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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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

Raw Macaroon Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

raw macaroon brownies with dark chocolate ganache It’s Valentine’s Day weekend! Or wait, is it wrong to refer to an entire weekend by the holiday that only takes up one of its days? Probably. But, bear with me. Commercial though it may now be, Valentine’s Day is also an opportunity to celebrate the people that you love. At my office, we did a “Secret Cupid” card exchange, so that everyone got a special surprise card. I also made heart-shaped sugar cookies.

Today, you could do something special for a loved one: a massage, a friendly note, a bar of chocolate, a favour or some act of service. If you have pets, perhaps an extra special walk, or, a little bit of additional quality time. Or, a heart shaped toy stuffed with catnip (I swear to you, my cat just managed to type that with his paws. He is clever like that).

raw macaroon brownies with dark chocolate ganache Or you could scrap all of that and just make raw brownies. I mean, yes, you could also make regular brownies. But aren’t raw brownies so much more interesting? So much healtihier? So much more du jour? Yes, of course they are. They are another example of the fun and actually kind of endless number of things you can make by grinding up nuts and dates and then squishing them into a pan. So fiendishly clever!

These brownies are a combination of pecans, almonds, dates, cocoa powder, shredded coconut, coconut oil (are you sensing a theme?), a little plant-based protein powder, and sea salt. Simple! And, they contain magnesium, and protein, and fibre, and medium chain triglycerides, and the whole healthy schmozzle (at least when compared to traditional brownies, which contain refined sugar, and bleached flour, and a bunch of other ack-worthy ingredients). The brownie base is then covered with a luxurious chocolate ganache, made with melted dark chocolate and rich coconut milk. It’s kind of my new favourite thing.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! I hope you feel loving and well-loved. Today is a wonderful day to celebrate love in all of its forms.

raw macaroon brownies with dark chocolate ganache

Raw Macaroon Brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

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

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or raw almond flour)
  • 1 cup medjool dates (about 10-12 large dates)
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of your favourite plant-based protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, soft or melted
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Optional: 2 teaspoons maca powder
GANACHE FROSTING
  • 1/2 cup full-fat organic coconut milk (from the can)
  • 2/3 cup (or so) dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped (it isn’t necessary that this be exact)

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, grind pecans into a fine meal (and almonds, if grinding whole almonds – otherwise, stir in ground almonds in step 3).
  2. Add dates, and process until the dates are small pieces and the whole mix looks moist.
  3. Scrape into a large mixing bowl and add in ground almonds (if not already done in step 1).
  4. Stir in cocoa powder, sea salt, maca powder (if using), protein powder, and shredded coconut.
  5. Pour in coconut oil and mix well. This is really best done with your hands – squishing the dough until it comes together in a moist ball.
  6. Press the dough into your preferred brownie pan or tray.
  7. FOR THE ICING: over a double boiler (heat-proof bowl sitting atop a saucepan with boiling water), melt chocolate. When fully melted, whisk in coconut milk and keep whisking until the resulting mix is smooth, glossy, and totally chocolatey
  8. Pour/smooth on your brownie base and store in the fridge until firm and ready to slice.

Enjoy!

© Backyard Owl 2016

Vegan Chocolate Maca Macaroons (gluten-free)

vegan chocolate maca macaroonsSometimes I write posts about a recipe before I’ve actually tested the recipe. It’s true. I admit it.

It’s risky, because sometimes it means I’ll test something, realize it’s not nearly as good as I’d hoped, and then remember I have an entire post already written that waxes eloquent about how delicious it is.

On the other hand, sometimes I wrote a post beforehand, whip up the recipe, and realize I’ve made something that is everything I’d hoped for and more.

vegan chocolate maca macaroons

Such is the case with these macaroons. Good consistency, excellent chocolatey-ness, and a perfect amount of chew. I’m no macaroon aficionado, but as far as treats go, these are just dandy. The macaroons have a tropical sweetness that feels really luxurious and special thanks to the coconut and coconut milk, and they also contain melted dark chocolate.

All in all, they’re perfect for an evening backyard party, a casual Sunday curled up with a book and some tea, or perhaps bringing to your workplace to share (if you like your work colleagues, that is).

Also, since there is no harm in mentioning it, coconut contains lots of fibre, beneficial medium-chain fatty acids, and natural sweetness, while dark chocolate has antioxidants, and a fair amount of iron. Oh, and did I mention the maca powder? Helpful for sustained energy levels, bringing hormone systems into balance, and improving libido, maca also has antioxidant capabilities, beneficial fatty acids, fibre, and amino acids.

Enjoy!

vegan chocolate macaroons

vegan chocolate macaroons

Vegan Chocolate Maca Macaroons 

  • Author: Backyard Owl tweaks, but original recipe from Terry Walter’s fabulous cookbook “Clean Start
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, naturally sweetened

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup shredded coconut
  • 3 tbsps cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon maca powder (optional, but a nice superfood addition)
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (full-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (or other sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted

 Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together coconut, maca powder, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  4. Melt dark chocolate chips over a double boiler (a heat-proof bowl sitting on top of a pot with simmering water).
  5. Add coconut milk mixture and dark chocolate to shredded coconut. Mix well.
  6. Once incorporated, scoop by tighly-packed, rounded tablespoon-fulls onto a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops of the cookies are dry.

© Backyard Owl

Easy No-Bake Almond Butter Protein Bars with Chocolate and Coconut – v, gf

homemade chocolate almond butter protein barsI love a good vegan protein bar. Convenient, tasty, and portable, they can sometimes be the perfect answer to “me so hungry.”

But, it’s easy to start relying on them to fill in the gaps, well, just about everywhere. After the gym, as an afternoon snack, in place of supper, and so on.

It’s an expensive habit, and in the end, still a processed, manufactured product, meaning: not as good for you as real, whole foods. That said, if I can find a way to make a more “whole foods” version of a protein bar, I’m not going to say no.

homemade chocolate almond butter protein barsThese bars are made with almond butter, coconut oil, shredded coconut, chia seeds, almonds, cocoa powder, dates, raw vegan protein powder, and dark chocolate. Calgon, take me away.

As with most other bars (like my cookie dough protein bars or chia energy bites), the premise is simple. Whir a bunch of stuff in a food processor, mix some other stuff in a bowl, and then melt some dark chocolate as the finisher.

I’ve tried to include enough protein sources (nuts, seeds, protein powder) to make this a reasonable source of protein. If you’re noshing on it after a workout, you want it to provide the required amino acids.

So give these a try and see what you think. They have great flavour, hold together really nicely, and look really pretty.

homemade chocolate almond butter protein bars.3

Easy No-Bake Almond Butter Protein Bars with Chocolate and Coconut

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, no-bake, soy-free (depending on protein powder), naturally-sweetened (also depends on protein powder)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds, whole or ground
  • 2-4 scoops protein powder (I use a raw, rice-based protein powder that is sweetened with stevia)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons maca powder (optional)
  • pinch Himalayan pink salt (to balance the sweetness of the protein powder)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, soft
  • 1/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. In a food processor, whir together oats and cashews until finely ground. Add dates, and process until a moist paste forms.
  2. Press into an 8×8 square pan.
  3. In the same (now empty) food processor, process almond butter, coconut oil, shredded coconut, and cocoa powder. Whir in protein powder, salt, maca powder, and chia seeds. Mix until the paste is smooth and mostly uniform (pieces of coconut will remain).
  4. Pour this mix on top of the prepared crust. Sprinkle with flaked coconut.
  5. Put in the fridge to firm up.
  6. In the meantime, melt 1 teaspoon coconut oil and chocolate chips over a double boiler (a heat-proof bowl sitting over a pot of boiling water). Drizzle over top of firmed up bars.
  7. Cut into squares (whatever your desired size) and store in the fridge.

© 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

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