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

Advertisements

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

Raw Macaroon Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

raw macaroon brownies with dark chocolate ganache It’s Valentine’s Day weekend! Or wait, is it wrong to refer to an entire weekend by the holiday that only takes up one of its days? Probably. But, bear with me. Commercial though it may now be, Valentine’s Day is also an opportunity to celebrate the people that you love. At my office, we did a “Secret Cupid” card exchange, so that everyone got a special surprise card. I also made heart-shaped sugar cookies.

Today, you could do something special for a loved one: a massage, a friendly note, a bar of chocolate, a favour or some act of service. If you have pets, perhaps an extra special walk, or, a little bit of additional quality time. Or, a heart shaped toy stuffed with catnip (I swear to you, my cat just managed to type that with his paws. He is clever like that).

raw macaroon brownies with dark chocolate ganache Or you could scrap all of that and just make raw brownies. I mean, yes, you could also make regular brownies. But aren’t raw brownies so much more interesting? So much healtihier? So much more du jour? Yes, of course they are. They are another example of the fun and actually kind of endless number of things you can make by grinding up nuts and dates and then squishing them into a pan. So fiendishly clever!

These brownies are a combination of pecans, almonds, dates, cocoa powder, shredded coconut, coconut oil (are you sensing a theme?), a little plant-based protein powder, and sea salt. Simple! And, they contain magnesium, and protein, and fibre, and medium chain triglycerides, and the whole healthy schmozzle (at least when compared to traditional brownies, which contain refined sugar, and bleached flour, and a bunch of other ack-worthy ingredients). The brownie base is then covered with a luxurious chocolate ganache, made with melted dark chocolate and rich coconut milk. It’s kind of my new favourite thing.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! I hope you feel loving and well-loved. Today is a wonderful day to celebrate love in all of its forms.

raw macaroon brownies with dark chocolate ganache

Raw Macaroon Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, soy-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or raw almond flour)
  • 1 cup medjool dates (about 10-12 large dates)
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of your favourite plant-based protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, soft or melted
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons maca powder
GANACHE FROSTING
  • 1/2 cup full-fat organic coconut milk (from the can)
  • 2/3 cup (or so) dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped (it isn’t necessary that this be exact)

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, grind pecans into a fine meal (and almonds, if grinding whole almonds – otherwise, stir in ground almonds in step 3).
  2. Add dates, and process until the dates are small pieces and the whole mix looks moist.
  3. Scrape into a large mixing bowl and add in ground almonds (if not already done in step 1).
  4. Stir in cocoa powder, sea salt, maca powder (if using), protein powder, and shredded coconut.
  5. Pour in coconut oil and mix well. This is really best done with your hands – squishing the dough until it comes together in a moist ball.
  6. Press the dough into your preferred brownie pan or tray.
  7. FOR THE ICING: over a double boiler (heat-proof bowl sitting atop a saucepan with boiling water), melt chocolate. When fully melted, whisk in coconut milk and keep whisking until the resulting mix is smooth, glossy, and totally chocolatey
  8. Pour/smooth on your brownie base and store in the fridge until firm and ready to slice.

Enjoy!

© Backyard Owl 2016

Vegan Chocolate Maca Macaroons (gluten-free)

vegan chocolate maca macaroonsSometimes I write posts about a recipe before I’ve actually tested the recipe. It’s true. I admit it.

It’s risky, because sometimes it means I’ll test something, realize it’s not nearly as good as I’d hoped, and then remember I have an entire post already written that waxes eloquent about how delicious it is.

On the other hand, sometimes I wrote a post beforehand, whip up the recipe, and realize I’ve made something that is everything I’d hoped for and more.

vegan chocolate maca macaroons

Such is the case with these macaroons. Good consistency, excellent chocolatey-ness, and a perfect amount of chew. I’m no macaroon aficionado, but as far as treats go, these are just dandy. The macaroons have a tropical sweetness that feels really luxurious and special thanks to the coconut and coconut milk, and they also contain melted dark chocolate.

All in all, they’re perfect for an evening backyard party, a casual Sunday curled up with a book and some tea, or perhaps bringing to your workplace to share (if you like your work colleagues, that is).

Also, since there is no harm in mentioning it, coconut contains lots of fibre, beneficial medium-chain fatty acids, and natural sweetness, while dark chocolate has antioxidants, and a fair amount of iron. Oh, and did I mention the maca powder? Helpful for sustained energy levels, bringing hormone systems into balance, and improving libido, maca also has antioxidant capabilities, beneficial fatty acids, fibre, and amino acids.

Enjoy!

vegan chocolate macaroons

vegan chocolate macaroons

Vegan Chocolate Maca Macaroons 

  • Author: Backyard Owl tweaks, but original recipe from Terry Walter’s fabulous cookbook “Clean Start
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, naturally sweetened

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup shredded coconut
  • 3 tbsps cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon maca powder (optional, but a nice superfood addition)
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (full-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (or other sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted

 Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together coconut, maca powder, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  4. Melt dark chocolate chips over a double boiler (a heat-proof bowl sitting on top of a pot with simmering water).
  5. Add coconut milk mixture and dark chocolate to shredded coconut. Mix well.
  6. Once incorporated, scoop by tighly-packed, rounded tablespoon-fulls onto a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops of the cookies are dry.

© Backyard Owl

Easy No-Bake Almond Butter Protein Bars with Chocolate and Coconut – v, gf

homemade chocolate almond butter protein barsI love a good vegan protein bar. Convenient, tasty, and portable, they can sometimes be the perfect answer to “me so hungry.”

But, it’s easy to start relying on them to fill in the gaps, well, just about everywhere. After the gym, as an afternoon snack, in place of supper, and so on.

It’s an expensive habit, and in the end, still a processed, manufactured product, meaning: not as good for you as real, whole foods. That said, if I can find a way to make a more “whole foods” version of a protein bar, I’m not going to say no.

homemade chocolate almond butter protein barsThese bars are made with almond butter, coconut oil, shredded coconut, chia seeds, almonds, cocoa powder, dates, raw vegan protein powder, and dark chocolate. Calgon, take me away.

As with most other bars (like my cookie dough protein bars or chia energy bites), the premise is simple. Whir a bunch of stuff in a food processor, mix some other stuff in a bowl, and then melt some dark chocolate as the finisher.

I’ve tried to include enough protein sources (nuts, seeds, protein powder) to make this a reasonable source of protein. If you’re noshing on it after a workout, you want it to provide the required amino acids.

So give these a try and see what you think. They have great flavour, hold together really nicely, and look really pretty.

homemade chocolate almond butter protein bars.3

Easy No-Bake Almond Butter Protein Bars with Chocolate and Coconut

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, no-bake, soy-free (depending on protein powder), naturally-sweetened (also depends on protein powder)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds, whole or ground
  • 2-4 scoops protein powder (I use a raw, rice-based protein powder that is sweetened with stevia)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons maca powder (optional)
  • pinch Himalayan pink salt (to balance the sweetness of the protein powder)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, soft
  • 1/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, whir together oats and cashews until finely ground. Add dates, and process until a moist paste forms.
  2. Press into an 8×8 square pan.
  3. In the same (now empty) food processor, process almond butter, coconut oil, shredded coconut, and cocoa powder. Whir in protein powder, salt, maca powder, and chia seeds. Mix until the paste is smooth and mostly uniform (pieces of coconut will remain).
  4. Pour this mix on top of the prepared crust. Sprinkle with flaked coconut.
  5. Put in the fridge to firm up.
  6. In the meantime, melt 1 teaspoon coconut oil and chocolate chips over a double boiler (a heat-proof bowl sitting over a pot of boiling water). Drizzle over top of firmed up bars.
  7. Cut into squares (whatever your desired size) and store in the fridge.

© Backyard Owl

Fudgy Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie Cookies – v, gf

dark chocolate and raspberry cookies - vegan, gluten freeThese cookies are deep, dark, fruity, and delicious. Not exactly a health food, I’ll grant you, but read the recipe before you judge too harshly. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And I figure, it’s April, there is a sniff of spring in the air, and before the rhubarb pokes its nose out of the warm earth and the new produce season begins, it’s time to squeeze in a cookie recipe or two.

Because, why not?

Life is short, chocolate makes me happy, and raspberries are delicious. Aren’t those reasons enough?

dark chocolate raspberry cookies - vegan & gluten free

And as far as indulgences go, these are pretty rich and amazing, but they also score a few health points. They are made with coconut oil, chickpea and brown rice flour (so they’re gluten-free), and high quality dark chocolate (72%!). They also contain raspberries, which are amazing little tangy health explosions, and they’re made with coconut palm sugar and coconut milk.

And they take all of these healthy ingredients, spin them around, and then come out like brownies. I couldn’t decide originally about making chocolate raspberry brownies or chocolate raspberry cookies. In a moment of genius, it occurred to me that I didn’t really have to labour over the decision. I’d just make really fudgy, chewy, rich brownie cookies.

And as Col. John Hannibal Smith from the A Team says: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

dark chocolate raspberry cookies - vegan & gluten free

Fudgy Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie Cookies

  • Author: Backyard Owl (original cookie recipe from Veganonicom)
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, naturally-sweetened

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon himalayan pink salt (or other sea salt)
  • 2/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 4 teaspoons ground chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Whisk in salt.
  3. Whisk together, vigorously, the melted coconut oil and the coconut palm sugar.
  4. Add the vanilla.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together chia seeds and almond milk, then add to sugar/oil mix.
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until almost fully mixed. Add frozen raspberries and chocolate chips and stir just to incorporate.
  7. Scoop 1-2 tablespoon size balls of dough onto a baking sheet and gently press flat.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden on the bottom (hard to tell, I know. But luckily these cookies are okay a little under baked – makes them more brownie-like).
  9. When cool, pack in tupperware or glass containers. These also freeze beautifully.

© Backyard Owl

Orange, Cranberry and Dark Chocolate Scones (or Bannock, for you Outlander fans) – v, gf

orange, cranberry, and dark chocolate scones

Is this an Easter post or an Outlander post or a scone post, you might ask?

It’s actually all of the above.

Fact is, I’m reclaiming guilty pleasures.

I saw we unabashedly own the pleasures in life that we enjoy, without adding the “guilty” qualifier. Simple pleasures are simples pleasures, and what brings us joy in life should be embraced wholeheartedly. My guilty pleasures include romance novels, Sean Paul music, and sometimes having peanut butter and banana for supper.

Also, watching the latest episode of Outlander.

Also…..freshly. baked. scones.

orange, cranberry, and dark chocolate scones

I’ve tried banana espresso scones with oat maple topping before, as well as apple cider scones, and now it’s time for orange, cranberry, and dark chocolate scones. These little gems are made with brown rice flour, coconut oil, and coconut milk, which makes them a not so guilty guilty pleasure. Gluten-free, vegan, naturally-sweetened, and tasty. What’s not to love?

So why the scone obsession?

Well, first of all, they’re so easy to make gluten-free. One might even say they are better when they’re gluten-free. And secondly, there are so many possible flavour combinations.

And thirdly, it’s the Easter weekend, and nothing says “brunch” and “love” quite like a freshly baked batch of scrumptious scones. I’ll be bringing these gems to brunch later today, methinks.

And fourthly and finally, there ain’t nothing better to eat on a Sunday morning when I’m catching up on the latest episode of Outlander.

I admit it: I’m an Outlander addict. I’ve always loved the books (or at least, the first four), and the Starz adaptation is just spectacular. Rich, detailed, beautiful costumes, breath-taking scenery, tremendous acting and emotion. What more can one ask for a period drama?

orange, cranberry, and dark chocolate scones

So I’m making scones for Outlander and for Easter. Or I guess I should say bannock, as they’re called in Scotland (though granted they certainly didn’t look quite like this).

So, let guilty pleasure Sunday begin! A fresh-baked vegan and gluten-free scone, a tall glass of almond milk, my cats sleeping nearby, Easter brunch coming up in a few hours, and Outlander on my laptop.

Keep the joys coming.

Orange, Cranberry and Dark Chocolate Scones

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

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup cold coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup coconut milk (light or full-fat) + 1 extra tablespoon (reserved)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (use an organic orange, if possible)
  • 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar

Instructions:

  1. Measure out coconut oil, scoop out of measuring cup, and place in the fridge to firm up.
  2. Sift together brown rice flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Stir together maple syrup, coconut milk, orange zest, and vanilla in a medium size bowl. Chill in fridge until ready to use.
  4. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut cold coconut oil into flour mixture until the mixture resembles sand and there are many small pieces of coconut oil all coated with flour.
  5. Gently stir dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries to flour mix.
  6. Add coconut milk mix to flour mix, and gently combine you’ve formed a kind of ‘shaggy’ dough.
  7. Turn out onto a well-floured counter top and form into a large flat circle of dough.
  8. Slice into wedges and place on baking sheet – chill in fridge for at least 10 minutes, or as long as it takes for your oven to preheat.
  9. Preheat oven to 425F.
  10. Brush tops of scones with 1 tablespoon coconut milk and sprinkle with cane sugar.
  11. Bake for about 14-18 minutes or until tops are lightly brown.

Enjoy with family and friends, or, the latest episode of Outlander.

© Backyard Owl