Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter

I don’t eat a lot of bread, but when I do, it tends to be the focus of the meal. Enter this granola babka, the perfect breakfast treat. I was lucky to be gifted some Oatbox granola over the holidays. Inspired by their recipe for cinnamon rolls, I decided to use the granola in a same-same-but-different form, babka. Who can’t get on board with sweet, swirled bread dough?

Now the kicker here is that this dough isn’t swirled with just anything. Babka is typically filled with chocolate, but this one rather has layers of walnut butter, brown sugar, and granola. The granola is key because it adds a much-needed element of crispy, crunchy texture. As I mentioned, said granola comes from a Montreal-based company called Oatbox. They are basically a “granola of the month” club. Monthly subscriptions cost $20 and get you two bags of granola. Flavours change from month to month. I used their banana molasses variety in this granola babka. The two flavours for January are buckwheat, almond, and honey, and matcha, coconut, and mulberries. An Oatbox subscription is a great idea for the New Year to help ensure you always have some healthy breakfast (and baking!) options on hand.

As for this granola babka, it’s surprisingly good for you despite its apparent decadence. Walnut butter replaces the butter you’d find in traditional cinnamon rolls. Given the sweetness in the nut butter and the granola, there’s not a ton of extra brown sugar. Otherwise, it’s just a basic white bread dough. You could totally use whole wheat flour instead or throw some bran in if you’re looking for the extra fibre. Pureed dates would also make a great substitution for the brown sugar in the filling.

Whether you need to feed a crowd of people for a holiday gathering, or just want to treat yourself on a cold winter morning, this granola babka will warm you up from the inside out!

*Oatbox supplied the granola for this post but the words and recipe here are my own.

Granola babka with brown sugar and walnut butter
 
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It's easiest to prep this recipe the night before you want to eat the babka. It's a great breakfast treat for the holidays!
Author:
Serves: 1 loaf
Ingredients
  • ½ package dry active yeast (just over 1 tsp. or about 4 grams)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. fine salt
  • 2 tbsp. oil (neutral-flavoured)
  • ⅓ cup walnut butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup banana molasses Oatbox granola
Instructions
  1. Bloom the yeast with ¼ cup of warm water and 1 tbsp. of brown sugar.
  2. Once it has activated, add in the remaining ¼ cup of water, flour, salt, and oil.
  3. Mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment or by hand, kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes depending on what method you use.
  4. Let the dough rest for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Roll it out into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick.
  6. Smear the walnut butter evenly over the rolled dough and sprinkle on layers of both brown sugar and granola.
  7. Roll the dough up tightly into a log, as if you were making cinnamon buns.
  8. Slice the roll longitudinally right down the middle, dividing it into two even halves.
  9. Twist these halves together, forming a spiralled loaf.
  10. Place the babka into a well-oiled loaf pan, cover, and rest it in the fridge overnight. Alternately, if you want to move ahead with baking it right away, leave it at room temperature and let it rise until doubled.
  11. Once the loaf has risen (whether that was in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for about an hour) bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. It should be golden and slightly crusty.
  12. Cool slightly and enjoy. Fresh bread is always best eaten warm!

Jakeman’s Maple Syrup

Jakeman’s Maple Syrup

Jakeman's maple syrup

If there is one way in which living in Montreal has changed me, it’s through the development of an undying love for maple syrup. I’ve always liked the stuff, but now it’s pushing the boundaries of an obsession. I put maple syrup on everything. It’s my coffee-sweetener of choice, I use it to flavour oats, and most recently, I discovered that it blends superbly with tomatoes, peaches, and duck confit.

It’s no surprise that when I was offered a sample of Jakeman’s maple syrup, I jumped pounced on it.

Jakeman's maple syrup 2

Before using it in any specific application, a taste test was in order. A spoonful of maple syrup helps the medicine go down as they say, right? Voted Canada’s best tasting maple syrup, Jakeman’s tastes like what you’d expect maple syrup to taste like. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it tastes like pure maple. There are no notes of burned sugar, or caramelization, rather it’s light, and sweet, with just the right balance of mapleness (making up words here, I’m sorry). It makes Jakeman’s especially versatile because you don’t have to worry about the maple syrup over-powering other ingredients in whatever recipe you are making. Or, you can just pour it onto fresh, piping hot pancakes, crepes, or waffles and call it a day.

Jakeman's maple syrup 3

I opted for a somewhat eclectic Saturday brunch comprised of a Dutch baby pancake, topped with Quebec heirloom tomatoes, Ontario peaches, duck confit, and of course, Jakeman’s maple syrup. I didn’t think I was going to want the additional sweetness on top of the already candy-like tomatoes and peaches, but it brought everything together with salty, savoury duck confit. Sometimes weird can be good.

dutch baby with Jakeman's maple syrup

So whether you are looking for an everyday sweetener that’s a bit more decadent than sugar, or you want to experiment with maple syrup in your sweet and savoury recipes, try Jakeman’s the next time you want to celebrate some pure Canadiana.

**The maple syrup reviewed in this post was suppled by Canada the Store, however the opinions expressed here are my own.

Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes and a birthday dedication

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I’m a planner. If I could pencil in where I’m going to be this afternoon, tomorrow, the day after that, 5 years from now, I would probably do it. I live my life by setting goals and accomplishing them, sometimes at the expense of neglecting to see opportunities that are staring me right in the face, or realizing that the path I’ve set out on isn’t even what I want. Over time I’ve gotten better at adapting to the unknowns that life throws at you, but “going with the flow” is still something I will always have to work on. It’s an ongoing process but I’ve figured out how to balance my “J” qualities with a little bit of “P”, such that I can survive when things don’t work out quite as planned.

After all, sometimes the best things in life are the ones that happen to be the most unexpected. Like reconnecting with someone you haven’t seen in a long time who also happens to reside a world away. Someone who was the most important person in my life for the better part of a year and then gone. Having disappeared as quickly as it fell into my lap, I spent awhile trying to reconcile the fact that maybe fate put him there for a reason, in that place, at that time, but that was all it was ever going to be. It was a reality I tried to accept, and for the most part, succeeded in doing so. But every now and then I would have a random dream, thought, intuition that there was more. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that if your gut is telling you something, it’s probably right. And thankfully, it was.

I’m still as much of a planner as ever, but when life hands you beautiful brown eyes and a smile belonging to someone who is smart, witty, caring, and a continuation of adjectives that will never do the real person justice, you embrace the welcome detour that takes you from Point A, to B, to C, rather than the original journey from Point A to C, and never look back. And when cette individual’s favourite cake is carrot cake, and it just so happens to be his birthday, you dedicate your carrot cake recipe to him. Because what else would you do?

J, whatever serendipitous stroke of luck, fate, or kismet brought you back into the centre of my universe, I thank it every day. You challenge me and make me want to be a better person day in and day out, for you, for me, and for us. You’re right, there’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going, but there are 360 degrees of possibility from whatever angle I look at it. I couldn’t have planned it better even if I tried. Happy birthday.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Vegan Carrot Cake Cupcakes
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tbsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 bar Green & Black's Organic Ginger Chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups grated carrots
Instructions
  1. Line 12 muffin cups with muffin liners and heat your oven to 325F.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients, from the flour to the chocolate.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking or stirring to blend.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just incorporated.
  5. Portion the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 325F for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Cool and top with the frosting of your choice (or just eat as-is).

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Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

This is probably going to sound irrational but I am deathly scared of microwaves. I hate them. They freak me right out. Oddly enough, I still use them, for tasks like melting butter and reheating leftovers, but I make sure my head is well out of the vicinity. I don’t want to lose any brain cells from the radiation. See I read in my health psychology textbook this semester (thus spawning my present debacle) that there is currently no evidence to show that radiation from devices such as microwaves is carcinogenic. However, I cannot say that I believe it, not for a second. The text also said that living near a nuclear plant is nothing to be fearful of. Yet my skepticism persists.

I decided to do some research of my own and found some conflicting results. First of all, microwaves can be used to treat cancer, through radiation. Even knowing that radiation is a common method of treatment, I cannot say I ever thought about specifically what type of waves would be used in the process. Is it not contradictory that the same radiation that may cause the abnormal cells to form in the first place is also used to kill them off? I know that is simplifying everything quite drastically but it is interesting how different types and levels of exposure can lead to completely opposite consequences.

When it comes to the microwaves in our kitchens potentially causing cancer, well I am sorry to say, but the jury is still out on that one. The problem is, the only way to truly test such a hypothesis is to split people into 2 groups, isolate half in a room with no microwave and half in a room with microwaves (microwaves that are running, that is). All you have to do is leave them in there for a couple of years and see which group has a higher incidence of cancer. Totally ethical procedure, no doubt. Sure we can study rats and such in a similar manner, but it is still difficult to pinpoint a single cause and remove the effects of all other factors like genes and chemical abnormalities. Plus, microwaves really are not that old. The first one was sold in 1947, according to Wikipedia. In that time, there have been plenty of other potentially carcinogenic inventions accounting for a higher prevalence of different cancers in today’s world than ever before.

So will we ever know? Unfortunately I cannot answer that question for you. Personally, I am going to continue to steer clear of my microwave at all costs. It is quite easy to do when you can make simply no-bake food like this chocolate coconut chia pudding. Isn’t chia supposed to be like the newest, greatest superfood too? With any luck, it will have some cancer-fighting properties to combat the dreaded microwave.

Chocolate Coconut Chia PuddingChocolate Coconut Chia PuddingChocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 4-6 tbsp. agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • ⅓ cup chia seeds
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the coconut milk, agave and cocoa powder until smooth. Taste and add more agave if you want it sweeter.
  2. Stir in the chia seeds. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or preferably overnight, until the chia gels and the mixture reaches a thick, tapioca pudding-like consistency. Serve and enjoy!
Notes
If you don't like the tapioca-like texture, blend the pudding with an immersion blender or regular blender until it becomes a smooth, chocolate pudding.

Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding Chocolate Coconut Chia Pudding

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Holy moly what a week. It probably would not have been so bad had I actually studied for my midterms during “Reading” Week but I opted to watch the Olympics 24/7 instead which I guess is my own fault. Then the Blacklist returned Monday night which meant that another hour of potential studying was shot. Did I mention that my new life goal is to be Agent Keen when I grow up? I’m not kidding. My stress levels definitely were not helped by the fact that the steering went in my car either. Seriously, you do not realize how important power steering is until it is gone. Every time I drove it was actually an arm work-out just trying to turn the wheel. But, I can happily say that I managed to overcome all of the aforementioned obstacles and successfully (well I guess we will see about that when I get my marks) completed all of my midterms. I think some chocolate is in order.

Funny how quickly things change. At the beginning of this week I was ready to ditch sugar.   I seem to go through these cycles where I get really down on my eating habits and decide to overhaul them. This time it didn’t last very long. Within 12 hours I had already decided that it was not worth it and went reaching for a caramel. The thing is, when you look at the big picture, my diet is not unhealthy. I eat a ton of fruit and vegetables, especially as a vegetarian. The problem is that I have this habit of sucking on candy. It may only be 5 or 10 pieces a day, but over the course of a week, or even a month, that is a lot of sugar. So I make up my mind that it has got to go, only to find myself re-incorporating it into my diet. Somehow I was able to give up meat without any issues but when it comes to even just the slightest amount of sugar, my will power is virtually non-existent. Then I ask myself the basic question, “What would I gain if I gave it up?” I would probably drop a couple of pounds eventually (apparently changing your caloric intake by only 100 calories per day can lead to weight loss), not that I am trying to accomplish that. I always find myself validating the habit via what I call the “enjoyment principle”. I ask myself if I am happier with sugar than without it and the answer is invariably “yes”. Thus having determined that the pros outweigh the cons, I continue on with my candy-eating ways.

It still rides me though because otherwise, my diet is the picture of health. No pop, chips, french fries, none of that. I have not eaten it in years. More than anything, I think it bugs me because it is contradictory to everything I believe in (can you say high-fructose corn syrup?). And I still do it. But if you don’t enjoy life, what’s the point? It really reinforces my mantra that as humans, we don’t just eat to satisfy hunger. If that was the case, none of this would be a problem. Food is both social and pleasurable – or at least I think it should be. As long as I have that mentality, I don’t think my habits will be changing anytime soon.

Since I am staying on the sugar bandwagon, let’s make some vegan chocolate muffins for a little weekend treat. They are super moist and stay that way for a couple of days, thanks to the addition of mashed banana (although it does not obviously contribute to the flavour). Not that they are going to last for a couple of days. Actually I hate that cliche. Doesn’t everyone say that? “Oh it makes x amount and keeps for this long but that won’t be a problem because it will be consumed almost instantaneously.” It makes us sound like we are all malnourished and starving. So scrap the first part, let’s take the time to savour these muffins. Let them last for as long as you want to. Until they start to grow mold that is, then I would recommend trashing them.
Vegan Chocolate Muffins
Vegan Chocolate Muffins

5.0 from 3 reviews
Vegan Chocolate Muffins
 
Prep time
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Makes 10-12 muffins
Author:
Recipe type: dessert, snack
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup neutral flavoured oil (vegetable, canola, safflower, etc.)
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. cider or white vinegar
  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips
  • turbinado sugar, as needed
Instructions
  1. Heat your oven to 350F.
  2. Line 10-12 muffin cups with liners.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. In a separate bowl whisk the oil, water, banana, vanilla, brown sugar and vinegar until it is as smooth as you can get it (there will probably still be some lumps from the mashed banana, no worries).
  4. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients. Whisk until smooth, you don't want any lumps of flour or cocoa. The original recipe calls to pass it through a strainer if there are still lumps but I feel that this is a bit extreme. If you want to, all the power to you though.
  5. Portion the batter into the lined muffin tins. Leave them about ¾ full, you want some room for them to rise. Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  6. Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick/skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and eat!

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Muffins