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

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

Crunchy Apple Cider Quinoa Granola – v, gf

apple cider quinoa granola

‘Tis the season – granola time again. Granola is an easy, crunchy, tasty, and delicious addition to your snack and breakfast repetoire. One batch requires minimal work, makes a good amount, and is pretty much foolproof (provided you don’t burn it in the oven).

And the customization options are endless! This particular granola is a sweet blend of apple cider, coconut oil, and maple syrup mixed with nuts, seeds, oats, and quinoa. Then, dried fruit including dried apple rings are stirred in at the end. And that’s pretty much it!

apple cider quinoa granolaapple cider quinoa granola

I’ve taken to eating this at work as a snack. I bring my almond milk in a separate container, and then add to my granola mix (with some chia seeds thrown in for good nutritional measure) and look out, I’m eating cereal at my desk.

The quinoa is a particularly nice addition, in part because quinoa is a wonderful source of protein and minerals (it is a superfood, after all) but also because it just looks really pretty. It gives the granola this extra texture and eye appeal, and eating beautiful foods is important too when we think about nourishment from a holistic perspective.

apple cider quinoa granola

This granola also makes a lovely gift. Store it in mason jars, tie with a bow using some twine or natural string, and you have a beautiful gift for a dinner party, for your friends who are constantly asking you why you don’t bring them granola gifts, or for anyone who enjoys a good mix of sweetened toasted grains and nuts with dried fruit (i.e. pretty much everyone, provided they don’t have an allergy to any of the ingredients).

Enjoy the Festive Season!

Apple Cider Quinoa Granola

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

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (i.e. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds).
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried fruit (apple rings, raisins, dried cranberries, dates, etc).

Instructions:

  1. Soak quinoa overnight or for at least one hour in the apple cider. It will absorb most or all of the cider.
  2. Preheat oven to 325F.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together oats, nuts/seeds, sea salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In a saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat and stir in maple syrup.
  5. Pour melted oil/syrup mix over rolled oats and stir well, until everything is coated.
  6. Add quinoa/cider mix and again, stir until everything is well mixed.
  7. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until granola is dry, lightly browned, and getting crunchy/toasty. Try to stir every 15 minutes or so to keep the moisture circulating and to help release steam.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool.
  9. Add dried fruits and mix around, and then store in your choice of containers: tupperware, mason jars, your stomach, and so on.

(C) Backyard Owl

Chewy One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Chickpea Flour) – v, gf

chewy chocolate chip chickpea cookies - vegan & gluten-freeSo who here thinks chickpea flour tastes gross? Show of hands. That’s quite a few of you, but I’m betting it’s from when you tried some adventurous gluten-free chickpea flour recipe and tasted the batter and thought, dear god, what monster have I created? Chickpea flour – un-baked – is kind of bitter. It does not taste good. Let’s just get that out of the way right now.

BUT – chickpea flour baked INTO things has no taste, really. That is to say, it loses the offensive taste. And, it keeps the protein, chewiness, and gluten-free fabulousness.

chewy chocolate chip chickpea cookies - vegan & gluten-free

My eyes have been opened recently to the joys of chickpea flour. It makes a delicious cookie, for one, and it’s so versatile! Other cultures have been baking and cooking with chickpea flour for centuries, but North American culture is just catching up. In the last few days alone I’ve seen recipes for chickpea flour flatbreads, quiches made with chickpea flour, french toast with chickpea flour, and blondies with chickpea flour, among others.

And, compared to many gluten-free flours, it’s relatively inexpensive. And, though this may be entirely psychological, it seems a little more “from a whole food” than say, potato starch (how do they get just the starch out of the potato?)

So if you are looking for a healthy treat that is high in protein and fibre, I’d encourage you to try these cookies. You could add raisins, nut butter, or perhaps some sunflower or pumpkin seeds. If you don’t find the batter sweet enough (they are JUST on the edge), feel free to also add an additional tablespoon or two of maple syrup, or, sprinkle the tops with some organic cane sugar.

Welcome to the chickpea flour fan club! chewy chocolate chip chickpea cookies - vegan & gluten-free

Chewy One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Chickpea Flour)

  • Author: Tweaks by Backyard Owl; original recipe inspired by Oatmeal with a Fork’s Incredible Protein Chocolate Chip Cookies.
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, source of fibre and protein, soy-free, nut-free, naturally-sweetened

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup COLD/FROZEN chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • ¼ t. sea salt or himalayan pink salt
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted before measuring
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons (or as needed) almond milk
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Whisk together cold chickpea flour, rolled oats, sea salt, baking soda, and chocolate chips.
  • Melt coconut oil over low heat, and measure out.
  • Add melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla to dry ingredients and stir. If needed, add the almond milk.
  • Scoop and roll into balls of your desired size.
  • Bake for about 12 minutes or until lightly golden.
  • Remove from oven, and gently press down with a fork. This step squishes the cookies and improves their chewy factor.
  • Cool, and store in an airtight container.

© Backyard Owl

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

Love Your Heart: Easy No-Bake Energy Bites with Chia, Dark Chocolate, and Coconut Oil – v, gf

chia energy bites with coconut oilAh, the delicious and nutritious “energy bite”: a bunch of nuts, grains, healthy fats, and super foods smushed up together and rolled into a ball for snackable ease and delight. Throw in some dark chocolate chips (I always do) and you have yourself something magical.

Energy bites are very hot these days. Google “energy bites” (or “energy balls,” if you can can make it past the inevitable snicker) and you’ll find hundreds of different varieties: carrot, blueberry and lemon, coconut, coffee, pecan, hemp, oatmeal raisin, and so on.

My recipe is quite simple and packed with nuts for protein, coconut oil for healthy saturated fats, chia seeds for calcium, fibre, omega 3s, and more protein, and of course dark chocolate for general awesomeness (plus iron and antioxidants).

chia energy bites with coconut oil and dark chocolateI’ve tried making my own cookie dough protein bars before, and damn, they were delicious. These chia energy bites are kind of a mashup of that cookie dough protein bar recipe with some tweaks – namely, the addition of ground chia seeds.

The chia seed has rather a fascinating history. Back in the day, chia was one of the Aztecs’ most important crops. They used chia for its slow-release and sustained energy, and cultivated it for its many food and healing properties.

Nowawadays, we know that chia has a whole host of benefits including:

  • high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids
  • source of complete protein
  • impressive amounts of key vitamins and minerals, including calcium, zinc, iron, selenium, manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate, and niacin
  • phytonutrients and antioxidants
  • fibre
  • no gluten/few allergens

If you find this interesting, consider perusing the book Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood by Wayne Coates. Yes, it’s an entire book devoted to the chia seed, but, when you see the benefits below, suddenly this doesn’t seem so odd.

chia energy bites.3

In his book, Dr. Coates suggests that chia is beneficial for:

  • weight loss
  • energy and endurance
  • digestive health
  • lowering cholesterol
  • fighting inflammation
  • supporting your immune system, nervous system, & mental health
  • improving your skin

That’s not bad for one little seed.

So what’s your next step? Eat more chia.

Is it that simple? Yes.

Start with these chia energy bites and you’ll be on your way.

Easy No-Bake Energy Bites with Chia, Dark Chocolate, & Coconut Oil 

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipes Notes: vegan, gluten-free (if using certified gluten-free oats), soy-free, naturally-sweetened, source of protein, fibre, and healthy fats

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons nut butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 8 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup ground chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • pinch of sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

Instructions:

  1. Under a broiler, lightly toast coconut, watching closely to make sure it doesn’t burn (because it will, in like, 2 minutes. Just saying).
  2. In a food processor, whir together oats, cashews, and coconut until finely ground. Add dates and process until a moist paste forms.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together peanut butter, melted coconut oil, and espresso powder, if using.
  4. Add ground oat mix, and stir until fully combined.
  5. Stir in sea salt, chia seeds, and dark chocolate chips.
  6. With your hands, really smash the dough together. Then, form into 1 inch round balls.
  7. Store in the fridge but eat at room temperature.

Recommended Reading: Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood by Wayne Coates.

© Backyard Owl