18.5.17

Crunchy Nutty Everything Granola Bars

I know, I know. It's been a while (again). But, in the midst of revising for my last ever exams (of my undergrad degree!), I'm back! And this time, with a snack attack!

This term has been filled with all sorts of feelings. As my last term as an undergraduate, I feel this need (want?) to make the most of it, yet I know that days in the library are necessary and that exams are important. Yes, there's more to life than school and grades, but it's equally important to reign each opportunity and that means studying when it's necessary... And it most definitely is right now.

And my best friend when studying? Snacks, duh. Just kidding. But only kinda....

I love keeping lots of snacks around to make sure I have something to grab when the snack cravings hit. I also make sure they'll hit the spot depending on what I'm feeling at that point - sweet, savoury, crunchy, creamy, light, hearty, healthy and yes, sometimes totally indulgent. Here are a few of my favs:
  • An apple or banana with almond butter
  • Mashed avo on toast/rice cakes or with pita chips/tortilla chips 
  • Dates with greek yogurt and nuts - the tart, sweet, crunchy combo is a winner
  • Banana walnut smoothie
  • Cookies (check out the many recipes on the blog here)
  • A handful of nuts - I've been loving sprouted, blanched & toasted almonds as well as brazil nuts
  • Chocolate in any form!
  • THESE GRANOLA BARS
I definitely eat my fair share of store-bought snacks (which are really great nowadays as new companies launch new products with minimal additives), but it's nice to have portable snacks that are homemade too. Mashed avocado and smoothies are great, but they're generally best eaten/drunk fresh and not the easiest things to bring around. 

That's where these bars fit in. Once cut/broken apart, they can be wrapped in cling film and stored for up to a month (if they last even close to this long, you've got willpower!). Grab one for a quick, small breakfast on-the-go, toss one in with your packed lunch, carry it in your handbag for when the munchies hit when you're out shopping, need I continue? Basically, they're absolutely delicious, hearty, easy to carry and good any time of day. Even as a post-dinner sweet treat! 

Another thing I love doing, not necessarily intentionally, is using it as granola on yoghurt. I tend to do this with the crumbled bits (yes, they do crumble a bit when you cut them), but am also known to take a bar and crush it straight on top of my bowl of yogurt when I'm really feeling it.
They are 100% customizable with whatever you like/what mix-ins you have on hand. As I'm writing this, I'm envisioning a super summery tropical version with dried mango, apricot, pineapple and coconut. Or an indulgent almond chocolate variety. Really whatever floats your boat. 

But getting back to these ones - they are definitely classic, but fun. They are chock full of allll the nuts, seeds and dried fruit. They're perfectly sweet├╝ber crunchy and just straight up heavenly. Oh, and did I mention your home will smell just incredible when these are baking?

Ingredients
Makes 12-15 bars depending on what size you like 'em

Treat these only as a rough guide - feel free to increase/decrease proportions of the nuts/seeds/fruits as you wish!

3 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut (medium ground)
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and pistachios, but any mix of nuts will do!)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
3/4 cup chopped dried fruits (I used dates, figs and apricots but other options I could definite imagine working well are cranberries, cherries. raisins or goji berries)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
pinch of salt

Instructions
Turn on your oven and heat to 160°F. Yes, this somewhat lower than "usual" baking temperatures, but it's important not to go any higher. The bars need to bake for a while to get nice and crunchy, so working with this temperature prevents them from burning/browning on top too quickly.

Line a 13" x 9" baking dish with parchment paper. 

In this, pour the dry rolled oats and place in the oven for 10 minutes to toast slightly. Once 10 minutes is up, add the coconut, nuts and seeds to the same dish and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Once they're done, remove from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, work on the wet mixture. Don't forget about the dry ingredients, though! You don't want to let them brown or cook too much at this stage. 

In a small pot or saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, coconut oil, honey and salt and place on the stove over medium heat until it just starts to simmer. Turn off the heat as soon as you see bubbles.

Let both the toasted dry ingredients and hot liquid mixture cool for 2-3 minutes until you can handle them. Keep the same parchment paper!

Then, in a large mixing bowl, throw in the toasted oats/nuts/seeds and the chopped dried fruit. Give it a quick stir. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir well until all the dry ingredients are well coated. 

Pour the mixture into the lined baking dish and press down firmly until even and compacted. I find the easiest way to do this is to actually cut another small piece of parchment paper and use that to avoid sticky fingers.

Bake for 40-60 minutes until gorgeously golden brown, aromatic and crunchy. Keep a close eye ever 5 or so minutes as these can go from golden to burnt very quickly.

Once they're out, lightly cut into bars to make the final cutting apart a bit easier. Let them cool in the dish for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Cut/break apart the bars, wrap in cling film and store in an airtight box. Make sure to leave one unwrapped so you can enjoy it... now!

14.4.17

Healthier Two-Toned Cookie Brownie Bars

Cookie + brownie? Yes, all the way. I mean, how could you not want this?

Ever since I was young, I was obsessed with all things that were essentially a layer of cookie + a layer of brownie (aka. slutty brownies), so recently I got thinking - how could I make something similar out of whole(r) food ingredients?

So I turned to my favourite go-to ingredients and whipped up this delicious batch of cookie dough come brownie come banana bread. Basically the epitome of delicious. It has all the elements - crunchy, chewy, soft, nutty, chocolatey and not too sweet at all! I've recently been all into sweet treats that aren't overly sugary because as I said, I've been really enjoying savoury foods a lot lately, but that doesn't mean the sweet tooth doesn't strike. And when it does, I don't need something over-the-top sweet to curb those cravings.

The cookie layer is like a softer, fluffier blondie with a tinge of banana bread feel while the brownie "blobs", as I like to call them, are reminiscent of a baked version of a chewy date-based brownie. For me, this combination is everything I could dream of.
The great thing about these is that they hit the spot anytime you want something sweet, yet are healthy enough for breakfast, light enough for an afternoon snack and decadent enough for dessert. You'd better be convinced by this point!

Don't let the long-looking ingredient or instruction list dissuade you. These are actually super easy to throw together (mostly all down in a food processor/blender) and taste absolutely incredible!

Ingredients
For the cookie layer:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 egg
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 banana, mashed
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

For the brownie "blobs"
1/4 cup cocoa or cacao powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 pitted medjool dates - soak them in hot water for 10 minutes if they are quite dry
1/4 cup almond flour
2 eggs
3 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

Instructions
For the blondie layer:
In a food processor or high-speed blender, pulse the oats, coconut flakes and almonds until they turn into a coarse flour. Pour the mixture into a medium-sized bowl and stir in the plain flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, mashed banana, vanilla and honey. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

For the brownie "blobs":
In the same food processor or blender (no need to wash out!), blend together all the ingredients until a mostly smooth (thick!) paste-y mixture forms, remembering to drain the dates first if you had previously soaked them.

Putting it together:
Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a standard square baking dish with parchment paper. 

Pour in the blondie layer. Spoon big dollops of the date brownie layer across the blondie layer, making sure to leave space between the dollops so the blondie layer shows through.

Place the dish in the oven for 25 or until a toothpick inserted in the blondie layer comes out clean. It should be a gorgeous golden brown on top, too!

Remove from the oven and cool in the dish for 15 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

It is essential that you wait until it is completely cool to get nice squares, else it may crumble. That's not to say digging in immediately is not allowed! Who needs perfect squares anyway?

Grab your favourite drink alongside for sipping and/or dunking and as always, enjoy!

5.4.17

A Sweet Potato Kale Salad You Never Knew You Needed

So, I told you you'd be seeing more savoury recipes here on the blog. And I'm kicking it off with a reeeally good one. Like so good, even I didn't know how delicious it was going to be. Full credit to my mom for being the brains behind this incredible creation.

Definitely aware of my sweet potato obsession, she came back one day from lunch at her friend's place and shared that she had eaten a "delicious sweet potato and kale salad with all sorts of crunchy nuts, maybe some feta, a sprinkling of pomegranate and a sesame soy dressing". 

The minute her words entered my ears, I knew I had to make something with similar ingredients. My thoughts at the time: Sweet potatoes? LOVE. Kale? Love too but haven't bought or eaten in forever. Nuts in salad? Big fat yes. Feta? Uhm, hundred percent yes. The pomegranate and dressing were elements I was going to play around with, as wasn't really feeling them.
And then this salad was born. It feels almost silly calling it a salad because it is so far removed from the bowls of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes that we still often picture in our heads when someone says "salad". This one is hearty, delicious, nutritious and full of texture, healthy fats, greens & carbs. It's sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, naughty yet nice. It's just full of all the good stuff. I replaced the pomegranate with naturally dried cranberries and the soy sesame dressing with a lemony honey simple dressing and I could not have imagined this any other way. It turned out im-pec-ca-ble.

The sweet potato lends a delicious starchiness, the kale adds a boost of greens and earthiness, the feta gives just the right amount of creaminess and saltiness, the nuts have the perfect crunchiness and the cranberries and dressing just rack up the deliciousness. This salad screams yumminess.

With spring officially having arrived - it has here in London, at least - this salad will be a new favourite addition to your lunch rota. As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, I love eating colder lunches (that often end up being much more colourful too!). 

Another great thing about this salad is it's great made ahead because kale, unlike many other greens, doesn't get soggy in a matter of hours and in fact, almost gets better the longer it sits. In other words, it's a great way to get you greens in daily by making a larger batch on Sunday or the beginning of the week. It would also make a fabulous packed lunch for school or work. 

So.... what are you waiting for?

Ingredients
For two lunch servings (or four side portions)
2-3 large sweet potatoes 
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups kale, chopped quite finely
1/2 lemon
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 feta, crumbled
spring onion, chopped, for garnish
olive oil, for roasting sweet potatoes and for dressing
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Instructions
Start by peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes into chunks. Toss them with some olive oil, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper and paprika. Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for 25-35 minutes, or until tender and cooked through. Set aside to cool. 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add the chopped kale, juice from the lemon and 1 tsp of olive oil. Use your (clean!) hands to really massage the kale until it starts to wilt and tenderise. Once the kale has been massaged to your satisfaction, stir in the honey.


Then, add the cooled sweet potato chunks, pine nuts, sesame, walnuts and cranberries and toss together. Add a touch of salt to taste.


Pour into two bowls and top with chopped spring onion and the crumbled feta.


Snap a quick pic, post on Instagram, tag #strawberrychocolateconcoction and ENJOY! 

22.3.17

Chocolate Nut Oat Cookie Bars (and some real talk)

Soooo.... I'm back *insert monkey covering face in shame emoji here*

That's right. After another crazy, hectic yet absolutely wonderful (and probably the best to date) term, I'm back to baking and blogging in full swing. This term did actually feature maaaany good eats and treats, but more memories than pictures were captured, and I have absolutely no shame in admitting so.
Actually, I want to get real here. It's absolutely the same with this blog. I love it and it definitely holds an extremely special place in my life and heart, but I don't force it. I don't set calendar reminders to share posts or make things JUST to blog them. I live a real life that extends far beyond my food and this blog, and I only hope it continues this way. Sure, I could be more organized and measured with my posts, but for me, I am not at this stage. To all my readers and followers, I can see how it may seem unfair or like I'm not fully invested in this, but it's actually quite the opposite: it's because I so very much am that I don't want to share fake or forced content. On that note, I've actually been enjoying my savoury food a lot more now (don't worry, sweet tooth still going strong!), so do be prepared to see more savoury recipes on here from now on. Okay, I think that's it for the day - let's get back to these insanely moreish cookie oat bars. I'm actually off to India tomorrow and if you've read this post, you'll know I love to bake for my grandparents (and they love it too!!). FYI, I'm going to visit them in India. And chocolate and nuts? Definitely their favourite combo! I wanted to whip up something transportable, long-lasting, healthy(ish) and of course, delicious. And that's how these came about. They're full of oats, nuts, dark chocolate and other goodness. They're part cookie, part bar, part blondie. They're whole good, though!

They are insanely easy to put together, require no fancy steps or ingredients and are downright drool-worthy. There's a simple "trick" to getting them right - start by baking them as a whole brownie/blondie style item, then slice into squares, separate them and bake again. This gives them that crusty cookie like edge while keeping the center of each square ever-so-slightly-moist so it doesn't completely dry out or crumble apart.

Ingredients

Makes 15 medium square bars
1/2 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup porridge (quick-cooking) oats
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
3 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 large egg, room temperature

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 170°C and line a 13x9" rectangular tray with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients from the rolled oats all the way down to the nuts. 


In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, coconut oil and egg. 


Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. The mixture should be thick and gloopy. If it, however, seems too dry add a tablespoon to two more of milk until it comes together.


Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. 


Remove from the oven, let them cool for not more than 5 minutes. Then, carefully, slice into squares. 


Move the squares from the pan to a large cookie sheet (they may still be pretty hot, so again, be careful!) lined with parchment paper and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes or until nicely golden brown and crusty.


Let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Eat a square or two immediately with a glass of milk, and place the rest in an airtight container for up to two weeks. I couldn't resist so ate a couple before reluctantly putting them away... They were made for the grandparents, after all!


Enjoy!