Thursday, February 16, 2012

Almost-Vegan Granola Bars

So it is probably no mystery that I love Pinterest (follow me!), and spend an obnoxious amount of time pinning projects and ideas that I will probably never get to . . . with one exception. Recipes! For the better part of the last year, I have been plowing through recipes that I have found through Pinterest and have found some real winners (many can attest to the awesomeness of my dark chocolate cake) and some real duds (the apple oatmeal was probably even worse the second time). The most surprising thing to come out of all of my Pinterest cooking and baking was my love of vegan recipes! (Surprising because I am neither vegan nor vegetarian.) Why? I guess because I like both the idea of cleaner eating and unexpected combinations.

Take for example, Chef Chloe's Avocado Pesto Pasta. If we are at all friends, I have probably demanded that you make this recipe. (If we're friends and I haven't mentioned it yet, consider this an order to make it right now! DO IT!!!) The pesto itself is what--6 main ingredients?--that combined make some creamy deliciousness. It boggles my mind that a couple of avocados can take the place of cheese! Maybe my mind is easily boggled? I don't know! Don't answer that! But I think 25% of why I am obsessed with making this dish is that I don't understand how all of these ingredients can come together and taste nearly identical to "regular" pesto (the other 75% of my obsession comes from it just tasting so dang good).

But anyway, as I mentioned, I am also a big fan of eating cleaner and healthier and reducing my dependence on animal products for protein and other nutrients. This explains my current love affair with quinoa, which is an amazing grain! Don't even get my started on its virtues, or we will never get to the promised granola bars recipe.

This past weekend, I went snowshoeing for the first time (TOTAL BLAST!) and in preparation I wanted to bring a snack that would be easy to eat on the go and pack a lot of needed nutrients. Naturally, I thought of granola bars. Carbohydrates from the oats and other sweet ingredients to provide a quick boost and sustained energy from the unsaturated fats in the nuts. The ingredients on pre-packaged bars are sometimes less than desirable and wouldn't necessarily have everything I wanted (like added protein), so I decided to make my own. I started with a recipe from Pinterest and then went rogue! Here are my beautiful bars and how I made them:

Food photography is hard, y'all.

Bruns' Almost-Vegan Granola Bars
Adapted from Savoring the Thyme via Pinterest

4 cups rolled oats
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup almond butter
3/4 cup peanut butter, melted
3/4 cup agave syrup
1 scoop protein powder (I used whey, hence the not so vegan-ness)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine oats, chia seeds, walnuts, and raisins. Add agave and mix to combine (I used my stand mixer and beater blade). Add almond butter and melted peanut butter and mix until moistened. Add scoop of protein powder. If dough is too dry, add more nut butter or syrup. Remove beater blade and fold in chocolate chips.

At this point, you should be able to make a ball out of the dough without it crumbling. Adjust dry or wet ingredients accordingly.

Press dough in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Make sure to pack the dough down as much as possible, especially around the edges. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool and then cut into bars.

Et voilĂ ! Delicious, homemade granola bars.

Now it probably seems silly to mention this after I just went through the effort of writing up the recipe, but I plan on making a few tweaks next time I make these. My beautiful bars didn't fair so well in my backpack on the snowshoeing trek the next day, and I think some sort of binding agent would have really helped them stay together better. I'm thinking some banana or pumpkin puree. Thoughts, non-existent readers???

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beacon Rock Hike

I think I have done this hike about 20 times (more than any other) because it's relatively easy (only about a mile each way, I think) and offers incredible views of the Columbia Gorge. Still gorgeous the 20th time around.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Love My Bowling Team

Bo-Sham-Ro is tied for first with three other teams. Playoffs are this Wednesday, so please root for us from afar!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Angel's Rest Hike

Excuse the cell phone photos again. Hopefully they still show how rad it is to live in the Northwest. Can't wait to see what this place looks like in the spring!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

End of Another Month, End of Another Race!

Hot Buttered Run 12k | Vancouver, WA | November 28, 2011

(FYI, I'm the top set of stems.)

(FYAI--for your additional information--I also did the Turkey Trot with my parents but I am doing a weird pirate eye in the picture so I really can't bring myself to post it.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Joined a Bowling Team!

And I rocked it last week (with my laser eyes), just in case you were curious.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Feeling Blessed. And Pillowy.

So one of the reasons I started this blog was to document some of the rad things I have been up to since moving back to the Portland area. Since graduating law school last year, life has certainly given me a few curve balls and I think it has been far too easy to focus on everything that is not quite right, instead of on the things that have been truly wonderful.

For starters, it has been a real blessing to be back home and to be able to spend so much time with my family (especially my nephews, whom I am sure I will write about often). I also really enjoy being back in the Pacific Northwest. The area is simply stunning with picturesque hikes within minutes in every direction, the coast and mountains are each only an hour and a half away, and I utterly adore the city of Portland. Did you know it's home to the nation's largest bookstore and largest fabric store??? How can you not accomplish great things living in a place like this? It's basically unavoidable.

One of the things I checked off my imaginary list recently was taking my very first sewing class! As a quick background, I started sewing almost seven years ago with a quilt for my nephew, Parker, and I have been winging it ever since. Over the years I have pored over blogs and gradually upped the ante, but I was hitting a wall with machine quilting. Probably for two reasons: (1) my $150 machine kinda stinks and (2) I had no idea what the H-word I was doing. Enter the amazing Elizabeth Hartman. I learned from her blog that she was teaching a free motion quilting (FMQ) class at Modern Domestic (an amazing sewing workshop I learned about from my cousin Alicia). Naturally, because I am Pinterest-obsessed, I pinned the class to my WISH LIST post with a heart-felt plea:

I didn't really think anyone would be game for buying me a $75 sewing class to make a pillow, but a girl can dream, right? Well, I should have had a little more faith in Mama Bruns, because she spied my birthday wish pin and bought me the class! Here is the finished product:

Finished Pillow

Isn't it gorgeous??? Sorry, I have zero modesty; I am so pleased with how it turned out! Elizabeth was an incredible teacher and I will recommend taking one of her classes to anyone who will listen. I was a bit embarrassed that I was fumbling so much with the fancy BERNINA machine that I was using, but Elizabeth was so helpful and encouraging. The folks at MD were also fabulous, and now have completely convinced me that I need a BERNINA. I pinned a 440QE to my Pinterest WISH LIST, but so far nothing has shown up on my door step. 

Want to see a close up of my pillow? Sure you do! This shows the dogwood quilting that Elizabeth recently posted a tutorial for on her blog. I used the BERNINA stitch regulator attachment, which costs almost as much as the machine itself and READS your stitches as you FMQ. If you don't sew, I hope you realize that that is completely nuts. Anyway, the close-up prettiness:

Close Up of Dogwood Quilting

Since I took these photos, I have washed up the pillowcase to remove the chalk lines and to create lots of crinkly goodness. I should post an updated photo, but now that it gets dark at approximately 2 p.m., we'll see if I ever get around to photographing it.

Anyway, I am so glad that I had the opportunity to take this class. Lots of thanks to Elizabeth and the lovely ladies at Modern Domestic for providing a great class, thanks to my lovely mama for giving me such a perfect birthday gift, and lastly, thanks to all of you who probably don't care about sewing but read all of this anyway.