Creamy Vanilla Cinnamon Breakfast Smoothie with Cashew Butter

cashew cinnamon vanilla smoothie

I finally found an answer to the age old question (and frankly, it’s not an answer I ever thought I’d hear myself say, but here it is): yes, it is possible to have too much chocolate.

Last week I realized I think I’d finally reached a maximum saturation of chocolate, after I noticed that one day I’d put it in everything: pancakes, trail mix, smoothies, hot chocolate, dark chocolate in the afternoon, and so on. I mean, raw cacao is indeed a superfood, but once you’ve crammed into nearly every food you consume, there comes a point when your body says, please! Another flavour, por favor.

And so I’m listening. I think I’m getting pretty good at understanding when my body is telling me it needs something new, and I try to listen to those subtle nudges. As a result, I’ve packed away my standard chocolate protein powder/raw cacao breakfast smoothie and replaced it with something that’s…well, I suppose basically the same in concept, but an entirely different flavour.

cashew cinnamon vanilla smoothie

Effectively this smoothie is kind of the like the green monster smoothie that people used to post all over the internet: non-dairy milk, nut butter, banana, greens (these will make your smoothie this glorious light green colour – though for the sake of photographic clarity, I left out the greens in this version), and some vanilla protein powder. I think french vanilla flavour would be best. I tried it with a ‘chai spice’ protein powder and it tasted exactly like eggnog, which was not what I was going for. You could also use plain protein powder, but consider adding a drop of two of vanilla stevia/or vanilla extract and plain stevia.

I also think you could totally use another nut butter in here if you’d prefer (I know cashew butter is quite expensive). Almond butter would be good (I once had a cinnamon almond butter that was heavenly), or maybe even sunflower butter! That said, cashew butter has such a lovely toasty nutty flavour – it just goes so nicely with cinnamon. Maybe treat yourself this once.

cashew cinnamon vanilla smoothie

So yes. It’s been a while since I posted last. It’s still a busy time – my part-time school program at CSNN is in its final, busiest months; work is really busy, and there is lots on the go. But, spring is here (heck, it’s practically summer) and I spent time planting today in the garden (tomatoes, beans, squash, oh my!), so I’m feeling a renewed sense of joie de vivre and possibility. I can get it all done, I feel purposeful (and not overwhelmed), and I have lots to look forward to.

And I’m having my cashew smoothie for breakfast tomorrow too. So many joys.

Enjoy the beauty of May!

Creamy Vanilla Cinnamon Breakfast Smoothie with Cashew Butter

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe notes: plant-based, gluten-free, protein-rich, healthy fats

Ingredients:

  • one cup non-dairy milk (add some coconut milk if want luxury!)
  • one frozen banana
  • one scoop plant-based vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter
  • a few ice cubes
  • optional extras:
    • one handful of spinach
    • 2 teaspoons maca powder
    • 1 tablespoon grass-fed collagen powder (note: this is quite obviously not plant-based)

Instructions:

  1. Throw it all in a blender/nutribullet/swirly-with-blades type device and blend until creamy!

© Backyard Owl

Chocolate Chip Shortbread with Dark Chocolate and Coconut Oil – V, GF

chocolate-chip-shortbread with coconut oil

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day! This is a day to celebrate love, in all its forms. Love for your family, your friends, your pets, your lover, your garden, your home, and above all, yourself. Today is a good day to give yourself a little extra care. Maybe an epsom salt bath, maybe a special nourishing dinner, maybe an extra square of dark chocolate.

And you all know how I love my luxurious dark chocolate. The flavour of these cookies comes primarily from the chocolate, so please feel free to excite your palate with the 72%, 75%, 80% dark chocolate you’ve been eyeing for some time now but haven’t purchased for yourself. Now is the time.

chocolate-chip-shortbread with coconut oil

Because this shortbread uses coconut oil as the main fat, the cookies are more crunchy than crumbly. If you used Earth Balance or similar vegan butter, or a grass-fed dairy butter, I imagine you would get a feel more similar to classic shortbread. That being said, coconut oil is a wonderful, energizing, healthy fat, so I can sacrifice a little texture to get some more of that healthy fat in.

If you want a few other colours, feel free to add pistachios, dried cranberries, or maybe even some orange zest. Wow. That combo would be amazing (mental note for a future recipe).

chocolate-chip-shortbread-with coconut oil

If you’re looking for a nice meditation for the day, I used this solar plexus chakra meditation from Cauldrons and Cupcakes. The solar plexus chakra is your third chakra, and it’s where your will, self-esteem, and self-identity reside. It’s a great focus point for when you’re asking questions about what you need/want. And, this meditation particular is awesome for taking 10 minutes to ask yourself: what is best for me right now?

So happy love day! Feel all that positive energy floating around and let it boost you up.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread with Dark Chocolate and Coconut Oil – v, gf

  • Author: Recipe from Unconventional Baker, with full credit given to the recipe found here here. Tweaks (and the addition of chocolate) by Backyard Owl.
  • Recipe Notes: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened (use refined coconut oil if you prefer cookies without a coconut taste)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (room temperature)
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten-free flour blend (I used 1 3/4 cups white rice flour and 1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate PLUS 1/2 cup dark chocolate (for melting and dipping).

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Beat softened coconut oil until smooth.
  3. Add maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
  4. Stir in the gluten-free flour, ground cinnamon, and chopped dark chocolate, and mix until fully combined (the dough should moist, so that when you press it together it holds in a ball shape).
  5. Pour dough out onto counter (sprinkled with gluten-free flour to prevent the dough from sticking) and place some wax paper over the dough.
  6. Roll out the dough until it is your preferred thickness. and cut out shapes with heart cookie cutter (or whatever cutter you have on hand and want to use).
  7. Place cookies on baking sheet and chill briefly in fridge or freezer, for about 5 minutes.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom of cookie.
  9. While cookies are cooling, prepare chocolate for dipping. In a double boiler, melt chocolate until liquid and smooth. Individually dip cookies and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or silicon.
  10. Chill in the fridge until firm. The cookies can be kept in the fridge or at room temperature, though note that the chocolate will be most crisp (because it wasn’t tempered when melting) if stored in the fridge.
  11. Enjoy and share the love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

© Backyard Owl

Plant-Based Paleo Granola with Figs and Honey

paleo granola with honey and figs

Posting a paleo recipe on what is generally a plant-based blog? That’s right folks! Gird your loins – we’re about to break free from some labels.

Seriously, though. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Paleo eating and I think there is a lot about Paleo to admire and adopt. Based on my (albeit beginners) understanding, Paleo is all about real, whole foods, minimal/no sugar, no additives or processing, low-starch vegetables, no gluten – or for that matter – no grains or flours, and no dairy.

Putting aside your feelings about the consumption of animal products, which is most certainly part of a Paleo diet, you have to admit this way of eating removes most of the major allergens – dairy, gluten, and soy – and for some people, that could be just the ticket back to optimum health.

paleo-granola-2

Plus, one of the best things to adopt from Paleo, I think, is the emphasis on real foods – foods that come from nature, and are unrefined and unprocessed. These foods are generally highest in beneficial enzymes, nutrients, and antioxidants. Paleo encourages people to think creatively about where a whole food can be used instead of processed food.

Paleo also is really good about promoting the health benefits of nuts and seeds, while also acknowledging that these plant-based foods benefit from some tweaks to make them optimally digestible by the human body. Nuts and seeds contains phytates (so does soy, for that matter), and the concern is that these compounds might bind to essential nutrients and prevent their absorption, effectively rendering the iron/zinc/magnesium/etc. content of your nuts useless to you. Soaking is one of the methods that helps reduce phytate content. Roasting also helps. So does sprouting.

So, this granola is the double whammy – soaking then roasting. It’s a phytate buster. And it smells DIVINE while it’s in the oven.

paleo granola with honey and figs

Now, full disclosure: because the nuts are soaked first, I would say they are more chewy than crunchy. The coconut, on the other hand, is very crunchy. Nevertheless, if soaking isn’t at all your thing, you don’t believe in phytates, or you only like crunchy nuts in your granola, skip the soaking step.

This Paleo granola recipe is from a cookbook I picked up at the library called “The Part-Time Paleo Cookbook.” I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe – I reduced the amount of sweetener and oil, and doubled the coconut, for extra chew. and fibre. I also soaked the nuts, and of course, I couldn’t resist adding some cinnamon.

I invite you to dabble a little in the Paleo world with this granola! And remember: unabashedly pick and choose from any dietary plan, no matter the name, and figure out what works best for you. That’s more important than eating according to a label.

Plant-Based Paleo Granola with Figs & Honey

  • Author: The Part-Time Paleo Cookbook, with tweaks by Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: grain-free, soy-free, naturally-sweetened, high in protein, fibre, and healthy fats.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 3-4 dried figs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey (or if you prefer, maple syrup)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Soak almonds and cashews in filtered water for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to proceed with ready, preheat oven to 300F.
  3. Thoroughly drain water from nuts, and pulse in a food processor until finely chopped.
  4. In a large bowl, combine nuts with coconut, figs, orange juice, coconut oil, raw honey, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned.
  6. Remove from oven and stir in dried cranberries.
  7. Let cool and store in an airtight container. Serve over coconut yogurt or with some almond milk!

© Backyard Owl

Classic Raisin Molasses Bran Muffins – v, gf

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

I love bran muffins. It’s something that I easily forget when I’m busy stuffing chocolate chips into every recipe I make, but a trip to Virginia last weekend (Virginia has nothing to do with bran muffins, per se, except that I was there when I remembered how delicious bran muffins are) reminded me that the moist, plump raisin, molasses-y taste of a well-made bran muffin can’t be beat.

And I should emphasize the well-made part.

I used to work at a bakery that made an awesome raisin bran muffin, and while I can’t quite remember the recipe, I do remember the ingredients and what the batter looked like, so when trying to find a recipe template, I had some land marks to follow.

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

Now, those nostalgic bakery bran muffins weren’t vegan or gluten-free, so I made a few tweaks to get my muffins to be plant-based, nutritious, AND delicious.

There are a few stages to making a bran muffin batter, but don’t be worried. You just need to have a few different bowls going, and then eventually you condense them, bowl by bowl, until you have a lovely muffin batter. Note that this batter keeps really well in the fridge, so if you wanted to double it and bake half later in the week, go for it. In fact, part of me almost thinks the batter is even nicer AFTER sitting in the fridge a bit, but I have no scientific evidence to back that up.

These muffins bake up really nicely with a beautiful round dome top (important for me in a muffin – what’s with those gluten-free muffins that sometimes look like they’ve been frightened and are jumping in different directions out of the muffin tin?). They are extra delicious with some coconut oil or vegan butter.

Bran muffin luxury!

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

Moist Raisin Molasses Oat Bran Muffins – v, gf

  • Author: Backyard Owl, inspired by Mom’s Bran Muffins original recipe at The Moveable Feasts blog
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oat bran (not sure if you can’t find certified gluten-free, but that will be necessary to make these strictly gluten-free)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds + an additional 4 tablespoons almond milk (your chia egg)
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup fancy molasses (or go hard with blackstrap, though I haven’t tested this – apparently fancy molasses is difficult to find organic and non-GMO)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill; if you like, you could also substitute a nice kamut or spelt flour too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon xantham gum, optional but recommended
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 1/4 cups raisins, plumped

Instructions:

  1. Plump raisins by putting them in a small bowl and covering them with warm/boiling water. Easy peezy. Before adding them to the batter, you’ll just drain off the water.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let stand for 5 minutes, then add the baking soda, chia, additional almond milk, and oat bran.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the melted coconut oil, molasses, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together gluten-free flour, baking powder, cinnamon, xantham gum, and salt.
  6. Now we start the combining:
    1. Add the milk/bran mix to the oil/molasses mix and whisk well.
    2. Add the flour mix to the liquid mix and stir until combined.
    3. Add raisins to the batter.
  7. Scoop batter into a prepared muffin tin (either lined with paper cups or lightly greased with oil).
  8. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until tops spring back when gently pressed.
  9. Let cool and then try a few! They freeze really nicely and will keep on the counter for 2 to 3 days, I would think. But freezing is probably best.

© Backyard Owl

 

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Broccoli and Teriyaki Tempeh

sweet-potatoes and broccoli with teriyaki tempeh

I asked my sister the other day what she would like to see more of on the blog, and she said: simple supper options. So, in that spirit, here we go!

The original recipe inspiration for this came from Vegetarian Times magazine. I’m a huge library user and I love going in and finding that the new issue of VT is available. They have a lot of neat vegan and plant-based recipes, and such beautiful photographs!

sweet-potatoes and broccoli with teriyaki tempeh

I feel like I’m going through a bit of recipe fatigue at the moment. Maybe it’s because I have a cold (I’m not sure what I feel like eating) or because I made soup and it was too hot and I burned off all my taste buds (making me sometimes not sure what I actually AM eating). So between the two, I mostly feel like eating the soup I made for lunch, and then again for supper, because, well, there’s a lot of it. And then I don’t have to think too much.

Speaking of, this cold is relatively minor, but still a blow to my ego. I like to think I am cultivating the ferrari of immune systems, and when I get a cold IN SEPTEMBER I suddenly think, geez louise. Ferrari? Not in your dreams, lady.

sweet-potatoes and broccoli with teriyaki tempeh

Then again, colds are a reminder of exactly that – our immune systems are a bit compromised. Maybe it means you’re working too hard; not resting enough; not eating the best foods for your body; not getting enough gentle, restorative exercise (like walking in this beautiful fresh air!).

Which brings us back to this supper. It’s simple, nourishing, a great balance of sweet and salty and umami, a beautiful visual feast of green and orange, and pretty easy for your body to handle, from a digestion standpoint.

So maybe I should say, thank you cold! For pointing me in the direction of some healing foods, for making me take a moment to look at where I’m not giving my body what it needs, and for reminding me, yet again, that being healthy really is the best feeling and the best gift.

sweet-potatoes and broccoli with teriyaki tempeh

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Steamed Broccoli and Teriyaki Tempeh

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: plant-based, nut-free, gluten-free (if you use a gluten-free soy sauce), grain-free

Ingredients:

  • one head of broccoli
  • one pkg tempeh
  • 4 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • one large onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil, or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt/himalayan pink salt/sacred salts
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon your favourite dijon mustard

Instructions:

  1. To marinate tempeh: in a medium glass bowl, whisk together tamari, maple syrup, and mustard. Slice tempeh into cubes and shake around in your marinade. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F.
  3. Slice sweet potatoes into long wedges and place on baking tray.
  4. Slice onion into rounds and scatter artistically over sweet potatoes.
  5. Drizzle oil over sweet potatoes/onions and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft and onions smell amazing.
  7. While the potatoes are cooking, gently steam/boil (steaming is preferred, but you might be like me and not currently be in possession of a steamer) broccoli in or over boiling water until close to tender and a brighter green colour. Drain and keep warm.
  8. In the last few minutes of your potatoes baking, place tempeh on a baking sheet and throw in the oven, baking until lightly browned.
  9. Arrange sweet potatoes, broccoli, and tempeh your plate, and drizzle with a little leftover marinade, if desired.
  10. Enjoy!

l© Backyard Owl

Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies (with Teff Flour)

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

Are you enamored with teff flour yet? I am! Teff flour is my new baking darling. Making cookies? Teff flour. Making brownies? Teff flour. Making snack bars? Heck, yes, teff flour!

Even the Globe and Mail is publishing full page articles extolling the virtues of teff, and when the Globe and Mail gets on board, you know teff is making it mainstream. According to the Globe, teff is great for iron, protein, and fibre. Particularly of note, teff’s fibre comprises a lot of resistant starch, a particular kind of starch that resists digestion in your small intestine. This starch makes it into your large intestine and is turned, by the bacteria there, into good stuff for your body (basically it feeds the bacteria and they turn it into short-chain fatty acids). All very positive.

Teff has been called the endurance grain, the stamina grain, the energy grain, and more. Or maybe those are names I’ve made up. Either way, consensus is that teff should be in your diet prontissimo.

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

So let’s talk blondie bars. Also, don’t get too excited, but I’m going to be trying teff BROWNIES soon. Yes and yes.

But back to the blondies. These are another very easy intro recipe for teff. Easy to make gluten-free, simple ingredients, and really pretty forgiving. You can’t go wrong with nut butter and chocolate chunks in anything. You can’t teff this up.

The original recipe is from Vegan Richa; I just upped the teff factor. I took them to the office for a farewell party and my sister called them “the best bars ever”. They would make an awesome lunch snack (we are in the back to school zone) or a tasty and healthy-ish option for a work snack shindig.

Enjoy! Also I promise I’ll stop with the teff play on words very soon. I’ve pretty much run out of ideas anyways.

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies (with Teff Flour)

  • Author: Original recipe from Vegan Richa; tweaks by Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, oil-free

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablepoons non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 tablepoon flax seed meal or ground chia
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter or other smooth nut butter (I used a mix of almond and peanut)
  • 1/2 cup teff flour
  • 1/4 cup  + 2 tablespoons coconut flour (or more teff, if you don’t have coconut flour)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free/dairy-free chocolate chunks

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, flax/chia, maple syrup, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Stir in nut butter until completely combined.
  4. In a separate bowl medium-sized bowl, whisk together teff and coconut flours, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until well-combined (without, you know, stirring the thing to oblivion).
  6. Spread batter into a (very lightly) greased 8×8 pan and bake for 18-25 minutes, depending on your oven’s hotness. They should pull away from the edges of the pan just slightly and look dry on top.

© Backyard Owl

Tender Teff Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies

tender teff peanut butter cookies

Wow, that title is a mouthful.

But then again, so are these cookies.

In keeping with the theme of using gluten-free flours in recipes that make them shine, these simple cookies take teff flour and let it sing. And they are certainly easy to make, straightforward, and made with simple clean ingredients.

Tender Teff Peanut Butter cookies require just six ingredients (or eight, if you add the raisins and chocolate chips and I definitely recommend that you do), and, while I haven’t tried them this way, I suspect they would be equally delicious with almond butter. Maybe even cashew butter or sunflower seed butter, if you are feeling particularly bold and wild.

tender teff peanut butter cookies

They’re tender, sweet but not too sweet, and just the right amount of crumbly. Gluten-free cookies are great like that. The whole goal of shortbread is to be free of gluten – it’s what gives shortbread that classic sandy texture. Gluten-free and shortbread are like two peas in a pod. And since lots of gluten-free baking turns out a bit crumbly/sandy anyways, why not say it was what you were aiming for in the first place?

Quite frankly, the first time I made these I ate too many of them. Plus, I put chocolate chips in them AND made those little cross hatching marks on them that make peanut butter cookies so much cuter. What’s a gal to do?

tender teff peanut butter cookiestender teff peanut butter cookies

But out of that snacking experience was born the freezer test. I usually bake things, eat a few from the oven, and freeze all the rest. It’s a system that works for me. These cookies freeze really nicely. Keep that in mind if you want to make a larger batch. The recipe is so simple it can be halved, doubled, etc.

So all hail teff flour! And nut butter. And whatever else you want to add. Hey-oh!

For more glorious teff options, try teff banana chocoate chip muffins.

Tender Teff Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies

  • Author: Backyard Owl tweaks on this original recipe from Bob’s Red Mill
  • Recipe notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, naturally-sweetened

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups teff flour
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon himilayan pink salt or sea salt
  • optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips and/or 1/2 cup raisins

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a small saucepan and over low heat, whisk together peanut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup, just until combined.
  3. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Take off heat and let cool for a minute or two
  5. Stir in teff flour and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Stir in raisins and/or chocolate chips, if using.
  7. Scoop by the spoonful and round into balls, before placing on a baking sheet.
  8. Cross hatch and flatten the cookie dough using a fork – this is where we get that classic peanut butter cookie look.
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes, depending on size, and let cool.
  10. Enjoy!

© Backyard Owl