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

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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

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

Sweet Potato and Kale Salad with Barley, Dried Cranberries, and Smoked Tofu

sweet potato kale salad with smoked tofu

Roasted sweet potatoes, kale, cooked hulled barley, smoked tofu, and dried cranberries, with an olive oil/apple cider vinegar dressing. If that doesn’t sound like the supper equivalent of wrapping yourself in a plaid blanket and watching the leaves change, I don’t know what would.

This salad is easy, comes together quickly, makes a bunch, lasts a while, and tastes really good. It packs nicely in a lunch or re-heats well for a supper. It’s a perfect recipe to have in your arsenal for those occasions you need something delicious that will cover you for the week ahead, and you want your choice to be guaranteed delicious. Like reading an old favourite book, this grain salad will not disappoint.

sweet potato and kale salad with smoked tofu2

This recipe is based on a recipe I came across in a copy of Alive magazine, sometime in yesteryear. Some recipes just jump out at me as ones I would very much like to make, and the original recipe was no exception. You’ll see that the original recipe calls for a great many more things that my pared down version – with time and repeated iterations, my version has become its own creation.

I love this dish too because it strikes the right balance of protein, vegetables, and long-lasting carbs. When I have this for lunch, I can avoid the mid-afternoon slump and just power on through. When you work in an office, this kind of lunch is a god-send, because falling asleep at your computer is generally frowned upon the workplace (or so I’ve been told).

But before we conclude and get to the recipe itself, let’s take a moment to talk about smoked tofu. I’m able to find organic smoked tofu at my local Metro grocery store, and I used to be able to buy it at my local independent grocer in Toronto. That being said, I don’t think it is the MOST available form of tofu, so if you can’t find it, I would recommend substituting chickpeas. God bless it, but regular tofu just does not cut it here.

sweet potato and kale salad with barley and dried cranberries

Sweet Potato and Kale Salad with Barley, Dried Cranberries, and Smoked Tofu

  • Author: Backyard Owl (view the recipe that was the inspiration for my version: Oat and Sweet Potato Salad):
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, option for gluten-free, high fibre

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, diced (unpeeled if organic; peeled if not organic)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup hulled barley
  • 2 cups chopped kale (which is probably 4 to 6 big leaves)
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 pkg (about 210g) organic smoked tofu, diced into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • for seasoning: ground black pepper, smoked paprika, additional sea salt (if required)

Instructions:

  1. Cook barley: bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil and add barley. Cook for about 25 minutes or until water is fully or almost absorbed and barley is soft and chewy.
  2. Roast sweet potatoes: preheat oven to 425 F. Toss diced sweet potatoes with olive oil and sea salt, and roast until tender and slightly crisped, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
  3. Prepare salad: in a large bowl, stir together cooked barley, dried cranberries, chopped kale, smoked tofu, and still warm sweet potatoes
  4. In a glass bowl, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup. Toss over salad ingredients, and finish with black pepper and smoked paprika, if desired.
  5. Enjoy! Note that this salad keeps well in the fridge, but is best served warmed.

© 2014 Backyard Owl