I’m shortening this recipe title to be known as Triple CH No-Bake Cookie Bars, making it easy to remember the main ingredient list thanks to it’s title: chocolate, cherries and chia that create a healthy cookie bar for breakfast, snacking, or even dessert.
If a photo could sway a viewer into diving into a style of eating they don’t necessarily need to follow, Alanna Taylor-Tobin of the food blog The Bojon Gourmet will likely be the one to create it. That’s exactly how I first became a fan of Alanna’s and the blog she started during a stint of what she calls “funemployment”, including the word bojon in her blog name—a term that’s backward for “no job”.
Through her sumptuously styled photography and original gluten-free recipes, Alanna’s talents as a classically trained pastry chef inspire thousands to live a gluten-free lifestyle and still cure their sweet tooth.
I don’t have a gluten-allergy, but I know plenty of people who do and baking seems to be one of the trickier parts of the gluten-free equation. And that’s just one reason Alanna’s blog has become such a valuable resource for so many.
“I learned about my gluten sensitivity almost 15 years ago, so I started decreasing gluten, and playing with spelt, brown rice, and quinoa flours,” Alanna shares. “I was eating a lot of products made with rice flour, and then about 5 years ago, I learned that rice flour contains some amount of arsenic. I kinda freaked. I thought I was eating healthfully, but really I was poisoning myself! It was then that I decided to hedge my bets and eat a wider variety of grains and flours.”
With her new cookbook Alternative Baker, Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours, Alanna provides over 100 recipes for baking with dozens of different flours in her gluten-free baking bible, providing a resource for creative desserts that definitely don’t taste like gluten-free cardboard.
“The main inspiration for this cookbook came when I finally found a good recipe for pie crust that was not only gluten-free, but also free of gums and full of whole grains, and just as flaky and tender as a wheat-based dough.”
Alanna’s focus is elevating alternative flours from boring health food to pure deliciousness, all while celebrating seasonal flavors and unique textures. “I’m currently obsessed with teff flour – it smells like malted chocolate milk, and it adds butterscotchy notes to anything from roasted banana scones to peach cobbler to chocolate chip cookies.”
Describe your blog in 3 words:
Vibrant, seasonal, real food recipes (many of which happen to be gluten-free, vegetarian, and sometimes vegan)
If you could be one blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
I want to dive in and roll around in Bettys Liu’s soft, muted photos. I can’t stop staring at Amanda Paa of Heartbeet Kitchen‘s vibrant, tantalizing Instagram account. And I want to live in the rustic/elegant world of Our Food Stories forever.
What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
I’m obsessed with my small, offset spatula – I use it every day.
What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
Gluten-free jam crumble bars. I always have too much jam and jam bars are my favorite application for it, but I have yet to find a good gf version. I’ll keep trying!
What did you have for dinner last night?
Eggplant parmesan grilled cheese sandwiches (that Sarah and I are developing for a project) and a green salad to balance that out. Dessert was hazelnut teff madeleines (adapted from the Tangerine Vanilla Bean ones in my book) and labne butterscotch pudding (adapted from this recipe), and a mug of turmeric tea with honey, pepper, and coconut oil.
What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you?
I play ukulele and write songs (sometimes about baking)! I used to have a band with my sister and her daughter called The Honeybelles; we would sing swingy old-time songs in three-part harmony, Andrews Sisters style.
You’re happiest when cooking/eating?
Ice cream! Current obsession = soft serve frozen yogurt with olive oil and flaky salt.
The one secret ingredient to your success is?
My obsessive attention to detail.
Thank you Alanna for being one of our favorite foodiecrushes. Now, let’s get into that recipe!
The Recipe: No-Bake Cookie Bars with Chocolate, Cherries and Chia Seeds
Alanna reveals in this recipe’s cookbook headnotes that her mom frowned upon cookies for breakfast. But true to Alanna’s view, I think these are a spectacular departure from bagels and muffins.
Alanna’s original recipe was inspired by this recipe from one of my other favorite bloggers, Laura of the blog Tutti Dolci who makes the most incredible desserts. It’s no wonder Alana found inspiration there. And with cookies as healthy as these, you won’t feel quite so bad reaching for another.
Alana’s recipe from Alternative Baker matches up almond butter and oats sweetened with maple syrup to create a strata of healthy bites. In her original recipe, she also included the addition of hempseeds and suggests switching up the nut, seeds and fruit combinations to your liking. Since I didn’t have hempseeds on hand when I made these, I used protein-boosting chia seeds in their stead. Because let’s face it, every morning—or afternoon and night too—is better when pumped with protein.
And regarding the dried fruit, next time I think I’ll add a full cup of the cherries (cranberries would be tasty too) to the recipe to give it even more of a sweet tart bite.
Because this book is tailored to a gluten-free diet, Alana uses gluten-free old-fashioned oats in this recipe. If you’re not worried about the affects of gluten, go ahead an use the regular version like I did, instead.
Alana adds the proverbial chocolate frosting to the cake with a thin layer of melted bittersweet chocolate to cure chocolate cravings for lovers like me. She also adds cacao nibs in the mix and I added a few on top. If you can’t find cacoa nibs at your grocery store, I used these from Taza found on Amazon. Flaky sea salt brings out the flavor of the chocolate even more, but be careful how heavy handed you go, they can get too salty with too much of a sprinkle.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
No-Bake Cookie Bars with Chocolate, Cherries and Chia Seeds
- 1 cup smooth unsalted almond butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup unbalanced sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries or cranberries
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
- Flaky sea salt such as Maldon cocoa nibs and chia seeds for sprinkling.
To make the bars, in a large bowl, whisk together the almond butter, maple syrup, vanilla and salt until smooth. Set aside.
Place the oats in a skillet over low heat and toast until golden and fragrant, about 8-12 minutes, stirring frequently. Wipe out the skillet and add the almonds, toasting over the low heat and stirring frequently until golden, about 4-6 minutes. Add the almonds to the bowl with the oats, then add the dried cherries, chia seeds, and cocoa nibs. Fold the mixture until well combined and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 5-10 minutes.
Line an 8-inch square pan with a sling of parchment paper, leaving an overhand on each side to use as handles when removing the finished bars. Scrape the nut mixture into the pan and use damp hands to pack the mixture firmly into an even layer.
To make the topping, place the coconut oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour the melted chocolate over the bars, tipping to coat evenly. Sprinkle the top with a few small pinches of flaky salt and large pinches of cacao nibs and chia seeds. chill the bars until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Loosen the edges of the bar with a small spatula or the tip of a knife and lift the parchment and bars from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut into 16 squares.
Purchase Alanna’s cookbook Alternative Baker here.
See more recipes at The Bojon Gourmet here.
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