Thursday, 16 August 2012

Lemon Fig Bars

Do you ever mysteriously have a craving some something you've never actually eaten? Or maybe for some long forgotten treat you haven't had in ages? By all logical arguments you have no memory of this food's taste, texture or smell, but somehow you still find yourself dreaming of it?

No? Just me? Well, that's ok. I'll embrace this particular peculiarity of mine if it means that I get to eat some fantastic treats like these!

I honestly cannot remember ever having a Fig Newton. Sure, I have memories of them being around, of seeing them in the store and watching my family eat them, but I'm not sure if I ever joined in. I was a very picky child, and I'm sure I turned my nose up at them if there were any other goodies being offered, but in the absence of an alternative I must have at least once given in and tried one. I mean, who's going to say no to a snack?

So it struck me as very odd when this spring I began to have sudden cravings for Fig Newtons. Of course I wasn't about to run to the store and buy the actual cookies, filled with processed sugar and other nasty things, so my craving continued.

I came across Rawified's recipe and decided that now was the time to finally give in to my mysterious craving.

Now of course, since I really can't claim to know what a true Fig Newton tastes like, I have decided that my imaginary treats come with a hefty kick of lemon. I know this is not traditional, but I am a sucker for anything sour, and I think this combination really works.

I should warn you though that these bad boys are TART, so if you are looking for something a little more mellow, please feel free to reduce the amount of lemon zest, and replace some of the juice with water (or even maple syrup).

These bars don't qualify as a true raw food, since I am using traditional oats and maple syrup, but of course you can replace these with raw oats and a raw sweetener if you'd like.

No-Bake Lemon Fig Bars

Fills a 5x7 inch pan; it's up to you how many servings that makes!

adapted from Rawified's Raw Fig Newtons

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup almonds (or pre-ground almonds)
pinch salt
1-2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp maple syrup
8 large dried figs (approximately 1 packed cup)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water (more if needed)

In a food-processor, blend oats, flax seeds and almonds until coarsely ground (you can continue to a finer grind if you'd like, but be careful not to over-process the almonds). Add salt and lemon zest and pulse until combined. Add maple syrup and mix until a thick dough forms.

Line a baking dish or tart pan with wax paper or plastic wrap (I used a 5x7 inch baking pan, and this produced nice, thick bars). Spread about 2/3 of the dough into the pan, and press down firmly (If the dough sticks, try rubbing a little coconut oil onto your fingers and/or the pan).

Without bothering to rinse out the food processor, remove the stems from your figs and toss them in. Add lemon juice and blend until a paste forms, adding water as needed. Spread the fig filling over the crust and smooth out. Crumble the remaining dough on top, and press it down into the filling.

Cover the bars and let chill in the fridge for at least a couple hours. Slice into individual squares and enjoy!

The bars will keep nicely in the fridge for at least 3 or 4 days; however, mine were eaten long before that.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Broccoli Beliefs

In an attempt to get some actual work done at the office, I have been trying to pack healthy and filling lunches to bring with me each day. It is always difficult for me to stay focused and on track with my research during the summer months, and this year the extra distractions of being in a new country have made it nearly impossible. My hope is that by rewarding myself with delicious lunches, I will be able to persuade myself to stay in the office a little bit longer each day, and hopefully get a more accomplished.

Well, to be honest, it's not working so well. I have nobody to blame but myself, and well, maybe the sunshine. It is time to pull out the big guns.

For some reason, I have always believed that broccoli can cure all evils. Broccoli has magical powers, and can always be depended on in a time of need. So much so, that when I felt myself getting sick right before exams last year, my first response was to run to the grocery store and buy a 2 kg bag of broccoli florets. Seriously, it is my saviour. 

Feeling a cold coming on? Broccoli.

Have no energy? Broccoli.

Can't concentrate? Broccoli.

Don't understand a single word of the paper your supervisor asked you to read? Broccoli. (Hey, it's worth a try!)

So, putting this all together, I give you, my bring-to-work broccoli salad. 

Depending on your own personal broccoli beliefs, this salad can be made with either raw or lightly steamed broccoli. I've tried it both way, and I have to say I prefer it steamed. Also, feel free to use your favourite type of lentils (or whatever you happen to have on hand). I like french lentils because they hold their shape well when cooked. 

Broccoli, Lentil & Rice salad

The dressing recipe is adapted from Kathy's wonderful sweet tahini dressing at Healthy Happy Life.

1 large head broccoli*
1 can french lentils (or 1 1/2 cups cooked french lentils)
2 cups cooked whole grain brown rice

2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt, to taste

Chop broccoli into small pieces, including stem (peel first if tough). If desired, steam broccoli pieces just until vibrant green, and then chill in the refrigerator. 

In a large bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and whisk until well-combined. Add broccoli, lentils, and rice to the bowl; toss to coat and refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.

Pack up a container of salad, bring it to the office, and have a productive day!

Do you believe in the magical powers of broccoli? 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Coconut Breakfast Quinoa

It is too hot for oatmeal. It is even too hot for pancakes (gasp!). In fact, it is so hot in my apartment right now that I refuse to turn on my stove while the sun is shining. Instead, I am spending the long sunny days strolling downtown or reading in the shade. But what to do about breakfast?

Luckily, I had a little bit of forethought this week. During the (relatively) cool evening last night I prepared a batch of creamy, dreamy coconut quinoa and packed it up in the fridge. So, come morning, all I had to do was cut up some fresh fruit, add a splash of coconut milk and a touch of maple syrup, and voila!

Of course if you aren't living in an oven, this breakfast quinoa is equally delicious served warm, right out of the pot. For an extra treat, you can heat up the additional coconut milk before serving.
The local nectarines and raspberries are amazingly flavourful and juicy right now. I love the way that these two fruits complement each other, and it seems so fitting that they ripen and flood the market at almost exactly the same time of year. It's like they were destined to be friends in my breakfast bowl! 

While I usually like to buy my fruit and vegetables at the farmer's market, I still check the organic produce section of my supermarket for good deals every time I am there . So when I saw a cute little basket of kiwi fruit begging to be taken home, I couldn't resist. I figured they would get along nicely with the others.

Coconut Breakfast Quinoa

makes 2 servings

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup coconut milk (the canned kind)
2/3 cup water
pinch sea salt
1 tbsp chia seeds
fresh fruit, maple syrup and extra coconut milk for serving

In a medium-sized pot, add quinoa, coconut milk and water. Mix together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer approximately 10 minutes, or until liquid is noticeably reduced. Stir in chia seeds (add a little more water if needed) and continue to cook another 5 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. 

Transfer quinoa to a container, cover and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, spoon half of the quinoa into a bowl and top with coconut milk, maple syrup (if desired), and fresh fruit.


Of course, I had to completely demolish my beautiful rainbow before digging into the bowl. How else would I be able to get a little bit of each colour into every bite?