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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. 

Roasted New Potato Salad with Lentils + Herb Dressing

August 01, 2016

I just finished reading this silly chick-lit book about a woman who has this list of thirty things she wants to do before turning thirty, and go on as many first dates, too. You know when you need a goofy book in between more immersive books or series to bring you out of that space? Well, this book got me thinking about the things I'd like to do in the next few years (not go on 30 dates, that's for damn sure). I'm 24, so there's plenty of time before turning thirty, which also made me realise how young I still am despite what the lines on my face say.

This is a little list, then, of some things I'd like to accomplish in the next 5 1/2 years:
1. I definitely want to write a cookbook, or a few, within the next few years. And improve this blog, and maybe figure out twitter? These are all related, so they count as one item on the list, right?
2. A kid's book would be nice too, since I have dozens of ideas and a couple of outlines done already. 3. I want to start making cooking videos, and learn how to do video editing. Might as well make full use of the adobe suite that's taking up so much space on my computer.
4. Yoga class videos, too, since my practice was primarily made up of free online classes before I did my teacher training.
5. We're moving to Germany in September, which is a big one, but I also want to travel a lot more, especially around Europe. I'd like to see a hell of a lot more of Canada too.
6. Learn a third language, maybe Spanish. Or Swedish? French? Any language, really.
7. Do an Anusara yoga training. And acroyoga. And get Graham doing a lot more yoga so we can do acroyoga. 
8. Add a dog/cat/rat to our little family at some point. I doubt the rat idea will fly, lol. I love rodents.
9. Keep doing pottery and get a lot better at it. I need to find a studio in or around Oldenburg.
10. Improve my photography skills. I'm slowly working on it but still don't know all the settings on my camera.

Ten is enough, I think. A few years ago that list would have been all about academic stuff, but I'm so happy it isn't now! Leaving grad studies was one of the best decisions I ever made. So many of the things I'm doing now were pipe dreams two years ago (when I started this blog!) and it's so thrilling to see them come into fruition. The only thing I'm not actively working toward right now is #2, but who knows what could happen in the next few years. We're moving to Germany so I can perfect my German, and so Graham can learn German, and to spend a lot more time with family, which I'm really excited about. Omi will be here in a couple of weeks for Kristina's wedding, too. I've never dreamed about a big perfect wedding and seeing my sister, and Graham's brother, both planning very expensive, stressful weddings, definitely kept that one off the list. There are way better things to spend that much money on (a house! a trip! a camera!) in my mind.

What's on your list, imaginary or not? 

This is another wonderfully seasonal recipe with almost all of the ingredients coming from the garden here, or my aunt, or the farmer's market. Instead of boiling the potatoes, they're roasted, which makes a huge difference in the overall flavour of this salad. If you like picnics, or you're looking for a dish to bring to a potluck, this is perfect. I didn't share (muahaha) and took about three days to finish the salad. It's excellent warm or cold, and almost as good on day two and three as it was fresh. The bright herb dressing is what makes this otherwise simple salad special. It's definitely meal-worthy, and I hesitate a little in calling it a salad because it is so hearty. The addition of lentils and spinach help in that regard, and adding the dressing while the potatoes are still hot lets in soak right in. 

I never post recipes for things I wouldn't make again, but there are some recipes I know I'll make more than others. This has become one of my all time favourites. It beats any other potato salad I've made by a long shot, and I know I'll be making it well into autumn with regular potatoes. Potatoes are the best. We're going on another camping trip in a couple of weeks and I'm thinking about bringing this since it'll hold up well for a day or two. That being said, we're going with Marshall, Graham's best friend (and my close friend) and the two of them might eat it all on the first night. I never know with those hollow legged boys.

Serves four as a meal

1 kilogram new potatoes
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups cooked french lentils
2 cups fresh spinach

Herb Dressing:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Scrub the potatoes and cut any larger ones so that they're all roughly the same size. Coat with the avocado oil and salt and roast for 50-60 minutes, or until golden.

To make the dressing, add the dill and herbs to a small bowl or jar. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

To assemble the salad, place the hot potatoes in a large bowl with the lentils and spinach. Pour the dressing over top and stir until the potatoes are fully coated with dressing and the spinach is wilted. Serve warm or cold. It will keep in the fridge for up to three days.

Strawberry Jam Bars

July 28, 2016

I had plans to go pick strawberries one last time this past weekend with a friend. The weather didn't agree. We had a crazy storm last week, with just about all of southwestern Manitoba getting significant amounts of hail. There was about an hour of continuous hail at my house (which I've never experienced before). So the strawberries were hailed on, along with just about every other crop around here, and they decided to close a little earlier than they might have otherwise. There was still a place advertising for you-pick a little further north, though, so I think this recipe just fits in to the tail end of strawberry season. That being said, if you can't find any, this recipe would work wonderfully with any type of berry. 

My sister stopped by at just the right time for me to coerce her into hand modelling (she was bribed with one of the bars).

Graham and I went camping earlier this week in a nearby national park. If you ever come to Manitoba, go to Riding Mountain. It's so beautiful, and it's one of the larger easily accessible parks in Canada. It's a pretty big tourist attraction, and busy on the weekends, but there are still plenty of wild animals and plants. We saw four black bears, a couple muskrats, the tiniest bunny, a few squirrels, and a groundhog this time. And deer, always deer. No moose on this trip but I have seen them up there before, and a friend saw a lynx today, too. I always forget how small black bears are. This time of year is perfect because there are plenty of wild berries and the bears aren't as dangerous, ha. I took a bit of a break from social media while we were there and it was a nice little holiday. 

I did a test run for Kristina's wedding cake yesterday, which was definitely not healthy or plant based. I had a piece and I'm so itchy now. My hands are just driving me bonkers here trying to type. If you hadn't noticed, I haven't posted a recipe with dairy in it for a long time, and it's because I figured out that it was the culprit for a pile of skin and digestive issues. The cake turned out well though, and she and her fiancé both really liked it. Thanks to my pal Traci from Vanilla and Bean for her wonderful advice on buttercream types and general pastry tips! It's been too long since I baked sugary, buttery pastry and I was a bit rusty. It was fun making the cake and not having to be a kitchen chemist for the day, trying to figure out how to replace standard baking ingredients and techniques, but I don't miss it. It's not as interesting as testing healthy recipes. And, with healthy recipes, I don't end up with more eczema than hands! Win-win, right?

This recipe is loosely adapted from my date squares (bad pictures but so delicious), with almond butter acting as the binder instead of flax to make a PB&J twist. The bars are very lightly sweetened and full of healthy oats so if you feel like having one for breakfast, you go for it. I recommend using ripe seasonal berries for the filling, or excellent frozen berries, as you'll really need their natural sweetness and stronger flavour compared to out of season fruit. The base and topping are crunchy, a little bit rich, and naturally gluten free thanks to rolled oats and oat flour. 

Good bye, strawberries. See you next year.

Makes nine bars

2 cups rolled oats, ground into a coarse flour*
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup almond butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and line a square (8x8 inch) baking pan with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, combine the oat flour and oats, coconut sugar, and salt. Add the coconut oil, almond butter, and vanilla and stir until everything has been incorporated and it holds together when pressed. Reserve one cup of this mixture for the topping.

Evenly crumble the remaining oat mixture into the prepared baking pan, and press firmly with your hands to make the base. You can use a small rolling pin or wet hands to make an even layer.

Add the strawberry mixture and spread it over the base layer. Crumble the reserved one cup of oat mixture over the strawberry filling. Bake at 350F/180C for 35-40 minutes, or until golden.

Strawberry filling:
4 cups ripe strawberries
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder*
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

Place the strawberries in a shallow bowl (you might have to do this in two batches) and mash them with a fork. It doesn't need to be perfectly smooth. Stir in the arrowroot, lemon juice, and maple syrup (if using). It will thicken as it bakes and turn into jam. 

1. You can substitute a scant 2 cups of store-bought oat flour for homemade. To make your own, blend the oats in a food processor for a minute or two until a flour forms. 
2. Use certified gluten-free oats if that's an issue for you (oats are naturally gluten free but often processed alongside wheat products).
3. Cornstarch can be substituted for arrowroot if you can't find any. Arrowroot powder is my preference because it's not as heavily sprayed as corn.