I didn’t grow up in a particularly culinary forward family. My parents didn’t run a restaurant, and we don’t have deep roots in a certain cultural cuisine. I remember berry picking with my grandparents and making strawberry jam every summer, and the smell of sweet strawberries simmering on the stove brings me back to those memories with every whiff. I remember making christmas cookies every year (again, with grandma,) but that was usually the extent of my time spent in the kitchen. My introduction to experimenting on my own as a kid began with baking. Boxed brownies, to be exact. This month’s Recipe Redux theme is all about kids that cook!
My sister and I would spend what felt like hours playing mario kart, and I would whip up some good old boxed brownies. You know, the kind where you dump out the box contents into a bowl, add an egg, some canola oil, stir it all around with a wooden spoon, then lick said wooden spoon while contemplating the risk of salmonella (and what is salmonella, anyway?)
Sure, they were delicious as boxed brownies go, but I really loved using my hands to create something cohesive out of different ingredients. I continued to experiment after school with chocolate truffles, (and convincing my mom to buy me chocolate liquer, and I didn’t understand why that was a big deal,) and continued to love transforming ingredients into something completely new.
As I got older and started going to school for nutrition and food science, I slowly changed my kitchen experiments to be more plant-based, and I tried swapping in unusual ingredients wherever I could. Which brings me to these Pumpkin Fig Bars!
The bars are gluten-free, grain free, and vegan. I made them pumpkin because it’s delicious, and I grew up in New England, the epicenter of all things fall. Complete with cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and vanilla, though I refuse to call them Pumpkin Spice Bars. I used a healthy dose of tahini for fat, dates & a touch of coconut sugar for sweetness, and figs because the season is almost over. These kind of taste like a “deconstructed” pumpkin Fig Newton. Kind of.
These bars combine my intro to cooking as a kid, with my developed love of food science and figs. Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out the other recipes over on this month’s Recipe Redux!