Chocolate Chai Quinoa Granola Bars

I’m falling in love with chai spice.


There’s something magical about this particular combination of spices. Whether it comes from their insane health benefits, how good they taste together or the fact that it can be applied to any dish and make it 100× better. Especially when there’s chocolate involved.


Enter: these granola bars. Easy grab on the go snacks. They’re perfect just before a workout, during a long road trip or whenever you need a pick-me-up. They’re also ridiculously easy to make. They’re easily customised, so you can add whatever takes your fancy here. I’m talking coconut chips, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, dried fruit, whatever you like! Need a weekend project? These bars- RIGHT NOW!!!


Chocolate Chai Quinoa Granola Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • ½ cup flaked almonds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup almond butter
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp coconut oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper or aluminium foil, leaving an overhang so that you can remove the bars. In a large bowl, combine the oats, quinoa, almonds, chia seeds, cardamom, pepper, ginger and cinnamon. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl. combine the almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla essence. Microwave for 30 seconds before whisking to combine. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the almond butter mixture into the centre. Use a wooden spoon to fold the wet ingredients into the dry.
  3. Dump the mixture into the square pan and press down into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes or until set and remove to cool. Once the bars have cooled, use the parchment overhang to pull the bars out of the pan. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 bars.
  4. Add the chocolate and coconut oil to a small bowl. Microwave in 20 second increments, whisking after each, until melted. Drizzle the chocolate over the sliced bars. Leave for 5 minutes to set before indulging. Enjoy!
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Raw Avocado Lime Cheesecake Bites

When your dessert is made of avocados, you can eat as much as you’d like without feeling guilty #score.


Fair warning though: this dessert is not as sweet as my other vegan cheesecake recipes. If you’re looking for something on the sweeter side, look here for some golden caramel goodness and over here for a sweet passionfruit glaze. Everyone who’s up for a tangy dessert stay with me!


I finally found a use for the Weetbix biscuits that were taking up space in the pantry and that is ——–> the base for these lime cheesecake bars! At the end of last year, we ran a triathlon for women’s cancer and every team that competed won a box of Weetbix biscuits and a Snickers bar (you can guess which one I went for). Unfortunately that means the Weetbix has been at the back of the pantry, feeling lonely and ignored. To be honest with you, I hadn’t thought about it until I ran out of almonds to use for the crust and had to look to alternative methods. Needless to say, it worked out well! You can still go with almonds if you wish, it will still yield a delicious dessert!

 

Here’s to friends who come over to hand model food for you! 

Raw Avocado Lime Cheesecake Bites

Ingredients

  • about 10 Weetbix biscuits, crushed (may substitute 2 cups sliced almonds)
  • 8 medjool dates, soaked in hot water and deseeded
  • 3 ripe medium avocados
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup cold water (may need more)
  • 2 ounces chocolate, melted

Method

  1. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper. Combine the crushed Weetbix biscuits and dates in a food processor and blend until it forms a sticky dough. Press the dough into the bottom of the loaf pan in an even layer. Freeze whilst you prepare the filling.
  2. Rinse out the food processor and proceed to blend together the avocados, cashews, lime juice, syrup and water. If the mixture is too thick to pulse, add more water 2 tbsp at a time until the machine can smoothly process it. Pulse for 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy.
  3. Spread the mixture in an even layer on top of the base. The mixture should be very thick. Freeze for 1 hour or until solid. Store in the fridge, do not freeze after it has set. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Drizzle with melted chocolate and enjoy!

Vegan Millionaire’s Shortbread Bars

I have big news for you all: I HAVE A BLENDER!


Shout out to mummy for recognising the struggle that was my culinary life without a blender. I honestly don’t care how broke I am in college, as long as I have a blender to cuddle at night.


I think it’s only fitting that the first vegan dessert I attempted with the blender was this millionaire’s shortbread. This has always been one of my favourite desserts to make so it was only natural that I attempted a no-bake version. If you follow my Instagram @thefoodscientistblog then you’ll know that I’ve been cooking a storm with this vegan caramel (tomorrow guys!). For now, let’s sit back and enjoy this lush dessert.
Vegan Millionaire’s Shortbread

For the crust:

  • 2 cups rolled oatmeal
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 3 pitted medjool dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

For the vegan caramel sauce:

  • 2×14 oz can coconut cream (just leave a tin of coconut milk in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 and ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
  • ¾ cup maple syrup

For the topping:

4 ounces vegan chocolate

Start by making the vegan caramel sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut cream and brown sugar over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is at a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla essence and salt. Add to a glass jar and refrigerate for an hour. Will keep for a week in the fridge.

Then move on to the base:

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Add the oats and almonds to a food processor and pulse until it forms a fine, crumbly meal. Add the dates and maple syrup and process until you get a thick, dough. Press the dough into the bottom of a loaf pan in an even layer. In the same blender, process the vegan caramel you made earlier with the cashews and maple syrup. Pour the caramel layer over the base and freeze for 4 hours, or until solid. Slice into bars, and let chill at least 5 minutes at room temperature before consuming. Enjoy!

Shortbread Lemon Curd Bars

Ah lemon curd, an old favourite of mine. I find myself going back to you over and over again. It’s almost like we’re drawn to each other, aren’t we?


Let’s not call it an obsession. If you look through the blog archives, you’ll have noticed that I used lemon curd in these crepes and these mini cheesecakes and I modified it to produce this passionfruit curd that I coincidentally also served with shortbread. Huh, strange.


This time I decided to switch it up a bit by cutting my bars into triangles because that’s so mainstream, move with the times guys! The non uniform size looks edgy and adds a new dimension to the basic lemon bars that we have come to know and love from the neighbourhood granny. These make a lovely addition to your 4 o’clock tea, but can also be served as a light dessert by giving it a quick burst in the microwave and serving with a dollop of cream or a big scoop of ice cream. Winning.


Shortbread Lemon Curd Bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 and ½ cups softened butter
  • 3 tbsp rolled oats, uncooked
  • 2 cups homemade lemon curd, or storebought is fine too

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease an 8×8 baking pan and line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and icing sugar. Rub the butter into the dry mixture until you have a soft crumbly dough. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture, and dump the rest into the baking pan and press down into an even layer. Prick all over with a fork and bake 15 minutes or until it has just started turning golden brown.

Meanwhile, add the oats to the reserved shortbread and rub into the mixture. Once the base is done baking, remove from the oven and spread the lemon curd over the surface in an even layer. Layer on top with the remaining shortbread mixture. Bake for another 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before dusting with icing sugar and serving. Enjoy!

Sweetheart Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Bars

Okay okay okay, this is a huge step for me but I finally did it. I officially conquered my fear of cheesecakes. 


Let me phrase this better, I do not have a phobia of yummy calorific dairy desserts. I am terrified of making them. What if it cracks whilst baking? What if it doesn’t set in the fridge? What if it tastes nothing like the cheesecake from that really great cafe?  These are the questions that haunt me whilst I sit at my desk wondering how I’m going to nail this next recipe idea.


‘You can’t do cheesecake. All your previous attempts have failed miserably. You can use those 2 tins of cream cheese to make a dip for some fries instead,’ my conscience says. ‘You’ll never be able to pull this one off.’ I take a deep breath and try to channel out the negative energy. You can do this. After pacing around the kitchen for an hour, I finally muster up the strength to pick up the whisk and attempt this cheesecake. 2 hours later, I’m asking myself why I was even doubting my abilities in the first place. It’s everything I ever wanted and yet more. I was a bit sceptical about abandoning the traditional Graham cracker base for a shortbread base, and I wasn’t 100% sure that the pattern would come out clearly but hey, I did it. I SUCCESSFULLY MADE A CHEESECAKE.


You too, can experience happiness and accomplishment through trying this recipe. There’s a lesson here friends: do not be afraid of failure, you will surprise even yourself when you just decide to try. Try and give your best effort always, you will never know if you don’t try.

Strawberry Cheesecake Swirl Bars

Ingredients

For the shortbread base: 

  • 2 and ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp ice water

For the cheesecake layer: 

  • Two 8 oz packages of plain cream cheese
  • ½ cup castor sugar
  • ½ cup sour cream (may sub Greek yogurt for healthier taste)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

For the strawberry swirl:

  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp castor sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cornflour + 1 tsp cold water

Method: 

Start with the strawberry swirl: 

In a blender, combine the strawberries, water, lemon juice and sugar. Blitz until no large chunks of strawberry remain. Add the contents of the blender to a saucepan and gently warm the strawberry puree. Once boiling, add in the cornflour and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool whilst you prepare the cheesecake bars.

Then move onto the cheesecake: 

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a large bowl and toss to combine. Cut the butter into the dry mixture until you have a crumbly dough. Crack the egg into the mixture, pour in the ice water and stir until fully mixed and you have a uniform colour and there are no streaks of egg yolk. Turn the shortbread crust into the prepared baking dish. Press the dough into an even layer in the pan and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is just starting to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Whilst the crust is baking, add the cream cheese to a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the sugar and whip into the cream cheese. Pour in the fresh cream and stir until incorporated. Add in the egg, vanilla essence and lemon juice and whisk until just combined. Be careful not to overmix lest you get cracks in the cheesecake.
  3. When the crust has finished baking, pour the cheesecake mixture over the shortbread base. Dollop tablespoons of the puréed strawberries over the cream cheese mixture. Use the tip of a knife or a toothpick to swirl a pattern over the surface of the cream cheese, being careful not to scrape the shortbread base. Bake the cheesecake for 30 minutes.
  4. Once the time has elapsed, switch off the oven but do not open the oven door. I repeat: DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. This is for your own safety and for that of the cheesecake, it is to ensure you do not get any cracks that will spoil the wonderful wonderful pattern you made. I waited about another 30 minutes before removing the cheesecake and transferring to the fridge for an hour. Only then you can slice the cheesecake into 12 bars. Enjoy the fact that you have conquered the cheesecake!

 

Psssssst, once you’ve gotten over the excitement of making this yummy cheesecake, try your hand at this Chocolate Lover’s Fudge Brownie Cheesecake. It is TO DIE FOR.

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Apricot Almond Chia Granola Bars with Yogurt Drizzle

Confession Time: I have loathed peanut butter since I was 7 years old.

Before I was 7, I loved peanut butter and put it on virtually everything I ate. From crackers to sandwiches to rice (it’s a Zimbabwean delicacy along with kale and peanut butter) I could not get enough of the stuff. Until one unfortunate occasion when my peanut butter addiction punished me with an upset stomach. From that day onward, peanut butter was my mortal enemy. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups stopped being enjoyable, my PB & J sandwiches were PB deficient and Heaven knows what I would do when presented with a stir fry drizzled with peanut sauce.


I was perfectly happy to condemn myself to a nut butter-less life until I came across the most wonderful granola bars ever. And the worst part is: they were peanut butter flavoured. You can only imagine how confused my taste buds were. All the work I had put into disliking peanut butter in the previous 10 years had gone to waste. Feeling guilty, I decided to give it another chance.


And that opportunity led itself to where we are today, with these wonder-bars. With an apricot jam filling, every bite is jam-packed (haha) with that sweet fruity flavour and you don’t have to feel guilty because there is NO SUGAR in these bars. Bonus: they’re also paleo, vegan and full of everything that could ever be good for you on Planet Earth. We got almonds, we got chia seeds, we got oats, these bars will make your tummy so happy. The bars are the perfect balance of chewy and crunchy, so your teeth won’t break when you bite into them, but your jaw won’t get tired from chewing them. Have I got your attention yet?


Apricot Almond Chia Granola Bars with Yogurt Drizzle                                        makes 8 bars

Ingredients

Granola Bars:

2 cups oats

1 cup almonds, sliced or whole is fine, you could use pecans if desired

1 cup dried apricots, any other kind of dried fruit is okay

¼ cup chia seeds

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

½ tsp nutmeg

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup honey

1 tsp vanilla essence

½ cup apricot jam (optional)

Greek Yogurt Drizzle: 

½ cup Greek yogurt

2 cups icing sugar

1 tbsp honey

Method

For the granola bars:

  1. Grease an 8×8 baking pan and line with parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the granola bars and stir until well combined. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat together the peanut butter and honey, stirring often until blended together. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla essence. Pour the peanut butter and honey mixture into the dry oat mixture and mix well until fully coated. You’re welcome to use your hands to make sure to really incorporate the wet ingredients.
  3. Press half of the granola bar mixture into the greased baking pan. Make sure that the base is fully covered. Press down to make sure you have an even layer. Microwave the apricot jam on high for 30 seconds to make sure it’s pourable. Pour the hot jam over the first layer of the granola bars and use a butter knife to make sure it’s spread evenly. Cover with the remaining granola bar mixture and press down to make sure you have an even layer. Freeze for 2 hours, then slice into 8 bars and return to freezer.

For the Greek Yogurt Drizzle:

  1. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the Greek Yogurt Drizzle and mix until combined. After cutting the bars, drizzle the drizzle (fo’ shizzle) over the bars and freeze for 30 minutes or until set. If desired, you could dip the bars into the drizzle and let set, drizzle side up. Store these bars in the refrigerator for up to a month.


This recipe was adapted from these Blueberry Vanilla Greek Yogurt Granola Bars by Half Baked Harvest.

Chocolate and Vanilla Cantuccini (Variation of Biscotti) with Hot Chocolate

Fun fact: Italian food is my favourite kind of food.

We’re still getting to know each other here and I just felt like you should know that. I love the fact that there are 101 things to do with pasta, there is always a gelato to compensate your mood and the coffee is black enough to match the colour of my soul. Beautiful.

 Another fun fact- biscotti means twice baked. And that’s exactly what we are going to do to these babies. I felt a bit reluctant to call these biscotti though, because biscotti just refers to any ordinary biscuit. And this is no ordinary biscuit. Cantuccini is a more appropriate name, because of the shape of these biscuits, perfect for dunking in your wine/hot chocolate.

This biscuit is fearless, it can take anything you throw at it. Chocolate chips, almonds, dried cranberries, you name it. You can virtually do anything you like with this recipe as long as the core ingredients remain the same.

Biscotti on biscotti on biscotti
Jenga with biscotti

The reason why I decided to bake these is that I was missing those cold winter afternoons I spent in Tignes, drinking hot chocolate and laughing my head off. Then I decided, I could recreate the biscotti and the hot chocolate…. but the one thing you can’t recreate is the moment. Not only am I sweltering in this 34 °C Zimbabwean heat, nothing beats having the same company around.

Luckily for us, that hole can be filled by eating more biscotti.

 


Cantuccini is traditionally served with Vin Santo, a sweet dessert wine. But seeing as I’m still underage and grossly deficient in funds, we’ll just have to contend with this wicked hot chocolate. Yes, it may be 34 degrees outside, but I am forever freezing and so will continue to sip my hot chocolate whilst pretending not to see you judge me.

The recipes for the chocolate and vanilla cantuccini are essentially the same, difference being that one has cocoa powder and the other has vanilla essence. This recipe is easily manipulated, you can leave out the chocolate chips, substitute the almonds for hazelnuts or chopped pine nuts, it is really all about catering to your taste! Please note below that there are 2 recipes, but only one method because it is essentially the same. I’ll be sure to post a lot more variations of this recipe just to give y’all some ideas 🙂

To make this mini chocolate fondue, all you have to do is melt 50g of chocolate and about a tbsp of milk together, add 2 tbsps of Nutella and mix to combine.

Chocolate Cantucci                                                                           makes about 15

Ingredients 

1 cup self raising flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ cup castor sugar

1 tsp salt

½ cup chopped almonds

2 eggs

Handful of chocolate chips

Vanilla Cantuccini                                                                            makes about 15

Ingredients 

1 cup self raising flour

½ cup castor sugar

1 tsp salt

½ cup chopped/flaked almonds

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

Handful of chocolate chips (optional)

Method

  1. Start by taking out two bowls of medium size, one for the chocolate and one for the vanilla cantuccini
  2. Sift the flour, castor sugar, salt and cocoa powder (for chocolate cantuccini) into a bowl and mix until combined. Add the almonds
  3. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into the centre and add the vanilla essence (for the vanilla cantuccini) Stir until incorporated and it forms a wet dough
  4. Shape the separate doughs each into a loaf, thats about 8 inches long, 9 inches wide and 2 inches high. Place in a greased baking dish and bake in an oven at 180ºC for 20 minutes or until the dough is firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and stand on a counter for 20 minutes until cooled. Using a serrated bread knife, slice the loaf diagonally into cantuccini pieces, each about half an inch thick. Return the cantuccini pieces to the baking dish and bake a further 15 minutes.
  5. Cool and serve with hot chocolate. Store in a cool, dry place, these will keep for a couple of months.

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate 

Ingredients

50g of your favourite milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces

2 and ½ cups whole milk, and another 2 tbsp of milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp brown sugar

Method

  1. Fill a sauce pan about ¾ of the way to the top with boiling water and put it on the stove on low heat. Place a medium sized bowl over the lid of the sauce pan and add the chocolate and 2 tbsp of milk. Once the chocolate is mostly molten, but not completely molten, remove the bowl from heat. In another saucepan, boil the 2 and ½ cups of milk.

2. Stir the chocolate and milk together until combined. You will have a really thick chocolate paste. When the milk is on the verge of boiling, scoop the paste into the milk and continue to mix until all the paste has dissolved. Add the cinnamon and sugar and bring the hot chocolate to a boil. Pour into cups and serve.