Monthly Archives: July 2017

Extra-Chocolatey Nanaimo Bars: A Recipe to Celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday

Too delicious to share! (My waist recommended that I share these, but my taste buds said ‘mine, all mine!’)

Why are these Nanaimo bars extra-chocolatey? Because the bottom layer (that scrumptiousness made of cookies, coconut, and nuts) is made with CHOCOLATE graham crackers! And of course, I made my own (although you could buy store-bought) simply because I prefer to have as fresh ingredients as possible.Oh, and I made my chocolate graham crackers with whole wheat flour, to increase the fibre content. I’m sure that balances out all the butter and sugar, right? M’kay.

I did write in the post title, that this recipe was to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday (yes, Canada as a nation is only 150 years old!), but I would be remiss if I didn’t address the fact that Canada is built on someone else’s land: that of the First Nations people. I don’t know what the solution is. Obviously after 150 years, all non-native peoples are not going to go back to the lands of their genetic heritage, but at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that there are problems with how the First Nations people have been treated, both historically (residential schools) and currently (the appalling state of some of the reserves in the Canadian north). There’s no easy answer, and I have no insights that others do not. Addressing social issues is also not the purpose of this blog, but I felt I couldn’t celebrate Canada (Multiculturalism! Delicious foods like Nanaimo bars!) without acknowledging the First Nations who were the original inhabitants of Kanata.

Now, let’s make us some Nanaimo bars!

Luscious ripply layers!

Extra Chocolatey Nanaimo Bars

Top Layer

  • 3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp. butter

Middle Layer

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 drop yellow food colouring
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. corn starch
  • 2 tbsp. milk powder
  • 2 1/2 c. icing sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. milk

Bottom Layer

  • 1 c. chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 c. ground mixed salted nuts
  • 1 c. coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. icing sugar
  • 1/3 c. cocoa
  • 1 egg

Make the bottom layer: Mix all ingredients for the bottom layer together. Line a buttered 9×9 inch pan with parchment paper; leave enough parchment paper to overhang the sides (you’ll be using this later to lift the squares out of the tray easily). Press the ingredients into the tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool in pan, and set aside (in pan).

Make the custardy middle layer: Blend all ingredients together. Spread smoothly over chilled bottom layer. Put in fridge until firm, or at least an hour.

Make the topping: mix the chocolate chips and butter together in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave in 30 s. bursts, stirring in between each, until thoroughly melted. Mix together and let cool slightly. Spread cooled mixture over the custard layer in the tray.

Chill the squares thoroughly before cutting. Lift entire tray of bars out of pan using parchment paper ends as handles. Place on a flat surface, and cut using a knife dipped in hot water (and then dried). Dip knife in hot water between each cut (and wipe dry after dipping).

And, enjoy a slice of Canadiana!

Can’t stop eating them! Even the chocolate-disliking DH ate them!

BONUS RECIPE: Chocolate Graham Crackers

Want to make your own chocolate graham crumbs? You totes can! I made my own chocolate graham crackers, by using this recipe (except halving it, and leaving out any toppings), and adding in 1/3 c. cocoa, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and using only whole wheat flour. Once baked and cooled, and I then blitzed the cookies in the blender until they were finely crumbled. Voila, homemade chocolate graham cracker crumbs!

Next Post: How to Make Your Own Banoffee Frappe! That’s right, it’s a frappe with banana, caramel, and whipped cream — so delicious on a hot summer’s day!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And Happiness is Homemade!

Vanilla Bean & Granola Meal Replacement Bars Plus Why I Stomped on My Baking

Crunch, crunch, crunch…and I ate a bunch! (But over several days, obvs!)

Guess what I did last weekend? I made meal replacement bars for my husband! He likes to grab a bar to go for breakfast when he’s in a hurry, but I know there are healthier breakfasts than Slimfast bars (*shudder*), so I finally got him to agree to eat them if I made them!

I used vanilla bean whey protein powder, as well as my homemade granola (using home-dehydrated strawberries instead of dried cranberries), along with the last of the psyllium powder I bought months ago at the behest of my doctor, and added in some ground flax seed too. I used egg whites to increase the stickiness of the ingredients without adding extra sugar (which most granola bar recipes use), plus it increases the protein in the recipe. The combination of fibre and protein should keep him full from breakfast to lunch. And, no preservatives! Winning!

The protein comes from the protein powder, the oats (they have a surprising amount of protein!), the egg whites, and the seeds. Diverse sources of protein, plus some omega fatty acids in the form of flax seeds, combined with lots of plant fibre, means a healthy breakfast that packs a winning punch!

Am so pleased with myself for developing this recipe!

Vanilla Bean & Granola Meal Replacement Bars

  • 4 c. homemade granola
  • 32 g. vanilla bean protein powder (I used a whey based protein, as I don’t digest pea protein well)
  • 1/2 c. ground flax seed
  • 1/2 c. psyllium powder
  • 1/4 c. oat flour (i.e. ground oats)
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 2 egg whites, lightly whipped
  • 1/4 c. oil

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Line a 9×9 baking tray with parchment paper. Pour mixture into lined tray. Place more parchment paper on top, and press an 8×8 tray on top of that. Really press on it (I admit to standing on it on one foot). This smushes the mixture into a compact form, and helps the ingredients bind together so that the bars are less likely to crumble.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly golden on top. Let cool in pan. Once cool, remove from pan, place on a cutting board, and cut into bars. Et voila — meal replacement bars!

Rows of crispy, hearty, fruit and seed flecked bars!

I tried to figure out how to eliminate the honey, but all the granola bar recipes I researched use it as a binding agent. I did use a much smaller amount than most recipes, and relied on the flax seed powder, oat flour, and egg whites to bind the ingredients together.

Personally, I’m more of a chocolate than a vanilla person, so had I made them for me, I probably would have dunked them in chocolate, in addition to adding in chocolate chips. I left them out in this recipe, as the DH isn’t a chocolate person (who knew they existed?). If you made these with chocolate chips, let me know what you think!

Next Post: Erm…food. A post about food. Something yummy, at any rate!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!

Pesto & Portobello Mushroom Pasta Bake and Why I Took Dinner Away From My Husband

I’m about to dive fork first into this dish, but held off just long enough to snap a photo for you, my dear reader! (I know. I’m all heart.)

I went camping last weekend, and boy did we eat well! After the whole Amazon-bought-Whole-Foods news bite recently, the DH went shopping at Whole Foods to see what the furor was about, and bought most of our camping food there. (As I said, we ate well.) There were some Portobello mushrooms that he had picked up, all nice and juicy plump, and he grilled some of them on the camping trip, along with the steaks he bought (and grilled them just plain for me, his beloved vegetarian spouse) but there were still a couple mushrooms left after the trip. What to do with these high caliber morsels of mushroom heaven? Fry ’em up and toss them in my next pasta bake!

Sound boring? Not at all! I picked some basil from my balcony garden, added it to some frozen pesto I had made a few months ago (made using almonds instead of pine nuts because that was what I had in my cupboard), tossed it with some pasta, added in the mushrooms after frying them to an aromatic buttery golden colour, topped it with homemade breadcrumbs and aged white cheddar, and voila, a lovely casserole! So, so, SO good!

This dish is worth making again and again! Sophisticated enough for an adult dinner, but easy enough for a family meal with kids. The Portobello mushrooms add a nice meaty flavour and texture, and who doesn’t love a cheesy crunchy topping?

Want to duplicate the dish? Let’s!

Close up of the veggie cheesy pasta nom-nom-nom-ness

Pesto & Portobello Mushroom Pasta Bake

  • 1/2 c. pesto
  • 10 basil leaves, fresh, chopped
  • 5 cups cooked small shell pasta (I also think orecchiette pasta would be fabulous in this dish!)
  • 3/4 c. crumbled aged white cheddar
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. butter, divided into 1/4 c. measurements
  • 2 large Portobello mushrooms

Fry (it’s actually a combination of frying and toasting) the breadcrumbs in 1/4 c. butter. Set aside.

Chop the mushrooms into large chunks, and fry in 1/4 c. butter, until golden and the juices have reduced. Toss the mushrooms (including any juices in the pan) with the cooked pasta, pesto, and fresh basil. Dump this mixture into a casserole dish, sprinkle the crumbled cheddar on top, and top it all with the toasted crumbs. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted, and the crumb topping is uniformly golden and crispy.

Serve, and be prepared for everyone to ask for second helpings!

This pasta bake was so good that the DH said (and I quote) “Get it away from me or I’ll eat it all!” (I do so love when my sweetie appreciates my cooking!) Make this for your friends/family/work lunches and let me know what feedback you get! It’s a seriously yummy dish!

Next Post: It’s Nanaimo bar time, my friends! But chocolate-ified, because, well, chocolate! 

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!