Road Food- The Energy Bar For A Queen

Well, whaddyaknow, but I am back on the road again. Took a 2500 mile road trip (solo) last weekend down to Southern Florida and back, this weekend I am flying out to Dallas for my Fiancee’s induction into the Women’s Softball Hall of Fame (YES! she IS amazing!!!), and the weekend after that I drive another 1500 mile loop out to Indianapolis.

I will say that road food has improved in some ways in recent years. It’s now possible to get fresh fruit cut and prepared, salad, and non fried meals on the go. It really is wonderful to see these offerings, and even better to see that people are opting for them.

Yet even with these better options, I do my best to take along a snack bag that I can ice down and bring some of my own things. Not only is it cheaper and removes any mystery, it also saves time. I carry fruit and low fat mozzarella sticks, sometimes yogurt in containers and- of course- these bars.

There are a lot of power bar recipes out there these days- I am certainly not reinventing the wheel here, but I will admit that I like mine the best. First off they are not overly sweet, which I find is a real problem for these bars. Yes, they are meant for energy, but pure honey, agave or syrups are just too much for me. I feel like that starts leading these treats into the direction of candies and I’m not really keen on that.

I use dates as my base. It’s a great option- high in fiber, iron and not overly sweet. Personally I am not a date fan on their own, but when combined with the other ingredients, you can’t tell they’re in there.

So this is one of those recipes that you have some latitude. I will provide you with my recipe, but feel free to tweak to your hearts content.

Here are my combinations:

Date/Oats/Peanut Butter and Dried Cherries
Date/Oat/Cocoa Nib/Coconut

I store mine in the fridge in small grab and go bags. They’re great post work out, or just to keep in your bag when you’ve got one of those long days ahead of you.

One note: Though they are healthy and full of nutritious ingredients, they ARE calorie dense- so in the words on Bonquiqui “Don’t go CRAY-ZAY”

The Method is the same for all- place all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz to even consistency. If your mixture is a little dry, add a teaspoon of water one at a time until you get a sticky clay feel. You want to avoid mushiness, but too dry and they crumble. Err to the moister side of things.

Date Oat Peanut Butter and Dried Cherries:

2 C pitted dates
3T fresh ground peanut butter
1c instant oats
1 fist-full of dried cherries
Pinch of salt

Date Oat Pistachio Cinnamon

2c pitted dates
1c instant oats
1c shelled unsalted pistachios
1t ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Date Oat Coca Nib Coconut

2c pitted dates
1c instant oats
.5c cocoa nibs
1c shredded unsweetened coconut

After you’ve made your doughs you can either pat them into a square pan then cut into bars, or pinch and roll into balls. I obviously rolled the CocoNib balls in more coconut- but you can also roll them in finely chopped nuts, or nothing at all.

They store for a real long time in the fridge- if you can get them to last that long.

Summer Plum Almond Cake

I’ve had a simple cake in mind made with fresh fruits. Something not too sweet, sort of on the line of a clafoutis, but not custardy and not too cake-y either. A treat I could snack on and not feel terrifically guilty about, and something that would be simple and easy to throw together.

I had been dreaming of peaches, but at the farmers market I spied some ruby jewel plums- just perfect for my little project.

I was not able to find a recipe for exactly what I was looking for, so I created my own. With delight and joy, it turned out quite nicely on the first go round. Certainly my years of cake making is a help, since batters are a balance of chemistry and there is a consistency that one can expect when all the elements are put together- but then again…

What I was also quite delighted about, was that it was the right amount of sweet and tart and chew that I was looking for- and so- I delightfully am sharing it with you.

The fruits turned out to be ripe to over ripe- perfect for my cake. They were not good for hand eating, and small enough to simply half and tuck into the batter. The only pain was de-stoning those tender babies (imagine ruby red pulp on fingers and my paring knife).

I did not reinvent the wheel here- and I am SURE there is a proper recipe out there for this- but my little beauty contains no butter or oil, and yet it’s moist and delicious. Like I said, a treat that you don’t have to feel too guilty about.

Summer Plum Almond Cake
serves 8
1c room temp milk
.75c sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1t almond extract
1t vanilla extract
1.75 c flour
.5c ground almonds
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
.5t salt
1 pint of small plums, de-stoned and cut in half
Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease an 8″x8″ pan
In a side bowl combine milk, sugar, eggs and extracts and whisk smooth
In large bowl sift together flour, almonds, bs, bp and salt
Pour the milk mixture into the flour and whisk gently to combine
Pour batter into the pan, then arrange fruits, cut side up in the batter, not allowing them to sink below. If your fruits are too small and sink too deep, remove some of the batter and use to make extra small cupcakes
Bake for approximately 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the center is springy to the touch
I am a touch baker. My years of baking have taught me that eggs at certain times of the year, humidity and devilish angels can affect baking times- so I’ve learned to go by feel and touch. Since oven temps and evenness of heat distribution can vary, I recommend you try this method too.
Enjoy! and Thanks once again for spending time with me.

Sunset Cocktails: The Art of the Shrub

Oh how I love the sound of ice tinkling in a cocktail glass at the end of a long summer day. As the sunlight casts longer shadows and the heat of the day shimmers the last of its intensity, who could resist a cold glass of sweet elixir that perks up the tongue and mellows the soul.

I was first intrigued by shrubs, or drinking vinegars, after reading an article about Pok Pok Wing. Alan Ricker of Portland, OR fame, opened a small shop in Brooklyn serving his delicious Thai food, and also sells shrubs by the name Som. The description of a “refreshing drink with a nice tartness coming from the vinegar and concentrated flavors of fruit, vegetable and aromatics” got me intrigued immediately. I am a huge fan of aromatics such as bitters and how they can turn a languid sweet drink into a snappy upstart of a cocktail. Just a dash to add bright top notes to the tongue, and an invitation to the nose.

Shrubs have a long history and show up in recipe books before the time of Ben Franklin. The sugar, alcohol and vinegar act as a preservative thereby allowing one to make and store a shrub to then offer a drink at any moment, “…’Tis a pretty wine and cordial. For each tot of rum add a double tot of shrub. At the end of the evening everyone was cordial!” {from The Innkeeper and Butler’s Guide, published in 1808} Shrubs can be a compound of many different fruits, herbs and flowers, and the process couldn’t be simpler.

Strawberry Rose
Shrubs have a terrific shelf life and make a fantastic hostess gift as you head to the beach or to a friend’s home this season. Who wouldn’t love you for bearing nectar? A slug of shrub mixed into basic cocktail ingredients can turn the ordinary vodka tonic into something wildly special- or for those abstaining- it can add perk to that glass of Perrier making one feel like a part of the party without the booze.
There is a cold and a hot method of extracting the flavors from your aromatics. I chose the former, which is far easier and much more conducive to summer life. It takes absolutely no effort at all to mash up some fruit with sugar and then allow it to macerate on the counter overnight. The sugar draws the juice and flavor out of the fruit resulting in a thick sweet syrup that takes absolutely no effort to make. Because the fruit needed to make the syrup need not be the best of the bunch, this is a great way to use some of those too many peaches or berries you couldn’t resist buying but couldn’t eat fast enough. The next afternoon a quick strain, a balancing of vinegar, and then straight into the bottle.
Blueberry Mint
My head is spinning with all sorts of combinations, but I became enamored with the thought of blushy pink drinks. Something pretty and soothing that would be wonderful at a wedding, or bridal shower, or just a soft pink to compliment the fading summer sky. Strawberries and blueberries were my fruit of choice, but the recipe can be adapted to any fruits you have around.
For those not as intrigued as I am by the thought of vinegar in a drink, I also made a beautifully refreshing watermelon cocktail. I truly love watermelon juice in my cocktails, though because this is not a shrub, it must be consumed within a day or two.
Fruit Shrub Recipe
Combine equal weights of crushed fruit with white sugar in a bowl and leave on the counter for at least 24 hrs to macerate.
You may add herbs or other aromatics to your shrub at this point.
Strain the solids from the juice through a sieve, pressing out all the juice, and discard the solids.
Measure the volume of the syrup and stir in half that volume of cider or balsamic vinegar- or to taste.
My versions:
Strawberry and rose water: I added 2T of rose water to each cup of shrub
Blueberry Mint: fresh blueberries were crushed with whole sprigs of mint
Strawberry Rose Cocktail
serves one
Over ice, pour 3T of Gin
2T of strawberry rose shrub
1T of simple syrup
Stir together, then top off with sparkling water
Blueberry Mint Cocktail
serves one
Over ice, pour 3T vodka
2T blueberry mint shrub
1T simple syrup
Stir together, then top off with sparkling water
Watermelon Cooler
serves one
To make watermelon juice, put chunks of melon into blender and puree. Personally I don’t like mealy watermelon juice so I strain mine through a fine strainer. I find watermelon juice not sweet enough on it’s own, so I add in 1T of agave or simple syrup to each cup of juice.
Over ice
3T of vodka
2T cointreau
4oz sweetened watermelon juice
splash of sparkling water
Simple Syrup
makes 1.5c
combine 1 c of sugar with 1c water in saucepan.
Over medium high heat bring to boil, then turn off heat.
Allow to cool. Store in refrigerator.
Thank you for coming by and reading my recipes.
I would love to hear how you are sharing with your friends.
If you have any questions or just want to say Hi, Please feel free to send me a note.