simply saturday granola (vegan, no added sugar, gluten free option)

Ironically, this granola was much easier to test and make than trying to share it with you in this post. Because, technology. It’s a long story, which I’ll spare you, but I’m storing up these tidbits for blog-related tips to help you avoid the same pitfalls.

For now, granola.

When I changed my diet to one extremely low in added sugar, I thought granola was a thing of the past. Typically, granola has a high added sugar content; even vegan versions tend to use more than I’m comfortable with.

Coming up with a raw granola recipe I was pleased with was simple. However, I wasn’t sure if a cooked version using dates as the sweetener would yield that same crunchy texture of traditional granola. But, oh yes… it does!

As the title suggests, this granola is simple and straightforward to fix. While I often make mine on a Saturday, you certainly can prepare this any day of the week. The key to a good crunch is stirring during the baking time, breaking up the clusters, and completely cooling it before storing it in air-tight jars.

 

SHOP THE RECIPE*:

Date paste: I usually buy mine at a local Mediterranean/middle eastern store. If you don’t have one near by, you can make your own using Medjool dates (see Recipe Notes). Or, you can buy it here.

Pure stevia: It’s critical to use 100% pure stevia with no additives or fillers. I get mine at Trader Joe’s, but try the NOW BetterStevia™ Organic Zero Calorie Powdered Sweetener — 1 oz brand here. Even though it appears pricey, a little goes a looong way, and my container lasted me for several years! This link will save you $5 on your order…comment or message me if you want to know which products I stock up on to get the free shipping.

Unsweetened shredded coconut: I get mine in bulk at Whole Foods, but if you’re in a food desert, try this one.

 

Print
Simply Saturday Granola
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 
Course: Breakfast, Snack
Ingredients
  • 3 cups whole rolled oats (gluten free, if needed)
  • 1/2 cup date paste
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 3 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup nuts of choice, chopped
Instructions
  1. Turn on oven to 350 F.  Grease a large jelly roll pan (recommend using coconut or avocado oil). Chop and measure out nuts. Measure out oats and coconut in separate bowls.

  2. Add almond milk, coconut oil, cinnamon, stevia and salt to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add date paste* and stir until the date paste breaks down and the mixture is very smooth. Next, stir in oats and coat thoroughly, then immediately stir in the coconut. Spread out on the prepared jelly roll pan, breaking up any clumps in the mixture and sprinkle on the nuts.

  3. Pop in the oven and set the timer for 12 minutes. When the time is up, remove from oven, stir to break up any clumps and prevent the granola on the out edges of the pan from burning. Return to oven for another 12 minutes, removed and stir again. If needed, return the granola to the oven for 3-5 minutes or until the granola is a light golden brown color. Turn off head and leave granola to finish drying out.

  4. When the granola is completely cooled, pour into airtight glass jars for storage.

Recipe Notes
  • If you don't have pre-made date paste on hand, you can easily make your own. For this recipe, take about 3/4 cups of Medjool dates (buy the ones with the pits, but remove the pits just before using), soak them in warm water for at least 1-2 hours. Drain, reserving the soak water and place in a blender or food processor. Blend until very smooth, adding a little soak water if needed.
  • Having the pan prepared, nuts chopped and oats and coconut measured and ready to go helps keep the baking time to a minimum as it prevents the date mixture from soaking into the oats.
  • Pecans are my favorite nuts of choice for this recipe!

 

 

(*May contain affiliate links)

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5-ingredient key lime pie bites (vegan, sugar free)

One of the most frutrating things about changing your diet is relearning how to cook. The substitutes for the ingredients you used to rely on (sugar, white flour, eggs, dairy, meat etc.), don’t behave in the same way. In the first three months that I spent eating a plant-based diet, I was brought almost to tears several times because the kitchen suddenly felt like a foreign place.

Which makes the victory all the (sugar-free) sweeter when I hit on the right mix of ingredients the first time I make up a recipe. And judging by how quickly these little bites disappeared with our small group from church, I’d say these were a BIG hit.

If you have Lime Vitality Essential oil, I’d use that to give them a limey kick, but freshly squeezed lime juice will work too. They can be served naked or with a coconut coating. 

Last thing before I share the recipe…on Monday, I’m doing a clean eating challenge with a “Big Game” theme. It features a six day meal plan (including this recipe) of foods you might find at a “Big Game” party, but with a healthier twist. Comment if you’d like in on the challenge which I run through a private Facebook group (or you can request to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1359914420746043/)


Key Lime Pie Bites 
1⁄2 cup cashews
1 c date paste
3 drops of lime vitality essential oil or 1-2 tsp of lime juice
3⁄4 c large flake, unsweetened coconut
Shredded coconut (optional)

Put all ingredients except the shredded coconut in a blender or food processor and blend until the mixture is very smooth. Roll into bite-sized balls. If desired, roll in shredded coconut. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to one week.

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6-ingredient chocolate earth truffles (vegan, gluten free, sugar free, raw option)

chocolate earth trufflesAs promised yesterday, here is an Earth Day-inspired recipe that is simple to make and a way to satisfy the sweet tooth without any added sugar (unless you want to add a little).

I came across this recipe at the Whole Foods Market recipe site, but made it over so that it didn’t contain sugar. I always love when I find recipes that are easily sweetened by fruit…recipes that leave you feeling good about what you ate instead of weighed down and sluggish.

You might want to double this recipe if you have children or are bringing this to share because they don’t stay on the plate for very long.

If you’re curious why I recommend buying fair-trade cocoa powder, read this post.

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the Chocolate Earth Truffles recipe

6-ingredient chocolate earth truffles

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Chill Time:  1 hour

Makes: 12-15

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup date paste
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably fair trade
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup cacao nibs (or dairy free chocolate chips)
  • 1/3-1/2 cups unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

Instructions

In a food processor, add peanut butter, date paste and cocoa powder and blend until all the ingredients are well combined.

Spoon mixture into a large bowl and add raisins and cacao nibs or chocolate chips. Stir until thoroughly combined.

Place mix in the fridge for about one hour to firm up.

Scoop out spoonfuls of truffle mix and form 1” balls.

Roll balls in shredded/flaked coconut.

Recipe Notes

Store in an air tight container in the fridge. Will keep for about 2-3 days if properly stored.

You also could roll the truffles in finely ground walnuts, pecans or almonds.

To make these raw, use raw peanut butter

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game day any day 7-layer dip (vegan, gluten free)

dip2

So here’s what the dip looks like all assembled and ready to be devoured:

100_4021We didn’t quite polish it off last night, leaving some for lunch today. Leftovers sometimes get a bum rap, but I think they are shining stars when it comes to saving time and money, unless, of course you didn’t like the premiere of the dish to begin with.

A quick note on the salsa. Homemade would be the top choice, but rarely do I want to take the time to make my own. Instead, I turn to Pace since it’s sugar free and contains relatively straightforward and familiar ingredients. You might be surprised to see how many shelf-stable salsas contain sugar and other questionable ingredients, so read the labels people. The shorter the list and the closer to being reproducible at home, the better.

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game day any day 7-layer dip

7layerdiptitleYou know you’re a mom of boys when…your middle son chooses the colors of his favorite football teams as his inspiration for his “Mastermind” pattern. And when they have holes in their knees from playing tackle football, tackle anything, inside and outside. And when you, a fair-weather football begin to consider Super Bowl Sunday almost on par with Valentine’s Day or the Fourth of July.

100_3937But onto the dip…

I’m breaking a perhaps unwritten food blogging rule and posting a recipe without showing the finished product. Three reasons. One: I keep forgetting to take purty pictures of the dip all assembled. Two: I’m making it tomorrow but am giving you time to grab these ingredients in case you want to assemble it before the big game on Sunday because it’s just that good. Three: Truthfully, the assembled dip isn’t all that photogenic.

Instead, for today, let’s let the ingredients do the talking…

7layerdipnumbered

  1. fat free refried beans
  2. red pepper hummus
  3. avocado
  4. salsa
  5. lettuce
  6. cilantro
  7. cucumber

Oh, and don’t forget the chips. 🙂 To amp up the nutrition, make some baked sweet potato rounds.

100_4013Feel free to make more for a large crowd as this will store well, covered, in the fridge for a few days. Score!

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the Game Day Any Day 7-layer Dip recipe

game day any day 7-layer dip

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-14.5 oz can fat free refried beans
  • 1-2 cups red pepper or plain hummus
  • 1-2 avocados, diced
  • 2-3 cups salsa
  • 3-4 cups diced romaine lettuce
  • ½ – 1 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • optional: green onions, diced jalapeños, olives

Instructions

  1. Spread refried beans evenly on bottom of baking dish.
  2. Next spread the hummus evenly and evenly distributed the diced avocados over that.
  3. Pour on the salsa.
  4. If using jalapeños or olives add those next, then cover evenly with the lettuce.
  5. Finish by evenly distributing the cilantro and the cucumber.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe Notes

This dip will store well in the fridge for a couple of days. Make sure to cover!

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throw back thursday go to snack // ants on a log

ants on a log
ants on a log = celery + peanut butter + raisins

Grow up in North America and peanut butter is almost synonymous with childhood. Except, perhaps, if you are severely allergic to it.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that one of the snack I fondly remember my mum making for us as children is the classically simple, “Ants on a Log.” The genius of combining these three ingredients harkens back to the 1950s (I couldn’t help looking up its history) and I am forever grateful.

Picture 003
my two youngest at the beach in 2013 (because it’s fun to look back at the little years)

As I shared here, my husband looked forward to coaching little league from the time our children were babies. Me? I looked forward to the day they were p.b. + celery ready so I could make them this snack.

And whether it’s because of its name or portability, it’s also one of my favorite foods to pack for a picnic.

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My two oldest when they were little circa summer 2006. Though they weren’t eating ants on a log here, we were enjoying a picnic in Stratford, ON

I recommend using organic celery since conventional celery is on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list and spreading it with all natural, no sugar added peanut butter (the raisins add a natural sweetness).

So tell me, what is your favorite snack from childhood? Do you still eat it today? What are your favorite plant-based foods to pack on a picnic?

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throw back Thursday (on a Friday): popcorn

popcornLife is complicated.

Sometimes I think things that are meant to simplify it – ahem, technology – complicate it more. Way back when, before blogs and Facebook and Pinterest grew in popularity, finding a new recipe meant thumbing through a cookbook or recipe cards. Today, it’s possible to spend hours “googling” recipes and oogling mouth watering concoctions created by blessedly talented people. I spent 30 minutes last night just looking at meal planning ideas.

As much as I enjoy learning about new flavors and recipe creations and the best way to plan out meals ahead of time, sometimes I crave the simple things.

Like popcorn. With dairy free butter.

100_0719Nothing fancy, just quick, plain, simple.

Popcorn and I go way back…right from a little girl who was supposed to be in bed but at the smell of popcorn would pop out of bed and make an appearance downstairs. Popcorn is movies and late nights and special outings. It’s healthier that potato chips, fun to make and I still enjoy it when it’s a day old. (I think popcorn’s only downside is the mess.)

Popcorn is one of my “go to” snacks.

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Back in January, I posted about one of my other “go to” snacks. Go to snacks are essential to sticking with a particular way of eating, especially when you first make some changes. And though it is possible for a go to snack to be more complicated than a handful of raisins or a bowl of popcorn, I think the best go to snacks require little effort but are satisfying enough to tide you over to the next main meal.

So what is your favorite go to snack? Do you have a favorite popcorn story?

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lemon curd (vegan, reduced sugar)

lemon curdtextScones are one of the desserts my mum makes if company is coming for lunch or in the afternoon and usually she serves them with jam. But on occasion she would treat us to lemon curd to accompany the scones. Perhaps it is because we had it so rarely that I enjoy it so thoroughly.

Given the use of eggs and lots of sugar, lemon curd was something I didn’t think I would be eating again after switching to a plant-based diet several years ago and drastically cutting back on my sugar intake (including unrefined sugars) last year.
100_2352Lemon curd is something I associate with my mum and with England and with special occasions…which makes this a good follow up to Mother’s Day and this post.

But when my mom made a lemon meringue pie using a plant-based lemon filling, it got me thinking that perhaps it was possible to recreate a plant-based lemon curd. After doing some research and experimenting, I finally arrived at this recipe.

I was able to reduce the sugar by using white grape juice and adding less than 1/4 cup of liquid sweetener. I usually use coconut nectar since it carries a low glycemic rating, which means the body absorbs it more slowly than other forms of sugar. You can find it for a good price here at Vitacost (I recommend stocking up to save on shipping). The organic cornstarch (find it here at Abe’s Market) and coconut cream help thicken it.

lemon curdprocess
left: curd before adding coconut cream & non-dairy butter right: after adding coconut cream & non-dairy butter

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the lemon curd recipe

lemon curd (vegan, reduced sugar)

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Cook Time: 5-7 minutes

Makes: about 2.5 cups

Ingredients

  • ¾ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest from one organic lemon* (optional)
  • ½ c. white grape juice
  • 3 T coconut nectar** or agave
  • 2 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 5 T organic cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 T vegan butter
  • Cream from 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • Scant 1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)

Instructions

In a sauce pan, combine juices, zest if using, sweeteners, cornstarch and salt. Whisk constantly over high heat until mixtures begins to thicken. Don’t worry if it takes on a lumpy texture, step 2 will smooth it out!

Immediately turn off heat and whisk in butter and coconut cream until smooth.

Add turmeric for a brighter lemony color.

Cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

I love this recipe because even if your mixture goes lumpy in step one, adding the coconut cream and butter and giving it a good hard whisk seems to correct it back to smooth and silky.

*It’s best to use organic lemons if you want to add the zest because of the high pesticide content in the rind, however if you’re just using the juice and organic lemons are out of your budget, regular lemons will do.

**I like using coconut nectar because of its low glycemic rating. I buy mine through Vitacost – clicking this link gives me credit to their Refer-a-Friend program.

Make sure the stevia you use is 100% pure as many stevia products have additives including added sweeteners. I get mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own tiny scoop.

Organic cornstarch, while on the pricey side is best because of GMOs in nonorganic corn. You can get it through Abe’s Market, but natural foods stores also may carry it.

I use Thai Kitchen’s full fat coconut milk because the coconut cream is often already separated from the liquid. However, if the cream hasn’t consolidated on its own (you can tell by giving the can a gentle shake, refrigerate it overnight upside down.

I found adding a little turmeric enhances the visual appeal of the curd since the white grape juice and coconut nectar or agave produce a beige-colored curd.

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calico brownies (gluten free, low sugar, vegan) + fair trade

100_2143Disclaimer: This is a post that starts out seriously but ends in chocolate.

My husband and I are reading the book, “The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.” It’s written by an American journalist living in Haiti when the earthquake struck five years ago. However, it’s also a book which details Haiti’s volatile history, sometimes of their own making, but also from in the influence of foreign powers rocking their boat. With the earthquake that just happened in Nepal and more natural disasters of increasing intensity on their way, it’s a timely book to be reading.

But what does Haiti have to do with brownies?

calicobrowniesNot much. At least in the sense that Haiti isn’t a large producer of the world’s chocolate  or coconut oil (it does export some). However, many of the trade practices which adversely affect Haiti on other fronts (which Katz relates in the book), also are in place with countries that do produce the most of the chocolate and coconut oil we consume.

For those of us living in affluent nations, the sad truth is that certain imported foods we enjoy at low cost to us comes at a high cost to others. (If you are interested in learning more about the importance of fair trade, I’ve included some links at the end of this post following the recipe.)

But I believe this can change because every time I make a purchase decision, I am casting my vote not only for the product but also for the business practice that brought it to the shelf.

So when a recipe calls for an ingredient that largely is produced and exported from a developing nation, I cast my vote in favor of fair trade as much as possible.

(Here’s where the brownies come in!)

Unlike most brownies which carry a high sugar content, these Calico Brownies, which are adapted from the “Peanut Butter Brownie” recipe found in “Vegan Planet”* on page 508, derive most of their sweetness from dates. They also feature fair trade cocoa power and fair trade coconut oil…which I think makes them taste all the sweeter.

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the calico brownies recipe

 calico brownies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

 Serves: 16 brownies

Ingredients

  • 2 flax eggs (2 T ground flax + 6 T water)
  • ½ cup fair trade coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 cup agave or other liquid sweetener
  • 1 cup date paste
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ¾ cup fair trade unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 3 scoops 100% pure stevia
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼-1/3 c. no sugar natural peanut butter

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In small bowl, combine the flax seed and water to make the flax eggs. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt oil, add in vanilla and agave, then turn off heat.

Break date paste into smaller pieces and stir into liquid mixture – using a potato masher works well to further break up the date paste.

Add in flax eggs and stir.

Add in dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine (the mixture will appear dense and crumble in large pieces.

Pour mixture into greased 8×8 glass baking dish and press down firmly with hands.

Pour peanut butter over batter and use a knife to work it in, then press down batter again (keeping your hands moistened with water helps prevent the batter from sticking to them.

Bake 20 minutes.

Let it cool completely before cutting.

Recipe Notes

Typically, I’ve purchased Equal Exchange’s Unsweetened Baking Cocoa at my local health food store, but recently found Frontier’s Unsweetened Baking Cocoa for less at Abe’s Market. (you can get free shipping on orders over $49.) I usually buy Br. Bronner’s brand of fair trade coconut oil.

Make sure the stevia you use is 100%, otherwise results will vary. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s and it comes with its own scoop.

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 *I am an Amazon associate. If you purchase the cookbook through this link, it will provide a small credit to my account.

 

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naturally salty sweet peanut butter banana jumblelaya (vegan, nut-free/raw option)

100_1879Sometimes, I think the best recipes are those that are cobbled together…a little of this, a little of that, nothing measured. Just a few favorite ingredients in a bowl, in a cup, on a plate. Snacking especially lends itself to improv eating.

Although my go to snack often is enough to satisfy, sometimes, I’m looking for something a little bit more…

100_1883This snack is by no means intended to approximate the traditional Cajun jambalaya in the rice-veggies-meat sense, but it does mimic the dish’s mish mash approach to pulling ingredients together.

Peanut butter + banana have long been a favorite of mine. (In my white-bread eating days, it was especially satisfying eat the pb+b on a toasted plain bagel.)

Add in naturally sweet dried coconut and raisins and the hint of cinnamon and you have an unconventional, yet satisfying snack. I usually toss all these ingredients in a bowl, but for the pictures, I used a small canning jar, because it just looks prettier.

If you have a nut allergy, substitute in sunflower seed butter. And if you prefer eating raw, use a raw nut butter. I recommend using a salted nut/seed butter as it complements the delicate sweetness of the fruit.

CLICK HERE TO PRINT A PDF of the salty sweet peanut butter banana jumblelaya

 Salty Sweet Peanut Butter Banana Jumblelaya

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1 banana per person
Raisins
Unsweetened, shredded dried coconut
Cinnamon
Salted peanut butter or nut or seed butter of choice

1. Slice bananas into a bowl, jar or mug
2. Sprinkle on cinnamon
3. Add remaining ingredients in desired quantity
4. Enjoy!

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