Cashew Caramel Go to Bars

Well, it’s 2018 and it’s time to start back on this bandwagon – the food wagon, that is! Yes, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe, but we’ve been so darned busy with Moby (the van conversion), and winter in Vancouver doesn’t exactly scream “easy, breezy daylight photos”. So let’s kick off the new year with a new food post, shall we? I started making these Cashew Caramel Go–To Bars last fall, and they’re still a hit on the snack front.

If you have a food processor, these bars are really easy to make. They also don’t require the oven – just a bit of fridge time – which can sometimes be a bonus. Actually, the bigger bonus of these guys is that they freeze really well, and they can even be eaten straight from the freezer (sometimes a girl gets hungry, and needs food pronto!).

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I’ve made a few snack bars over the years (here and here and here) and, regardless of what kind of nut / seed / fruit combo I use, the biggest key to the success of these bars (i.e. not having them fall apart) is to make sure the ingredients are finely chopped. This is especially key for any nuts that you use. Give them a good run-through with your knife (or use the food processor again) to make sure that the pieces are about the size of a kernel of popcorn.

Other than that, anything goes, really! The Medjool dates in these bars give a hint of a caramel taste and provide your body with so many good things (vitamins, minerals, fibre). We love peanut butter in our household, but feel free to change to a different nut or seed butter, if you need to.

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Keys to making these Cashew Caramel bars easy:

  • Line your tray with a piece of parchment paper. It makes removing the bars much easier, and it keeps your pan clean! You can also use the same piece of parchment to wrap the bars in for storing.
  • Use very wet hands to mix the ingredients together. I started with a spatula, and eventually gave up and went with wet hands. Much easier.
  • Try using the flat bottom of a measuring cup to firmly press the mixture into the pan.
  • Remember to chop up your nuts and dried fruit. The smaller the pieces, the more you will guarantee to have a bar that won’t crumble on you after it’s set.

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We love having bars like this handy during our climbing days and training days. They make the perfect snack to nibble on, and Jonty thinks the flavour combination is probably one of his favourites.

Cashew Caramel Go To Bars
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Snacks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
These no-bake Cashew Caramel Go-To Bars are healthy, vegan and easy to make. Recipe adapted from Power Hungry cookbook.
Ingredients
  • 200 g (~12 large, 1 cup packed) pitted large Medjool dates
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 80 g (1/3 cup) natural peanut butter
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 200 g (1⅔ cup) large-flake oats
  • 80 g (2/3 cup) dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 60 g (1/2 cup) raw cashews, finely chopped
  • 25 g (1/2 cup) unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 55 g (1/3 cup) chia seeds
Instructions
  1. Soak the pitted dates in 1 cup of hot water, for 10 to 15 minutes, to soften. Drain the water from the dates.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the dates, peanut butter, cinnamon and salt until the mixture forms a thick ball.
  3. In a large bowl, add the oats, coconut flakes, cranberries and finely chopped cashews, and date mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined. TIP: use very wet hands to mix.,
  4. Firmly press the mixture into an 8x8-inch tray lined with parchment paper. TIP: use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture into the pan, in order to get it very flat.
  5. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. Remove from the tray and cut into squares.
Notes
These bars freeze well. Wrap in parchment paper and store in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

Enjoy these Cashew Caramel Go–To Bars!

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Maple-Walnut Blueberry Overnight Oats

It’s blueberry season on the West Coast, and we can’t get enough of these little berries! Every time we open our fridge, regardless of what we were originally in there for, we usually end up with a handful of them before the door is closed. In the last week or so, the ones at the market have been coming into their prime. Plump, juicy and oh-so sweet!

A few times a week, I usually have overnight oats for breakfast in the morning. Before I go to bed, I mix up a batch and throw it into the fridge. It takes me less than 5 minutes to prepare, and it tastes so good with a cup of coffee. I the winter, I often use dried fruit to add a bit of sweetness, but come summer time, it’s fresh fruit all the way! I’ve been enjoying these Maple-Walnut Blueberry overnight oats for the past few weeks.

When I make overnight oats, I only measure out my oats and liquid. The rest, I eyeball. And the only mainstay in my oats are chia seeds. The rest of the add-ins change with my cravings. Nuts, seeds, coconut flakes – they all make it into the jar at some point. I love using Roger’s Porridge Oat blends, which often include other goodies like flax seeds, quinoa flakes and oat bran. But, there’s nothing wrong with plain old oats, too!

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A few ways I like to make these maple-walnut blueberry overnight oats:

  • The liquid: While milk or water works just fine, I often find myself using coconut water. It’s a great source of potassium and electrolytes, and we find on the heavy training days, the coconut water makes sure we don’t get leg cramps. Bonus!
  • The protein: Oats already have a nice amount of protein in them, but I’ll often add a dollop of non-fat greek yogurt. It gives another boost of protein as well as a creaminess to the oats.
  • The fats: Nuts and seeds are a great way to boost the healthy fats in this breakfast, and they also add a great crunch.

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The entire combination of these oats keeps me full for quite a few hours and, honestly, I can’t get enough of the blueberries! So if you’re looking for an easy, healthy way to start your day, give these maple-walnut blueberry overnight oats a try.

Maple-Walnut Blueberry Overnight Oats
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Maple-Walnut Blueberry Overnight Oats are the perfect way to start off your morning.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup large-flake oats
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp crushed walnut pieces
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • ¼ cup blueberries (or as many as you can fit into the jar)
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp greek yogurt (optional)
  • ½ cup coconut water
Instructions
  1. In a 250 mL mason jar (with a tight fitting lid), add the oats, chia seeds, walnuts and blueberries. Place the lid on the jar and shake the ingredients to combine.
  2. Pour in the coconut water, maple syrup and greek yogurt (if using). Stir to combine.
  3. Place the lid back on the jar and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 3 hours.,

Enjoy these Maple-Walnut Blueberry Overnight Oats!

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Cranberry Chia Endurance Bars

In these last few weeks, we have been treated to some gloriously warm weather. We’ve been able to get out climbing every few days and enjoy warm bike rides in the sun – it’s been fantastic! With these days filled with activities, it’s always nice to keep some extra snacks in the freezer for when we know we’ll be doing a lot. Enter our latest granola bar rendition – Cranberry Chia Endurance Bars. This tasty, portable snack has kept us fueled through our first few climbing days of the season.

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These cranberry chia endurance bars have a few great attributes:

  • No refined sugar: These bars use a combination of super sweet Medjool dates as the sticky base, along with dried fruit (cranberries, in this case) and coconut for added sweetness.
  • Good carbs and protein: Rolled oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates, protein and fibre, as are the chia seeds. Both help to ensure your energy levels stay high throughout the day.
  • Anti-cramping secret: Coconut water!! We love this stuff. It’s a great source natural of potassium and electrolytes, and we’ve found it helps us avoid leg cramps after a big day of exercise.

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So here’s the deal with these bars:

You start off by soaking some Medjool dates in the coconut water until they’re really soft (maybe 15 or 20 minutes, depending on how soft your dates are to start). Then you give them a good whiz in the blender or food processor until you end up with a sticky date paste.

Throw in the chia seeds and let that mixture gel while you’re prepping the rest of the mixture.

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For the main granola bar ingredients:

Grab some oats (large flake or quick cook), seeds (I used pumpkin) and nuts (I used walnuts and cashews). These get toasted over a medium heat until they start to get nice and fragrant.

Then, into a bowl they go, along with some dried fruit (cranberries and coconut are always a good pair) and the chia-date puree.

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I’ll say a few things about these bars. If you’re looking for a crunchy, stick-together granola bar, this is not the bar for you. Even after baking, these cranberry chia endurance bars are still fairly soft and, depending on your ingredients, have a tendency to crumble. This is not a deal-breaker in my book, however. We pack these into a small tub and nibble away at them throughout the day.

If you want a nice neat bar, just make sure to chop up your nuts and seeds so they are fairly small in size. This will definitely help make the bars stick together.

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy these bars as much as we do! They also make a great pseudo granola – just crumble them over your favourite yogurt for a little breakfast treat.

Cranberry Chia Endurance Bars
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Snacks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Adapted from the Power Hungry cookbook.
Ingredients
  • 125 g (3/4 cup, about 8 large) soft pitted medjool dates, roughly chopped
  • ⅔ cup coconut water
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 165 g (1½ cups) rolled oats
  • 70 g (1/2 cup) pumpkin seeds
  • 45 g (1/2 cup) walnuts, chopped into small pieces
  • 70 g (1/2 cup) cashews, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 70 g (1/2 cup) dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 30 g (1/2 cup) unsweetened flaked coconut
Instructions
To make the chia-date puree:
  1. Place the chopped pitted dates and coconut water into a high-speed blender and allow them to soak and soften for at least 15 minutes. After this time, puree the mixture until smooth.
  2. Add the chia seeds and vanilla extract and pulse briefly to combine.
  3. Let this mixture set for 10 minutes, to gel.
To make the endurance bars:
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the coconut oil until melted. Add the oats, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and cashews and stir to combine. Toast the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the mixture becomes fragrant. Add the cinnamon and salt and stir briefly.
  2. In a large bowl, add the oat mixture, cranberries, flaked coconut and chia-date puree. Stir to thoroughly combine.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a 9 x 9-inch pan with parchment paper.
  4. Spoon the oat mixture into the prepared pan and press it down firmly to flatten. You may want to use a wet spatula to firmly press the granola mixture down.
  5. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the mixture looks dry and lightly browned.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow the bars to cool completely, in the pan.
  7. Once completely cold, remove the bars from the pan using the edge of the parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to cut the bars into the size of your liking.
Notes
For bars that stick together very well, make sure to chop all your nuts and seeds into small pieces.
These bars freeze very well. Cut them into bars, wrap well with parchment paper and store them in a freezer-friendly ziplock bag.

Enjoy these Cranberry Chia Endurance Bars!

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Double Chocolate Chili Muffins

On the weekends, Jonty is my resident muffin-man. It’s his one baking luxury of the week – he loves to bake them, and I love to eat them, so it’s a win-win situation, really. Around mid-week, he asks if I have any requests; often, it’s a slight modification to the previous weeks muffins. For the past month or so, he’s been making tweaks to these double chocolate chili muffins, and I think he’s mastered them! They’ve got a sky-high muffin top, are studded with big chocolate chunks, and have the perfect warming heat at the end of your bite.

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Now, before we scare you off with the name, just know that these chocolate chili muffins can be made to tailor to your spice tolerance completely.

  1. If you really like chocolate and love a bit of kick to your food: Follow the recipe as stated.
  2. If you really like chocolate but have uber-sensitive taste buds: Leave out the chilis completely.
  3. If you really like chocolate, but you’re not sure how awesome the chocolate + chili combo is: Start with fewer chilies, one say.

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What I love about these muffins is that you just taste a simple chocolate muffin in your first bite. Maybe you’ve hit a jack-pot chocolate chunk, and you’re in chocolate heaven. Then you wonder what that other subtle flavour is? So you have another bite, then you get a lovely warmth on the back of your tongue – that’s the little chili kick at the end. It’s really a great combination of flavours!

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Jonty still follows his basic muffin ratio quantity and I think this is a great base for any chocolate chunk muffin:

1 part egg : 1 part sugar : 2 parts liquid : 2 parts flour : 1 part butter : 1 part add-ins

For anyone not aware of how these ratios work, we’ve talked about it before (here and here and here), but essentially it really makes for an easy way to bake and to scale recipes. The only caveat is, you need a kitchen scale. And if you don’t have one already, and love to bake, you really should invest in one! You can pick up a decent one for less than $25.

The ratio recipes will usually start with the weight of a large egg, which will be around 50 g. For this recipe, we’re using 2 eggs, which usually comes out to 100 g. All the other ingredients scale from there.

So for 100 g of eggs, you’ll need 100 g of sugar, 200 g of milk, 200 g of flour… You’re catching my drift? It’s math, but it’s easy math. Honest!

It doesn’t take long to figure out how awesome it is to bake from a recipe using weight measurements versus measuring cups. In most cases, you only need one bowl – and when you don’t have a dishwasher, less time in the sink is always a good thing. The other benefit to baking with ratios is that it makes for scaling recipes up or down, a breeze!

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So, if you don’t have one, go out and purchase your first kitchen scale, then make these muffins as a reward for being such a smart baker.

From taste-testing experience, these muffins are fantastic with your morning/afternoon coffee or tea and taste excellent on their or with a dollop of raspberry jam 🙂

Double Chocolate Chili Muffins
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 100 g (2 large) eggs
  • 200 g milk
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 150 g cake and pastry flour
  • 50 g dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 100 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 100 g (1 medium) ripe banana
  • 2 - 3 red thai chilis, chopped (optional, depending on heat sensitivity)
  • 100 g dark chocolate chunks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 7 g baking powder
  • 7 g baking soda
  • chopped walnuts, for the topping (optional)
Instructions
  1. Measure out all your ingredients before-hand. Melt the butter and leave it to cool slightly.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, or stand-mixer bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until frothy. Add in the sugar and vanilla and whisk on high speed, until the mixture is foamy, about 1 minute.
  4. While the mixer is running, slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until just combined. Scrape down the sides, as needed.
  5. Add the melted butter and whisk on high speed until completely incorporated. When fully incorporated, the mixture should look very fluffy and almost like a well-aerated cake batter. This should take about a minute on high speed.
  6. Add the ripe banana and whisk on high speed until combined. Finally, add the chilis and chocolate chunks and stir to incorporate.
  7. Place the batter in the fridge overnight to bake in the morning. If you want to bake these right away, still place the batter in the fridge while the oven is pre-heating.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 400 F and line a standard muffin tin with 6 muffin cups. Equally divide the batter into the 6 muffin cups. You want to aim to over-fill the cups. It's okay - they won't spill over too much! If desired, sprinkle the tops with chopped walnuts.
  9. Bake at 400 F for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 F and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The muffins are done when a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre.
  10. As soon as the muffins come out of the oven, run a knife between the top of the tray and the base of the muffin top, to prevent them from sticking when you remove them from the pan. Leave the muffins to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

 Enjoy these Double Chocolate Chili Muffins!

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Ginger-Citrus Marmalade

I used to be a picky eater as a child (and probably into my early 20’s, if I’m honest). Some of my food dislikes were due to strong tastes that I wasn’t used to (like blue cheese or olives). Other dislikes were due to a fear of the unknown (enter fish, of all types), and some might have been due to a texture dislike (mashed potatoes and cooked peas). Now that I’m all grown up, I can safely say that I’m over most of my picky tendencies – I will try anything at least once – and even though I still don’t love mashed potatoes, Grandma no longer needs to leave me one plain boiled potato to eat 🙂

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One of those foods I remember not being keen on was marmalade. As a child, I think I found the jam too bitter with the pith and peel. Jonty attests to being in the same boat.

We were at the supermarket a few months ago, looking for another jar of honey, when we started perusing all the different jams. When we saw the marmalade, we bought a jar, wondering if our palates had changed over the years. I think we were both convinced that our adult taste buds would over-rule our childhood dislike.

And guess what? We were totally wrong! Our first spoonful had us each thinking, “Yup, this is what it tasted like as a child.” But because we’re loath to waste food, we finished the jar over the next few weeks.

The funny thing was, though, that by the time we finished the jar our taste buds had adapted and we didn’t mind the taste of the marmalade! While still a bit bitter for both of us, it was definitely elevated from our childhood memories.

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Through the process of finishing this jar, I was convinced that I could make a better marmalade – one with the bitter edge taken off. I scoured the internet and found that marmalade is one of the easier jams to make, because citrus peel is naturally abundant in pectin, so you don’t need to add additional pectin to get the jam to gel. Most of the recipes, however, call to do crazy things with the pith + peel + muslin cloths + straining.

I couldn’t be bothered for that.

Then, the March issue of Bon Appetit came to my rescue – a recipe for grapefruit marmalade, and it looked really easy.

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I tweaked the recipe and turned it into a ginger-citrus marmalade, the major difference being the amount of sugar I added. The original recipe called for 2 grapefruits + 2 full cups of sugar.

I couldn’t bring myself to add that much sugar!

Fruit is naturally sweet – there’s absolutely no need to add so much sugar, especially when you’re making a small batch and you don’t need to preserve it.

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For my first marmalade attempt, I cut the sugar down by half, to 1 cup. It tasted fantastic! Jonty deemed it to be “what marmalade is supposed to taste like”! I told him about my sugar reduction and we both wondered if I could reduce it more, and so I did.

My second batch took the sugar amount down to a 1/2 cup (and from the original recipe, requiring 2 cups, this is pretty significant). We had a bit of the first batch left, so we did a blind-taste-test! Both looked similar, so there were no give-aways there.

Jonty ended up preferring the second batch with less sugar – he actually thought it was the first batch because he thought it tasted brighter. So there you go! Marmalade has officially entered our small rotation of Pearson-approved jams (raspberry being our first true love).

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You start by adding the oranges, ginger, a small amount of orange peel, vanilla and water to a pot and reduce this down. This will take about 1 to 1.5 hours. Then add the sugar. I recommend tasting the orange mixture before you add the sugar. If you think it tastes pretty good as it is, add in 1/2 cup of sugar. If you would like your marmalade to be slightly sweeter, add a little bit more, up to 1 cup. Continue to simmer to reduce the mixture again, another hour or so. You know the jam is finished when it sticks to the back of a spoon without sliding off. At this point, stir in a bit of lemon juice and transfer it to a container with a tight-fitting lid.

That’s all it takes to make the best marmalade of your life! 😉

Ginger-Citrus Marmalade
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Condiments
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This version of marmalade uses only a small amount of orange peel, and none of the bitter white pith. With no pectin required, you can have homemade jam in only a few hours.
Ingredients
  • 350 - 375 g (2 medium) oranges, diced (peel and white pith removed)
  • Peel from of ⅓ orange, julienned (no white pith attached)
  • 2.5 cm piece of ginger, peeled and diced
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sugar (I used ¼ cup brown sugar + ¼ cup white sugar)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the diced oranges, orange peel, diced ginger, vanilla extract and water. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium-low heat and allow to simmer until the mixture has reduced by ¾. This will take about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  2. Taste the reduced orange mixture to decide on the amount of sugar needed. If you prefer a very sweet marmalade, stir in up to 1 cup of sugar. Otherwise, ½ cup is enough.
  3. Continue to simmer until the jam starts to bubble and the mixture sticks to the back of a spoon, about 1 hour.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
  5. Transfer to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and allow to cool, uncovered, before eating.
Notes
This jam will keep in the fridge, in a well-sealed glass container, for at least few weeks, up to one month.

Enjoy this Ginger-Citrus Marmalade!

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