food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

apricot-raw-bars-imageI’m not sure when I first knew about Susan. Did she find me, or did I find her? No matter. I’m just glad we did find each other over this Interweb thingy.

Obviously as you are reading this blog on some kind of device through the modern voodoo that is the Internet, you don’t need to be convinced of the value of  New Media. Blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook (still a hold out on the latter), Reddit, Google+ etc are the way many of us get current, useable information. No more waiting for the 6 pm TV bulletins or morning newspapers to find out what is happening/has happened.

We also get to ‘meet’ some fantastically inspiring kindred spirits who, without the Internet, we would never know. Without getting all slushy I know my life has been enriched not only by having quality information at the click of a mouse, but connections with thoughtful and thought-provoking people at any time of day or night. Susan Gonzalez is one such person. And Susan, dear reader, has written – with Flo Strang – a fantastically useful and dare I say, funny, book about cancer.

Yep. The dreaded C word. Titled “100 Perks Of Having Cancer, Plus 100 Tips For Surviving It” this 465-page book immediately captures your attention. You may rightly be thinking ‘how in the hell can cancer have perks, let alone 100 of them?’ And as for surviving? WTH?’51BDMsITveL._

Scoff not. This book is great. 100 Perks is brimming with humour, attitude, intelligence and wisdom. Written from an American perspective some of it isn’t strictly applicable to non-US readers (eg heath care system, some dietary/food stuff), but that is a tiny issue. You will I think be charmed by the co-author’s different takes on facing treatment for what is a very common set of diseases (200 or so types). Flo and Susan have both gone through treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer, and have basically been there and got the Cancer Sucks T-shirt. That they then neatly folded away and popped in a drawer. For them cancer can and does suck, but that is only part of it.

The layout of the book is simple: 100 ‘perks’ from Flo intertwined with practical tips from Susan. This duet of voices makes for a highly readable book. Black and white images and illustrations break up the easy-to-read, well-spaced text. Some of the illustrations are quite funny too (see Health Tip 2: You Need Estrogen to Make Your Kitty Purr…).

Registered Psychologist Flo comes at you with inspiring anecdotes and insights that document the year she was in active treatment. It’s not all sweetness and light; ‘oh having cancer is wonderful.’ But rather Flo recognises at face value some of the interesting opportunities and quirky benefits she has come across – or made happen – during her year of treatment. Some of Flo’s perks are practical, but most are about seizing opportunities and seeing things in a new way – enjoying family time, putting the trivial or seemingly-scary into perspective, making time to do things you love, shaking up your lifestyle, learning the power and peace of forgiveness. Some are quite funny too – her bald head made her look more like her closely-cropped son; and she didn’t have to worry about dinner guests finding hair in food she prepared :D. Flo’s observations are not of course universal to all undergoing cancer treatment, but she does make you think about your  own blessings, opportunities and experiences, nudging you to look at what on first analysis seems negative and see it in a different light. Even those without cancer will get a good reality check by reading her sage and funny observations.

Susan’s part is equally important and wise. Her angle is practical health-related tips on getting through – the “surviving”  in the title – treatment in as best shape as you can. A nurse by training, Susan expertly negotiates scientific literature to give the reader health-related tips that more or less complement Flo’s perks. Like Flo, Susan’s writing is infused with humour – as is her wonderful, laugh-out-loud blog The Sassy Sister – but she is essentially the straight man in this writing duo, dispensing advice on bowel movements (“I Love Pooping”), natural skincare (she is an expert, btw), the art of napping, positive worrying,choosing a diet that’s right for you, what’s the deal with organic, is there joy in soy, how to interpret health-related news stories and scientific studies, and the road to recovery is paved with garlic.  As a practical sort I really loved reading Susan’s tips, and nearly all are useful to anyone whatever their health status. Her recipes also look damn tasty too (don’t read on an empty stomach or you will be dashing to the store).

In short I would highly recommend 100 Perks to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Depending on the person it is also suitable as a gift for someone going through treatment  – although perhaps not for someone who is emotionally vulnerable or who is having a ‘bad chemo.’ If you aren’t sure, buy it anyway and hang on to it until the time is right (sneaking a read first).

In keeping with the spirit of the book – looking after yourself – below is a quick little recipe for a healthy snack. Make it up and keep it in a little box or tin in the refrigerator to nibble on when you need a healthy energy boost. Each small square serving gives a good amount of beta-carotene, healthy fats, lutein, protein and fibre: great for lunch boxes, briefcases, hospital appointments (to lessen the temptation of the nasty vending machines), mid-afternoon blood sugar dips or even a quick breakfast with a pot of yogurt. Sticky, natural sweet and actually quite good for you. I hope Susan approves! PS Look below the recipe for an awesome tweak (hint: Jaffa Cake!)

FYI, Flo blogs at The Perks Of Having Cancer and Susan does so at The Savvy Sister. Both are fabulous #WordPress blogs! Please go and say “Hi.”

apricot-raw-bars-imageApricot-Citrus No-Bake Snack Bars

Last year: Kale and Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Pistachio Dukkah

Two years ago: Courgette, Pea and Pesto Soup 

Miss R’s track of the week: Arctic Monkeys “Knee Socks” from the fabulous AM album

There are lots of raw bars, power bars, power balls, and other fun/alarmingly-healthy- sounding whole food snacks on the Interweb. This one – one I think I have invented – is our favourite. We love the tangy sweetness of the apricots and clementine all smoodged up between the two sticky layers of blitzed cashews and dates. The spices are optional but I think they flatter the main flavours. The turmeric does NOT make this like a curry! It is more like ginger (to which it is closely related). You can use ground ginger but it is good to use turmeric in ways other than curries.

I have the recipe made up as bars here, but you could mix the whole thing up and make into balls for ease (roll in coconut perhaps?). And you could dip in melted dark chocolate to ensnare the would-be sceptics. Me? I like them in the raw. UPDATE: my friend Niki said the choccie version is like a healthy Jaffa Cake, so new image below – No-Bake Jaffa Cake! And it is! Jut add a little more orange or some orange flower water;D

You will need a food processor or mini chop-type blender (these often come with immersion/stick blender) and a 23cm x 23cm (9”x9”) pan lined with a long, overhanging length of cling film/food wrap

75g (1/2 packed cup) moist dates, stoned and roughly chopped

50g (1/2 cup) oats (gluten-free if needed)

215g (3/4 cup) raw cashews, soaked for 15 minutes in hot water and drained

1 tsp each ground cinnamon and turmeric and a grind or two of black pepper

good pinch of salt

200g (1 ½ cups) dried apricots

juice and finely grated zest of one clementine/satsuma or ½ medium orange

¼ tsp vanilla powder or ½ tsp vanilla extract

1. Blend together the dates, oats, cashews, cinnamon, turmeric and salt until clumping together and sticky.

2. Scrape the mixture out of the food processor and press two-thirds into a cling film-lined 23cm x 23cm (9”x9”) pan or dish. It helps to have the cling film quite long and lay the excess over the mixture to help press it out evenly. Put the remaining mixture aside.

3. Wipe out or clean the food processor bowl and blitz the apricots, clementine juice and zest, and the vanilla. Spread this mixture evenly over the nutty base.

4. Dot over the remaining nutty mixture and press down evenly, using the excess cling film to help. Press down quite firmly as you want the whole thing to stay together as cut bars. Cover with the by now quite sticky clingfilm and pop in the freezer for half an hour; remove the cling film and cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Makes 12-16 bars.

PS You may have noticed the plastic knife in the top image – plastic knives are great for cutting sticky things. They glide right through without crushing or making excess crumbs – perfect for cutting brownies and traybakes.raw-jaffa-cake-imageapricot-raw-bars-imageapricot-raw-bars-imageapricot-raw-bars-image

37 thoughts on “Apricot and Citrus No-Bake Bars + A Book Review

  1. Nazima says:

    What a wonderful recipe Kellie and an inspiring book. I love the flavours in the recipe. Not tried turmeric like this. I know it is a great spice for health but do always use in savoury. Will have to try this out. And it must smell divine – apricots, citrus, cinnamon, dates…. yum!

    1. So glad you like it. I know it sounds weird but it really is quite nice. One can almost forget it is good for you with all of its stickiness

  2. Kellie I am both speechless and shouting “Yippee!” at the same time (yes, it’s a weird sound). You are truly a gem, and when I travel around the world (soon) I will stop over in merry ol Scotland to give you a great big hug! Love you!

    1. Hug waiting for you! Love you too Miss Susan. You tv star you ;D

  3. Flo Strang says:

    Gawrsh, you made me blush with all that praise! Thanks so much for this awesome review! Looking forward to following your blog.
    Flo
    http://www.perksofcancer.com

    1. You are welcome. Thanks for writing the book – we love it!

  4. Don’t get me started on my perks of being sick.. but I don’t think it will reach 100. It might sound strange, but I’m so grateful I fell sick at an early age.
    these bars look amazing, pinned!

    1. Well, you have really turned your health situation around with your diet haven’t you, Shannon. It is great to know that with so much we can’t control about ourselves and our lives, what we put in our mouths is one thing we can and should do that really can make a difference.

  5. Deena Kakaya says:

    These bars even look sunny! They’re so warm and inviting looking. I’m not a fan of baking, largely as my oven is crazy…so I am going to try these out! X

    1. I have a crazy oven too. Can’t leave it for a minute without worrying that it will zoom up with the temperature. I am actually willing mine to give up completely so I can get a new one ;D

      1. Deena Kakaya says:

        Me too, I want a huge one with double doors and loads of hobs on top. Ovens can make people ( me) happy x

  6. Sounds like a lot of very brave and inspiring women and I bet this book saves the minds of many people.
    Recipe is brilliant, I’m going to make it tonight for the lads lunch box, fab, thank you.
    ps Im a very good Food To Glow pupil cos I did spot the knife and I think you told us about this trick before so Im feeling all clever at noticing!

    1. Well done you! Gold star and go to the head of the class 😀 The knife is so tacky looking (from the cheapo bags you get for mass outdoor catering!) but it does the trick. And yes, the book is brilliant as are the authors. I just watched a tv interview with Susan. She did a super job. The link is on her latest blog post if you or anyone else wants to check it out.

  7. narf77 says:

    I was watching one of Steve’s crappy “cop shows” yesterday and saw the moment where a man was guiding a truck across a railway crossing and didn’t see the train approaching and just about to hit the truck. We watched in complete horror as the train hit the truck, then the train AND the large truck hit the man and he went underneath both of them. Surely dead, but no. This man survived! He said that he considers the day that he survived to be his new birthday and he takes NOTHING for granted any more. I would imagine finding out that you have cancer is something akin to this mans amazing life transformation.

    We take it all for granted till we are forced to realise that we aren’t immortal. Life lessons are the most difficult lessons to learn but some of the most poignant and awe inspiring if we let them in. Like a sharp knife, they cut deeply but they cut clean and they take a whole lot less time to heal than denial and running away from the truth. Cancer is a life lesson and I love to find humour in life lessons. That’s where the raw and primal survival mechanism balances on the sharp blade of reality and it’s both terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

    My beloved Aunty Alice had breast cancer that she eventually succumbed to. Her middle son had a lot of trouble adjusting to the fact that she had cancer and kept avoiding hugging her or touching her right up till the day that she dealt with this sticky emotional situation in her “Aunty Alice” way and took out her faux silicone breast and threw it at him where he automatically caught it…uncomfortable situation gone, laughter returned. I loved Aunty Al, she personified everything that I find great in life and a sense of humour is right up there with the most precious things in life :).We only get one go around and one chance to learn from these life lessons and much like Mary Poppins’s “spoon full of sugar”, a healthy dose of humour certainly makes the medicine go down.

    Cheers for sharing this amazing book with us and this delicious recipe to boot. Another holistic post cram packed to the brim with worthwhile content. No wonder I look forward to your post with eager anticipation :).

    1. If I may be so bold as to reply on Kellie’s blog…
      Your Aunty Alice seems like our kind of gal. We certainly are not saying “Cancer is great…Go get some!” but we are saying there is a different perspective to life when you are forced to face death. And if you can get past the stages of loss (in this case it’s loss of your health) denial, anger, bargaining, and get to the final stage of acceptance, there’s usually room for humor
      Studies show that 5 out of 5 people are going to die someday, but studies also show that only 1 out of 5 people really feel like they are living life to the fullest.
      That’s where we come in….giving you a guide to live better healthier and happier. And the good news is, you don’t have to wait until you get cancer to start!

      1. narf77 says:

        Cheers for the answer, My Aunty Al was just about everyone’s type of person :). I completely agree. I hold that there is good and bad in everything you just have to find it and learn not to get too bogged down in the negative side of it. Again, cheers for the answer 🙂

      2. Well said Miss Savvy Sister. Thanks for commenting on Fran’s comment. She’s a gem, as are you x

    2. Love your comment Fran. Extremely wise words that I will not add to for fear of sounding illiterate! Aunty Alice sounds like she was a fantastic person and great influence. Perhaps you get your cheeky sense of humour from her?

      1. narf77 says:

        I most probably do Kellie ;). I just loved this post. It completely resonated with me and echoed my own personal view on life and “when the dung hits the fan” and “when life hands you lemons” etc. It takes life lessons to make us realise that we are so lucky just to BE alive. Most of us think we are invincible. When we realise that we aren’t its probably one of the greatest gifts that we can receive. A double edged sword that cuts through the bullshite and delivers us to a place where we can really be honest with ourselves. Again, I loved this post 🙂

  8. Choclette says:

    Gosh turmeric with sweet food, this is a first for me. Your apricot bars are so pretty and vibrant, I’m sure they would be uplifting as well as tasty.

    1. First for me too. I will be doing some more sweet experimenting with this fabulous spice. I need to make sure I don’t over do it with myself as I already drink my turmeric and cardamom almond milk most days. I may soon turn bright yellow!

  9. my word they look amazing – great as squares but I reckon E would love them as balls. We could have lots of fun making these with a 1 year old helper!

    1. And maybe dip them in chocolate too! Add to the mess ;D

  10. Hello! Back again but I just had to let you know I made this last night and firstly I would like to say it’s fun and easy to make and secondly, I’ve just sat down to have a morning cuppa with a square of it and it has a fab glowing colour and it’s bursting with flavour and gooeyness, so it’s a real uplifting morning treat. I do need to confess that I put a layer of dark chocolate over it (well, Kellie did say we could!) and the cold dark chocolate next to the gooey apricot and crunchy cashews is a taste & colour combo made in heaven. Very happy, thanks Kellie!

    1. Ah, thanks my lovely friend. Although I hadn’t had the squares with chocolate, and only mentioned it to make it all seem more treat-like and less weird, I’ve just done a couple of choc-covered batches for three groups I’m seeing this week. They are ‘hardening up’ in the fridge and then I shall cut them. Must sample to make sure they are okay ;D

  11. What an invention. This recipe sounds divine and the fact it is a sweet recipes that’s good for you makes it even better. I have never tried turmeric in a sweet dish but can see no reason why it wouldn’t work. This is a must try thanks!,

    1. I hadn’t really tried it this way either, but I wasn’t surprised that it worked out okay because apricots, dates and nuts work well in Moroccan tagines. Glad you like the the sound of this, Laura.

  12. Thanks for the great book review and author introduction-it really sounds like a wonderful resource for all! These bars look scrumptious, although I have a story about my son eating too many dried apricots when he was still in diapers. I won’t go in to detail, but I think you can use your imagination 🙂

    1. At least he liked healthy snacks!

  13. What a lovely post, great book and fabulous recipe, Kellie! Thank you for the intro to Susan too
    : )

  14. What a lovely post, humour is such a useful tool (as is bags of knowledge and experience)- will keep this book in mind. As for your recipe- heart. won. over. these sounds perfectly heavenly and quite a refreshing lightness compared to many (albeit fabulous) energy/ snack bars out there. Thank you so very much xxx

  15. Alex says:

    These snack bars look great, especially the jaffa cake bars, could add carob on top instead of chocolate to keep the bars healthy!

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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