Is there such a thing as a healthy snack”? I am not talking about fruit and vegetables, more like a granola bar type of snack. They are so convenient to have for traveling, or just when you are on the go. Recently, I set out on a mission to discover recipes for homemade snack bars that taste great, are nutritious, and low in refined sugar. Not a snack bar that is as heavy as a door stop and tastes like cardboard, (the vegetarian baked goods of the early 70’s still haunt me), but something lighter for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon.
This all started because I made a pledge several years ago. I promised to myself that if there was a dessert or treat I really wanted to eat, like cookies, I would make it and not buy it. Store bought cookies are not allowed in the house. I do this to control my snacking binges and it really works. Phase two, of my pledge is to add more items on my list, like snack bars. Honestly, I haven’t bought them since I made the pledge, so I am not eating them. However, we need a better stock of snacks in our pantry, so I don’t binge on crackers or chips.
Over the past two weeks I have scoured the internet looking for solid recipes in the granola bar category. Each one had large amounts of sugar and they were all in “soft” snack bar variety. Don’t people want crunchy snack bars? Don’t people crave that crunchy texture and is one of the reasons why chips are so damn good? I like crunchy granola bars so I will table this quest for another day.
One recipe caught my attention from the cookbook “Life In Balance”, by Donna Hay. The cookbook features several snack recipes all made with whole foods and good health in mind. It is not a crunchy granola bar, but all the ingredients are nutritious and foods I enjoy. I choose the Cacao, Banana, Date, and Cashew Bars recipe to test today, because it meets all my requirements, except being crunchy. Another bonus, I had all the ingredients except the cashews. However, I did have a bag of walnuts for an easy substitution. Also, this recipe allowed me to use up some bananas that were getting too ripe.
What I like about this snack bar is there is no refined sugar, no flour, and no dairy. It is filled with natural cocoa powder, bananas, fresh dates, walnuts, and a little vegetable oil. The 4 wholesome ingredients get puréed in a food processor then baked until firm. They taste like a bittersweet fudgy chocolate brownie. The cocoa flavor stands out, but it is not as bitter because of the dates, bananas, and walnuts. I would like them to be a little denser with more variation in texture, but the taste is very pleasing. If you crave a sweet fix for your snacks and love dark chocolate, this is the snack for you.
More snack foods for a light meal or picnic
All the ingredients are nutritious in their own right, but mixed together they make a nutritious snack bar that won’t weight you down with extra fat and sugar. According to My Calorie Counter from Fitness Pal, each snack bar has 228 calories, 21 g carbs, 17 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 3 g protein, 4 mg sodium, 14 g sugar, and 4 g fiber.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I have a few recipes that stand the test of time, is always there when I need it, and never fails me. This pumpkin bread recipe is one of them. It is always a crowd pleaser and it is so easy to make. If this recipe could talk, it would tell many tales of my children’s’ preschool snack time, their school bake sales, our weekends away visiting friends, homemade gifts, learning how to bake, swim meets, college care packages, and easy mornings at home.
Some foods and recipes are like that. They exist as part of our collective experience spanning a family’s history and time well spent with friends, teachers, colleagues, neighbors and family. They are treasured artifacts in the family archives. For me, I have a couple symbolic recipes that mark my parent’s heritage, but very few. Hopefully, I generated a selection of treasured recipes for my children to remember their childhood by, and create new ones that hold a special place in our growing family’s future.
My pumpkin bread is a throwback recipe from the 70’s when I was in high school. A dear friend gave me the recipe. I cannot remember what initiated this gift, but I believe she just wanted to share it. Harriot and her family loved to cook and were always generous with recipes and information about food. Whenever I was at their house, someone was in the kitchen making something. If I remember correctly, Harriot and I had a few cooking adventures of our own.
Besides the delicious taste, this pumpkin bread recipe has a couple of great features. One, it is easy to make and second, it makes two loaves. After all these years, I still can’t believe one small can of pumpkin purée makes two loaves of pumpkin bread. There is no need to measure out a cup of pumpkin mash and worry about what to make with the rest. That is a real pet peeve of mine. It is not the case for this pumpkin bread. One recipe, one can of pumpkin purée, two loaves of spicy pumpkin bread. A practical quick bread recipe.
Because it is so easy to make, it is perfect for a baking project with young children, or anyone who wants to learn how to bake. This recipe rarely fails. However, if it has been a while since you used baking powder or baking soda, make sure the leaveners are fresh. There was only one time this pumpkin bread did bake properly. Once, after I gave this recipe to a friend who said she couldn’t bake, she made it and came over to share it with me. She was so proud of her accomplishment I did not have the heart to tell her the bread did not rise. When that happens it usually means the baking powder and baking soda lost their leavening powers. Still, it tasted great and hopefully she kept on baking.
More family favorite recipes:
The spices are a mixture of cinnamon, allspice and a generous amount of ground clove. Not all pumpkin bread recipes include ground cloves, and I believe they fall flat. There is twice as much cinnamon and allspice to cloves in each loaf, yet the ground cloves gently stand out. I like that the cinnamon does not dominate the spicy favor. Often, after I serve pumpkin bread to friends I get a delighted question, “Oh nice. What spice am I tasting? ” My anser is always received with a surprised and happy expression, “It’s clove.”
Over the years I have made a few variations of this pumpkin bread, but I keep coming back to the original. I made it with canned pumpkin purée and fresh pumpkin purée. With orange zest, crumble topping, candied ginger, and different flours. Each variation slightly changes the texture of the bread. I discovered, the fresh pumpkin makes an airier bread. Also, I noticed the crust is crispier with the fresh pumpkin.
If you want to use fresh pumpkin, roast wedges of sugar pumpkin in a 400°F (200°C) oven until very tender. Scrape the roasted pumpkin from its’ peel and purée in a food processor, or blender until smooth. Cool and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Best Pumpkins to bake with.
I should call this Friendship Bread, because the recipe is enjoying a life span of over 40 plus years and growing. I never thought twice about sharing it with friends and family. The name Friendship Bread is already taken, so Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread it stays. A treasured heirloom for sharing over the years to come.
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Each year as my garden matures, the herb garden expands as well. Slowly, the herb bed has inched deeper into the precious sunny real-estate and has started replacing my lawn. I add one or two more herb plants a year and build my dream herb garden. One herb plant that is thriving is my chive plant. Fortunately, it is not growing out of control, but remains nicely contained in a tall spiky mound.
The plant grows without a lot of disturbance because I rarely use fresh chives in my cooking. However, it needed a thinning and removal of all the spent flowers before they spread their seeds. Afterwards, I was left with a large bundle of chives and a new challenge, how to use up all the chives before they go bad. This is the type of challenge I enjoy, and inspires me to look for new ideas.
I wanted to make something different, yet easily prepared and quick to finish. What I dreamed of was a recipe from Season 3 of The Great British Baking Show, Ian’s quick bread with wild garlic. While watching the episode, the smell of the wild garlic and bread traveled across the ocean and through my television, and I have craved it ever since. Unfortunately, I could not find his recipe. Rather, I came upon a recipe, which although is not British in nature, has that oniony-bready fix I was looking for.
This recipe is a savory bread with chives and cheddar cheese by Dorie Greenspan on the website, Serious Eats. It was exactly what I was craving, a savory quick bread to unload my bundle of chives, and give me some immediate satisfaction. I slightly adapted her recipe, and used Gruyère cheese, chives, garlic chives, lemon thyme and nixed the walnuts.
Dorie explains in her recipe; the French refer to just about everything made in a pan as a cake. A loaf such as this, is called, “cake salé” (meaning, salty or savory cake). This is a very light and cake-like bread that is perfect as a snack or appetizer paired with wine, beer or any cocktail. Like cake, it is light and airy in texture, but it is rich in flavor from the cheese and herbs. I also enjoyed this herb bread for lunch as avocado toast with lemon thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.
As Dorie recommends, this is a bread recipe to play around with. Use the dough as your foundation and switch up the cheese and herbs as you wish. A traditional cake salé recipe from France uses Emmentaller, Gruyère, or a mixture with Parmesan. She made her recipe with cheddar cheese and chives for a local US inspired loaf. She also recommends other add-in substitutes like nuts, diced ham, olives, pesto and cooked vegetables.
More appetizer ideas:
Making this cheese and chive herb bread is an amazing sensory treat. Every time I snipped, spread and stirred the chives, their scent came forward like an herbal wave engulfing the dough. Once in the oven, the smell of the baking herb bread filled my house with comforting aromas of melting cheese, bright onions and baking bread.
I love it when I discover something new and it turns out to be a smash hit. This recipe is so easy, I am sure to make it several times and continue to personalize it. I know something is delicious when every 5 minutes my husband and son kept repeating, “Oh, this is soo good. This is really good”. This is no exaggeration. It was all I could do to keep them from eating the whole loaf.
© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.