One Bowl Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins (Vegan and Gluten Free)

close up of three chocolate pumpkin muffins with two pumpkins in background

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and this is traditionally a time for gatherings to give thanks and share a feast. However, the act of giving thanks and expressing gratitude around harvest time is nothing new.

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A Toast to Toast

board with toasts with different toppings - dried figs, kiwi, banana and blueberry, strawberry

My early memories of toast is as a breakfast food usually topped with the basic spreads of butter and jam.  At that time toast was considered a “thrifty” choice and was often an economical way to use up stale bread.  Over the years, this “comfort food” has evolved and become a significant food trend to the extent that some toast creations are now referred to as “artisan”.

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Cranberry and Almond Vegan Breakfast Bars

close of cranberry and almond vegan breakfast bars

Mid-September marks the start of the cranberry season in British Columbia and the harvest of the first berries. Red fields of ripe cranberries is a feast for the eyes and, as the majority of cranberries are harvested between September and November, for the next few weeks masses of cranberries will be seen floating in the bogs around the lower mainland and Vancouver Island.

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Vegan Fig Rolls as Healthy Snacks or “Fuel Food”

Image of three fig rolls or fig newtons stacked

I have always considered Fig Rolls (UK) and Fig Newtons (North America) as a relatively healthy choice in the world of commercial cookies and biscuits. As easily digestible carbohydrates, they have also been a tasty favourite as “fuel food” for sports. However, they still fall into the category of processed food and so I was pleased to come across a naturally sweetened, gluten free, no-bake alternative to these popular commercial treats.

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Chocolate Cranberry Muffins

plate of chocolate cranberry muffins

Recently my computer suffered a sudden unexplained and extremely inconvenient demise.  As the computer was long past its prime, it was not worth making any attempt to restore the machine and the important piece was the loss of data. With most of my data on a back-up drive, I decided to cut my losses and retrieve what I could from there.  This exercise turned into a bit of a trip down memory lane as I sifted through old documents.

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Tropical Vacation Granola

jar of tropical vacation granola

As we move through August, I can’t help but notice that the evenings are getting darker just a little earlier and there is no doubt that summer is slipping inevitably into fall. The older I get, it feels as though time is moving faster and faster. Apparently this may be no illusion and there are various interesting theories and scientific research which suggest this might actually be the case!

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Mango and Date Energy Bites

green cutting board with selection of mange and date energy bites, shredded coconut and dried mango

When I first got involved in triathlon training, I was introduced to the world of energy gels and bars. These are items made up of mostly simple sugar and they serve to replenish depleted carbohydrate stores during extended exercise. At that time I was more interested in performance so, as they did their intended job, I did not give a second thought to what was actually in them.

As I am now trying to follow a more whole foods-based diet, when I began training for a 100km cycle ride I started to experiment with different foods for fuel. My staple had become a couple of Medjool dates which sustained me for shorter rides of under 50km. However, as my distances increased, I found I needed a little more of a boost.

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Dessert with Benefits: Chocolate Avocado Mousse

two dishes of chocolate avocado mouse topped with chocolate chips almonds
Chocolate (Cacao) Avocado Mousse with slivered almonds and mini chocolate chips [Photo Credit: Joanne/Blair @ thedragonspicnic.com]

A dessert with nutritional benefits may seem too good to be true! However, there is no catch and just by including fruits and vegetables in desserts and selecting choice sweetening agents, this can be a reality. Chocolate (Cacao) Avocado Mousse is a creamy, rich mousse made with avocado and is dairy, gluten and refined-sugar free.  Super simple to make, it tastes decadent and is packed with nutritional value and health benefits!

When I was quite young, one of my first memories of the concept of vegetables in dessert happened shortly after I arrived in Canada when someone in a coffee shop ordered a carrot cake.  Of course, carrot cake is commonplace now but up until that moment, I had never heard of such a thing. I recall staring at the customer in wide-eyed amazement as my my mind reeled with an array of very unappetizing images of what a “carrot cake” might be.

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Healthy Chewy No-Bake Granola Bars

healthy no bake chewy granola bars piled on a board and one bar on a plate
Quick and Easy No-Bake Healthy Chewy Granola Bars (Photo Credit: Joanne/Blair @TheDragonsPicnic.com)

The versatility of a recipe is a high priority for me when cooking or baking and I tend to gravitate towards dishes that can withstand a degree of creativity and tolerate substitutions to whatever might be at hand. These chewy granola bars fit this bill.

I have always preferred chewy granola bars compared with their crunchy counterparts and marvelled at their gooey consistency. The chewy texture always seemed a bit magical considering they were usually loaded with crunchy nuts and seeds. When I first made this recipe, even though the mystery of the chewiness was revealed, I am pleased to say they still taste just as good!

The main dry ingredients include:

  • 1½ cups (150g) rolled oats
  • ¾ cup (25g) rice crisp cereal

Mix and Match Ingredients:

Use about 1½ cups in total of any of the following combinations:

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The Granola Buffet

three bowls of granola with the following flavours - cranberry matcha, peanut butter and chocolate and spiced
Top Left to Right: Cranberry Matcha Granola, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Granola and Spiced Granola

I now feast on granola almost every day and, on some days, throughout the day! It is so versatile. The versatility not only relates to what can go into the mixture but also extends to how to eat it.  Granola can be served as a cereal, a tasty and crunchy topping on fruit and yoghurt or just by the handful as a healthy snack. The latter method has become my personal favourite! 

This has not always been the case and up until I started making my own granola, I never touched it. This was because the commercially bought products can be loaded with sugars, unnecessary high-saturated oils and even contain fillers such as soy protein isolate, inulin (a soluble fiber that can cause digestive problems), and other suspect ingredients.

The benefits of granola is that the main ingredient is oats which boast impressive numbers in fiber and iron. Other ingredients such as nuts and seeds add heart-healthy unsaturated fats and some protein. By making your own granola, you decide exactly what goes into the mixture and control the type and amount of sugars, oil and ultimately final calorie content.

Granola is quick and easy to make and very forgiving by allowing the mixing of many different ingredients to suit personal preferences and desired calories. The main dry ingredients are 2.5 cups (200g) Rolled Oats and ½ tsp salt. The key wet ingredients include 3 TBS of melted coconut oil and ¼ cup of maple syrup.  Other tasty additions to the wet ingredients can include about ¼ cup of Tahini, peanut butter or any nut butter.

What else to include in the granola buffet is up to you:

Nuts and Seeds:

Any combination of nuts and seeds, usually about ½ cup per ingredient and 1 – 1½ cups in total, such as:

  • slivered almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios
  • pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
  • buckwheat groats (adds an amazing crunch)

Flavourings:

This list is endless and only limited by your imagination and personal tastes:

  • vanilla extract, cacoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, matcha tea powder, grated orange and lemon rind, grated or ground ginger

Post-Cooking Additions:

The following treats can be added before cooking but make sure not to overcook otherwise the dried fruit can become inedible:

  • shredded coconut, raisins, currents, sultanas, dried mango, dried cherries, dried blueberries

Once you have made your selections and given the mixture a good stir, it can be spread out on parchment paper on a large baking sheet and cooked at 350°C (175°F) for about 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Once cooled, the granola can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to four weeks.  I have also tried freezing it and this has worked well for me.

three jars of granola with the following flavours - cranberry matcha, peanut butter and chocolate and spiced
Left to Right: Spiced Granola, Cranberry Matcha Granola and Chocolate and Peanut Butter Granola

Having started experimenting with my own granola about a year ago, I have now found 3 basic recipes (photographed above) that have become my go to.  The actual recipes originated from Jean-Philippe Cyr’s cookbook, The Buddhist Chef: 100 Simple, Feel-Good Vegan Recipes.

Check out the The Buddhist Chef and more sites on the Resources page.