Valentine’s Day Nachos (but not really)

I received a request from a friend to do a Valentine’s Day themed blog post; something romantic or sweet that reflected the spirit of the holiday.  I thought about what Valentine’s Day means to the people I care about and how they might enjoy celebrating.

So here it is, Nachos for One.

Nah, not really.  That’s more bleak than I care to be.

I normally wouldn’t give a crap about Valentine’s Day, but what the hell, it’s not a terrible day outside; I’m on an upswing from a string of several stressful days, and I’ve got the Ethiopians playing in the background.  Time to bust out some sweetheart recipe.

Sweet Potato Banana Bread

This quick bread is fairly healthy and pretty simple to make, although I would have let mine sit in the oven for a bit longer so it fluffed up properly.  You will need:

  • 1 small sweet potato (about a cup’s worth), mashed
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs (I didn’t have enough, but you can use ¼ cup of applesauce for each egg, so ½ cup for this recipe)
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • ½ cup of sugar (which I replaced with ¼ cup of agave nectar
  • A hand full of dark chocolate chips (I used about 1/3 cup)

Yield: 1 loaf

So, preheat your oven to 350°F.  Mash the bananas while you prepare your sweet potato.  I just put min in the microwave for about six minutes and let it cool enough to handle.  In a large bowl, blend together your bananas, sweet potato, eggs (or egg replacers), sugar, and oil.  Mix until it’s well incorporated.

In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Combine them well, and then stir it into the bowl with the banana-sweet potato mixture.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

  

Lightly grease a baking pan (I used an 8×8, but you can use a loaf pan if you prefer).  Add your batter and place in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until you can remove a toothpick cleanly.

This isn’t exactly what you might consider typical Valentine’s fare, but I think most typical Valentine’s fare sucks.  There is only so much candy you can eat (or should eat); those little hearts are chalky and it eludes me why we still buy them if general consensus is that they’re awful (although I have the same question about fruitcake around Christmas); and big, romantic dinners tend to be heavy on the meat, fat, and cholesterol.  This bread is sweet, and the bananas and sweet potatoes are actually heart-healthy foods, which seems more appropriate for this kind of holiday.  And if you’re worried that it doesn’t quite seem to fit the Valentine’s Day bill, here’s how I presented it to my sweetheart:

(The food on this blog won’t kill you, but you might get diabetes from how sappy I can get)

Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

(yes, you!)

Chewy Snacks for Crunchy People (Vegan Oatmeal Breakfast Bars)

I started a new job as a contractor a couple of weeks ago.  That means I’m out of the house early in the morning and in the field most of the day, so I usually am eating a cold lunch or going for a sandwich with the other crew members.  These oatmeal bars are great for when I’m on the job; they can be a quick breakfast or a filling, protein-packed snack during the middle of the day.  The walnuts, apple, and oatmeal provide some lasting energy, and the flax seed add a healthy dose of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.  I recommend these for vegan-friendly potlucks, folks with a busy workday and poor vending machine options, and people who are hitting the gym at some point in the day.

I’m not a vegan.  I’ve gone through vegan/“vaugan” periods over the last few years, but I haven’t made the change to full-time, and I’m not sure that I ever will.  However, I believe it’s always a good idea to know a few recipes that are vegan-friendly (or ways you can substitute ingredients to make something vegan) should you ever need to take someone’s dietary preferences into consideration.

You will need:

  • 2 cups quick oatmeal
  • ¾ cup soy or almond milk
  • I apple, grated (I used a Granny Smith because it was the firmest I had at the time)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (I substituted this with a little less than ¼ cup agave nectar)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ~½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Flax seeds (optional; I had a few tablespoons left and decided to add them)
  • 2-3 tablespoons shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • Oil for greasing the pan

Yield: Around 9 bars (depending on size)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Reserving the apples (and agave if you’re using it), mix together all of the dry ingredients.  Add the apples a small amount at a time, followed by the milk and combine will.  My mixture looked a little like this:

Grease a baking pan (8”x8” to 10”x10” works, but you’re not restricted to this) with some oil and spread the mixture evenly.  Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, then remove and let cool.  Cut the mixture into bars or squares, and enjoy.  These are great cold, room temperature, or warm; I like to stick them in the toaster oven for a few minutes when I have the chance.

This is my third attempt at making these bars, and I think these are the best yet.  The first time I omitted the sugar and used bittersweet chocolate chips; the flavor combination wasn’t bad but the chocolate remained melted and made for messier eating.  The second attempt I substituted the apple for a few finely shredded carrots and once again didn’t add sugar.  These were pretty bland and didn’t make for great eating.  This newest version remains moist but not soggy, and has texture somewhat reminiscent of apple cake.  Overall, I’m very satisfied with this version.

*Side note

I did a little research, and while oatmeal might be considered gluten-free, it often gets cross-contaminated by wheat.  I’m honestly not sure if there is a way to make this gluten-free except to find oatmeal that is labeled as such.  If I find out more information I will post this, but feel free to comment and contribute.