5-Ingredient, 5-Minute Chocolate Bars

I’ve always had the opposite of a sweet tooth. As a little kid, I used to sneak sips of olive juice straight from the jar. I gravitated more toward taramasalata and extra sharp cheddar than Oreos or fruit rollups. My penchant for salt still disturbs many people in my life, including my brother, who has to avert his eyes when I’m applying salt at the table. Hey, it runs in the family! My grandma was known to salt everything from salads to grapefruit, and she lived to 92.

As I fall more and more in love with baking, I tell myself it’s just a side effect–you know, par for the course to sneak a spoonful of cookie dough here and there. But in the past two weeks, I’ve baked a chocolate babka, lemon poppyseed muffins, a grapefruit yogurt olive oil cake, peanut butter cookies, and a 3-layer strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. I suppose I must confess–my proverbial tooth is sweetening.

Good thing I have a gym membership!

These days, even when I get home from work exhausted beyond the point of forming coherent sentences, my mind is already mixing batter, taking stock of the odds and ends left in my pantry, envisioning the next sweet treat I can force on my friends.

Recently while scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled on a photo of Erin Ireland’s puffed rice chocolate bar, made only with cocoa powder, coconut oil, and maple syrup. I rushed to my pantry and whipped up a batch in 5 minutes. I upped the maple syrup to balance out the coconut flavor and (of course) added a little salt.

These bars are SERIOUSLY delicious and perfect if you’re looking for a fun, easy, kitchen project, no baking involved. Chances are you already have the ingredients on hand!

All you have to do is mix, pour, add toppings, and chill. I opted for toasted cashews, sea salt, and rose petals on one bar and toasted quinoa and puffed rice on the other. But really, it’s up to you! Get creative with any odds and ends you have on hand. I’m already scheming about flavor combinations for my next batch…cardamom pistachio? Hazelnut brown butter?

The rich, velvety, not-too-sweet base has a fudge-y consistency and makes the perfect canvas for flavor experimentation. I guarantee these won’t last in your freezer for more than a day.

Have fun and let me know what you think!

Recipe adapted from Erin Ireland

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup pure grade A maple syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Topping suggestions:

  • For my take on a rice krispie treat:
    • About 1/4 cup toasted crisp rice
    • About 3 Tablespoons toasted quinoa
  • For my rose-cashew bar:
    • 1 teaspoons crumbled rose petals (found in bulk at most health food stores)
    • 1/4 cup toasted cashews, roughly chopped

Instructions:

  1. Line a baking sheet, loaf pan, or any sized tart pan with parchment paper. If you want a thicker bar with a defined rectangular shape, use the bottom of a loaf pan. For a thinner, free-form bar, use a baking sheet.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the melted coconut oil, cocoa powder and maple syrup until smooth and fully incorporated. Stir in salt and vanilla.
  3. Pour mixture into your prepared pans and chill in the fridge for a few minutes (just to bring the coconut oil down to room temperature).
  4. Remove from fridge and sprinkle desired ingredients on top.
  5. Chill in freezer until firm, about 10 minutes. Break off a piece and enjoy! Store in the fridge if you prefer a fudge-y consistency, and in the freezer for a more brittle texture.

Little Sister Links:

  1. I made my first video!!
  2. Here’s my reading list for the foreseeable future…
  3. It’s officially Spring, which means…RHUBARB! Here’s some inspiration for baking with my all-time favorite ingredient. Rhubarb tarte tatin, anyone?!
  4. Planning a road trip? Keep this list handy for the best bakery in every state.
  5. Looking for an amazing food blog? Check out my friend Daniela, whose Mexican and Korean-inspired recipes are approachable, creative, and insanely beautiful!

Coconut, quinoa & cashew granola

During my senior year of college in the tiny town of Grinnell, Iowa, I lived with five other girls in a huge, rambling farmhouse on the edge of campus. Rent, if you can believe it, was under $200 a month. The house had creaky wood floors, no laundry, one working shower, and a terrifying basement I never set foot in (maybe there was laundry down there?!). I lived upstairs with Hannah, while Ellyn, Eliza, Carla, and Zoe lived downstairs. My room had five windows, two closets, and a small “office” (#RuralIowa). The tiny kitchen had about one square foot of counter space, but believe it or not, I couldn’t have cared less about food. While my housemates baked cookies and whipped up dinners that made the house smell heavenly, I was probably dipping Fritos in hummus in the student center grill. (You should try it sometime—it’s actually delicious.)

A few months ago, I got an email from Carla with a link to an old article from our college newspaper, the Scarlett & Black, describing our house dynamic and each member’s unique cooking style. Allow me to quote a particularly poetic paragraph:

While Leas cooks ‘random sh*t,’ Rodriguez’s style is ‘down home, whatever that means.’ Ochs likes ‘gourmet,’ but also ‘whatever’ and Eckland prefers ‘Southwest.’ Bauman enjoys a ‘Mediterranean diet’ and Mendel’s appetite can best be summarized by ‘cereal.’

…And, friends, it was true. I’ve always nurtured an undying love for cereal of all kinds, from Frosted Flakes and Reese’s Puffs to the “healthy” varieties called things like Harvest Yam Puffs and Ancient Maize Grains. I do not discriminate. My friends got used to me loading up my bowl with the dining hall’s signature granola and then methodically sorting through to remove the raisins one by one.

While I like to think my palate has developed slightly since my college years, I am still powerless before the supermarket cereal aisle. Luckily, I’ve figured out how to make granola at home to satisfy my nightly Cereal Course without all the terrifying additives, sugar, and unpronounceable ingredients. Made with olive oil, coconut oil, and maple syrup, this granola is nutty, crunchy, and toasty. It’s not too sweet, not too complicated, and has just a hint of salt. It’s perfect on greek yogurt or eaten by the handful from the jar. The key is toasting the ingredients before combining and baking them. This lends the whole thing a warm flavor and allows the coconut flakes to stay extra crunchy. (By “toasting,” I mean tossing in a skillet on high heat until golden.) Try it and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
  • ½ cup raw unsalted cashews, roughly chopped, toasted
  • 2 ½ tablespoons uncooked quinoa, toasted
  • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • Hearty pinch coarse salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to. Add olive oil, maple syrup, and coconut oil and stir to incorporate evenly.
  3. Spread granola evenly on two baking trays and bake for 12 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the granola to make sure it doesn’t get too dark. You want a nice, toasty, golden brown, so if this happens before 12 minutes, feel free to take it out early.
  4. Remove trays  from oven and place on racks to cool. Stir one more time and allow granola to cool completely before snacking storing.

Little Sister Links:

  1. “Eat what you love.” This Great British Bake Off alum is preaching some serious words to live by
  2. For those who geek out on the subject of caramelizing onions
  3. Have you ever baked a babka? This one’s at the top of my list!
  4. Also on my list is this mysterious 3-ingredient stovetop mac’n’cheese that comes together in under 10 minutes. Can you guess the secret ingredient?
  5. Currently my favorite snap on the internet.

Mastering the Art of Eating Toast

This morning my boyfriend asked me politely to inspect a giant wasp buzzing ominously around the shower. With a deft and well-trained hand, I scooped the long-legged insect into a glass and carried her safely to the great outdoors. This is one of the many things my New Jersey boyfriend had to get used to when he signed on to date a girl from the Berkshires. …KEEP READING

Walnut & Salted Caramel Tart

The first snow is always sacred. This year it fell steadily and softly, without any wind, just in time for Thanksgiving. I’m sitting at home with a cup of tea, marveling at the silent white landscape. …KEEP READING

Sweet Challah with Salted Honey Butter

Sometimes I wonder if I’m 25 or 80. At the moment, I’m knitting and waiting for my tea water to boil. I spent the day baking. There was a time when I may not have believed that my future self would be such a homebody, but when I look back, the signs were all there. …KEEP READING

Perfectly Rustic Apple Tart

Somehow—even though it feels like just minutes ago I was lying on a blanket in my backyard reading in the shade of towering sunflowers—it’s already November. A week ago I woke up to snow. I watched it with a cup of tea between my hands as visions of coziness danced in my head.  …KEEP READING

Tomato, cream cheese & avocado toast

I once made a grilled cheese sandwich for Yo Yo Ma. I’d heard from my co-workers that he tended to frequent the quiet little cafe where I worked one college summer, but that didn’t stop my heart from doing double time when he walked in one Sunday during brunch.  …KEEP READING

A sublimely summery watermelon cocktail

When I turned five years old, my sister threw me a party. It was classic June New England weather; cool and rainy with fog hovering over the rolling hills. There was a scavenger hunt—I remember donning rain boots and a bright yellow slicker over my party dress and following clues to where the field met the woods at the edge of our yard. We moved in groups, huddled over clues in the bird bath, and ran to the forsythia bushes where, under an arched cave of branches, we found temporary tattoos. 
…KEEP READING

Preserved lemon pasta with capers & anchovies

I was apprehensive to move back to Boston for the summer. Although I lived in the city for almost three years after college, I never fell in love with it. So when Sam and I lugged our haphazard collection of laundry baskets, backpacks, canvas shopping bags and boxes into the car for our move, I was filled with dread. I’d really started to feel at home in our rambling old house in East Rock, New Haven. We were leaving  just as the peonies in our back yard began to blossom, and only a few days after Shea and I filled pots on the patio with dahlias, petunias, and marigolds. …KEEP READING

Parsnip Pasta with Garlic and Lemon

I’m sitting in my sister’s living room in Minneapolis, MN on a sunny spring day. We’re both wearing slippers and drinking ginger tea. The shelves overflow with books and a vase of yellow tulips on the table catches the afternoon light. Everything seems as it always does when I visit, except that now, a beautiful, perfect little being lies beside us in her moses basket, eyes closed and dreaming, tiny hands in a field goal position, beneath a knitted blanket. My niece, Iduna Grace Lee, was born two weeks ago and I already can’t imagine the world without her.

I’m cooking for my sister and brother in law as they navigate the newness of everything; the sleepless nights, the little small yet monumental moments (a nice burp, for example). My mom and I arrived on Valentine’s day to await the birth, and she went into full-on grandma mode with dinners like slow-cooked brisket with mashed potatoes and black bean stew with avocado and dollops of cumin cream. Now that she’s gone, I’m responsible for feeding the new parents.

I wish I could say I’ve been whipping up three course dinners and multi-tiered layer cakes, stocking the freezer with flavorful soups, and making smoothies every morning. But the truth is, all I want to do is hold my little niece and stare at her incredibly expressive face for hours on end. Who knew changing a diaper could be so endlessly entertaining? My sister and I have reverted to the rounds we used to sing on endless car rides, harmonizing to soothe the baby’s cries, breaking out in fits of laughter with the melodies go awry.

The night before my sister gave birth, we all crowded into our AirBnB kitchen, strategizing a plan for dinner. I wanted to try out a recipe I’d been working on, but had a deadline the following morning. So I sat on the couch instructing as my sister, who by that point could balance a plate of food on her stomach, braved the tragically unequipped kitchen. We all agreed that dinner was perfection. Who knows…maybe it was just so good that Iduna decided to join the world!

A single parsnip loitering in the far reaches of my vegetable drawer inspired this dish, and it really has become my go-to weeknight pasta. As a kid, I remember thinking of parsnips as the the scourge of the vegetable world, their dingy off-white skins conjuring up vague images of 19th century orphanages and bowls of pale, amorphous gruel. As an adult, I can’t get enough of their sweet, earthy flavor, and would like to know why no one force-fed them to me at a young age. Paired with the zesty tang of lemon juice, the salty bite of parmesan cheese, and tossed with lots of garlicky spaghetti, it makes for a simple, surprisingly delicious dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 package spaghetti
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and grated (the largest setting on a cheese grater works perfectly)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 heaping cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to tase

Instructions

  1. Add a generous teaspoon of salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/8 cup pasta water before draining.
  2. While the pasta cooks, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a medium skillet. Once the oil has heated, add minced garlic. Cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown. Add grated parsnip and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The parsnip absorbs oil quickly, so add the remaining olive oil little by little as you stir. Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and 3/4 the lemon zest and cook until the parsnip just begins to turn slightly golden.
  3. Add the cooked pasta to the parsnip mix, then sprinkle in the cheese and half the chopped parsley. Stir to incorporate, adding in the pasta water to thicken.
  4. To serve, sprinkle each plate with the remaining parsley and lemon zest.

Enjoy!!