I have a dear friend who rearranges her furniture as a way of paving a new way for herself when she needs a change. In my small house it seems to me there’s only one way things can go, but in her small house I like to tease her that the combinations are infinite. While I may not be very imaginative when it comes to moving my furniture around, I sure do like to change up the usual fruits–or vegetables–in a recipe. It’s kind of like playing an old song in a different key, or using an off-beat arrangement or choice of instruments. That’s my excuse for this recipe. My interest in vegetables in dessert was re-sparked by carrot cake I made from Straight Up Food’s Carrot Cake Donut recipe, from which these bars get their soul. While resting during my afternoon nap time, I got to daydreaming of the zucchini muffins I used to make, adaptations of Susan’s St. Patrick’s Day Zucchini Muffins and Happy Herbivore’s Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (which I made with gluten free flours and carob powder instead of cocoa powder). But it isn’t zucchini season. Instead, I’ve been eating a lot of really nice organic broccoli. The stalks have been so nice and tasty, almost sweet, nearly all the way down that I’ve saved them, thinking I’d make broccoli slaw.
But then, oh then, I asked myself the question that led me down the road to these unqiue bars: how different than zucchini would shredded broccoli stalks behave in a cake, a bar, or a muffin? I’d read (and tried) bits of finely chopped kale in muffins so why not broccoli? It was so wierd it make me laugh, and I just had to see what would happen if I tried it.
I’ve been adding fruit to savory dishes for so long with such good results, that I suppose it was only a matter of time before I transposed that tendency and started venturing a little bit more outrageously into putting vegetables in my dessert. Of course there’s sweet potato, and carrot, and even zucchini. But broccoli? If I can put pineapple in a stir fry with it, then I might as well try it as an ingredient in a healthy fruity dessert or breakfast bar.
This is what comes of rearranging food instead of furniture.
3 dried apricots
1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup gluten free oats, ground into flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder (I used low sodium)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon mace
1 cup broccoli stalks, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup apple, shredded
1/2 cup raisins
1/4-cup pistachios, chopped
lemon zest from one lemon
1/4 cup apple or pear sauce
1/2 cup almond milk
Chop and pit the dates and chop the apricots. Put them in a small bowl and pour about 1/4 cup water over them. Let them sit to get soft, about 15 minutes.
Grind up your oats in a blender or designated coffee grinder. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Peel the broccoli stalks and grate them in the food processor with the grating blade. The grate the apple while you’re at it. Sprinkle lightly with a little lemon juice and set these aside.
Once the dates and apricots are soft, put them in the food processor with the S blade and process until smooth (Mine absorbed the soaking water so I just added it all in). Then add the half of banana, almond milk and pear sauce and process until smooth. (You can also do this in the blender, but since i had the food processor out, I just used it, and it worked fine for me. Less dishes to wash too.)
Add the date mixture to the dry ingredients and combine. Fold in the shredded broccoli stalks, apple, lemon zest, pistachios and raisins. Spread the batter in a square baking pan, 8×8 or 9 x9. Bake at 350 for about 45-55 minutes (55 minutes seems to work best in my oven but yours may be faster). After the cake cools a bit, sprinkle the top with cinnamon and ground ginger. Cut into bars. Store in refrigerator. Like most gluten free baked good, these bars just get better the next day.
Usually, I try to give some substitution options. With these bars, though, I think this particular combination of ingredients is the best one. You could make them sweeter using all medjool dates, or you could try it with all gluten free oats, or sub walnuts or maybe pecans for the pistachios. But the quinoa flour, pistachios, lemon, peel, apple, dried apricot, and mace really give it something distinctive and more complex combination of flavors that works well with the broccoli. Because broccoli stalks, let’s face it, aren’t as sweet as carrots, dropping them into a recipe made especially to go with the taste of carrots may not quite hit the same flavor mark.
I was going to end this post by saying if you are the kind of cook who sneaks vegetables into things so your kids (or anyone else) will eat them without knowing it, this might be a good recipe to try, because, I told myself, who besides me who would want to eat a breakfast or dessert bar made with broccoli on purpose if they knew the truth about it? In other words, I was thinking I needed an apology for my eccentric rearrangements–for putting broccoli where it doesn’t belong
But then a day after I made these a good friend I haven’t seen in months came over for a delightful catch-up visit. Though the daffodils aren’t quite up yet in our gardens, the sun was finally shining and she came to the door with a fistful of grocery store daffodils about to burst open in her hands, to celebrate how close we’re getting to real Spring. As I put the daffodils in water, I told her I had saved the last two pieces of Cathy’s carrot cake for our visit, and I laughingly admitted that I had made another version with broccoli I was sure I would be eating all of myself. But when she heard I’d also attempted these broccoli bars, she wanted one of each. And then she wanted the recipe. So my eclectic experiment with a serious green vegetable turned out to be truly tasty to someone besides myself–someone who is a healthy eater, but not vegan. Some people might not be as graciously intrepid as my friend was about full disclosure, so you might want to offer a taste before you rattle off the list of ingredients. Either way, though, broccoli and I never had it so sweet.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!