doesn't include your choice of wrap, the cost of which would be rather miniscule - unless you're wrapping your bars in gold sheets studded with diamond bling, which I am not! 

The added benefit is that these are so easy to make your kids could throw them together! You may have to do the chopping - OR just leave all the ingredients whole.  No chopping necessary! I chop b/c I like a little bit of everything in each bite.  Whole, uber-chopped or somewhere in between! It's your bar!! You decide! That's the beauty!!

Homemade Nut and Fruit Bars

Preheat oven to 325.

Option 1 - For those who like simple flavors - like my boys - and who don't want to be picking flax or chia seeds out of their teeth for the next 30 minutes, go with this option.

1  1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 
1 cup rice
1/4 cup brown rice syrup

You can find brown rice syrup at Vitamin Cottage or another health food store, as well as online.  I use rice syrup because it makes the bar crunchy instead of soft and gooey like honey would.  

To measure all things syrupy...

I loooove this little contraption for syrup, honey, molasses and nut butters. Simply pull the bottom out to the measure you want, fill to the top with your ingredient and then press the bottom back in. It scrapes the sides clean and you scrape the bottom clean for no waste!

Option 2 - For those who like stronger flavors and want the added nutrition from flax and or chia seeds, both of which are high in omega-3's, try this option at $0.67 a bar, it's a bargain! (More benefits of chia seeds and flax seeds - tiny power-houses of all things good!) 

1  1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 
1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
2 TBSP chia seeds or flax seed
1 cup rice
1/3 cup brown rice syrup

Chop chocolate... dried fruit... and nuts.

Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  

Mix until thoroughly combined. 

Line 8x8 pan with foil and grease it lightly.  Press nut and fruit mixture into pan with back of a scraper spatula.

Bake 18 mins and remove from oven. When able, lift the foil out of the pan and continue cooling. Wait until mostly cooled before cutting into 8 bars.  Peel back foil and wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap or in snack sized ziplock baggies. 

Mmmmmm.... look at all that chocolate-y, nutty, fruity goodness!!!  Enjoy!!

It is possible to mix and match different nuts, fruits, chocolates and seeds.  In fact, you could probably squeeze a 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pepitas in either recipe and still have enough syrup to make the ingredients all stick together.  If you find that it's not moist enough, add a dash more rice syrup and you're good to go!  

Let me know what fun combinations you come up with by leaving me a comment.  And if you can't leave it here, leave it on my FB page!! I love to hear how you guys re-vamp a recipe!