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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
As a gift from food-loving friends, we were given a 6-month subscription to the Raw Spice Bar. Every month we get three new spice blends in the mail, along with a variety of recipes to try them out with. Each month often focuses on a different ethnic region, and last month was filled with flavours of Navajo cuisine. We tried a few of the recipes (the posole was fantastic!) and the sumac za’atar spice blend had me super-excited. I baked a batch of whole-wheat za’atar flatbread and loved the flavour!
Sumac is a spice predominant in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It has a wonderful, lemony flavour and brightens whatever dish it’s added to. Note to self: I really need to find my own source!
Za’atar is a mixture of spices, which starts with sumac and adds in sesame seeds and thyme. So, I just need to double my efforts in finding sumac, and the rest will fall into place 🙂
Flatbread is one of the easiest types of yeasted breads to make. You still have to play the waiting game, to give the dough time for an initial rise, but the baking time is quick compared to a standard loaf of bread (like sub 10 minutes). And because it’s a flat bread, you don’t have to worry about the bread not rising enough 🙂 Your house will smell amazing and your tummy will be filled with better-than-bought carbs.
We ripped our za’atar flatbread into pieces and used it for dipping into a trio of spreads: homemade hummus, our weekly staple roasted beet dip, and a concoction of our red curry paste + yogurt + peanut butter. The flatbread also makes awesome, carby tacos and wraps.
If you’ve never made bread before, but would like to ease into the world of yeasted baking, earmark this recipe for the weekend. Even without the za’atar spice-blend, a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of your favourite spices (even just sea salt!) will ensure this flatbread tastes superb.
Flatbread is one of the easiest yeasted breads to make. In no time, your house will be filled with the wonderful aroma of freshly-baked bread.
115 g (1/2 cup) warm water
¼ tsp sugar
4 g (1/2 pkg) instant yeast
135 g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) bread flour
45 g (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) whole wheat flour
3 g (1 tsp) sea salt
15 g (1 tbsp) olive oil
2 tbsp za'atar spice blend (or make your own using a recipe like this)
In a small bowl, whisk together the warm water, sugar and yeast. Let it sit for 5 minutes, until it starts to foam and bubble. If this doesn't happen, the yeast may not be active anymore, and you will have to start with fresh yeast.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the bread flour, whole-wheat flour and salt. Add in the yeast mixture and knead briefly with the dough hook, until the dough just starts to come together. Let the dough rest 5 minutes, in order to allow the flour to hydrate fully.
Using a dough hook (or by hand), knead for 6 to 7 minutes, until the dough turns into a soft, supple ball. Press a finger into the dough - the dough should stick to your finger for a moment, but then release. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, 1 tbsp a a time, until it reaches this consistency. If the dough is too dry, add water (1 tbsp at a time), until you have the right consistency.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cotton dish towel. Place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 30 to 60 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F and line an overturned baking tray with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Lightly dust a counter top with flour and use a rolling pin to roll each piece of dough into a thin (3 to 5 mm) oblong shape. Place the rolled dough onto the parchment-lined tray. Spread ½ tsp of olive oil onto the top of each piece, and sprinkle with 2 tsp of za'atar spice blend. Allow the dough to rise while the oven is heating up.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms of the flatbread turn a golden brown.
Serve with your favourite dips or spreads.
The flatbread are best served warm. They will keep in the freezer, wrapped in a freezer-proof bag, for up to a month.
When I have a bit of down time in the evenings or on the weekend, I like to make batches of snacks that we can keep in the freezer for hunger-emergencies. These Cherry Chocolate Protein Bars are one of our current favourites.
We’ve started our climbing strength-training phase again recently. This means a lot of finger-strength training on the hangboard as well as lots of general strength training at the fitness gym (core, pull-ups, squats, plyometric stuff) and general strength training in the van (lifting ceiling panels, hanging cabinets ;)).
On the days that we hangboard train, we start at the climbing gym to warm up the fingers with 20 to 30 minutes of continuous climbing. We warm up each finger position we will be training afterwards (4-finger half-crimps down to 1-finger hangs) and use this time to work on our movement and general technique. Then, it’s a 25 minute trundle back home to finish up using our hangboard.
During our drive home, it’s often nice to have a little nibble of something to tie us over until all the training is done and we can sit down for dinner. Portable snacks like these cherry chocolate protein bars are often just what we’re looking for. They’re really tasty and give us a great boost of energy.
There are a few great things about these cherry chocolate protein bars:
There is no need for an oven – just an hour or so in the fridge, to firm up.
They handle substitutions easily – add your favourite combination of nuts / seeds / dried fruit.
They freeze really well – making them a great snack to last you a few weeks.
There’s no added sugar, just the sweetness from the maple syrup and dates.
They just taste good!!
If you’re in the market for a great snack, give these bars a try. They’re vegan (if you swing that way), gluten-free (make sure to use gluten-free oats), kid-friendly (swap in almond butter, if you’re peanut-sensitive) and fitness friendly (a great source of good carbs and protein). There’s also no added sugar – just the natural sweetness from the dates and maple syrup.
Hopefully you’ll find these bars as useful to have around the house as we do!
150 g (1 cup) pitted Medjool dates (about 10 big dates)
1 cup of warm water, to soak the dates
115 g (1 cup) large-flake oats
60 g (1½ cup) crispy brown rice cereal
30 g (1/4 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped
30 g (1/4 cup) dried unsweetened cherries
15 g (2 tbsp) ground flax seeds
120 g (1/2 cup) natural peanut butter
105 g (1/3 cup) pure maple syrup
50 g (1/4 cup) dark chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
Soak the pitted Medjool dates in 1 cup of warm water, until they have softened. This could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on how soft your dates are to start.
In a large bowl, stir together the oats, brown rice cereal, walnuts, dried cherries and flax seeds.
Drain the Medjool dates and use a food processor or high-speed blender to process until they are finely chopped. Add them to the oat mixture.
In a small sauce pan, combine the peanut butter and maple syrup and bring to a soft boil over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the peanut butter mixture over the oat mix and stir until all ingredients are completely combined. This may take quite a few stirs. Add in the chocolate chips and stir until they are incorporated.
Line a 9x9-inch pan with parchment paper and spoon the mixture into the pan. Press the oat mixture firmly into the pan and smooth the top with the back of a spatula.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until the bars have set and are firm to the touch.
Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan and cut into bars.
These bars freeze very well. Cut the bars first, then wrap in saran wrap before placing them into a freezer bag.