No-bake Chocolate Almond Granola Bars and a Giveaway!

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I will be the first to admit, when I eat chocolate anything, I usually go straight for whatever dark chocolate bar I can get my hands on, preferably one with lots of salt. However, after trying Marich premium chocolates, I have had to alter my views on all that is chocolate-covered. These are not the cheap, chocolate covered almonds you purchase for fundraisers at the grocery store, and frankly almonds are just one of the ingredients that Marich enrobes in their various chocolate coatings. It may be cliché but Marich has taken the art of coating things in chocolate to a whole new level.

The best part about Marich premium chocolates is that many varieties are coated in multiple layers of chocolate. The blueberries have a layer of both white and dark chocolate, as do the strawberries. Then you have unique spice blends like chipotle almonds and curry cashews. And the caramels, one must not forget the caramels. Offered in both chewy (sea salt caramels) and crunchy (triple chocolate toffee) varieties, they are a dangerously addictive snack all on their own, although it doesn’t hurt to stir them into your favourite sweet recipes either.

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In this case, we will add a healthy amount of both triple chocolate toffee and chipotle almonds to no-bake chocolate granola bars, leaving just enough out of the recipe to munch on for later. Oh who are we kidding – to munch on RIGHT AWAY. Did I mention that the triple chocolate toffee contains bits coated in white, milk or dark chocolate so it’s like three different types all in one?

Anyways, these granola bars are the perfect back-to-school, afternoon or post-workout snack to get that extra sugar – and chocolate – you need to keep you going for the rest of the day. From this point on, granola bars without Marich premium chocolate pieces will be forever inferior. If you don’t believe me, enter the contest below to see for yourself!

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No-bake Chocolate Almond Granola Bars
 
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Serves: 10 bars

Ingredients
  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup agave nectar (honey and maple syrup are also options)
  • ¼ almond butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup Marich chocolate covered almonds and toffee, chopped

Instructions
  1. First line an 8 inch pan with parchment.
  2. In a bowl, blend together the chopped dates, agave and almond butter. Stir in the cocoa powder and mix to form a paste.
  3. Add in the salt, oats and Marich chocolate, stirring to combine. If you notice that the mixture is still too sticky, add more oats as needed. If it is too dry, add a couple more chopped dates or a spoonful of almond butter to bring it together.
  4. Press the mixture into your lined 8″ pan. Freeze or refrigerate for about 20 minutes, or until the bars are firm enough to slice. Keep them stored in the fridge if not eaten immediately.

Notes
If you don’t like the taste of raw oats, toast them first in a 350F oven until fragrant and golden.

Marich has generously offered to send one lucky reader a selection of free chocolate-covered goodness! Enter to win a free Marich Premium Chocolate Collection Gift Box:

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Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Even when you don’t really have time to bake, you can find a way to make time for these chocolate coconut oatmeal cookies. They take mere minutes to put together and are virtually impossible to screw up. Adding applesauce to the dough makes them moist and very forgiving (even if you overcook them a tad they won’t turn rock hard and thus inedible on you). Plus you can make a massive batch and freeze half so you have them at the ready even if you don’t have time to turn on the oven. I don’t see any downsides, do you?

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
 
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Author:
Serves: 40 cookies

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1½ cups dark chocolate chips

Instructions
  1. Blend together the coconut oil and brown sugar to form a smooth paste.
  2. Stir in the eggs, vanilla and applesauce. Beat until smooth.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until everything is well incorporated.
  4. Spoon the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 350F for about 10 minutes per batch (it will take a couple of batches to cook them all).
  5. Cool and enjoy!

Notes
**To make cranberry white chocolate pumpkin cookies:
- substitute peanut butter for the coconut oil
- swap out the applesauce for pumpkin puree
- omit the shredded coconut
- add ¾ each white chocolate chips and dried cranberries, instead of the chocolate chips
Enjoy!

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Watermelon Feta Arugula Salad

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I made this watermelon feta arugula salad ages ago. Like before my Europe trip, so-long-ago-I forgot-about-it ages ago. At the time, it was pretty appropriate to be adding produce like watermelon and radishes to salad. Now it’s almost October and we have already had snow. Ingredients like pumpkin and squash are taking over. But heck, you can still find what you need to make it, and frankly, it’s the type of thing I have been eating a lot of lately.

When you get back from a vacation of eating and come home to a job that largely involves eating, you really don’t want to do any more eating at home. Actual meals tend to go out the window but when they do happen, all I want to eat is salad, salad, salad. Maybe a smoothie or two thrown in there but that’s about it. I need those sorts of things to re-energize me so I can go back to eating whatever else I have to (and love to) eat without feeling like a fat slob. It’s all about balance right? Knock that balance out of whack and your whole body just feels gross. And nobody wants to purposefully make themselves feel gross.

Ok now I am rambling, that’s my cue to go. In fact, I am probably going to go make some salad for lunch. Fancy that.

 

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Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree, Salad
Serves: 4

Ingredients
  • 4 large handfuls of arugula
  • 5 black olives, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. feta cheese cubes or crumbles
  • 8 tbsp. watermelon, cubed
  • 2 large radishes, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup Camelina oil
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic scapes, grilled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions
  1. First things first, get some garlic scapes on the grill for the vinaigrette. Cook them for a couple minutes on each side, until charred and tender. Finely chop and set aside for the vinaigrette.
  2. To make the rest of the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard and honey. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar before gradually whisking in both types of oil (if you cannot find Camelina oil feel free to use straight olive oil). Finally add in the chopped grilled garlic scales and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To assemble the salad, dress the arugula with your vinaigrette and portion it into 4 bowls or plates of your choice. Divide the chopped olives equally amongst the 4 servings. Add to each about 1 tbsp. feta, 2 tbsp. watermelon and 5-7 slices of thinly sliced radish. Enjoy.

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I’m Alive!

I don’t think I need to say that this post has been a long time coming. For any of you who visit this site on a semi-regular basis, you have probably noticed my obvious absence from it. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for it, nor will I promise to get my butt back in gear and start posting 5 times a week. I’m going to be a realist and tell it to you like it is.

I love my blog, don’t get me wrong – I’m unlikely to get rid of it anytime in the near future. However, when it’s not your full-time job and you don’t really make any money off if it, you start to prioritize other things. Finishing my last year of my undergrad is one of those priorities, as well as working on my thesis and applying to grad school. Career-wise, that’s where I am headed at this point so looking long-term, it’s probably a good idea to concentrate my efforts there. No kidding right?

Culinaire Magazine September Cover

Photo courtesy of Culinaire Magazine

Perhaps even more exciting are the new opportunities that have started to open up for me in the world of food writing. I recently started a new chapter as the digital media editor for Culinaire magazine in Calgary, a publication I have been contributing to for awhile now. I’ve said it before but when it comes to this whole world of food blogging, it’s the writing that I enjoy the most, and on my personal site, it’s hard to make that a priority and still attract people that only want to get recipes and look at pretty pictures. Sitting down to read a 800-1000 word essay? Not so much. Writing is also cool in the sense that you develop more tangible connections with actual, real-life people. As much as I have developed tons of internet relations via blogging, it’s nice to go to events where you meet people face to face instead.

Looking at the whole scenario, I really have to thank this blog for all that it has done for me. Without it, I likely never would have met the people I needed to in order to branch out into the writing side of things (something I never would have envisioned when I started this thing in my culinary school dorm 3 years ago now). And I guess to address the biggest question; what does the future hold for Because I Like Chocolate? Frankly, I don’t really know. I aim to update it on a weekly basis, whether that be with a recipe or simply providing a link to something I have written or done elsewhere, but I’m not promising anything. I’ll probably get busy and forget about it for awhile and then come back to it and go gung-ho before dropping off the face of the planet again. I would like to be more consistent than that but you know how it goes.

Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who reads this site and has supported me along the way over the past 3 years. I’m no Joy the Baker but things have sure grown from the 3 people who started reading this things all of those months ago. You can’t blog in isolation and it’s nice to get affirmation from people that actually benefit from what you are doing. I guess my one hope is that I can keep contributing to your life in a somewhat meaningful way, whether it be providing a cooking tip or merely adding a laugh to your day. Yup that definitely sounded way too “kumbaya.”

Roasted Cauliflower

Today I thought I would end things with a link to one of my recent Culinaire articles. Every month I write a column called “Chefs’ Tips and Tricks” and September’s theme was vegetables! Given that it’s almost fall, it’s the perfect time to make the most of the harvest and these tips will help you do just that!

Jacques Genin

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When in Paris, only a fool fails to gluttonously splurge on the cuisine. And by cuisine, I mainly mean all things sweet; pastries, confections and of course, chocolates. Especially if those confections and chocolates are made by one Jacques Genin, in which case the first thing you should do after getting off the plane, train or whatever mode of transport brought you to the city of lights is head straight to his boutique in the Marais district.

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Once there, you have several options for consumption, both on the spot and to take away for later, although it will take all of one’s will power not to devour everything immediately. Start your tasting off on the lighter side, with pate de fruits, the salad shall we say of Genin’s confection wonderland. Flavours range from traditional to exotic, complete with a red pepper variety reminiscent of red pepper jelly. Personally my favourite was rhubarb, as it’s tartness contrasted beautifully with the inevitable sweetness of pate de fruits. However, you cannot go wrong with cherry, blackberry or raspberry either.

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Moving on to the caramels next makes for a natural transition through the sweet degustation. The creamy bites can be ordered in an array of fruity flavours, including one of their top sellers, mango passion fruit, or studded with nuts like almonds or peanuts. Save the best for last with the original salted butter caramel. Anyone who has ever tried their hand at making caramels knows that despite the flavour being relatively simple to achieve, the perfect texture is virtually unattainable without years of mastery and expertise. Let the caramel slowly dissolve on your palate, allowing you to truly appreciate its impeccable smoothness. Heaven.

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If the pates au fruits and caramels fail to prove the brilliance of Jacques Genin, the chocolates will surely win over even the most bitter, cynical soul. Despite the most valiant of efforts, trying them all in one go would be next to impossible so choose wisely. Luckily for you, any choice is a wise one. Chocolate and vanilla have been a winning combination for centuries and Genin’s version is a classic that does not fail. Yet his more creative inventions like Szechuan peppercorn or Jamaican spices with lime are equally acceptable.

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So I’ve heard the hot chocolate, lemon tart and Paris-brest at Jacques Genin are not to be missed either, but when eating your way through Paris, you do have to pace yourself somewhat. Although when I think about that molten mug of melted chocolat chaud that I failed to order, I wish I would have tried it all.

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