Maple Coconut Granola

Granola is a contentious food. Associated with crunchy hippies and health nuts, it gets a bad reputation for tasting like grass. It’s also tends to be hard to chew, full of hard chunks of ancient raisins and fibrous grains. Who has patience for hard-to-eat food in the morning? Because of all this, people tend to forget that granola can be so full of delicious things that it tastes more like a dessert than a breakfast food. If you don’t believe me, try the Coconut Yogurt Parfait at Resonance Cafe. Thick, creamy yogurt with sweet almond granola and fruit preserves. They include it in their breakfast menu, but I order it as desert- usually to share, because it’s so filling after a meal. Resonance is my favourite cafe in the city- all vegan, delicious and affordable food, plus they double as a jazz club at night. You’ll definitely be hearing more about it this month.

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

Mile End from above. Crooked 3-story brick buildings, big trees, and a short stroll to the mountain

During the day, I work as a cook, primarily personal chefing for a small family in Mile End, Montreal. Mile End is a bit like Sesame Street, in that everyone knows everyone else and it’s perfectly reasonable to take a stroll down the street just to stop by local businesses and friend’s houses to say hi on your way home from work. Resonance is in Mile End too, as is Boulangerie Guillaume. Guillaume serves as the baker for many businesses in Mile End, providing bread for Resonance and several small restos in the area. The bakers have a small wooden delivery trike, and early in the morning you can see them peddling along the bike path, basket stacked with row on row of fresh, warm baguette. The sandwich bread at Resonance is provided by Guillaume, perfect squares of thick-cut white bread, perfect for grilling on the panini press. Many mornings, Work Dad will walk over to Guillaume to pick up some fresh bread to serve with coconut-macadamia butter and guava jam. Other days, a quick bowl of cereal is on the menu.

Mmmm granola

Mmmm granola

That is where this granola comes in. Playing to the exotic tastes of my work family, I wanted something with toasted coconut to serve as a quick breakfast to go with fresh mangoes. Brimming with coconut, walnuts and dried fruit, this granola fits the bill perfectly. Large flake oats provide the base and hemp hearts and flax provide added omega 3 fatty acids. I solve the problem of tough, dried-up fruit by presoaking them in hot water before baking. This keeps them much more soft, easier for little mouths to manage. This is the kind of breakfast that will hold you over til lunch. This makes about 8-10 cups of granola, so make it once and you’ll be set for a couple months. I keep a mason jar out for daily use and refill it from an airtight bag int he freezer as needed. Serve it with coconut or almond milk, or maybe coconut yogurt and passion fruit jam.

Soak your dried fruit

Soak your dried fruit

Maple Coconut Granola

3 cups large flake oats
1.5 cups medium shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup ground flax
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1) Put on a kettle to boil with a couple cups of water and preheat the oven to 350.

2) Once boiled, pour the hot water over the dried fruits in a small bowl and leave to soak.

3) Toast the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts on a cookie sheet in the hot oven until just barely toasted, about 5 minutes.

4) Stir the oats, coconut, hemp hearts and flax together with the cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

5) Drain the water off the dried fruit and add to the oatmeal mixture along with the toasted nuts and seeds and the maple syrup and coconut oil. Stir well.

6) Spread granola into two large baking pans. Bake in 10 minute intervals, taking the pans out to stir thoroughly between each interval, for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Cool and store in airtight containers in the freezer. Granola keeps in an airtight container on the shelf for 2 weeks.

Delicious grains

Delicious grains

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Calalloo in Ginger-Lime Coconut Milk

Doesn't look like much, but this dish is swimming in flavour

Doesn’t look like much, but this dish is swimming in flavour

This isn’t exactly a camping recipe. As in, I didn’t actually make it when I was camping. But I wanted to, since it’s so easy and a healthy departure from the usual camping fare. If you’ve never really had Jamaican food, you’re in for a treat. Full of interesting pairings, like thyme and ginger, scotch bonnets and coconut milk, it’s at the same time very familiar and comforting, and totally unlike anything you’ve had before. Much of the food is very simple to prepare, too. Full of steamed greens and mashed tubers, beans and rice, there’s so much a vegan can borrow from the Jamaican diet.

Calalloo is a big, leafy green, otherwise known as amaranth leaves. You can substitute full leaf spinach, but be sure to add it just at the very end of cooking, as spinach is more fragile than calalloo. To make this camping-friendly, pre-mince your ginger in the food processor at home and just bring along a jar to add to recipes- this is what I do with the garlic, too. Also, you can substitute real Jamaican scotch bonnet hot sauce instead of using your own peppers. Unless you are very experienced with the dangers of using very hot peppers, I really do recommend sticking to a bottled sauce. Serve this alongside some simple rice with kidney beans or perhaps some mashed sweet potato. Add a tall glass of ginger beer and you’re set!

Calalloo in Ginger-Lime Coconut Milk

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large bunch calalloo, about 2 lbs, ripped from stems and roughly chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of 1 seeded scotch bonnet, or scotch bonnet sauce, 1 tbsp (start with less and add to taste- be careful! It’s hot)
3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tbsp)
4-inch knob of ginger, minced (3 tbsp)
1 small bunch thyme stems, tied into a bundle (or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves)
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 lime, juiced

1) Saute the pepper(s), garlic and ginger in the oil briefly to release flavours, about 1 minute

2) Add remaining ingredients, stir and cover about 5 minutes

3) Remove cover and cook longer if the greens aren’t fully softened. Calaloo does well with a good simmer, do don’t be afraid of over-cooking it. 

And now, gratuitous kitty picture! These guys are available for adoption!

Just look at those fluffy faces!

Just look at those fluffy faces!

Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss Ice Cream

Coconut Bliss Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge

NB: I recently found out that Coconut Bliss was bought out by a dairy farm. I believe the owner’s intentions were good, and that this was what they saw as the best way out of a crappy situation, but you can look at their explanation and decide for yourself!

I know I just admitted that ice cream was the thing I miss least about being vegan. However, there are certain situations where ice cream is called for, and it’s important to have a reasonable substitute to the dairy version. In this case, it was the boy’s birthday. After watching him devour a slab of tiramisu three inches thick, following a dinner of spaghetti doused in cooking oil and poorly prepared vegetables (diced, over-cooked asparagus, anyone? Undercooked white mushrooms?) I needed a treat. A treat that did not involve cooking. That’s where ice cream comes in. It’s such a decadent, once-in-a-while dessert, and done properly, it can make or break an evening.

I had tried other soy and coconut milk ice creams before, and found them lacking- either the texture (too processed or with artificial thickeners), or the flavour (just because I’m vegan doesn’t mean I only eat fruit!) was just off. But Luna and Larry have done some kind of wonderful with Coconut Bliss. This stuff reminds me of Baskin Robinns– good, rich, dense, smooth- proper ice cream.

After first seeing it at Planet Organic I was intrigued…. after reading this review, I was compelled… and after PO decided to have a customer appreciation day with a discount on the stuff, I was sold. And I am so glad I was. I would not normally spend money/calories on a dessert- I’d rather spend it on good olives or wine. But this is excellent. Here’s what I recommend:

Coconut Bliss and Brandy (a suggestion, more than a recipe)

1 scoop Coconut Bliss Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Ice Cream
1 ounce good French brandy

Place ice cream in a tea cup or glass of your choosing. Pour brandy over. Swoon.