Apple Cinnamon Walnut Muffins

Photo 2014-08-12, 4 42 01 AM
With fall just around the corner, I have been working on making warming meals featuring some of my favourite fall ingredients. Although summer is an amazing break from our freezing, sometimes miserable winters here in Montreal, fall will always be my absolute favourite season. There is nothing more comforting then being in an oversized sweater (I have a slight addiction to buying these), with a warm cup of tea watching those beautiful multicoloured leaves fall.

When those crisp temperatures begin in September, we all crave more comforting, warming meals that feature hearty ingredients and bold spices. Cinnamon is definitely my favourite fall spice that I use year round. Besides for making dishes taste amazing,  cinnamon has so many amazing benefits some of which include controlling blood sugar levels and warding off hunger.

So to ease us into the season, I have made these super light muffins that are lower in fat but full of fiber, protein and whole grains. I have been able to reduce the fat content by replacing oil with apple butter. If you’ve never heard of it, apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce made by a slow cooking process where apples are cooked to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes creating a deep rich brown colour. It is extremely flavourful and adds intense moisture to baked goods! I bought apple butter at a regular grocery store where they have the natural nut butters, honey, maple syrup etc.. You can also make this yourself at home!

These muffins are packed with oats, chunks of apples and crunchy pieces of walnuts.  An extra sprinkle of cinnamon and coconut sugar gives these muffins a crunchy topping that goes amazing with a cup of coffee in the morning! These Apple Cinnamon Walnut Muffins are an amazing grab and go breakfast that the whole family can enjoy. These also are perfect with a little spread of  Chia Jam or Roasted Cinnamon Maple Almond Butter on top. As always these muffins are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Bon Appetit!
Photo 2014-08-12, 3 51 26 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 3 52 22 AM
Photo 2014-08-12, 3 56 18 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 4 03 05 AM
Photo 2014-08-12, 4 54 53 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 4 55 59 AM

Ingredients:

• 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
• 1 cup oat flour
• 1 tsp gluten free baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
• 1 cup diced and peeled apples (preferably organic)
• 2 tsp cinnamon (divided)
• 2 eggs
• 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 3 tbsp coconut or light olive oil (melted)
• 1 cup almond milk (or non dairy milk of choice)
• 1/2 cup apple butter or unsweetened apple sauce
• 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
• 2 tbsp coconut sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375.Line muffin tins with parchment and grease with coconut oil.
2. In a large bowl, mix oat flour, oats, 1 tsp cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together apple butter, melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, eggs and almond milk.
4. Slowly add wet ingredients into dry until combined. Then, mix in diced apples and walnuts.
5. Pour batter into muffin liners. In a small bowl mix together the remaining 1 tsp cinnamon and the 2 tbsp coconut sugar. Sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.
6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!
Photo 2014-08-12, 4 55 47 AM
Photo 2014-08-12, 4 59 46 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 5 13 20 AM

Stone Fruit and Strawberry Vanilla Chia Jam

Photo 2014-08-12, 5 09 11 AM
Jam is one of my favourite toppings to spread on toast, scoop on oatmeal, or mix into coconut yogurt. You can swirl it into homemade breads, cakes and muffins for a really intense fruit flavour that is so comforting and most importantly, delicious. Jams always remind me of the inside of a pie and often, they have just as much sugar as one. I am sure that many of you may think that jam might be a great way to get a serving of fruit and vitamins, but sorry folks… I’m here to break the bad news. Although jam is made primarily of fruit it is also made primarily of sugar. LOTS of sugar. And for those of thinking that you have made an even better choice by buying sugar-free jam or reduced sugar jam you are simply getting a chemical replacement with aspartame, sucralose etc… Not so yummy and not so healthy. Have no fear, I have two amazing and super simple jam combinations to satisfy any enthusiast of this delicious spread.

Homemade jam is a super simple way to use fresh fruit that is over ripe or about ready to get thrown in the trash. It also requires very little effort, time and materials and you are left with something truly special. Place it in a beautiful jar and you have a thoughtful home-made gift that is really impressive. I have provided you with some of my favourite fruit combinations but feel free to mix and match your own. It is great to use fruit that is in season to ensure that you have the best flavour and sweetness without having to add too many ingredients.

I have used two different natural sweeteners for each kind of jam. For the Stone Fruit Variety I used a few drops of liquid stevia. The fruit was very ripe and in season which made it perfectly sweet on its own. For my taste, it needed only a small amount of added sweetness. For the strawberry jam, I added brown rice syrup to sweeten. This was my first time using brown rice syrup. On its own, I was not too excited about the flavour, but mixed into the jam it gave a really light sweetness that I loved! If you don’t have these sweeteners around, feel free to use maple syrup, honey or agave nectar. Remember that fresh jams will last about one week, in an airtight container that is stored in a fridge! Bon appetit!
Photo 2014-07-15, 12 21 09 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 4 36 23 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 4 36 43 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 5 06 37 AMPhoto 2014-07-15, 12 55 48 AM

Stone Fruit Jam Ingredients:

• 7 apricots (chopped)
• 5 plums (chopped)
• 3 peaches (chopped)
• 4-5 drops liquid stevia (or sweetener of choice)
• 1/4 cup chia seeds

Strawberry Vanilla Ingredients:

• 3 cups strawberries (chopped)
• 2 tbsp brown rice syrup (or sweetener of choice)
• 1/4 cup chia seeds
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or scraped vanilla bean pod

Directions

1. Chop fruit and place in a medium sauce pan on medium heat. * you may remove the skin of the stone fruit if you like a smoother jam, I like to leave mine on!

2. Allow fruit to heat up for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. The fruit should begin to burst.

3. Add sweetener and chia seeds and allow to thicken for at least 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Cook for a longer period of time for a thicker, more syrupy jam.

4. Pour into jar or desired container and allow to cool. Seal and keep refrigerated for up to 7 days.
Photo 2014-08-12, 5 09 40 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 5 12 12 AMPhoto 2014-08-12, 5 13 20 AM
Photo 2014-07-15, 1 10 56 AM

Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash

Photo 2014-07-28, 7 22 41 AM
I have only been blogging for a few months now and it has been a great learning experience. I really went into this with more confidence in my passion for cooking then in my writing. Both finding my voice and determining what exactly I want to share with my readers has been a truly interesting experience. I really don’t know if readers want to know more about me personally, less about nutritional information etc…What is so great about a blog however, is that the writing is truly reflective of a moment in time for the writer, reader etc… Today for example, I feel like showing a side that most bloggers don’t. A truly honest side that will show insecurities, mistakes and a general confession of my ‘go with the flow’ attitude. So here it goes…

To start off…I am an amateur photographer. I still have barely any idea of what I am doing with my amazing Canon Rebel. I highly recommend this camera because without any knowledge of this device I have been able to capture some pretty sumptuous looking pictures. All I know about taking great pictures is to ALWAYS use natural lighting. Most of my pictures are taken right on the windowsill. The bolognese pictures came out so horrible because I was rushing against the sun that was setting very quickly. It was already a rainy day to begin with so odds were not in my favour. In turn, my so called “food styling” was non-existent and I ended up with some pretty drab looking pictures (notice the dark/yellowish hue). But lets face it. If I wasn’t photographing this food for my blog, that would be what a home-cooked dish looked like in most homes, including my own. And that truly is why I decided to do this post. It is to encourage you to make more time to make home-cooked meals! So many people look at photographs taken in recipe books, magazines and blogs and think that they are too difficult. I always hear people say “I could never make that, I am the worst cook!” They also might think that if they make a dish and it looks slightly different in the picture that they have failed. I’m here to tell you that is simply not true.

I beg you to try to reach out of your comfort zone and try attacking a recipe you never thought possible. They don’t have to be my recipes, and they definitely don’t need to be gluten, dairy or refined sugar free. However by simply making more meals yourselves (and with loved ones) you will be more conscious of ingredients, flavours and what’s in season. Even if you are making shepherds pie, the home cooked version will always be healthier because it isn’t laced with loads of preservatives, chemicals and other gross stuff. So although my pictures don’t look as appetizing as they normally would, I am only human. I am just like you, doing the best I can. And now, on to the bolognese…

Ok, so I am sure many of you are surprised to see bolognese on here. Many of my recipes are friendly to vegans because my recipes do not contain dairy. Although I do not eat meat on a daily basis, I do still enjoy good quality meat from time to time. (Vegan readers, just skip this recipe for now and check back later!) Especially in the winter, there is nothing more comforting then diving into a bowl of brown rice spaghetti and meat sauce. By substituting the pasta with spaghetti squash, the dish has now become a summer staple. I know many clean eaters have different opinions on eating meat. But if you truly enjoy it, then there is no harm in having anything in moderation. Especially if you are getting organic, grass fed beef that has a lower fat content. That is just my philosophy, and many people will agree or disagree.

I love food too much to say NO forever to something I really enjoy. This blog is really all about that. I take foods that I truly love and adapt them to make them more wholesome and cleaner without compromising on flavour. So here is my favourite recipe for clean bolognese, I hope you enjoy!

Ps. Another error I made while making this bolognese is cutting the carrots in medallions instead of finely chopping it. By the time I got them in the pot and looked at how odd they looked in there, it was too late. But, they did taste delicious anyway.
Photo 2014-07-28, 7 14 56 AMPhoto 2014-07-28, 7 17 11 AMPhoto 2014-07-28, 4 48 09 AMPhoto 2014-07-28, 4 49 28 AM

Ingredients:

• 1 spaghetti squash
• 1 lb organic, grass fed lean ground beef
• 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 2 carrots (chopped fine)
• 2 yellow onions (chopped)
• 3 cloves garlic (minced)
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
• 1/2 tsp himalayan salt
• 1 tsp ground pepper
• 1 can San Marzano tomatoes
• 3 tbsp tomato paste
• 1 cup dry red wine (don’t cheap out here, make sure you would drink it with a meal)
• 3-5 drops stevia (optional)
• fresh basil (for serving)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Slice spaghetti squash in half, remove seeds and place on sheet pan and bake for one hour. I also bake the seeds on the pan and eat them later on! Pull strings out using a fork and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Cook onions, garlic and carrots until the onions are translucent and no longer firm.
3.Add oregano, chilli flakes, salt, pepper and beef. Cook beef until it is no longer pink.
4. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Break down the tomatoes using the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least 35-40 minutes.
5. Add red wine and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add stevia (or other sweetener) if you would like the sauce to be more sweet.
6. Simmer on low for another 10-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the moisture has mostly cooked out.
7. Pour sauce over spaghetti squash and top with fresh basil.
Photo 2014-07-28, 7 23 24 AMPhoto 2014-07-28, 7 24 21 AM