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The Whole Foods Paradox

It’s the Whole Foods paradox: I want to eat healthy, local ingredients—but I can’t afford it. It’s like seeing a fabulous dress at the store, before you turn over the price tag and have to walk away. We’ve all been there. Every time I hold a bag of chia seeds or a carton of hemp milk in my hand, I probably pick it up and put it back 3 or 4 times before I decide that it’s just not in my recently-graduated-college-and-moved-to-the-city budget. But I can’t help it, I love these products. So, what’s a foodie to do?

If you figure it out then please tell me. Living in Park Slope, Brooklyn definitely makes it easier to find these types of ingredients than living in the heart of Harlem where I was before, but it doesn’t make them cheaper. When I feel like I really need it, I’ll treat myself to one of these special omega-3 super foods and believe me, I stretch them as long as they’ll go.

Recently, I found a treasure—or rather, I was given one. Instead of sending the extra ingredients from an event into the garbage, I was able to take home three boxes worth of goodies including hemp seeds, goji berries, medjool dates, whole oats, and millet. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. Every time I open my cabinet and see my shelf stacked with these healthful ingredients, I’m thrilled my own shelf looks like one that belongs to a real yogi-health nut.

On Sunday morning, I opened my treasure chest of a pantry and pulled out handfuls of ingredients. I was determined to make a recipe that, while quite simple, can also be quite expensive: granola bars. Granola bars make an excellent snack or early morning energy source, but I tend to stay away from the ones in the grocery store that are chock full of preservatives, refined sugars, and pseudo-ingredients. I had been meaning to make my own granola bars for a while, as something to grab a couple bites of before heading out to yoga class or for a run in the morning, so when I was gifted with the ultimate gift basket, I knew the time had finally come.

Essentially, you can mix anything you want into granola bars. Love dates, but hate apricots? That’s fine! Chocolate lover? Throw in as many cacao nibs as your heart desires. If you’re like me and love tiny seeds most people haven’t heard of—go ahead and throw in a couple tablespoons of hemp, chia, and flax seeds. Mix your dry ingredients together in a bowl and toss with a couple tablespoons of flour until everything is evenly coated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients. I used a bit of olive oil, in addition to some melted coconut oil and a couple good squeezes honey, but you could easily use anything else sticky and sweet like maple syrup . The goal for the wet ingredients is to bind the dry ingredients together. When it’s all mixed well, lay it evenly into a pan and throw it in the oven for 30 minutes or so until the top is brown but it’s still moist to the touch.

Classically, when making a homemade version of something that can be found in the store, it can be surprising when what comes out of your oven doesn’t look like something that comes from a box. I expected that these bars would keep their shape after I cut into them, but instead they mostly crumbled into a granola-like ice cream topping. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t let them cool long enough, eager to dive into these power-packed morsels, or maybe my ratio of dry to wet was a little bit off. Either way, the bars came out delicious and I’m excited to experiment with the next round!

Treasure Chest Granola Crumbles
This recipe is loosely adapted from virtually every other granola bar recipe ever written

A handful of each of the following ingredients (or vary to your liking):
• chopped dried apricots
• medjool dates
• raisins
• dried goji berries
• almonds
• Oats (you should use a cup or 2, depending on the quantity you are making)
(This is where you could add chocolate chips, but I don’t like chocolate before 7:00 AM!)

A couple tablespoons of each of the following:
• Chia seeds
• Hemp Seeds
• Flax seeds
• Whole wheat flour

Mix these ingredients together in a large bowl, in a separate bowl whisk together ½ a cup of olive oil, ½ a cup of honey, and ½ a cup of melted coconut oil with a dash of celtic sea salt, if you have it—if not, regular salt will do. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, and press evenly into a pan. Cook for about a half hour on 350 and let cool completely.

Enjoy this energizing granola virtually with me at 6:30 before yoga, or for lunch, dinner or on top of ice cream!

Liz Traison is a recent graduate of The University of Michigan where she received a BA in History and Judaic Studies. She also studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum and Hebrew University. She is thrilled to be a Program Fellow at Hazon and also to be doing social justice programming for MASA Alumni. She likes being outside, particularly on Skeleton Lake. And also being inside, specifically doing creative workshops in prison.


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