Cranberry Ginger Granola

Rich and I eat a lot of granola. I end up buying a large bag of Nature’s Path granola every two weeks, if not more often. So about a week ago I decided I should probably start making granola instead of buying it all the time.

Back in February Rich and I went to Montreal to hang out with some old friends and be a bit touristy. While there, we ate at Crudessence twice, and I picked up their cookbook. Originally I’d planned to make one of their granola recipes, but well, it’s hard to make granola in a dehydrator when you don’t own a dehydrator (imagine that!). So I took their Cranberry Ginger granola recipe as inspiration and ran with the flavour idea. Then I realized Jae Steele has a similar granola in her book, Get it Ripe. Those two recipes, plus one from David Lebovitz, were the inspiration behind the final product I ended up with.

Cranberry ginger granola

Hope you like it as much as I do.

Cranberry Ginger Granola

Get gluten-free oats and oat bran if you want to make this 100% gluten-free. As written, it is already vegan.

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup chopped pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted slightly if it is hard)
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/3 cup fined chopped candied ginger
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300C. Lightly oil two cookie sheets.

Combine all ingredients except the ginger and cranberries. Mix well to make sure the oil and brown rice syrup are well distributed throughout the granola.

Spread the mixture onto your cookie sheets; you want a pretty thin layer so it will cook evenly and crisp up nicely.

Bake in your preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, stirring once or twice during the baking process. Stirring makes sure everything browns evenly, however, you don’t want to stir it too much or you won’t get the lovely clumps of granola that Rich loves.

Once your oats are a lovely golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then stir in your ginger and cranberries.

Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container. Properly stored, this should keep about a month. That is, if you don’t eat it all before then.

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A gluten-free, vegan survey

Hi! Yes, I still exist, and yes, I’m still a gluten-free vegan! I’ve just been busy – we bought a house in April, closed in June, and had a whirlwind summer of travelling, unpacking, and being with friends.

To get started blogging again, I thought I’d do something very low-key and post my responses to this survey on gluten-free vegan eating. Note that xgfx is their shorthand for gluten-free vegan.

1. What’s your favorite gluten-free flour?
Tough one! It changes depending on what I’m making. Lately I’ve been loving coconut flour, but of course you can only use it in things that you want to have that coconut flavour. Of course, my go-to flour for 99% of what I make is sorghum, so maybe I should say that.

2. What have you always wanted to deglutenize, but haven’t yet?
Seitan! Apparently, it IS possible….

3. What’s one of your favorite xgfx meals to make?
Pad Thai

4. Your biggest gluten-free success that makes ya most proud?
Well, there isn’t one specific recipe, but I’ve found that I’m able to convert almost any cake, cookie, quick bread or muffin to a gluten-free, vegan version. Admittedly it sometimes takes a few tries, but I usually do succeed eventually! As I described to someone once, it’s really just about chemistry.

5. Most “epic xgfx fail”?
Oh dear. Not long after I went gluten-free, I bought potato flour instead of potato starch for a bread recipe. Lets just say the bread turned into a rock, and I’m not even sure the squirrels I tried to feed it to were going to eat it.

6. What product do you wish was xgfx that isn’t?
Veggie dogs! I’m totally serious. Here in Canada no one makes a tofu dog, only a tofu-and-seitan dog. I can very easily make a gluten-free, vegan bun! I just need a veggie dog to put in it.

7. If you could pass along one gluten-free tip to a gluten-free newbie, what would it be?
Learn to appreciate the foods that are naturally gluten-free, like rice and quinoa. If you’re always trying to replicate foods that have gluten in them, you’re going to be disappointed sometimes.

8. What’s your favorite xgfx product?
I’ll say two:

In Toronto: bread from Bunner’s Bake Shop.

Available all over the place: Sol Cuisine Veggie Breakfast Patties

9. Is there anything you miss being gluten-free?
Regular bread. Not being able to eat bread means finding a quick vegan meal can be difficult.

10. Any xgfx techniques you’ve learned that have been most helpful?
My main advice to anyone baking gluten-free is to blend flours. Never try to make something with just a single flour – you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.

11. Have you found a favorite gluten-free pizza dough recipe that makes your heart sing?

Yes! Sometimes I play with the flours I use and it STILL comes out tasty every time. Rich likes it so much that he doesn’t like going out for pizza, he prefers that I make one instead.

12. Xanthan gum. Do you or don’t you? Love it or leave it?
I’m meh about it. I’ll use it when I need to, but try to leave it out if I don’t.

13. Favorite gluten free prepackaged bread?
Well other than the great stuff from Bunner’s, I do really like the buckwheat bread from Organic Works and the quinoa bread from Little Stream. Oh, and Organic Works also makes a yummy cinnamon raisin loaf, if you want something a bit more sweet.

14. What’s your favorite way to nosh on quinoa?
Quinoa salad. Easy to make, easy to modify to your own tastes.

15. Name five of your most coveted pantry staples.
Chickpeas, short-grain brown rice, gluten-free tamari, rice pasta, good quality olive oil.

16. If you could only buy three gluten free flours to last you for three months, what would they be?
Sorghum, corn starch, chickpea.

17. Any xgfx ingredients you are intimidated about trying?
Nothing I can think of at the moment! I’m pretty, err, daring in the kitchen.

18. Favorite place to buy foods?
I have a few: Karma Co-op for their bulk gluten-free flours, nut butters, and spices, Fiesta Farms for their ‘international’ groceries section, and Sweet Potato because they are in my ‘hood and a good place to get organic veggies and fruits.

19. Favorite meal when dining out?
I like foods that are naturally gluten-free and vegan, like a lot of Indian or Thai curries. Easy to order and very yummy.

20. Name one xgfx product you’ve tried that you didn’t like.

A LOT of the breads out there are not very good. I’ve been disappointed many times. The only brands I buy are the three mentioned above, plus sometimes if I can find them I get Aidan’s gluten-free breads or bagels.

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Hot Beans!

The vegan population in Toronto has been all abuzz about Hot Beans, the vegan, Latin-inspired takeout place that just opened today in Kensington Market.

I went there for lunch today, and while I won’t do a full review just yet, I will say the yuba ‘chicken’ taco was really delicious. I got it with rice and beans on the side (tasty!) and also picked up two donuts for later – one lime/coconut, one cafe con ‘leche’. If Rich is lucky, I’ll share them with him. ;)

Two quick iPhone photos I took while enjoying lunch:

Go check them out and tell me what you think!

Hot Beans – Baldwin at Spadina in Kensington Market. Takeout lunch for $10, tax included.

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Bunner’s Bake Shop

Toronto bakeries and coffee shops take note: you can make wonderful baked goods that are both gluten-free and vegan.

Bunner's Bake Shop Cupcakes!

As someone who adheres to both of those diets, it can be very difficult finding a snack if I’m at a cafe with Rich on a lazy weekend afternoon. Toronto has a lot of choices for vegans, and a lot for gluten-free people. There are even places that advertise themselves as being both gluten-free and vegan. However, I’ve always found that they don’t mean both gluten-free and vegan, they mean either gluten-free or vegan. I’ve been disappointed by this every time. It’s not that I don’t understand how tricky it can be to bake things with both of those diets in mind – believe me, I’ve had my fair share of failed kitchen experiments learning to navigate my way through gluten-free, vegan baked goods! But I also know it can be done. And by the strong success of Bunner’s Bake Shop, I’d say there is demand out there for this sort of thing.

The story behind Bunner’s is a bit of a small business fairy-tale: Girl meets boy. Girl and boy decide to open business together, selling their baked goods in the Distillery District last summer (after doing a lot of research and coming up with a business plan). Their vegan, gluten-free products became so popular that they usually sell out by the end of the day. Girl and boy advertise on the Toronto Vegetarian Association’s directory, and start getting tons of calls from people asking about their products. Girl and boy decide to open a bake shop and find a cute little space in the Junction. Now they’ve got their products in a few cafes all over Toronto and still nearly sell out at their bakery location every day.

As for my trip to visit them? Well, yesterday Rich and I finally make the trek up from Keele station (which we’re at every Sunday anyway) and popped in to see what they had. We were greeted with a huge smile and chit chatted about the beautiful weather and the products behind the counter. We decided to get a cupcake in every flavour they had available, plus one of their Creamies (for Rich) and Supersonic Gypsy cookies (for me).

Verdict? Oh. My. God. The Gypsy cookie was perfect; if I wasn’t afraid of gaining a ton of weight I’d eat one daily. It was packed to the brim with oats (certified gluten-free, of course!), seeds, cranberries and chocolate. Not too sweet and nice and filling. Rich’s Creamie, which is two chocolate chip cookies sandwiched together with chocolate or vanilla icing, was really great too. The bite I had was tender, sweet and very chocolatey – if I had ordered it, I probably would have only eaten half in one sitting, as it packed a real sugar punch.

And the cupcakes?

Bunner's Bake Shop Cupcakes!

The four we managed to snag were vanilla, coconut, lemon and red velvet. Now, I’ve made my fair share of gluten-free, vegan cupcakes, and friends have always given my attempts a thumbs up. I know a big part of the secret is finding the perfect blend of flours, to try to mimic regular flour as best as you can,  giving it a light crumb without allowing your product to become a crumbly mess when someone tries to eat it. You have to be a bit of a chemist to pull this off – a bit of extra protein here, a bit of starch for lightness there, something to bind the ingredients together in the absence of gluten, all while making a good tasting final product.

Bunner’s product really blew me away.  They use bean flours but I couldn’t taste any ‘beaniness’ at all. The cupcake came out of its paper liner really easily but didn’t instantly fall apart. And the flavours are fantastic – red velvet lightly chocolatey and sweet with a hint of ‘cream cheese’ (vegan, of course) from the icing. Lemon tasting like real lemon and not lemon candies. Coconut and vanilla also wonderful, even a day old (we’d saved them for today).

Please, do yourself a favour and check this place out. It’s worth the trip into the Junction if you don’t already live near there – there’s a reason they were voted best new bakery for 2010 by BlogTO! You don’t have to be vegan or gluten-free to appreciate tasty baked goods, right?

Bunner’s Bake Shop, 3054 Dundas Street West in the Junction, 647-352-2975.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Rich is away this weekend. This means I have the house all to myself and can make as much of a mess as I like in our kitchen. Not that he objects to my baking things; on the contrary, he usually is a big fan of my random baking marathons. But it does mean that I’m the only one who has to put up with the unavoidable mess that baking creates on our counters.

I had three organic, fair-trade bananas languishing on my counter, so decided to combine those with some mini chocolate chips and make muffins.

This was the result.

Muffins!

My experiment paid off! These are great – not too sweet, a bit of chocolate and a great banana flavour. Not to mention some fiber from the oat bran, and not too crazy on the fat content with only 1/3 cup of oil in there.

But hey, my goal ultimately was a good tasting muffin and I think I hit the target on that one. If you make these, let me know how they turn out and if you like them!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Vegan and Gluten-free!

1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 cup oat bran (if you’re super gluten sensitive, make sure you buy certified gluten-free oat bran)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 medium, ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup vegan mini chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand)

Preheat oven to 375oC. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

Mix the mashed bananas, oil, brown sugar and apple sauce in a large bowl until well combined.

In a second bowl, whisk together the flours, starch, oat bran, salt and baking powder. Once mixed, dump the contents into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir to combine.

Add in the chocolate chips and stir until chips are well distributed through the batter.

Fill muffin cups full – with my tins I had exactly enough batter to fill the tins and none left over.

Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre of one muffin comes out clean. If your oven doesn’t heat very evenly (like mine!) you’ll want to turn the tin around 180o after 15 minutes, to make sure the muffins cook evenly.

Eat fresh out of the oven. If you have leftovers, store in an airtight container; they’ll keep for a few days.

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