not so guilty pleasures /// carrot cake oatmeal bars (vegan + gluten free)

The guilty:

  • I actually do like reggaeton. Try listening and see if you don’t wanna dance.
  • I also not-so-secretly love Gregorian Chants. For a teen-aged Roman Catholic raised turned atheist currently exploring Buddhism, this might seem a bit strange. But listen to this and then tell me it’s not amazing.
  • I’ve wasted spent a lot of time reading trashy romance novels over the course of my life. Usually of the bodice ripping variety that when I was younger I would hide behind the book jacket of a classic or award winning novel so my mom wouldn’t get on my back for reading “garbage.”
  • I think zombies are awesome and the zombie apocolypse could totally happen one day (some kind of parasite spreads to humans and eats their brains. Dude. It’s plausible).
  • Chocolate is not a guilty pleasure of mine (just a regular pleasure), because chocolate is a health food. So is champagne. And tequila.

And not so guilty:

  • I could very happily live the rest of my life consuming only Thai, Indian, Greek, and Mexican cuisines.
  • I need lots of space and alone time for my mental health, and no, its not weird, its called being an introvert.
  • I recently celebrated a one year shy of two decades birthday (aka, I turned 19).

Now aside from all that, a month ago my parents came to visit me, and while they were here I not only showed them the hotteeesssttt spots in Quito (you know, churches and monuments and the like), but also got to visit a few places I myself had not yet been to in the nearby Andes.

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From the top: Plaza San Francisco in El Centro Historico, upper level windows of la Basilica on the climb to the clock tower, camels because they’re pretty, Good Friday Procession in El Centro. Below: The crater lake Cuicocha in the province Imbabura north of Quito and Lago San Pablo outside of Otavalo, also in Imbabura. Not pictured: open air indigenous market in Otavalo, the view from the TeleferiQo, Rumipamba, Mitad del Mundo, repelling down waterfalls and white water rafting in Baños de Agua Santa, and hiking in Cotopaxi province. 

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I don’t remember the first time I had carrot cake. I do, however, remember the second.

I was around seven years old, at a roadside diner that was partially comprised of an old train car three hamlets over with my grandparents and my sisters, and I think it was breakfast time. After eating (who knows what because the meal itself wasn’t all that memorable) I ordered carrot cake for dessert, because I’d had it once before and I loved it.

I remember being so excited, but when out came my giant carrot cake muffin with cream cheese icing on top, it was horrible. The carrot was shredded, not chopped. I don’t remember anything about the taste because the stringy texture was too disgusting to stomach. Texture might not be a huge deal to some people, but I think the wrong one can kill a dish. It’s the same reason I’m not really a fan of ingera, that nasty Ethiopian sponge bread (although I quite like the (vegan) toppings).

After that fiasco, I avoided carrot cake for quite a few years, until one day I didn’t. And then I went vegan, and in the beginning of this part of my life the only things I liked to make were chocolate chip cookies, brownies, banana bread, and guacamole. Along with baked (nuked) potatoes in the microwave. Shortly after the time I started expanding my repertoire of recipes, I went gluten free. And I’m of the personal opinion that adapting almost any recipe to fit veganism? Easiest thing ever. Making something that typically contains gluten gluten free? Practically impossible and a giant pain in the ass.

In the past year and a half, I’ve tried to make carrot cake two different times. Once raw, once baked. Both were good. But they did not live up to that amazing first piece of carrot cake I had I don’t know when.

This is not carrot cake, but I think that it avoids the disappointment of not being like true carrot cake by not actually trying. Aside from being really frickin’ good, they’re also guilt free (relatively speaking), since compared to traditional carrot cake recipes these are basically health food.

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CARROT CAKE OATMEAL BARS

Notes: possible substitutions include coconut sugar or brown sugar in place of the panela/sucanat, using unsweetened shredded coconut in place of the walnuts or almonds, flax instead of chia (whole ground flaxseed meal is easy to find, I’ve never seen ground chia), adding some other spices in addition to cinnamon (nutmeg, allspice, ginger), replacing the molasses with maple syrup. I haven’t tested any of this, but I don’t think the end result will change all that much. If you don’t actually have a gluten intolerance but a wheat allergy, like I do, then you might be able to use oats that aren’t certified gluten free, depending on your sensitivity to gluten/type of wheat allergy. Also, avoid wearing white at all costs when making this. Carrot juice. It will get on your shirt.

  • 2 chia eggs (2 tbsp ground chia seeds- approximately 1 tbsp whole chia seeds- combined with 6 tbsp warm water)
  • 2 heaping cups shredded then chopped carrots
  • 3/4 heaping cup raw walnuts/almonds, chopped
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 1 cup gluten free instant oats
  • 1/2 cup panela/sucanat, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

First grind the chia seeds (a coffee grinder is great for this, if you don’t have one, use a blender). Measure the tablespoons AFTER grinding, and combine with water in the mixing bowl. Peel, shred, and chop the carrots, then add to the chia eggs and mix. Preheat the oven to 175 C/350 F. Add all other ingredients and combine. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking pan with coconut, canola, or other vegetable oil. Pour the batter into the pan, even and flatten using a rubber spatula, and sprinkle with the additional panela/sucanat. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting to avoid crumbling. You can keep this in the fridge for probably up to 1 week (they didn’t last all that long so I don’t know for certain) and enjoy each morning for breakfast.

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