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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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

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

Healthy Rhubarb Oat Bars with Crunchy Almond Crumble

spring rhubarb

It’s rhubarb time! Actually, it’s probably almost past rhubarb time, but never mind that.

Truthfully I typically have so much rhubarb in my freezer (that I’ve carefully hoarded from the rhubarb season the year before) that I don’t think I’ve actually ever run out, thereby ensuring that it is ALWAYS rhubarb time.

I’ve made fruit crisps before, but I wanted to make these more of a wholesome bar. What’s the difference between that and a crisp, you might ask? Well, mostly it’s that bars have delicious oat-y, nutty, crispy goodness on both the top AND the bottom. Simple as that.

rhubarb bars with almond crumble

These bars are something you might bring to a picnic, or serve after a casual (vegan) barbecue in the backyard. If you like, you can serve them with some whipped coconut cream, or just keep them as they are. Now get thee to a picnic, post-haste!

A few notes about the recipe:

  • Yes, you can taste the banana. I liked it though! It somehow compliments the rhubarb in this unusually delicious way. If your first instinct is “perish the thought!” then try substituting with 1/3 cup organic applesauce.
  • Yes, the topping is AMAZING. Nutty almonds baked up with rolled oats and maple syrup make for a super crunchy and addictive topping. Ground almonds are expensive, I know it, but they really work here.
  • Yes, you could throw in some strawberries, raspberries, or even cranberries, if you feel so inclined.
  • Yes, I will be keeping this base/topping recipe as a standard go-to for all future fruit bars. Can you imagine this with peaches? Or blueberries? Incredible.

Digging the fruit approach but want to try something else? Consider rhubarb strawberry crisp or cranberry pumpkin seed muffins or rhubarb cranberry crisp or lemon blueberry cranberry muffins.

rhubarb bars with almond crumble

Healthy Rhubarb Oat Bars with Crunchy Almond Crumble

  • Author: Choosing Raw, with tweaks by Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, contains nuts

Ingredients:

Base:

  • 1 3/4 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 large ripe banana (or 1/3 cup applesauce)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling:

  • 4 cups rhubarb
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup organic cane sugar

Crumble Topping:

  • 1 cup almond flour/ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the base: stir together oats, oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt. In a separate bowl, mash banana, and then add almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients, and stir until all ingredients are incorporated.
  2. Scoop batter for base into a 9×13 glass pan, or other similarly sized pan. If you know your pan often sticks, grease with a little coconut oil.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F.
  4. While oven is preheating, prepare rhubarb filling. Stir together cornstarch and sugar. Measure out 4 cups of rhubarb, and then sprinkle sugar/cornstarch over top, tossing to ensure that the rhubarb is well-coated. Scoop the rhubarb onto the base filling.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until rhubarb is starting to release some juice.
  6. While rhubarb/base are baking, prepare topping: stir together oats and almond flour. Pour coconut oil and maple syrup over top, and mix well.
  7. Scoop topping onto partially-baked rhubarb mix (after the first 15 minutes in the oven), and bake entire extravaganza for another 30 to 60 minutes. Yes, it’s a wide range.
  8. Remove from oven when a) topping is browned and, more importantly, b) when the rhubarb filling is bubbling not just around the edges of the pan, but closer to the middle too.
  9. Cool, and enjoy!

© Backyard Owl 2015

 

 

 

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

No-Bake Seedy Granola Bars with Brown Rice Syrup and Almond Butter (v, gf)

no bake seedy granola bars with pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dark chocolateI’ve talked about granola bars before on the blog – my Twice Baked Oat and Raisin Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate – so perhaps it will come as a surprise that I’ve venturing into granola bar territory again. Why this enduring granola bar fascination?

Well, to my mind, the granola bar is among the ultimate in portable snacks.

Portable, customizable snacks.

Portable, customizable, healthy snacks.

Okay, last one: portable, customizable, healthy, and easy to make snacks. To wit:

no bake seedy granola bars with pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dark chocolate.2Portable: in a bag, in brown paper, in tupperware, or in any other snack conveyance, granola bars can go with you on any adventure you desire. They work as a post-gym snack, a travel snack, a just-in-case snack, a work snack, a quick lunch with some fruit or a green smoothie, and so on.

Customizable: I see every recipe as a template, just waiting to be tailored to individual taste preferences. So below, where I suggest pumpkin seeds, use walnuts, if you prefer. Or double the fruit and leave out the seeds. Or, if you don’t like chocolate in your recipes (gasp!), substitute more nuts or seeds, or more dried fruit. Go modification crazy! Just try to avoid radically changing the total quantity of stuff that needs to be coated with the brown rice syrup/almond butter caramel. That’s where you’ll run into trouble.

no bake seedy granola bars with pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and raisinsHealthy: healthy options come in a variety of forms. Sometimes an apple is best, or a green smoothie; other times, you need something with a bit of protein, some complex carbs, and some tasty dark chocolate. So that’s what I mean about granola bars being healthy – they contain complex carbs, and some healthy fats, protein, and fibre, and those are the keys to making a snack that will power you through.

These particular bars also use golden, caramelly brown rice syrup, which is one of the few sweeteners that I can trust to keep my blood sugar level – no spikes, no drops. They are also full of: pumpkin seeds (zinc), sesame seeds (calcium), raisins (antioxidants), and shredded coconut (healthy medium chain fatty acids). It’s all so good!

Easy to Make: the whole point of the homemade granola bar is that you throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl, stir it around, squish it in a pan, and then either bake it or call it a day. I’m not sure what could be easier than that except, of course, the aforementioned piece of fresh fruit.

So let’s get to the recipe!

Let's also pay homage for a moment to brown rice syrup. Caramelly and not-to-sweet, brown rice syrup is one of the few sweeteners out there that I can count on to keep my blood sugar level - no spikes, no drops.  And don't be worried by the quantity of almond butter. I know, one cup is a lot. But this recipe makes serious granola bars, of which only a small amount is required for snacking sustenance

No-Bake Seedy Granola Bars with Brown Rice Syrup and Almond Butter

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

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 cup almond butter (the more liquidy, the better; also note you can use any nut/seed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups puffed quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened SHREDDED COCONUT
  • 1/2 cup SESAME SEEDS
  • 1/4 cup PUMPKIN SEEDS
  • 1/2 cup RAISINS
  • 3/4 cup CHOCOLATE CHIPS (vegan dark chocolate chips)

Instructions:

  1. Lightly grease a 9×13 glass pan with coconut oil.
  2. Measure together brown rice syrup, almond butter, pink salt, and vanilla, and warm gently in a pan over low heat, just until a bit more pourable.
  3. In a (very!) large bowl, stir together oats, puffed quinoa, cinnamon, coconut, seeds, fruit, and dark chocolate chips.
  4. Pour almond butter caramel over oat/seed/fruit mix and stir well, until everything is coated with the brown rice syrup/nut butter mix. You might need to use hands for this, friends. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
  5. Scoop the mixture into the greased 9×13 pan.
  6. Press the mix firmly (as firmly as you can) into the pan. Cut into bars now or as you go. Keep in the fridge, but serve at room temperature.

© 2014 Backyard Owl