For a short time, my sister shared a house with a model. Skinny as a rake, the woman subsisted on boiled eggs, coconut oil and vitamin pills. It's not the sort of diet I would recommend; for one, I can't imagine the state of her bowels.
Which reminds me of a conversation I had a few months ago. My marriage was going through an arid patch, as relationships well into their second decade sometimes do, and I said to a friend rather airily, 'I could imagine having an affair, except of course for my vows.'
My friend looked at me wide-eyed, then collapsed laughing. She had heard, you see, not 'vows' but 'bowels' and had been overwhelmed momentarily by appalling thoughts regarding the state of mine.
Ghastly. But let us return to the model housemate, so to speak, and the coconut oil. According to many foodie types, when eaten in conjunction with more than boiled eggs it is actually good for you; and, in moderation, can help you lose weight. That is, I suppose, why she ate it. The arguments go on for pages, so I won't bore you with them here; suffice it to say that I was mulling over the purported health properties of coconut oil when I saw this jar of the stuff at my local shop:
So I bought the coconut oil and sat it on a shelf in my pantry so that it catches my eye every time I open the door – and every time I see it, ten times a day, I find myself grinning. The woman's face makes me happy, and if that isn't an advertisement for fair trade socially sustainable products, even if they are from regions afar, then I don't know what is!
I left it there for a while, just to keep smiling, but I hadn't quite worked out what to do with it when my investigations took a surprising turn. Rather unexpectedly, I fell in love. Nothing to do with the long relationship; instead, I fell in love with, rather disastrously, a six dollar chocolate bar. It is one of those things free of everything: sugar, gluten, dairy – EXCEPT TASTE. It contains mostly almonds and various forms of coconut (coconut oil, shredded coconut), and is coated with cacao sweetened with coconut sugar. Even writing about it makes me drool.
Eco it is not. It is made in the US, and I shudder to think of the air miles of the coconut from somewhere tropical being shunted somewhere north, formulated into bars, then sent over the Pacific to Australia. It is clearly over-packaged. And it is, rather obviously, insanely expensive. A late-night google revealed that I can buy a box of 72 bars for a heavily discounted rate, but I prefer not to look like the side of a house before I turn 40 and thus I have restrained myself. But oh! that bar. It is not oversweet; instead, it is very, very satisfying and keeps me going for hours. From time to time I lash out and buy a single bar, hoovering it up in seconds – but then it occurred to me to try and make something similar.
So I looked around a bit more, and found these almond power bars (or words to that effect). They are nothing like the commercial bar, nor are they trying to be, but they have the same effect. Being choc-full of nuts and, if one believes the rhetoric about coconut oil, healthy fats, one of these keeps me on an even keel for hours. I eat one just before school pick up, and the slow steady release of energy helps me stay calm with the kids right up until dinner time.
I may not look like my sister's former housemate, and nor would I ever want to; yet this is the sort of food that helps me feel like a model mum: on an even keel, energetic, and happy.
Almond Coconut Bars
- 1 cup almonds
Put the nuts, LSA, shredded coconut, almond butter and salt into a food processor. Pulse it to combine.
Melt the coconut oil over low heat. Add the honey and vanilla to the oil, and stir together, then drizzle it all into the nut mixture. Pulse again until you have a coarse paste.
The easiest thing here is to tip it all into a baking dish about 10cm x 10cm, pressing down with the back of a metal spoon to pack it in. Refrigerate for an hour or so. Slice with a warm knife into bars / squares / whatever takes your fancy. Store in the fridge.
If, however, you like fiddling around, drop the mixture into silicon cups. I use a dozen silicon cupcake cups, filled less than a half (a full cupcake of this mix is enough to go crusading) plus a silicon ice cube tray in the shape of hearts. Keep the cups in a muffin tray so they retain their shape while being formed. Drop some mixture into each shape, then press down with the back of a metal spoon to pack it in. Place in the fridge for an hour to harden. You can pop the little shapes out of the ice cube tray and into a container for storage; and just place the cupcake shapes, silicon wrappers and all, into the container too. Store in the fridge.
Optional: When the mix has set, melt the chocolate over very low heat. Stir constantly to ensure it doesn't catch and burn. Drizzle the chocolate over the bars / patties / whatever, then return them to the fridge to harden the chocolate.
These make a great lunchbox snack, and they chase away the mid afternoon doldrums a treat. Of course, you can play with the nuts and the nut butter – macadamias, hazelnuts and pure almonds are all delicious.
(Backyard: almonds. Brunswick: honey. Way away, but apparently organic, shade grown and preserving both the Amazonian rainforest and a traditional way of life: brazil nuts. Wimmera: salt. Sumatra: coconut oil in an eco peco fair trade post-tsunami project. Organic but afar: shredded coconut, almond butter (must make my own one of these days). Organic fair trade: chocolate. Australian sourced but no more specific: LSA.)