Sunday, April 7, 2013

Warm Quinoa-Oat Squares with Date Sugar

I can't make it through the morning without a snack. My stomach sounds the warning alarm for a snack break right around 9:30 each morning and until I get my granola bar and cup of tea, some of my focus definitely gets diverted from my work. Just 10 minutes to check my email, eat a snack and sip a cup of tea recharges me for the second half of the morning and is essential to my work productivity. This slightly sweet combination of whole grains and nuts, although requiring a little more effort than the granola bars I usually make, is one of the most refueling snacks I've made. Although all the grains after softened as they cook, each still retains their own flavor and textural character. The sweetness is subtle and multi-layered, a gentle saccharinity throughout punctuated by bites of sweet dates. I've included the original cooking instructions here, but if you're lucky enough to have an individual brownie pan like I do, you can make perfectly square bars with an adjustment to the cooking time. An entire batch makes a two week cache of snacks and extras fare pretty well in the freezer. I ate these bars without any accouterments, but they would be lovely served warm with more almond milk and fruit for a cozy breakfast. Whether you choose to have them as a snack or leisurely meal, these bars are a perfect way to fuel up for the day.

Warm Quinoa-Oat Squares with Date Sugar
adapted from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Nonstick pan spray
½ cup quinoa, rinsed under cold water
½ cup bulgur wheat
1½ cups almond, rice, or soy milk, plus more, warmed, for serving
1½ cups water
¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
8 dates, pitted
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons date sugar (or ¼ cup granulated or turbinado sugar)
½ cup walnut halves
2 ripe pears (such as Bartlett or Anjou) or apples--halved, cored and cut into ¼-inch pieces, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick pan spray. Line the baking pan with a long sheet of parchment paper, letting the sides of the paper hang loosely over the pan edges to create a sling. Lightly coat the parchment with the nonstick spray.

2. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, add the quinoa, bulgur, rice milk, water and salt. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the quinoa has uncoiled and the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the oats, vanilla extract and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the dates and date sugar until the mixture is crumbly, about three 3-second pulses. Transfer the date mixture to a bowl and add the walnuts to the food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are coarsely ground, about three 1-second pulses. Add the walnuts and the date-sugar mixture to the oat mixture and stir to combine.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula and bake until the top is lightly browned and the bars are set but still soft, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven and cool for about 15 minutes.

5. To serve, carefully pull up the sides of the sling to lift and transfer the quinoa-oat square to a cutting board. Slice the bars into 8 rectangles and serve in bowls with the warm rice milk and chopped pears.

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