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Monday, October 31, 2011

Iron, man (or woman)

There was one particular semester while I was in University studying nutrition, that was kind of painful. We had classes 6 days a week, and on our single "free" day, we had to write eternal chemistry lab reports. The class that took place over the weekend was 4 hours long and was taught by two of the "big" nutrition people in Mexico. For the final, we had to research, write and present a topic in groups. Our assigned project was anemia caused by iron deficiency.

Whenever we could choose our teams, I almost always worked with the same friends. We were good students, but we had very different styles, strengths and interests, so we complemented each other pretty well. Especially when it came to listening, comforting and giving advice every time any of us had a love dilemma, a weird boyfriend or a broken heart (and there was always at least one of us who did, so we usually spent more time talking than working). But we also had fun. Fun in the way I'd never had before I met them. We went rock climbing, dancing, dining, site seeing, and with one of them, I even backpacked around Europe. These girls taught me to be less rigid and less stressed about everything. We wrote amazing papers but we would rarely turn them in on time (which I'd never done before), we would have (or come up with) extraordinary stories to justify ourselves, and the teachers were always graceful.  We worked hard, but we also laughed and cried a lot.
When the weekend morning of our final presentation came, one of us showed up with a hangover and a bad case of I-fought-with-my-boyfriend-last-night. When the projector was on (yes...those were the pre we all use PowerPoint days) and showing our slides on the screen, she couldn't even read. Her eyes were swollen and she had head and heart aches. We all tried to cover up and it ended up being kind of a mess. The teacher was annoyed, but the truth is that I don't remember much of what happened later. I did learn that in order to absorb your iron better when it comes from vegetarian sources, you should ingest it together with something high in vitamin C.
Despite the anemia presentation, we all graduated with honors and attended graduate school in different places.
My friend eventually broke-up with the boyfriend, met a great guy, one that didn't make her cry or feel pain for loving him, and they have two beautiful kids.
Happily Ever after? No. That doesn't really exist for anyone. But I'm sure we all try to be, as happy as life allows us.
And, so where's the iron, man? It's here in the following recipe!
Since anemia caused by iron deficiency is common in young children and women in reproductive age, here's a snack that can be enjoyed by everyone, that is made with plant-based sources of that important mineral. 


This chocolate bark is topped with freeze-dried fruit, to provide the vitamin C mentioned above. So don't skip the fruit, which also brings in nice texture, flavors and colors!
All the ingredients (with the exception of the freeze dried fruits, which are high in vitamin C) is very rich in iron. This is not a low calorie recipe, but one that is very nutritionally dense: full of antioxidants, omega fatty acids, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, especially IRON.


10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (at least 62% cocoa content, the higher the cocoa %, the more iron it has)
3 ounces (3/4 cup) raw hemp seeds*
3 ounces (3/4 cup) raw chia seeds*
5 ounces (1 cup) raw pumpkin seeds
1 ounces (3/4 cup) puffed amaranth
1.5 ounces (1 1/4 cup) freeze dried mixed fruit
1 teaspoon dry thyme (optional)

* or use 6 ounces hemp seeds total

Line a rectangular baking pan (about 8 x 10 in) with parchment paper leaving an overhang in 2 of the sides.

Melt chocolate completely over a double boiler.

Add the hemp and chia seeds (if using), mixing with a spatula until completely covered.

Pour chocolate-hemp mix into the prepared pan and spread evenly all the way to the edges.

Sprinkle pepitas, then amaranth, dried fruit and thyme (if using) evenly and press them onto the chocolate so they stick to the bark. You can use an offset spatula or your CLEAN hands.

Freeze for at least 20 minutes. Unmold by pulling out the parchment overhang.

Cut in random shapes with a serrated knife and enjoy immediately or freeze until you need more iron (or a chocolate fix, or a nutritious snack).
Makes a lot of pieces!


Anonymous said...

I love that I'm making an impression on the blog! Thanks for helping me. Can I buy the bark? Too much for me to make myself.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Alexandra!!--your blog is beautiful!! All the pictures, and your writing is very engaging!! Though I have zero time to cook, I enjoyed your blog very, very much--and it was so nice of you to talk to me so much about it last Sunday. Hope all your family is well, and bravo again!!--love, David
PS--I'll defintely tell Elana about this--she will love it!--DJ