I love snacking. The problem is, most of the snacks I love are not healthy. My favorite snacks are often high in sugar or high in sodium, and they are often carbohydrate heavy with few nutrients. This creates a dilemma because I try hard not to have too many empty calories in my diet so I can save my empty calories for wine. This means I’m always on the hunt for healthy, make-at-home, snacks.
My quest for healthy cooking and healthy snacks is underscored by the fact that I’m in Florida with my mother and her fiancé while my mom undergoes chemotherapy treatments. My mother was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer late last year. She’s been toughing out her treatments, but her appetite is next to nothing. It’s difficult to feel so helpless when a loved one is feeling so sick. Of course, because cooking helps me de-stress and because we are trying to keep healthy foods on hand for my mom, I recently purchased The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery, by Rebecca Katz.
The book is phenomenal. For those who are caretakers, or even those who just want to integrate a healthier diet into their everyday lifestyle, the book offers wonderful insights on natural ingredients, spices, and delicious recipes focused on a plant based diet. Indeed, we’ve been living off of recipes or ideas from the book.
One thing I’ve learned is that when my mom is in the mood to eat, we seize the moment. In this spirit, and in my own selfish desires to have healthy snacks on hand, I made these Anytime Bars from the cookbook. The ingredient list might have you hunting a little bit, but your local natural or health food store should have spelt flour and ground flax seed if your regular grocery store doesn’t. The original recipe calls for dates and apricots, but we didn’t have any on hand, so I made these with dried blue berries and cranberries. I also substituted with whole-wheat flour rather than unbleached all purpose flour. I hate to admit it, but I’ve eaten more of these than my mom has, but we keep them around just in case she has the urge to snack. These are truly great anytime, and I’d venture to guess that even those who claim not to love nuts, might fall for these.
ANYTIME BARS (adapted from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery)
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons spelt flour
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried blueberries
5 tablespoons maple syrup (you can substitute with honey or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven 350F. Lightly oil a 9 x 9 in. or 10 x 6 in. pan, set aside.
Spread the pecans and almonds on a single layer over a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes in the oven. Take care not to burn the nuts and keep and eye on them.
Turn down the oven to 325F after the nuts are toasted.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine, the spelt flour, whole-wheat flour, ground flax, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and process for 5 seconds. Add the toasted pecans and almonds to the food processor and pulse 5 times. Add the oats and dried fruit, then pulse for another 12-15 times until the mixture is coarse and combined.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the fruit and nut mixture to the large bowl and combine with a rubber spatula. Use clean hands to mix and break up any clumps. Spread the mixture into the greased baking pan and press into the pan evenly.
Bake for 25 minutes until toasted and golden brown, taking care not to over bake. Let the pan cool on a wire rack, then cut into bars or squares. Snack away!