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

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

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Teff and Kamut Flour

vegan banana chocolate chip muffins with teff and kamut flour

I’m definitely new to the teff flour bandwagon. I’m not entirely sure that there even IS a teff flour bandwagon, but however small or niche it is, I’m still new to it. I’ve seen a few delicious looking teff flour recipes in one of my favourite cookbooks, Clean Food, but the only thing I’d eaten that was made of teff was that tangy and spongy and amazing injera bread that they serve at Ethiopian restaurants. It kind of made me associate teff flour with a sourdough taste and I had this bias that it would be difficult to bake with, or have a strong flavour like quinoa flour (sorrry quinoa flour! but it’s true).

Where did I get these ideas? Who knows. I made ’em up and then thought they were true. So it was time to break with my preconceived notions about teff.

vegan banana chocolate chip muffins with teff and kamut flours

What is teff, you might ask? Teff is kind of like quinoa – a small seed, not really a grain – and like quinoa, it’s just a nutritional powerhouse for the body. Teff has protein and fibre, of course, and it also has really high amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese (and for those of who you are like, manganese? really? I say, yes, manganese! It’s good for skin health, cardiovascular health, bone structure, your thryoid gland, sex hormones, blood sugar, metabolism. Yes to manganese!). Teff has even been called the “stamina” grain – noted for giving long distance runners energy and endurance. It also has B vitamins and is naturally gluten-free. There is no downside. 

Okay, it’s a bit expensive. That’s the only downside. But, at what price health? (I use that to rationalize many expensive grocery purchases. It’s a positive, yet slightly costly, life philosophy).

vegan banana chocolate chip muffins with teff and kamut flour

But fear not that these muffins are too ‘out there’ for your average muffin consuming individuals. My banana chocolate chip teff muffins are like gateway muffins into using teff – a gentle introduction into alternate flours. They are half teff flour and half kamut flour, which is an ancient wheat (and not gluten-free) that kind of helps balance any difficulties that gluten-free baking sometimes faces. If you wanted to substitute another gluten-free flour to make the muffins totally gluten-free, I would also recommend adding perhaps a teaspoon or so of xantham gum (although the bananas do a pretty awesome job of binding things together).

These muffins bake up beautifully. Nice and tall muffin tops in the tin (I like a good, tall muffin) and really great texture and flavour. So what else can I say? They are…(wait for it)… teff-rific. They are teff-initely worth trying. Taste teff these muffins as soon as you can.

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Teff and Kamut Flour

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

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup kamut flour
  • 1 cup dark brown teff flour
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • healthy sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas, about 4 large
  • 1/2 unsweetened, non-dairy milk
  • 1/3 cup melted virgin coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325F.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon (if using).
  3. In a medium bowl, mash bananas and check you have about 2 cups.
  4. Add vanilla, maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and non-dairy milk to banana mash and whisk together vigourously.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just mixed.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Scoop batter into oiled or paper lined muffins tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until muffin tops spring back lightly when pressed with a finger.
  8. Cool, and enjoy!

© Backyard Owl

Crunchy Chickpea Flour Crackers with Onion and Sesame Seeds

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seedsThere is a reason I included chickpea flour as one of my ‘extra choice’ items for my April clean eating challenge – these crackers are that reason. These crackers, and all of the other awesome stuff you can make from chickpea flour, like socca, chocolate chip cookies, and vegan french toast.

Chickpea flour is underestimated and undervalued but the stuff is kickass. It’s got fibre, protein, minerals, and it’s naturally gluten-free. It’s versatile, delicious, and it’s fun. You’re baking with ground up chickpeas! What’s not to love?

Just don’t taste the batter.

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seeds

Now, some of you will probably disregard this advice or will perhaps have had traumatic chickpea flour experiences in the past. You will wrinkle your noses in disgust and say, Emily, I went ahead and tasted that chickpea flour batter.  It was touch and go there for awhile – I barely made it out of the experience alive. How could you lead me so astray?

Well, as with all things chickpea (in my experience), that beany bitterness bakes itself right out of the batter while it’s in the oven. Keep the faith. The resulting product will be savoury, delicious, crunchy, and sans-bitterness.

And with this base recipe, you can pretty much add whatever you want – omit the sesame seeds and add sunflower seeds; try with other seasonings (like garlic powder or chili powder!). It’s amazingly flexible.

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seeds

And you are making your own crackers! You’re part of the solution! No more boxes or plastic packages to throw away. No more spending your entire paycheck on one box of gluten-free crackers (because let’s be honest, that’s how much they cost). Just simple, savoury, chickpea flour.

Crunchy Chickpea Flour Crackers with Onion and Sesame Seeds

  • Author: recipe inspired by this basic version at Heather G Nutrition
  • Recipe Notes: egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour (cold)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 teaspoon for brushing on top
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons organic onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon himayalan pink salt (reduce if you aren’t interested in a nice salty cracker)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons water (or so)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together chickpea flour, sesame seeds, onion powder, pink salt, and baking powder.
  3. Stir in olive oil.
  4. After the olive oil is kind of ‘smooshed’ in, stir in water. The dough should kind of be a bit sticky but not too sticky. It should feel like cookie dough.
  5. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough until thin (as thin or thick as you like your crackers). Keep flouring everything so the dough doesn’t stick.
  6. Using a bench scraper/dough scraper or some other device to cut the dough into strips and transfer to your baking sheet, then cut into squares.
  7. Brush lightly with a bit of olive oil.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until light golden.
  9. Store in an airtight container.

Crunch and enjoy!

© Backyard Owl