Tropical Granola Bars

Here is a recipe for the granola bars I made for my packed lunches this week. Every couple weeks I experiment with new flavours of granola bars, and this week I had pineapple on hand.

This is a snack to bring a little bit of tropical sunshine during these cold winter days.  

Ingredients
2 tbsp chia seeds
juice from one small orange (about 1/4 cup)
1-2 bananas, over-ripe (I used 2 medium-sized bananas)
zest from one small orange
1/2 heaping cup pineapple, cut into small pieces
1/2 heaping cup shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 cups oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup protein powder (I used hemp powder)
1/4 cup wheat germ or all purpose flour

I preheated the oven to 350*F. In a small bowl I let the chia seeds soak in the orange juice for about 5 minutes. While I was waiting I mashed the bananas, then added the orange zest, pineapple, vanilla, maple syrup, and melted coconut oil. In a large bowl I combined the dry ingredients, then added them to the wet ingredients. The mixture should be moist but not wet, and firm but not dry. Add more oats or water as needed. I pressed the mixture into an 8×8 pan that was lined with parchment paper, and baked them for 35 minutes. I usually bake granola bars for 25 minutes, but these had more moisture, so they needed more time. The edges of the cooked batter were golden and when I touched the top, it was hard but slightly spongy.

I cut the granola bars into 10 pieces using a sharp knife after the pan cooled down completely. I stored them in the fridge so they would last longer. On the counter they would probably last 5-6 days.  In the fridge they can last over a week, maybe two weeks. They can be frozen too.

I bet adding almonds and swapping almond extract for vanilla would be quite scrumptious.

My dad spread cream cheese on top and ate them for dessert.

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Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Merry Christmas, everyone! I decided to give a crack at making my own vegan biscotti this holiday season. I haven’t had that much time to bake, but this recipe made a lot, so the cookie jar has been happy.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe in “Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season” by Lisa Zwirn. The cookbook was given to me last year by the owner of Life of Pie, where I was helping out with the Christmas madness during my break from school. This year I got to try out a recipe.

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp chia seeds, plus 8 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest from 1 large orange
1 cup unsalted pistachios*
1 cup dried cranberries
An extra 1/4-1/2 cups water.

* If you use unsalted, add about 1/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients. I had a hard time finding peanut-free unsalted pistachios, and had salted ones on hand, so I rinsed them thoroughly and omitted the salt. That worked pretty well.

I started by making a chia seed egg by letting the 8tbsp of water and chia seeds soak for five minutes. I preheated the oven to 350*F. Separately, in a medium bowl I mixed together the flour, baking powder, (salt), and cinnnamon. In a large bowl I used an electric mixer to cream the coconut oil, then beat in the sugars until fluffy. I then added the chia egg, vanilla, and orange zest. I mixed in the flour mixture little by little. Lastly, I stirred in the pistachios and cranberries.

Seeing that the original recipe used 2 large eggs, which have a lot of water in them, I noticed that my dough needed extra water. So, I added about 1/4-1/2 cup of water, little by little and stirring between each addition, until the dough was wet enough to gather into a ball. I made two balls of dough and placed them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I shaped each ball into a long rectangular shape, measuring 13 inches long by 2 1/2 inches wide. The loaves should be about 3 inches apart.

The loaves were baked for 30-35 minutes, and the pan was rotated at the half way point. I took the loaves out and let them sit for about 10 minutes, and lowered the oven temperature to 325*F. After 10 minutes, I transferred the loaves to a cutting board and used a bread knife to saw the loaves into 3/4 inch-thick pieces. I placed each piece back on the cookie sheet, facing the freshly cut sides down. I baked them for 10 minutes, then flipped each piece to the other freshly cut side, and baked them for 10 minutes more. They were taken out of the oven, and enjoyed in various ways: with hot chocolate, coffee, hazelnut spread, and just plain (as my mom would probably like them).

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This is a picture of the biscotti on a plate that I made my dad when I was a kid, and the cookie jar in the background. Santa’s head is the lid of the jar.

Merry Christmas! I wish everyone a safe, relaxing, and joyful holiday.

Home-Made Deodorant

Normally I share recipes for things you would want to eat, but today I am sharing a recipe for deodorant. While you can certainly eat it, it is meant for your pits. Apparently there are toxins in many deodorants and antiperspirants found at the drug store. Aluminium is one that I especially want to avoid, and can even be found in some baking powders. When I found out about this I was determined to find a good-quality deodorant that was less harmful to my body. Skin is  our largest organ, and absorbs whatever we put on it, so really, we should be putting products on our bodies that we would be OK putting in our mouths.

When I first started looking for a natural deodorant, I bought a couple brands from a health food store, but they just did not work. One brand I tried, Green Beaver, actually seemed to make me smell worse, plus it felt really sticky. Little did I know that the best deodorant for me was lurking in my kitchen cupboards. Here is the recipe.

Ingredients
1/4 cup cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
1/4 cup baking soda
4 tbsp coconut oil

I whip these ingredients together  with a mixer or with a spoon and store the deodorant in small jars that are easy to access with my fingers. I put about half a finger-full per armpit, and generally need to apply it only once a day. This would really depend on your body, though, so I suggest experimenting with it. The coconut oil acts as a deodorant and the powders act as an antiperspirant.

I am finding that in the summer the deodorant melts and for some reason is less effective, so it is definitely better to keep it in the fridge if you don’t have air conditioning. Not to say that it does not work at all when liquid, I just find I need to re-apply it later in the day, and when it solidifies again the ingredients appear to have separated.

I often double the recipe because I usually end up giving one or two containers away to friends and family. Otherwise, each batch can last me about four months.

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Christmas Feast 2013

Christmas at my house traditionally involves my stepfather pulling off a giant turkey dinner for the family; it wouldn’t be Christmas without bacon roasted on the turkey and sausage in the stuffing. This was the first Christmas since I became flexitarian (vegan with exceptions here and there), and I wanted to make a festive vegan dish to contribute to the plant-based options on the table. I decided to make a Festive Savoury Tart with Mushroom Gravy. I got the recipe for the tart from Dreena Burton, who I follow on Facebook. She included this recipe in her cookbook called Let Them Eat Vegan. I do not own this cookbook yet, but had access to it over the summer while living with another vegan. Here is my adaptation of her Festive Chickpea Tart recipe.

Festive Savoury Tart
Ingredients for the pie shell
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil at room temperature
4-7 tbsp cold water

Ingredients for the filling
3-4 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups chickpeas, with 1/3 cup reserved
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp soy sauce (ideally tamari instead, but I don’t know where to find it)
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted (ideally use walnuts)
10 oz spinach, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbsp fresh thyme
Fresh parsley
Pepper

Ingredients for the topping
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce (again, ideally tamari)
2 tbsp pecans or walnuts

Mushroom Gravy
Ingredients
2 shallots, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
3-4 tbsp flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp thyme
3-4 tbsp coconut oil
salt and pepper

First off, I made the pie dough. It is important to note that this recipe needs some tweaking, as it was quite difficult to roll out, and I ended up pressing it in with my fingers. While the crust stayed together when the tart was being served, I am still not convinced that this recipe is the best approach to vegan pie crust.

To make the dough I tossed together the four, sugar, and salt, then cut in the coconut oil with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembled sand. I added the water little by little until the dough easily forms a ball. I think I required a little extra water to do so. I formed a ball with the dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap, flattened it into a disk, and refrigerated it for an hour.

Next came the filling for the tart. I began by toasting the pecans for 8-9 minutes in an oven of 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and let them cool. Next, I sauteed the onion, celery, garlic, and salt and pepper in a pan with the coconut oil. I let them cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion was soft and golden.

In a food processor, I pulsed the chickpeas (not including the reserved 1/3 cup) with the lemon juice, soy sauce, sage, and sauteed mixture, leaving the mixture slightly chunky; you do not want it to look like hummus. I added the toasted pecans and briefly pulsed it to break up the nuts. I transferred the mixture to a bowl and stirred in the spinach, cranberries, parsley, thyme, and reserved chickpeas. Then, I transferred the filling into a pie shell, with the pie dough pressed in evenly.

On the top of the tart I sprinkled the topping ingredients. The pecans will toast in the oven, so there is no need to toast them beforehand.

The tart was baked at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Next came the mushroom gravy. I sauteed the shallots and garlic for a few minutes, then added the sliced mushrooms and browned them for 10 minutes. I added the flour, reduced the heat, and cooked for another five minutes. Little by little I whisked in the vegetable stock and added the thyme. The gravy simmered for 30 minutes, then I seasoned it with salt and pepper. If the gravy had been too thin for my liking, I would have added more flour by mixing it with water in a little bowl, then adding it to the mixture (this reduces the likelihood of lumps in the gravy).

The savoury tart was eaten by all at the Christmas meal, and I was able to enjoy the festive flavours without having any turkey. Even though this time of year has proven to be more difficult to eat vegan (with all the family get-togethers and all), it was nice to share this dish with my family.

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