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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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

Creamy Spinach Salad with Roast Potatoes, Avocado, and Maple Tempeh

spinach salad with tempeh, avocado, and roast potatoesEven though it’s cold outside (a very frosty -12 C feels like -26 C with the windchill today here in wintery Southwestern Ontario), and my natural impulse is to wear pajamas in front of the fireplace all day long, I haven’t yet felt the yen for the proverbial comfort food.

Or rather, I should say that I want comfort food, but re-envisioned. I want foods that are the right balance of rich, healthy, and light, if that at all makes sense. What appeals to me right now are meals like raw vegetables with a creamy tahini dressing, or an inviting lentil soup with delicious miso for that umami flavour.

spinach salad with tempeh, avocado, and roast potatoes

But, let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Let’s talk about this recipe. This spinach salad with roast potatoes, avocado, and maple tempeh is inspired by (and, truthfully, closely follows) a recipe from the Thrive Cookbook, a fantastic cookbook with vegan recipes that aim to help everyone transition to clean eating. The recipes are tagged as either raw, transition, protein-rich, gluten-free, and/or super nutrient dense, so you can pick your level of ‘clean eating’ (the goal being to provide options for people all along the spectrum of eating). All of the recipes are healthy, though, and all look delicious. (If you want another fantastic clean eating cookbook, check out Clean Food)

In this particular salad, the spinach keeps things light and fresh (Popeye said it best: “I’m strong the finish, cause I eat my spinach”), and the toppings are suitably delicious, substantial, and warming, making this a salad fit for a clean eating winter queen.

spinach salad with tempeh, avocado, and roast potatoes

Plus, in winter, when everything starts to take a more gargantuan effort than ever before, using a few prepared items (the maple tempeh and the vegan mayonnaise) makes things just that little bit simpler.

And man, is this salad ever good. Warm, creamy, full of protein and healthy fats, with a bit of that excellent spinach crunch. Top notch.

Creamy Spinach Salad with Roast Potatoes, Avocado, and Maple Tempeh

  • Author: Thrive Cookbook (with tweaks by Backyard Owl)
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free (depending on your brand of tempeh), soy-free (depending on your type of vegan mayonnaise), nut-free, grain-free, naturally-sweetened

Ingredients:

  • organic baby or regular spinach, washed well – your desired amount
  • smoky maple tempeh (I use the Tofurky Tempeh brand)
  • one avocado
  • roast potatoes (potatoes, olive oil, pink salt)
  • For the Dressing: mix 1-2 tablespoons of soy-free vegan mayonnaise with 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup – depending on your taste preferences
  • Optional: splash of lemon juice, sprinkle of smoked paprika

Instructions:

  1. Roast potatoes. Scrub two to three large organic potatoes and dice into cubes. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon pink salt, and roast in a 425F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown)
  2. Either in the same oven, or in a frying pan, prepare tempeh – broil for 8 minutes in the oven, or gently fry in a skillet until lightly golden.
  3. Preparing dressing: whisk together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup.
  4. Toss spinach with dressing.
  5. Peel and slice avocado, and add to salad.
  6. Arrange tempeh and roast on top of spinach, and finish with the optional splash of lemon juice and smoked paprika. Enjoy!

Happy January!

© Backyard Owl