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

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Classic Raisin Molasses Bran Muffins – v, gf

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

I love bran muffins. It’s something that I easily forget when I’m busy stuffing chocolate chips into every recipe I make, but a trip to Virginia last weekend (Virginia has nothing to do with bran muffins, per se, except that I was there when I remembered how delicious bran muffins are) reminded me that the moist, plump raisin, molasses-y taste of a well-made bran muffin can’t be beat.

And I should emphasize the well-made part.

I used to work at a bakery that made an awesome raisin bran muffin, and while I can’t quite remember the recipe, I do remember the ingredients and what the batter looked like, so when trying to find a recipe template, I had some land marks to follow.

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

Now, those nostalgic bakery bran muffins weren’t vegan or gluten-free, so I made a few tweaks to get my muffins to be plant-based, nutritious, AND delicious.

There are a few stages to making a bran muffin batter, but don’t be worried. You just need to have a few different bowls going, and then eventually you condense them, bowl by bowl, until you have a lovely muffin batter. Note that this batter keeps really well in the fridge, so if you wanted to double it and bake half later in the week, go for it. In fact, part of me almost thinks the batter is even nicer AFTER sitting in the fridge a bit, but I have no scientific evidence to back that up.

These muffins bake up really nicely with a beautiful round dome top (important for me in a muffin – what’s with those gluten-free muffins that sometimes look like they’ve been frightened and are jumping in different directions out of the muffin tin?). They are extra delicious with some coconut oil or vegan butter.

Bran muffin luxury!

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

Moist Raisin Molasses Oat Bran Muffins – v, gf

  • Author: Backyard Owl, inspired by Mom’s Bran Muffins original recipe at The Moveable Feasts blog
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oat bran (not sure if you can’t find certified gluten-free, but that will be necessary to make these strictly gluten-free)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds + an additional 4 tablespoons almond milk (your chia egg)
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup fancy molasses (or go hard with blackstrap, though I haven’t tested this – apparently fancy molasses is difficult to find organic and non-GMO)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill; if you like, you could also substitute a nice kamut or spelt flour too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon xantham gum, optional but recommended
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 1/4 cups raisins, plumped

Instructions:

  1. Plump raisins by putting them in a small bowl and covering them with warm/boiling water. Easy peezy. Before adding them to the batter, you’ll just drain off the water.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let stand for 5 minutes, then add the baking soda, chia, additional almond milk, and oat bran.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the melted coconut oil, molasses, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together gluten-free flour, baking powder, cinnamon, xantham gum, and salt.
  6. Now we start the combining:
    1. Add the milk/bran mix to the oil/molasses mix and whisk well.
    2. Add the flour mix to the liquid mix and stir until combined.
    3. Add raisins to the batter.
  7. Scoop batter into a prepared muffin tin (either lined with paper cups or lightly greased with oil).
  8. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until tops spring back when gently pressed.
  9. Let cool and then try a few! They freeze really nicely and will keep on the counter for 2 to 3 days, I would think. But freezing is probably best.

© Backyard Owl

 

Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies (with Teff Flour)

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

Are you enamored with teff flour yet? I am! Teff flour is my new baking darling. Making cookies? Teff flour. Making brownies? Teff flour. Making snack bars? Heck, yes, teff flour!

Even the Globe and Mail is publishing full page articles extolling the virtues of teff, and when the Globe and Mail gets on board, you know teff is making it mainstream. According to the Globe, teff is great for iron, protein, and fibre. Particularly of note, teff’s fibre comprises a lot of resistant starch, a particular kind of starch that resists digestion in your small intestine. This starch makes it into your large intestine and is turned, by the bacteria there, into good stuff for your body (basically it feeds the bacteria and they turn it into short-chain fatty acids). All very positive.

Teff has been called the endurance grain, the stamina grain, the energy grain, and more. Or maybe those are names I’ve made up. Either way, consensus is that teff should be in your diet prontissimo.

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

So let’s talk blondie bars. Also, don’t get too excited, but I’m going to be trying teff BROWNIES soon. Yes and yes.

But back to the blondies. These are another very easy intro recipe for teff. Easy to make gluten-free, simple ingredients, and really pretty forgiving. You can’t go wrong with nut butter and chocolate chunks in anything. You can’t teff this up.

The original recipe is from Vegan Richa; I just upped the teff factor. I took them to the office for a farewell party and my sister called them “the best bars ever”. They would make an awesome lunch snack (we are in the back to school zone) or a tasty and healthy-ish option for a work snack shindig.

Enjoy! Also I promise I’ll stop with the teff play on words very soon. I’ve pretty much run out of ideas anyways.

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies (with Teff Flour)

  • Author: Original recipe from Vegan Richa; tweaks by Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, oil-free

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablepoons non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 tablepoon flax seed meal or ground chia
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter or other smooth nut butter (I used a mix of almond and peanut)
  • 1/2 cup teff flour
  • 1/4 cup  + 2 tablespoons coconut flour (or more teff, if you don’t have coconut flour)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free/dairy-free chocolate chunks

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, flax/chia, maple syrup, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Stir in nut butter until completely combined.
  4. In a separate bowl medium-sized bowl, whisk together teff and coconut flours, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until well-combined (without, you know, stirring the thing to oblivion).
  6. Spread batter into a (very lightly) greased 8×8 pan and bake for 18-25 minutes, depending on your oven’s hotness. They should pull away from the edges of the pan just slightly and look dry on top.

© Backyard Owl

Make Chickpea Flour Shine With These 5 Awesome Recipes

chewy chocolate chip chickpea cookies - vegan & gluten-free

Sometimes after buying a large bag of chickpea/teff/sorghum/coconut/almond/etc. flour, you make the recipe you intended to make and then think, ‘huh. Well, that still leaves me 95% of this flour. What do I do with it now?’

It’s handy to have a back-pocket repertoire of recipes that feature whatever flour you have in mind. And chickpea flour is a great place to start building that repertoire.

There are a number of amazingly delicious and healthy things that you can do with chickpea flour, and that you can really ONLY do with chickpea flour. As in, the recipes require chickpea flour to work. When you’re into gluten-free baking, it’s really great to find a recipe that showcases your gluten-free flour for the beauty that it is.

For the recipes below, you don’t need any other flours or blends. Nope, you scoop out the chickpea flour and you’re off to the races. I like that kind of simplicity.

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seeds

Now, I’m sure I’ve talked about the nutrition of chickpea flour before, but I’m going to do it again because it helps it stick in my brain and because it’s worthwhile information to share.

In addition to being a beautiful golden yellow colour, chickpea flour has fibre, protein, iron, and it is, of course, naturally gluten-free. It also has B vitamins and trace minerals, and is most infinitely better for you than bleached all-purpose flour (which should really be limited to special occasion baking, or eliminated completely).

Below are five amazing recipes below that I have vetted personally for awesomeness.  The process was rigorous and scientific, let me tell you. I am 99.6% confident you’ll agree with my findings that the below recipes are both delicious and nutritious.

Enjoy those golden halycon chickpea flour days.

Make Chickpea Flour Shine With These 5 Awesome Recipes

  1. ONE BOWL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: chewy, healthy, chocolatey, easy to make, and full of protein and fibre. You can’t beat that for a chocolate chip cookie.
  2. ITALIAN SOCCA: an amazing crepe-like flatbread that you can cook up in a skillet, and use for pizza crusts, wraps, and more. Like a chickpea flour pancake, socca is totally delicious, especially with caramelized onions.
  3. VEGAN FRENCH TOAST: chickpea flour makes the most perfect vegan french toast ever. Or, if you want to call it by its chickpea flour name, you can use “fronch” toast, which helps distinguish it from regular french toast and quite frankly is way more fun to say.
  4. SAVOURY CHICKPEA FLOUR CRACKERS: you can make these crackers any way you want. They’re really quick to make and very hearty for those of you that like a substantial cracker with a good crunch. The flavour options are extensive.
  5. QUICHE a la CHICKPEA: if you haven’t already guessed, chickpea flour is a perfect stand-in for the custardy, savoury protein of eggs. These mini quiches are awesome. Make them crustless or with a gluten-free crust if you are looking for something a little more luxury. Then, add some caramelized onions or sundried tomatoes. Ooh la la!

© 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