Strawberry Chia Seed Jam

I'd seen recipes for chia seed jams before, but I had always been reluctant to try them. I guess I doubted they would taste as good as claimed, or thought that the texture might be weird and slimy. But I was so wrong. Chia seed jam is a revelation, and it's my new favourite thing. I've already made two batches this week.

Sometimes it takes a quarantine to push you try new things.

This is a great way to use up the frozen fruit you might have lying around in your freezer.
And it makes a delicious topping for all that sourdough bread everyone seems to be making during this pandemic. And given that this jam is essentially just crushed fresh fruit with a smidgeon of maple syrup and chia seeds, it is actually super healthy. So you can pile it on guiltlessly. I love to swirl it into yogurt too.

Chia Seed Jam

2 cups fresh or frozen berries
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup (more or less to taste)
2 Tbsp chia seeds

In a small sauce pan, warm the frozen fruit over medium heat until soft enough to mash. Use a potato masher or fork to squish the fruit to your desired consistency (I like mostly mashed with some small fruit clumps). Then add in the maple syrup (taste as you go, since you will need more or less depending on the types of fruit/berries you use and their natural sweetness) and chia seeds, and stir until evenly distributed.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
The jam will thicken up as it cools (as the chia seeds to their magical thing).
Store in a jar or container in the fridge.


Salted Chocolate and Tahini Shortbread Bars

When the world seems to be falling apart all around you, and you need a little treat, make these bars.
They are fantastically delicious and very easy to make. And they hit all the cravings - salty, sweet, chocolatey, with a buttery smooth top and crisp shortbready crust. I have nothing more to say - just trust me and make them!

Salted Chocolate and Tahini Shortbread Bars

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (finely ground almonds)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter (unsalted)
4 Tbsp Tahini (+1-2 Tbsp extra tahini to drizzle on top after baking - optional)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
7-8 ounces semi-sweet chips (or dark chocolate, finely chopped)
flaky sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line an 8x8 inch baking dish with parchment paper (or similar sized dish - I used a rectangular 11x6 inch dish)
2. In a food processor pulse the flour, almond flour, brown sugar and salt a few times to mix.
3. Then add in the butter, tahini and vanilla, and pulse together until well combined and mixture has a crumbly texture.
4. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and press firmly to make an even layer of crust. Prick holes in the crust with a fork.
5. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
6. Remove from oven and scatter chocolate over the surface. Return to oven for 2 minutes to soften/melt the chocolate.
7. Remove from oven again and use an offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate in an even layer over the surface.
8. Drizzle top with an additional 1-2 Tbsp tahini (you can swirl it in to make a pretty design if you feel so inclined) and sprinkle with a bit of flaky sea salt.
Allow to cool before slicing (you can put it in the fridge to speed this up).

Recipe inspired by and modified from Melissa Clark/Food52


Healthy whole wheat banana carrot applesauce muffins

We eat a lot of muffins in this family. I probably make a batch every week or so (alternating with our favourite nutritious and delicious banana bread). It's my boys' preferred breakfast food as well as favourite after school snack. I'm often concocting different versions depending on what I have available in my fridge, but I always like to keep the general approach the same.... hidden vegetables, whole grain flour and part almond flour for extra protein. This version turned out particularly good so I'm sharing it here. Of course when you use 100% whole grain flour you don't get the same dome-like rise on the muffin top, but I promise you won't miss it. You still get a golden crisp lid with a delicately moist and flavourful interior.


Carrot Cashew Edamame Burgers - Our favourite veggie burgers ever!

I created this burger haphazardly, a last minute meal idea using whatever I had on hand. But the results were so good that they've become a staple in our house. And they've completely replaced our previous go-to veggie burger recipe.

At first we ate them as burgers - with a burger bun and classic burger toppings, but over time we've grown to prefer eating them as is. The boys dip them in ketchup, and Adrien and I eat them alongside veggies or salad. They're also really good dipped into sriracha mayo. Just saying.

My favourite method for cooking these: use an ice cream scoop to quickly plop out 20 mini burgers balls, pat them down into burger shape and pop into the oven.

Sometimes I grind the mixture really well for smooth, uniform patties, other times (like the picture above) I only chop the ingredients coarsely - both versions are delicious.

Ok on to the recipe.....


My Favourite Coconut Chia pudding

I love eating chia pudding for breakfast, but it's definitely decadent enough to call it a "Parfait" and have it for dessert. 
A lot of Chia pudding recipes will call for almond milk as the main ingredient (probably to keep the calorie count down). And while I like almond milk chia pudding too, there is something truly magical that happens when you use full-fat coconut milk. You get this velvety smooth, decadently rich tasting pudding that is the consistency of full-fat yogurt or tapioca. Only it's 100% plant based, and it's absolutely sensational!

Best Ever Chia Pudding 

1 can full fat coconut milk (400ml),  scant 2 cups*
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a few dashes cardamom powder (approx 1/16 tsp)

* you can also do 1 cup full fat coconut milk + 1 cup almond or soy or whatever type of milk you like best.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or large jar, and store in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, spoon desired amounts into bowls and top with fresh or dried fruit, granola, nuts, and additional sweetener if desired.


The Best Homemade Natural Deodorant: The 2-ingredient deodorant that will change your life!

Even though I like the idea of using natural deodorants free of aluminum and other potentially harmful substances* I've never found one that actually worked, so I eventually just gave up on them.

But when a trusted friend (and physician colleague) handed me a sample of her homemade deodorant, and promised me that it was life-changing and that once I tried it I'd never look back... well of course I had to try it.

I honestly didn't think it would actually work.

But it did work! 

It really works!

I'd dare to say that it works even better than my regular deodorant. It's crazy, to be honest, and I doubt I would have believed someone claiming this in the past. 

But I dare you to try it. You will be so impressed!

Now I'm a petite girl, and I don't tend to sweat that much to begin with. So before recommending this to you I put my little deodorant through a few tests:
  • long days at work - no problem
  • 90 minute hot power yoga session - no problem! Yes I sweat, but no smell.
  • Convinced my husband to try it for a day as well - no problem either, and he agreed that it worked perfectly well (though he wasn't a fan of applying it with his own finger).
This magical deodorant contains only 2 ingredients: baking soda and coconut oil, and all you have to do is mix the two together. 
It couldn't be easier, it's completely natural, cost effective and works incredibly well.

Read on for the recipe....

*antiperspirants in commercial deodorants have unproven links to breast cancer - something that I am personally concerned with because it runs in my family.


Healthy, protein-rich breakfast banana bread

I've tweaked this banana bread recipe many times over the years. At different stages I've wanted it to contain much less sugar, then less flour, and I also wanted it to be high in protein since we eat it for breakfast most of the time. 

And I have to say, I think I've found the perfect balance of staying health-conscious, but not being overly restrictive. It still tastes rich and indulgent. But I feel good about my boys starting their day with it.

Sometimes I think I buy bananas just so I'll have an excuse to make this banana bread again. 
I've been making this exact version for the past 6 months and haven't felt the need to change anything else because it is just so good as is. So I figured it was time to share it.

You can make it completely flourless (or gluten-free) by swapping the 1 cup of wheat flour with 1 cup of coconut flour or another cup of almond flour (the bread won't rise/dome quite as high, which is why I use the flour, but it is still very delicious without it). 

Healthy, protein-rich breakfast banana bread

3 very ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs*
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or butter)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar 
2 cups finely ground whole almonds (or almond flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour (or any whole grain flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
If you are using whole almonds measure about 2 heaping cups of whole almonds and pulse/process them to a fine powder in your food processor. It's ok if it's a bit granular.
In a large bowl, mix the mashed bananas and eggs, then add the melted coconut oil and vanilla.
Then add everything else and mix until well combined.

Pour into a greased bread tin (or for easiest clean up, line the bottom with parchment paper) and bake in the centre of a preheated oven for approximately 60 minutes.

Let cool in tin before removing.

*2019 modification : originally this recipe called for 4 eggs - when I invented it I was trying to increase my children's protein consumption. But I actually find the texture of the banana bread significantly better with 3 eggs. Both versions work perfectly well.


Healthier Almond Linzer Cookies for Valentine's Day (flourless, gluten-free)

Here's a healthier version of classic linzer cookies for Valentin's Day. This version uses ground almonds and ground oats instead of flour. This makes the dough a little soft to work with, but the end results are fantastic!!

Read on for the recipe....

How to cook tofu that is crisp and delicious (the best and easiest way, in my humble opinion)

Tofu, when cooked incorrectly, tends to be dry, bland, rubbery and hopelessly flavourless. But it doesn't have to be that way!

Here is a very simple method for making delicious, intensely flavourful, soft-on-the-inside-and-crisp-on-the-outside stovetop tofu. No pressing, no marinating, no freezing or deep frying necessary.

Here's what you'll need:

Ingredients (see notes below)

1 standard size block of firm* Tofu
1/4 cup oil (scant)**
1 Tablespoon Tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder (I like the granulated form over superfine powder)
1-2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup***
1/2 tsp salt, or to your personal taste
freshly ground black pepper 
1-2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes**** (optional) 

Cut the tofu into approx. 1cm cubes (or whatever shape you like, just not too big or the centre won't get enough flavour).
In a large frying pan (I like to use nonstick) - heat the oil over medium-high heat. 
Toss in the tofu cubes to coat. Then add in the remaining ingredients except the nutritional yeast (which only goes on at the very end). 
Give it all a good mix until all the tofu pieces appear uniformly coated, and ideally all in a single layer.
Now here is the important part: You want those edges to caramelize and get really crispy - so don't stir too often! 
Let the tofu sit in the hot oil without touching it for a good 2-3 minutes before turning it. Once you get nicely browned sides, give it a good toss and flip the tofu pieces around. You don't need to be overly meticulous about it, and you don't need to get all 6 sides of each cube perfectly browned. Keep doing this a few more times until you're satisfied with the browning (you want deep brown spots not black - burnt tofu really doesn't taste good).
Finally, remove the pan from the heat completely. Then sprinkle on the nutritional yeast flakes and toss it all around. You'll notice that the yeast flakes "soak" up the remaining oil and help it adhere to the tofu - which is what you want! Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper if needed.

A few Notes....

*On choosing tofu: I'm not a huge fan of "extra firm" - I find it too dense. I prefer "medium firm" if you can find it. You can also use "extra firm silken tofu" which is much, much softer and breaks apart easier. But if you're careful when turning it in the frying pan, it's absolutely delicious when cooked with this same method.
** Tofu has very little fat in it - and we all know fat = flavour. So you need to be generous with your oil when cooking tofu. This is true for most vegetarian cooking, in my opinion. Choose any oil you like  (I usually use olive) just don't be stingy.
*** Why sweetener you ask? This is the secret to getting super crisp caramelized edges to your tofu. It's not that much but packs a big punch. It turns tofu from ordinary to extraordinary. 
**** Nutritional yeast flakes - this is totally optional but is truly the finishing touch. It adds amazing umami flavour and the je-ne-sais-quoi deliciousness that is too hard to explain. And it's loaded with vitamins.
~  On flavouringyou can adapt this method in so many ways. Use a bit of sesame oil and toss in black sesame seeds at the very end. Use a bit of sriracha or chile paste/flakes, or any kind of heat - always a welcomed addition when cooking tofu. Sprinkle in dried herbs or paprika. But most of the time I use this basic method above, with very few additions. 

Life Hack: Easy cake decorating trick using a cookie cutter and sprinkles

This is such a quick and easy way to decorate the top of a cake. I can't believe it took me 6 years of motherhood to think of it!

Simply choose a cookie cutter shape that you like and gently place it on the top of a cake. It should sit into the icing layer slightly (about 1mm deep) so the sprinkles don't spill out the bottom sides.

Carefully pour the sprinkles into the centre of the cookie cutter, and gently spread them around to fill all the nooks and crannies. You're going for thin layer of sprinkles with complete coverage.

Gently pat them down with the back of a spoon or your finger to secure them in space (being careful not to completely submerge them under the icing). And then remove the cookie cutter.

If by chance a few sprinkles shift, simply push them back in place with a toothpick or pick them off with tweezers.

Also these number sprinkles are just the cutest thing in the world, in my opinion. I used them for both my boy's birthday cakes this year. They're by Wilton, and I found them at Michaels.

Do you have any cake decorating tricks or tips? I'd love to hear if you feel like sharing :)

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