Cranberry Hazelnut Guaya Bars

Makes 16 squares

This is another variation of the original Energy Bars I posted ages ago…well, it seems like ages ago anyway.  It’s adapted from Rebecca Katz whose recipes are just delicious.  As head cook (most of the week anyway) in our home, I’ve taken charge of my hubby’s diet as he trains for the NYC Marathon.  Snacks are often the downfall of any program so it’s important to make those snacks work for you despite what regimen you’re on.  (Pregnant and nursing moms, these are great for you too.)  And, snacks are another opportunity to capitalize on serious nutrition and real energy.  We should never underestimate the power of a snack.  They get us through to the next meal and if done right, your body will be thankful all day long.

Hazelnuts, sometimes referred to as Filberts even though they’re actually different nuts, are native to Turkey.  (Most of our hazelnuts now hail from Oregon.)  These nuts are high energy nuts! They’re rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids including the essential fatty acid linoleic acid.  These fats are key to our health because they lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol which is what we want.  Hazelnuts also pack dietary fiber along with several vitamins and minerals into itself.  Most notably are folate (unique for nuts) which is why these are super for expectant mommies to snack on.  They also pack in other B-complex vitamins making it a pretty awesome little nut. They are high in Vitamin E, that lovely fat soluble anti-oxidant that does wonders for cell integrity and is great for the skin!  It’s an important vitamin for runners because as they increase their training, the oxidative stress also increases.²  Vitamin E keeps that in check.

They are second only to almonds in their calcium levels.¹  Some minerals include magnesium which plays a critical role in endurance performance such as long distance running.  “Magnesium mainly exists in muscles and bones, where it assists with muscle contractions and energy metabolism.”³  Other biggies are iron and zinc.  Iron is a necessary mineral for the production of hemoglobin, which “carries oxygen from the lungs to the working muscles”.²  Without enough iron, which is lost through sweat, fatigue starts to get the better of you.  Zinc is key for a healthy immune system.  Excessive exercise depletes zinc and thus can reduce immunity.  (The body is busy repairing itself.)  A little goes a long way…so take these squares on your next long run!

I’ve mentioned moms-to-be and runners in this post because I made these for my runner husband and a pregnant friend, but really these are super for everyone.  There are even suggestions to make these beauties both gluten-free and vegan!

On your marks, get set…bake!

You’ll need:

1/4 C spelt flour (For a GF version, use 1/4 C oat flour.)

2 T flax seeds, ground (or chia seeds)

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 C rolled oats

1 C hazelnuts

1 C walnuts

2 T quinoa puffs (optional-I got these from Nuts.com which is a great site with great products.  Shredded coconut works beautifully here, too!)

2 C whole dried cranberries (alternatively, you could do 1 C of cranberries and 1 C of your choice of dried fruit)

1/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional-if you want to keep your sugar consumption in check, omit these)

1 egg (For a vegan version, add 3 T water to 1 T flax meal (in this order) and then refrigerate for minimum of 15 minutes…up to an hour is ok, too.)

1/4 C maple syrup

2 T coconut oil

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Place nuts on a sheet pan and toast for about 7 minutes or until fragrant.  Let cool.  (This toasting step can be skipped and you’ll still get super yummy Guaya Bars, but the toasting adds a nice depth of flavor.)

2. In the meantime, add first 6 ingredients to a food processor and process for 5 seconds, until well combined.  Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add cooled nuts to food processor and process for about 5 seconds to roughly chop the nuts.  Add quinoa puffs and dried fruit and process for another 10 seconds or until a coarse dough is formed.  Add chocolate chips and process for another 5-10 seconds.  Add to flour mixture.

4. In a separate bowl, combine egg, maple syrup and coconut oil and whisk well.  Add to flour and nut mixture.

5. Using your hands, squeeze the dough so that all ingredients get fully incorporated and sticky.

6. In a baking pan (I used 2, 9X9 pans) lined with parchment paper, add 3 or 4 generous handfuls (I have small hands so play with the right amount for you.) and flatten evenly.  (I prefer them thicker but cut smaller, but this part is entirely up to you.)

7. Bake in the oven at 350° for about 20 minutes.  You’ll want to check on it to make sure it doesn’t get too browned or dry.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

8. Remove the entire block using the parchment paper and cut into desired shapes/sizes on a cutting board.  Let cool completely before serving.

9. Enjoy…again and again!

*The bars will keep for 4-5 days in a ziploc bag, but they freeze really well…I’ve kept extra batches for over a month and they’re still chewy and yummy and ridiculous!

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-300–12314-2-1-2,00.html

³ http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-242-300–670-0,00.html

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Robusto Pita-nini

Makes 4 Pita-ninis

In this summer heat, I’m drawn to the simplest meals.  (Read: the less I have to turn on the stove, the better!)  That often means lots of salads; grain, bean, green, etc.  Sometimes the salad sneaks itself into sandwiches, or this case a pita-nini.  My family spent a lot of time living in the Middle East (my grandfather worked for the United Nations) so the pita became a staple in our home.  It seems more manageable to me than chunky slices of bread which seem more suitable to the colder months.  In any case, thinking about the fig spread in the fridge brought about this experiment.

There are 3 stars in this show:  the fig, the robusto* and the arugula.  I’d like to concentrate on the dark leafy green that is also known as rocket.  It’s one of my favorite of the cruciferious veg (if you stick around long enough you may find I say this often) and in early summer it’s positively addicting.  Cruciferous vegetables are widely known anti-carcinogens.  Their potent phytonutrients help the enzymes that “ward off carcinogens and other outside invaders, inhibit cancer formation, detoxify carcinogens and protect against colorectal, stomach and respiratory cancers”.¹  Like other dark leafy greens, arugula is an excellent source of calcium, iron, copper, magnesium and anti-oxidant vitamins A and C.  They are also wonderfully endowed with the B-vitamins, especially folate.  And, let’s not forget fiber.  There’s plenty of it here!

What’s amazing about a food that is so nutritious is that it is bursting with delicious flavor!  It’s peppery and spicy even.  It’s amazing raw in salads, in sandwiches, in pesto (move over basil!) or, when cooler days arrive, cooked in stir-frys and soups.  However you choose to incorporate arugula into your diet, your body will be thankful as will your palate.  Love it when everyone is happy!

You’ll need:

4 large whole wheat pitas

1/2 C fig spread

4 large handfuls of arugula (Of course, you judge how much is good for you.  I always overdo it when it comes to fresh greens!)

sliced robusto cheese (Again, how much is up to you…I went light with the cheese because it’s packed with flavor and a little goes a long way.)

butter or olive oil for grilling

To make:

1. Cut off about 1″ off the top of the pita and open the pocket.

2. Spread 2 T (approx) onto bottom half of pita then top with arugula and cheese.

3. If using an actual grill (lucky), brush some olive oil on each side of pita bread and place on grill (medium heat) with a plate or pan on top to hold it down.  If using a sauté pan (medium heat), do the same or use butter.  Each side will take about 4 minutes or until bread is crispy and cheese is melted.  Lastly, if you have a panini maker, put it to good use with this yummy pita-nini!

4. Serve warm.

5. Enjoy!!!

*Robusto – I ran into this cheese not quite sure what I was looking for.  I should say then that the cheese found me because once I tasted it, I knew it had the right amount of sharpness with soft edges for this pita-nini.  It’s a bit sharper and harder than a gouda.  Super yummy though!

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia