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Apple & Oat Blackberry Jam Thumbprint Breakfast Cookies

September 21, 2016

Hello from Germany! We’re almost settled now (in other words, I finally got around to doing some laundry) but I still don’t have my computer, and we just got the internet hooked up in our apartment today. My computer, which cost an arm and a leg to ship here, was detained at customs in Frankfurt, so I have no idea when I’ll be getting it. I have piles of work on there so I’m a little worried about that. Apart from that everything has gone well so far with our move.

Our apartment is kind of huge and was clearly decorated by a wealthy older lady (gold/brass accents everywhere) but it has massive windows, a great kitchen, and overall it’s really nice. We’ll only be here until November but until then it’s good to have a home base, and especially a nice bright one. There's a huge ledge in front of the window in the living room and I've been using that for almost all of my pictures so far, since I don't have any backgrounds and hardly any props to use in photos. It's nice limestone, but be forewarned that my pictures are all going to look pretty similar over the next few weeks. 

So far my grandmother has been here almost every day, or we've been at her house in the country. One of the reasons for moving here, the main reason, was to see more of my family, so we're certainly doing that. She doesn't cook much so she's taking advantage of my constant cooking, ha. Yesterday she came over for dinner before choir (adorable) and watched me take pictures of a pasta recipe before we ate. It's the most wonderful thing to be able to see her as part of my daily life. That being said, it's hard not being able to have my mom in my life as much now. It's always difficult to have family in two very different spaces in the world and being so far apart. I think we're going to enjoy our time here, though. 

The first thing I made in our new apartment was a version of these cookies. We didn't have very many groceries, but I had picked some apples at my grandmother's house and wanted to make something out of the sparse pantry (my cupboards are much fuller now). I just had quick-cook oats, a few dates, and a small jar of coconut oil. I've improved the recipe since that first attempt, and haven't been able to stop eating these little breakfast cookies since. I could take or leave my first try, but these are so good. The earlier ones didn't have jam. My godmother makes oodles of jam and gave me some blackberry jam, so  when I tested the recipe again I ended up making thumbprint cookies and filling them with it. 

The ingredients have remained simple and straightforward, and hopefully you have most or all of them already in your house. I tried my hardest to make these without chia, but they just wouldn't hold the thumbprint shape without falling apart and I ended up adding some to make the cookies work. The blackberry jam could be replaced with raspberry if that's easier for you to find, but definitely look for something that isn't extremely sweet or even just make some speedy chia seed jam (definitely go that route if you're looking to keep these free of added sugar). This recipe is naturally gluten-free and made just with oats, as well as being sweetened only with fruit and vegan. 

I'm not sure what kind of apple I used in this recipe, but I imagine any type will work. If you're in the northern hemisphere look for local apples now - they're so much better than the imported ones, and apple trees are all over the place. Get them while they're cheap, since that's also when they taste best!

I'm also switching to include metric measurements/weights in recipes now, so if you prefer to cook and bake that way, the option is here. 

Apple & Oat Blackberry Jam Thumbprint Breakfast Cookies
Makes about one dozen cookies

200 grams / 2 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (1/4 tsp if fresh)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large tart apple, shredded*
6 large soft dates (1/2 cup), seeds removed
60 ml / 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil

12 teaspoons blackberry jam

Preheat your oven to 175C / 350F and grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. 

Place the oats, chia, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine.

Blend the dates in a food processor until a smooth paste forms, then add the milk and oil. Blend again until everything is fully incorporated.

Add the date mixture and the shredded apple to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until the dough sticks together easily. You will likely have to use your hands as it's difficult to mix. 

Form approximately equal balls of dough, about 2 tablespoons per cookie. Place on the cookie sheet (they won't spread so don't worry about leaving too much space between them) and use your thumb to make an indent in the centre of each cookie. You may need to gently push the sides back into place after making the thumbprint. 

Fill each thumbprint with a teaspoon of jam, and bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for ten minutes before moving them to a rack to cool completely. Store on the counter for up to three days or in the fridge for a week. 

P.S. My lovely friend Traci of Vanilla and Bean has just released her first e-book! It's all about easy, healthy snacks and I promise that the recipes are delicious (I was one of her testers!) as well as being totally refined sugar free, gluten free, and plant based. You can get the book here

20 Plant Powered Snacks

September 02, 2016
The first blog post I ever read, and the post that kick-started me into healthier, plant based eating was this round-up of vegan snacks by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows. I stumbled upon it searching for healthier recipes and it was such an incredible inspiration to shift my eating habits. 

I make a lot of snack foods, for me and for Graham (who never stops eating). We always have some kind of muffin, bar, dip, or smoothie kicking around, and I rely heavily on nutrient dense snacks to get through my day. With school starting up again and this shift into cooler weather, a collection of healthy, plant based snacks seemed appropriate. Toss one in your child's lunch kit, pack some for yourself, or just keep them around the house for when a craving hits but you want a healthier option.

We're heading to Germany on Monday and I'm low on time right now, so instead of a new recipe this week I decided to put together this collection of healthy, plant based snack recipes. I'll be making a bunch of these to take on our flights, with some quinoa salad, raw chocolate, and plenty of water, fruits, and veggies. 

1. Easy No-Bake Energy Bars

This is my all-time favourite granola bar recipe, partly because it's so easy to make and doesn't require and stovetop or baking time. They're only sweetened with applesauce and dates, so these bars are perfect for little hands and bellies! In addition to being sugar-free, they're also gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan.

2. Chewy Granola Bars

One of my first recipes and one that I still turn to as a go-to for an easy to transport snack. These chewy, slightly sweeter bars hold up well and they're also nut-free. The original recipe isn't gluten-free but I have made these with oat flour before with good results.

3. Double Chocolate Raw Protein Bars

This is another no-bake, no stovetop recipe that's sweetened with dates, and it's also oil-free. These bars are protein packed, with plenty of seeds and lots of healthy fats from avocado, hemp, chia, and cacao powder. They need to be refrigerated so if you have a fridge at work pop them in there, or keep them for an at-home treat!

4. Strawberry Jam Bars

Berry-packed bars with an oat and almond butter base and crumble topping. I've made these with frozen raspberries too and they turned out well - think PB&J in bar form.

5. Dark Chocolate Raspberry Protein Shake

With over 20 grams of protein in one of these smoothies, you're looking at a great post-workout meal or even a meal replacement - with no protein powder! It's perfect for quickly growing kiddos. 

6. Four Ingredient Banana & Date Milkshake 

This quick and easy snack tastes just like a creamy milkshake but it's made with frozen bananas, dates, and cashew milk. 

7. Super Seedy Crackers

I make these all the time to bring to get-togethers because they're always a huge hit, no matter who you're feeding them to. They're high in protein and easy to make, plus being gluten-free!

8. Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

I used to bring these to work all the time when I was working with kids instead of bringing cashews or almonds, since most schools don't allow nuts. Try them alone, as a topping on soup (especially this one), or with salads.  

9. Chocolate Snowball Cookies

If you make nut milk from scratch, you probably end up with piles of nut pulp. These grain-free date sweetened cookies with warm spices are a perfect way to use it up, and I often end up making these once a week in autumn and winter.

10. Ultimate Peanut Butter Cookies

I know you might be thinking that a peanut butter cookie doesn't belong in a healthy snack post, but this recipe does! These cookies are gluten/grain-free, vegan, and low sugar (with just some maple syrup). I promise you'll feel good about having these in the house and having one as an afternoon snack, or a healthier dessert.

11. Peanut Butter & Banana Protein Bites

Fruit sweetened, oil-free, and gluten-free soft protein cookies made with oats. The peanut butter mixture for these is so good that I made it into popsicles

12. Black Forest Bliss Bites

These chewy energy bites can help keep your blood sugar stable through the day and prevent crashes, and they have chocolate and cherries so you really can't go wrong.

13. Raw Pecan Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Think extra decadent bliss bites for these. The pecans make these raw truffles rich and buttery tasting but keep the energy-sustaining protein content high.

14. Chunky Almond Chocolate Granola

Chocolate for breakfast! I never buy granola because the store-bought versions are so high in sugar, and it's so easy to make. One batch usually lasts around a week and it only takes a few minutes to throw together. This version is gluten free and made with oats. 

15. Grain Free Granola

This is a double recipe, with granola and a coconut berry parfait. The granola is gluten/grain and nut free (no oats!). You can pop some granola in a container and pour milk on it when you're ready to eat it, or make the parfait ahead of time and bring it with you to work/school for a hearty snack.

16. Split Pea Spread

If you like hummus, you'll like this too. Split peas are generally easier to digest than chickpeas and are higher in protein. Try this dip with crackers, naan, or veggie sticks.

17. Sweet Potato Naan Bread

Homemade bread is just about the best thing ever, and this is one of the easiest, fastest ways to make your own bread. It's quick enough that you can come home from work and make it for dinner, but it also keeps well for a few days, so I love it as a snack with hummus and other dips.

18. Maple Roasted Hazelnut Butter

Every time I make this I end up eating half of it straight out of the jar with a spoon, but it makes a great snack with a sliced apple or mixed into chia pudding. 

19. Comforting Banana Bread

I generally use spelt instead of whole wheat pastry flour for this recipe now, but otherwise it's the same one I've been making for years - it's just sweet enough without being too sweet for breakfast, and it really is a perfect comfort food. 

20. Blueberry Almond Muffins

These are easily the best muffins I've ever made and kicked any other muffin recipes I have on the blog right off this list. Frozen blueberries work perfectly so you can make them all year round, and I love that they hold up well in a bag or backpack. 

Almost all of these recipes store well in the freezer, so go crazy! See you soon from our new place in Germany - I'll post pictures! 

P.S. You can follow me on Instagram if you'd like to see how our transition and trip go. I'll be posting on Insta stories with some quick snaps and updates as we travel and settle in. 

Grain Free Granola + Berry Coconut Chia Parfaits

August 24, 2016

Graham and I are moving to Germany next Monday. Next Monday. I'm freaking out a little bit but hoping for the best while we're there - neither of us have jobs lined up, and he only knows a few words in German. He can pretty much say "Wo ist mein Hut" which means where's my hat. Hehe. It's exciting, though. Before we move is my sister's wedding, in a few days, so we're busy right now tying up loose ends and planning for friends and family to visit. I might post a couple of pictures here once the photos are done.

We've been trying to do a lot of camping before we leave, especially since some friends of my grandmother passed through and told us that camping in Germany isn't really great. Apparently Denmark is all right so we're hoping to take a trip up there at some point to camp. Canada is so full of beautiful wild spaces and I think that's something we're going to miss. Norway's not far, though, at least by our standards. This past week we were in Whiteshell provincial park, on the border between Manitoba and Ontario. It's part of the Canadian shield, with granite cliffs everywhere and piles of lakes. It's rich in Indigenous history and you can see petroforms there (forms, usually animals, made from rocks arranged in specific patterns). It's one of my favourite places. 

I've had this recipe sitting on the back burner for a couple of weeks now (you can see a post about grain-free granola on my instagram), and our raspberry bushes are done for the season. Blueberries are still going strong, though, and blackberries if you've got them. I think this parfait would be equally delicious with peaches or citrus fruits, though, and you can always use frozen berries.

Here's the deal with chia pudding made with coconut milk. It's very creamy. Chia pudding tends to be a little on the slimy side, but making it with full fat coconut milk gets rid of any slime and you get an almost whipped-cream consistency. I highly recommend it (and that you ignore calories and walk a little further instead, ha). If you don't make your own nut or other plant based milks and rely on store-bought milk, definitely try this version. I usually make my own milk but have a container of cashew milk in the fridge right now - I made chia pudding with it last night and it was shockingly watery this morning. Homemade nut milk makes excellent pudding but coconut milk is so dreamy, and it's a good option for people with nut allergies. One of the reasons I chose coconut milk for this recipe was because the granola is nut-free as well.

Chia pudding is my breakfast of choice in the summer because it doesn't take as long to make or eat as porridge does. It lasts a few days in the fridge, so you have an effortless stretch of breakfasts, and it's nice to have something cold to eat in the morning. I love that it only needs a handful of ingredients and especially love not having to cook when I'm still half asleep.

Not only is this granola free of nuts, but grains too! No oats required, and I bet you won't miss them. This recipe is especially useful if you like to top your oatmeal with granola for some extra crunch but don't want to be overwhelmed by oats. So don't worry about trying to find gluten-free oats here if you have a wheat allergy or prefer to avoid it. It's lightly sweetened with some maple syrup but the coconut makes it plenty sweet enough. 

You don't need to layer the pudding and granola in a glass, but it is particularly pretty that way. If you're having friends over for breakfast it makes a beautiful but easy meal. Everything can be prepared the night before and assembled in the morning, so it's a good breakfast to go if you're in a rush or like to bring it with you to eat at work or during your commute. In that case, you could still layer it but use a lidded jar instead. 

Grain Free Granola + Berry Coconut Chia Parfaits
Makes 4 cups of granola

Grain Free Granola
1 cup sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1 cup pepitas, roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked coconut (optional), reserved

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a baking sheet that has a lip if you have one so that the granola can be spread more easily. 

In a large bowl, combine the sunflower seeds, pepita seeds, shredded coconut, and salt. In a smaller dish, whisk together the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Add the maple syrup mixture to the seed mixture and stir until fully incorporated.

Spread the granola onto the prepared pan, getting an even layer if possible. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden. Stir in the reserved 1/2 cup flaked coconut. Let the granola cool completely in the pan, and then store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to a month. 

Berry Coconut Chia Parfaits

Chia Pudding
1 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder

1 cup fresh or frozen berries

In a jar or a container with a lid, mix all of the chia pudding ingredients and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Stir before serving.

Assemble the parfaits right before serving them. To assemble, layer glasses or jars with a couple of tablespoons of chia pudding, then granola, then a handful of berries. Repeat this until the container you've chosen is full. It doesn't matter what order you do it in, just try to finish with berries to make it pretty. 

Quinoa & Swiss Chard Patties + Avocado Tahini Dip

August 16, 2016

This is going to be a short post. My grandmother is here right now (watching a German movie a few metres away) and, despite knowing that we're moving in a few weeks just to see her more, I feel like I need to spend every moment of this visit with her. I guess old habits die hard and I'm used to seeing her for a couple weeks at a time every year or two. Graham and I are going camping tomorrow, then it's his brother's wedding on the weekend. Since my sister's wedding is the following weekend and I'm making the cake as well as being the only bridesmaid, it's a bit busy right now, ha.

These quinoa patties were hard to photograph and I almost didn't post this recipe because of it. I put a picture on instagram and it received this overwhelmingly positive response, which encouraged me to share the recipe despite the less than usual number of photos. I can absolutely guarantee this recipe will work because I've tested it a dozen times trying to get the pictures right. This is the first recipe using eggs I've posted in a looong time, with the last one being exactly a year ago! (This zucchini cornbread.) Crazy. My diet has shifted a lot and is much more plant-based than it used to be, especially since I've tried to cut out dairy completely to help with some skin and digestive problems. 

So, patties. They are high protein but free of both beans and grains, and I promise they won't fall apart on you. Eggs are amazing. These make a nice summery meal with some fresh veggies. The avocado tahini dip I ended up pairing with them is pretty neat, and a much better combo than the kiwi salsa I tried the first time (disgusting). If you're a batch cooker and already have quinoa taking up space in the fridge, this recipe will come together even faster. There's lots of parsley in the patties and they taste fresh and light with the chard and herbs.

Makes about 15 small patties | Inspired by Green Kitchen Stories

2 cups cooked quinoa
3 cups swiss chard, chopped into smaller pieces*
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped 
1/3 cup dark buckwheat flour
3 large eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper, dijon mustard, maple syrup, and garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl, making sure that they're thoroughly combined. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes before cooking.

Once the patty mixture has rested, heat a flat bottomed pan over low-medium heat. Shape small patties of the quinoa mixture, about 8 cm wide and 2 cm high. Fry* a few at a time (don't crowd the pan) in a teaspoon of oil. Flip once the first side is golden and set on a plate while you finish cooking the other patties. Serve warm with the avocado tahini dip. They will keep well in the fridge for three days.

Avocado Tahini Dip:
1 large ripe avocado
2 tablespoons tahini paste
2 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of a lemon
Small bunch parsley
Small bunch chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the avocado with a fork in a shallow bowl. Add the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Mix until smooth. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if necessary. This will only keep for a day or so, but makes an excellent sandwich spread if you have leftovers. 

1. Any kind of leafy green will work here. Once, when desperate, I even tried them with celery leaves and it was delicious.
2. I haven't tried baking these yet. I think it would work well though.

Blueberry Almond Muffins

August 10, 2016

Just over two years in to this blog, I feel much more confident about developing recipes and having them work out. I thought of myself as an excellent cook before I started (I wasn't, and I'm still not), but many of my early trials were inedible because of a lack of understanding about how to substitute plant based ingredients for the things I had used growing up. I started baking at eight or nine, and cooking shortly after - but exchanging those years of knowledge for a different style of cooking didn't always translate. Whole grain flours, healthy fats, unrefined sugars, and so on, behave differently than the refined foods so many of us were or are used to. You become accustomed to healthier options once you've been eating them for a while, and I've eventually come to prefer things like whole grain noodles over white or lower sugar cookies over the tooth-achingly sweet ones I used to make. 

So these days, with a couple of years of experience with this type of cooking, I can write down a recipe and it usually works out. Maybe with a couple of tweaks during preparation to adapt to something I didn't predict. These muffins were one of the lucky recipes that turned out perfectly on the first try and have continued to turn out well all of the other times I've made them, even with some substitutions. I haven't shared a muffin recipe for a long time, especially considering how often I make them. The first recipe I posted on this blog was for banana blueberry muffins and although the recipe seems similar on paper, it isn't in practice. Actually, I'm not sure I want you to go back and look at that post. 

These muffins are light, soft, and full of juicy blueberries. Blueberries are in season here now, but they work spectacularly with fresh or frozen blueberries, so you can make them all year round. They're sweetened with a little bit of maple syrup, but mostly with fruit. This recipe has become my new base recipe for muffins. They're that good. 

Berry season is starting to peter out, but the apples are just ready and the tomatoes are getting there. Is summer really almost over?

I haven't tried making this recipe gluten-free yet. If you do, please let me know what you used in the comments!

Makes 12 muffins

1 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, plus additional for topping
1 large ripe banana, mashed (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup almond or other non-dairy milk milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 400F/200C and grease or line a standard 12-cup muffin tin.

Add the spelt flour, almond flour, coconut, chia seeds, and baking powder to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Stir in the blueberries to coat them in the flour mixture.

In a smaller bowl, combine the mashed banana, almond milk, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the banana mixture to the larger bowl and stir until just incorporated into the dry ingredients. Don't over mix. 

Measure approximately equal amounts of batter into the muffin tin. Top each muffin with a couple of extra berries, pressing in gently. Bake at 400F/200C for 22-24 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into a muffin.

Cool for ten minutes in the tin before removing the muffins and placing them on a wire rack to cool completely. Store in the fridge or freezer unless they're going to be eaten within a couple of days.