It’s hard to keep your wits about you this time of year. The sun sets at what feels like 3pm. The wind chills. Sickness pervades. The stretch between now and December holidays feels longer than the rest of the year combined.
Leaning into cozy comforts like reading, candelit yoga, ginger tea and cedar incense helps me to get through these long dark stretches. I heard recently the Danish call this kind of holed-up coziness “hygge” but I just think of it as “every night of my adult life.”
Anyhow here’s a recipe I’ve been making and enjoying a lot lately. Simple, tasty and perfect for November mornings.
Pumpkin Spice Granola
inspired by the Minimalist Baker
My costume this year, courtesy of Queen Bey.
Halloween has never been my favourite October Holiday. I’m definitely more of a root-vegetables-and-pie kinda gal. But lbh any occasion that allows me to binge-watch movies while eating chocolate and playing dress-up is okay in my books. That said, as I get older I have found that some aspects of Halloween begin to change particularly the things I want to eat/do/wear/go home with. So here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years to ensure I have a great time on Halloween and don’t hate my life come November 1st.
DO’s and DONT’S of Adult Halloween
- DO watch a horror movie (or 10). One of the best parts about grown-up Halloween is that you can finally watch all the horror movies you were too scared to watch as a child. Some of my all-time favourite gory/smart/creepy/weird/feminist/moody/campy horror movies include:
- Rosemary’s Baby
- Sleepaway Camp
- Ginger Snaps
- The Craft
- Death Becomes Her
- Hocus Pocus
- DO hang out with kids at some point. This will keep you from feeling gross and empty, like the whole holiday is just a bleak excuse for adults to engage in adolescent debauchery. A tiny munchkin in an astronaut costume will cure all of that existential questioning right up for you.
- DO NOT “dress to impress”. Sexy and/or elaborate costumes are fun but they hinge on the validation of others which is a variable you can’t control. I suggest wearing a costume that’s fun, comfortable, utilizes items in your own wardrobe and doesn’t cost more than $50 to make happen. Then spend the whole night telling everyone else how great they look in their awkward pleather skirt, madonna bra and full face of MAC skull makeup.
- DO NOT go to a party that isn’t walking distance from your house. If you’re anything like me you can’t enjoy a party unless you have an easy escape plan and since cabs are impossible to find after midnight on Halloween and uber fees go through the roof…best to just stay in your hood.
- DO enjoy a few of your favourite sweet treats…Which is where I come in!
HOMEMADE MINI-SNICKERS BARS
- 12-15 medjool dates, the softer the better.
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup salted peanuts
- 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Boil a few inches of a water in a medium sized saucepan. Place chocolate chips in a metal mixing bowl and set on top of sauce pan. This DIY double-boiler will melt your chocolate but keep it from burning.
- Pit dates making sure to keep the date in one piece.
- Press 2 salted peanuts into each date then fill date with peanut butter and smoosh shut. It won’t be pretty but that’s a-okay! Continue until all dates have been filled.
- Dip dates into melted chocolate using a fork or slotted spoon. Place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. To speed the cooling process place baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Store in the fridge/freezer, but enjoy these treats at room temperature so that they are nice and soft when you bite into them! Enjoy.
Last night I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner as an adult. It broke tradition in many ways. I shared the meal with my friends, not my family. No turkey was present. We ate on the floor (who has space for a dining room table?) But there as candlelight, cuddling and conversation that wasn’t about work or kids or real estate. It was the Thanksgiving I’ve been wanting to have for years.
Your friends are the people who are there for you every day. Who take care of you when you falter, which in my case is more often than I’d like. Who get your jokes and make you laugh so hard you spill your wine. Nothing against my incredibly loving and supportive family, but on this occasion it felt so good to sit with the people I share my life with, get drunk and eat pumpkin pie.
Here’s what was on my menu:
- Bourbon glazed pecan, apple and spiced chickpea salad
- Roasted carrots and brussel sprouts
- Wild rice and mushroom stuffing
- Maple Salmon
I’m the girl who brings salad to a party. I accepted this fate long ago.
The trick is to bring a salad that’s so delicious no one really cares. The other trick is to BE COOL ABOUT IT. Don’t make a big deal about your new veg-positive lifestyle. Don’t pester people who prefer more typical BBQ fare. Trust me. By being LOW KEY about your healthy contribution, you can ensure that a) your salad gets eaten and b) no one leaves said party talking how new-agey you’ve become or how you “used to be fun.”
Here’s a recipe that might help you out in these efforts…
SUMMER DINNER PARTY KALE SALAD
Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side
- 2 large bunches of kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 tbsp Coconut oil
- 1.5 tsp cumin
- 1.5 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 block sheep feta
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup balsamic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp tamari
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Coat chickpeas in coconut oil, cumin paprika and sea salt.
- Bake on a lined baking sheet for 40 minutes. Remove from heat for 10 minutes and allow to cool. Cook for an additional 10 minutes (this is a trick I learned here and it really helps to crisp them up).
- Whisk together balsamic, olive oil, maple syrup and tamari.
- Add dressing to kale and masssage gently with your hands until wilted.
- Top kale with roasted chickpeas, feta, pumpkin seeds and blueberries and serve.
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.