Wheatless Wednesday – Oat Nut Bars

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Oat Nut Bars

WARNING – HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!  I am often looking around the kitchen for something quick to eat with my morning coffee without making a whole production.  Most  convenience foods are not very good for you, even if the packaging tells you otherwise.  So when I saw this recipe in Bon Appetite (January, 2014) I thought it could be just the thing.  Boy was I right (or wrong)!  These are so delicious that its hard to eat just one.  Luckily, they are loaded with nutrition.  They are made with 100% whole grains, seeds and nuts which means the bran and the germ are left intact which is where most of the nutrients are. I used whole almonds, sesame seeds and added coconut flakes, since I love all things coconut, and really like the result.  I would also recommend having coconut oil in your pantry as one of the ‘good’ oils with many health benefits.  The maple syrup, even though it’s natural, is mostly sugar, but unlike white sugar it is also a very good source of zinc and Manganese and the dates add multiple vitamins and minerals.

When I first tasted them, I thought chewy was the way to go, until I re-baked half of the slices and tried them crunchy.  Wow, they got even better!!  My taste testers also preferred the crunchy over the chewy by a slight margin.  I can easily see these oat nut bars becoming an easy breakfast go-to as well as a great energy boost to get through the afternoon slump.  Try them toasted and topped with yogurt or cream cheese or my favorite way, just on their own.

Oat Nut Bars

  • Servings: 16-18 bars
  • Difficulty: easy
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Oat Nut Bars 9

Oat Nut Bars with Coconut

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray

6 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

1 cup pure maple syrup

2 Tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup raw almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts or cashews

1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

2 Tbsp amaranth or sesame seeds

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly coat an 8 1/2×4″ loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on long sides. Spray parchment.

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  • Bring dates and maple syrup to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to medium-high, stirring often, until dates are very soft and maple syrup is slightly reduced, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in butter/coconut oil until it is melted.  You can mash the dates with a fork or blender if desired.

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  • Toss all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour date mixture over the top and mix until evenly coated.  Scrape half of the mixture into prepared pan and press very firmly and evenly with a wooden spoon or spatula to compress it as much as possible (Important)
  • Add remaining oat mixture and press until very tightly packed into pan.
  • Oat Nut Bars 2 Bake until loaf is darkened in color and firm around the edges, and center gives just slightly when pressed, 45-50 minutes. Tent with foil if browning too quickly.

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  • Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool in pan before turning out (it can even sit overnight).  Cut into 1/2’thick slices with a serrated knife.

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  • For crisp bars, lay slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown 8-10 minutes (turning once), or toast in a toaster oven.
  • Makes about 16 bars.  Bars should keep five days, tightly wrapped at room temperature (if they last that long!)

Meatless Monday-White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup, Arugula Salad and Dark Chocolate Bark

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White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

Looking for a great NFL Playoff Game dinner idea? I had the pleasure of trying this lovely soup at a football party last week, compliments of Barbara McCrum. It was really delicious.  I know I went back for seconds! Barbara served the soup with an arugula salad with toasted marcone almonds and crumbled goat cheese tossed in vinaigrette. To top it off, Dawn O’Dell made the most decadent dark chocolate bark with coconut, dried fruit and sea salt.  We were all licking every last bit of chocolate off our fingers, it was that good.   I am off to Cuba this week so will not be in my kitchen, however, I am featuring Barbara and Dawn as my guest chefs today.  Thank you Barbara and Dawn for sharing!

The White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup is vegan, low fat and loaded with nutrients and protein. It is surprisingly creamy even though there is no milk or cream (due to pureeing some of the beans). You can substitute any dark leafy green for the swiss chard.  The chocolate bark is also vegan and using a 70% chocolate makes it super rich in antioxidants and considered a superfood.  The nuts and fruits add good oils plus vitamins and minerals, so this is a yummy dessert you can feel good about eating!

Of course after that fun party and delicious meal, I had to run out and buy the cookbook that both of these recipes came from, “It’s All Good” by Gwyneth Paltrow. This is a great cookbook for those on special diets, like vegan, gluten free or elimination, or even just for people who want to eat well.  It is not vegetarian but features really healthy and fairly simple but delicious recipes.  If we can all look like Gwyneth Paltrow, even better!   I’m sure GMD will be seeing more from this cookbook…

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 Tbsn olive oil

2 leeks, thoroughly washed and finely chopped

1 large yellow onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

Coarse sea salt

4 cups vegetable stock

14 oz can cannellini or gigante beans

1 bunch swiss chard, leaves roughly chopped and stems discarded

Freshly ground pepper

  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks, onion, garlic and bay leaf along with a heavy pinch of salt and cook, stirring now and then, until softened but not browned, 10 minutes.
  • Add the vegetable stock and the beans to the pot and turn up the heat.  Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until everything has completely softened and the soup is wonderfully fragrant, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
  • Carefully puree 2 cups of the soup in a blender or food processor and return it to the pot.  Add the swiss chard and cook over medium high heat just until they’ve wilted, about 3 minutes.  Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with a fresh tossed salad.
White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup

White Bean & Swiss Chard Soup

Dark Chocolate Bark

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Chocolate Bark

Dark Chocolate Bark with Coconut, Almonds & Sea Salt

7 oz good quality dark chocolate (like Green & Black’s 70% bars), roughly chopped

2 Tbsn sliced almonds, roasted

2 Tbsn combination dried apricots, cherries and golden raisins, chopped

2 Tbsn unsweetened coconut flakes

1 tsp Maldon sea salt

  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Put the chocolate in a glass or stainless steel bowl and set it over the pot of water.  Stir the chocolate until it’s completely melted and immediately pour it onto the prepared pan.
  • Evenly sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the chocolate.
  • Put the pan in the freezer until the chocolate sets, about 15 minutes.  Break the chocolate into pieces and eat immediately, or store at room temperature in an airtight container if your house is cool or in the refrigerator if its summertime.

Chef’s Tip:  The more you stir or whisk the chocolate, the shinier it gets.  Feel free to use other dried fruits and nuts like cashews, hazelnuts, dried cherries, spicy red chili flakes,

etc.