Monday, February 16, 2015

Healthy Hearty Granola Bites

I'm always honoured when friends of mine in the health and fitness industry ask me to ply my cooking talents for a cause. I love helping out in any way I can, especially when the beneficiaries are children (it's the teacher in me). For years, I made cakes for Autism Ontario's annual dessert auction, and loved that my few hours in the kitchen contributed to the furthering of their research and support. Now, I am super excited to be a part of another fundraiser, this time for Plan Canada's Because I Am A Girl initiative, whose mission is to "help give girls in developing countries around the world, a chance at a brighter future."

This time around, the event is a Zumba- and Socasize-athon hosted by two of my friends (and Zumba instructors) Dawna Mensah and Sharon Service called Rise Up and Shine. Now, I'm a Zumba freak (friends and family will attest to that) and of course, I love to cook, so not only am I donating the yumminess you'll see below (along with another treat!), but I'm throwing one of my cookbooks on CD and a voucher for a free nutritional consultation into their raffle prize list too! (Side note - if you can't attend RUaS, you can still donate here or by contacting Dawna).

Obviously, since this is a fitness event, I knew whatever treats I made would have to be healthy, as well as a good source of energy, good fats and whole grains to keep the dancers groovin'! Granola bars were an obvious choice, but they can be messy - and often too much to eat for a between-song pick me up. My solution was to turn the "bars" into "bites" - dense, chewy squares of fruit, cereal and seeds perfect for on-the-go. With an arsenal of organic and granola at my disposal, I took inspiration from Oh She Glows and ran with it, creating something truly unique and perfect for my purposes. These bars are vegan and nut free, but because of the granola I used I can't claim its wheat or gluten free due to risk of cross contamination (obviously a changeable factor!). I found the combination of figs, banana and sunflower seed butter to be a perfect flavour pairing for the pumpkin and flax seeds, adding light but present sweetness and nutty notes that would otherwise be missing in a nut-free bar. I can't wait for the event to give them (another) taste!

Healthy Hearty Granola Bites

Healthy Hearty Granola Bites
Makes 32
4 ½ oz dried figs, chopped
⅓ cup water
1 banana, mashed
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp crunchy sunflower seed butter
4 ½ cups prepared granola (homemade or storebought - I used Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Plus® Granola), large clumps crushed
¼ cup Nature's Path Qi'a™ Superfood (or hemp seeds)
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 9x13” baking pan with greased foil.
  2. Combine figs and water in a saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the banana and puree with an immersion blender until smooth (or transfer to a food processor and puree).
  4. Puree in the vanilla and sunflower seed butter, then add the granola, hemp seeds, cinnamon and salt, stirring to combine well. If using a food processor, transfer the fig-sunflower seed butter puree to a bowl before adding other ingredients.
  5. Press into the baking pan firmly, smoothing until even. I used a second pan placed on top to help with even, firm pressing
  6. Bake for 23-27 minutes, until firm and lightly golden along the edge.
  7. Remove from the oven and immediately press down firmly again to compact.
  8. Slice into squares once they are cool.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 75.6
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 33.4 mg
Total Carbs: 11.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.7 g
Protein: 1.8 g

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