When I am helping a family prepare for their birth, I spend a lot of time talking about food. What will you bring to your labour to eat and drink? Will you pre-make and freeze meals for after the birth, or ask friends and family to do a meal train? Thinking about food is what I do, so it’s inevitable that I talk about it when preparing for a birth.
In general, I recommend bringing hearty snacks (nuts, dried fruits, granola bars), drinks with lots of electrolytes (coconut water, gatorade, etc.) and fresh or frozen fruits to the hospital or birth centre. These amazing walnut fig bars, however, are hands down one of the best birth snacks. Delicious, packed with protein, easy to nibble on and not too sweet, they are seriously amazing. Not to mention that they are vegan and can be made gluten free (using gluten free oats).
I’ve been obsessed with Sarah Britton’s blog, My New Roots, for years now. In 2015, she released a cookbook that has been the source of inspiration everything from my holiday baked goods to healthy breakfasts and delicious soups. Sarah avoids using types of ingredients that sensitive bellies tend to react to: white flour, dairy, soy, yeast and refined sugar. She uses fresh and whole foods to reinvent recipes and in doing so, comes up with incredible creations.
These bars take about an hour to make and can last in the fridge for a week, or a couple months in the freezer.
I have made them with almonds instead of walnuts, supplemented the figs with dates and made the applesauce by scratch. There is lots of room for variation and they taste great every single time.
Walnut Fig Bars
1½ tablespoons chia seeds
2 cups/280g raw walnuts
2 cups/200g rolled oats
¼ cup/60g applesauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups/300g dried figs
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup/125g unsweetened applesauce
Grated zest of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Combine the chia seeds with ¼ cup/56ml water in a small bowl; set aside for 15 minutes to form a gel.
2. In the meantime, put 1 cup/140g of the walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Set the temperature to 350°C/180°F. Toast the walnuts while the oven is warming up (depending on how fast your oven heats up, this could take 5 to 15 minutes – just keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn!). Remove from the oven and set the walnuts aside to cool. Leave the oven on
3. In a food processor, process 1 cup/100g of the oats on the highest setting until you have a rough flour. Add the toasted walnuts and blend again, until you have a sandy-textured meal. Add the chia gel, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla. Pulse until moist.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup/100g of the rolled oats, ¾ teaspoon of salt, and the baking powder. Add the processed oat mixture and fold to combine. You may need to use your hands.
5. Take about two-thirds of the crust mixture and press it firmly into an 8-inch/2cm square baking pan. It helps to get your hands wet so that the dough doesn’t stick!
6. Wipe the food processor so that it’s relatively clean. Roughly chop the figs and put them in the food processor, along with the cinnamon, ginger, applesauce, lemon zest and salt. Blend on the highest setting until the desired consistency is reached. It’s your choice whether to leave it a bit chunky or blend until completely smooth. Spread the filling evenly across the crust base.
7. Drop the remaining crust mixture in small chunks all over the filling, covering as much of it as possible. Roughly chop the remaining 1 cup/140g of walnuts and sprinkle them over the top; then lightly press the nuts into the crust. Bake for 25 to thirty minutes, until slightly golden on top. Let them cool completely before cutting into bars.