Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DIY Healthy & Filling Muesli/Granola/Cereal

Oh man this post was a long time coming. I love cereal, muesli and granola, but because I'm never fully satisfied with any store-bought options ("oh this would be perfect if there was just a touch of cinnamon, blah blah blah") I knew I would have to make my own eventually. Even "healthy" muesli brands I have checked out can be loaded with a bunch of extra and unnecessary sugar, even when they are already packed with dried fruit.

My last straw was recently, when friend #1 liked muesli so bland that it seemed like it was meant for serious old people with digestive issues (sorry!), and friend #2 liked it with a ton of ingredients, leading to a painfully sweet final product. I mixed both to find a happy medium Goldie Locks-style, and promised myself I would finally make my own exactly to my liking, friend #1 & 2 be damned! You can of course personalize the recipe to suit your own preferences, and if you don't have some of the below ingredients it's not a deal breaker--just get creative!
What you need:
-1/2 cup puffed quinoa
-1/2 cup puffed brown rice
-1 cup rolled or steel cut oats
-7 dates (medjool are my go-to choice, but I found a different type in the fridge hiding away and went with those, I would use less if using medjool)
-Handful of almonds or walnuts
-2 TBSP hemp seeds
-Handful of goji berries (I had those but you can use raisins or any other dried fruit)
-A few pinches of cinnamon
-Sprinkle of PB2
-1-2 TSP almond extract
-1-2 TSP vanilla extract
-Optional: pinch of sea salt

Just a note, I am OBSESSED with puffed grains since they are generally like healthier versions of rice crispies and make everything so much funner to eat. I tried puffing my own quinoa recently and while they did "pop," when I opened the lid they were all burnt to a crisp :( I will try again but for now I just buy puffed grains anywhere that has them in bulk with a quick turnover rate to avoid them being stale. 

The first items on my ingredient list (quinoa, brown rice, oats) are the bulk, the dates and goji berries are the sweeteners and provide the chewiness, the almonds and hemp seeds are for some crunch, with the cinnamon, PB2 and extracts added for flavour. All together, this mix is a great filling breakfast or snack, packed with protein, carbs, EFAs and fibre!

Directions:
-In a food processor, process the oats until they are coarse. The goal is not to turn them into a powder, just smaller than they once were. 
-Add the almonds and process until they are also coarse. Pulse is your best bet here.
-Throw in the dates. Even when a package claims the dates are pitted, be skeptical. TWO esheg pits almost destroyed my food processor. Before I could even daydream about making millions from a lawsuit, I noticed this:
-You can now add the cinnamon, PB2, vanilla/almond extracts, and salt and give the mixture a few more pulses. Transfer it to a large container. It should look something like this (and smell wonderful):
-Next, add all the other ingredients--the puffed quinoa, brown rice, hemp seeds, and goji berries. 
-Now it's the fun part. SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE (please close the lid first):
-Yay! Open it up and take a whiff of that sweet, sweet goodness! Mine looked like this:
You can bet your boots I snacked on it like crazy (no photos tee hee). So delicious, so filling, and so healthy--I love it as a snack, with some almond milk as a power breakfast, or even as a topping on my banana ice cream! This specific recipe is my current obsession, but I am always willing to experiment, and will add in some different grains and flavours (aka chocolate) next time.

BLOOPERS/OUTTAKES: I thought it would be really funny to "wink" like in my chameleon photo on my main page but forgot I cannot wink without looking creepy and then I also found another photo where I unintentionally looked at the finished product a little too lovingly:
My nose looks like Gérard Depardieu's

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Banana Ice Cream Three-Ways!

I wrote about when I first experimented with banana ice cream last year, and how impressed I was with how delicious it was. What I should have noted though, was that bananas are not one of my top fruits--and I don't like banana flavour or chunks in ice cream, and never add them to my smoothies. So no one was more surprised than I was when I realized that FROZEN banana as an ice cream base is the best.

Frozen bananas that are blended or processed provide an incredibly creamy and sweet base, and the flavour is neutral enough that you can make them taste like just about anything. So while I enjoyed my almond butter ice cream from last year, it was time to experiment, and experiment I did. The three flavours I focused on were chocolate coconut, matcha green tea, and mint chocolate chip. All options are three ingredients or less, and no ice cream maker is required!

Just a note: If you have a Vitamix (one day I will join you) you don't need any liquid. My food processor and Magic Bullet need a little help from their non-dairy milk friends to get things moving along.

Chocolate Coconut:
What you need:
-1 to 1.5 frozen bananas (I did a photo-guide here)
-1-2 TBSP cacao or cocoa powder (make sure there are no additional sweeteners/ingredients!)
-Optional: coconut flakes or 1 TBSP of coconut milk

Directions:
-Blend or process it all together. Really. As mentioned above, I do not have a Vitamix :( so I have to add some liquid-power to get it properly blended, which is usually almond milk.
-Top with some coconut flakes and enjoy! If you are going for coconut milk, just blend it with the other ingredients.

Matcha Green Tea:
What you need:
-1 to 1.5 frozen bananas
-2 tsp matcha green tea powder--just a note, while matcha can be pretty pricey, as is the case with most things buying in bulk is much cheaper, and I even found it at Bulk Barn (times are a-changin')
-Optional: goji berries

Directions:
-Blend or process it all together.
-Top with some goji berries (again, much cheaper when bought in bulk)--they will freeze a bit but then provide such a nice crunch, followed by some serious chew. And the colours complement each other nicely.

Mint Chocolate Chip:
I know you are supposed to lie and say you love all your babies creations equally and alternate them fairly, but I am in obsessive-mode with the mint chocolate chip option. I always loved that flavour in general, and seeing how easy it is to make has opened a new world for me, and I am enjoying this one regularly now. Join me.

What you need:
-1 to 1.5 frozen bananas
-1-2 tsp peppermint or mint extract. Just a note to go easy on the extract since the first time I made this I went wild and put in way too much and it felt like I was eating spearmint gum-flavoured ice cream.
-Optional: dark chocolate chips, chunks, or cacao nibs

Directions:
-Blend or process it all together.
-Top with some form of chocolate (you can also add them in while blending).

Update: I recently had an insatiable sweet/chocolate tooth so I just skipped the chocolate chips and put two heaping tablespoons of cacao powder along with the peppermint extract and it was dangerously good. The photo is not great, but only because I was in such a rush to swallow it (and because I suck at photos). This is my new favourite child version:
So there you have it. With frozen banana as your base, you can mix and match flavours and get creative with delicious results. Next for me is a sorbet-inspired option (sour power). The world is mine!

Reflections: The dates I added last year were completely unnecessary and I never add them now. So the only sweeteners in these ice creams are the bananas themselves, making the ice cream 1000x healthier than any store-bought option (yes, even vegan ones). And to save on time and to make sure I always have access to banana ice cream, I just keep a bag of frozen bananas in my freezer at all times, which makes this dessert not only super easy and healthy, but also super quick to prepare. So instead of eating one banana plain, use these recipes to add some mint, matcha, or chocolate to your life!