Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BACOS, Post Traumatic Salad Disorder and the Strawberry Crunkle

Since my caffeine overdose a few weeks ago, I am happy to report that my stomach has finally recovered.  Now, you would think that after my little java incident, I would swear coffee off entirely. Alas, I am still drinking coffee, (I couldn’t take the headaches without it) though I am way more cautious and even a bit wary regarding the amount I consume.  For example, I no longer finish what’s in the pot, and sometimes not even in my cup.  This is a monumental breakthrough for a coffee hound like me in that it has taught me restraint and self-control, unlike my previous BACOS addiction.
That’s right; I was in fact a hard-core BACOS addict back in the day.  I put them on EVERYTHING, and since I was a vegetarian at the time, I convinced myself that these imitation, dehydrated morsels were actually a viable source of protein to my already lacking diet.   I sprinkled it on soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta, stir- fries, enchiladas, and the list goes on.  If it had been socially acceptable, I probably would have put them on ice cream for a true salty/sweet experience.  There were many times when I would just pop them straight into my mouth from the jar and revel in their crunchy, chemicalized, salty goodness.  If they were on sale, I hoarded and squirreled them away in case of nuclear fallout (BACOS has an incredibly long shelf life).  I even kept them in my desk at work for a quick, late morning fix.  It didn’t matter that my permanently puckered lips were always stinging, or that I spewed artificial BACOS breath, or that I was unquenchably thirsty, nothing could break me of my addiction…until that fateful day. 
I had a particularly bad day at work, and needed my BACOS bad (I had already consumed the stash in my car). I staggered into the apartment like a junky and proceeded straight toward the kitchen cupboard where my BACOS “crack” was located.  When I grabbed the jar, I noticed that the lid wasn’t properly snapped into place.  That’s when I saw it …a shiny, baby roach sitting right on top of my all time favorite sustenance.
It was a day of realization.  I needed to get my life back.  I went cold turkey on BACOS.  While I am a healthier human being physically, I am still scarred emotionally.  In fact, every time I see BACOS at a salad bar, I experience PTSD.  Post Traumatic Salad Disorder.   I get flashes of me happily eating my salad/BACOS creation and then WHAM, that roach pops into my head…I think I need therapy.
Life really does change you at every turn.  When I look back on those years of complete disregard for my body and health, I realize how far I have truly come.  Throw in parenting,  a few personal health scares, a son with severe food allergies,  and a general distrust for anything remotely processed and you have the makings of a new age health food aficionada…or as we used to call my mother, a health food nut.  In her defense, her tactics were well intentioned, but the health food movement was only in its infancy in the early 70’s and most people just didn’t get it.
I don’t like the word “nut” because it connotes that you are crazy and completely unrealistic.  . I don’t think I am any of those things, (regarding food anyway) though some people who don’t understand food allergies and all of its implications may think otherwise.   Frankly, I am strict about certain things, and prefer to make items from scratch because a seemingly innocent cookie could be lethal to Ari from an allergy standpoint.  The bonus of these efforts is that I am contributing to the overall health of my family by making recipes that aren’t processed or sugar laden.
In a recent effort  to bolster everyone’s immunity, support local growers and reduce my carbon footprint on this world, I also stopped buying  the twelve most contaminated  conventional produce items such as peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes, and swapped them out for organic. When the produce is stellar, I can justify the cost, but when it’s not, I’m usually filled with doubt since I am relatively new to the organic world and its assumed benefits.   
 For example, this past weekend, I went to the local farmers market to buy local, organic produce.  The strawberries looked awesome, smelled great, and I paid a fortune for them.  I walked out of there feeling like I had a made a difference in some small way.  The heady strawberry smell in the car was intoxicating and I could hardly wait to give them to the kids.  I made a really big deal about them as they clamored around the bowl like bloodhounds.  We all took a big, juicy bite and had the same reaction….UGH, UGH, UGH!!!!  They had to be the worst, sour tasting, expensive strawberries I had ever bought in the history of produce.  I had just spent $10 on 2 quarts of strawberries that were non- returnable and boy was I mad, not to mention disappointed.
So, what’s a mom to do when she is handed sour strawberries?  She makes a Strawberry Crunkle, of course.  What’s a Crunkle? Well it’s sort of a combination of a cake, crumble, and a buckle, hence, the Crunkle.   This Crunkle was so amazingly good, that I had to share the recipe with you.  The strawberries don’t have to be sour, but they actually lended to the overall balance, so you may want to add a little lemon juice if your strawberries are very sweet.  Play with it; change it around, but at the end of the day you are going to make the Crunkle part of your regular baking vocabulary. This recipe is so simple, and as far as desserts go, you won’t mind your children eating it.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Crunkle
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray an 8x8 baking (I used a disposable one)

1-cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1-cup quick cooking oats
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup Sucanat (sugar cane natural), you can reduce the sugar to ¼ cup if your strawberries are already sweet
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional, but adds a little moisture to the crust)
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla

2- 2 1/2 cups strawberries sliced lengthwise
2 tbsp pure maple syrup (the real stuff-no Aunt Jemimah)
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch or potato starch (I used potato, but think cornstarch may work better)
2-3 tsp apple cider or orange juice
1 TBSP. pure vanilla (many vanillas are watered down with corn syrup, use the good stuff)
2 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
1 TBSP chocolate chips

  • Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix them together (I use my hands).
  • Drizzle oil over the dry ingredients and using a fork, mash the oil and dry ingredients together until it resembles crumbs.  Add the vanilla. Use your hands to combine. The pieces should stick together when squeezed.  If it’s too dry, then add a drop or two of soymilk, or regular milk to wet the dough.
  • Reserve ¼ cup of the dough.
  • Press the dough evenly into an 8x8 baking pan, make sure it is evenly distributed on the bottom and up the sides.
  • Dilute the starch with apple cider or orange juice and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  • Combine all of the liquid ingredients (including starch) in a large bowl and mix well.
  • Pour filling ingredients over the crust and evenly distribute.
  • Sprinkle reserve dough over the filling.
  • Dot with chocolate chips (don’t use too many, it may add to much moisture and overwhelm the strawberry taste).
  • Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes.  Start checking around 35 minutes depending on your oven.
  • Cool completely.

You can top it off with whip cream, but honestly, it really doesn’t need it!  Again, I am still experimenting with this recipe, so if you try it and find something that works better, please share!

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