lots of ota.related stuff

This is going to be a long but fun [hopefully] post!

Any ideas where this photo was taken?

Any better ideas now? It is at Mt.Fuji, in Japan. Are you curious what the relevance to ota.bars is here? Well, a friend and co-worker, took her ota.bars to Japan and snacked on them with her sister at the top! Pretty amazing stuff. Ota.bars are more traveled than I am! The only thing she forgot was to get a pic snacking on the bar. =)

2nd order of business : ota.bars are going to a wedding! One of my favorite. girls. ever, is getting married over labor day weekend. As a gift to her guests she is putting triple berry almond ota.bars in her hotel gift bags! Heather - Good luck and congrats!! I can't wait to see you on your big day! We thought of a more wedding appropriate name for them so I gussied up the labels and shipped them off to Heather today. Here are some photos --->

triple berry almond as the berry wedded bliss bar

double stacked ota.bars

off to Heather + Penn at the beach

topic #3 - I decided to make almond milk! I was pretttty excited about this after I discovered how delicious and easy it is to make. I wanted to feature almonds, one of the ota.ingredients, and thought this was a really unique recipe to share with everyone. Not what you would typically expect for an almond recipe. Almonds are an amazing nut! They are packed with many essential vitamins [mostly vitamin E] and minerals [magnesium, potassium, etc.] These nuts have the healthy fats [like in olive oil] and have been shown [in some medical studies] to keep your glycemic index levels more balanced.

I eat almonds for their slew of health benefits and because they seem to fill me up with just a small about [about 1/4c.] They really do the trick! mmmm

I switch back and forth between my point and shoot and Chris's [the husband] digital SLR. When I have time and some natural daylight I use the SLR. I really like this photo, but I'm sure there are 50 things wrong with it =)

The recipe I used:

1c. almonds
4c. water
2t. pure organic vanilla extract
1T sucanat

-Soak the almonds in water + vanilla + sucanat for about 8hrs.
-Blend everything together until frothy and smooth
-Drape cheesecloth over a bowl and rubberband it to secure, or drape it over a wire mesh strainer. You don't want any of the almond pulp to get through.
-Let drain for about 2hrs.
-Store in the fridge for about 2-4 days. When it goes bad it will taste sour. You can also keep the almond pulp that was collected in the cheesecloth and use it in raw cookie recipes, and many other things I'm sure.

You can play around w/the flavor add-ins as much as you want. It is really basic and easy and if you buy bulk nuts, it is pretty darn cheap! It's a great alternative to cow's milk and really easy on your gut, if you are sensitive.

I know this looks kind of gross, but it is just from the vanilla extract I added.

[cheesecloth] They also make netted bags specifically for this that you can buy online or maybe at a Whole Foods?

Blended almond milk about to be poured into the pitcher. This method failed as the rubberband did not stay secure around the pitcher because the handle and the spout were in the way. Be sure to leave enough room to be able to pour all of the mixture into the cheesecloth in 1 shot. [so you don't have to pour, wait wait to drain, repeat]

This over the bowl method, with the cheesecloth draped in the wire mesh strainer was MUCH more effective!! Look at all that awesome almond pulp!! It's in my fridge waiting to be put to good use.

And now a recipe using 5 ota.ingredients [highlighted in red]!! If you want to see a pictures of the finished project go here! The photos are about half-way into the post thanks to Kelsey!

Ashley's French Toast Bake:

*For best results plan to prepare the night before you want to serve it

Night before ingredients:
1 whole-loaf crusty bread [ie: ciabatta or french] NOT pre-sliced [unless they can slice 1" thick]
4 eggs
almond milk
3/4c. sucanat
2t. vanilla
1-2t. cinnamon [depends on your love for cinnamon]
few dashes of nutmeg [optional]

Morning of ingredients:
.5-1c. chopped nuts [walnuts or pecans]
1/4c. melted coconut oil
1/4c. sucanat
1-2c. fresh berries [strawberries/blueberries/raspberries/etc]
process to assemble:

1] arrange 1" thick slices of bread in a greased 13x9" pan
notes: -I usually have enough bread and batter to fill up [1] 13"x9" and [1] 8"x8"
-do not stack bread slices - make a single layer
-I like to cut the bread in chunks, not use the full slices

2] in a bowl combine and whisk together: eggs + milk + 3/4c sucanat + vanilla + cinn + nutmeg

3] pour mixture over bread - flip pieces so both sides are coated

4] refrigerate appx. 8hrs

5] let sit out 30min prior to baking - set oven to 400*

6] flip pieces over before baking [important to avoid sogginess!]
notes: if there is more than thin layer of liquid coverhing the bottom of the pan try to drain some of it out with a spoon or turkey baster.

7] bake 20min

8] while baking melt coconut oil and combine with 1/4c. sucanat [you can always add more/less of this]

9] after 20 min take pan out ---> spread nuts + fruits + butter/sugar on top [be creative with your toppings]

10] bake for another 20-25min. +/- [keep an eye on it so your nutZ don't burn] you want it nice and brown on top

11] for a little extra crisp turn your broiler on HIGH for a few minutes [realllly watch it though]

12] let sit 10min + ENJOYYYYY

Of course if you don't have coconut oil, sucanat, or almond milk you can substitute butter + brown sugar + milk at a 1:1 ratio.

Okay...that was officially my longest post ever. I will be back soon with some info. on the wonderfood, Wheat Germ!

Have a great weekend + keep the comments coming!


how to keep your friends around

Apparently, all you need to do to keep friends around, is bring fruit + creamy fruit dip to their parties. Usually these dips involve way too much added sugar and MARSHMALLOW FLUFF [yak!] So, while still not being a "healthy" dip to chow down on, I made it a little more "know. your. food." friendly.

Sorry about the yellow-ish photos. Kelsey's [www.bitesandbowls.com] walls are painted like the rainbow [but in a pretty way, hehe], making it hard to take photos without natural light!

fruit + dip [behind]

Be creative with your dippers - It was Kelsey's b-day, so I got her favorite cookies from Trader Joes [ginger snap]


8oz. cream cheese

8oz. marscapone cheese [they have it at Trader Joes for about $2.50..if you can't find it, ricotta miiight work?]
appx. 1-2T SUCANAT
appx. 1T honey
appx. 2t vanilla
appx. 1/4c. vanilla yogurt [plain would work]
appx. 1/4 - 1/3c. milk [any %]
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon

[yields appx. 3c. - didn't measure it]

dipper suggestions - cantaloupe/peaches/nectarines/apples [slice and roll in lemon juice and they won't turn brown at all]/watermelon/bananas/kiwi/pineapple/ginger snap cookies/angel food cake/etc!!

Let cheeses sit on counter for 10-20min. to slightly soften. Beat with mixer until combined. Add sucanat [or other sugar], honey, vanilla, yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Beat again. Slowly add the milk, until desired consistency is reached.

This recipe is extremely easy and fun! If you don't want to use any added sugar, I'm sure it would be fine leaving it out. You could try different flavor variations: replace lemon zest and juice and add 1t almond extract and 1/2c. chopped almonds. Just keep tasting as you go. It's a fun recipe to play with, and a super simple way to start using your sucanat!


I made it the next night for the going away party Jason threw for Chris + me!! [awesome food + awesome people..thanks Jaaaason!!!!] I spy fruit + dip on the table....and a RIDICULOUSLY sweeet house! mad.jealous.

exterior shot of Jason's neighborhood [l.o.v.e. it]

Patrick [a friend and coworker] decided to get me a going away present.... best..present..ever..!!! THANKS Patrick!! He tried to find the cheapest granola bars with the longest ingredient list imaginable. Nice work!! He thought that with the list of preservatives, they would definitely make it to Colorado, with no problem at all.

I love that soy lecithin [or what I like to call "soy sludge"] made the list TWICE...awesome!

Patrick also brought this ice cream. He thought it would probably be the last time I would get these Southern flavors. The ingredient lists made up for the granola bars. Each carton only had FOUR ingredients. Su-weet!

Off to my last few days of work [done this friday]!!! Moving countdown : 15 DAYS!! aaaahhh


ota.ingredients : sucanat

I get a lot of questions about the ingredients I use in
ota.bars, so I thought while I have some down time [while getting ready to move] from making bars, that I would briefly talk about them.

I'm going to start with SUCANAT. Sucanat is evaporated sugar cane juice. It is the most minimally processed sugar you will find! It has a dusty brown color with small sand-like grains. Because of the short process it goes through, it actually retains all of its natural caramel and molasses coloring and flavor. Whereas brown sugar is processed and refined down to white sugar and molasses + caramel syrups are added back in [yak!].

My thought is...Why does something need to be processed and refined down and then have color and flavor added back in...when it's most natural, less-processed form, already holds those attributes!? Because it is so minimally processed it retains some natural vitamins + minerals that exist in the sugar cane plant!

SUCANAT PROCESS: crush sugar cane ---> extract juice ---> dry juice ---> paddle into granules

I haven't gotten a bag of white sugar or brown sugar in quite some time now. I have been substituting 1:1 in my recipes that call for sugar. I would love to hear from YOU and your experience with sucanat.

Send any questions my way!! Would love to give more details!

[practicing my completely amateur photog. skillz]

I buy sucanat in 2.5lb bags from this awesome store Natural Grocers. Each bag costs about $3!!! [cheap cheap cheap!] I love this store and buy about 70% of my ingredients from them. If you just want to try it out, go to Whole Foods/EarthFare/etc. and you'll find 2lb bags for appx. $6.

[trying to capture the sand-like quality]

Do not confuse this with Turbinado sugar. Turbinado sugar looks all pretty, with its large grain - shine appeal, but is basically processed down almost as much as white sugar. It only retains trace amounts of its natural molasses content.

Not only does this awesome ingredient make your baked goods taste better, it is actually easier on the environemnt too!! [Yaaaaaah!!] It skips a lot of the process that white sugar has to go through to actually become white sugar, which therefore saves time + energy. It is a MUCH less industrialized product [ = HAPPY ASHLEY ].


Keep me posted if you try this [amazing/flavorful/natural] ingredient out!!!

Catch ya next week!!


p.s. if you are looking for a quick + easy + delicious summer recipe, to ease you into switching to sucanat, check out the one I left [for a peach crisp] in the comments on Kath's blog [comment #23]

ota.bars are moving!?!

Yes, it is true. We are moving to coloraaaado!!!!

[chris took these early spring '09 in CO]

more of the hub's awesome photos ----> HERE!!!

I have this girl to thank for insisting that I turn ota.bars into a real deal business
[i l.o.v.e. her] Fuse Photographic [amazzzing husband + wife photography team]

we always have THEE best times together aaaand she lives in CO so now I get more laura+ashley time [yes yes yes]

We will be living with my awwwwesome bro-in-law + sis-in-law...they are waaaay too kind!

the adventures of Pat+Chris....we will never run out of ridiculous things to do with these 2! [i spy shamu]

My sister-in-law, natalie, is absolutely amazing! She is so fun/loving/hilarious/smart!!/adventurous/etc/etc. She is excited to have a personal cook [me me me] coming to live at their house ;) aaand I can't wait to start cooking and adventuring with her!

Pat is awesome too!!! Look at his sweet stacking skillz!

the bro + me

I am going to miss wakeboarding!!!!! A huuuuge thanks to Will + Deb for inviting us on their boat alllll theee time!! Time to get my snowboarding on!

I want to thank EVERYONE for all of their support on my granola bar journey. I am hoping to transition it to Colorado, but have been so jam-packed busy that I haven't even started to research how to do this! Keep your eyes on the blog and hopefully I can keep you informed of what is going on with the biz.

I had a GREAT last day at the Charlotte Tailgate Market. I absolutely L.O.V.E.D. coming to this market and meeting all the vendors and customers. Lynn, the market queen/organizer/magician/etc./etc. was a pleasure to work with and she has done such an amazing job with this local market. Keeeep it UP!!!!

In other quick news...I have been blogged about a few times! Exciting!!! If you want to check it out look....

---> here [the most energetic + full of life girl I have ever met in my entire life]

---> and here[a super cute food blog with some fabulous photos]

Stay tuned!!!

[a nervous/excited/happppy/energized] Ashley