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!).
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.
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.
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.
I feel like it’s been awhile since I posted a food recipe (and with this post, I’m using the word recipe quite loosely). It’s not that we haven’t been cooking, it’s just that our food choices have been pretty basic and routine. I suppose that’s what summer time is about, though. More time spent outside, less time around the stove 🙂 We’ve been eating a version of this Greek salad for quite a few weeks now, so I thought I would share it.
This Greek salad doesn’t deviate much from the classic version. Sharp red onion becomes mellow in the balsamic vinegar, crunchy cucumbers and peppers add a sweet bite, and juicy tomatoes round out the salad combo. We add fresh mint, too, because it’s a great way to use up the monster bushels that currently seem to be in the markets.
What makes our version different is our secret high-protein ingredient. Dry curds! Have you ever had them? It’s cottage cheese, but without the milk fat. When you open the tub, you’re staring at… you guessed it… dry curds.
So, why go this route, instead of using the standard feta cheese? Well, we often try to limit our intake of super-salty foods, and we’re always looking for ways to add more protein into our meals. This power-house source of protein gives you a whopping 22 grams of protein in half a cup. This is a win-win addition, in our books!
I won’t lie – the dry curds don’t taste like feta cheese (they actually don’t have much taste on their own). But with a really flavourful balsamic vinegar and copious amounts of fresh herbs, I would argue this salad doesn’t need the extra salt.
This high-protein Greek salad has found its way into many of our meals. We have it alongside chicken or tuna sandwiches, it gets topped with perfectly poached eggs, and we’re not opposed to using it as a makeshift salsa with our salmon tacos! And it still tastes really good as leftovers a day or two later.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
To make the chia-date puree:
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.
Add the chia seeds and vanilla extract and pulse briefly to combine.
Let this mixture set for 10 minutes, to gel.
To make the endurance bars:
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.
In a large bowl, add the oat mixture, cranberries, flaked coconut and chia-date puree. Stir to thoroughly combine.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F and line a 9 x 9-inch pan with parchment paper.
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.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the mixture looks dry and lightly browned.
Remove from the oven and allow the bars to cool completely, in the pan.
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.
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.
How was your Easter? Did you eat yourself into a frenzy? We came precariously close 🙂 As such, this pot of simple, herb-marinated beans is definitely needed this week. It’s light and fresh (because spring is trying to appear), full of protein (to keep you away from all the leftover chocolate) and it lasts all week in the fridge (making your lunch or dinner choices so much easier).
I was working from home one day last week and didn’t have any leftovers to eat up for lunch, which sent me on a minor food-hunt around the apartment. Aside from some herbs and tomatoes, the fridge was looking fairly bare. But a quick nose around the pantry turned up a few cans of beans, and some shallots. From that, this bowl of really tasty herb-marinated beans was born, just in time for lunch!
I started with one can of butter beans (those gigantic ones) and decided it wasn’t going to be enough, so tossed in a can of cannellini beans as well. I love how big and meaty these beans are, and this salad makes a great base for many additions. Cucumber or peppers would be great, or even thinly sliced mushrooms. Just don’t skimp on the herbs. Everything is marinated in a fragrant herby vinaigrette which, when piled on a piece of toasted bread, makes for a perfect lunch.
The beans have been sitting in our fridge for the last 4 or 5 days and everyday, they always seem to taste just a little bit better. That’s what I love about salads like this – they’re easy to make and last more than an hour in the fridge.
We’ve eaten them on toasted bread, on their own as a salad, and even tossed in with roasted veggies for a tasty kick. I love it when an almost-empty fridge surprises me like this 🙂
Have you ever had an idea for something you want to eat, and it comes together exactly as you hoped it would? This Thai Peanut Shredded Chicken dish was that meal. Quite often, we start talking about our “weekend food” early in the week (like, Tuesday morning 😉 ). If we can, we try to cook something new on the weekends, because it can often take longer to make than a standard weeknight meal and we have more time.
I made a batch of my slider buns the previous weekend, so the plan was to do pair those with something. Our first thought was pulled pork (because we love it), but then I saw a few recipes float by online that used tantalizing words like Vietnamese and lemongrass and slow-cooked.
So my brain took those words and ran in a completely different direction and came up with: chicken breast, poached in a Thai broth, shredded and tossed in a spicy peanut sauce.
Have you ever used the poaching method to cook anything other than eggs? We’ve poached fish before, but nothing else. I must say, this method was the main reason this meal came together so quickly, it’s fast and easy, and keeps the meat juicy and flavourful.
As a bonus, I found this was so quick to make that it could easily be moved into the weeknight meal category… and it only uses one pot… and you get super tasty leftovers…
What’s not to love!
We ate this Thai peanut shredded chicken piled high on the slider buns, topped with slices of fresh, juicy pineapple. It was a match made in Saturday-night food heaven.
I bet it would be equally fantastic in a taco or alongside a crunchy salad, or simply straight from the pan. This wild-card recipe is definitely going to be added to our weeknight rotation!
500 g boneless skinless chicken breast, or 750 g bone-in chicken breast / thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and diced
2 to 4 Thai red chilis (depending on how spicy you like your food)
1 stalk lemongrass (bottom ⅓ thinly sliced, middle ⅓ chopped into large pieces, upper ⅓ discarded)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 - 3 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 lime, zest + juice
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp peanut oil, or neutral oil
In a large pot, saute the garlic, ginger, lemongrass slices and red Thai chilis in peanut oil until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken broth, chicken pieces and lemongrass chunks. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and poach the chicken until the meat is cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the chicken and place it on a plate to cool. Once it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat with 2 forks.
Skim off any fat from the chicken broth and return the pot (with broth) back to the stove top. Add the peanut butter and soy sauce and whisk to combine. Over medium-low heat, allow the mixture to reduce and thicken. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lime juice and zest and chopped cilantro.
Add in the shredded chicken and stir to combine. Once the chicken is warmed through, it's ready to serve.