Homemade energy bars and bliss balls

Photos: Marconia Schembri, Stefan Stafrace, Illumina Media, Felix Cesare

Photo George Aquilina during a live tv show

There are so many varieties of energy bars on the market today with whole sections in supermarkets filled with them. The different choices are overwhelming and some provide energy while others may be classed as low carb or high in protein. Most of them satisfy current food trends.

Dried fruit bars became fashionable when they were marketed to a sports audience in the 1960s and 1970s and they have evolved to become a quick meal replacement or possibly the most popular snack food today.

Making your own bars means that you can choose to use ingredients that you like. They require little or no cooking and you just need to make sure that your dried fruits are plump and the nuts you are using are fresh. If the dates, figs or prunes are on the small side, then you may need to add a few extra ones.

There is no magic formula like baking. Grind the ingredients very well so that they blend easily together and hold shape.

Energy bars can be stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge or a cool place for around three weeks. Most of them freeze very well.

 

Ingredients I use in these recipes:

Maca Powder: the extract of a Peruvian plant best known for improving energy levels and vitality
Aronia: also known as chokeberry and can be found locally as a dried fruit or in liquid and powder concentrate.  It contains high antioxidants and is known to have many beneficial properties
Hemp Seeds: hard brown seeds with a light inner kernel that provide a good source of amino acids, protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Carrot date bars with Maca powder

1 large carrot
a pod of vanilla
¼ tsp Maca powder
2 cups oats
1/2 cup dates
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup mixed chopped almonds and pistachio nuts
a pinch of cinnamon
a grating of fresh nutmeg
grated zest of 1 tangerine
water

Photo Illumina Media during a  live tv show

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Wash and grate the carrot.

In a saucepan placed the dates and grated carrot. Add 1/4 cup of water, the cinnamon, nutmeg and grated citrus zest. Allow the dates to break down on low heat. Add more water, a few tbsps at a time, if necessary. Do not let the mixture dry up. When the dates are soft and mushy turn off the heat and allow to cool down. In a large bowl place the oats, add the vanilla and Maca powder, then add the date and carrot mixture. Mix until the consistency is even.

Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Press down the mixture and use a spoon dipped in water to press it down until it is compact. Top with chopped nuts and press down again using the wet spoon.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day, remove from the loaf tin by pulling the baking paper out gently and cut into bars using a sharp knife.

Chewy granola bars with hemp seeds

2 cups oats
1 cup nuts of your choice
12 pitted dates
3 tbsp coconut oil
Vanilla
1 cup coconut
¼ cup raisins
1 tbsp hemp seeds
½ tsp cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Photo Illumina Media during alive tv show

Place the oats in a food processor and add the chopped nuts, pitted dates and the rest of the ingredients. Pulse to process, until you have a consistent but textured paste. Line a 20cm cake or pie dish with baking paper.

Bring the mixture together with your hands and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Firmly press down the mixture into the cake or pie dish. Make sure that the surface is level and that all the dish is equally covered. Wet your fingers with water and tap the surface gently all over again. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove and, after it cools down, leave in the fridge overnight. Lift it out by pulling the baking paper and place it on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut bars.

Sweet potato balls with ginger

Photo Stefan Stafrace during a live tv show

2 large sweet potatoes
3 cups coconut
5 tbsp agave
1/2 packet apricots
1/2 vanilla pod
1 cup shredded carrots
some freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger powder
1 pinch of mixed spice
grated zest of an orange
To cover: 2 cups coconut or coarsely ground oats

These balls can turn out to be bright yellow or a creamy colour, depending on the variety of sweet potato you are using.

Cook the sweet potato with skin on in the microwave and allow to cool. Peel and mash very well with a fork until the mixture is consistent.

Mix all the ingredients together. Use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Form balls and roll in coconut or ground oats. Leave in the fridge overnight before serving.

Fig and date Balls with aronia

Photo Stefan Stafrace during a live tv show

2 cups pitted dates
2 cups coconut
1 cup figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup grated citrus zest. (I used local tangerines)
1/2 cup agave
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 tbsp aronia, liquid
1/8 cup unsweetened fruit juice of your choice
For rolling balls: 2 cups sesame seeds and 2 cups coconut in separate containers

Roughly chop the dates and figs into small pieces.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the consistency is smooth. Add water if the mixture is too dry, a tablespoon at a time.

Line two flat dishes with a baking sheet and place the sesame seeds in one container and coconut in the other container.

Use a teaspoon to form equal-sized balls and roll with your hands.

Roll the balls in the sesame seeds and coconut and store and place on a dish lined with baking paper. Leave for a few hours to set and dry out and then store in an airtight container.

 

Maca Powder and Hemp Seeds are available via Good Earth.  Aronia is available via J Calleja Import Export Ltd

Amatriciana with fresh pork cheek

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Guanciale on tv today, photos were taken during a live show by CJ Baldacchino

Stephanie prepared some pork cheeks for me to cook.  We braised a few cheeks the other week and served it as a stew with vegetables.  Today’s dish however is based on a classic Amatriciana sauce with guanciale.  The sauce is made with fresh tomatoes and has no onions and garlic but to try out something a bit different I used a mix of guanciale with cooked fresh pork cheeks and sausages that  Stephanie made specially for me using pork cheeks.  You must try this pasta.’

For the Amatriciana Sauce, you will need:

100g guanciale
120g fresh cooked pork cheeks
50g fresh sausage made from pork cheeks [specially ordered from the butcher]
500g fresh tomatoes, chopped with skin on
a glass of wine
1 all natural stock cube mixed with 100ml water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
a bayleaf
A pinch of dried chili flakes
salt and pepper
a pinch of stevia
150g pecorino

And 500g pasta of your choice

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
In the meantime, cut a thickish slice of guanciale and then chop it up.

Heat the pan with no oil and then fry the guanciale. Chop the cooked pork cheeks. When the guanciale is cooked add the chopped pork cheeks, then the sausage meat.

Add the chopped fresh tomatoes, then the wine and turn the heat down. Add the stock, bayleaf and chili flakes. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes start to soften up. Add the tomato paste and if necessary add water. Do not let it dry up. The sauce will start to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of stevia to balance the acidity.

Drain the cooked pasta in a colander and save some pasta water to add to the sauce if it is too dry.

Add the sauce to the pasta and mix gently. If necessary add the pasta water, a spoonful at a time. Serve in individual plates and top with freshly grated pecorino.

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Smoked guanciale and fresh pork cheeks, photo taken during a live tv show by CJ Baldacchino

Serve immediately.

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Good Food Everyday with Amatricana, photo taken during a live tv show by CJ Baldacchino

 

Fresh pork cheeks and fresh pork cheek sausages are available from Stephanie at Ta Cancu Butcher in Zejtun.  Guanciale is available from PJ Sutters.  I use Pasta Rummo.

A taste of Liguria, Sunday Times today

escape-a-taste-of-liguria-castagnaccio

Most of us talk about Liguria in Italy, and think of the coast and of Cinque Terre.  But beyond the hills, behind La Spezia, there are many lovely places to see. This more isolated area has seen many changes in the last 20 years but still retains a lot of its authentic charm. The only access then…

Source: Sunday Times: A taste of Liguria

Apple Cardamon Loaf

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Apple Cardamon Cake as seen on tv, photo M R Lowell

‘I made this cake during the show a few weeks ago and used local belludja apples from  Antida‘s garden which are very tart and make wonderful jams.  You can make a plain apple loaf but the crushed cardamon seeds make it extra special. I think cardamon is under-used and it blends well with most fresh fruits. As well as having some amazing health benefits, it blends well with most fruits.  This summer, I mixed cardamon with coffee to make some great bbq rubs and marinades.

This recipe also works well with rhubarb and pears but make sure that the fruit is ripe and ready to eat.  I added some sparkling organic apple drink by Whole Earth for lightness of texture.’

You will need:

200g self raising flour
150g soft butter at room temperature
200g sugar [on tv I used stevia]
50 g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamon seeds
1 vanilla pod
grated zest of an orange
a pinch of salt

1/4 cup Organic Apple sparkling drink 
250g belludja apples [or use cooking apples if not available]
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Finely slice the apples, skin on and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice.
Preparing a loaf tin with baking spray.
Sift the self raising flour twice into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add all the other ingredients except for the apples, lemon juice and fizzy apple drink and mix on full speed for one minute. Use a large metal spoon to fold in the fizzy apple drink little by little until you have a dropping consistency. Pour half the batter into the loaf tin and arrange a think layer of sliced apples on top. Pour the rest of the batter and overlap the thin apple slices on the top. Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.

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Apple Cardamon Loaf, soft delicious and perfect with a cup of tea.  Photo M R Lowell

Other baking recipes with  Whole Earth Organic Sparkling Drinks available via Good Earth Distributors:
Cranberry and Coconut Muffins,  Vegan Gingerbread

Belludja apples are available at Big Fresh in Mosta
Good Food Everyday airs daily on Smash TV

Carrot Cake Smoothie with Maca Powder [vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free]

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Carrot Cake Smoothie, vegan, gluten free and lactose free.  This photo was taken during a live tv show by CJ Baldacchino

‘More carrot cake follows the overnight oats of yesterday , this time in liquid form.  This is a smoothie based on most people’s favourite cake.  It contains no added refined sugar and it is gluten free, lactose free and vegan.  A meal in itself with the addition of maca powder.  I use the carrots from my organic box that arrives every Thursday from Barbuto in Sicily.’

You will need:

1 raw carrot
1/2 frozen banana
1 cup home made almond milk
1 tablespoon oats [gf]
1 teaspoon coconut
1/8 teaspoon ginger
vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon maca powder
1 tablespoon agave

For garnish: chopped pecans, shavings of sugar free dark chocolate and grated carrots

Place all the ingredients in a high powered blender or Nutribullet and blend until the consistency is very smooth.  If it is too thick, add more almond milk or water.

Garnish with pecans, savings of sugar free dark chocolate and grated carrots

Serve immediately.

Maca Powder is available at Good Earth

Overnight Carrot Cake Oats with Maca Powder [gluten free and vegan]

‘We had so many callers during our live show yesterday that I did not really get down to any real cooking.  But I somehow managed my favourite carrot cake overnight oats and made a carrot cake smoothie, both with maca powder that I love to incorporate in small amounts  into recipes such as soups, smoothies and salads as well as raw desserts.  Not only is it rich in vitamin B vitamins, C, and E and provides a good source of calcium, zinc and iron but I love its caramel flavour.  Always add in small quantities.’

For the overnight carrot cake oats you will need:

1/2 cup oats
1 cup home made almond milk [you can also use ready made almond milk]
1 medium carrot, grated
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ginger powder
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 frozen banana, sliced
1 teaspoon coconut
4 tablespoons oats
1 tablespoon pecan nuts, chopped
1 tablespoon dates, chopped
vanilla
1/4 teaspoon maca powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon agave

Combine all ingredients in an air tight container,
Refrigerate overnight.  When it is time to eat it, add more almond milk or water to bring to your preferred consistency.
Eat hot or cold and if you wish garnish with chocolate shavings and coconut chips.

You will see my result during this afternoon’s live show.

Lea’s Good Food Everyday airs daily on Smash TV and every Friday in English.

Cranberry Coconut Muffins [Lactose Free with Stevia] and making fresh home-made almond milk

cranberry-coconut-muffins-dairy-free

Lactose-Free cranberry coconut muffins with Stevia, photo taken during a live tv show by CJ Baldacchino

‘I use tofu in this recipe instead of butter or oil to make these light cranberry and coconut muffins, sweetened with Stevia. To add lightness to the mix and intensify the cranberry flavour, I use Organic Sparkling Cranberry Drink by Whole Earth.    I used the ginger drink when I made gingerbread with aquafaba a few weeks ago.  This recipe also works well with ricotta instead of tofu.  For the lightest possible muffins, fold in the liquids into the dry ingredients and do not overmix.’

You will need:

3 cups self raising flour
2 cups coconut
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
a few drops good vanilla extract
1 cup tofu
4 eggs
6 tablespoons cranberry sauce [I use the one I made 2 weeks ago during the show]
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 1/2 cups stevia [I use Tate & Lyle but check the label on your jar or packet for the conversion of 1 1/2 cups sugar]
8 – 10 tablespoons Organic Sparkling Cranberry Drink

1 muffin tin and muffin cases

In a large bowl sieve the flour and cornflour twice. Add the bicarbonate of soda and coconut. Mix.
In another bowl use a hand blender to process the tofu with the cranberry sauce, lemon juice, eggs and vanilla
Add the dry ingredient mixture, a little at a time and fold in using a large metal spoon. Then add 8 – 10 tablespoons of organic sparkling cranberry drink until you have a dropping consistency.
Immediately pour the cake mix into a prepared cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 35 minutes.

And today I also made fresh home-made almond milk and you will need:

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Delicious fresh home made almond milk made during our tv show today, Photography C J Baldacchino

1 cup almonds
3 cups bottled water
a pinch of salt
2 dates

Soak the almonds overnight.
Drain the water and rinse the almonds.
Place the almonds in a blender and add 3 cups of bottled water.  Add the dates and a pinch of salt.
Blend on high speed until the mixture is well blended, the almonds totally ground and the mixture appears consistent.
Strain the almonds by placing them in a colander covered with muslin or a clean dishcloth.
Squeeze out the almond milk into a container by wringing the dishcloth or muslin. Do not discard the ground almonds [tomorrow afternoon we will use them 🙂 ]
Refrigerate and serve.

Borage, Mushroom and Potato Omelette

borage-omelette-marconia

Borage, Mushroom and Potato Omelette.  This photo was taken during a live tv show by Marconia Schembri

I used borage [in Maltese fidloqqom] during the show for the first time today.  It was brought to me with my organic box that arrives from Barbuto in Sicily every week.  I was curious and very pleasantly surprised because it is delicious.  The raw leaves are hairy and I cooked them in the same way you would cook spinach.  

I added no salt or seasoning as I wanted to taste the natural flavour.  I drained the leaves in a colander.  The cooked leaves remained whole and intact.  The colour intensified to a more vibrant green and the texture was smooth and satiny, the hairy surface and stem smoothed out.  And the taste?  Just delicious, and I am nearly sure I prefer it to kale, spinach or chard.  

Borage is a big thumbs up from me and if you can get your hands on some, do try it.  I see it becoming as popular as kale very soon’

borage-raw-and-cooked

Cooked borage on the plate with the raw leaves at the side.  This photo was taken during a live tv show by Marconia Schembri

For my omelet you will need:

about 4 large cooked borage leaves, chopped
2 eggs
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cooked fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon cooked onion, chopped
1 medium cooked potato, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add the cooked onions, mushrooms and potatoes. Add the chopped borage leaves Season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat. Beat the eggs and season. Pour the eggs over the vegetables and potatoes. Reduce the heat and cook until the bottom starts to brown. Invert the omelet or fold it in half. Serve immediately.

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Raw borage leaves, as seen on tv today

 

Organic borage is available from Barbuto, Sicily with deliveries to Malta every Thursday.

Cooking with Quinoa in today’s Sunday Times

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Cooking with Quinoa, today’s Sunday Times.  Photo taken during a live tv show by Illumina Media

Quinoa is a highland crop from the Andes and although it is known as a grain, it is technically the seed of a plant that the Incas referred to as the ‘Mother of all Grains’. It is gluten-free and is a high-protein food. There are 143 calories in 100g of cooked quinoa. Quinoa is a tight little

Cooking with Quinoa,Source: Sunday Times

Braised Pork Cheeks on spaghetti

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This photo was taken by Marconia Schembri during a live tv show.’

This slow cooked pork cheeks is amazing as the meat is so soft and nearly melts in your mouth. This is a very simple and straightforward recipe. Pork cheeks are not readily available and you will need to pre-order them from your butcher.’

You will need:

4 pork cheeks
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large courgette
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
150ml wine
400g canned chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs
1 all natural stock cube
100g guanciale (or pancetta), cubed
a grating of fresh turmeric
a pinch of stevia
salt and pepper to season

To serve: Spaghetti

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat the olive oil in large pot over high heat. Add the pork cheeks and brown the surface on both sides to seal the meat. Remove from the pan and leave aside.

In the same pot, add the chopped guanciale or pancetta, cook then add the garlic, the onions on medium heat. Add the carrots and courgettes and stir. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, tinned tomatoes, turmeric and fresh herbs.  Stir then season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of stevia.  Cook for 5 minutes then add the browned pork cheeks and coat with the sauce. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper and cover the pot.  Place it in the oven. Allow the pork to cook slowly in the oven for 3 hours. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

In the meantime cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the pack.
Serve the pork cheeks on a bed of spaghetti.

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Pork cheeks, this photo was taken by Marconia Schembri during a live tv show.

I use pork cheeks [Majjal ta’ Malta] from Ta Cancu Butcher in Zejtun, fresh vegetables and herbs by Big Fresh and Barbuto [organic], stock cubes by Kallo at Good Earth, canned tomatoes by Victoria Brand, herbs and spices by Schwartz and spaghetti by Fibre Pasta.