Friday, February 17, 2012

Accidental Junk Food?

I wanted to talk about the kind of food that's appealing in the sense of being both tasty and in conformity with all my criteria of what's actually a good food to put in my body. Isn't it ironic that despite all the research into nutrition, this set of criteria is inevitably going to be highly subjective?

Now, it's true that on occasion, I eat things not in perfect conformity with all my criteria:

  • Occasionally I eat chocolate, or other cacao-containing foods, which I know is bad for my personal adrenals and brain chemistry
  • Occasionally I eat homemade vegan white or carob cacao butter chocolates, which simply contain too much fat per serving for me to consider "everyday food" (NB home made chips made from these would not normally be off-list)
  • Occasionally I eat tamari in dressings, although I find it waay too salty for me
  • Occasionally I eat nuts and nut butters, or goods made with them, although apart from mac nuts, pili nuts and walnuts, I consider them way too high in omega-6 for regular consumption, with the exception of one or two brazil nuts on occasion, whose selenium content offsets their stratospheric omega-6's
  • Occasionally I'll eat something that was prepared with agave nectar, although I think it's a pretty poor quality ingredient
  • Very very very occasionally, like once a year, I'll eat a potato chip at a party (and inevitably feel awful)
But, as I mentioned in my apricot power bars post, none of these is an everyday transgression, and I often need a snack beyond an apple or a carrot, especially if I'm going to skip dinner (an increasingly frequent occurrence). I need snacks that are things I feel totally OK about--low omega 6, some good protein, not overly high in sugar or fat, some omega 3's, lots of minerals, nutrient dense for the amount of calories--oh, and of course, it has to taste good. 
Good, but not "moreish" good: I want to eat one and be done, not eat one and have all my attention dragged away to it.

So, imagine my shock when I did a remake of these wonderful carob chip apricot bars, with just one small tweak which actually made it healthier in my book, and ended up with something "moreish good!"

What did I do differently?

Two things, actually.  The most important thing was, I soaked the freshly ground amaranth and quinoa flours overnight, rather than mixing them dry and then adding the wet ingredients. I just added the "watery" component of the liquid ingredients to them the night before, and then stirred in the flax, carrots, apricots, chips, and all the wet ingredients, the next day. The idea was to allow the phytates in the grains to break down, thereby making the bars more digestible. I loved the first version of the bars, but my tummy was a little less sure.

I also ended up dehydrating them for slightly longer. Now, I mentioned in my first post about them that they had a lovely texture even with the rather small amount of coconut oil used. This time, I used no more coconut oil than previously, but I noticed that the batter appeared more "oily" when I mixed it all together. Something about the soaked grains incorporating differently?
Well, the end result was kind of like a crunchy, spicy cookie--maybe the kind made with shortening!
A very definite crunch, with a spicy, satisfying flavor, a pleasantly oily mouthfeel. Unfortunately the apricot chunks were too dry as a result of the long dehydration, but otherwise, a rather simple and plain goodie was transformed into something totally decadent.

What was my reaction? Horror! I wanted them gone!
I'm not usually a sucker for crunch, probably because there have been so few cookies in my life ever (or maybe the causality goes the other way), and I pride myself on iron restraint around food. Choosing everyday foods from my strict criteria set helps me with this.  So it was immensely disorienting for a "healthy" food to come out decadent like that.

I was torn between deciding that the carob chips made them too decadent for everyday after all, flat throwing them out (which I'm incapable of doing, and didn't do), and using them as my go-to snack at every opportunity to get them gone as quickly as possible, which is what I ended up doing.

Written out like that, it sounds a bit sad--I used them up relatively quickly because they tasted so good, but specifically, because that fact was such a bad thing!

No, I don't have plans to make them again anytime soon. I know that I could make them less devilish by dehydrating them less crunchy, but they take several stages of preparation, and I'm going to focus on more "instant" snacks for the time being.

Tasted so good, it must've been bad.... What do you think of that?