Raw Chocolate Tahini Slice

Can we just take a moment to appreciate this beautiful sight. Isn't it breathtaking? Life and nature are simply amazing...
This was the view from my window this past weekend. The fam and I ventured up to the Lake District (a gorgeous area in the northern part of the UK filled with, well, lakes!) to celebrate my dad's 50th birthday. The weekend was splendid. We were apparently blessed with the best weather the Lake District ever sees, we embarked on two lovely hikes, we ate some really delicious food, we played croquet for the first time (and ended up then playing all three days we were there!) and best of all, we spent some real quality time together as a family.
Anyways, we're all here for the goodies, so let's get back to the food. I've been really into my raw treats lately (see these tahini date cups, bliss balls, mini vegan cheesecakes, raw brownies and chocolate peanut butter fudge slices). They're the perfect thing to have in my freezer when the sweet cravings hit, which is usually after dinner. It's rare that I don't want something sweet to end off my day. And rather than fight this, I realised it was much better to satisfy my sweet tooth. Life's too short to not have dessert! To be honest, I'm now of the mindset that it is totally okay to have small slice of cake or scoop of ice cream every night, but if I can replace this a couple of nights a week with a sweet treat made from more natural, whole-food ingredients, I'm not going to say no.
By no means are these raw treats low calorie. In fact, they're pretty high-calorie and high in healthy fats. They're made from nuts, seeds, dates, coconut oil and cacao powder. Some rather calorie dense ingredients. But they're good for you, give you energy and don't make you feel sluggish which, at times, a real sugary dessert will. This still means moderation is key - I'll often reach for a second (#noregrets), but after that, it's a good time to let my brain do the thinking and gauge whether I really need another.

Anyways, this is quite similar to these raw brownies, but with a little twist. I love the tahini coconut drizzle on top - it adds a nice subtle bitter contrast to the sweet date base and the rich, smooth chocolate ganache, almost amplifying the flavors of both. Basically, I love these and could come up with a gazillion reasons why I do.

If you're into these kind of date & nut-based raw treats, or up for trying them, I'd highly suggest you give these a go! They also happen to be vegan, if that's your jam.

For the brownie base/crust:
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts - I used pecans, walnuts, cashews and pistachios
1/4 unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cup pitted gooey dates
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup tahini

For the chocolate ganache:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tbsp tahini
pinch of salt

For the tahini drizzle:
1/4 cup light tahini
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Line a 10" by 8 " brownie tin with baking paper and set aside.

Pulse the mixed nuts in a food processor until they are in pea-sized chunks. Do not over process - you don't want a nut flour!

Pour the pulsed nuts into a bowl and set aside.

Without cleaning the food processor, put the dates and tahini in and process until a gooey, thick paste-like mixture forms.

Add back in the nuts, along with  the coconut, cacao powder and salt. Mix again until uniform.

Press the base mixture firmly into the prepared pan and place in freezer while you make the ganache.

Make the chocolate ganache by stirring together the respective ingredients. Using a fork will make this easier to break up any cacao powder clumps.

Remove the base from the freezer and pour the ganache on top. Smooth out to cover the base evenly. Place the tin back in the freezer for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the tahini drizzle by simply stirring together the tahini and coconut oil. Remove the tin from the freezer and drizzle this on top of the ganache layer. Working quickly, slice into squares (don't actually pull them apart yet). Place back in freezer for another hour to firm up and they are ready to serve!

I like to store mine in the freezer because they last long and I love the fudginess of them when they are super cold. I recommend storing in the freezer for lasting purposes, but if you prefer a softer brownie, I would take them out 15 minutes before eating.



Fruit and Nut Chewy Oat Bars

Oats are definitely a staple in my diet. Overnight oats, homemade granola, steaming bowls of porridge, bircher muesli, baked goods made with oat flour, you name it. There's one more main thing we can't forget - granola bars. I love 'em. Especially hearty, wholesome and delicious ones chock full of dried fruits, nuts and other goodness.
The great thing about making granola bars at home is that you know exactly what's going into them - you can customise the add-ins completely, you can control the amount of added sugar and oil, you can make them as chewy or crunchy as you'd like.

Not sure I need to go into the reasons I love granola bars, but to name a few: they're super portable, last pretty long, durable, filled with lots of your favorite things, hearty and deeelish.

These are great to make in a large batch, wrap individually and grab whenever the need arises or craving hits. These ones are particularly great because most of the sweetness comes from natural sources like dates, dried cranberries and unsweetened applesauce. These bars are coincidentally oil-free (I like my healthy fats, by the way!) and when baked, come out wonderfully crusty on the outside but almost soft and chewy on the inside. The chunks of dates, cranberries, pistachio and almonds add a great texture element to these wonderful bars!

1 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup baby porridge oats
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with baking paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 175 C.

In small bowl, stir together applesauce, honey, cinnamon and salt.

In a food processor, pulse the rolled oats, dried dates and cranberries until they reach an even, chunky consistency. You don't want this to turn into a paste. A crumbly mixture is perfect.

Place the pulsed mixture into a large bowl and add the cup of porridge oats, chopped almonds and pistachios. Pour the wet mixture on top and mix everything together.

Add the oat bar mixture to the prepared pan and bake for around 25 minutes until crusty and top is golden brown.

Let the bars cool in the pan for 10 minutes, slice into bars and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grab one when you're rushing out of the house, keep a stash in your drawer at work, pack them for a picnic. Just enjoy!