As some of you already know, I’m currently taking a year off of naturopathic school to pursue some other fun and exciting opportunities. Late last summer, I made the difficult choice to embark on a new path for a period of time to see where life would take me. There have been challenges and I’ve certainly questioned my decision from time to time, but I couldn’t be happier with it all.
One of the great many opportunities that has come about is a chance I’ve had to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine. After years of dreaming, last week it all finally came together when I started the chef training program at George Brown College! It’s an 8-month intensive training program that’s teaches traditional French culinary skills. And though my mom, my aunts, and my grandma have all gifted me with a pretty awesome foundation (thanks, ladies!), I wanted to have more formal training so that I could really understand food theory, enhance my recipe development skills, and feel more confident with my substitutions when making healthier modifications in the kitchen. It’s all for the greater purpose of serving you in some way. In just a week and a half of classes, I’ve already learned so much. I can’t wait to share it all with you.
What does this means for you? Well, one would hope that the blog quality content will only improve, but I’ll let you be the judge of that! In all reality, it will mean that I’ll be working my butt off in school trying to become a really skilled chef; and along the way, I’ll be sharing some of the things I learn with you. I’m still aiming to post twice a week, but please forgive me if, on occasion, I can only make it a one post week. For those of you who have emailed me about selling food or doing catering, thank you from the bottom of my heart! It is, in part, your belief in me that has driven this decision. There will be more serious opportunities for that down the line.
Meanwhile, if you want to keep up with what I’m doing outside of this space, you can always follow me over on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ( my fave #80twentychefschool), Pinterest, and Google+ (just getting to know this one!). Here on the blog, I think you’ll see more recipes that are quick, simple, and healthy–exactly what I need to keep myself going through these busy months. These Homemade Lara Bars fit that bill exactly. I developed them this past weekend after I found myself struggling to make it through a 4-5 hour class without a break. Don’t tell my instructors, but I’ve been sneaking these bars into my pocket for an easy snack to keep my blood sugar from dropping too low. They’re loaded with nuts and a few dates, so they’re high in fibre and good-for-you fats. Cut into bars, they provide a truly easy, healthy fix for when you need a little pick-me-up. And don’t even get me started on the warm spice combination! It’s a perfect addition to the wintery weather we’re having. Enjoy!
- 8 pitted medjool dates (about 150g)
- 1 cup of raw mixed nuts (or about 100g) *I used 1/3 each of pistachios, cashews, and almonds
- The zest of one navel orange, preferably organic (try not to get any of the bitter white pith)
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2.5 tbsp cocoa powder
- A generous pinch of salt
- 1-2 tbsp hot water
- 1 tbsp cocoa nibs, optional (but totally awesome)
- Place the dates, nuts, zest, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa poweder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the contents are chopped into small pieces and intermixed with one another. With the food processor running, add the hot water 1 tbsp at a time until the mixture forms into a ball. Add the cocoa nibs, if using, and pulse a few times to incorporate them, but not pulverize. They’re there to add crunch!
- Line an 8” x 8” square baking pan (or a slightly smaller container) with parchment paper and turn the mixture out into the pan. Using damp hands and a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon (an offset spatula is better), spread the mixture out until it is about a ¼-inch thick. (Note: If you’re using an 8” x 8” square baking pan for this, your mixture will not fill the container. Simply even it off so that it forms a ¼-inch rectangle within the pan.)
- Place the pan in the freezer for an hour or two to set, you want the bars to be easy to cut and to remove, not too sticky. Cut into 8 bars. For optimal freshness, the bars will keep in the fridge for about a week if covered, and in the freezer, if wrapped well, for about a month.