Autumnal Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Grain-Free, Dairy-Free

pumpkin spice muffins 1

As Mindy says on The Mindy Project: “Autumn is the time when the leaves go from green to orange, the lattes go from vanilla to pumpkin, and girls toss their razors out the window for there will be no bare legs seen until April.” Oh Mindy, so wise.

Personal grooming aside, as soon as the calendar passes the first of October, adding pumpkin to everything you bake isn’t a half bad idea. Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene and fibre, and a pumpkin spice muffin is the quintessential autumn baked good (along with ginger molasses cookies, though one could probably argue that ginger molasses is really more winter than autumn. So, pumpkin spice it is).pumpkin spice muffins

These muffins are a direct take from Against All Grain, a wonderful cookbook (and blog!) if you’re looking to find grain-free options that are simple, straightforward, and based on traditional recipes that might be among your favourites, like banana bread or oatmeal raisin cookies (sans oatmeal, of course).

Baking grain-free is not the cheapest excursion, I know. But, if you follow a paleo diet, or find that eating grain-free is something you prefer or need to do to keep you system vibrant and humming, then consider these muffins a worthwhile investment.

These pumpkin spice muffins baked up beautifully, tasted pumpkin spice-y, and were sweet but not overly sweet. And they were very filling. Pour yourself a glass of almond milk and set a few of these on a plate, and then open up those windows for the cool, crisp breeze and let it wash over you. #autumnmakeseverythingbetterpumpkin spice muffins

Autumnal Pumpkin Spice Muffins – grain-free, dairy-free

  • Author: Against All Grain cookbook (I just tinkered with the spices and upped the chocolate chips – modifications included below).
  • Recipe Notes: grain-free, dairy-free
  • Yield: 10 regular-size muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan pink salt (finely ground)
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 pastured/free-range/organic eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey (if honey, should be warmed until liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 325F.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.
  • In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup/honey, and vanilla.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until almost combined
  • Stir in chocolate chips and mix until well combined.
  • Scoop into an oiled muffin tin and top with pumpkin seeds, if using.
  • Bake for 22-26 minutes, or until lightly browned, spring back with pressed, and an cake tester inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
  • Store at room temperature for a few days, or pop into the freezer once cool.

© Backyard Owl

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No-Bake Muesli Energy Bars with Almond Butter

no bake granola bars with pumpkin seeds

It’s a gorgeous day here – blue skies, breezy, warm but not hot, and no humidity. I’ve gone for a bike ride, bought strawberries at the farmers market, picked up my books from the library, walked about, and now I’m blogging and eating maca chocolate. In other words, utter perfection. Let all summer days be like this, says I!

I’m almost finished my program at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition, and admittedly that’s why you haven’t seen many blog posts in recent months. But this beautiful day just sang to me and said, Emily, steal away a few moments and write something on the blog. So here I am.no bake granola bars with pumpkin seeds 3

This part of July is where summer really kicks into a higher gear. The farmers’ market is starting to show its colours – spring rhubarb is still available, but the strawberries are there, and soon I’ll see peaches, tomatoes, corn, and zucchinis overflowing on the tables. My own little farm here (I use the term ‘farm’ extremely loosely) has thus far produced 2 blueberries, 4 raspberries, and some purple podded peas. A tiny harvest, but a satisfying one. I can see the raspberries slowly turning from that light pinkish colour to the deeper red, so soon I’ll return to that glorious time when there are raspberries to eat every day when I come home from work.

It’s a nice time to be alive, isn’t it?

no bake granola bars with pumpkin seeds 2

To keep your energy up through the biking, walking, jam-making, hammock-reading, blueberry-picking, running, mowing, weeding, harvesting, swimming, kombucha-drinking, or whatever you have on the go this summer, whip up some of these energy bars (finally, I’m getting to the recipe!). They’re simple, offer protein, fibre, and healthy fat, and you can make them either as energy balls/bites or just press them into the pan and make granola bars. They’re best right from the fridge (structural integrity relies on the coldness of the coconut oil), but if you don’t mind eating them more as a melted crumble, tote them to the beach! Why not?

And of course, they require no oven, so the only breeze and warmth you feel will be that of the summer sun, wafting through your open windows.

Happy July!

No-Bake Muesli Energy Bites with Almond Butter

Recipe Notes: option for gluten-free (use gluten-free oats), option for plant-based (maple syrup instead of honey), dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups muesli (basically oats with a bit of dried fruit added – plain rolled oats are fine too)
  • 1/2 shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or himalayan pink salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: sprinkle of ground cinnamon

Instructions: 

  1. Whirl the muesli, coconut, seeds of choice, chocolate chips, and dried fruit of choice in your food processor until you’ve turned it into very small bits, or almost flour. The dried fruit will remain in larger pieces – this is totally fine. The chocolate might also stay in bigger chunks – also totally fine, and in fact, quite delicious.
  2. Dump this mix into a large bowl.
  3. In a small sauce pan and over very low heat, gently whisk together almond butter, raw honey, coconut oil, pink salt, and vanilla extract until smooth and a bit pourable.
  4. Pour over the dry mix and stir until all dry parts are well coated and mixture holds its shape when squeezed into a ball.
  5. Roll into balls or press into an 8×8 pan and store in an airtight container in the fridge. For best shape, eat right from the fridge or keep cool.

© 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

 

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

Clean, 6 Ingredient, Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mint Smoothies

clean mint smoothiesMy first idea was to call this Clean Eating Peppermint Cocoa Butter Fudge. It’s a very accurate name but it doesn’t really trip off the tongue. Then I remembered at the market there is this chocolatier that sells these wonderful chocolate and mint confections called Mint Smoothies. Now me, I enjoy a good mint smoothie every now and again. They contain both chocolate and mint and once you tell me those two key pieces of information, you can stop talking. My decision is already made.

So I thought, I should call them Mint Smoothies instead. But as I’m terrible with short titles for things and always want to include more descriptive words and then even more descriptive words, the title came out to be long and convoluted anyways.

clean mint smoothies

I just reallllly wanted to make it clear that these mint bites of deliciousness are made with clean, healthy ingredients. No refined sugar, questionable hydrogenated fats, or mint flavouring that doesn’t even really contain mint but may or may not contain ethanol. You can make these chocolates with just a few basic ingredients: coconut oil, cocoa butter, coconut milk, raw honey, cocoa powder, and mint oil.

And, if have any cutesy little muffin tin or silicone cups, now is the time to use them. My sense is that silicone would best, because these mint smoothies are fudgey and they might stick to the lining of your muffin tin – unless you use paper liners, of course. The only problem with paper liners is that after you consume your mint smoothies, you have a whackload of paper liners to throw out and you might not feel good about that.

Point being, mold these chocolates in something that’s easy for you to clean. A big square pan might also do the trick. Then you could actually cut these into squares and make them even MORE like the mint smoothies purchasable from your chocolate store of choice.

Stay minty!

clean mint smoothies

Clean, 6 Ingredient, Melt-in-your-Mouth Mint Smoothies

  • Author: Backyard Owl (but inspired very much by this recipe for Peppermint Fudge from Dr. Josh Axe)
  • Recipe notes: gluten-free, soy-free, naturally-sweetened, nut-free. Make this vegan by substituting maple syrup for the honey.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup cocoa butter (or your closest estimate)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk or creamy unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 2 teaspoons organic peppermint flavouring
  • 1/3 cup cocoa or raw cacao powder

Instructions:

  1. Over a double boiler (water simmering in a saucepan with a heat-proof bowl on top), melt the coconut oil, cocoa butter, and raw honey.
  2. Once melted, stir in the coconut or non-dairy milk and whisk well to incorporate.
  3. Once fully mixed, add the peppermint flavouring and the cocoa powder and again, whisk that mix up until it becomes fully blended, smooth, and shiny or glossy looking.
  4. Pour into your prepared muffin tins with liners or silicone pan or whavever you want to use and let cool.
  5. Once cool, transfer your smoothies (still in the pan) to the fridge or freezer. The smoothies are ready after about 1-2 hours.
  6. Store them in the freezer for firmer smoothies, or in the fridge for more fudgy ones.

© Backyard Owl