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

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Instructions:

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

© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly


Chocolate Chip Shortbread with Dark Chocolate and Coconut Oil – V, GF

chocolate-chip-shortbread with coconut oil

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day! This is a day to celebrate love, in all its forms. Love for your family, your friends, your pets, your lover, your garden, your home, and above all, yourself. Today is a good day to give yourself a little extra care. Maybe an epsom salt bath, maybe a special nourishing dinner, maybe an extra square of dark chocolate.

And you all know how I love my luxurious dark chocolate. The flavour of these cookies comes primarily from the chocolate, so please feel free to excite your palate with the 72%, 75%, 80% dark chocolate you’ve been eyeing for some time now but haven’t purchased for yourself. Now is the time.

chocolate-chip-shortbread with coconut oil

Because this shortbread uses coconut oil as the main fat, the cookies are more crunchy than crumbly. If you used Earth Balance or similar vegan butter, or a grass-fed dairy butter, I imagine you would get a feel more similar to classic shortbread. That being said, coconut oil is a wonderful, energizing, healthy fat, so I can sacrifice a little texture to get some more of that healthy fat in.

If you want a few other colours, feel free to add pistachios, dried cranberries, or maybe even some orange zest. Wow. That combo would be amazing (mental note for a future recipe).

chocolate-chip-shortbread-with coconut oil

If you’re looking for a nice meditation for the day, I used this solar plexus chakra meditation from Cauldrons and Cupcakes. The solar plexus chakra is your third chakra, and it’s where your will, self-esteem, and self-identity reside. It’s a great focus point for when you’re asking questions about what you need/want. And, this meditation particular is awesome for taking 10 minutes to ask yourself: what is best for me right now?

So happy love day! Feel all that positive energy floating around and let it boost you up.

Chocolate Chip Shortbread with Dark Chocolate and Coconut Oil – v, gf

  • Author: Recipe from Unconventional Baker, with full credit given to the recipe found here here. Tweaks (and the addition of chocolate) by Emily Joldersma, R.H.N.
  • Recipe Notes: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, softened (use refined coconut oil if you prefer cookies without a coconut taste)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (room temperature)
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten-free flour blend (I used 1 3/4 cups white rice flour and 1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate PLUS 1/2 cup dark chocolate (for melting and dipping).

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Beat softened coconut oil until smooth.
  3. Add maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
  4. Stir in the gluten-free flour, ground cinnamon, and chopped dark chocolate, and mix until fully combined (the dough should moist, so that when you press it together it holds in a ball shape).
  5. Pour dough out onto counter (sprinkled with gluten-free flour to prevent the dough from sticking) and place some wax paper over the dough.
  6. Roll out the dough until it is your preferred thickness. and cut out shapes with heart cookie cutter (or whatever cutter you have on hand and want to use).
  7. Place cookies on baking sheet and chill briefly in fridge or freezer, for about 5 minutes.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom of cookie.
  9. While cookies are cooling, prepare chocolate for dipping. In a double boiler, melt chocolate until liquid and smooth. Individually dip cookies and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or silicon.
  10. Chill in the fridge until firm. The cookies can be kept in the fridge or at room temperature, though note that the chocolate will be most crisp (because it wasn’t tempered when melting) if stored in the fridge.
  11. Enjoy and share the love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly


Classic Raisin Molasses Bran Muffins – v, gf

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

I love bran muffins. It’s something that I easily forget when I’m busy stuffing chocolate chips into every recipe I make, but a trip to Virginia last weekend (Virginia has nothing to do with bran muffins, per se, except that I was there when I remembered how delicious bran muffins are) reminded me that the moist, plump raisin, molasses-y taste of a well-made bran muffin can’t be beat.

And I should emphasize the well-made part.

I used to work at a bakery that made an awesome raisin bran muffin, and while I can’t quite remember the recipe, I do remember the ingredients and what the batter looked like, so when trying to find a recipe template, I had some land marks to follow.

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

There are a few stages to making a bran muffin batter, but don’t be worried. You just need to have a few different bowls going, and then eventually you condense them, bowl by bowl, until you have a lovely muffin batter. Note that this batter keeps really well in the fridge, so if you wanted to double it and bake half later in the week, go for it. In fact, part of me almost thinks the batter is even nicer AFTER sitting in the fridge a bit, but I have no scientific evidence to back that up.

These muffins bake up really nicely with a beautiful round dome top (important for me in a muffin – what’s with those gluten-free muffins that sometimes look like they’ve been frightened and are jumping in different directions out of the muffin tin?). They are extra delicious with some coconut oil or vegan butter.

Bran muffin luxury!

classic molasses raisin bran-muffin vegan gluten free

Moist Raisin Molasses Oat Bran Muffins – v, gf

  • Author: Emily Joldersma R.H.N., inspired by Mom’s Bran Muffins original recipe at The Moveable Feasts blog
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oat bran (not sure if you can’t find certified gluten-free, but that will be necessary to make these strictly gluten-free)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds + an additional 4 tablespoons almond milk (your chia egg)
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup fancy molasses (or go hard with blackstrap, though I haven’t tested this – apparently fancy molasses is difficult to find organic and non-GMO)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill; if you like, you could also substitute a nice kamut or spelt flour too)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon xantham gum, optional but recommended
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt/Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 1/4 cups raisins, plumped

Instructions:

  1. Plump raisins by putting them in a small bowl and covering them with warm/boiling water. Easy peezy. Before adding them to the batter, you’ll just drain off the water.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let stand for 5 minutes, then add the baking soda, chia, additional almond milk, and oat bran.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the melted coconut oil, molasses, maple syrup, and vanilla.
  5. In a medium bowl, sift together gluten-free flour, baking powder, cinnamon, xantham gum, and salt.
  6. Now we start the combining:
    1. Add the milk/bran mix to the oil/molasses mix and whisk well.
    2. Add the flour mix to the liquid mix and stir until combined.
    3. Add raisins to the batter.
  7. Scoop batter into a prepared muffin tin (either lined with paper cups or lightly greased with oil).
  8. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until tops spring back when gently pressed.
  9. Let cool and then try a few! They freeze really nicely and will keep on the counter for 2 to 3 days, I would think. But freezing is probably best.

© Eat Well, Live Vibrantly

 


Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies (with Teff Flour)

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

Are you enamored with teff flour yet? I am! Teff flour is my new baking darling. Making cookies? Teff flour. Making brownies? Teff flour. Making snack bars? Heck, yes, teff flour!

Even the Globe and Mail is publishing full page articles extolling the virtues of teff, and when the Globe and Mail gets on board, you know teff is making it mainstream. According to the Globe, teff is great for iron, protein, and fibre. Particularly of note, teff’s fibre comprises a lot of resistant starch, a particular kind of starch that resists digestion in your small intestine. This starch makes it into your large intestine and is turned, by the bacteria there, into good stuff for your body (basically it feeds the bacteria and they turn it into short-chain fatty acids). All very positive.

Teff has been called the endurance grain, the stamina grain, the energy grain, and more. Or maybe those are names I’ve made up. Either way, consensus is that teff should be in your diet prontissimo.

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

So let’s talk blondie bars. Also, don’t get too excited, but I’m going to be trying teff BROWNIES soon. Yes and yes.

But back to the blondies. These are another very easy intro recipe for teff. Easy to make gluten-free, simple ingredients, and really pretty forgiving. You can’t go wrong with nut butter and chocolate chunks in anything. You can’t teff this up.

The original recipe is from Vegan Richa; I just upped the teff factor. I took them to the office for a farewell party and my sister called them “the best bars ever”. They would make an awesome lunch snack (we are in the back to school zone) or a tasty and healthy-ish option for a work snack shindig.

Enjoy! Also I promise I’ll stop with the teff play on words very soon. I’ve pretty much run out of ideas anyways.

chocolate chunk nut butter blondies with teff flour

Chocolate Chunk Nut Butter Blondies (with Teff Flour)

  • Author: Original recipe from Vegan Richa; tweaks by Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, oil-free

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablepoons non-dairy milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 tablepoon flax seed meal or ground chia
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter or other smooth nut butter (I used a mix of almond and peanut)
  • 1/2 cup teff flour
  • 1/4 cup  + 2 tablespoons coconut flour (or more teff, if you don’t have coconut flour)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free/dairy-free chocolate chunks

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, flax/chia, maple syrup, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Stir in nut butter until completely combined.
  4. In a separate bowl medium-sized bowl, whisk together teff and coconut flours, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until well-combined (without, you know, stirring the thing to oblivion).
  6. Spread batter into a (very lightly) greased 8×8 pan and bake for 18-25 minutes, depending on your oven’s hotness. They should pull away from the edges of the pan just slightly and look dry on top.

© Backyard Owl


Tender Teff Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies

tender teff peanut butter cookies

Wow, that title is a mouthful.

But then again, so are these cookies.

In keeping with the theme of using gluten-free flours in recipes that make them shine, these simple cookies take teff flour and let it sing. And they are certainly easy to make, straightforward, and made with simple clean ingredients.

Tender Teff Peanut Butter cookies require just six ingredients (or eight, if you add the raisins and chocolate chips and I definitely recommend that you do), and, while I haven’t tried them this way, I suspect they would be equally delicious with almond butter. Maybe even cashew butter or sunflower seed butter, if you are feeling particularly bold and wild.

tender teff peanut butter cookies

They’re tender, sweet but not too sweet, and just the right amount of crumbly. Gluten-free cookies are great like that. The whole goal of shortbread is to be free of gluten – it’s what gives shortbread that classic sandy texture. Gluten-free and shortbread are like two peas in a pod. And since lots of gluten-free baking turns out a bit crumbly/sandy anyways, why not say it was what you were aiming for in the first place?

Quite frankly, the first time I made these I ate too many of them. Plus, I put chocolate chips in them AND made those little cross hatching marks on them that make peanut butter cookies so much cuter. What’s a gal to do?

tender teff peanut butter cookiestender teff peanut butter cookies

But out of that snacking experience was born the freezer test. I usually bake things, eat a few from the oven, and freeze all the rest. It’s a system that works for me. These cookies freeze really nicely. Keep that in mind if you want to make a larger batch. The recipe is so simple it can be halved, doubled, etc.

So all hail teff flour! And nut butter. And whatever else you want to add. Hey-oh!

For more glorious teff options, try teff banana chocoate chip muffins.

Tender Teff Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies

  • Author: Backyard Owl tweaks on this original recipe from Bob’s Red Mill
  • Recipe notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, naturally-sweetened

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups teff flour
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon himilayan pink salt or sea salt
  • optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips and/or 1/2 cup raisins

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a small saucepan and over low heat, whisk together peanut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup, just until combined.
  3. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Take off heat and let cool for a minute or two
  5. Stir in teff flour and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Stir in raisins and/or chocolate chips, if using.
  7. Scoop by the spoonful and round into balls, before placing on a baking sheet.
  8. Cross hatch and flatten the cookie dough using a fork – this is where we get that classic peanut butter cookie look.
  9. Bake for 13-15 minutes, depending on size, and let cool.
  10. Enjoy!

© Backyard Owl


Make Chickpea Flour Shine With These 5 Awesome Recipes

chewy chocolate chip chickpea cookies - vegan & gluten-free

Sometimes after buying a large bag of chickpea/teff/sorghum/coconut/almond/etc. flour, you make the recipe you intended to make and then think, ‘huh. Well, that still leaves me 95% of this flour. What do I do with it now?’

It’s handy to have a back-pocket repertoire of recipes that feature whatever flour you have in mind. And chickpea flour is a great place to start building that repertoire.

There are a number of amazingly delicious and healthy things that you can do with chickpea flour, and that you can really ONLY do with chickpea flour. As in, the recipes require chickpea flour to work. When you’re into gluten-free baking, it’s really great to find a recipe that showcases your gluten-free flour for the beauty that it is.

For the recipes below, you don’t need any other flours or blends. Nope, you scoop out the chickpea flour and you’re off to the races. I like that kind of simplicity.

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seeds

Now, I’m sure I’ve talked about the nutrition of chickpea flour before, but I’m going to do it again because it helps it stick in my brain and because it’s worthwhile information to share.

In addition to being a beautiful golden yellow colour, chickpea flour has fibre, protein, iron, and it is, of course, naturally gluten-free. It also has B vitamins and trace minerals, and is most infinitely better for you than bleached all-purpose flour (which should really be limited to special occasion baking, or eliminated completely).

Below are five amazing recipes below that I have vetted personally for awesomeness.  The process was rigorous and scientific, let me tell you. I am 99.6% confident you’ll agree with my findings that the below recipes are both delicious and nutritious.

Enjoy those golden halycon chickpea flour days.

Make Chickpea Flour Shine With These 5 Awesome Recipes

  1. ONE BOWL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: chewy, healthy, chocolatey, easy to make, and full of protein and fibre. You can’t beat that for a chocolate chip cookie.
  2. ITALIAN SOCCA: an amazing crepe-like flatbread that you can cook up in a skillet, and use for pizza crusts, wraps, and more. Like a chickpea flour pancake, socca is totally delicious, especially with caramelized onions.
  3. VEGAN FRENCH TOAST: chickpea flour makes the most perfect vegan french toast ever. Or, if you want to call it by its chickpea flour name, you can use “fronch” toast, which helps distinguish it from regular french toast and quite frankly is way more fun to say.
  4. SAVOURY CHICKPEA FLOUR CRACKERS: you can make these crackers any way you want. They’re really quick to make and very hearty for those of you that like a substantial cracker with a good crunch. The flavour options are extensive.
  5. QUICHE a la CHICKPEA: if you haven’t already guessed, chickpea flour is a perfect stand-in for the custardy, savoury protein of eggs. These mini quiches are awesome. Make them crustless or with a gluten-free crust if you are looking for something a little more luxury. Then, add some caramelized onions or sundried tomatoes. Ooh la la!

© Backyard Owl


Crunchy Chickpea Flour Crackers with Onion and Sesame Seeds

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seedsThere is a reason I included chickpea flour as one of my ‘extra choice’ items for my April clean eating challenge – these crackers are that reason. These crackers, and all of the other awesome stuff you can make from chickpea flour, like socca, chocolate chip cookies, and vegan french toast.

Chickpea flour is underestimated and undervalued but the stuff is kickass. It’s got fibre, protein, minerals, and it’s naturally gluten-free. It’s versatile, delicious, and it’s fun. You’re baking with ground up chickpeas! What’s not to love?

Just don’t taste the batter.

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seeds

Now, some of you will probably disregard this advice or will perhaps have had traumatic chickpea flour experiences in the past. You will wrinkle your noses in disgust and say, Emily, I went ahead and tasted that chickpea flour batter.  It was touch and go there for awhile – I barely made it out of the experience alive. How could you lead me so astray?

Well, as with all things chickpea (in my experience), that beany bitterness bakes itself right out of the batter while it’s in the oven. Keep the faith. The resulting product will be savoury, delicious, crunchy, and sans-bitterness.

And with this base recipe, you can pretty much add whatever you want – omit the sesame seeds and add sunflower seeds; try with other seasonings (like garlic powder or chili powder!). It’s amazingly flexible.

savoury chickpea flour crackers with onion and sesame seeds

And you are making your own crackers! You’re part of the solution! No more boxes or plastic packages to throw away. No more spending your entire paycheck on one box of gluten-free crackers (because let’s be honest, that’s how much they cost). Just simple, savoury, chickpea flour.

Crunchy Chickpea Flour Crackers with Onion and Sesame Seeds

  • Author: recipe inspired by this basic version at Heather G Nutrition
  • Recipe Notes: egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour (cold)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 teaspoon for brushing on top
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons organic onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon himayalan pink salt (reduce if you aren’t interested in a nice salty cracker)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons water (or so)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together chickpea flour, sesame seeds, onion powder, pink salt, and baking powder.
  3. Stir in olive oil.
  4. After the olive oil is kind of ‘smooshed’ in, stir in water. The dough should kind of be a bit sticky but not too sticky. It should feel like cookie dough.
  5. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough until thin (as thin or thick as you like your crackers). Keep flouring everything so the dough doesn’t stick.
  6. Using a bench scraper/dough scraper or some other device to cut the dough into strips and transfer to your baking sheet, then cut into squares.
  7. Brush lightly with a bit of olive oil.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until light golden.
  9. Store in an airtight container.

Crunch and enjoy!

© Backyard Owl

 


The EAT WELL, LIVE VIBRANTLY Spring Clean-Eating Challenge!

IMG_2083

Spring is in the air! I can feel the energy seeping into my bones. I have a pep in my step, there is sunshine for longer hours, the birds are chirping, and I feel the world start to come alive with possibilities again.

Spring is a great time for positive transitions. We feel energetic and open to new things and we have the energy to try them. Some folks in the health world consider spring a good time for a cleanse – re-booting the body and the diet, as it were, from heavier winter foods and preparing for the new lighter energies of spring.

I personally struggle with the idea of restrictive cleanses, like week-long or month-long juice fasts. They work wonders for some people, but for others, they might be too much and too hard on the mind/body. That said, I do love a good personal challenge (like no TV for a week, no food packaging for a month) and something in the universe called to me in recent weeks and said, Emily, it’s time for another challenge.

So I am proposing a food challenge that has a cleanse-like intent to it, but really comes down to this simple concept:

Super clean eating for all of April.

green juice2

In recent months I’ve been feeling tired, run-down, and kind of like crap. Yes, part of that is winter. God love it, but those early dark mornings really put the boots to my state of mind and energy reserves. So with spring on the horizon, and my little energy cups filling up again, I really want to see what happens in my life, energetically and physically, if I optimize my diet and focus on healing foods. This is a challenge that anybody could do – it’s not overly restrictive, there are lots of food options, and I’ll be posting recipes over the month that give you some guidance about what you can eat and how. Most of them will likely be about raw chocolate (going without store-bought dark chocolate will be my greatest feat!), but hey.

Overall, the way I’ll be eating for the month is anti-inflammatory and generous on the fruits, vegetables, nutrients, antioxidants, unprocessed foods, and healthy proteins front.

You’re all like, okay, great Emily – but let’s cut to the chase. What CAN’T I eat?

Here’s a summary:

What you CAN eat on the challenge:

  • Fruits (fresh; limit dried, no canned)
  • Vegetables (all)
  • Whole Grains & Healthy Complex Carbs (specifically and exclusively, quinoa, brown rice, and sweet potatoes)
  • Spices and Herbs (organic & unprocessed)
  • Healthy Proteins (organic tofu, organic tempeh, protein powder)
  • Natural Sweeteners (brown rice syrup, raw honey, stevia, blackstrap molasses, or maple syrup)
  • Healthy Condiments/Seasonings (ACV, wheat-free tamari, lime juice, lemon juice, cocoa powder, etc)
  • Nuts & Seeds (not peanuts)
  • Nut & Seeds Butters (almond, sunflower, hazelnut, pumpkin)
  • Healthy Fats & Oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil)
  • Occasional Indulgences (quality dark chocolate)

What is NOT INCLUDED in the challenge:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Refined sugars
  • Refined grains/flours
  • Poor quality fats (vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils, rancid oils)
  • Processed foods (and with them, additives, preservatives, food dyes, etc – with the exception of packaged tofu, etc)

What else I’m throwing in to remain sane:

  • Cocoa Butter
  • Cashews
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Goji Berries
  • Gluten-free Crackers
  • Organic Peanut Butter

If there is something you need to include that you know will help you stick with it for the month, include it as an occasional indulgence. My birthday is in April and I know I want to make a raw dessert that will use cashews and dates. So I’m putting ’em on the list, goldarnit.

For my readers that consume animals products, there is space for fermented dairy, organic and pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, or organic and pastured meats. Check out this Healing Foods Shopping List from Dr. Josh Axe if you want more guidance on what types of animal products you should or shouldn’t include, as well as more details into the types of foods to consume during your clean eating challenge.

I used The Healing Foods Shopping List as my inspiration for the April Eat Well, Live Vibrantly Challenge and it’s great.

So let’s do this! My aim is to make a few tweaks here and there and see what my body can do when it’s being given only the best. I’m really excited about it, actually. And when you think about it, it shows you how simple healthy eating can be – organic, whole, real, natural, good quality foods. That’s it!

Now time to go cook up some homemade dark chocolate….

OTHER RESOURCES:

Some recipes to get you started! Plus, check out this post on reducing inflammation.

homemade chocolate with nuts, seeds, and goji berries

© Backyard Owl 2016


Radiant Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric and Ginger Tea

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

“Yellow is the ‘lightest’ of all of the warm-spectrum colors and the color which most resembles the sun. It brings with it hope, and the feeling that everything will be all right. It has an air of radiance, brightness, cheerfulness, and gaiety. Yellow is open-minded and inspiring; it glows and illuminates, and at is most positive vibration it corresponds with knowledge and wisdom.”

~ excerpted from Color Your Life, by Howard & Dorothy Sun

So many of us want to find ways to reduce inflammation in our bodies, seeing as, you know, inflammation is possibly at the root of all disease. That’s a super scary idea, and it makes me want to leap into action. It makes me want to find some kind of superhero to help me fight back. And, the super hero that I have in mind just happens to be a ugly and sort of weird looking, but powerful nevertheless. My super hero wears a yellow cape and goes by the name Turmeric.

Turmeric is one of these superfoods we keep hearing about over and over and for good reason – it’s one powerful little root. And, it’s been proven to be anti-inflammatory, to be a powerful antioxidant (protecting the body from the regular ongoing damage that occurs as a result of breathing, exposure to toxins, aging, just existing, etc), and to have promising potential in treating arthritis and joint pain, preventing some cancers, and possibly even preventing and treating Alzheimers.

And ginger! Ginger is great for digestion and/or indigestion, for nausea, and it’s also known to be anti-inflammatory.

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

And can we talk about the colour of this tea? We don’t often pay attention to colour in our lives but I’m learning that colour has a tremendous influence on us in all sorts of physical, mental, and spiritual ways.

We know we’re supposed to eat the colours of the rainbow; here is a way to boost YELLOW. Colours mean antioxidants, which in turn means protection for your cells, radiant health, and high levels of nutrients. Turmeric is a lovely brilliant yellow when dried and when fresh, it kind of looks like a carrot – bright orange and juicy (under the peel, that is. When it has a peel on, it basically looks like ginger, to which it is related).

And as noted above, the colour yellow links to radiance, glow, illumination, cheerfulness, vitality, and all of the other elements of health that we want and that antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can help us obtain. Coincidence? I think not.

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

Yellow is also the colour that represents the Solar Plexus Chakra, one of the seven energy centres of the body according to Ayurvedic traditions. In this school of thought, the Solar Plexus Chakra governs personal power, energy, and self-confidence. It’s all about purpose and your inner fire. The colour yellow supports and represents this chakra by encouraging radiance and stability and happiness and confidence.

Fire, pep, energy, radiance, yellow. Sound a lot like turmeric? I think so.

All that’s not bad for one little mug of tea.

radiant turmeric and ginger tea

And if you’re worried about this being too spicy, don’t be. I found it delightfully ‘awakening’ in my mouth but not at all burny or uncomfortable (read a description of turmeric’s taste here if you’re curious for more detail). It’s like a nice spicy chai: peppy and peppery, but not painful.

You can drink this straight as a steeped tea, or incorporate some non-dairy milk as I have done. The ground pepper and coconut oil are to enhance the absorption of the good stuff from the turmeric. I like making my tea into a latte because it mellows things into a more comforting mug and adds a nice smoothness. Plus, if you wanted to go crazy and add some coconut milk, you’re incorporating the healthy fats required to aid with turmeric absorption. Hey now!

Radiant Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric and Ginger Tea

  • Author: Backyard Owl (and everyone else on the internet who has ever made this kind of tea)
  • Recipe Notes: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free or nut-free (depending on your milk), naturally-sweetened

Ingredients:

  • fresh ginger root
  • fresh turmeric root
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • (optional) stevia for sweetening

Instructions:

  1. Measure out 1 cup of filtered water and place in a saucepan on low heat.
  2. Grate about 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger and 1 teaspoon of fresh turmeric and add to your water.
  3. Simmer for about 10 minutes (you should notice the water becoming, well, orange coloured).
  4. Pour the tea into your mug and strain out the spice pulp.
  5. Add a few shakes of ground black pepper and the coconut oil.
  6. Sir in 1/4 cup of your favourite non-dairy milk. If required, sweeten with stevia.
  7. Sip and enjoy!

Serves 1.

NOTE: Turmeric will stain anything it touches yellow. Just be warned. Your fingers, your counter, the knife you use to peel it, and so on. So I recommend paying attention while preparing this tea so that you don’t discover you’ve accidentally dyed your face, your clothes, or something else you would prefer NOT to become yellow.

© Backyard Owl


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

Ingredients:

  • 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).

Instructions:

  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