Jen's Cleanse Bars (quinoa, pumpkin, flax, millet, and some other stuff on the "good" list)


Does it mean anything significant, Freudian or profound, when you find yourself creating recipes based on dog treats you once made? Because that's what these bars were originally inspired by,  though in reality, they only share two ingredients with one another. And in all honesty, anyone who understands people and their pets knows, it's not uncommon to prioritize clean, healthy, organic food for our little fur friends over our own meal plans. Though homemade dog treats were the springboard for these bars, the goal was to rise up to a challenge for my friend Jen, who is one of the most together, dynamic, and vivacious people you'll ever meet. She's undertaking a cleanse/elimination diet to  test for allergies and get back in balance post holidays. The guidelines start off pretty stringently, however: no corn, soy, wheat, gluten, sugar (except limited amounts in moderate amounts of fruit/dried fruit), eggs, or dairy.

Jen's dilemma: to explore options for protein-rich breakfast foods that aren't salmon or chicken. Ideally something with a little bit of crunch and chewiness to satisfy carb cravings. Quinoa was a natural go-to tentative solution, the nutritious ancient grain being a complete protein, and full of good stuff.

Making snacks for Riley, I  mixed pumpkin with flax meal, and molded it into little gingerbread shapes. That was literally all there was to that "snack", and truth be told, they didn't taste half bad. With some added flavors, they'd be pretty decent little cookies, I thought. Obviously, in making that statement I'm acknowledging that the dog treats appeared tasty enough that I tried them myself. For Jen's bars, I included a lot more, such as the quinoa, some raisins, toasted millet, some ground walnuts, and two fat, heaping tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice. The "batter" was surprisingly alright, enough so that I had to take a second taste, to be sure.

The bars are crumbly, no doubt about it, but they're workable. You can try cutting them and letting them continue to sit in your warm oven to allow them to firm up a bit after baking. I personally would recommend some maple syrup/natural sweetener, if just 2 tablespoons or so, but the beauty is you don't have to have it to enjoy these nutty tasting good-for-you bars. Hope you like them, too!

Jen's Cleanse (Pumpkin, Quinoa, Flax, and Millet) Bars

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup mashed/canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1/3 cup chopped (or ground) walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup toasted millet
  • optional: 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  1. Cook quinoa in 1 cup water.
  2. In a food processor, combine cooked quinoa and pumpkin. You may need to stop processing to stir once or twice. Add in walnuts and flax meal, and pulse to combine.
  3. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in spices, raisins, and maple syrup if using.
  4. Spread mixture into a prepared square 8X8 baking dish. Pat down evenly. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.