Before I knew rosemary from thyme in the kitchen, I knew how to bake. I love baking. The ritual of it calms me down and and distracts my mind which helps me a lot when I’m feeling anxious, nervous or stressed. Rarely is it ever about the product, it’s a process thing.
That said, there is nothing worse than having a baking experiment bomb so over time I’ve noticed I return to a few tried and true recipes time and time again. This is one of those. Simple, adaptable and I always have the key ingredients on hand.
I’ve called these Ugly Cookies because that’s what they are. Gnarly little piles of chocolate chips, walnuts and figs. Sometimes a little ugly is a good thing.
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup applesauce (or yogurt)
1 cup chopped figs
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.
3. In a separate bowl combine oil, egg & applesauce.
4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until a dough has formed.
5. Add in figs, chocolate and walnuts.
6. Bake at 350 on a lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes.
When I was little making jam with my grandma was my idea of a good time. We’d wake up early and head to the strawberry fields, scoop up all the berries we could then head home and spend all day prepping canning jars and boiling vats of hot strawberry syrup. It was the perfect combination of fun, ritual and reward. At the end of all your hard work you were always left with a sticky sweet indulgence.
As it turns out, I haven’t changed so much since those days. I still love feeling the hot sun on my shoulders as I treasure hunt for berries. I still love the smell of hot bubbly fruit and the calming ritual of skimming bubbles from the pot. I don’t however have as much time or patience as I used to. I also don’t have quite as much of a sweet tooth.
This recipe is the perfect solution. Sweet sticky quick jam minus the canning process and omitting all that sugar and pectin. Hope you enjoy!
Strawberry Chia Jam
4 cups strawberries
1/4 cup orange juice
2-3 tbsp honey (or a mix of honey and cane sugar)
1/4 cup chia seeds
1. Cook strawberries, orange juice and 1 tbsp of honey in a pot over high heat until bubbling.
2. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes, breaking up whole berries with a fork or masher as you go.
3. Taste and add more sweetener if needed.
4. Add chia seeds and stir. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
I don’t like to define my food by what it’s not.
I’d much rather spend my time talking about all the healthy, wholesome ingredients I did put in a recipe, than spend an hour telling someone what I omitted. (“I’ll have the gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, carrot cake – with a side of self-righteousness”)
And yet…I feel the need to tell you that this granola is grain-free because this is definitely not your typical oats-and-raisins granola situation. This granola is full of exlusively the things I cherry pick for in my usual bowl of cereal. Coconut. Pumpkin seeds. Almonds. Dates. That’s it.
I have been loving this granola on top of smoothies, as a quick snack or even a topping on homemade banana soft-serve. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
- 2 cups almonds
- 1.5 cups coconut
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup dates
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp coconut manna (or coconut oil)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Place coconut, dates, nuts and seeds in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, to the consistency of granola.
- Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl then add cinnamon and salt and stir to combine.
- Add coconut manna and honey and blend in with your hands until crumbly.
- Transfer mixture onto a large parchment lined baking sheets
- Bake 45 minutes in the oven at 250°, stirring occasionally.
- Allow to cool completely before serving.
Late spring is full of momentum.
Lazy, plodding streetcars are overtaken by high-speed bicycles. Rain, when it comes, falls quick and hard. People are so eager for summer to start they plan away all their weekends and fill them up with music festivals, weekend getaways, parties, weddings and cottage trips. With so much energy focused on moving ahead, it’s common to hear people say that they feel like summer is already over…before it’s even begun.
With this in mind, my goal for the next few weeks is to exercise a little patience and feel grateful for what I have today. Pasty white legs, rainy weather, flowers in my garden…and fresh, spring vegetables in my bowl.
Seasonal Spring Chickpea Salad
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- olive oil
- 2 medium zuchinis, coursely chopped
- 1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
- 2 cups chickpeas
- salt and pepper
- juice of 2 lemons
- flax seed oil (or more olive oil)
- handful of fresh dill, coursely chopped
- a few handfuls of arugula
- 1 cup blackberries
- Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat (not too high), add in garlic and sautee until fragrant.
- Add chopped zucchini and cook until softened and lightly browned.
- Add asparagus and sautee for just a few extra minutes – careful not to overcook.
- Transfer vegetables from your pan to a large mixing bowl. Add chickpeas, salt and pepper, dill, lemon juice and a hearty drizzle of flax seed or olive oil. Stir well to combine.
- Serve chickpea salad warm or cold over arugula. Top with berries and an extra drizzle of flax seed oil.
I would like to preface this recipe by saying that I love real cinnamon buns, in their all their glutenous sugar-laden glory. Those little pillsbury ones that come in a tube and fluff up like marshmallows when you bake them? The giant ones you can smell from half-way across the mall (or from the subway at Eglinton station if you live in Toronto)? Of all the baked goods, cinnamon buns are the most satisfyingly nostalgic and they will always have a special place in my heart.
However, if you crave these tasty treats on the regular, you may wish to find something a little more healthful to indulge in. Hopefully that is where I can be of some help.
These little energy bites are made up of just walnuts, oats, coconut oil and naturally sweet dates but they are absolutely delicious. Perfect for a midday snack or an after-dinner treat. And best of all, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to get your fix of pillowy cinnamon sugar. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!
Cinnamon Bun Energy Bites
Yield: about 18-20.
- 2 cups oats
- 1.5 cups dates
- 1 cup toasted walnuts
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- a few tbsp of water
- Add all ingredients except for water into the food processor and blend until the mixture starts to look a little like brown sugar (thick and grainy).
- Add in a little water to the mix, 1 tbsp at the time until it begins to clump up and forms a big doughy ball. I used about 2-3 tbsp.
- Use a tbsp scoop to roll the mixture into balls.
I love smoothies. But I’m not in love with them.
I think of smoothies like casual dates. They’re fun, sweet and they satisfy my immediate need for sustenance, but they’re not substantial. An hour or two after I drink one, I’m hungry again. Totally different than my long-term relationship with oatmeal.
That said, after years of perfecting my blending game, I’ve learned a thing or two about transforming a light little smoothie into a hearty, satisfying breakfast.
- Use frozen fruit: It just maintains its texture better and keeps things nice and thick.
- Add fibrous veggies: I put spinach or kale most of my smoothies but I also use fibrous veggies like celery, zucchini, beets, carrots or even broccoli stems. You barely taste them alongside all the fruit and they keep you feeling energized and full all morning long.
- Add healthy fats: I always throw some chia seeds into my smoothies when I have them around, a scoop of nut butter or even 1/2 an avocado. It dramatically improves the texture of your drink and helps you absorb the nutrients in any fruit or veggies you’ve put in.
- Add protein: I like to use natural protein powder like sun warrior blend but you can also use hemp protein or hemp hearts, yogurt, silken tofu, whatever your prefer. It will definitely amp up the staying power of your morning blend
- Add toppings: Sometimes I like to add some crunch to my smoothies by adding toppings like pumpkin seeds, goji berries, granola or coconut. It helps me savour my breakfast rather chugging it back in one gulp.
- Not too much ice: This is a big mistake I made in my early smoothie days – I would always add a full tray of ice. The problem with this is that when the ice melts, it makes the smoothie runny and thin. Try to bulk up your smoothies with the ingredients above, and just a few ice cubes to keep things cool and fresh tasting.
Using these basic tips, I whip together all sorts of creations, today’s being a bright green matcha explosion.
Creamy Matcha Green Smoothie
- 1 ripe frozen banana
- 1 heaping tbsp cashew butter
- 1-2 tsp matcha green tea powder
- 1 scoop sun warrior vanilla protein powder (optional)
- 2 cups kale
- 1-2 cups almond milk
- 4 ice cubes
- Place all fruit in blender first followed by nut butter, protein powder if using, ice, then place your greens on top. Cover with almond milk until your ingredients are about 1/2 way covered.
- Blend. Add more milk if needed.
I look forward to Sunday mornings the way other people look forward to Friday nights. It combines all of my favourite things: breakfast, coffee, pajamas, blankets, family skype dates, reading and Coronation Street.
Here’s a little of what I’m enjoying this morning…
And of course a tasty breakfast.
These panacakes are wholesome, whole-grain and unlike your average boxed mixes will actually leave you feeling energized (not ready for a nap). They are full of protein, healthy fats, fibre…and chocolate chips 😉
Satisfying Oatmeal Pancakes
yields 1 generous serving
- coconut oil (for frying)
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup oat flour
- 1 tbsp coconut flour
- 1/2 ripe banana
- optional toppings – berries, nut butter, mini-chocolate chips and a drizzle of honey.
- Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Mash banana in a mixing bowl. Add 2 eggs and whip with a fork.
- Add oat and coconut flours and stir until well-combined.
- Pour batter onto frying pan and cook until each pancake is browned and lifts easily with spatula (3-4 minutes). Cook an extra 1-2 minutes.
- Serve hot with berries, chocolate chips, nut butter, etc.
Despite my predilection for highly involved projects and recipes, I spend very very little time actually preparing my meals. This is for the best because usually by the time I’m home from work and the gym, I’m voracious. No vegetable scrap or handful of granola is safe in my path. For this reason, I tend to do a lot of “food prep” over the weekends. This way, I have a variety of ingredient staples on hand. For example: there is rarely a day when I don’t have a tupperware full of roasted sweet potatoes, a bowl of brown rice and a ziploc full of hard boiled eggs in my fridge. In case of snack-mergencies. Of course having these kinds of staples ready-to-go also helps me whip together Monday-Friday dinners in under 15 minutes.
This sweet potato and egg skillet is the kind of creation I’ll pull together when I am 90% hunger and 10% rational thought. It’s fast and easy but still healthy and satiating.
Sweet Potato and Egg Skillet
- coconut oil
- 1 roasted sweet potato, cubed*
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 head of broccoli, chopped
- handful of kale
- sprinkle of goat cheese (optional)
- salt and pepper
- Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add broccoli and sautee until bright green.
- Add sweet potato and smash pieces lightly with the back of a spatula.
- Add kale and stir in until wilted.
- Crack 2 eggs on top. Poke yolks with a fork and tilt skillet until egg is evenly spread around the pan.
- Add salt and pepper and a sprinkle of goat cheese (if using).
*If you don’t have these prepared in advance. Just preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly coat cubed sweet potato with coconut oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping once half way through baking, until brown and tender.
When it comes to weeknight cooking, I tend to have one of two very different approaches: maximum efficiency or maximum effort. On a maximum efficiency day, I eat out of a giant
mixing salad bowl that is usually layered with greens (arugula, kale, spinach), sweet potatoes or brown rice and some kind of quick and cheap protein (chickpeas, tuna, tempeh, etc). On a maximum effort day, I do things like make my own pizza crust from hand-ground almond flour or whip up 7 layer vegan mousakka. Usually on these days I usually end up snacking so much by the time dinner finally hits the table that I’m too full and tired to enjoy my meal, let alone clean up after myself.
This evening I tried my hand at some kind of middle ground, and the results were fairly tasty.
Masala Chicken, Green Beans and Lentils
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 1.5-2 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tsp salt
- coconut oil
- 1 lb bag of green beans
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 1.5 cups cooked lentils
For the chicken
- Preheat the oven to 425
- Heat coconut oil on a large frying pan on med-high heat.
- Massage chicken breasts with salt and garam masala.
- Add chicken to fry pan and cook about 4-5 minutes or until browned, then flip to the other side and repeat.
- Place browned chicken on a lined baking sheet and place into the hot oven. You can also use an oven-safe pan and place it directly into the oven.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until cooked through but still tender.
- Allow to sit for a few minutes, then slice.
For the green beans and lentils
- Cook lentils according to package instructions (i usually use a bit over a 2:1 ratio)
- Melt coconut oil in a large pan or wok.
- Add green beans and garlic and stir fry for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add tamari and a small amount of water (1/4 cup max). Simmer and allow to reduce by half.
- Add cooked lentils to the mix and stir well to combine.
Serve sliced chicken on top of lentils and green beans. Serves 2-4.
I can’t place exactly when black bean brownies came on the scene. Maybe it was something cooked up by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife – you know, the one notorious for her putting vegetables in all sorts of inappropriate places? Or maybe it was The Happy Herbivore, the first place I ever saw them. Either way, they have become a staple of the “tricked-you-this-is-actually-healthy” dessert genre.
While I enjoy healthy desserts as much as the next healthy living blog addict, but my philosophy on healthy desserts is to keep them to yourself. For two main reasons.
1) You made them for yourself. You took the time to shop at the health food store, dropped a bunch of cash on chia seeds and maca powder then spent all afternoon in the kitchen so that you could enjoy a delicious baked good without feeling like garbage afterwards. Keep half the batch in the freezer if you need to but you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
2) When you push a bite of a “healthified” treat on a friend or a co-worker and then surprise them with its secretly beet-infused contents, you’re not sharing you’re looking for validation. If they don’t enjoy the treat, it will probably make you feel self-conscious and judged. If they do enjoy it, you’ll feel proud and like you beat the system. Either way, who cares what they think? Wasn’t it supposed to be a treat for you in the first place? Obviously you should offer a bite to a pal if they ask, but maybe just let them try it and spare them the ingredient list?
ON THAT NOTE….
Here is a recipe that’s just for you. These are nice, dense chocolatey brownies that – no secrets here – are made without any sugar and are loaded with fibre. I have a feeling you’re exactly the kind of person who will appreciate them.
Black Bean Brownies
- 1.5 cups cooked black beans
- 1 cup soft dates or raisins*
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
*If your dried fruit is too firm, simply place it in a bowl and add some boiling water. Let it sit for 5 minutes then drain.
- Place dried fruit, cocoa, beans and almond milk into your blender and blend on high until smooth.
- Pour wet batter into a large mixing bowl and mix in 1/2 your chocolate chips
- Finally add coconut flour and allow the batter to sit for 3-5 minutes or until it thickens up a bit
- Pour mixture into a greased or lined 8×8 baking pan
- Top with remaining chocolate chips
- Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the centre is firm
- Remove and allow to cool completely before cutting, otherwise the brownies will crumble
- Cut, refrigerate and enjoy