I don't think there could be a breakfast more perfect than this Mediterranean mezze. With its fresh vegetables and herbs simply dressed in olive oil and lemon or vinegar, feta cheese, soft flatbread, briny olives, and warm and creamy spinach lentil soup, there's something special about savoring a sampling of several small plates in a slow, simple, and unpretentious manner.Read More
I had another recipe planned to share with you this week. But strawberries are everywhere now, sweet, juicy and delicious. And I couldn’t allow another week to pass by without celebrating them, especially once I made this pudding for breakfast and decided it was too good to not share.Read More
A nut-free energy bar that is sweet, chewy, and filling…..what more could you ask for? Because it's nice to take a break from nuts every once in a while and because many of us have nut allergies these days, I decided to show you how tasty oat energy bars can be sans the nuts. These are loaded with tahini, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and lots of orange zest. They are perfect to carry with you to work or school for a quick breakfast, an afternoon snack, or for pre/post-workout fuel. Plus, when you see how easy they are to make and can pronounce each and every whole ingredient I don't think you'll want to go back to store-bought ones anytime soon.
There is a bike messenger in St. Gallen. I don't know why I am telling you this other than the fact that I associate oat bars with energy. And this guy uses a lot of energy biking around delivering mysterious (well, mysterious to me!) packages to businesses. The road by our house is on a hill, and my office window looks out on to the road. So I see the bike messenger going up and down this hill literally every day, 3-4 times a day. You can't miss him because he is there rain or shine, snow or ice, wearing a bright yellow jacket and a large, sturdy yellow messenger bag. Bike messengers are such an environmentally friendly and efficient solution for transporting time-sensitive packages within a city, but I am always curious to know what they carry around in their bags and for whom they are delivering. In Philadelphia, where we used to live, there is a particularly unique bike messenger you can check out here, in case you are as intrigued by their work as I am. ;-)
But back to the oat bars; whether your profession is that of a bike messenger, corporate warrior, or any other role we take on in life, I think we all have some space for a sweet oat bar every once in a while. Don't you?!
Orange-Tahini Oat Bars
Adapted from A Sweet Spoonful
Makes 8-12 bars
- 1 cup soft, pitted dates
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame butter)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp orange juice (~ 1 small orange)
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- Zest from 1 1/2 large un-waxed oranges
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp flax seeds (optional)
- Preheat oven 375 F (190 C). Use coconut oil or butter to coat an 8 inch square baking dish.
- Add dates to a food processor and process until they are finely minced and begin to form a ball.
- In a small sauce pan over low heat warm tahini, applesauce, syrup, and orange juice, mixing well until the mixture is fully incorporated and liquid. Cool slightly, then add to the food processor with the dates along with vanilla extract. Process until the mixture has smoothed out and the dates are full incorporated into the liquid, about 1 minute.
- In the meantime in a large mixing bowl, add the remaining ingredients (oats through salt, and flax seeds if using). Mix well, then add the date mixture while still warm. Stir together with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon until the oat mixture is full coated and sticks together.
- Pour into baking dish, pressing down so it even. This is important so it cooks evenly. Bake for 25-28 minutes, until edges are just beginning to turn light golden brown and the middle is still slightly pale. (Note: Don't wait until the middle is also golden brown and completely dry to the touch or the bars will be too dry once cooled.)
- Place on a cooling rack and cool completely (at least 1 hour), then use a serrated knife to cut into bars or squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (5-7 days) or in the fridge/freezer for longer.
I love reading interviews with wellness experts because their perspectives are so vast and responses always interesting. They are asked fun questions such as: "If you had to convince someone that healthy eating can be delicious, what would you make for them?"; "What nutritional misconceptions are you always having to clear up?"; "What is your usual breakfast?"; and "What are your go-to meals when busy?".
But the one question that leaves me feeling torn is when they are asked the following: "What are your non-negotiables when it comes to your diet?". I understand and appreciate the intention of the question, and I agree that having strong convictions about the food we choose to put into our bodies is extremely important. I also have strong convictions about food and certainly stay true to them whenever possible,
because doing so is part of who I am, my lifestyle, and what makes me feel good.
But having said that, most of us are not monks or hermits, and we cannot remain in the comforts of our own home, kitchen, and routine all of the time. So thinking in terms of 'non-negotiables' makes me feel like there's no allowance for flexibility. It would put pressure on trying to maintain an 'ideal' diet when it's just not possible, which can provoke anxiety or frustration, making it that much harder to adapt when necessary and in the end doing more harm than good.
These thoughts were floating around in my head while on vacation. I was eager to jot them down to share with you because I think they are tied to a larger struggle in our society, that of striving for perfection. Whether its perfecting our bodies, diets, careers, or partners, we (myself included) are always looking to make something just right, no? But life isn't about perfecting; it's about practicing, acceptance, and bringing a state of mindfulness to moments, actions, and decisions.
So as strong as my food convictions are, I don't try to perfect them when I'm out of my routine. Though I do want to share with you some strategies I use when traveling that keeps me feeling good, both physically and mentally, and eases the transition from my usual routine to no routine.
- And that's where these orange walnut bites come in. They are raw concentrated shots of energy and nutrition, quick to put together, and perfect for trips or busy days on the run. They can hold you over in the morning if you have less-than-desirable breakfast options, they're a great pick-me-up afternoon snack, or a small sweet ending to a meal. Or, as a friend suggested, drizzle over melted dark chocolate and include them as part of a holiday spread. Next time I think I'll add in unsweetened cacao nibs for crunch.
I will leave you here with the recipe and the strategies I've found helpful when traveling.
Do any of these ideas resonate with you? What are some of your strategies while traveling? Leave me a note in the comments below, I love hearing your thoughts!
Strategies While Traveling
- First and foremost, enjoy the experience and food for what it is. Enjoy being served when dining out and having a break from normal routine.
- Take along wholesome snacks that travel well, such as these orange walnut bites, nut butter, dried fruit and nut mixes. It's a small thing but they've saved me many times when there were long stretches between meals or few decent restaurant options on a long road trip.
- Take along a small bag of shelf-stable super foods such as chia seeds and hemp seeds. They can easily be added to yogurt or juices on the go if you're feeling you need a nutritional boost.
- Do your research in advance. Find small hole-in-the-wall cafes, eateries, or juice bars whose food philosophies resonate with your own.
- Visit a gourmet grocer and buy goods for a picnic lunch. It may be pricier than a corner grocery store, but it's still cheaper than many restaurants, and it's fun to shop like a local, if only for a few days. Plus I always manage to find unique regional pantry items like oils, vinegar, olives, sea salt, etc to take back home with me.
- For longer trips, rent an apartment for part the time, if possible. It's fun to live like a local in a new place, plus having access to your own kitchen after days of non-stop eating out can reinvigorate and refresh your senses.
Orange Walnut Quick Bites
Makes ~20-22 bites
UPDATE: A favorite variation is to dip the formed balls in melted dark chocolate and let them set up in the fridge so the chocolate hardens. Store in the fridge for a week.
Notes: For additional crunch, fold in cacao nibs just before rolling into balls.
- 4 dried figs
- 3/4 cup soft dates, pitted (if they are not soft, soak in water for 10 minutes)
- 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
- 1/2 cup raw pecans, lightly toasted
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
- Zest of 1/2 orange
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse to break up the nuts and dried fruit. Keep pulsing until the mixture is sticky, has a crumbly sand-like consistency, and sticks together when pressed between your fingers.
- Use a tablespoon to measure and scoop out the mixture. Mold in the shape of the tablespoon or roll into a ball.
- Store in the fridge for a week or on the counter for a few days. They may also be frozen.