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muesliThe hardest thing about travelling for me is often breakfast. At home, I start my day with healthy whole foods: steel-cut oats, or a smoothie, sometimes whole-grain toast for nut butter. It’s not that I’m a health food puritan, but I find a sugary, carb-heavy breakfast makes me sleepy and hungry the rest of the day. On the road, especially at mid- and low-range US hotels (the kind that boast of their make-your-own-waffle stations, as though that means homemade), it can be hard to find anything good at all: the peanut butter has sugar, the yogurt has sugar (and no fat) and the eggs are inedible scrambled-from-a-carton, meaning if I want protein, I have to pack it in.

And then there’s Switzerland. On the one hand, every breakfast buffet features Nutella and white bread, which can be hard to resist. But on the other hand, you’ll usually find cheese, and full-fat yogurt, and – best of all – birchermuesli and toppings. (Breakfast at left from Hotel Dom in St Gallen.) A Swiss classic, birchermuesli is basically oats soaked overnight with grated apple, milk and yogurt, ending up with a super creamy cereal – a cold alternative to oatmeal, really – that can be dressed up to your taste. Also common at Swiss buffets is bowls of raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds, perfect to add crunch, flavour and nutrition to your morning oats. And at Swiss grocery stores (and, important for travellers, the Sprüngli at Zurich airport), you can grab delicious to-go birchermuesli from the yogurt section. The Sprüngli version has raspberries mixed in and possibly red currants, and tastes sweet enough that they must be adding at least a little sugar, but it’s perfect to have on the plane to sub in for whatever your airline likes to call a meal.

There are plenty of recipes online for creative takes on “overnight oats,” but I really wanted to recreate what I’d had in Switzerland. Unfortunately, my first few attempts were mediocre, making me suspect that the secret was fatty Swiss cream or something similar. And then, I found this Jamie Oliver video online and had an epiphany. It’s brilliant: he uses grated banana in his soaking mixture to add sweetness and creaminess. The following is a riff off of that recipe, a slightly tropical take on birchermuesli. Measurements are approximate – play with it!

birchermuesli

1 cup slow-cook rolled oats (gluten-free if you roll that way)
1 apple, grated
1 banana, grated (best to use one that’s still fairly firm – not green, but not mushy)
1 – 2 cups almond milk, or other nut milk of your choice
2 – 3 tablespoons coconut milk (from a can)
1/3 cup leftover pulp from homemade nut milk (optional)
spices (vanilla powder, cinnamon, etc.) – optional (my almond milk has spices so I don’t add any here)

Mix all ingredients in a large Mason jar or other container. (The narrower the better to prevent browning.) Leave in fridge at least 4 – 5 hours or overnight. Serve topped with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, shredded coconut or toppings of your choice. (Thawed frozen raspberries are a nice option – throw some in the fridge the night before at the same time as you’re making the muesli.) Makes 2 – 3 servings, and will keep for a couple of days – if you’re making breakfast ahead, you can separate the mixture out into separate to-go containers for breakfast at or en route to work.

Oh, and here’s a gratuitous Switzerland photo, just to get your mind in vacation mode. I wrote about sledding in Switzerland for enRoute.

sledding-andermatt

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Not long ago, I was having one of those days where when a recipe for raw vegan cookie dough shows up in your Google Reader (ahem, yes, still haven’t switched), you get up and go to the kitchen and make it. I used macadamias and pecans instead of cashews and walnuts and added a bit of honey because my banana was slightly underripe, and the result was delicious. It also made a ton, so I decided to freeze some. And then I had a brain wave – cookie dough ice cream.

It’s easy – make the cookie dough, then freeze some into little chunks, about the size you would want them in your ice cream. Then when you make banana soft serve or your favourite other ice cream, toss the chunks in right at the end, so they get chopped in a little – or just stir them in.

banana2

Next up? I’ll have to figure out a new version of dulce de leche ice cream.

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Hello, neglected blog!

In need of a chocolate fix (and it’s “feels like minus 10 outside”, as in I don’t want to leave the house anymore today), I was searching for some emergency chocolate recipes, and figured I’m not the only one. But some of the recipes I found that were labelled emergency included chocolate (not cocoa) as an ingredient, which confuses me: if it’s a chocolate emergency, wouldn’t you just eat the chocolate instead of baking with it, if you had any?

chocolate

My usual is banana with quick chocolate sauce. The sauce, easily adaptable, is a blend of coconut oil, cocoa powder and maple syrup in near-equal amounts, with a touch of vanilla and salt if you like. Whisk together and pour over the banana, either freshly sliced or – if you’re feeling fancy – sliced lengthwise and fried in some coconut oil until gooey and delicious. (Use butter if you want.)

But here are a few other options, some of which I’ve made and some I’ve just pinned:

Chocolate Frosting Shots
This genius recipe is super simple and only requires that you have thick coconut milk hanging around. In my more ambitious states, I keep a can or two in the back of the fridge to use for emergency faux whipped cream, too, and those will do just fine. It doesn’t matter in terms of flavour if your coconut milk is a little runny, it’s more a texture thing, and chilled is nice. I jazzed mine up tonight with a touch of espresso powder.

Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Bites
Uses chocolate chips, which isn’t something I keep in my house due to eating them, but the peanut butter part is genius, and I bet you could adapt my sauce recipe above for this. If you try it, let me know.

Raw Cacao Pudding
Uses irish moss gel, which means it only counts as an emergency recipe if you happen to have any in your fridge. But I’m dying to try this.

Chocolate Chia Pudding
Delicious. She says to let it sit for one to ten hours but honestly, I’m sure I’ve eaten it after 15 minutes or so.

I’ve never had tons of luck with the cake-in-a-mug recipes I’ve found, and I’m still hunting for a recipe for a single chocolate cookie. Do you have any others to add?

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This is an adaptation of a recipe my Dad has always made, which itself is an adaptation from Betty Crocker. It’s a very flexible recipe. If you hate raisins, substitute dried cherries or chopped dried apricots. Add chocolate chips if you like. Or coconut. Use your favourite blend of nuts and seeds. Increase or decrease the spices.

It’s a big recipe (double the original) but the cookies do freeze well. I think the vegan ones are a little crumblier than non-vegan so be careful when carrying/shipping them.

I cut the sugar quite a bit from the original already. You could probably cut slightly more depending on your sweet tooth. The raisins do add a lot of sweetness.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups coconut oil
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 T ground flaxseeds + 6 T water
1/2 cup water
2 t vanilla
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 t salt
1 T cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
1 T dried ginger
2 cups raisins
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup wheat germ
6 cups rolled oats

Heat oven to 350F.

Mix flaxseeds and 6 T water in a small bowl; set aside 10 minutes.

Mix thoroughly coconut oil, sugars, 1/2 cup water and vanilla. Add flaxseed mixture when ready.

In separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients except rolled oats. Add to web mixture and mix thoroughly. Mix in oats. (It can be easier to add the oats in two or three parts – the last addition will be hardest to mix in.)

Using your hands, create packed cookie shapes (dropped spoonfuls might work instead, or might not hold together) and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched with finger.

Or – add raw dough to banana soft serve for cookie dough ice cream. (I didn’t do this but should have.)

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There are certainly a lot of tasty options on the market these days when it comes to energy and snack bars. But I really prefer to make my own if I can, for cost and health reasons. So I’ve been on a bit of a quest to find some reliable bar recipes. My criteria are that they have to be healthy (little to no added sugar or flour, lots of nutritious ingredients), easy to make ahead and freezable, but not melt when they come out of the freezer or fridge (which happens to a lot of raw bars). These are three I’ve found that I love – and they’re all different, which makes for excellent variety. And they’re all vegan, too.

Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars
This recipe’s from Vegetarian Times. Its ingredient list is simple, it relies on dates for sweetening and includes chocolate. Tastes like a chocolate bar, but healthy. I used pumpkinseeds instead of almonds.

Fruit and Nut Energy Bites
This one’s from vegan recipe blog Oh She Glows. I left out the sugar completely – you don’t need it – used coarsely ground pecans instead of walnuts, and raisins instead of cranberries. Oh, and water instead of almond milk.

Vegan Fig Bars
This is a great pick for Fig Newton lovers and really energizing. They do take a bit of prep and a food processor but the result is worth it. Next time I’ll leave out the maple syrup from the filling and I might try and make a slightly larger amount of base/topping as I found it didn’t quite cover the filling.

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When I spotted this homemade fudgesicle recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I had to have it, especially since I’d recently received some awesome rocket-shaped popsicle molds. But… I’m currently on an elimination diet that means no dairy. I put on my thinking cap and decided I could veganize them easily with my favourite friend, coconut milk.

They taste amazing, probably better than with just dairy milk. I did find them hard to get out – maybe I was in a hurry, maybe it’s the molds, maybe the mixture is stickier with coconut – but hot water and squeezing did the trick. (Pulling resulted in a popsicle-free stick, which is just sad.) The unfrozen mixture also makes an amazing pudding – I had the leftovers from my pot on top of sliced banana.

As I’m not actually vegan, I wasn’t picky about the vegan-ness of some ingredients. These are more dairy-free, I guess. The level of detail is up to you.

Homemade vegan fudgesicles
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

21 g chopped dark chocolate (I used Denman Island Simply Dark, which may or may not be vegan, actually)
1/3 cup sugar (I used raw sugar and you could probably cut this amount back a bit.)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Navitas raw cacao powder)
1 1/4 cups coconut milk (the kind from a can. If it’s almost solid like mine was, thin it out with a bit of water)
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

Gently melt the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, coconut milk and salt and increase heat to medium, whisking mixture until smooth. Continuing to whisk frequently, cook until mixture is thick, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and coconut oil. Let cool slightly, stirring occasionally, then pour into molds. Use spatula to lick pot clean.

(Want your own rocket-shaped popsicles? The molds are available at Amazon.)

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Last night I was asked to make a crumble. You see, we had extra whipping cream, and needed something to put it on.

As a smoothie addict I always have a freezer full of fruit, so this wasn’t a tough sell. And in April, you don’t have to feel guilty about not chopping your own peaches. (Although if you’re a real star, which I am not, you’ll have your own frozen Ontario peaches from last summer pre-sliced in the freezer.)

I prefer a simple crumble. No extras in the fruit (unless you’re using cranberries or rhubarb, you definitely don’t need added sugar) and a recipe-free mixture of oats, nuts or seeds, sweetener and fat. This is the only baking I can do recipe-free and it always makes me feel accomplished in a great-grandmother’s time kind of way.

This one I made with oats, shredded coconut, coconut oil, hemp seeds and maple syrup. Coconut oil is a great vegan and healthier alternative to butter, so long as you get the virgin kind, and while it certainly doesn’t taste like butter, it browns nicely and has its own fab flavour. (Pictured for breakfast, so without whipped cream.) I dumped frozen peaches, mixed berries and raspberries into a dish and topped with the mixture. 350F for 45 minutes or so. Easy!

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I have a major sweet tooth, so I like to make desserts that are healthy and portable to satisfy my midafternoon cravings at the office. Sweet potatoes are a natural choice and help me satisfy my rule to eat something green and something orange every day.

Take a bag of sweet potatoes. (Mine were organic from Fiesta Farms, but not local. Fiesta, can we have local and organic, pretty please?) Wash, pierce with a fork and put on a tray lined with parchment paper.

Roast at 375F for a good hour or more. I like to err on the side of overcooked. The juices escape and burn and caramelize. Delicious. (This part can be done ahead of time.)

Sweet potato pudding #1: chocolate variety

This one was inspired by Choosing Raw. It’s more or less Gena’s recipe, except I did it from memory and modified slightly.

1 small roasted sweet potato
1 avocado
6 or so soft, mushy dates (if you have hard ones, soak them first)
a couple tablespoons of cocoa or raw cacao powder
a tablespoon of coconut oil (I like to add this to my puddings for better mouthfeel)
some vanilla

Process in the food processor until creamy, adding water and scraping bowl as necessary and adjusting flavours to taste.

Put in a jar and see how long you can make it last.

Sweet potato pudding #2: basic variety

This one was inspired by one I bought at Noah’s by Jinny Lok, who makes healthy and tasty desserts under the brand name (I think) Joyful Living.

Measurements are approximate because it depends on how many sweet potatoes you use. Remember that sweet potatoes are already sweet, so don’t go overboard on sweeteners.

a few roasted sweet potatoes
some dates
a swish of maple syrup
a tablespoon of coconut oil
some spices (I used cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)

Add to food processor and process until smooth, adding water and scraping bowl as needed. Adjust flavours to taste.

I put mine in a few small jars and topped them with Greek yogurt and pecans. But honestly, to make it truly vegan, a coconut or cashew cream would be just as good if not better.

Note: for both puddings, I left the skins on (but removed the tough stem ends). There’s a lot of nutrition in the skin that it’s worth keeping, and they process up pretty smooth. But if you want a super-creamy pudding, you might want to remove the skins.

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