Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola

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Having a baby really puts your priorities under a microscope, because the little time that they are actually asleep during the day is your opportunity to get important things accomplished. Things like bathing, eating, laundry, doing your taxes, calling you mom. Funny then, that lately my priorities don’t include any of those activities. Instead it seems that the most critical thing to do as soon as my son shuts his eyes, is making chocolate granola. And yes, I really need a shower.

This trend began a couple weeks ago, nearly at the completion of my cookbook manuscript, the most overwhelming deadline of all time looming over me, that I got the most intense craving, not only for carb-y chocolate yum yums, but just to do something other than work and change diapers. When I finally put my finger on what it was I wanted, I whipped up a batch of chocolate granola so fast I even had time to sit and enjoy it before I heard the little waking whimpers of my babe. It was awesome. Needless to say, that huge jar of chunky, chocolate-y, uber-satisfying granola was sooooo gone almost as fast as I had made it.

Obviously this granola recipe is really, really yummy. Dangerously so. In fact it is so good, I’ll admit to pulling a slightly crazy/selfish move and telling my husband that it was “burnt granola” so he wouldn’t eat any of it. When asked why I was shoving scorched cereal into my mouth I sheepishly told him that I “didn’t want to waste any food”. Shameful! And since he’s reading this, now he knows I’m crazy.

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This granola is the kind of thing that you can eat right out of the jar by the handful, and it’s saved me on all the afternoons when I needed something filling and indulgent-tasting when my energy was waning. Although you can eat this stuff for breakfast, it’s a little on the rich side for my taste so early in the morning. I like to think of it more as snacking granola. I’ll leave the application up to you.

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Your Buddy Buckwheat
One of my latest obsessions, besides this granola, is buckwheat. Although the name suggests otherwise, buckwheat is actually not related to wheat, nor is it even a true grain. Buckwheat is the fruit seed of a plant similar to rhubarb and sorrel and a super substitute for people with wheat or gluten sensitivities.

Buckwheat has a high protein content, and contains all essential amino acids, making it an excellent choice for vegans and vegetarians. It is high in magnesium, a mineral with a pleasant muscle-relaxing effect. Side-note for the ladies: eating magnesium-rich foods before your period will help ease cramping, headaches and back pain.

Buckwheat is a wonderful food for improving cardiovascular health. Buckwheat contains rutin, a flavanoid that helps to maintain blood flow, keeps platelets from clotting, and strengthens capillaries. Buckwheat also reduces serum cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.

If you’ve ever tasted buckwheat honey or anything containing buckwheat flour, you’ll know that it has a strong, assertive flavour. Although it’s delicious as a porridge, or replacement for grain in a salad, stir-fry or stew situation, I would call it an “acquired taste”. In this granola however, it just becomes crispy, crunchy and adds a great texture

You can find whole buckwheat, often referred to as buckwheat “groats” at natural food shops and good grocery stores. Its natural colour is verging on pale green and has a distinctive, pyramid shape. The dark brown variety of buckwheat is called kasha, which has been toasted. Although delicious, for this recipe you are looking for the raw version of buckwheat so that you can toast it yourself.

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Although you could pretty much use any grain you like in this recipe, I chose oats and buckwheat for a tasty, textured balance of gluten-free goodness. And I can say with total confidence (as I admit to “testing” this recipe more than once) that any nut would be delish – hazelnuts and walnuts were my favourites, but almonds, cashews, pecans or Brazil nuts would also be great.

To serve, get creative. I really dug this granola with sliced bananas and homemade almond milk (which turns into chocolate milk!!!), but it would be delicious with yogurt, kefir, or sprinkled on top of cooked cereal, such as oatmeal. And as previously suggested, delish right out of the jar by the paw full.

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Whether you choose to eat this granola for breakfast or an afternoon snack doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you make chocolate granola a real priority in your life. Laundry can wait, emails can wait, and your hair looks just fine a little on the greasy side.

Sweet Pea & Pearl Onion Pesto Smothered Zucchini Noodles

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I have such a special treat for you today. Since I am in the final stretch of writing my manuscript (!!!), I’ve asked Julie from the Alkaline Sisters to take over this week. She’s created a gorgeous spring recipe for all of you who really need a bite of brightness (I figure that is anyone who has survived the polar vortex, am I right?). I’ve been a fan of Julie’s site for a long time now, but we met in person for the first time last summer and the serendipitous sparks flew! We’ve been online pals ever since. She is an expert on achieving alkalinity, and I’ve asked her to give us the low-down on this very topic. After curing her own health issues with an alkaline diet, she is sharing her inspiring journey and culinary creations on her beautiful blog. She also has a book in the works and I know it is going to be absolutely amazing! Can’t wait.

I will be back very soon, but in the meantime let’s all sit back and learn something from this very wise woman. Thank you Julie, for sharing your knowledge with us! What a blessing.

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I’m so pleased that I could support Sarah by sharing a recipe with you today as she nears completion of her book.  I can only imagine the juggling that is happening as she cares for her wee babe in between wielding her heavy camera and cooking up some tasty business to style and photograph, not to mention the writing required to explain the recipe.  Lord knows I understand the process since I just recently handed my cook book manuscript in to my publisher, phew!

When we had lunch last summer we realized that we were both working with the same publisher, what are the chances of that?  We’ve both been feverishly working away on our cook books but I certainly didn’t give birth to a newborn baby as I worked thru the chapters of my book!  I swear Sarah has somehow acquired super powers as she’s hardly missed a beat here on the blog!  She’s managed to continually inspire you and I with a fabulous new recipe pretty much every week since she started the book, save for popping out a beautiful baby boy!  That’s more than I can attribute to since I took a bit of a hiatus from my blog to work on my book while caring for my family of 4, trying to stay sane and enjoy the journey.

So here I am, happily giving her a bit of relief so she can wrap up the final details of her book. Now she can focus, take good care of her precious family, knowing that you are inspired for yet another week. So lets do this:)

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With Spring making it’s way here I can’t wait to begin tasting the seasonal flavours that I have missed since last year.  Sweet green peas always make me think of brighter sunnier days and the bursting greens of budding trees.  I may be jumping the gun on the spring pea season here, just a little, hehe but you’ll be glad I did if you are a fan of sweet peas!  I’m cheating with frozen peas so please forgive me for my enthusiasm with the lead up to my favourite time of year.  Because my horoscope is Aries, I come by it honestly:)

This tasty dish is a little bit raw and a little bit cooked, keeping as many nutrients in tact as possible. It’s kind of a nice combo for this in between time of year. And guess what? It’s alkalizing too….well of course!   This Alkaline Sister here is happy to inspire you with a recipe that will help you balance your alkalinity.  (If you are keen for a wee bit more information about the alkaline lifestyle read on below the recipe.) This is a quick and easy recipe to pull together, even for lunch.

The pea pesto is made with a generous portion of peas that are action packed with phytonutrients that provide us with key antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Peas also contain an impressive amount of health promoting omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA as well as omega-6 fats called linolenic acids.  One cup has about 30 milligrams of omega-3 and 130 milligrams of omega-6.  As for protein and fibre, green peas pack about 8-10 grams per cup.  These two macronutrients keep your blood sugar levels well regulated since they support the break down of the natural sugars and carbohydrates as they pass through your digestive track.

Once thought of as being a starchy vegetable peas are proving to be much more than that. They are effective in lowering our risk of chronic health issues related to inflammation.  And studies show that inflammation is at the root of most health issues, so eat your peas!  While you’re at it, eat your zucchini and some onions too!  All of these alkalizing vegetables in this recipe provide the body with beneficial cancer-preventive nutrients.  You can’t go wrong here so give this recipe a whirl and see how you like it.

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Thank you kindly Sarah, for trusting me to share a nourishing alkaline recipe with your treasured readers that you take such good care of.  It’s been an honour and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my alkaline message with your loyal followers.

Here’s an extra special mini lesson on alkalinity and how it can be of benefit to your healthy lifestyle:

The most alkaline foods are green and of high water content as in cucumber, celery, broccoli, and greens like kale, chard, romaine etc. Lemons & limes are also highly alkaline once metabolized even though they are acidic outside the body before you ingest them.  This chart shows the degree of alkalinity of many foods to give you a better idea.  On this chart you’ll also notice the list of foods that are acidic and their scores that you can pay attention to with regard to the ratio that you include in your daily meals. Pretty much any food that is a concentrated food with low water content, is highly processed or contains sugar–including fruit, is acidic to the body and should be consumed in approximately a 20-30% daily proportion.  If you are seriously ill this ratio will be more like 0-5%.  Please remember to always consult a medical professional when considering a drastic lifestyle change.

Choosing alkaline foods in a 70 to 80% ratio with the balance of acidic foods allows you to still enjoy some of the wholesome foods you are accustomed to. A visual measurement for each meal or over the period of the day is all that is necessary to maintain a balanced intake of alkaline foods.  No weighing or counting of calories is necessary. And guess what?  By following a highly alkaline lifestyle you’ll discover that a bonus side effect is weight loss or a return to your natural body weight.

You may already be very conscientious with your healthy lifestyle but with a bit of tweaking in the alkaline department you might find you have even more energy, fewer colds and any nagging symptoms slowly dissipate.

To increase your alkaline foods intake it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…a,b,c…
1. add a green smoothie to your morning or a green juice

2. add a big salad to your lunch or make it your lunch

3. add a salad and steamed veggies to your dinner

And we all know that we need to….
a. drink more water— 3-4 litres of filtered, hopefully alkaline water each day- to flush acids and hydrate the body

b. exercise to flush your lymph, blood and tissues of acidic matter

c. stay on top of your stress levels and find ways to deal with negative thoughts- meditation, yoga etc. (stress causes acids to form within the body)

By slowly adapting your lifestyle and following these basics along with doing a seasonal detox you will keep disease at bay and the cold and flu bugs will leave you for good!

Six years ago, with a dramatic shift to this alkaline lifestyle, I resolved the excruciating pain that I was experiencing from a seriously herniated disc that stopped me in my tracks from living my life. This lifestyle shift resulted in a welcome side effect of easily and quickly dropping 40lbs of post baby excess weight that I was struggling with.

Our modern diet is often overly acidic even if we consider it to be healthy thus many of us suffer from a myriad of illnesses that are directly related to an overly acidic body.  But the good news is….. that you can turn your health around by flooding the body with alkalinity.

A green smoothie cheers to your good, alkaline health :)
Julie the Alkaline Sister

Valentine Rawlos

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For a girl who is decidedly not into Valentine’s Day, I bet you’re already confused. Well, me too. Let’s blame my overflowing sentimentality these days – I’ve realized motherhood can do a real number on your sappy side – but one of the few times I’ve been out of the house alone in the last few months I found a heart-shaped chocolate mold at the dollar store and didn’t even think twice about it. Nope.

I knew exactly what I wanted to make. Rolos. No wait, rawlos. A major childhood throwback made over into the healthiest chocolates I could possibly invent. I had done the nut buttercup thing, but hadn’t tackled caramel before, so this seemed as good a time as any. Coincidentally, it’s almost Valentine’s Day. Not that I care.

If you haven’t ventured into raw chocolate making before, you are going to want to marry me (I’m taken). It’s so easy and so versatile, plus actually healthy. Healing fats, nutritious sweeteners and antioxidant-rich cacao are all that these little chocolate-caramel bombs are made of. No schwaggy unpronounceables. No weird waxes or emulsifiers or artificial flavours and colours. If you really care about your valentine, this year make them something that will love them as much as you do!

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Like I said, I was aiming for a Rolo thing and I am very happy with the results. The chocolate of course, is out of this world. Dark and rich and so intense. The caramel inside was the question mark, but it turned out perfectly: creamy and sweet and just runny enough. I added some salt to the caramel to make these a little more to my taste, but you can leave it out if you like. I almost feel embarrassed calling this a recipe because it really is that simple, but you’re into that eh?

If you can’t get your hands on cacao butter, just use coconut oil in its place. They won’t have the exact same melt-in-your-mouth quality, but it will certainly work in a pinch. And please make sure that your coconut oil is flavour-neutral (i.e. that is does not taste like coconut), otherwise you’re going to end up with some very tropical-tasting candies, my friend.

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Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or not this year,  I hope you give yourself the chance to make these treats for yourself or someone you love.

Chocolatey hugs,
Sarah B