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

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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

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

 

Homemade Muesli Breakfast Cereal with Banana Chips and Raisins

homemade muesli with blueberries

I lived in Granada, Spain for about 6 weeks after my second year of university, and for the entire time, I subsisted (for breakfast) on Fruta y Fibre cereal, purchased from a nearby department store that had a grocery chain in the bottom. It was basically flaked wheat cereal with dried fruit and banana chips, and I topped it with soy milk, which at the time was the only non-dairy milk I could find.

To this day, the taste of that kind of cereal brings back this feeling of summer (it was HOT there) and more particularly, summer mornings when you weren’t sure what the day would hold, you knew there was going to be adventure, and your breakfast was something you really looked forward to. Breakfast was the stable, delicious known quantity in my day of unpredictability.

homemade muesli with rolled oats and banana chips

Flash forward some ten plus years, and you find me mostly having smoothies or oats for breakfast. A few years ago I stopped buying packaged breakfast cereals – I was trying to reduce my consumption of ‘processed’ foods and I was also getting tired of the packaging. But, a few weeks ago, in this flash of summer heat, I had a sudden desire for breakfast cereal. And not just any kind – a replica of the Fruta y Fibre cereal I had so many moons ago, right down to the banana chips.

Now, to call this a recipe is a bit of stretch. And to pretend banana chips offer ANY health value is also kind of a stretch, but sometimes having a balanced approach to health means enjoying the foods that are meaningful to you, but taking the time to make them the best version that they can be.

homemade muesli with blueberries

So that’s what this cereal is. It uses a processed flaked cereal, it’s true, but everything else is whole food. And basically you just toss all the stuff together in a big tupperware container. And yes, it is WAY cheaper than any of the cereals you’ll find at the grocery store. Packaged muesli will set you back something considerable, but making your own is actually pretty cheap per serving, once you’ve invested in the main ingredients.

Top this homemade muesli with blueberries or strawberries or some other awesome seasonal fruit, and boost the nutrition with hemp seeds or chia seeds. Also, you can easily swap in a gluten-free flaked cereal if you want it to be gluten-free. Just ensure you are also using gluten-free oats, and substitute more oats for the kamut flakes.

And don’t forget about those banana chips! They lend the whole cereal this tropical air, which will help carry you away to the desert-like beauty of the Spain of your mind.

Not bad for breakfast cereal.

Homemade Muesli Breakfast Cereal with Banana Chips and Raisins

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: plant-based, egg-free, dairy-free, high-fibre

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup kamut flakes (or more rolled oats)
  • 4 cups high fibre flaked cereal (I like the kind that comes in the big eco packs – less packaging, better price)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup banana chips (look for something organic here – I found some that are organic, and made with organic cane sugar and organic coconut oil)
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the stuff together in a big container with a good seal. Store in a cool, dry place (or in the fridge, to preserve the healthy fats in the walnuts).
  2. Portion out into servings and top with fruit and almond milk. (You probably don’t need to be told how to eat cereal, right?) I like mine with hemp and chia seeds as well. I keep them in the fridge and add just before eating.

© Backyard Owl

Turmeric and Vitamin C ‘New Year Best Self’ Creamsicle Smoothie

turmeric and C smoothie with banana and mango

2016 is here and every blog and its brother will be inundating you with ways to be healthier, more relaxed, more positive, lighter, smarter, faster, more focussed, and a generally more awesome version of yourself. More dubiously, you’ll also have information pushed at you about how to lose weight or become better looking.

Let’s just say this now: wanting to grow, heal, and embrace more joy in your life in 2016 is wonderful. Restricting, dieting, confining, squishing, or otherwise attempting to punish or hate your body or self into being something that fits a very (very!) narrow definition of attractive is not helpful. In fact, it’s harmful. Don’t fall prey to the new year thinking that somehow you aren’t good enough and changing your outside is what needs to happen.

turmeric and C smoothie with banana and mango

Ideally, your resolutions, goals, or priorities for the new year elevate and excite you, and they serve to boost your spirit, not depress you about how much you need to fix, improve, or change. That’s where I think the ‘new year, new you’ concept really falls off the rails. Each year shouldn’t start with a vow to rehaul your entire self. What kind of message does that send to your internal esteem? The idea is to bring more joy, more pleasure, more fun, more laughter, and more healing and growth into our lives to become the best version of ourselves in the process. That’s how to start the new year.

This smoothie is something I’ve been tinkering with over the holidays, and it represents some of these ideals in food-form: it’s boosting, light, energizing, healthy, and is just the kind of the tasty and tangy re-set your tastebuds might need after a more indulgent festive season.

turmeric and C smoothie with banana and mango

The turmeric adds a nice cheerful boost of yellow colour and is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and adding a healthy fat (I like NutraVege Citrus omega oil) helps with absorption and is good support for your brain and skin (every cell in your body needs and benefits from healthy fats – and you have trillions of cells all performing some little but necessary function at every moment. Give them some support!). Orange juice and mango add lots of Vitamin C, which is helpful for your immune system and your skin collagen, and the banana adds potassium and fibre. A scoop of protein powder adds some protein so that your smoothie can keep you full longer.

I typically measure out the juice, almond milk, and powders the night before, and then in the morning just add the mango and banana. Blend it up, and Bob’s your uncle.

Happy New Year to you all! May 2016 bring you joy, peace, love, and laughter, and may you feel that you lived it all in the presence of your best self.

Turmeric and Vitamin C ‘New Year Best Self’ Creamsicle Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (essentially equal parts juice to almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 of a frozen banana
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons (or 1 scoop) vanilla vegan protein powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons your favourite omega oil (fruit/citrus flavoured works well)
  • OPTIONAL: 2 teaspoons sunflower lecithin; 1-2 teaspoons maca powder

Instructions:

  1. Measure out all ingredients into a blender or NutriBullet-type device.
  2. Blend ’em up!
  3. Sip and enjoy.

(C) Backyard Owl 2016

Back to School Cocoa Granola with Buckwheat and Cocoa Nibs – v, gf

cocoa granola with cocoa nibs and buckwheatFriends, I’m going back to school! Part-time, anyways. I’ve finally decided that now is the time, and I’ve enrolled at CSNN London to obtain my Registered Holistic Nutritionist designation. I’ve wanted to do this for years and I didn’t want to waste any more time – so now I’ll be working full-time and taking classes on a part-time basis. Hurrah!

To celebrate in style (and because, quite frankly, I kind of love school), I decided to make some back-to-school granola. This particular cocoa granola is indeed rather celebratory. And decadent. Deep and dark and chocolate-y, it has lots of crunchy pumpkin seeds, cocoa nibs, and buckwheat clusters. It also has lots of nutrition, in the form of, well, pumpkin seeds, cocoa nibs, and buckwheat clusters, not to mention hemp seeds, flaked coconut, raisins, pecans, coconut oil, and maple syrup.

passion for learning

 

If you aren’t much of a granola breakfast eater, fret not! You can use this as a topper for coconut or almond yogurt and fruit (that’s my new favourite!), or just by itself as a quick ‘boost’ snack. Perhaps you want to mix in some more nuts and seeds for a luxurious trail mix.

Enjoy, and if you too are heading back to school (in any form), I say: all the best! Learning is such a joy. I hope you have fun.

cocoa granola with cocoa nibs and buckwheat

 

Back to School Cocoa Granola with Buckwheat and Cocoa Nibs – v, gf

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

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (sifted, if clumpy)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa nibs
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or other seeds of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup pecans (or other nuts of your choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or himalayan pink salt)
    • PLUS
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (could go up to 1/2 cup if you taste and it isn’t sweet enough)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
    • PLUS
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, buckwheat groats, flaked coconut, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, pecans, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil and add maple syrup and vanilla.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients until all dry ingredients are coated.
  5. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the granola is becoming dry and toasty (hard to tell with this recipe, but you’ll see).
  6. Remove from oven, and if desired, clump together to cool (this helps form clusters); or, leave as is to cool. Add raisins and chocolate chips.
  7. Store in an airtight jar or container and enjoy!

© 2015 Backyard Owl