Tu B’ Shvat, which is the New Year of Trees, falls on the 15th day of the month of Shvat. This year it begins on Friday, January 29th at sundown. Tu B’shvat is one of four “New Years” mentioned in the Mishnah. In contemporary Jewish Law, Tu B’shvat is the cut-off date in the Hebrew calendar for calculating the age of a fruit-bearing tree. According to the Bible, it is prohibited to eat fruit of trees produced during the first three years after they are planted. Customs on this holiday include planting trees, and eating dried fruits and nuts, especially Olives, Dates, Raisins, Figs, Pomegranates, Orange, Apple, Walnuts, Almonds, Carobs, and Pears. In Israel, the flowering of the almond tree, which grows wild around the country, coincides with Tu B’shvat.
The beauty of this is that all of these foods are naturally gluten-free. One of the tastiest gluten-free snacks that my family really enjoys, that are easy to pack and easy to eat anywhere, are dried fruits and vegetables. They love apples, raisins, dates, cranberries, prunes, figs, dried peas and corn, pineapple, and bananas.
Well, maybe it was coincidence or ‘divine intervention’ but my travels this week took me to Kohl’s where I added yet another fun toy to my kitchen: a food dehydrator. I thought I could make some of these snacks from scratch, instead of buying them at the grocery store. I will explore the world of ‘the dehydrator’ and report back to you, but I did make my very first batch of banana chips and my daughter ate them! She said ‘Mom, these really taste like bananas and they are so sweet!’ I look forward to many more successful recipes in my dehydrator and what a funny coincidence that I purchased it the week of Tu B’Shvat.
In honor of this holiday, I decided to make my very favorite cookie in the world, the Fig Newton. Although these taste nothing like the ones you can buy that will last on your shelf for 3 years because of all the chemicals and preservatives they have in them, they are rich and decadent and pretty good for you too. Not only are they gluten-free, but they are vegan AND egg-free, peanut-free, chocolate-free and soy-free. This recipe was adapted from Elana Amsterdam.
Gluten-Free and Vegan Fig Newtons
1 cup dried figs
½ cup hot water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups almond flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup agave nectar
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Place figs in a food processor and blend for 30 seconds until they are well chopped
2. Add water and vanilla; process until a smooth paste results
3. In a large bowl, combine almond flour and salt
4. In a smaller bowl, combine agave, molasses, grapeseed oil and vanilla
5. Mix wet ingredients into dry, then refrigerate dough for 1 hour
6. Divide chilled dough into 4 parts
7. Between 2 pieces of parchment paper, roll out 1 part of the dough into a 10 x 4 inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick
8. Spread ¼ of the filling evenly down the right side (lengthwise) of the rectangle
9. Fold the dough in half down the long side –resulting in a 10 x 2 inch bar
10. “Mend” the seam so the bar is symmetrical
11. Repeat with 3 remaining parts of dough and filling
12. Transfer each bar to a parchment lined baking sheet; bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes
13. Allow to cool slightly; cut bar every 2 inches to form the fig newtons
Makes 20 cookies