Virginia Woolf famously said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” – so I felt it was very important to make some delicious granola bars for the students that came to my yoga/Ayurveda workshop this wintry weekend. We started with a gentle yoga class, took a break for snacks and tea, and I led a talk on how Ayurveda can help bring balance to our bodies and minds. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga, and is a healing therapy that focuses on the interrelatedness of the body, mind and spirit. Food is a wonderful healer and a beautiful way to connect to the people and things around us; if our tummies can be satisfied, our hearts and our minds aren’t far behind.
While there are endless variations and replacements to be made in a granola bar recipe, the following choices were settled upon due to Ayurvedic principles that suggest we eat according to the seasons. This particular recipe uses sunflower seeds and sunflower butter, which were obvious choices due to their very punny attributes (sun!). Moreover, sunflower seeds are very nourishing and good for all the Doshas (body types according to Ayurveda). Black sesame seeds were included as they contain high amounts of solar energy (which we could all use more of during short winter days), and like sunflower seeds, are very rejuvenating. Millet and amaranth are gluten-free ancient grains that are high in protein and fibre, and along with oats, they are calming and strengthening foods that can soothe the winter blues away. Both raisins and cinnamon improve digestion, and cinnamon helps to warm the body – a very welcome attribute in winter. Brown rice syrup and maple syrup have relatively low glycemic indexes (meaning they do not cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels compared to other sweeteners), and more importantly, having a little sweetness in your diet will make you a little sweeter (wink!).
Winter sun granola bars
makes 12 bars
1-1/2 cups rolled oats (certified gluten-free if necessary)
1-1/4 cups millet puffs
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, unroasted, unsalted
1/8 cup black sesame seeds
1 tbsp amaranth seeds
1/4 cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Meanwhile, in a small pot, gently heat the syrups and seed butter, stirring with a spatula. When it has warmed and loosened up, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix well to combine. The mixture will be very sticky. Scrape it all into a 9×12″ baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Spread it out evenly and with slightly wet fingers or a rolling pin, smoosh the mixture down so it is well packed (this will help it stick together). Bake in a preheated 300 F oven for 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let it cool completely before cutting. There is also the option to not bake the bars and stick the mixture into the freezer to firm up! A short visit of 10 minutes in the freezer should do, and then the bars can be cut. I prefer the toasty flavour of the baked version, and cooked foods are more appropriate for this time of year – plus, turning the oven on in the winter makes the house warm and cozy, which is an added bonus.