Archive | September, 2012

Easy Energy Bars Appease the Growling Beast

While driving to the coast to kitesurf, I heard a terrible growl in the car. John and I looked at each other in shock, and then we pointed an accusing finger at each others’ stomachs. Just then, both of our growling beasts roared – our empty stomachs were very angry at us for racing out the door without eating. “Ooo, let’s stop and get a burger,” said John. I’m really not sure why, but he usually turns to meat whenever he’s dying of hunger.  Luckily, I have an emergency stash of Clif bars in the car for such occasions – I’ve learned that snacks quell his hunger for meat. But as we choked down the chalky, overly chewy, weirdly dense bars (which disconcertingly resembles the gunk that plugs up pipes), I decided right then and there to make my own energy bars from now on. How hard could it be? Turns out it’s even easier than I thought, not to mention that homemade sports bars are way tastier, and they’re less expensive too.

Unlike store bought sports bars that often rely on tons of sugar to give you a quick energy boost (followed by a sugar crash), these homemade bars feature nuts that are packed with energy, like almonds. According to WebMD, almonds are “the new power food” since they’re so nutrient-dense. And these bars also feature dried fruit, which deliver a steady stream of natural energy. Sure, there’s a little bit of sugar in these bars to bind them together and give you immediate energy, but it’s not too much. Promise! These things last for a really long time in the fridge, they transport well, and they always deliver tons of much-needed energy when you need it the most. They’re a perfect snack for kids, they’re great to take along with you for hikes, and really good for those times when you’re so hungry that you just need to stuff something in your face immediately.

Make up a batch and have it on hand next time your growling beast demands to be fed. Trust me, these taste great and they’re way more satisfying than those expensive and nasty-tasting sports bars they sell in the stores!

Cimeron’s Easy Energy Bars

3 cups of any yummy whole grain cereal (I like using a cereal with crunchy clusters)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts *
1/2 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cups chopped dried raisins, cranberries or cherries *
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips (optional)
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

*You can make these energy bars with an infinite combination of nuts and dried fruits. I like to use classic nut/fruit blends, like: a tropical twist with dried papaya, pineapple and coconut with macadamia nuts; dried cherries and blueberries with toasted hazelnuts;  raisins and walnuts; smores style with chocolate chips and marshmallow,  etc.

Heat oven to 350, and prepare an 8″ baking pan by spraying it with olive oil. In a big bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Then, in a small pot, mix the peanut butter, honey and syrup and cook over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, constantly mixing it. When it hits the boiling point, whisk it fast for about a minute until it thickens up a bit. Then remove from heat and toss it in the bowl with the dry mixture and mix it thoroughly. Pour into your prepared pan and press it down firmly with the back of a spatula. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges turn golden. Remove from oven and press it down again with the spatula. For best results, refrigerate overnight and cut up the bars in the morning – they will be firm and not crumbly at all after overnight refrigeration. They hold up really well, so take them with you to power up wherever go!

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The Bonk-Preventer: Quinoa Tabbouleh

John and I have been mountain biking a ton lately, so I’ve been on the hunt for “power foods” to keep us from bonking on the trails. I’ve experimented with a bunch of different ingredients and the one I keep coming back to again and again is the magical, mighty quinoa. Packed with protein – the most of any grain on the planet – I find that it digests easily and provides us with plenty of energy to sustain us through long, grinding climbs through the spectacular redwood forests near our home.

Quinoa is out of this world, and it sort of looks like it, too. When cooked, each grain has a little ring around it and resembles a tiny Saturn. So cute! But since John thinks quinoa is only eaten by stoned, dreadlocked white guys named “OneLove YogiMoonglow,” I have to disguise the cosmic grain to get him to eat it. Lucky for me, the ever-versatile quinoa has no problem being a caped crusader.

One of my new favorite ways of preparing it is in a yummy tabbouleh. The focal point of this tabbouleh isn’t the quinoa, it’s the crunch of cucumbers, the zesty tasty of tomatoes, the cool breath of fresh mint and the tang of lemon juice. In this recipe, the quinoa easily takes the place of bulgar (which is what Middle Easterners traditionally use as the base of tabbouleh) and provides a slightly crunchy platform for the rest of the ingredients to take center stage and shine. John eats this all the time, but he has yet to discover that he’s eating quinoa. When our friends joke with him about Operation Carnivore Conversion and tease him about becoming “a quinoa-eater,” he bursts out laughing and emphatically declares: “I don’t eat it! That stuff is gross!” That always makes me snicker inside…or maybe it’s more like a devious Vincent Price-like evil laugh…but I digress…

Talk about versatile – we can eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, as a side-dish and as a snack. When we’re preparing for a long day on the trails, I break out the big spoons and we shovel down our quinoa tabbouleh. I’m happy to report that it prevents the dreaded bonk while we’re on long rides!  If you don’t know what bonking is, here is a visual representation for your amusement (John would die if he knew I was posting this, so this is our little secret. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves: 6 as a side dish, or 2-3 for a main meal
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

1 ¾ cup water
1 cup quinoa
¼ tsp salt (plus some for finishing)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil (preferably meyer lemon infused olive oil for a divine flavor – I get mine from http://www.11Olives.com and it is delicious!)
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Two Persian cucumbers or pickling cucumbers, skin on, diced
4 scallions/green onions, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup fresh flat parsley, finely chopped (really depends on your taste)
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
salt, to taste

In a medium sauce pan, bring the quinoa, water and ¼ tsp salt to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until water is fully absorbed by quinoa, about 10 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes then fluff with a fork.

While quinoa is cooking, chop all the other ingredients and squeeze the lemon juice. Once quinoa is done, transfer to a big bowl and toss with all the other ingredients. Start with 1/4 cup olive oil and add more to taste. Finish with a little bit of salt. Then go out and burn some energy!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita: a Refreshing, Easy Dessert

Ah, pomegranates: the fruit of my people! Whenever I see them, I think of my sweet Persian mother and how we used to sit together and seed pomegranates for hours while laughing about the fact that we always put more pomegranate seeds in our mouths than in the bowl. The tiny ruby fruit-gems burst with juicy flavor and are simply luscious and divine! And it’s incredibly good for you, too – several scientific studies have found a surprising array of the health benefits of pomegranate juice, including its ability to: lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fight breast cancer, prevent cartilage deterioration (aka osteoarthritis), prevent lung cancer, slow prostate cancer, and even prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. No wonder it’s consider a super-food!

I can’t wait for the fall harvest of my favorite fruit, so I decided to create a super easy and truly delicious dessert that pays homage to my Persian mum…and also to my taste buds: Pomegranate-Lime Granita. The lime perfectly pairs with the pomegranate to give it a slightly citrus hint to tantalize your palate. This recipe also has a secret mission: to get my husband to consume more pomegranate juice. John loves this granita so much that he eats tons of it, which makes me happy since he’s getting plenty of pomegranate power in his dessert.

If you’ve never had a granita, it’s a light and refreshing frozen dessert. The texture is kind of between Italian ice and sorbet. I make mine fluffy since I like the crunch of fruity, icy crystals, but it’s just as easy – okay, it’s actually easier – to make it smoother. And bonus: this dessert is crazy-easy to make. Active time is less than 3 minutes. Who knew that creating a tasty and super healthy dessert could be so simple and quick? Try it let me know what you think!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita

Serves: 8
Active time: 2 minutes
Freezing time: depends on the temp of your freezer. For me, I like to give it at least 7 hours, but I prefer to let it set overnight

3 cups pomegranate juice
1/3 cup sugar
The juice of one lime (I like to use Persian limes, aka Bears limes, since they’re super juicy. And well, they’re also the fruit of my people!)

In a Tupperware bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze. If you want your granita fluffy and more crystallized (like I have in the photo), mix it with a fork every hour or so while it’s setting, breaking up the frozen chunks. If you want it more firm or you’re just lazy (warning, you’d better have a sharp fork and a strong arm – it’s going to be quite hard), just let it set in the freezer and when it’s done, scrape it with a fork. On hot summer nights, I like to freeze my serving bowls so it keeps the granita nice and cold while we’re eating it.

As my mum used to say, nush-y-jan (which I think is either Persian for ‘bon appetite’ or possibly ‘gimme more pomegranates.’) 🙂