Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trail Food - Bill's Suet

I've been playing with recipes for fruit nut bars for awhile now, and have more or less settled on a concept I like. I say concept 'cause, with a larder full of dried fruits, nuts and seeds, one can have an almost infinite number of recipes based on the same basic no-cook concept ...



The concept is pretty simple. Add 2 parts chopped dried fruit, to 1 part chopped nuts and seeds, process in a food processor, add spices, form into any shape you want and enjoy ...

Dates are the binding agent of choice here. They are a good source of fiber and carbohydrates, they provide a wide range of essential nutrients, and are a good source of dietary potassium. Use whole ones and dice what you need to measure before processing. You can also choose to add apricots, dried cherrys, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried apples ...

For nuts and seeds, consider almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds ... Raw, roasted. Salted or not ... The above has almonds, quinoa, flax, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds. I process them separately, or not at all. I like to chop large nuts fairly fine. Not flour fine, but still a little chunky. Pulse the food processor so that you don't overdo it. I generally leave larger, flat seeds whole. I'll roast sesame seeds litely in a dry pan to bring out their flavor. I've also then processed them into a paste. I like the way whole seeds look in the bar, but I'm not sure we ever really digest something as small as a whole sesame seed.


Give it a try! You'll want to use a food processor to do this.  I mean, you could do this small batch with a knife, but I wouldn't want to try a big batch that way.  Also, you'll want to prepare a couple of sheets of waxed or parchment paper large enough to roll the mix out. They start out pretty sticky. For two bars, use 1/4 cup of chopped dates, and 1/4 cup of dried cherries for a tangy base. Process the dates to a paste, and put in a mixing bowl. I like to process the second fruit so that there's still some chunkiness to it - add it to the paste. Chop 1/4 to 1/3 cup of almonds and add them to the bowl.

If the nuts you used were unsalted, add ~1/8 tsp of salt, and maybe 1/4 tsp of cinnamon.  Start kneading the nuts and seeds into the fruit paste.  Work it till all ingredients are consistently mixed throughout the mixture.  Scoop it out of the bowl, place on one sheet of waxed paper, and form roughly into a square.  place the top sheet of waxed paper on top and use your hands or a rolling pin to make a consistently thick slab.  Peel the top piece of wax paper off, slice into two slices.  If they're still a little sticky, leave them out to dry a bit. Eat one while you're wrapping the other in a piece of wax paper to put in the fridge for later.

What I like about the basic concept is that you have total control over the ingredients. You can choose to use all organic, raw, or gluten-free ingredients. Eliminate salt if you wish.  Your options are wide open.  Use walnuts, dried blueberries and flax seeds for a superfood bar.  Add  ginger, or cardamon for an Indian flavor.  Try lemon zest, rolled oats, or shredded coconut.  Cut them into bars, or cubes, roll them in coconut.  Look at all the Larabar versions for inspiration. Google "nut bars." There's a million recipes out there. Just keep close to the basic ratio of 2 parts chopped dried fruit, to 1 part chopped nuts and seeds.

Make a big batch, and grab a couple as you head out for a hike.

Your bars will be devoid of stabilizers, preservatives and ingredients you can't pronounce. While that's great, and the ingredients are all products which individually have a pretty good shelf life, I have no idea how long they'll last. They never last very long on our house ...  I'm not sure I'd want to put them in a food cache that I'm not going to open for four months.  Maybe wrapping them tightly in waxed or parchment paper, then sealing them in a seal-a-meal would extend their lives ...

We'd love to hear your experience with this concept in the comments below!

You - you eat like a bird. - Norman Bates