Friendly Food Snobs


squash pecan muffins for fall


squash muffinsFall’s arrived. Sweaters are being yanked out of storage and scarves are back. All I want is cozy.

Muffins made with squash, oats, nuts and coconut oil are perfect for chilly morning with a mug of something hot. Texture is crispy on the top and moist inside. They smell beautiful as they bake and to me, make the house feel warm and cozy. 

You can easily swap out the squash for canned pumpkin puree, or baked sweet potato. You can’t even tell they’re squash, promise. Makes 12.

squash pecan muffins

1 cup mashed oven roasted acorn squash
3/4 cup all purpose flour or gluten-free flour (I love Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (use 2 tsp if using gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar (1/2 cup is delicious too and slightly less sweet)
2 tablespoon canola oil or coconut oil
1 egg

*optional toppings: pepita seeds or more chopped pecans

Squash can be roasted in advance. Slice in half, remove seeds and bake at 375 degrees skin side down with a little water in a casserole dish for 1 hour. (Or use canned pumpkin puree if you want quick and easy!) Once squash cooked and cooled scoop it out and mash it in bowl you’re using for the wet ingredients. You only need one cup. I freeze the rest in a ziploc bag to add to a soup.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the muffin’s wet ingredients with brown sugar. Combine remaining dry ingredients. Mix together. Spoon into lined or greased muffin tins. Sprinkle with extra nuts or seeds if using. Bake for 22-25 minutes. (This is long, I know, but it needs it.)

Great with almond butter or regular butter for breakfast. Or drizzled with honey for dessert. 

nut + date bars


141These little bars have no gluten, no baking time, require minimal effort and then they reward you with how loaded with protein and delicious they are. Love these recipes where the healthier version tastes so much better than store bought granola bars. Perfect for travel, lunches or general snacking needs. Use your food processor or a good quality blender. I use my blender on the same setting that crushes ice. Makes 12 bars. Let’s get started.

nut + date bars

1 cup unsalted almonds
½ cup unsalted pepita seeds
½ unsalted cashews
pinch salt
1 cup unsweetened cranberries
8 medjool dates pits removed
1 heaping tablespoon of room temperature coconut oil

Line an 8 by 8 or 9 by 9 pan with plastic wrap. The edges at the sides will help you lift out the bars. Pulse the almonds first. Add the pepita seeds, cashews and salt to pulse. Lastly blend in the remaining dates, cranberries and coconut oil. Tumble the mixture into the lined pan. Press down. Wrap it up and store in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight. When set, lift out and slice. Store in the fridge for 10 days or freeze for longer.

Experiment with what you have on hand. Raisins, orange zest, chocolate or crystallized ginger chunks would all be lovely additions. I make these as bars. But if there are little (or big) hands at home that want to help, they could easily be rolled into small balls, and then set in the fridge the same way. Thanks to my own mom and sees for this recipe inspiration!

mango coconut almond granola

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I love to shop for food. Fruits and vegetables. Salt. Wine. Cheese. Meat. If we are travelling and I spy a spice store I will run to it.

This week I was shopping at my local health food store Evergreen. I was about to throw a box of granola in my cart when I glanced at the price, and then the price of a bag of organic rolled oats. Show’s over. Time to try making granola.

One bite of this and I was a convert. Except for the dried mango, I had all the other ingredients in my pantry. Great tossed over plain yogurt. Or eaten by the handful. You could easily swap out the mango for some raisins or any dried fruit you have on hand.

mango coconut almond granola

1 and 1/2 cup rolled oats
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup unsalted sunflower seeds (optional)
½ cup unsalted pepita seeds (optional)
¾ cup shredded coconut
½ cup coconut oil (melted)
1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup (depending on how sweet you prefer)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt + tiny pinch nutmeg
1 cup chopped dried mango

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients, except for the mango. Tumble onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet or large glass baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Stirring every 10 minutes to ensure it browns evenly. In the last 5 minutes add the dried mango. Let granola cool for at least at hour before packaging. The texture crunches up as it cools. Store in airtight container for 10 days or freezes well.

Chocolate and salted caramel pecan squares


If you don’t like chocolate and caramel, just stop reading right now.

These squares are the stuff dreams are made of. Salted caramel swirled with chocolate spotted with pecans on a shortbread crust. You’ll curse me for this recipe.  Their saving grace – they freeze perfectly.

Chocolate and salted caramel pecan squares

Shortbread base
1/2 cup soft butter (1 stick)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch salt

Caramel filling
2 cups whole or halved pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream or canned coconut milk (I always use the latter as it’s a pantry staple around here)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 or 1 teaspoon salt depending on how salted you like (I prefer 1 teaspoon)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with foil. Spray lightly or very lightly butter.

Combine all crust ingredients and using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut butter into dry ingredients until small lumps form.

Press mixture into pan and pack down firmly.

Evenly sprinkle the pecans on top as well as the chocolate chips.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine 1/2 cup butter, brown sugar, cream, and heat on high for 1 minute to melt. (You can also do this in a saucepan over medium heat) Once warm, whisk until mixture is smooth. Then return bowl to microwave and heat for 1 minute on high power. Truth, I rarely use our microwave at all, but I do for this recipe.

Remove bowl from heat source and whisk until mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla and salt.

Evenly pour that caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and pecans. You’ll want to lick the bowl here and just do it. Totally worth it.

Bake in the middle of oven for 30 minutes, or until caramel is bubbling.

Here’s where the magic happens – you must let the squares cool and set for at least 3 hours. I often make these at night, and let them cool for an hour, then wrap well and store in fridge overnight. In the morning lift out of the pan using that clever foil and then slice with a sharp knife. These are decadent so I like to cut squares quite small. They freeze well for up to four months.

Sweet + Salty Roasted Cocktail Nuts


The recipe was inspired by perfect cocktail nuts I ate watching the sun go down on a surfing trip to San Jose del Cabo. [Sidebar: Cabo is a gorgeous and special place to visit if you can. I used to live in BC before calling Toronto home, and all the sailing and surfing and delicious food reminds me of that peaceful west coast way of life].

The best place to eat is a little farm to table oasis in the dessert called Flora Farms. Neil and I told each other stories, sipped California wine and hibiscus martinis while waiting for our table and inhaled munched on these cocktail nuts. Sweet and smoky and salty. They are divine.

When suitcases were long unpacked back in Toronto I began dreaming of these nuts. . Recipes from travels are some of my favourites because they evoke great memories.

sweet + salty roasted cocktail nuts

3 cups of nuts (1 cup each unsalted almonds, cashews, pepita seeds)
½ cup maple syrup
½ tablespoon fleur de sel
¼ tsp each chipotle powder and chili powder (less chili if you don’t like spice at all, but these really aren’t too spicy)
a few turns fresh ground black pepper

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix everything together. It’s sticky business and I find it easiest to use a spatula and stainless steel bowl. Tumble onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 mins just until cashews start to brown. Give the pan a shake and stir halfway through. Let cool on the pan. If stuck together, break up to form delicious little clusters. Highly addictive with a cold drink in hand. Store sealed in a container for up to two weeks. Taste even better the second day.

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