Surprise! Jam-filled bran muffins

vegan muffin
These little muffins are the perfect size for snacking.

Whenever he’s given the chance to choose his muffin, my little picky eater goes for the bran muffins over cookies or other kinds of muffins. And I sit there and watch in amazement as he happily gobbles it down. Vegan kids don’t necessarily need the extra fibre from the bran but why should we miss out on all the branny fun?

By definition, a vegan diet is high in fibre. Fibre comes from plant foods but isn’t present in animal products. Everything we eat is a source of fibre unless the fibre has been removed through processing (like white flour). Fruit is a great source of fibre – the little seeds in raspberries are a good example of a fibre-rich food.

I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that a clean colon is a healthy colon. When foods move through the body smoothly and waste is eliminated daily, we’re able to extract all the nutrients from the food we consume and the risk of many diseases are reduced.

Here’s a little muffin that will make you go and make you smile too. It’s loaded with fibre from bran, whole wheat flour, chia seeds and depending on the jam you choose to use, you may get fibre from that.

But the best thing about these muffins is the jam at the centre. I’ve used my favourite jam – it’s apple pie jam that I made from the apples we picked at a local farm in the fall. It contains all the goodness of pie in a form that I can use every day. Mmmm! The recipe is from this book: The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes.

This muffin recipe makes 24 small muffins. I like to bake huge batches of baked goods on the weekends so I can freeze some for snacks to pack in the kids’ lunches during the week. If I only make 12, they’ll be gone before I get to freeze some. These little muffins fit nicely in our reusable containers even when frozen solid (an important feature for me)!

The recipe is based on one from The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. The ingredients have been adapted based on what I had on hand and what my kids like to eat. They’re also nut-free so they can be sent to school.

Surprise! Jam-filled muffins

  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups bran
  • 2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose or regular whole wheat)
  •  1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cup vegan milk (I use soy)
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 jar of jam

Preheat the oven to 425 and grease muffin tins for 24 muffins.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the chia seeds with water and put them aside to allow the seeds to absorb the water.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

Tip: Use a whisk to make sure there are no clumps of brown sugar.

Add the milk and the canola oil to the bowl with the chia seeds. Use the whisk to make sure you break up the large clumps of chia seeds.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine – don’t use a whisk because you don’t want to over mix the batter.

vegan jam muffins
Add one teaspoon of jam in the centre of each muffin.

Scoop 1/3 cup of batter for each muffin into the tins. Add a teaspoon of jam in the middle of each muffin. Then distribute the rest of the muffin batter to top each muffin. You want the jam in the middle of the muffin – if it sinks to the bottom, it will stick to the bottom of the tin. If it’s not covered with batter, the sugary jam would show and ruin the surprise.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool a few minutes before removing them from the tins.

vegan muffins for snacks
Not too little, not too big.

 

 

Easy, nutritious breakfast to go

Quick vegan breakfast
Here’s a selection of breakfasts that can be taken to go.

I’ll be starting a new job soon, which means we’ll all have a new routine when school starts again. And no matter what that means, mine never has room for breakfast. Even if I did schedule myself some extra time to sit down, I’d rather drink my coffee and get going than sit down and eat breakfast. So I’ve come up with a breakfast that I can take with me and enjoy at my leisure (or destination).

We all know that breakfast is an important meal to eat if we want to be healthy. If you’re trying to watch your weight or eat more whole foods, these breakfast ideas will help kick start your day. They’re make-ahead, the ingredients are inexpensive and you can tweak them to your preferences.

The kids were thrilled when they saw my mason jars out – it has been a while since I’ve made this for them. I’ve included three options: hot oatmeal to go, overnight oats and chia seed pudding.

Hot oatmeal to go

This one takes no planning at all and on a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing better. All you require is a mason jar and oatmeal and you can adapt this recipe to suit the contents of your cupboards. (I’ve been known to take an extra 30 seconds on my way out the door to throw this breakfast together for myself.)

Use the 250 ml mason jar for an adult-sized breakfast. If you’re making some for the kids, use the tiny jars. The recipe below is for the adult-sized portion.

Hot oatmeal to go
Don’t overpay at the coffee shop, taking oatmeal to go is easy and you can guarantee the nuts aren’t stale!

Fill the jar just less than halfway with oatmeal – you can use instant, medium or large cut oats. I use the large ones because I prefer that texture but if you want the Starbucks’ style, use the instant oats. Add the ingredients below to your mason jar:

  • 2 tsp sweetener of choice (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp dried fruit
  • 1 Tbsp nuts or seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, matcha tea, etc.

Put the lid on and give it a good shake. When you want to eat, fill the mason jar with boiling water, put the lid back on and shake it around a bit. Set it down for a few minutes with the lid on to allow the hot water to cook the oatmeal. Mmmm! It goes well with that cup of coffee you finally get to sit down and drink!

Overnight oats

If you haven’t tried overnight oats, you’re really missing out! This is such an easy and creamy breakfast and you can change it up every day so you never get tired of it. Once again, everything can be changed according to your preferences. I prefer to use small frozen berries in my overnight oats. The small pieces means more fruit in every bite and doesn’t take up as much space in my mason jar. Jam works well too!

Overnight oats
Dress up your oatmeal however you’d like it. Just don’t forget to pack your spoon!
  • 1 Tbsp vegan yogurt (coconut is our favourite kind)
  • 1/2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp frozen fruit or jam (pomegranate seeds, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup oats (instant, medium or large cut oats all work well)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon or other spice
  • 3/4 cup of soy milk or other vegan milk
  • sweetener (optional)

Combine the ingredients in the jar, put the lid on and shake it well. Make sure the chia seeds are mixed in – use a spoon to stir if you have to. Check if you need to add some sweetener – it will depend on whether your milk and yogurt is sweetened or not. Leave them in the fridge overnight.

Chia seed pudding

Have you ever gone to pack your kids’ lunches when you realize you are out of snacks? Don’t panic. Chia seed pudding is almost as easy to pack as store-bought and the kids will love it! It also works well for a super creamy breakfast. I made these in the tiny jars for the kids.

Vegan pudding
Chia seed pudding is delicious and full of protein to power you through the morning.
  • 1 small jar that won’t spill
  • 1 Tbsp vegan yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fruit or jam (frozen berries work well)
  • 1/4 cup vanilla soy milk or other vegan milk
  • sweetener (if you’ve used unsweetened milk, yogurt and fruit)

Put all the ingredients in the jar and stir it well or shake it until well combined. Put it in the fridge and it will be thick and delicious by morning.

If you take a few minutes to shake up some breakfast before bed, it’s really easy to eat on the cheap even on the go. Since I make my own jam, I like to use a spoonful of jam in my oatmeal and chia seed puddings but you can use anything you have on hand such as banana, apple sauce, fresh fruit chopped into small pieces or anything you like. Enjoy!

Savoury pumpkin seed spread

Vegan pumpkin seed spread

Merry Christmas to you! I hope you’re sharing your holidays with loved ones and spending your time doing activities you love as well.

Here’s a spread that will go well on a cheese plate and can be enjoyed by people with nut allergies. Aside from the time required to soak the pumpkin seeds, it only takes a minute to make. Unlike the last dip, this spread is kid-approved.

Savoury pumpkin seed spread

  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated onions
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp miso paste
  • 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Combine the pumpkin seeds, onion and water in a bowl and cover it. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes.

Pour the soaked seeds (with the water and onion), nutritional yeast, miso and vinegar into a high speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Top with freshly ground pepper, if desired.

Serve with crackers or fresh bread. Enjoy! Happy holidays!

Creamy cauliflower dip with cashews and caramelized onions

If you’re looking for something special to bring to a potluck or a party, I have your solution. This dairy-free dip is creamy with a kick of spice and it won’t impact your waistline. But there’s no need to wait for a special occasion – whip it up today for an indulgence you don’t have to share.

Note to parents: don’t let the Santa plate fool you – the kids won’t touch this dip. It’s sweet and spicy with caramelized onions and hot sauce, which makes it too flavourful for most kids. I could make a kid-friendly version but not today. This one’s just for the grown-ups.

Warm vegan cauliflower dip
Straight from the oven, this creamy dip tastes naughty but is really nice.

This recipe is a bit more time consuming than others because you have to soak the cashews. If you have a high speed blender, you only need to soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes. If you don’t have a Vitamix or similarly powerful blender, you should probably soak them overnight.

Creamy cauliflower dip

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (or whatever kind you have on hand)
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 cup cauliflower (chopped very small)
  • 2 Tbsp oats
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Pour the boiling water over the raw cashews and soak them for 30 minutes or overnight (depending on the strength of your blender).

When you’re ready to make the dip, preheat the oven to 350 and find an ovenproof dish that can fit up to 3 cups of dip.

Heat a frying pan on medium-low heat, add the olive oil and the onion. Cook it for a few minutes until it starts to turn brown. Turn the heat down if it starts sticking. Add the garlic and cauliflower and continue to cook for another minute, stirring often to prevent burning. Add the balsamic vinegar, paprika, dry mustard and hot sauce and remove from the heat.

Put the cashews and their water in the blender with the oats and nutritional yeast and blend until smooth. Pour the cashew cream into the pan with the onion mixture and stir to combine. Pour this mixture into the ovenproof dish and bake for 15 minutes.

Serve with crackers, chips or fresh bread.

Vegan cauliflower dip
Even Santa approves of this nice treat.

Chocolate peanut butter energy balls

Chocolate peanut butter energy ball

It’s Saturday morning and we’re finally heading out the door. Everyone has had breakfast, gotten dressed, brushed their teeth and we’re putting on our coats when one of the kids says, “I’m hungry.”

This happens too often and it doesn’t matter if they just finished a meal. They may be interrupting me while I tell them to take their last bite of breakfast and wash their hands because it’s time to go.

It never fails. If we’re on our way out the door, the kids are asking for food. Generally, I’ll send them to the cupboard for a handful of nuts but it’s Christmas so we can do better.

This little treat is full of peanut goodness, requires no baking and little hands can help. It’s probably one of the easiest cookies you’ll make this season and if you have a picky eater, you’ll want to kept this secret – it’s made with pumpkin!

peanut butter and pumpkin puree

Something else that I like about this treat is that the filling is smooth and that makes it different. Often, I’ll pack something extra into treat for added protein. This treat is simple and the smooth peanut filling feels decadent on your tongue. You may not want to share these with the kids!

Chocolate peanut butter energy balls

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar (powdered sugar for my American friends)
  • 10 oz high quality dark chocolate (make sure it’s vegan)

In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter and pumpkin together well. Add the sugar and work it into the mixture.

Line a tray or plate with parchment paper, ensuring it fits in your freezer. Scoop a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Place it on the tray and continue until you have used up all the peanut butter mixture.

Place the tray of peanut butter balls in the freezer for about 30 minutes to harden.

When the balls have chilled, melt the chocolate using your preferred method. (I use a double boiler method but the microwave will melt it nicely too.) Line another tray with parchment paper. Dip each ball into the chocolate using a spoon to roll it around in the chocolate. Place the dipped balls on the tray and refrigerate to cool the chocolate.

Keep these energy balls in the fridge to fuel the kids throughout the festive season. And, whatever you do, don’t tell them they’re eating their veggies!

IMG_5005

Gingerbread with dried fruit

Christmas gingerbread
Gingerbread straight from the oven.

I often make muffins or a sweet bread on weekends to have on hand for making lunches throughout the week. They’re a healthier option than the store bought ones, which are often not vegan or if they are, they’re expensive. Making snacks at home is easy, cheap and allows for customization.

Since it’s December, I made a loaf of gingerbread and filled it with dried fruit. The result is moist, delicious and perfect for this time of year. When I cut it open, I grabbed a couple pieces for lunches because the rest almost disappeared in one sitting!

Gingerbread

Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed! For the fruit combination, I used what what I had in the cupboard. You can use whatever combination you have on hand: apples and raisins would work well.

A word about the chia seeds: this is what I used in place of an egg. You can use ground flax seeds or another method if you’d like but the chia seeds work well and aren’t noticeable in the finished bread. Other options would be a mashed banana or applesauce with baking powder – I’m sure they would be delicious substitutions.

Gingerbread with cranberries, apricots and currants.

Gingerbread with dried fruit

  • 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose flour or a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil (or other neutral vegetable oil)
  • 3 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1/2 cup soymilk (or other vegan milk)
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup dried currants

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the chia seeds and water and stir well. Put them aside to thicken.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, oil, molasses and soymilk. Mix well. Add the chia seed mixture and stir.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the dried fruit and mix.

Pour the mixture into a lightly greased bread pan and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool slightly before removing it from the pan.

Enjoy!

Vegan gingerbread slices
The gingerbread is studded with cranberries, apricots and currants.

Whole wheat cranberry muffins

cranberry muffins

Packing the kids’ lunches last night, I realized we were running low on healthy snacks. These are my go-to muffins – little tasty treats that fit nicely in our reusable containers. Packed with whole grain goodness and studded with cranberries, these little muffins hit the spot every time.

The recipe is based on the cranberry muffin recipe in Vegan Food Gifts: More Than 100 Inspired Recipes for Homemade Baked Goods, Preserves, and Other Edible Gifts Everyone Will Love. This book has some great ideas for packaging treats and vegan edibles for family members.

It’s quite smart, really. I have found it useful to fill my pantry with prepped meals – with all the dry ingredients layered in mason jars waiting to be added to boiling water. They’re great to have on hand for babysitters on date nights.

The original recipe is meant to be given away as a muffin mix with the baking instructions added on a pretty card. The baker only has to add the wet ingredients and bake. I’ve made a few changes so I’ll post my version below.

My recipe has swapped whole wheat flours for all-purpose flour – I’ve also doubled the batch to make 24 since 12 muffins don’t last long in my house. The extra muffins go in the freezer for future lunches.

vegan cranberry muffins
They taste great topped with a bit of vegan butter.

Whole wheat cranberry muffins

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3 cups soy milk

Combine the dry ingredients, add the cranberries, oil and milk and stir until combined. Fill muffin tins (makes 24 muffins) and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to sneak some fresh muffins into the freezer for strategic lunch placements.