Creamy Vanilla Cinnamon Breakfast Smoothie with Cashew Butter

cashew cinnamon vanilla smoothie

I finally found an answer to the age old question (and frankly, it’s not an answer I ever thought I’d hear myself say, but here it is): yes, it is possible to have too much chocolate.

Last week I realized I think I’d finally reached a maximum saturation of chocolate, after I noticed that one day I’d put it in everything: pancakes, trail mix, smoothies, hot chocolate, dark chocolate in the afternoon, and so on. I mean, raw cacao is indeed a superfood, but once you’ve crammed into nearly every food you consume, there comes a point when your body says, please! Another flavour, por favor.

And so I’m listening. I think I’m getting pretty good at understanding when my body is telling me it needs something new, and I try to listen to those subtle nudges. As a result, I’ve packed away my standard chocolate protein powder/raw cacao breakfast smoothie and replaced it with something that’s…well, I suppose basically the same in concept, but an entirely different flavour.

cashew cinnamon vanilla smoothie

Effectively this smoothie is kind of the like the green monster smoothie that people used to post all over the internet: non-dairy milk, nut butter, banana, greens (these will make your smoothie this glorious light green colour – though for the sake of photographic clarity, I left out the greens in this version), and some vanilla protein powder. I think french vanilla flavour would be best. I tried it with a ‘chai spice’ protein powder and it tasted exactly like eggnog, which was not what I was going for. You could also use plain protein powder, but consider adding a drop of two of vanilla stevia/or vanilla extract and plain stevia.

I also think you could totally use another nut butter in here if you’d prefer (I know cashew butter is quite expensive). Almond butter would be good (I once had a cinnamon almond butter that was heavenly), or maybe even sunflower butter! That said, cashew butter has such a lovely toasty nutty flavour – it just goes so nicely with cinnamon. Maybe treat yourself this once.

cashew cinnamon vanilla smoothie

So yes. It’s been a while since I posted last. It’s still a busy time – my part-time school program at CSNN is in its final, busiest months; work is really busy, and there is lots on the go. But, spring is here (heck, it’s practically summer) and I spent time planting today in the garden (tomatoes, beans, squash, oh my!), so I’m feeling a renewed sense of joie de vivre and possibility. I can get it all done, I feel purposeful (and not overwhelmed), and I have lots to look forward to.

And I’m having my cashew smoothie for breakfast tomorrow too. So many joys.

Enjoy the beauty of May!

Creamy Vanilla Cinnamon Breakfast Smoothie with Cashew Butter

  • Author: Eat Well, Live Vibrantly
  • Recipe notes: plant-based, gluten-free, protein-rich, healthy fats


  • one cup non-dairy milk (add some coconut milk if want luxury!)
  • one frozen banana
  • one scoop of your favourite plant-based vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter
  • a few ice cubes
  • optional extras:
    • one handful of spinach
    • 2 teaspoons maca powder
    • 1 tablespoon grass-fed collagen powder (note: this is quite obviously not plant-based)


  1. Throw it all in a blender/nutribullet/swirly-with-blades type device and blend until creamy!

© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly

Crunchy Apple Cider Quinoa Granola – v, gf

apple cider quinoa granola

‘Tis the season – granola time again. Granola is an easy, crunchy, tasty, and delicious addition to your snack and breakfast repetoire. One batch requires minimal work, makes a good amount, and is pretty much foolproof (provided you don’t burn it in the oven).

And the customization options are endless! This particular granola is a sweet blend of apple cider, coconut oil, and maple syrup mixed with nuts, seeds, oats, and quinoa. Then, dried fruit including dried apple rings are stirred in at the end. And that’s pretty much it!

apple cider quinoa granolaapple cider quinoa granola

I’ve taken to eating this at work as a snack. I bring my almond milk in a separate container, and then add to my granola mix (with some chia seeds thrown in for good nutritional measure) and look out, I’m eating cereal at my desk.

The quinoa is a particularly nice addition, in part because quinoa is a wonderful source of protein and minerals (it is a superfood, after all) but also because it just looks really pretty. It gives the granola this extra texture and eye appeal, and eating beautiful foods is important too when we think about nourishment from a holistic perspective.

apple cider quinoa granola

This granola also makes a lovely gift. Store it in mason jars, tie with a bow using some twine or natural string, and you have a beautiful gift for a dinner party, for your friends who are constantly asking you why you don’t bring them granola gifts, or for anyone who enjoys a good mix of sweetened toasted grains and nuts with dried fruit (i.e. pretty much everyone, provided they don’t have an allergy to any of the ingredients).

Enjoy the Festive Season!

Apple Cider Quinoa Granola

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, naturally-sweetened


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (i.e. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds).
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried fruit (apple rings, raisins, dried cranberries, dates, etc).


  1. Soak quinoa overnight or for at least one hour in the apple cider. It will absorb most or all of the cider.
  2. Preheat oven to 325F.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together oats, nuts/seeds, sea salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In a saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat and stir in maple syrup.
  5. Pour melted oil/syrup mix over rolled oats and stir well, until everything is coated.
  6. Add quinoa/cider mix and again, stir until everything is well mixed.
  7. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until granola is dry, lightly browned, and getting crunchy/toasty. Try to stir every 15 minutes or so to keep the moisture circulating and to help release steam.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool.
  9. Add dried fruits and mix around, and then store in your choice of containers: tupperware, mason jars, your stomach, and so on.

(C) Backyard Owl

Perfectly Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies (v, gf)

ginger molasses cookies - vegan & gluten freeThe countdown to Christmas continues! This week: the spicy, sweet, chewy perfection of the ginger molasses cookie. A saucy little cookie, the ginger molasses really thrives this time of year, when people are open to the spicy beauty of ginger and the sweet bite of molasses.

These cookies are kind of a combination of healthy upgrades and vegan baking classics – they might not be the healthiest thing at the office Christmas party, but I can guarantee you they certainly won’t be the worst. Actually, truthfully, at most office Christmas parties they will be the healthiest option.

What I’m saying is, you don’t want to make so many healthy upgrades that the cookies no longer resemble cookies, and people look at them and say, “what are these made with again? sprouted alfalfa?” while they hungrily eye the lemon squares at the next table. We still want to entice. Just with fewer questionable ingredients.

ginger molasses cookies - vegan & gluten free

To that end: these beauties are gluten-free (made with brown rice flour and oat flour) and vegan, and use healthier sweeteners (coconut palm sugar) and fats (coconut oil) to replace the brown sugar and butter.

Make these cookies for the aforementioned office Christmas party, or for a family get together, or as a gift for your neighbours. Or, get crafty, and measure the dry ingredients into a jar with a gift tag that includes the wet ingredients and the instructions for baking – the perfect gift!

ginger molasses cookies - vegan & gluten free

If you are feeling particularly indulgent, and, like me, enjoy a touch of dark chocolate in just about everything, feel free to throw in a 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips. Or, if you really love ginger, throw in a 1/2 cup diced crystallized ginger.

Have a Holly Jolly first week of December!

ginger molasses cookies - vegan and gluten free

Perfectly Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies (v, gf)

  • Author: Backyard Owl (original non-vegan version: Jennifer McGlinn, Gingerbread)
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free


  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup room temperature coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1/3 cup fancy molasses
  • 2 teaspoons powdered “egg replacer” (like Ener-G) whisked together with 3 tablespoons non-dairy milk
  • for rolling: 3 tablespoons organic cane sugar mixed with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. In a medium size bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together coconut oil and coconut palm sugar – 1 to 2 minutes should do it.
  3. Beat egg replacer/non-dairy milk mix and molasses into coconut oil and sugar.
  4. Add dry ingredients to sugar/oil mix, and stir together until well-mixed.
  5. Dough may be quite soft – if so, chill for about 1 hour until firm.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F.
  7. Roll dough into 1-inch size balls, roll in cinnamon sugar mix, and bake for 10 to 12 mins, or until lightly golden on the bottom and firm on top. If the cookie dough was very cold after being in the fridge, you might need to bake for closer to 15 minutes.
  8. Makes about 18 to 24 cookies and freezes beautifully.

© Backyard Owl


Festive Apple Cider Scones (v, gf)

apple cider scones.7

I think it’s fair to start a countdown to Christmas now, no? I mean, we are almost exactly a month away. And these scones definitely communicate a festive, cinnamon-y, “I love winter” kind of feeling, which is what one certainly wants to cultivate in the weeks before Christmas. And in the weeks after Christmas, come to that.

These scones are gluten-free, vegan, made with coconut oil, and stocked with apple cider-infused cooked apples, as well as just some more plain ol’ apple cider. I amped up the cinnamon factor as well, upon the recommendation of my sister.

apple cider scones - vegan and gluten free

Admittedly I went back and forth for awhile on the topping – glaze, no glaze, glaze, no glaze. I really try to use natural sweeteners, and while there is nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence of icing sugar, I wanted something just slightly less processed. In the end, I decided a simple cinnamon sugar topping was best, using organic cane sugar.

These apple cider scones would make a delightful addition to any festive brunch, as well as any lazy weekend breakfast. Make them in addition to some banana espresso scones, and you have a variety of please every palate. Round it out with some tofu scramble, coconut yogurt, fresh fruit, and perhaps a green juice or two, and you have a festive morning meal that can’t be beat.

apple cider scones - vegan, gluten free

Festive Apple Cider Scones (v, gf)

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free
  • Yield: 8-10 scones


  • 2 cups brown rice flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink salt (if you don’t have pink salt, use another coarse salt)
  • 1/3 cup cold coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 apple, diced (if organic, wash well but keep the peel on)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider + another 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon + another 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 tsp additional spices of choice: nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and/or ginger

For the topping:

  • 2 teaspoons organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon


  1. Measure out coconut oil and chill in fridge until firm. Here’s a tip: measure into the 1/3 cup and then scoop out onto a plate and chill that way. Once chilled, the coconut oil can be more difficult to extract from the measuring cup.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir together 1/2 cup of the apple cider, 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and diced apple. Cook over medium heat until apples are very soft and almost all of the cider has been absorbed. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together another 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons organic cane sugar (for the scone topping).
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  5. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut together cold coconut oil and flour mix until it resembles coarse sand (the goal here is to create bits of coconut oil covered with flour – to create the flaky scone texture). Put in fridge until ready for use.
  6. Mix together almond milk, maple syrup, apple cider, and cooled cooked apple mixture.
  7. Pour apple/almond milk mix into cold flour/coconut oil mix and stir gently. When halfway mixed, turn out onto a well-floured counter top and continue gently combining (you don’t want to squish the coconut oil bits you’ve so carefully prepared) until you’ve formed a soft dough.
  8. Form into a square of dough about 1 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, slice into 9 squares (or so) and place on baking sheet.
  9. Freeze for 10 minutes before baking (or until oven has preheated – see next step).
  10. Preheat oven to 425F.
  11. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until firm on the outside and lightly golden.

Enjoy! These are best served on the day they’ve been made, but they also keep in the fridge for another two to three days.

© Backyard Owl

Vegan Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Pecan Oat Streusel

apple pecan muffinsA quick glance outside tells me that most, if not all, of the beautiful yellow, orange, and red leaves that used to be on the trees are now on the ground. This is the next phase of Autumn – when the air becomes a bit sharper with that note of winter, you have to dig into the closet for your hats and scarves, the idea of spending the afternoon reading in your jammies with a cup of tea seems more appealing than basically anything else in the world (except for going for long walks outside), and you can’t wait to bake something with cinnamon, apples, pecans, and oats.

These muffins contain apples in two forms: diced up in the batter, and also as applesauce. They have a ribbon of cinnamon, oats, and pecans in the middle and a similar streusel on top, and they are wheat-free, vegan, and made with coconut oil and coconut palm sugar.

apple cinnamon muffins with pecan oat streuselI recommend using a nice tart apple like a Granny Smith or Gala, to add a pop of juicy flavour that will stand against the cinnamon and pecans. I also recommend going wild and trying this as a quick bread or mini loaves. And if you are feeling particularly indulgent, try making an cinnamon butter with cinnamon and Earth Balance.

So what’s my plan for this Autumn day? Heading on a long nature walk, in which I plan to kick some leaves in the air and laugh while the dog chases them, and then return to make a mug of dandelion tea (my favourite) and enjoy a muffin. Throw in a comfy pair of tights, a good novel, and a pot of soup simmering on the stove, and I think I’ll have found my Autumn bliss.

Happy November!

apple cinnamon muffins with pecan oat streusel

Vegan Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Pecan Oat Streusel

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: wheat-free, vegan, refined sugar-free


  • 1 3/4 cups light spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup organic applesauce
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
  • 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or other organic sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon fancy molasses (optional)
  • 1 cup diced apple (about 1 medium size apple)
    • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
    • 2 tablespoons rolled oats
    • 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
    • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Lightly grease or line your muffin baking tin of choice.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together spelt flour, chickpea flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  • In a separate small bowl, mix together applesauce, rolled oats, and almond milk. Let stand for 5 minutes, then add coconut palm sugar, melted coconut oil, and optional molasses. Whisk until completely combined.
  • Stir together wet and dry ingredients. When almost fully combined, stir in diced apple. Do not over mix.
  • Once batter is prepared, make streusel: stir together rolled oats, coconut palm sugar, and cinnamon, then add melted coconut oil and mix well. Finally, stir in chopped pecans.
  • Fill each muffin tin about halfway and add a sprinkle of streusel filling. Top with another tablespoon or two of batter, and sprinkle additional streusel on top.
  • Bake for approximately 22 minutes, or until the muffin springs back when gently pressed with your finger.
  • Let cool, and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer (these freeze very nicely).

Looking for some other November baking suggestions? Try banana espresso sconessweet potato pie, or kale and barley salad.

© 2014 Backyard Owl

Autumn Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Crust (v, gf)

sweet potato pie with pecan crust.Well, it’s almost Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. The weather is crisp, the leaves are changing, and I’m getting ready with a vegan and gluten-free Sweet Potato Pie. For all of us Autumn-ites, Thanksgiving is one of (if not THE) most beloved holidays.

Of course, every holiday typically gathers family and friends to eat delicious, seasonal, special food, but Thanksgiving is extra special because it takes place in the Fall, which makes the whole thing that much better.

I also personally love Thanksgiving because I like the idea of taking time to celebrate and give thanks for all that we have – it’s a nice idea, isn’t? Taking time to reflect on all the goodness we have in our lives or spending a moment being thankful for whatever is good. No gifts required – just a simple celebration of the season.

sweet potato pie with pecan crust

And what is more seasonal than a pie made of sweet potatoes? This little gem is very easy to make and is vegan, gluten-free, and naturally-sweetened. The crust is chickpea flour and pecans; the filling is organic canned sweet potato, coconut milk, spices, maple syrup, and some natural thickeners.

Not bad, right?

The recipe is from one of my absolute favourite cookbooks, Clean Food by Terry Walters. If you are interested in clean eating, this cookbook must be part of your arsenal.

sweet potato pie with pecan crust

So, even if it isn’t Thanksgiving where you are reading this, or you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, or you plan to celebrate your Thanksgiving another weekend, consider whipping up this pie regardless. The autumn spices are rich and flavourful and the pecans add delicious nuttiness, and together, the whole thing is just a wonderful celebration of the absolute best season.

Enjoy! Oh, and if you’re looking for some whip topping, try with whipped coconut cream.

Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Crust

  • Author: Clean Food by Terry Walters, with tweaks by Backyard Owl – my tweaked version is printed below
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, naturally-sweetened, soy-free



  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • pinch of sea salt or pink salt


  • 1 (398 mL) can pureed organic sweet potato (look for a BPA-free liner)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup + 2 tablespoons (reserved)
  • 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or pink salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon agar powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Whirl pecans in a food processor until finely ground.
  3. Scoop pecans into a bowl, and add chickpea flour, stirring until combined.
  4. Add maple syrup, coconut oil, and sea salt and mix until dough is moist.
  5. Press dough into a pie pan (I did not grease the pan, as the dough seemed to have enough natural oil), and don’t forget to press up the edges of the pan as well.
  6. Bake crust for 12 minutes and let slightly cool while preparing filling.
  7. In a large bowl, mix together canned sweet potato puree, coconut milk, vanilla, salt, spices, cornstarch, and agar. Mix well.
  8. Scoop filling into prepared crust, smooth, and return to oven. Bake for 50 minutes to 60 minutes (or perhaps longer, depending on your oven) until the top of the filling looks firm and slightly browned. Note that this filling will firm up as the pie cools.
  9. Serve warm, or store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  10. Before serving, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup (the pie itself isn’t overly sweet, so this gives it a little flavour boost).

© 2014 Backyard Owl