Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cranberry Almond Quinoa Bars

We've been trying to incorporate healthier snacks into our regimen over here at the Hoff House, and this one is a winner.  These Cranberry Almond Quinoa are nutrient dense, highly satisfying, and are incredibly easy to make.

the finished product, topped with some peanut butter
I found some recipes similar to this on the internet, but some of them were really confusing and/or poorly written (not specifying if the amount of quinoa needed was dry or cooked, for example).  So, I decided to do one of my classic recipe re-boots and come up with something great.

For these bars you will need:
  • 1 C. uncooked quinoa
  • 4 eggs (or the equivalent of egg substitute)
  • 1/3 C. of some kind of milk.  I used Vanilla soy milk, but I think almond milk would be good too, it might enhance the almond taste
  • 1/3 C. honey
  • 1 tsp (or thereabouts) Vanilla extract
  • 1 Tlbsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C.  almonds (you can use any kind of nut or opt for no nuts)
  • 1/2 C.  dried fruit.  I used cranberries, but you could use raisins, apricots, apples, anything you'd like.
You'll also need parchment paper.  This silicone infused paper provides great non-stick protection you can put right in the oven.

Step One:
  •  Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Lightly grease an 8x8 pan, then line it with parchment paper.  
I used olive oil spray to grease my pan.

As for the parchment paper, you can simply make a sling by cutting the paper to 8 inches wide, making the length long enough to hang over the sides, but I opted for complete coverage.  cut a square at least 12x12" and then cut into the corners by a couple inches.  

 Now place the parchment into the greased pan, with the cut corners in the.... um, corners of course.  The sections you cut should overlap, giving you complete parchment coverage.  You might have to cut a little deeper to get everything settled correctly.  It won't be pretty, but it doesn't need to be.  It just has to keep your bars from sticking to the pan.

Step Two - 
  • Cook your 1 cup of quinoa according to the package directions, and let it cool completely.
Step Three - 
  • Beat the 4 eggs in a large bowl
  • Add in the milk, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and honey
  • Mix thoroughly

there are cinnamon clumps here, but they were eventually beaten into submission
 Step Four - 
  • Add in your fruit and nuts.  I love the combo of almonds and cranberries.  Next time I think I'll do apples, and maybe banana chips. 
 Step Five - 
  • Stir in the cooled quinoa 
  • Pour the mixture into your prepared pan
 Step Six - 
  • Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.  The honey will make the finished product look NOT done in the middle.  Check the edges, they should be dry and pulling away from the parchment a bit.  If you touch the middle it should be damp, but no quinoa should come off on your finger. 
the middle still looks wet, but it's done.

 Step Seven - the beauty of the parchment
  • using the edges of the parchment, lift the (soon to be) bars from the pan and place on a cooling rack as soon as possible.  
  • Pull the edges down to help the cooling process
De-panning would be difficult without the parchment paper
  • When cool - cut into bars.  You can make them whatever size you'd like.

By themselves, these are a chewy, slightly crunchy very satisfying and filling snack or light breakfast.  To pump them up a bit, smear some nut butter (I had peanut) on top.  I also heated mine up a bit to slightly melt the pb.  Delicious!

I ate one of the bars for breakfast, and was full (and full of energy) until lunch. 

Notes on nutrition: 

For the health benefits of the honey and cranberries you can check out my earlier blog post here.

Quinoa - 2013 has become known as the Year of Quinoa (see the link below), but it is actually an ancient food.  The Inca of South America have been enjoying quinoa for centuries.  Inca warriors ate quinoa to help maintain strength and stamina.  Usually classified a grain, it's actually a seed, and is related to swiss chard.  Quinoa was recently declared a kosher food, and can be eaten during the Jewish high holidays.  Quinoa contains 9 amino acids, and has a similar protein content to cow's milk.  It is full of riboflavin, which can help prevent migraines.  Quinoa is, of course, gluten free, and has been shown to be well tolerated by those suffering with IBS. It is high in fiber, iron, and magnesium.  You can learn a lot more about quinoa at this site.

Almonds - There's something about almonds that make them the ultimate pick-me-up.  Countless times I've been struggling to stay awake during a lecture or at work, and a handful of almonds saved the day.  They are Justin's new favorite snack, and he often snacks on a few on his commute home to stay awake and alert on the horrible 91 fwy.  Almonds help lower bad cholesterol, and are high in fiber.  They are full of B vitamins, which help in cell function.  Almonds are an excellent source of manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium, and are full of vitamin E. Here is a site full of information on almonds.

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