Carrot Cake Granola Bars

As summer comes to an end, and with a new school year about to begin, I am packing my things in Calgary to head back to Ottawa to start my Masters in Counselling Psychology. It has been one of the best summers ever, and in fact, one of the best years ever; I went to pastry school, worked in two bakeries (pies for four months, and bagels for four months), traveled around Argentina, and got to explore the beautiful west side of Canada. Taking a year off was such a great decision, and even though I am definitely not done with traveling, baking, or Western Canada, I am about to put these things on hold for two years. One adventure ends and another begins! 

Tom and I took 12 days to road trip from Calgary to Vancouver and back, stopping in Kelowna, Penticton, Vancouver, Squamish, and the Radium Hot Springs. We camped, wine toured, biked, swam, climbed, hiked, and visited with some very special friends: Keegan, Barah, Amanda, Barbara, Chuck, and Corinne. Definitely a wonderful way to end the summer. 

Before leaving for our trip, I made Vegan Carrot Cake Granola Bars to munch on on the road. 

2 cups quick or minute oats
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp ground flax seeds, mixed with 4 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup vegan margarine, or melted coconut oil
Optional: raisins, walnuts, hemp seeds

I mixed everything together in a bowl (starting with the dry ingredients and carrots, then adding the wet ingredients), and pressed the mixture firmly into an 8 x 8 square pan, greased and lined with parchment paper. I baked the granola bars at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. I let the pan cool for about an hour, then cut them into 8 granola bars and wrapped them individually. 

They made a delicious snack for the road, and taste just like carrot cake! It is best to keep them refrigerated, but not necessary. It was sad when a couple of them got wet on our trip because our ice bags in the cooler leaked onto them. Tom pointed out that I like to mourn my food whenever it goes bad, and can’t throw it away right away. Eventually I accept that the food cannot be saved and throw it out. 

I really like making my own granola bars, as it is way cheaper than buying them from the store ($5 for 6 bars?!?!), and I have a lot more options for flavours (again with the peanut allergy limiting my options). I will definitely make this recipe again. 

Adios Calgary!

Pesto White Bean Dip and Homemade Bread

This summer has been going by so fast, and I have found it hard to keep up with the recipes I want to post here. Over the past few months I have grown into a hummus fiend; Costco-sized tubs don’t last long enough, so sometimes I make my own. After experimenting with different flavours of this delicious chickpea dip (plain, paprika, and spinach), I decided to use a different kind of bean. I got the recipe for Pesto White Bean Dip from Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton.

1 can white kidney beans, drained
2/3 cups fresh basil, rinsed
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and cooled (bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or fry in a skillet for about 3 minutes)
1-3 tbsp water
Optional: 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast

In a food processor, blend everything except for half of the pine nuts. The more olive oil you add, the richer the dip will be, and the more water you add, the thinner it will be. Stir in the rest of the pine nuts and Enjoy! Delicious in sandwiches and with crackers, and a perfect summer recipe.

Even though I did not make my own bread the time this bean dip was around, I thought this would be a good place to include the Whole Wheat Bread I made recently. I got the recipe from my employer at Bagelino’s, a bagel shop located in downtown Calgary. He won’t give up his secret homemade bagel recipe, but he was willing to share his bread recipe, and threw in some fresh yeast for me to use at home. When he gave me the recipe, he only included the ingredient measurements, but not much in the line of instructions, so I had to apply some techniques from working with fresh yeast at Cordon Bleu.

11 oz warm water
3 cups flour (I used 2 cups whole wheat, 1 cup white, but you can do whatever combo, as long as you adjust the water as needed)
2 1/2 tbsp butter, melted (you can probably guess I used vegan margerine)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp fresh yeast (1 1/2 tsp if using dried yeast)

Combine flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine sugar and yeast and then add to flour mixture. Add water and combine. I needed to add a little more flour, as the dough was too sticky, and I did this one tsp at a time. I wanted the dough to be slightly sticky, but also slightly smooth. Knead the dough by throwing it on a lightly floured surface over and over again, folding it on itself, for about 10 minutes. Place in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a towel or a plastic bag. Let the dough rest for 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and knead again for about 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a log and place in a lightly greased bread pan. Let rise for another 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, turning the pan half way through.

A good tip that my employer gave me was to put a about an inch of water into an oven-safe cup and let it sit at the bottom of the oven while the bread bakes. This avoids a thick crust from forming.

The bread turned out really well; about a third of it was gone before it had time to cool down, thanks to Tom and I snacking on it! I plan on making more – in fact, I plan on making double batches and freezing the loaves if I have time in the fall. The nice thing about making bread is that the part that takes time is the rising, so if I have a day of studying ahead of me, why not punch some dough during my study breaks?