Carrot Cake Granola Bars

March 05, 2018

I reread this post about prop minimalism today from Sneh over at Cook Republic while trawling through her blog, and it really spoke to me as a food photographer who has a virtually non-existent prop collection. Of course I want more props, and beautiful things to share in my work, but we're not settled in one place and not knowing where we'll be living in a few months prevents me from collecting. Sneh talks about how she made the choice to reduce the amount of stuff she had (she's been blogging for well over a decade, so it was a lot) and how good it made her feel, along with truly focusing on the food as the star of the photograph. Just take a brief glance at any of my work and you can see that I'm not big on heavily styled pictures with piles of props, and I can't imagine posting every day if I was spending several hours styling every recipe. It becomes a question of sharing a recipe or a still life, and I want to keep placing that importance on the recipe. It can be a bit frustrating choosing between the same few plates/bowls every time I want to share something, but the plan is to build up my ceramics with things we eat from and that I can use in photos instead of buying sets of dishes that all match. 

This isn't related to the recipe and I know you guys probably don't even notice when I use the same props, but it can be a bit of a source of guilt not having my photos looking completely original every time. BUT the important thing for me has always been recipes that are reliable and delicious over having the prettiest pictures and recipes that don't work out (I can name a few blogs like that!) so simple is just fine.

Sneh made a little comment about fearing the Trump presidency in that post and got a nasty comment from a reader - so I just want to say thank you for never yelling at me for talking about politics here! Really, where do you think my political beliefs align if I'm writing about vegetarian, organic food?  Because it's not with Trump - and I appreciate you being here for the recipes even if you disagree. 



About these bars - I've had several failures with carrot cake in the past couple of years. Not abject failures, necessarily, but not good enough. Cue carrot cake granola bars coming to the rescue to satisfy my craving while being a healthy every day snack instead of an occasional treat! These carroty bars are vegan, gluten & nut free, and packed with protein thanks to lots of toothy seeds and oats, with a little shredded coconut and some spices for that carrot cake sweetness. Before I started a blog I was always on the look out mostly for healthy snack recipes and I'm always happy when I can come up with a new one since we, especially Graham, eat so many snacks between meals. 

This recipe is adapted from my Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies, which you've been really loving, and I've kept things sugar free here plus added a vegetable! I went a little crazy with the batch size here to cut down on my snack-making time. It makes two 20cm pans, but the thing is, I only have one. If you have a rectangular pan you can bake the bars in a single pan, just change the baking time as needed. I let the mixture sit while I baked off the first one and that worked just fine. I also forgot the baking soda the first time I made this, hah. It does make a difference!

And Graham's friend has headed back to Canada today, so I'll be back in my normal posting schedule now. I am feeling a little uninspired during this shift in the seasons while I wait for the first spring produce, so if you have any recipes you'd love to see, shoot me a message or let me know in the comments. Or I'll just post a dozen bread recipes this month, whatever.


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Adapted from my Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Carrot Cake Granola Bars
Makes ~18 bars

220 grams / 2 cups rolled oats, divided
110 grams / 3/4 cup sunflower seeds, divided
50 grams / 1/2 cup shredded coconut
60 grams / 1/4 cup raisins
50 grams / 1/4 cup chia
40 grams / 1/4 cup pepitas
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
120 grams / 1/2 cup soft dates, packed
60 ml / 1/4 cup oil*
60 ml / 1/4 cup nondairy milk
3 tablespoons tahini or nut butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional, see note)
1 medium carrot, grated (70 grams or 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and grease or line two 20cm / 8 inch square baking tins.

Place 110 grams / 1 cup of the oats and 70 grams / 1/2 cup of the sunflower seeds into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Mix on high, until a coarse flour forms. Place the flour into a large bowl and stir in the remaining oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, raisins, chia, pepitas, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.

Blend the dates, oil, milk, tahini, and maple syrup (if using) in a food processor or blender until a paste forms. Add this and the shredded carrot to the oat mixture and mix thoroughly until fully combined. Using your hands works best.

Separate the dough into two equal parts and press it into the prepared baking tins. Use damp hands to pack it very firmly in and try to make an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is turning golden. 

Remove from the oven and cool for about 15 minutes in the tins before carefully removing and cooling fully on a rack. Cut each into nine equal squares and store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to three days, or longer in the refrigerator or freezer.

Tips:
• I haven't yet tested this but I think the recipe will work with about 3/4 cup of spelt flour in place of the homemade oat flour if you don't have a food processor, and store bought almond meal can be used instead of the sunflower meal.
• If your dates are semi dried, soak them in hot water for about half an hour before blending. They need to be soft for the bars to hold properly.

Notes:
1. I've tried this with sunflower, olive, and coconut oil. All work well. If you're using coconut oil you don't need to melt it beforehand, just blend it as instructed.
2. These aren't particularly sweet so if you like a sweeter granola bar, add the maple syrup. Otherwise they'll be just lightly sweet.


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