Tuesday, May 17, 2011

DIY Power Bars + Lucy Allergy Update

I recently took my daughter to the allergist for her annual appointment as a human pin cushion. Lucy is 2½ and I have known about her allergies for almost two years now. She is allergic to nuts, and for a while there we thought she might have been allergic to wheat and milk as well. We dodged the bullet on those ones, but after two weeks of cooking without wheat and milk I had new appreciation for those who do go without. There is a real learning curve and I really missed milk since I was nursing at time. I am glad that is in our past. 

There is good and bad news from this year's testing. Bad news, her numbers have gone up on peanuts, walnuts and pecans. Boo. That means chances are getting slimmer for her to grow out of those allergies. And hazelnuts also registered for the first time. Ouch. So we are cleaning out the fridge and pantry. Everything on that list is out. We don't want anymore accidental encounters, anything in the air or residue on dishes. We are down to the last jar of peanut butter right now. My son is in mourning. I'm trying not to think about my favorite homemade kind. You better believe I am gorging on the forbidden when I am out of the house without her. Like the luscious apricot hazelnut cake I had at Gramercy Tavern when Justin and I stole away to New York this spring. Justin and I ate a bag of mixed nuts like kids with contraband candy. I would like one again now, please. Unfortunately it has to wait again until I am elsewhere.

But it is not all bad news. Her numbers came back clean for almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, and cashews. Hooray, hooray. More than we could have hoped for. But I can't feed her anything just yet. We are still holding back for another year or so to retest and confirm. We do know what we can keep in the pantry though. Carter and Justin voted cashew butter as their favorite peanut butter alternative. My only complaint is the cost, it not as economical as peanut butter, maybe I should just make it myself and get over it. The truth is I am too lazy to do that all the time and have just chosen to suck it up. Something that works for all of us is worth the added expense in this instance. 

I still do a lot of nut substitution. I love seeds for that. I use a lot of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, and occasionally some chia seeds. The have the crunch of nuts and a similar nutritional profile. And I really love them with grains. I love a seeded loaf of bread, over oatmeal, in a grain salad or in granola. I so naturally I have a recipe for you today. I know I have posted about homemade granola bars before and those are nice, these are easier. No baking! The sort of thing you will make in the summer when you cannot bring yourself to turn on the oven. The only caveat is the brown rice syrup, which is not the easiest thing to find. Any natural food store should carry it, and since I have tweaked the recipe to pack in more protein and and less sugar. Brown rice syrup, however is not super sweet and more mellow than other sweet syrups.

Enjoy. These are a staple at our house and Lucy's favorite. I keep them on hand for easy snacks when we are headed out the door and traveling.

Do-It-Yourself Power Bars
adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

1 tablespoon coconut oil (or any oil to slick your pan)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups chopped toasted walnuts (I sub in pepitas and sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup oat bran
1 1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
1 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup brown rice syrup (I go halvsies with sunflower butter, but you could use any nut butter)
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Grease a baking pan with coconut oil. If you like thick power bars, opt for an 8 x 8-inch pan; for thinner bars, use a 9 x 13-inch pan.

Mix the oats, walnuts, oat bran, cereal, cranberries, and ginger together in a larger bowl and set aside. Combine the rice syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens just a bit, about 4 minutes. (I just microwave, since I am simplifying wherever possible.) Pour over the oat mixture and stir until the syrup is evenly incorporated.

Spread into the prepared pan and cool to room temperature (I often pop in the freezer for 20 minutes) before cutting into whatever size bar you desire.

P.S. If any one of you sent me Heidi Swanson's new cook book Supernatural Everyday addressed to me by my grandmother's nick name for me- thank you. She died a few weeks ago, and even though I haven't mentioned it here, someone knew and sent me that very thoughtful and lovely gift. I appreciate it and thank you most sincerely. 

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