an introduction

by breannruthwhite

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Our table isn’t even usually messy. I am a little obsessive when it comes to clean counters. This could be the root of all my stress – this claustrophobia. This insatiable need for space.

When I asked my husband what I should name this blog, “Our Messy Table” was the first things he said. I didn’t like it. It was too literal. Too blunt. It even looks heavy up there, its Times New Roman font weighed down by the belligerent “O” and the stocky “M”. And as I said before, I don’t function well in messy spaces, let alone around messy tables.

And then I thought about it quietly. I let the name float around in the back of my thoughts for a few weeks. “Our Messy Table” resonated with me somehow.

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One day, it clicked.

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Much to my self-diagnosed OCD horror, tables can’t always be clean. Counters can’t always be clear. Floors are never spotless.

Because sometimes you have to cook dinner and chicken fat sprays everywhere. Sometimes your 16-month-old pushes a chair to the counter and knocks the 3 day’s-worth of accumulated compost onto the floor. Sometimes your husband wears his work boots through the house again. And sometimes you are babysitting two toddlers and also trying to make cupcakes… enough said.

So here we are. With the name I didn’t like very much, and still don’t really like that much, to serve perspective.

That as we cook dinner…

… as I let toddlers taste-test peanut butter honey sauces and make play dough and water color paintings…

… and as I watch my dog shake fur all over and into my wine glass…

… it is going to be okay.

Our table is a little messy. And thank goodness, life goes on.

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I don’t like the idea of a foodie… to me, the word just sounds stupid. And it implies a type of snobbery I don’t ever want to convey to my friends or family. I will eat almost any kind of food set before me. I will drink any kind of wine. And though I don’t personally like beer, my husband’s favorite beer is the one in front of him. We like food. We like drinks. We like to be social about. Especially if it is fried in oil or all done up with cream, butter and all that tastes like heaven.

But I also believe in the power of nutrition on a day-to-day basis. I think there is definitely a place for indulgence. For late-night ice frozen custard and third helpings of frozen pizza and celebratory cake. But I am also a minimalist who fears excess. In our home, my husband, son and I eat simply. We try to eat locally and whole, and even shop organic when we can afford it. We want to be good stewards of the earth and to our bodies. And therefore, we want our son to grow up knowing the value in eating healthfully, but also the restorative balance in taking on the spoonful of salted caramel buttercream frosting.

SO… about these granola bars:

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I have used many granola bars recipes, all of which have included time on the oven. What I love about these is that there are only 5 ingredients and that they require no bake-time. Just let them set in the fridge for 15 minutes and you are good to go.

Did I mention they only require 5 little ingredients?

Oats… I just love them. My 16-month-old and I eat old fashioned oatmeal every morning – his with a bit of brown sugar and coconut milk, mine with a bit of peanut butter and honey. For me, oats are the ultimate whole grain because they contain a special fiber that decreases bad cholesterol and contain unique antioxidants. Oats also stabilize blood sugar.

Some fun facts about honey- I buy raw honey (straight from the comb) because not only is it more flavorful, but it also contains all of its original nutritional properties. Most commercial honey (the little honey bears, for instance) have been pasteurized so that it contains little to no pollen. Without pollen, it isn’t technically honey. It’s just sweet, mild-flavored syrup. Pasteurized honey also lacks most of the healthful benefits of raw honey (Vitamin A and C, digestive properties, stabilized blood sugar, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-viral and fungal properties.. I could go on..)

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I love dates because they are so naturally sweet and chewy (I also love prunes, but lets not get into that now). And like most items, they are cheaper when purchased in bulk. However, dates have a sticky surface that can harbor bad bacteria and germs. When I buy dates in bulk, I am always sure to wash them. Otherwise, dates and loaded with fiber, iron, potassium, and manganese and copper (good for your bones!).

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Like most young American families, we blow through every jar of peanut butter as if it were a season of House Of Cards. For us, natural peanut butter is the way to go. Not because we think we are better than everyone who buys commercial peanut butter. But because we honestly like it better. And it is much, much better for you.

Commercial brand peanut butter, though it is certainly a source of protein, is also a source of much sugar, sodium and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Natural peanut butter is closer to nature and is high in Vitamin E (for your immune system) and B6 (for your brain and metabolism). Natural peanut butter also contains potassium, fiber, and the saturated fats your body needs.

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And almonds. Unfortunately, my husband is really allergic to all tree nuts. So when I make these bars for him, they contain chocolate chips instead of almonds (which is obviously still delicious). Almonds are a “high satiety food” that aid in weight management. Almonds have also been proven to reduce bad cholesterol. They are high in Vitamin B6, Vitamin A (good for your vision and immune system) and also contains Vitamin E.

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Did I put you to sleep?
I hope not! Because here is the good part!

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Roasted Almond Granola Bars

Yield 10 bars

• 1 cup packed dates, pitted
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1/4 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter or almond butter
• 1 cup almonds
• 1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain. It should form a “dough” like consistency, or roll into a ball.

Toast your oats in a 350 degree oven for 15-ish minutes or until slightly golden brown.

Place oats, almonds and dates in a bowl – set aside.

Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.

Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8×8 dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.

Press down firmly until uniformly flattened. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let set in fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes to harden.

Remove bars from pan and chop into 10 even bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days. I kept mine in the freezer to keep them extra fresh, but it isn’t necessary.

Notes

*You can easily substitute the honey for maple syrup or agave.
*If your dates don’t feel sticky and moist, soak them in water for 10 minutes then drain before processing. This will ultimately help hold the bars together better.
*Optional additions: chocolate chips, dried fruit, coconut, etc.
*A loaf pan might work, but will yield thicker bars.

 

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