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

Mango Salad with Cilantro, Cashews, and Tempeh – v, gf

easy fresh mango saladI was in beautiful Kingston, Ontario a few weeks ago, and had dinner at a Thai Cambodian restaurant where I was reminded of the simple, tangy joy of mango salad – fresh mango, sweet and sour dressing, zippy red onion, toasted cashews, cilantro, and red pepper. Mango salad is light, refreshing, naturally vegan and gluten-free, and so, so easy to make.

And it’s perfect for the summer. I know some recipes call for less-than-perfectly-ripe mango, but I say go ahead and use ’em ripe. I did, and it was fabulous. It just makes the whole thing fruitier.

easy fresh mango salad

I also thought it best to add some tempeh for additional protein, so that the mango salad could become a filling lunch or supper. I went with plain, sliced up tempeh, but you could marinate it, if you prefer.

Other than that, basically prepare your mango and veggies, toss with the cilantro and lime juice dressing, top with tempeh, and you’re off to the races. And let me add that this recipe is VERY forgiving. You can make enough for one (just use one mango) or expand it exponentially to feed as many as you want.

Experiment with the dressing to make it what you want. You can add more lime juice, more salt, less maple syrup, more sesame oil. Whatever tastes right to your palate.

easy fresh mango salad

Top with tempeh, cashews, and some smoked paprika!

Mango Salad with Cilantro, Cashews, and Tempeh

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 ripe to almost-ripe mangoes
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • juice of one lime
  • generous sprinkle of sea salt (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 2 or 3 servings of tempeh, sliced
  • smoked paprika (optional), for finishing

Instructions:

  1. Lightly toast cashews and tempeh until your oven broiler (watching carefully, because the cashews will burn very quickly – usually around 4 minutes is good).
  2. Peel and thinly slice mango into a large bowl, and add sliced red pepper and chopped cilantro. Add red onion.
  3. Add sesame oil, maple syrup, salt, and lime juice, and toss well to mix.
  4. Scoop into bowls and top with cashews and tempeh. Sprinkle on some smoked paprika, if desired.
  5. Store any remaining salad in the fridge (it keeps well, thanks to the lime juice and salt).
  6. Enjoy!

(C) Backyard Owl

Power Protein Salad with Quinoa, Mango, Cashews, and Chickpeas

power protein salad

A few weeks ago I enjoyed supper at The Root Cellar, a wonderful gem of a cafe and eatery in London, Ontario. They have such a wealth of delicious, inventive food options that include locally-sourced foods and plenty of vegan options (including the best vegan cinnamon buns around – a dream come true, let me say).

I ordered the Power Protein Salad and then knew I had to re-create it at home. This salad is an amazing blend of flavours and superfood nutrition: baby spinach, quinoa, chickpeas, pickled red onions, mangos, and toasted cashews, all drizzled in a tangy and savoury apple cider & curry vinaigrette.

That’s a lot of delicious business in one bowl.

power salad with chickpeas, quinoa, and curry dressing

And, the beauty of this salad is that one afternoon of cooking prep (making your quinoa, pickling a red onion, dicing up mango, opening a can of chickpeas, and whisking together the dressing) makes a whole swath of meals. I plan to eat this for lunch every day this week.

Can I also just say how much I love salads that cover all the different lunch needs in one bowl? I mean, should I list all the stuff again? Because I’ll do it…

Spinach, chickpeas, mangoes…okay, you get the point.

Try this salad. Really. It’s so unique and so healthy and so delicious – and once prepped, can make your lunch life easy for the week, which is an added bonus. Enjoy!

power salad with chickpeas, quinoa, and curry dressing

Power Protein Salad with Quinoa, Mango, Cashews, and Chickpeas

  • Author: Backyard Owl, based on original menu item from The Root Cellar
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, high in fibre, good sources of protein & fibre, packed with deliciousness

What You’ll Need:

  • Mangoes – ripe and diced into cubes or slices
  • Quinoa – cook 1 cup (or as much or as little as you want) quinoa according to package directions (usually 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water) until light and fluffy.
  • Cashews – toast lightly, typically under a broiler in your oven (watch closely!) or in pan on the stovetop.
  • Chickpeas – basic regular ol’ garbanzos, rinsed and drained from the can juices
  • Baby spinach – washed and ready to go
  • Pickled Red Onions: in a glass jar, shake together 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon cane sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt. Add one cup water, and one thinly-sliced red onion. Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or in theory, as long as you want.
  • Apple Cider Curry Vinaigrette – in a glass jar, whisk or shake together 3 tablespoons olive oil, 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or to taste; I like my salad zippy), 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon curry powder.

To Prepare Salad:

On a bed of baby spinach (2 cups or more), scoop 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup chickpeas, 1/4 cup diced mango, 2 to 3 tablespoons toasted cashews, and 2 to 3 tablespoons pickled red onions. Drizzle with curry dressing and dig in!

© Backyard Owl 2015

Cookie Dough Protein Bars with Cashews and Dark Chocolate (v, gf)

cookie dough protein bars with cashews and dark chocolate

I was at my local natural foods store a few weeks back and they were sampling some delicious cookie dough protein bites. The recipe had all features I enjoy in a homemade protein bar – nut-based, naturally-sweetened, quality vegan protein, and dark chocolate – but I wanted to make my own version, because, well, that’s what we recipe testers do. We tinker. We tweak. We tamper.

I also wanted to mix up the flavours just a little bit more. I find commercial vegan protein powders, while awesome, are often too sweet, especially when the sweetener is stevia. To balance out the sweetness, I’ve added beautiful himalayan pink salt to my recipe, which gives the bars a more sweet/savoury balance (and adds a few additional trace minerals to the mix, which is never a bad thing).

Now, I’m not going to lie: photographing brown dough bars is no easy feat. But don’t judge these bars by their subdued appearance. They are delicious. They are so good that I daresay you could roll them in cocoa powder and call them truffles and serve them for dessert, and nobody would bat an eye.

cookie dough protein bars with cashews and dark chocolate

I made my bars using a mini-loaf silicone pan – just put about 1/4 cup dough in the pan and flatten and squish until bar-shaped, and then turn out onto a cookie sheet and chill in the fridge. But, you could also make these as little discs in a muffin tin, or as little round balls (is there any way to say that without it sounding inappropriate?).

If you wanted to get entrepreneurial, you could also add shredded coconut to these bars, or perhaps diced dried cranberries or apricots. Try varying the nut butters, or make with an almond or pecan base instead of cashews.

These cookie dough protein bars work beautifully as a healthy yet rich dessert, or, as a snack with some pumpkin seeds and fruit at work. And as a bonus, when someone asks you the question dreaded by all vegans – “where do you get your protein?” – you can say, well, lots of places, but most deliciously from these bars.

cookie dough protein bars with cashews and dark chocolateBackyard Owl’s Cookie Dough Protein Bars with Cashews and Dark Chocolate

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: gluten-free, vegan, naturally-sweetened, protein-filled

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 1/2 scoops of your favourite chocolate protein powder (I used Genuine Health Vegan Protein in chocolate) – should be about 1/2 to 2/3 cup protein powder
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (I used peanut butter)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp himalayan pink salt or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Over low heat, warm nut butter and coconut oil until coconut oil is completely melted and everything is nice and liquidy.
  2. Whirl together cashews in a food processor until finely ground.
  3. Add dates a few at a time and blend until dates are fully processed (i.e no large bits remain) and dough is starting to look moist and soft.
  4. Scoop date/cashew mix into a large bowl, and stir in protein powder and sea salt.
  5. Pour coconut oil/nut butter mix over, and stir until well-combined. Dough at this point should be very soft and squishy, and very moldable.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips and give a quick taste test. Depending on your protein powder, you might wish to either add more salt, or alternatively, a bit more protein powder.
  7. Mold dough into preferred shape (individual bars, truffle size bites, etc) or press into a pan (to be later cut into squares).
  8. Chill in the fridge until firm, about 25 minutes.
  9. Bars keep in a tupperware in the fridge for at least a week.

Enjoy!

© 2014 Backyard Owl