Pistachio, Fig and Happiness Granola Bars

Granola Bars 1Over the past eighteen months or so, some colleagues and I have been working on a very important project. To give you some background, mental health issues and even suicide are at high levels within the veterinary profession, a profession of which I am proud to be a part. Far too often it seems we lose a colleague to suicide. It may be someone I went to university with, someone whose name I’ve heard through other colleagues or maybe a vet who I’ve never known of but who has walked a similar professional path to me.

Is it that the profession naturally draws those who have an extremely sensitive aspect to their personality, which then predisposes them to depression and other mental health illnesses? Or is it that aspects of the profession, such as social isolation, poor financial return combined with a hefty university debt and the physical, emotional and intellectual drain of the job that drives the problem? In my opinion, it is likely a combination of all these factors. Whatever it is, it seems that those who look after our furry family members may need a little help looking after themselves.

With the lovely Anne from Small Animal Talk and a couple of our colleagues, and with the help of the Centre for Veterinary Education, we have put together the Vet Cookbook. It contains over 100 uncomplicated, tried and tested recipes from members and friends of the veterinary community in Australia and worldwide. But the Vet Cookbook is not just a Cookbook. It also contains personal stories from those who have been through hard times and kept going, to tell their tales. It contains essays on mental health, gentle snippets of advice on how not to sweat the small stuff and how to manage stress, and some downright funny ramblings. It is a symbol of collaboration, collegiality and a profession coming together. Apart from making a great Christmas present, any profits will be used to fund a resource to promote better mental health among the veterinary profession.

Pistachio Fig Granola bars

One more thing before we get to the recipe, one of mine from the Vet Cookbook and perfect for last minute Christmas gifting if you haven’t managed to get it all together yet this yet (Note: If you haven’t this is ok). People like to refer to depression as the Black Dog. In our line of work, black dogs are patients…..to be nurtured, cuddled and made comfortable. So let’s call it what it is. It is depression, a mental illness, which can be as crippling as any physical illness.

Let’s call it what it is, let’s look it straight in the eye and let’s say “We see you, we know you have lessons to teach. But you can’t have any more of us. Not now, not ever.”

These granola bars come with a mood-boosting guarantee. They won’t solve all your problems, but in one study, 97.5% of subjects experienced increased serotonin levels and wider smiles after eating one of these*. They are packed with mood-boosting omega 3 fatty acids, zinc and magnesium in the form of flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and oats.  Also, all the good fats in the pistachios, seeds and tahini will help sustain you and hopefully keep you away from sugar-laden treats.

Oh, and chocolate. There is no explanation needed for chocolate.

*This study never happened. But these bars are still pretty darn good.

The Vet Cookbook can be ordered within Australia through http://www.cve.edu.au/vet-cookbook while stocks last.

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Pistachio, Fig and Happiness Granola Bars (or Granola)

Get:

¾ cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup flaxseeds
1 ½ cup rolled oats (or spelt oats)
8-9 dried figs, diced as small as possible
80-90 good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla powder or paste
½ cup tahini
¼ cup honey

Make:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spread oats, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and chopped pistachios out on 2-3 oven trays and toast in the oven for 8-10min or until all the ingredients start to gain some colour. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Once cooled, place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss well. Add the wet ingredients and stir to coat.

You now have a choice- granola or granola bars. To make granola, crumble the mixture in a single layer on a couple of oven trays and bake for around 10-12 minutes, until the ingredients have dried out and gained some colour.

To make granola bars, spread the mixture out in a shallow oven dish and pack down to a 2cm thick layer. Bake for about 20min, until the mixture has dried out a bit, is holding together and is gaining some colour. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Using a sharp knife, slice into small bars of whatever dimensions you would like.

Distribute liberally among friends and colleagues. Keep a couple in your locker as snacks on those days when you are too inundated with work to have lunch.

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Chocolate, Cranberry and Pistachio Granola

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It began with the subtlest of signs.  A hole in a paper bag from which plain flour poured when I was shifting things around to look for something.  A perfect circle the size of a ten cent piece that I convinced myself was a tear.  I cleaned up the mess, found what I needed and thought nothing more of it.

Then on another day, another hole……..this time in the wholemeal flour bag.  And another pile of flour underneath to clean up.  On the other side of the pantry, there were tiny holes nibbled into the bag of pepitas.

Nibbled!

By tiny teeth!

Choc Cranberry Pistachio Granola 1

It was then that we noticed the scattering of tiny black pellets.  After all, when you’ve been busy scooting around on tiny feet and munching your way through a pantry full of food, nature will inevitably call and a trail will be left behind.

Feeling somewhat invaded and unclean, we set out the humane traps.  They were not lured by the bread that we offered on the first two nights, not the sweet piece of dried coconut that we tried next.  Predictably, it was the cheese that did it.  Not the holey Swiss cheese that attracts cartoon mice, but a small piece of Grana Padano…….the expensive kind.

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Once both the tiny furry terrorists were caught and released in the park down the road, Mum and I set about on our cleaning mission.  It was a much needed push to spring clean the pantry.  Old ingredients and those that were blessed by rodents were thrown out, shelves were wiped down, and glass jars were filled, labelled, and arranged in height order.

Ingredients that I had purchased and forgotten about were rediscovered.  An afternoon of experimentation led to a rich, chocolatey granola, low enough in sugar to make it ok to eat chocolate in the morning.  I used some unsweetened cocoa mass that was uncovered in the mouse hunt, and added rice syrup for a slight sweetness.  You could do the same, or just use 70 or 80 % dark chocolate.

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Chocolate, Cranberry and Pistachio Granola

Get:

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
80g dark chocolate (I used unsweetened cocoa mass + 2 tsp rice syrup)
2 tbsp cashew or macadamia nut butter
1 tbsp protein powder or milk powder (optional)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

Make:

Preheat the oven to 160 C.  Spread the coconut and sunflower seeds out on an oven tray and toast in the oven for 7-8 minutes, or until the coconut has turned a light brown.  Spread the pistachios on a seperate tray and roast until they have gained a little colour- they may take a bit longer than the coconut and sunflower seeds.  If making the nut butter from scratch, this is the time to roast those on a separate tray.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts (use a large bowl either way).  If using cocoa mass, stir in the rice syrup well.  While the chocolate is warm, add the coconut oil and nut butter, cinnamon and salt, and stir well.

Add the other ingredients and toss until they are all well coated in chocolate.  Place the bowl in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and crumble with your fingers.  Store at room temperature for up to 3-4 weeks or in the fridge for longer. Eat with milk, nut milk, yoghurt or on it’s own!

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