A message to our amazing readers:
We live in strange times. Normally, this time of year, we would be spending time with friends and family picnicking at the park, having BBQs, camping, hiking, enjoying the summer and the beautiful weather we have around the Tri-Cities.
Instead, we are encouraged to avoid large gatherings, can’t go out to eat and are otherwise restricted to stay home. Add to this murder hornets, tornadoes, and increased political and social unrest that have led to protests all across the country, even the globe. This is definitely not what we expected for 2020.
These are hard times. We have no way of knowing what our lives will be like next week, next month, let alone next year. I’m hopeful that our community will come together. That we will move to phase 2 of the COVID “Safe Start” reopening plan and that we will begin to show more compassion for each other. Maybe that makes me naive or delusional. I hope not.
I won’t begin to presume to tell any of you what to do or how you should be feeling right now. No one can do that. Instead, I want to share with you my hopes for the days to come. I hope you find small moments of joy in these troubled times. I hope you find peace in the love of your family and friends. I hope you find stability and security in a way that comforts you.
The one suggestion I will make is to find one small thing you love to do, and do it every day. For me, joy comes from cooking, reading, spending time with my husband and playing with my cat. These small moments can help to keep us hopeful, reduce some of the stressors in our lives and can remind us of what we still have that we can be grateful for.
Summertime and barbecue season can be challenging when you are following a nutritional plan that is not the standard American diet. Whether you are paleo, vegetarian, vegan, keto, or just prefer to eat whole, unprocessed foods like me, going to a barbecue can cause extreme anxiety. Will I be able to eat anything? If I do eat the food, are the resulting symptoms worth it?
To alleviate this anxiety, I have implemented a plan that has worked pretty well for me so far, and I believe it can be helpful to you, too. To ensure there is at least something I can eat, I make sure to bring a well-rounded dish that fits within my meal plan. This way, I know that there is at least one thing that will work with my body and nutritional needs.
When it came to looking for recipe ideas to try out this month, I wanted to make sure that it played on the whole red, white, and blue theme. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for colorful recipes, and I was really excited to find the perfect one to share with you all.
What I learned is searching for red, white, and blue recipes results in mostly desserts, which unfortunately is another category of food that is extremely difficult when you are eating whole, unprocessed foods with no added sugar, or like me are sensitive to eggs.
I wasn’t about to back down from the challenge, though, and when I found this recipe for Berry Cashew Cream No-Bake Bars from www.foodfaithfitness.com, I knew it was the one. I especially loved that the layers were colored naturally with fruits providing lots of. Bonus, I also now have a recipe for making homemade cashew butter if I need it, which is fantastic because it’s one of the more expensive nut butters at the store.
What I learned from making these cashew bars is that you can get some pretty amazing colors using natural foods. I also learned to be patient when making the layers. The instructions suggested an hour in the fridge between each layer, but I found that an hour and a half was a bit more effective. I also let it set overnight before removing it from the pan to make sure the bars were nice and solid. It’s a bit time consuming, but trust me, these are delicious.
I would suggest letting the finished bars sit for five to ten minutes (at room temperature) before eating them to allow them to soften a bit. Also, try not to let them sit out for more than 30-45 minutes as they get a bit squishy when they warm up. You may prefer them that way, but I liked them a bit more al dente.
Don’t let barbecue season be a reason to stray from your nutritional path. There are ways to ensure you can hang out with your family and friends and not feel bloated, gassy, depressed or worse the next day (or three). Your health is important, and you shouldn’t have to compromise!
PREP TIME: 2 hours 30 minutes (does not include final chilling time)
SERVINGS: 16 bars
For the crust:
• 2/3 Cup Roasted Cashews * (93g)
• 1/2 Cup Roughly chopped dates loosely packed (70g)
For the layers:
• 2 Cups Roasted Cashews soaked in water overnight (250g)
• 1/2 Cup Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
• 1/4 Cup Honey (or agave for vegan version)
• 1 tsp Raw vanilla extract
• Pinch of salt
• 1 Cup Strawberries roughly chopped (140g)
• 1/2 Cup Blueberries (70g)
- Place the cashews (for the crust) into a large food processor and pulse until broken down and crumbly. Add in the dates and pulse until combined and the mixture begins to form a crumble dough.
- Press the crust firmly into the bottom of a parchment-lined 8 x 8 inch pan. You need to press it very thin, so really use your muscles and work it in there. Place into the freezer while you make the cream.
- Drain the soaked cashews and place them, along with the almond milk, honey, vanilla and a pinch of salt, into a large, high-powered blender.
- Blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as necessary. Transfer to a large liquid measuring cup. You should have 2 cups of cream.
- Place 1/2 cup of the cream into a SMALL food processor (3 cups or smaller) along with the strawberries. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Scrape the cream over the crust and spread out evenly. Place into the refrigerator just until the top feels set, about 1–1.5 hours.
- Spread 1 Cup of the cashew cream on top of the strawberry layer and place back into the freezer until the top feels set, another 1–1.5 hours.
- Finally, place the remaining 1/2 cup of cashew cream into the small food processor with the blueberries and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Spread the final layer on top and freeze until completely firm and set, about 3 hours to overnight.
- Once frozen, remove from the pan, slice into squares and enjoy.
• I find mass is easier for oddly shaped foods to get an accurate measurement, so I used the masses in parentheses to get the right amount of nuts, dates, and fruit. If you don't have a food scale, the volume measurements will work just fine.
• If you can't find roasted, unsalted cashews, you can bake them at 350°F for 5–10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Do this before you soak the cashews overnight.
• Do not make the fruit layers in advance as the pectin in the fruit causes the cashew to turn into a gel if you do this. Make them just as you're ready to spread them.
• I let them set overnight to make sure they were nice and solid. Allow the frozen bars to warm up for 5–10 minutes before eating so that you don't hurt your teeth.
• At 70°F and directly from the freezer, they will stay reasonably solid for 30–45 minutes. Any longer than that and you may want to stick them back in the freezer for a bit.
Erika is a Tri-City native and Functional Medicine Health Coach (candidate). She enjoys sharing the results of her experiments with health and wellness on her blog: erikaslifestylelab.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram: @erikaslifestylelab.