Chocolate Nut Oat Cookie Bars (and some real talk)

Soooo.... I'm back *insert monkey covering face in shame emoji here*

That's right. After another crazy, hectic yet absolutely wonderful (and probably the best to date) term, I'm back to baking and blogging in full swing. This term did actually feature maaaany good eats and treats, but more memories than pictures were captured, and I have absolutely no shame in admitting so.
Actually, I want to get real here. It's absolutely the same with this blog. I love it and it definitely holds an extremely special place in my life and heart, but I don't force it. I don't set calendar reminders to share posts or make things JUST to blog them. I live a real life that extends far beyond my food and this blog, and I only hope it continues this way. Sure, I could be more organized and measured with my posts, but for me, I am not at this stage. To all my readers and followers, I can see how it may seem unfair or like I'm not fully invested in this, but it's actually quite the opposite: it's because I so very much am that I don't want to share fake or forced content. On that note, I've actually been enjoying my savoury food a lot more now (don't worry, sweet tooth still going strong!), so do be prepared to see more savoury recipes on here from now on. Okay, I think that's it for the day - let's get back to these insanely moreish cookie oat bars. I'm actually off to India tomorrow and if you've read this post, you'll know I love to bake for my grandparents (and they love it too!!). FYI, I'm going to visit them in India. And chocolate and nuts? Definitely their favourite combo! I wanted to whip up something transportable, long-lasting, healthy(ish) and of course, delicious. And that's how these came about. They're full of oats, nuts, dark chocolate and other goodness. They're part cookie, part bar, part blondie. They're whole good, though!

They are insanely easy to put together, require no fancy steps or ingredients and are downright drool-worthy. There's a simple "trick" to getting them right - start by baking them as a whole brownie/blondie style item, then slice into squares, separate them and bake again. This gives them that crusty cookie like edge while keeping the center of each square ever-so-slightly-moist so it doesn't completely dry out or crumble apart.


Makes 15 medium square bars
1/2 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup porridge (quick-cooking) oats
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup unrefined sugar
3 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 large egg, room temperature

Preheat your oven to 170°C and line a 13x9" rectangular tray with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients from the rolled oats all the way down to the nuts. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, coconut oil and egg. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. The mixture should be thick and gloopy. If it, however, seems too dry add a tablespoon to two more of milk until it comes together.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. 

Remove from the oven, let them cool for not more than 5 minutes. Then, carefully, slice into squares. 

Move the squares from the pan to a large cookie sheet (they may still be pretty hot, so again, be careful!) lined with parchment paper and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes or until nicely golden brown and crusty.

Let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Eat a square or two immediately with a glass of milk, and place the rest in an airtight container for up to two weeks. I couldn't resist so ate a couple before reluctantly putting them away... They were made for the grandparents, after all!



Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies, cookies, cookies. Anyone else been feeling the cookies lately? Well, I don't know about you, but I sure have. I've pretty much professed my love for all things cookies several times by now. They're portable, dunkable, long-lasting (not that they ever last long) and eat-two-able (small = can eat more, right? And I know you like the new word choice!).

Aside: I'm back in Cambridge for my final Lent Term and so many feels right now. These past three and a bit years have just flown by. I mean it. I'll treasure these years forever and am so very grateful to be here. I'm going to take my final six months by storm. Work hard, play hard is my motto. There's obviously lots of tough academic work to be done (and it will be done), but I want to make sure I make the most of the city and this incredible place. 

Okay seriously, who doesn't love a good cookie? Cookies keep me sane. Especially when I'm cracking through a research paper or problem set.

These are a modified version of my almond-y oat chocolate chip cookies. The main difference is that these are a blend of oat flour and regular flour, resulting in a lighter, softer cookie. The other ones are crunchy and almost reminiscent of biscotti. It really depends on what you're looking for.
These were made on request of the sister, who wanted a softer cookie, and these definitely were just that. Perfectly crisp exterior but crumbly and soft on the inside. Yes, it is possible to be both soft(ish) and crumbly at the same time. Trust me. 

Actually, as far as chocolate chip cookies go, these are just about as classic as you'll find on my blog. There's no banana, walnuts, almond, coconut or peanut butter. Just chocolate chips. The oat flour lends a wonderful texture and ups the health. I am a coconut oil fiend, so obviously, coconut oil features instead of butter. There's just the right amount of sugar to make these taste like your favorite treat.
Real talk for a minute. No, I don't think coconut oil has miracle superpowers or is any healthier than grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocado oil or the like. What I do know is I have grown up with it, it works for me and I personally love the subtle sweet coconut aroma. So if something else is your jam, please, I urge you to go with what works for you.

This cookies are delicious, easy and a real crowd-pleaser. Double, triple or quadruple the recipe for a bigger batch of cookies.

Makes 12 cookies
1 cup oat flour*
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted**
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

*Don't bother buying this in store (generally more expensive!). Just take regular rolled oats and whizz them in a blender or food processor until you get a rough flour. There's no need to aim for a perfectly fine powder here. Store any remaining ground oat flour in an airtight jar for future use. 

**I've tried doing 2 tbsp natural almond butter and 2 tbsp coconut and this works wonderfully too. It will results in an ever-so-slightly fudgier cookie. But truly just ever-so-slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oat flour, plain flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, egg, sugar and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Set the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Heat the oven to 175°C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop the dough into equal sized balls and flatten slightly before placing them on the lined cookie sheet. Keep a bit of space between cookies to allow for spreading. 

Bake for 12 minutes or until slightly golden brown on the inside and just firm to touch. For a crispier cookie, bake for 15 minutes. For a more soft-bake texture, bake for 9-10 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool complete.

Best eaten when just baked so the chocolate chips and melty and perfect. But anytime will be scrumptious! 



White Chocolate Orange Cranberry Cookies

I've never been a big white chocolate fan. Except this grilled white chocolate from Chin Chin Labs in London. It's like crack (but not...). Take a scoop of their already perfect, delectably smooth, nitrogen frozen ice cream and top it with spoonfuls of this stuff - bliss, I tell ya. Also, a billion percent not sponsored, thought I secretly wish I was.

Anyways, that white chocolate apart, white chocolate is just not my thing. I am a die hard chocoholic. A major classic chocolate chip cookie fan. But I recently stumbled across a recipe for white chocolate chip, currant and orange cookies and was inspired to take the plunge. This flavor variation just sounded too good too pass up. Spoiler: they were good.

I must admit that the first time I made these, they turned out waaaay too sweet. Like to the extent that I couldn't stomach more than half alongside a cup of tea/coffee/milk. Sweetness apart, I knew they had potential. So I gave it another shot, and they came out a winner.

The original recipe was great inspiration, but I ended up subbing naturally dried cranberries for the currants, white chocolate chips for the chocolate chunks and coconut oil for the butter (because let's be honest, when do I not use coconut oil?). I also dramatically cut down on the sugar and swapped out some flour for oat flour (healthier and texture is so on point!). Basically, I created the recipe, just borrowed the flavor combination.
These would be a lovely addition to your Christmas cookie party, your dessert table at Christmas lunch, a tea time snack before Christmas dinner or just a treat in your hand as you cozy up with a good book and hot mug of tea by your fireplace. Let's just say they're very festive and wonderfully delicious.

Tie them up in little packets with bows or pile them in a jar and they would make the perfect Christmas present. To yourself is acceptable - I won't tell.

Makes 14 medium-sized cookies
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
zest of one large orange
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup oat flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries (sugar and sulphate free)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Cream the coconut oil, sugars and zest together in a medium bowl using a hand whisk. Don't overdo the mixing as you want to retain the nice chewy texture once the cookie is baked. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk again until well combined.

In the same bowl, add the flours and salt and mix until flour is well incorporated.

Fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Roll the dough into approximately equal sized balls and place on a cookie sheet linked with parchment paper. Gently press down on the balls of dough (not completely flat) and make sure there is plenty of space between cookies, as they will spread.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden brown on top. If your oven has the tendency to have an uneven distribution of heat, rotate the tray after around 10 minutes.

The cookies will be slightly soft even after 15 minutes, but they will firm up. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cook completely.

Grab a warm drink, get dipping and enjoy!


The BEST Avocado Toast

So, here's the deal. I'm not sure this post is warranted, but, it's happening guys. It is. Kudos to you for even clicking on it. Also, let's take a moment to stop and appreciate what's on my plate in front of me (yes, eating as usual, because food is fuel!).

I can see you shaking your head, rolling your eyes. You guessed it. Avocado toast.

So... I've always liked avocados, especially when added in small quantities to salads, wraps and sandwiches or in the form of guacamole. But when avocadotoast became the new hot trend, wait for it, I was just not with it. I didn't see what the hype was all about. Sure avocados are super healthy - they offer nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, folate, lutein, B vitamins and vitamins C and E. They're packed full of fiber, are low in sugar and the only fruit (yes, they are) that provide a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. They help keep your skin glowing, your body running and your insides flowing. They've also given me powers to master the art of rhyming.

Basically they're a nutritional powerhouse, but that's all I saw them as.

And especially smashed avocado on toast? Definitely (was) not my thing. Or never used to be, anyway. But now I know why. I was doing it all wrong, in my humble opinion.

Almost ashamed to say (but not really) that I pretty much eat avocado toast in some form or another at least once a day. Sometimes it's alongside scrambled/fried/boiled eggs for breakfast or lunch, sometimes it's as an anytime-of-day snack and sometimes, well it just happens without explanation.

My key tips for a killer avo toast:
  1. Don't be shy with the amount of avocado. Yes, it's high in calories and fat, but it's great for you so jam pack your toast with all the avo. Less avo = less fun.
  2. Use avocados that are at their peak of ripeness (easy to say, hard to implement - I understand)
  3. Make sure to salt your avocado. But make sure you don't overdo it on the salt front, as I, unfortunately, am guilty of doing on few too many occasions.
  4. Lemon or lime is a game changer.
  5. Make sure you play up the textures - I love adding a sprinkle of seeds on top, but chopped nuts or pomegranate arils would be really great too!
  6. Toast your bread to perfection. Too little and it will be soggy. Too much and you'll have avocado crackers.
If you haven't already hopped on the bandwagon, then who are you? Just kidding. But really, get toastin' - you won't ever look back. I had to share this "recipe" because I don't want you to miss out on this perfection in a plate.
2 medium to thick slices of hearty, dense bread (my favorites: rustic sourdough, walnut cob, dark rye)
1 just ripe medium avocado
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt, to taste
pinch of dried red pepper/chili flakes, to taste
2 tsp mixed seeds (I like using sunflower and pumpkin)
handful of fresh mixed greens or rocket

Toast your bread.

While your bread is toasting, and then cooling, prep your avocado topping. I like to let my toast cool before I top it with the avocado for a couple of reasons: 1) I don't really like warm avocado, 2) a warmer toast will attract moisture and get soggy, 3) if you lay a piece of warm toast directly on a plate, it tends to condense underneath and result in super soggy toast (not good!).

For the avocado, you can either cube it or mash it. I used to be a major fan of cubing, but I've recently turned to prefer mashing. But, even when I mash it, I make sure to leave some larger chunks. It's all about the texture!

Place the cubed or mashed avocado in a bowl and squeeze in the lime and add the salt. Give it a quick stir.

Top your mostly cooled toast with the avocado, a few chili flakes, a sprinkling of seeds and the greens/rocket.

Serve and enjoy!