No-Bake Muesli Energy Bars with Almond Butter

no bake granola bars with pumpkin seeds

It’s a gorgeous day here – blue skies, breezy, warm but not hot, and no humidity. I’ve gone for a bike ride, bought strawberries at the farmers market, picked up my books from the library, walked about, and now I’m blogging and eating maca chocolate. In other words, utter perfection. Let all summer days be like this, says I!

I’m almost finished my program at the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition, and admittedly that’s why you haven’t seen many blog posts in recent months. But this beautiful day just sang to me and said, Emily, steal away a few moments and write something on the blog. So here I bake granola bars with pumpkin seeds 3

This part of July is where summer really kicks into a higher gear. The farmers’ market is starting to show its colours – spring rhubarb is still available, but the strawberries are there, and soon I’ll see peaches, tomatoes, corn, and zucchinis overflowing on the tables. My own little farm here (I use the term ‘farm’ extremely loosely) has thus far produced 2 blueberries, 4 raspberries, and some purple podded peas. A tiny harvest, but a satisfying one. I can see the raspberries slowly turning from that light pinkish colour to the deeper red, so soon I’ll return to that glorious time when there are raspberries to eat every day when I come home from work.

It’s a nice time to be alive, isn’t it?

no bake granola bars with pumpkin seeds 2

To keep your energy up through the biking, walking, jam-making, hammock-reading, blueberry-picking, running, mowing, weeding, harvesting, swimming, kombucha-drinking, or whatever you have on the go this summer, whip up some of these energy bars (finally, I’m getting to the recipe!). They’re simple, offer protein, fibre, and healthy fat, and you can make them either as energy balls/bites or just press them into the pan and make granola bars. They’re best right from the fridge (structural integrity relies on the coldness of the coconut oil), but if you don’t mind eating them more as a melted crumble, tote them to the beach! Why not?

And of course, they require no oven, so the only breeze and warmth you feel will be that of the summer sun, wafting through your open windows.

Happy July!

No-Bake Muesli Energy Bites with Almond Butter

Recipe Notes: option for gluten-free (use gluten-free oats), option for plant-based (maple syrup instead of honey), dairy-free, egg-free, wheat-free


  • 1 and 1/2 cups muesli (basically oats with a bit of dried fruit added – plain rolled oats are fine too)
  • 1/2 shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or himalayan pink salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: sprinkle of ground cinnamon


  1. Whirl the muesli, coconut, seeds of choice, chocolate chips, and dried fruit of choice in your food processor until you’ve turned it into very small bits, or almost flour. The dried fruit will remain in larger pieces – this is totally fine. The chocolate might also stay in bigger chunks – also totally fine, and in fact, quite delicious.
  2. Dump this mix into a large bowl.
  3. In a small sauce pan and over very low heat, gently whisk together almond butter, raw honey, coconut oil, pink salt, and vanilla extract until smooth and a bit pourable.
  4. Pour over the dry mix and stir until all dry parts are well coated and mixture holds its shape when squeezed into a ball.
  5. Roll into balls or press into an 8×8 pan and store in an airtight container in the fridge. For best shape, eat right from the fridge or keep cool.

© 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

Back to School Cocoa Granola with Buckwheat and Cocoa Nibs – v, gf

cocoa granola with cocoa nibs and buckwheatFriends, I’m going back to school! Part-time, anyways. I’ve finally decided that now is the time, and I’ve enrolled at CSNN London to obtain my Registered Holistic Nutritionist designation. I’ve wanted to do this for years and I didn’t want to waste any more time – so now I’ll be working full-time and taking classes on a part-time basis. Hurrah!

To celebrate in style (and because, quite frankly, I kind of love school), I decided to make some back-to-school granola. This particular cocoa granola is indeed rather celebratory. And decadent. Deep and dark and chocolate-y, it has lots of crunchy pumpkin seeds, cocoa nibs, and buckwheat clusters. It also has lots of nutrition, in the form of, well, pumpkin seeds, cocoa nibs, and buckwheat clusters, not to mention hemp seeds, flaked coconut, raisins, pecans, coconut oil, and maple syrup.

passion for learning


If you aren’t much of a granola breakfast eater, fret not! You can use this as a topper for coconut or almond yogurt and fruit (that’s my new favourite!), or just by itself as a quick ‘boost’ snack. Perhaps you want to mix in some more nuts and seeds for a luxurious trail mix.

Enjoy, and if you too are heading back to school (in any form), I say: all the best! Learning is such a joy. I hope you have fun.

cocoa granola with cocoa nibs and buckwheat


Back to School Cocoa Granola with Buckwheat and Cocoa Nibs – v, gf

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


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (sifted, if clumpy)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa nibs
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or other seeds of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup pecans (or other nuts of your choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or himalayan pink salt)
    • PLUS
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (could go up to 1/2 cup if you taste and it isn’t sweet enough)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
    • PLUS
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together oats, buckwheat groats, flaked coconut, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, pecans, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil and add maple syrup and vanilla.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients until all dry ingredients are coated.
  5. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the granola is becoming dry and toasty (hard to tell with this recipe, but you’ll see).
  6. Remove from oven, and if desired, clump together to cool (this helps form clusters); or, leave as is to cool. Add raisins and chocolate chips.
  7. Store in an airtight jar or container and enjoy!

© 2015 Backyard Owl

Homemade Chocolate with Pumpkin Seeds and Goji Berries (v, gf, raw)

homemade chocolate with nuts, seeds, and goji berries

With Easter approaching, stores everywhere are packed with chocolate everything: eggs, bunnies, lambs, bars, slabs, truffles, and so on. Chocolate and Easter seem to go hand-in-hand. But sometimes the chocolate from the store is a little…dubious with respect to ingredients, quality, and ethical-ness.

So let me tell you a little secret: making your own chocolate is really easy.

You basically need only 4 ingredients: cocoa butter, cocoa powder, maple syrup, and vanilla.  You melt the cocoa butter, stir in the other 3 ingredients, and boom. Done.

homemade superfood chocolate

And liberating yourself from the chocolate at the grocery store is so, well, liberating. Now, you can make your chocolate suit YOUR tastes, top it with anything you want, sweeten it the way you want with a sweetener of your choice, source ingredients that fit your ethical standards, and use the quality of ingredients that fit with your lifestyle and your budget.

The results are totally delicious, and you know exactly what went into them.

Plus, I’ve written before about the joys of discovering how easily you can make certain favourite foods at home. Sometimes we assume that packaged foods have some kind of mystique, an unreplicatable (that’s not a word, I know) magic that is just beyond our kitchen abilities. Crackers, for example, or ice cream, or dark chocolate.

superfood chocolate.2

In the end, that’s just not so. With a bit of time (yes, making your own is sometimes not quite as convenient as just plucking a box off the shelf) and the right ingredients, you can whip up healthier, more customized, and more awesome versions of your favourites.

In my personal chocolate, I used a raw cocoa butter but a regular (non-raw) cocoa powder, You could use raw cocoa powder if you wanted to continue the ‘less-processed’ theme and also wanted the extra nutrient boost.

And, you can customize your chocolate with any or all of the following:

  • sea salt
  • nuts & seeds
  • dried fruits including goji berries
  • peppermint extract or other flavour
  • orange, lemon, or lime zest
  • cocoa nibs
  • espresso powder
  • almond butter or other nut/seed butters
  • a tablespoon of coconut or other non-dairy milk for your own beautiful and vegan “milk chocolate.”
  • fresh fruit, like raspberries or blueberries
  • other superfoods, like maca powder

Feeling excited about the possibilities? Try a few other “make your own” recipes, like cookie dough protein bars, tangy maple mustard, or crunchy oat and buckwheat granola.

homemade chocolate with nuts, seeds, and goji berries

Homemade Chocolate with Pumpkin Seeds and Goji Berries (v, gf, raw)

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe Notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free option, naturally-sweetened, raw option.


  • 1/3 cup (about 1.8 oz) raw cocoa butter
  • 1/3 cup (sifted) cocoa powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • optional: 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds and goji berries (I used a super foods trail mix)
  • optional: sea salt or himalayan pink salt, for sprinkling


  1. Sift cocoa powder into a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Melt cocoa butter in a homemade double boiler (set cocoa butter in a heatable bowl, and set that bowl  over a pot filled partway with gently simmering water).
  3. Pour melted cocoa butter into your cocoa powder bowl, and add maple syrup (to taste) and vanilla. Whisk together.
  4. Pour into prepared pans – muffin tins, mini-muffin tins, loaf pans, a square cake pan – the sky is the limit.
  5. Top with nuts and goji berries or other preferred toppings.
  6. Set in the fridge to firm up. Store in the fridge when not eating.


© Backyard Owl 2015

No-Bake Seedy Granola Bars with Brown Rice Syrup and Almond Butter (v, gf)

no bake seedy granola bars with pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dark chocolateI’ve talked about granola bars before on the blog – my Twice Baked Oat and Raisin Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate – so perhaps it will come as a surprise that I’ve venturing into granola bar territory again. Why this enduring granola bar fascination?

Well, to my mind, the granola bar is among the ultimate in portable snacks.

Portable, customizable snacks.

Portable, customizable, healthy snacks.

Okay, last one: portable, customizable, healthy, and easy to make snacks. To wit:

no bake seedy granola bars with pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dark chocolate.2Portable: in a bag, in brown paper, in tupperware, or in any other snack conveyance, granola bars can go with you on any adventure you desire. They work as a post-gym snack, a travel snack, a just-in-case snack, a work snack, a quick lunch with some fruit or a green smoothie, and so on.

Customizable: I see every recipe as a template, just waiting to be tailored to individual taste preferences. So below, where I suggest pumpkin seeds, use walnuts, if you prefer. Or double the fruit and leave out the seeds. Or, if you don’t like chocolate in your recipes (gasp!), substitute more nuts or seeds, or more dried fruit. Go modification crazy! Just try to avoid radically changing the total quantity of stuff that needs to be coated with the brown rice syrup/almond butter caramel. That’s where you’ll run into trouble.

no bake seedy granola bars with pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and raisinsHealthy: healthy options come in a variety of forms. Sometimes an apple is best, or a green smoothie; other times, you need something with a bit of protein, some complex carbs, and some tasty dark chocolate. So that’s what I mean about granola bars being healthy – they contain complex carbs, and some healthy fats, protein, and fibre, and those are the keys to making a snack that will power you through.

These particular bars also use golden, caramelly brown rice syrup, which is one of the few sweeteners that I can trust to keep my blood sugar level – no spikes, no drops. They are also full of: pumpkin seeds (zinc), sesame seeds (calcium), raisins (antioxidants), and shredded coconut (healthy medium chain fatty acids). It’s all so good!

Easy to Make: the whole point of the homemade granola bar is that you throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl, stir it around, squish it in a pan, and then either bake it or call it a day. I’m not sure what could be easier than that except, of course, the aforementioned piece of fresh fruit.

So let’s get to the recipe!

Let's also pay homage for a moment to brown rice syrup. Caramelly and not-to-sweet, brown rice syrup is one of the few sweeteners out there that I can count on to keep my blood sugar level - no spikes, no drops.  And don't be worried by the quantity of almond butter. I know, one cup is a lot. But this recipe makes serious granola bars, of which only a small amount is required for snacking sustenance

No-Bake Seedy Granola Bars with Brown Rice Syrup and Almond Butter

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


  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 cup almond butter (the more liquidy, the better; also note you can use any nut/seed butter)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups puffed quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened SHREDDED COCONUT
  • 1/2 cup SESAME SEEDS
  • 1/4 cup PUMPKIN SEEDS
  • 1/2 cup RAISINS
  • 3/4 cup CHOCOLATE CHIPS (vegan dark chocolate chips)


  1. Lightly grease a 9×13 glass pan with coconut oil.
  2. Measure together brown rice syrup, almond butter, pink salt, and vanilla, and warm gently in a pan over low heat, just until a bit more pourable.
  3. In a (very!) large bowl, stir together oats, puffed quinoa, cinnamon, coconut, seeds, fruit, and dark chocolate chips.
  4. Pour almond butter caramel over oat/seed/fruit mix and stir well, until everything is coated with the brown rice syrup/nut butter mix. You might need to use hands for this, friends. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
  5. Scoop the mixture into the greased 9×13 pan.
  6. Press the mix firmly (as firmly as you can) into the pan. Cut into bars now or as you go. Keep in the fridge, but serve at room temperature.

© 2014 Backyard Owl



Tangy Cucumber Salad with Roast Chickpeas (vegan, gluten-free)

tangy cucumber saladI crafted this cucumber and chickpea salad some weeks ago, on a very hot day when I felt that nothing but crispy, refreshing, tangy, and savoury would do.

This cucumber chickpea salad makes the perfect summer meal – easy to prepare (which is important to me when it’s hot), cool and chilled (also important when it’s hot), and as an added bonus, pretty minimal on the ingredient purchasing scale, which I enjoy. And cucumbers and vinegar go together so well, don’t you think?

The cucumber is actually a kind of underrated vegetable. I, personally, went through a phase where I sort of loathed cucumber. It felt like an actor who had been in too many movies – too exposed, too overly used, too noticeable. It was also easy for me to say, pah, cucumber? It’s all water! What’s it even doing for me? I’m ashamed to admit I was so fickle. And so the months passed and cucumber and I grew apart.

I’m pleased to say though, cucumber and I are back. With time and study, I’ve returned to the fan camp for cucumber. I used them in these delicious fresh rolls. I love them in this salad. I might even make a cucumber smoothie.

And I should note, cucumber contains a host of helpful health-boosting nutrients. The basic gist? Cucumbers have secret powers because they are part of the curcurbit family. It’s a fun word. Try saying it out loud. Sounds like the name of a muppet, right? Curcurbits include squash, zucchini, pumpkin, watermelon, cantaloupe – you know, your basic, everyday trailing vine and gourd family. For their part, cucumbers are great for your skin, full of B vitamins, packed with hydrating water, an excellent source of silica (good for hair, nails, joints), and also host to several types of lignans, which have shown good results in reducing certain cancer risks. Kris Carr has a wonderful graphic here on three reasons to eat more cucumbers.

I’m glad cucumber and I were able to find our way back to each other.

A note on the recipe: I love smoked paprika. I mean, I really love it. If you don’t, feel free to reduce the amount included in the recipe. Don’t omit it altogether, though. I find it gives an earthy smokey flavour that adds to the whole dish.

tangy cucumber salad

Tangy Cucumber Salad with Roast Chickpeas

Recipe Notes:

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe notes: vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, grain-free, quick & easy


For the Cucumber Salad

  • 1 large (seedless) cucumber, preferably organic
  • 1/2 of a red onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

For the Roast Chickpeas – for one serving, to top the salad

  • 1/2 cup organic chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (depending on your diet and salt preferences)
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • optional: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, roast soybeans, dollop of tahini (this is really delicious)


  1. Wash cucumber thoroughly. Peel if not organic. Slice into quarters, length-wise, and then slice quarters into wedges. If this is confusing, which I think probably it is, just choose any shape you like.
  2. Place chopped up cucumber and chopped up onion in a glass bowl or other non-reactive bowl (preferably one that comes with a lid – that way your bowl and your storage device can be one and the same).
  3. Pour vinegar and maple syrup over cucumber/onion mix. Secure lid, and give the whole thing a good shake. Give a good shake before serving too. Let sit in fridge for at least 30 minutes – really, the longer the better.
  4. While salad is marinating, prepare chickpeas.
  5. Place chickpeas on a baking sheet/tin and coat with spices and oil.
  6. Turn on your oven’s broiler (I use the low setting). Broil chickpeas for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden.
  7. If you are adding pumpkin seeds or other crunchies who might be sensitive to heat, add only in the last minute or two of broiling.
  8. Pour topper over a serving of salad and enjoy!

© 2014 Backyard Owl



Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Oat & Pumpkin Seed Crumble (gluten-free, vegan)

strawberry rhubarb crisp 1Mother Nature is pretty much a genius when it comes to ensuring that things that grow together seem to taste good together. Rhubarb comes up first in the spring. Then, a bit later strawberries. And it just so happens that when paired, they are a taste sensation. I made strawberry rhubarb jam last week that was so good I could have consumed the entire jar and called it breakfast. Somehow Nature just knows. Tomatoes and basil? Great plants to grow together and a wonderful flavour pairing. Ditto with corn, beans, and squash. It’s a marvel.

But let’s talk summer fruit crisp. Or really, early summer fruit crisp, since rhubarb and strawberries are primarily June growers (and June is what I think of as early summer). A good fruit crisp should be decadent, yet healthy; sweet, yet still a bit tart. Earlier in the spring I made a delightful cranberry rhubarb crisp that I sweetened with coconut palm sugar and dates. I decided to try the same combo here, assuming that, as a general rule, dates taste pretty good with most things and an oat crumble covers all manner of sins.

strawberry rhubarb crisp 3And indeed, the plan was successful. You can vary the amount of sugar in this crisp, depending on the state of your strawberries. Riper berries need a bit less sugar than the recipe calls for. Also, I put pumpkin seeds in the crumble topping, because I believe in putting nuts and/or seeds in basically everything, and also because pumpkin seeds are so full of zinc, and look beautiful against the red strawberries and rhubarb. They can easily be omitted, though, if they don’t suit your fancy. And finally, the recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups strawberries, but if you happen to have 3 or 4 cups’ worth that you want to use up, by all means. This recipe can take it.

The finishing touch of this crisp is whipped coconut cream, which is completely optional, but does add a certain special extra something to the crisp upon serving. Full-fat coconut milk is the best stand-in for heavy cream you’ll find. I shouldn’t even say ‘stand-in,’ since coconut milk is really its own category of deliciousness, especially when you sweeten it with a bit of maple syrup and vanilla. The chilling of the coconut milk serves two purposes: 1) to help thicken it up, and 2) to keep it fresh, since coconut milk only lasts a few days in the fridge.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Oat & Pumpkin Seed Crumble 

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • Recipe notes: gluten-free (if using certified gluten-free oats), vegan, naturally-sweetened, seasonal

strawberry rhubarb crisp 4Ingredients:

  • 1/3 coconut palm sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 oat flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
For the Fruit Filling
  • 4 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup soft dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

For the Whipped Coconut Cream

  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
strawberry rhubarb crisp 5Instructions:
  1. Mix together coconut palm sugar, oat flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, salt, pumpkin seeds, and rolled oats.
  2. Melt coconut oil and pour over oat mixture, mixing until all dry ingredients are coated with some oil. Refrigerate until ready for use.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F.
  4. Lightly grease a 9×13 glass baking pan with coconut oil.
  5. For the fruit mixture, combine cornstarch and coconut palm sugar.
  6. Toss rhubarb, strawberries, and chopped dates with the cornstarch/sugar mix until all are well coated.
  7. Put fruit mix into pan and top with crumble mix.
  8. strawberry rhubarb crisp 2Bake in the oven at 350F for about 1 hour. Check at 20 minutes and 40 minutes. Crisp is done when juices at edge of pan are bubbling, but most importantly, when juices in the middle of the crisp are bubbling too. If topping starts to get too brown, cover with tin foil.
  9. While crisp is baking, whisk together coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla, and keep in fridge.
  10. Serve crisp topped with a dollop of coconut cream, if desired.


Ah, felicity! Strawberries and rhubarb are heavenly, and with a bit of coconut cream, you are on your way to savouring the best that (early) summer has to offer.

© Backyard Owl 2014

Lemon Blueberry Cranberry Muffins & 3 Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs

Lemon Blueberry Cranberry Muffins (vegan, gluten-free)

First, let me say that lemons, cranberries, and blueberries were born to meet in this vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free muffin.

Second, let me say that I know I’ve been going on a lot about the February blahs (now, I suppose, the March blahs) and the length of winter and so on and so on. Well, it just so happens that in the past few weeks I’ve discovered three simple strategies to beating (or at least, minimizing) the winter blahs:

  1. When winter is getting you down, pick a day, and go do a winter sport. Yes, that’s right. Last Sunday I went cross country skiing with my sister, and let me tell you, the fastest way to re-embrace the joys of winter is literally to do just that – get out there and do an activity that reminds you of the good parts of cold weather and renews your appreciation for winter.
  2. Find yourself some sunshine. Follow the example of your cats (if you are lucky enough to live with cats) and bask in whatever patch of sunlight you can find, no matter how small. That extra bit of warm light on your face might just be the boost you need to get through the day with a smile.
  3. Lemon Blueberry Cranberry Muffins (vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar free)

    Lemon Blueberry Cranberry Muffins

    Bake yourself some Lemon Blueberry Cranberry Muffins. This third strategy is meant to complement the first two: first you re-embrace winter, then you warm yourself up a bit, then you seek out the flavour of summer. When you are eating a muffin packed with lemon zest, fruity blueberries, and tangy cranberries, it is like a little sunshine party in your mouth. If you are sitting on the floor somewhere in a beam of sunlight while enjoying a muffin, so much the better.

These muffins are made with oat and coconut flour, making them gluten-free so long as the oat flour is certified. I’ve been wanting to bake with coconut flour for some time now, and I’m glad I tried – the coconut flour lends a subtle sweet tropical flavour to these muffins that works so well with the lemon and the fruit. Coconut flour is also really high in fibre, and, of course, naturally gluten-free.

Lemon Blueberry Cranberry Muffins

  • Author: Backyard Owl
  • About this recipe: vegan, wheat-free, gluten-free (if using certified oat flour), soy-free, refined sugar-free
  • Yield: 12 to 14 muffins, depending on the size of your muffin scoop

Lemon Blueberry Cranberry muffins

Blueberries, cranberries, and dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melt first, then measure) + 1 tbsp melted oil for muffin tin
  • 2 packed tsps lemon zest (or, more, if you really feel zesty – also, use organic lemons for the zest)
  • 1 tbsp ground chia seeds plus 4 tbsps additional non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup frozen organic blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen organic cranberries
  • pumpkin seeds, for topping (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lightly oil a muffin tin (if you know that your tin sticks – if it never has a problem, you can skip the oiling part).
  3. Sift together oat flour, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  4. Whisk together milk and apple cider vinegar. Add lemon zest.
  5. Melt coconut oil over low heat and measure out 1/3 cup. Let cool slightly.
  6. Stir chia seeds together with additional non-dairy milk, and then quickly whisk into apple cider vinegar/non-dairy milk mixture.
  7. Measure out sugar into a large bowl and add the milk mixture above. Whisk the sugar and milk together vigorously, then add coconut oil, and mix until well combined.
  8. Gently toss frozen blueberries and cranberries in flour mixture.
  9. Add liquid mix to flour mix and stir until everything is combined. The batter might seem thin at first, but once the coconut flour works its absorbing magic, it will start to thicken up.
  10. Scoop batter into muffin tin, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds (if desired), and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until firm and slightly golden on top. I’d recommend checking around 20 or 22 minutes to see how things are going.


© 2014 Backyard Owl

Heart-Healthy Vegan Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries & Dark Chocolate

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries and ChocolateAh, February, the heart month. This is a month where we think about our love for other people and hopefully also our love for ourselves. This is also a month where winter begins to feel a bit long, the lack of sunlight seems to matter more than ever before, and we while we want something sweet, we also know that too many sweets will make us feel even more heavy or draggy. Enter these lovely cookies. Filled with heart-healthy oats, nuts, and seeds, and other health-promoting ingredients like coconut oil, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate chips, these cookies strike a perfect balance: tasty, sweet, chewy, but also filled with nutrition. They are also naturally-sweetened, so you won’t be going on an emotional sugar roller-coaster ride. I’m not the kind of person who could cut sweet things entirely from my eating plan – it just won’t happen. Instead my philosophy is to transform the sweets from nutritional voids to nutritional stars. Pack them full of good things and then they too can add nutrients, fibre, protein, and antioxidants to your diet. All told, these cookies are quality, and that’s what we want more of in our lives, both in the foods we eat and the relationships we have, no?

Nuts and SeedsI should also mention that these cookies are based on a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies from Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook. I made a few tweaks, but the concept of incorporating toasted nuts, seeds, and ground oats into the batter is from her recipe. Whoever originally thought of grinding up nuts and seeds and putting them into cookie batter was a genius, though – seriously. The nuts and seeds add such outstanding flavour and nutrition, and seeing as I always have random bags of seeds and nuts in my fridge, it’s a nice way to use up the odds and ends.

A few questions you might have about this recipe:

  1. Can this recipe be gluten-free? Essentially it already is, but if you want to be airtight sure, be certain to use certified gluten-free oats and oat flour.
  2. Can you taste the chickpea flour? Chickpea flour does have a slightly…er…beany flavour. You can taste this a little bit in the batter, but not in the finished product.
  3. Can you taste the banana? Nope – no  banana flavour.
  4. Can I skip the banana? The banana could be optional, but it helps bind the batter together and add a bit of additional moisture. If you don’t like or can’t eat banana, trying substituting 1/4 unsweetened applesauce or 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin.
  5. How toasted should the nuts and seeds be? That’s totally up to you, but I think to keep the most nutrition probably very light is best – only 3 or 4 minutes under the broiler. I accidentally toasted my seeds to within an inch of their lives once, and while the cookies still tasted great, I don’t think blasting the healthy oils with excess heat did them any favours.

Heart-Healthy Vegan Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries & Dark Chocolate

  • 1 cup oat flour (certified gluten-free if you want to be 100% sure) Oatmeal Cookies - dry ingredients
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (divided into 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup mixed nuts and seeds (I used  almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey, if non-vegan – just be sure your honey comes from a reputable apiary that really cares for its bees)
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 2 tsps chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted  Ground nuts, seeds, and rolled oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 overripe mashed banana (or 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce or 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin)
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  2. In a small pan (without oil) or under your oven broiler, lightly toast nuts and seeds until just fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  3. Plump cranberries by covering with warm water. Let sit for about 10 mins, then drain.
  4. When cool, mix toasted nuts and seeds with 1/2 cup rolled oats and grind in a food processor until fine.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together oat flour, chickpea flour, remaining 1/2 cup rolled oats, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  6. Add ground nut/oat mixture and whisk until combined.
  7. Combine melted coconut oil, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, chia seeds, vanilla, and mashed banana.
  8. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and gently mix. When almost fully combined, stir in cranberries, chocolate chips, and coconut.
  9. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden.
  10. Share these cookies with people you like. Tough breaks for the people you don’t like!

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Chocolate

Winter Solstice and Vegan Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

“The theme of winter is rich in inspiration and material…Our ancestors celebrated the paradox of light at the heart of the darkness, and the consequent miracle of rebirth and the regeneration of the seasons.”

– Sting, from “If On A Winter’s Night.”


Today is December 21st, the shortest day of the year and the first day of Winter, also known as Winter Solstice. While it seems as though winter has already been here for some time (we’ve had lots of snow, and many many cold days), I still think it is important to take a moment to herald the actual arrival of the season. I know many people dislike Winter, at least, Canadian winters. We spend what seems like four or more months bundled up, having to make our way through all manner of slush, sleet, snow, ice, freezing rain, and wind chill temperatures. But I always think that Winter has its own beauties and that every season has its joys, and Winter Solstice is an important marker in the cycle of the seasons. I also happen to know that Sting – whose beautiful, haunting, medieval, traditional album If On A Winter’s Night perfectly captures for me the feelings of winter and the music of winter – shares my thoughts. He notes:

“I have a certain affinity with [Winter] — I think it’s an undervalued season. For me, it’s the season of the imagination, of spirits, of ghosts in the chimney, frosts, snow. It has a lot of paradox in it, too. It’s the season I look forward to — I love the central celebration of it — but I also am aware that winter’s a difficult time for a lot of people…I think it’s the season of reflection…we seem to need the winter to reassess ourselves, to hibernate, if you like; to seek home, to seek comfort. Somewhere cozy: the church, the family home.”

– Sting; from an interview with NPR music, 7 November 2009

Vegan Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Vegan Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

So there you have it. Embrace winter as a magical time of reflection and imagination, and take a moment today to appreciate that from here on the days incrementally become longer and more light-filled. And while you are doing so, bake up a batch of these beautiful pumpkin cranberry muffins. You can think of these muffins as symbolic of the hand-off of the seasons, a kind of baked good passing of the torch: the beautiful beta carotene-y and mellow spiciness of pumpkin (Autumn) mixed with the tart Vitamin C-packed flavour explosions of ruby red cranberries (Winter). A delicious physical manifestation of one season gracefully conceding to the next. If the seasons could shake hands in muffin form, this would be it.

Vegan Cranberry Pumpkin MuffinsAnd if that weren’t enough, they’re tasty, too. Made with spelt flour and organic palm sugar, and topped with beautiful green zinc-filled pumpkin seeds for crunch and colour, these muffins are both delicious and nutritious. The recipe makes a larger batch than is standard (closer to 14 or 15 muffins) but I always think it’s nice sometimes to bake up 12 perfect muffins, freeze them all for work snacks, and bake the rest in a mini-loaf pan or other pan to be able to enjoy right away.

So, bake up a batch and savour this sweet beginning to Winter. Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind: we have muffins and we’re ready for you.

Vegan Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins


  • 1 3/4 cups light spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup packed organic pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons ground chia seeds mixed with 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
  • 3/4 cup palm sugar (or other organic sugar)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • pumpkin seeds (for topping)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, canola oil, and palm sugar, and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Mix together chia seeds and non-dairy milk, stir, and once thickening, whisk immediately into pumpkin mixture, stirring well to thoroughly combine.
  5. Add flour to pumpkin mixture and stir gently to combine. At the point at which almost all flour is mixed into liquid, add cranberries. Mix to incorporate, being careful not to over mix.
  6. Scoop muffin batter into a (lightly greased, if an old pan like mine) muffin tin, adding any extra to a mini loaf pan or other pan of your choice.
  7. Sprinkle muffin tops with pumpkin seeds.
  8. Bake for 20-24 mins (or as required for your extra pan).
  9. Reflect, imagine, and enjoy!

Vegan Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins