Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Non-bake Granola Bars

I have reached a milestone! I feel like I am on holiday now. I FINALLY finished the lab component of my thesis!!!! No more late nights and weekends in the poorly ventilated lab. No more standing for hours and hours on end, endlessly pounding apples and getting frostbites and weird brain freezes from liquid nitrogen. No more sniffing acetone and methanol. No more skipping meals because experiments take so long. No more!!!

Though oddly enough, as much as I disliked doing lab work, I feel like I will definitely miss walking around in my lab coat and safety glasses between levels 5, 1 and 7 of the Chemistry building. As much as I hated handling chemicals, I felt that through the past few months, I have actually come to terms with it, and I admit, towards the end, I actually quite enjoyed it. This could possibly be because the last experiments I was doing produced really awesome samples (Check out my Instagram). My pigments extractions actually looked really pretty! The vibrant green chlorophylls from Granny Smith peel, pastel yellow from Envy flesh and bright pink anthocyanins from Royal Gala are definitely eye-catching.

I feel like I've learned a lot from doing experiments. Not only the laboratory skills, I've also learned how to work with others. When I first started doing lab work, I think I was pretty selfish and self-centred. All I really cared about was that I had so much to do and I wanted to get everything done as soon as possible. But in real life, it doesn't really work that way. The lab isn't just for me. I had to work with lab technicians and peers, make compromises in terms of when to use the machines, sharing equipments and things like that. Certain times when I had to work at other people's lab, it was all on their schedule. Time management and planning became a huge part, especially when I had to plan my way around the few limited days that I could do the analyses and before my analyses I had to do so many lots of eight-hour-long extractions. And sometimes when you've spent days extracting your samples and they don't turn out good, that really tested your patience and persistence.

But I have to say, that few months, though exhausted as heck (and naturally, grumpy as ****), looking back now I wouldn't have done it any other way. There were times when I felt extremely lonely and questioning, when I was by myself desperately doing my work in the late hours on a Sunday night. Or that poignant moment when I bought dinner in between experiments and considered sitting down in the restaurant as a table for one. What was the point in working so hard? Why do I come in weekend after weekend, rejecting invites for late night BBQs or Mario Kart parties? But then I reminded myself, it will all be worth it when I FINALLY FINISH. When I finally start writing and start seeing my thesis slowly come together piece by piece. But gosh, seeing how hard everybody works, I can't complain at all. And friendships really are forged, when you drag your sleep deprived bodies into lab together, or when you share stories of how you accidentally pissed off the lab technician again, or when you just randomly rant about boys or admire girls with good genes that have time to go to gym and have super toned sexy legs. No, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Though all these weeks I worked tirelessly, pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion, literally sometimes feeling like I could just keel over in between grinding apples, possibly knocking over that flask of liquid nitrogen, spilling it on my already dead hands, there was something else that I learned. That was to trust my intuitions. When that voice in your head says 'go home, don't start that experiment', you go home. Because chances are, you will screw up 50% of the things, you will make the stupidest mistakes and end up having to repeat again. Your instincts know best.

While doing my lab work, I more often than not ended up bingeing on sugary stuff which I convinced myself was good for the soul, despite my body sending out all these clear signals to STOP. Now that lab is over, I feel like a detox is definitely called for. I made these nut and oats bar as an inspiration from the lab I was tutoring and also to help me transition into a no-sugar lifestyle. And oh my gosh, these are SO GOOD!!! I should, but I actually can't stop eating them. They are so addictive. You won't believe that there's no refined sugar or anything added. The nuts provide the delicious crunch. All the natural ingredients - coconut, honey, olive oil, peanut butter, cocoa nib, they really do instill soo much flavour into the bar. And they are so so easy to throw together too! You don't even have to turn your oven on. They make a really nutritious snack and if you're like me, eat it for breakfast too. Definitely give it a go!

Non-Bake Granola Bars

Recipe inspired by Eat Well NZ

Makes 18 bars

Dried ingredients: *
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup red rice flour (or regular white rice flour)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup raisins 
1/4 cup walnuts, broken into smaller pieces
2 tbsp cocoa nibs
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp Himalayan or sea salt 

 Wet ingredients:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp maple syrup 

1. Stir together all the dried ingredients. 
2. In a non-stick pan, dry toast the dried ingredients on medium heat until fragrant. Make sure to stir constantly. This is to lightly toast the nuts and to cook the rolled oats and rice flour. Also, the cocoa nibs, coconut and seeds will release their oils that will be instilled into the whole bar. Set aside. 
3. In a saucepan, stir together all the wet ingredients on low heat until melted and well incorporated. This will only take about a minute or two. 
4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix well. 
5. Line a 9x9cm square tin with baking paper. Press your nut and oat mixture into the tin firmly, using your hands to make it level. 
6. Refrigerate your bars overnight or for 4 hours. 
7. Cut into 18 bars (3 x 6). 
8. Serve. 

*You can choose to use other nuts and seeds, anything that you happen to have on hand!

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