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Mini Raw Bounty Bars

October 23, 2016

Like most kids, I grew up on sickly sweet store-bought chocolate bars and collected tiny versions at halloween. Bounty bars were one of my favourites. I tried one again a while back and couldn't finish because it was so intensely sweet. After trying a few healthier versions of bounty bars online over the past few years and not being pleased with how they turned out, I decided to come up with my own version. Coconut + chocolate = the best and homemade bounty bars need to knock my socks off. I thought about calling them something else (coconut chocolate bars? Honestly I just couldn't think of a catchy name), but I grew up with bounty bars and I'm basing this recipe off the memory of that. The big thing was that I wanted them to taste reminiscent of that childhood treat, minus the toothache, but I also wanted them to work for all of you.

These are filled with pure, natural, good for you ingredients and I promise that the coconut filling won't fall apart on you. I wanted to make a bar that didn't have to be pressed into a sheet pan and then cut into bars, partly because I just have gigantic pans that are the same size as my oven right now, and partly because I hate doing extra dishes. If you have kids they're going to love squishing the coconut mixture into bars, and if you've had a bad week you can use it as therapy.

These chocolate bars aren't like the ones you got in your treat bag as a kiddo. They're made with dark raw chocolate, filled with creamy coconut (in shredded, oil, and butter form), and topped with my fave superfood, bee pollen. I chose raw honey as the sweetener in this recipe because 1. it's super healthy, 2. it's locally and sustainably produced, and 3. it's stickiness helps hold everything together. If you're looking for a vegan option I would suggest a sticky, thicker syrup like brown rice syrup to help keep things from crumbling - see below the recipe for another note on that. 

I made the chocolate with raw honey too, which can be a little tricky without clear directions because honey acts like water and doesn't like to bind with cacao butter. See the photo below for an idea of how it should look once they're properly mixed and you can add the cacao powder without worrying about separation. You'll have to use some elbow grease if you're whisking by hand, but just think of it as a workout (i.e. you're burning more calories which means more bounty bars). 

Raw chocolate is fabulously healthy, and is high in magnesium, antioxidants, and vitamins - it will make you feel and look better if you regularly choose raw over a conventional chocolate bar. If you tend to feel some hormonal shift during certain times of the month, consciously snack on some raw chocolate! It can help with mood swings and make you feel happier in general. I feel a million times better if I have some before the communists take over every month. You can substitute coconut oil for some or all of the cacao butter, but the resulting chocolate will be less rich and melt more easily than it will with 100% cacao butter. 

I originally tried to make these with minimal ingredients, but the coconut butter in particular is vital to keep the filling from crumbling, and helps add to the strong coconut flavour. If you're looking for a budget friendly option you can make your own coconut butter instead of buying it, and I've included instructions on that below. If you want them to be a little more room-temperature friendly, you can switch out the raw chocolate for melted dark chocolate and they won't melt as easily. If you go the raw chocolate route they'll need to be kept in the fridge and just taken out as you eat them. Even with making your own chocolate and the addition of coconut butter in the filling, you're only looking at 5 ingredients for the filling and 5 for the chocolate (including salt and vanilla) so it's not too bad.

I chose to make these bars mini size because I think they're more fun to make/eat that way and also because it's a little easier to do portion control if you're having one small treat instead of a full-sized chocolate bar. Because yes, these are a much healthier option, but of course you can overdo it. That being said, I totally ate four at once when I was in crave mode. The great thing about these is that I didn't feel sick even after eating too many at once. If you're having a halloween or holiday party these make a great little treat for guests, but I like to have them in the house just for us, too. 

Mini Raw Bounty Bars
Makes about 12 small bars

Coconut Filling

200 grams / 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup coconut butter, softened*
1/4 cup raw honey*
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, softened*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
Up to 2 tablespoons water, if necessary

Mix all of the ingredients except for the water in a large bowl until thoroughly combined (use your hands). Once everything has been mixed, it should stick together easily. If it's a touch too dry, add a tablespoon of water and mix again. If it's still not sticking you can add one more tablespoon.

Take about two tablespoons of the filling and squeeze it into a rough bar shape. Place the bar onto a board or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat until all of the filling has been shaped into bars, and then place the board in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before coating in chocolate. Wet your hands slightly after every 3-4 bars to keep it from sticking to your hands too much.

Once the bars have been frozen, coat them in chocolate. Use a fork to turn the bars over so that they're completely covered and then gently tap the fork against the bowl to help remove any excess. If you want to top the bars with extra coconut or bee pollen, do it before the chocolate has time to harden. Place the coated bars on a cooling rack or back onto the parchment covered board and let the chocolate solidify before placing them in a sealed container and storing in the fridge. You can put the bars back in the freezer for a few minutes first to speed the process up.

Raw Chocolate
50 grams cacao butter
3 tablespoons raw honey*
1/3 cup cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
Pinch salt

In a glass bowl set over a pot of simmering water, gently melt the cacao butter. Once it's melted, remove it from the heat and whisk in the honey until fully incorporated (see above photo) and becomes a smooth golden colour and the consistency of soft butter. If you don't whisk it for long enough you risk separation.

Add the cacao powder, vanilla, and salt and whisk again until combined. Coat the bars before the chocolate hardens - you should have plenty of time if you freeze the bars before you start making the chocolate. If for some reason it becomes too solid to dip the bars into, just gently melt it again over the water. Don't get any water into the mix or the chocolate will seize.

You can also use a bar melted dark chocolate with a teaspoon of coconut oil in place of making your own chocolate if you're looking for a faster option, or one that doesn't melt as easily at room temperature.

• To make homemade coconut butter, blend unsweetened coconut (shredded or flaked) in a food processor for 7-10 minutes, or until you have butter. Scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed. For this recipe, 100 grams of coconut will give you the required amount, but depending on the size of your blender you might want to make a larger batch and keep the extra to eat on toast.
• You can use a small saucepan to make the chocolate, but only as a last resort. You can see that I did not use a double boiler here, but that's only because I didn't have a glass bowl. If you do make it in a pot watch it very carefully as cacao butter burns easily and remove it as soon as it's almost melted, stirring to melt any small pieces of the cacao that remain.

1. You may need to soften your coconut oil and butter over low heat so that they can be mixed in, depending on how cold your house is. If your honey is solid you can heat it slightly as well.
2. Honey can be replaced by a sticky sweetener like brown rice syrup if you don't eat honey. I'm not a big fan of agave or coconut blossom nectar because they're both very unsustainable, and maple syrup probably isn't sticky enough to work here.
3. Virgin coconut oil will help to bring out a more pronounced coconut flavour than refined oil will.
4. You can use maple syrup instead of honey for the chocolate recipe, especially if you've never made raw chocolate before as it is a little bit easier to mix with the cacao butter.

Pumpkin Falafel + Fall Nourish Bowl

October 14, 2016

Finally, a post with some more colourful food! I've had too many baking recipes lately and not enough vegetables.

A friend of my grandmother's is a goldsmith, and Graham and I have started learning how to make jewellery from her. I think I'm more interested in it than him, but he's really good at it. He made an engagement ring for me and even though we picked out the stone and design together, and I was there when he was making it, he won't let me see it now that it's finished, ha. I'm really enjoying learning though and it feels good to be making something more tangible again since I haven't found a pottery studio here yet. But, on that note, there is a well-known potter in the town Omi lives in and we're going to go see a firing there on Wednesday (apparently that town is just packed with artists, who knew) and I'm so excited. It's a type of kiln I studied in university but never thought I'd see in action, and it'll be so cool to see how it works and how the pieces turn out. 

I know that I make things all the time, in the kitchen, or through photography, but it's a little bit different to make something that I can hold in my hands and that's going to last longer than a day or two. I've also been doing pottery for six years now and I don't want to get out of the habit and forget how to make a bowl or something. I don't have any props here either so it'll be good to make a few things to include in pictures.

Okay so last time I tried to make pear sauce I got distracted and somehow burnt a pot of pears with about five inches of water to a blackened, disgusting crisp and almost destroyed the pot they were in. I am trying again now and almost burnt a second pot (whoops) but saved it just in time. What's up, pears? They're so sneaky. I might stick to apple sauce after this. It's either that or actually pay attention to what I'm cooking.

We also picked another big basket of apples today - if you live in the northern hemisphere, you should be able to get almost all of the ingredients for this bowl locally right now. Apples, potatoes, beets, and pumpkin are all cheap and easy to find at this time of year, and they taste the best now too. Nourish/buddha/abundance bowls are one of my favourite things to make, especially in the cooler months, and they're packed with healthy, great tasting nutrition. I like to use a mix of cooked and raw ingredients but generally stick to more cooked when it's chilly out, and more patties instead of dressed lentils or chickpeas.

These aren't quite falafel, but that's what I'm calling them. I've added fresh turmeric in this recipe (you can use dried, though), ginger, apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice, and oats. Falafel is usually fried but I love baking them to get a crispy outer crust without using so much oil. Think of it as an autumn inspired chickpea patty, with plenty of warming spices and lots of flu-fighting ingredients.

This recipe uses soaked chickpeas instead of canned and I really recommend that you stick to that instead of using a big old can of beans. I promise that, if you soak them for the full 24 hours, that you won't have the side effects that you're thinking of (magical fruit...) and the texture is a million times better. These tend to get a little soggy with canned chickpeas, and dried are healthier and more budget friendly anyway. I'm all about low cost high nutrition food lately because we recently moved and neither of us have jobs yet - this meal definitely fits the bill. 

Feel free to change out some of the ingredients included in the bowl of you prefer something different, like sweet potatoes for the regular potatoes or another root vegetable if you hate beets. I just chose some of my favourites. The potatoes and beets need to go into the oven a few minutes before the falafel if you're making it all at once, so keep that in mind. The falafel is great not in a bowl, too, so you could have it in a more traditional pita, maybe, or as part of a salad. I paired them with a tahini and apple cider vinegar dip and it was surprisingly good - I used to be big on garlic yogurt for falafel but since yogurt is no longer part of my diet, this was a great substitute. Don't omit the apple, it's perfect with the spicy, pumpkin-y falafel.

Pumpkin Falafel + Fall Nourish Bowl
Makes about 20 falafel patties and two nourish bowls

Pumpkin Falafel
1 1/2 cups roasted butternut squash*
1 medium onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic
3 cm piece ginger
2 cm piece turmeric*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tahini paste
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked for 24 hours beforehand*

Preheat your oven to 200C / 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the butternut squash into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it's pureed. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and spices, and pulse until finely chopped and incorporated. Add the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, tahini, oats, and chickpeas, and pulse again until the chickpeas are broken down into mostly small pieces (the occasional whole chickpea is fine) and you have a mixture that holds together when pressed.

Form ping-pong sized balls of falafel and place about 3 cm apart on the baking sheet. You may need to wet your hands every once in a while to keep the mixture from sticking to your fingers. Bake at 200C for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

Serve hot, or leave to cool completely on a cooling rack and then keep them in the fridge for up to three days. They're best fresh and pretty good cold, but tend to dry out a little when they're reheated, so I suggest eating leftovers cold in a wrap or pita.

Fall Nourish Bowl
2 medium beets
2 medium yellow-flesh potatoes
1 avocado, sliced
1 apple, sliced
6-8 pumpkin falafel
2 scoops tahini dip
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F and line a baking sheet with paper.

Wash and slice the beets and potatoes in 1 cm slices. Drizzle some heat-safe oil and sprinkle some salt over them and turn a couple of times to coat. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden. 

To assemble the bowls, place half of the ingredients in each bowl, top with the dip, and drop a few pomegranate arils onto each one if you're using them.

Tahini Mustard Dip
1/4 cup tahini paste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey/maple syrup (see warning)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients except for the honey until combined. Then add the honey and stir until it's just incorporated. 

If you mix for too long with the honey, the dip will no longer be smooth as liquid sweetener will cause seed and nut pastes to solidify (you can see in the pictures that I stirred just a little too long). It won't taste different, it just won't look as appealing.

1. To roast the squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves cut side down on a paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 175C / 350F for about an hour, or until easily pierced with a fork. Scoop out the required amount for this recipe and either freeze the rest or use it for another recipe.
2. If you can't get fresh turmeric, you can omit it or substitute 1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric.
3. I usually put the chickpeas in water when I'm making dinner the day before so I don't forget. 

Cinnamon Hazelnut Granola

October 06, 2016

I bought a big bag of whole hazelnuts at the market a few days ago. I thought it might be less expensive to buy them still in the shell and then crack them myself - turns out the hassle is not worth the tiny savings (since you're also paying for the weight of the shells). It took Graham and I over an hour to shell a kilogram, and I ended up with just enough for this recipe and snacking. I recruited him after my hands starting hurting, ha. 

This is another recipe that was made with minimal pantry ingredients, with the exception of the hazelnuts. Including the spices it has just seven ingredients. If you like crispy, clustered granola, this is for you - the chia seeds and coconut oil help the granola form into clusters, and it stays crunchy for a long time. It's not particularly sweet but I think the cinnamon helps to make it seem a little sweeter than it really is. The maple syrup, cinnamon, and hazelnuts go really well together and taste like autumn. 

I made baked apples and topped them with this granola and some grated dark chocolate and it was excellent, so I recommend trying that if you try this granola. The apples I have from my omi's trees exploded in the oven so I decided against taking pictures, but all you have to do is wash and core a couple of apples and bake them until they can be easily pierced with a fork. We had them with the granola for breakfast a few times and it was perfect. I convinced omi that baked apples can be a breakfast food despite her arguments against it, but she ate it. She was skeptical at first, and then she polished off two whole baked apples. For breakfast. Scandalous.

Otherwise, granola is granola and you can eat it with your favourite milk, yogurt, fruit, or just plain. I love this granola with some oat milk (my new go-to) for breakfast or as a midday snack. This recipe is naturally gluten free and vegan. I have tried it with honey in place of the maple syrup and found it too sticky and sweet, so I don't recommend it.

Cinnamon Hazelnut Granola
Makes about 4 cups  / 1 litre

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, hazelnuts, chia, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pour the coconut oil and maple syrup into the bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or your hands (hands are best) until the oat mixture is fully coated.

Place the granola mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until it turns golden and doesn't feel sticky when touched.

Cool the granola completely in the pan before removing and storing in a sealed jar or container for up to a month in the refrigerator. 

Easy Overnight Dark Rye Bread

September 30, 2016

I love overnight bread. It's much easier to make than normal homemade bread, without any kneading necessary - you just mix everything together in a bowl, let it sit overnight, and then bake it in the morning. The thing is that it's usually baked in a dutch oven or lidded ceramic dish and involves some  dough folding and sitting in a tea towel in the morning after it's risen overnight, which I find detracts a bit from the simplicity of the method. 

This recipe is a little bit different. It's about as hands-off as you can get from bread making (other than picking up a loaf at the store and pretending you made it). The only thing you need is a few minutes to mix everything, and the bread does all the work on its own. This does require at least 12 hours of rising time, though, so I recommend that you make it in the early evening as opposed to right before bed. The dough rises a second time in the pan you bake it in, so you don't need to worry about proper folding technique or anything like that. All you have to do is mix it the night before, dump it in a loaf pan, and bake it. No kneading, no folding, no special equipment. Despite the lack of work that goes into this bread, the crust is surprisingly crispy, and the inside of the loaf is soft and tender. This bread lasts longer than other homemade breads, and it keeps for at least a week sitting on the counter, wrapped well. 

If you're familiar with traditional dark rye, this tastes just like it. If you've never had it before, dark rye is a commonly eaten bread in northern Europe and Scandinavia. I live less than an hour from the north sea now and just a couple of hours from Denmark, so the food here is very similar to Scandinavian food. The bread is quite dense and filling, and its flavour is reminiscent of sourdough because of the long rising time. It's often eaten as a breakfast bread with different spreads or used for sandwiches, usually open-faced. I happily eat it for breakfast or as a midday snack with some peanut butter or jam, and Graham will eat half a loaf in a day. The dark colour comes from a little bit of cocoa powder and whole grain flours.

On another note, I made my fig and hazelnut cake today for some students at a jewellery making workshop, and it went over really well. I changed the figs out for halved apples and added cinnamon to the batter. I also made a deal with the owner of the studio, one of my grandmother's friends, to teach me jewellery making in exchange for catering when she has groups of people there for courses or exhibition openings. She's an absolutely incredible artist and jeweller. You can see some of her more recent artwork here - the focus of this work was on forced migration during the second world war, which is also reflective of the current refugee crisis. 

Easy Overnight Dark Rye Bread
Makes one large loaf 

3 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1 cup rye flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast or a pea-sized piece of fresh yeast
2 cups room temperature water
1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey

In a large bowl, combine the spelt, rye, oats, cocoa, and salt. Add the dry yeast to the dry ingredients as well if that's what you're using.

If you're using fresh yeast, stir it into the water with a fork to dissolve it before adding it to the flour mixture. Add the water and maple syrup/honey to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The dough will seem wet and shaggy looking, but that's good. Cover the bowl with a lid, cutting board, or plastic wrap and let it sit for 12-15 hours at room temperature. It will at least double in size during this time.

In the morning, grease* a 30 cm / 12 inch bread pan or line it with paper. Scrape the dough into the pan, and then press it down evenly with wet hands. Sprinkle flour overtop and cover with a clean dish towel. Let the dough sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature.

Heat the oven to 200C / 400F. Once the oven is hot, place the bread on a middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes. The crust will be hard and sound hollow when tapped once the bread is done baking. Remove it from the oven and place the pan on a metal rack to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing it from the pan to cool completely. The loaf will keep well for a week at room temperature, stored in a bag or plastic wrap.

If you grease the pan, it might seem like your bread is stuck to it. Don't worry, it's likely that just the very top of the loaf is sticking slightly to the very top of the pan (where it might not have been greased) and all you have to do is gently lift with your fingers or a butterknife. The bread should pop out of the pan easily if you pull the sides slightly and tap on the bottom. I've made this bread several times and haven't had any problems getting it out of the pan.

P.S. After realizing that the scale in my kitchen is definitely way off, I've decided to postpone including metric measurements in my recipes for now until I get a proper scale again, but they will be added soon. Sorry! 

Fig & Hazelnut Cake

September 27, 2016

I'm writing this from my computer! If you remember from my last post, my computer was still in customs three weeks after shipping it from Canada. My uncle works in customs and helped me to finally get it without having to pay the 20% fee for importing electronics (since it was my property anyway and not new). It's so nice to be able to work on the big screen again, and very reassuring that it wasn't destroyed on the trip over here, which is almost definitely because of my friend Sarah's marvellous packing skills. 

I made a hazelnut and rhubarb cake in the spring, much like this one, but I've improved the recipe since and decided to share it now with some fall produce. I'd never had fresh figs before we moved here because they weren't available at home. I also found some fresh turmeric here so look for a recipe with that soon, too. Turns out fresh figs are pretty great, and perfect for this cake with the combination of hazelnuts, caramel-like coconut sugar, and olive oil.  If you can't get fresh figs, though, the base cake is delicious on its own, and I would top it with sliced apples, pears, or stone fruits. The cake itself isn't particularly sweet but the ground hazelnuts make it quite rich and it's certainly a dessert. It's gently spiced with a hint of cardamom and vanilla for warm fall flavours. This recipe is vegan, but without any special binding agents, and I promise that no one would notice if you didn't tell them, so it's perfect to bring to get-togethers or serve to hard-to-please guests.

The abundance of food here is shocking - my parents have a farm at home with fruit trees, but because the climate is so harsh, there just isn't as much variety. We went to my uncle's house a few days ago and picked three different types of apples and two types of pears, I have grapes from a friend of Omi's, and there are quince, pear, apple, and hazelnut trees all growing in Omi's yard. They're just there and no one thinks anything of it. Graham and I found a whole bunch of wild blackberries a few days ago, and there are rose hips and nettle growing everywhere. It's not that there aren't wild foods or fruit trees in Manitoba, there are - I think that it's because the area I lived in was so full of large-scale agriculture that a lot of it had been destroyed, and then in wilderness zones the animals eat it before we can get to it, or I don't want to take too much food from the bears and other animals because the winters are so cold. I feel the same kind of awe every time I visit British Columbia, which has a very similar climate to northern Germany. 

I have big plans for all of this produce (and my aunt's juicer). 

Fig & Hazelnut Cake
Makes one 26 cm / 10 inch cake

2 cups light spelt flour
1 cup hazelnut meal
3/4 cup coconut sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
1 cardamom pod, finely ground, or 1/4 teaspoon pre-ground cardamom*
1 1/2 cup oat or nut milk
1/2 cup olive oil
8-9 fresh figs, halved

Preheat the oven to 175 C / 350 F and grease a 26 cm / 10 inch springform pan or line it with paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, hazelnut meal, sugar, baking powder, vanilla, and cardamom.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the milk and oil together until incorporated. Add the milk mixture to the larger bowl and gently whisk to combine the wet ingredients into the dry. Don't over mix.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top by gently dropping the cake tin on the counter to release bubbles. Place the halved figs onto the cake, cut side up. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until golden.

Cool the cake on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the outsides of the pan and cooling completely. You can gently remove the base of the pan once the cake is almost cool. This cake is best at room temperature, but will keep well in the fridge for up to three days.

1. You can substitute the cardamom for 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon if you can't find it.