Raisin Walnut Baked Oatmeal

My breakfasts tend to be a random assortment of flavors and textures, often involving oats, Greek yogurt, fruit, and granola. While delicious, it is rarely thought out or specific enough to post here as a “recipe.”

Baked oatmeal topped with peanut butter, banana, and chia seeds

Baked oatmeal topped with peanut butter, banana, and chia seeds

A few weeks ago, however, I began imagining a series of “fruit/nut/superfood” oatmeal concoctions, largely based on the ingredients in my pantry. I am using the term “superfood” loosely (it is a vague though trendy term after all), but this element will tyically add a distinctive flavor (like coconut) or a nutritional boost (like maca powder). My Apricot, Cashew, and Coconut oatmeal was the first creation in this series.

On a random Sunday evening after a weekend away from home, I suddenly realized that this series could move beyond a standard bowl of oatmeal, to showcase the plethora of oat-based breakfast options. Thus, this tasty baked oatmeal was quickly whipped together and popped into the oven, ready to be rewarmed on Monday morning.

Baked oatmeal

Baked oatmeal

The fruit/nut/superfood combo featured here is raisins, walnuts, and flax meal–so basically, it’s an oatmeal raisin cookie masquerading as a breakfast food!

Continuing my resolution to learn more about make the ingredients I use, let’s talk briefly about oats and flax.

Oat is a cereal grain, a staple food of Scotland, and commonly used to feed livestock. The oats we eat have been cleaned, hulled, toasted, and often steamed and flattened into “rolled oats.” Steel cut or scottish oats are the oat groats prior to being rolled. The outer casing of the oat is oat bran, which is particularly high in soluble fiber and is believed to lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease. Oats do not contain gluten, so they will not rise in baked goods unless combined with flour.

A slice of oatmeal

A slice of oatmeal

Flax seed is a rich source of Omega-3s, as well as calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin E. It is also high in fiber and a source of antioxidants called “lignans.” The nutrients in flax seed are best absorbed when the seeds are ground into flax meal.

My eye doctor recently recommended that I take a flax oil supplement to help keep my eyes moisturized. While I did buy a bottle of supplements, I have also been trying to eat flax meal once or twice a day. I always prefer to get my vitamins through food as opposed to pills.

Flax meal can be mixed with liquid to form a gelatinous mixture that is a good substitute for eggs in baked goods. While the recipe below is not vegan, you could increase the flax and use it in place of the egg.

plated 2

Peanut butter in the middle!

Raisin Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 Tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
Wet and dry ingredients

Wet and dry ingredients

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and whisk to incorporate. Stir wet ingredients until dry until just combined. Pour batter into a greased 8×8 (or similarly sized) pan. Bake 25 – 30 minutes.

one piece

Breakfast is served!

While I prefer a bowl of oats to the baked variety, it was incredibly convenient to just heat and eat! I will probably try a few variations (with mashed banana, pumpkin, or different dried fruits and nuts) in the near future. This dish would also be great for a brunch party!

plated and pan

Pretty plate!

I love the versatility of oats. They can be sweet or savory, and provide a great canvas for all sorts of flavors. This baked oatmeal spotlights a traditional combination of raisins and walnuts. Next week, I’ll be sharing a recipe for overnight granola flavored with molasses, ginger, and dried figs.

What’s your favorite way to eat oatmeal?

-L

In the next few weeks, we will be migrating to wordpress.org! If you subscribe to our blog through wordpress.com, it will no longer show up in your feed once we make the switch. To keep getting updates of new posts, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook. Thanks for following, and we hope you will stay with us!

Food for Thought: The Ethics of Quinoa

My husband shared an article with me a few days ago, and it has been weighing heavy on my mind ever since.

I aspire to be a conscious consumer, especially when it comes to food. I buy local produce, and when local is not available, I buy things from as close to Virginia as possible (so, for example, I choose Florida or Pennsylvania over California; U.S. over foreign, etc…). I try to buy organic produce when it comes to the “dirty dozen.” I pay attention to the meat or seafood I buy, choosing local, grass-fed meat and sustainably farmed seafood.  While I do sometimes choose to buy imported products (ahem, coconut and bananas), I have never really thought about the origins of the grains I buy.

quinoa spoon

Quinoa has gone from obscurity to wide-spread popularity in just a few short years. We have shared quite a few quinoa recipes here and lauded its health benefits. But at what price?

I knew that quinoa came from South America, and that it was a staple of traditional diets in Andean cultures, but I never paused to think about the effects of its popularity. According to ,

“The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.” (Source)

quinoa close

The article ultimately argues that an omnivorous diet is more able to embrace local products than a vegetarian or vegan diet. In a retaliatory article,  argues that the grain consumed by animals raised for meat makes a much more significant impact on the environment and the global food market than grain consumed by humans.

Rather than getting into an argument for or against veganism, I’d like to focus on the issue this article really stirred up for me:

When trying to be aware of the social impact of your eating habits, what factors do you consider? How do you decide which factors to prioritize?

I do not think that the simple answer to the “quinoa problem” is to stop eating imported quinoa–now that we have shifted the balance of the economy, to suddenly reduce the demand for the crop would surely have unforeseen (negative?) consequences.

quinoa bowl and spoon

My husband, always the one to play devil’s advocate in any argument, has reminded me that I often oversimplify things in my mind when trying to extol the virtues of an as-local-as-possible diet. What would you do if the local food sources we destroyed by bad weather or disease? Would you starve, or would you turn to imported foods?

So, it’s easy for me to make the choices I make when I live in a town that has high quality, local and organic foods readily available. It’s easy for me to choose organic even when it costs more, because I am blessed to have a job that allows me to make these decisions. It’s easy for me to choose “certified fair trade” products, because I choose to shop in stores that make this information available.

But trying to reduce the social impact of your eating habits is not easy. Just the opposite. The quinoa article has made me reflect on the choices I make. It has made me pause and want to investigate the origin of products I often take for granted (like grains). Labels are endlessly confusing, but I want to pay attention to the claims I see, and investigate their true meanings.

I’d love to hear about the choices you make when it comes to buying food.

Do you aspire to eat organic? Local? Are you a vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons? Why do you make the choices you do when it comes to food?

-L

In the next few weeks, we will be migrating to wordpress.org! If you subscribe to our blog through wordpress.com, it will no longer show up in your feed once we make the switch. To keep getting updates of new posts, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Twitterand/or Facebook. Thanks for following, and we hope you will stay with us!

Apricot, Cashew, and Coconut Oatmeal

My first “experiment” with my coconut was to blend up some fresh coconut milk. Coconut milk comes from blending the meat with the juice (or water).

lid

I decided to use my fresh coconut milk in a hearty bowl of oatmeal, topped with dried apricots and cashews. It’s been a fruit and (coco)nut kind of week on Pas de Deux, and this will be the first in a “series” I’ll be working on in the next few weeks spotlighting various fruit and nut combos with oatmeal.

bowl

Oatmeal provides such a great canvas upon which to layer flavors and textures. This particular bowl was topped with chopped dried apricots, cashews, coconut flakes, sliced banana, and a drizzle of coconut butter. The coconut milk gave the oats a great creaminess. This bowl was full of healthy fats and kept me full for hours.

toppings

Apricot, Cashew, and Coconut Oatmeal

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Coach’s Oats (or 1/3 – 1/2 cup rolled oats)
  • 1/4 cup fresh coconut milk (or canned)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • dash ground ginger
  • 1/2 banana, plus more for topping
  • Toppings: chopped dried apricots, chopped cashews, coconut flakes, coconut butter

bowl from above

Method

Combine oats, coconut milk, water, salt and ginger in a pot over medium heat. Thinly slice banana into the pot. Cook over medium heat, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you stir vigorously, banana will “melt” into the oatmeal. Pour oats into a bowl, and add toppings. Enjoy!

close up

Cashews are a kidney-shaped nut that grow out of the bottom of cashew apples. Cashew trees are native to Brazil, India, and the West Indies, and though the apples are not imported to the U.S., some parts of South America consider them to be a delicacy. Cashew apples are extremely high in vitamin C, and have a highly astringent taste. Cashew nuts are high in fat and are a good source of copper, iron, and zinc. Unlike other tree nuts, cashews contain starch, which allows them to act as a thickening agent. They can be soaked and blended to make “cheese”, salad dressings, or creams.

Apricots have been grown in China for nearly 4,000 years, and today, 90% of the American crop is grown in California. Dried apricots are often treated with sulfur dioxide to preserve their bright orange color (though the ones pictured here were not). Dried apricots are high in vitamin A, iron, and calcium.

stirred

Dried fruit and nuts add a huge nutritional boost to an already hearty and healthy bowl of oatmeal. The flavor combinations go on and on. Do you have a favorite fruit and nut combination for your oatmeal?

-L

Next week, we will be migrating to wordpress.org! If you subscribe to our blog through wordpress.com, it will no longer show up in your feed once we make the switch. To keep getting updates of new posts, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook. Thanks for following, and we hope you will stay with us!

You put ‘da straw in ‘da coconut

I recently read something that declared 2012 “the year of the coconut.”

DSC_1673

If my pantry is any indication, this statement would certainly appear to be true…

Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm, which traditionally hails from Malaysia, though it is now grown in South America, India, Hawaii, and throughout the Pacific Islands. Each tree lives for approximately 70 years, and produces thousands of coconuts, each of which provides not only food and food products, but shells, fibers, and wood that can be used for household products and building materials. Each coconut has several layers: a smooth, tan outer covering; a hard, dark brown, hairy husk; a thick brown skin; creamy white coconut meat; and thin juice in the center.

scraped

I have been drinking coconut water on an almost daily basis for about two years. It’s a terrific post-work out drink as it provides an incredible amount of electrolytes and potassium. Many commercially available brands of coconut water claim “it’s like sticking a straw in a coconut.” So, on a whim, I decided to buy a Thai young coconut to see if these claims are indeed true.

I followed the directions in this youtube video to open my coconut. Most young coconuts you can find in the store (mine was from Whole Foods) have the hairy brown husk removed.

straw in coconut

The taste of coconut water varies widely from brand to brand, so it’s hard to tell which comes closest to the taste of the water that I found in the center of my coconut. I find that each brand, and the natural juice, takes a little getting used to at first. I suggest that you start by drinking a fruity version, and then wean yourself down to the unflavored varieties. That’s what I did, and I now love the unflavored variety, especially Zico brand.

coconut waters

The Chocolate Zico tastes like chocolate milk! It has a bit of coconut cream mixed in, and while great on its own, would probably make a killer smoothie.

Although I bought the coconut to taste the water, upon opening it, I became more excited about the soft, chewy meat I found coating the insides. Chunks of coconut meat can be grated or chopped, which becomes the dried coconut that is commonly sold for baking. When blended with the juice, the coconut meat makes coconut milk. Strain the milk, or use less water, and you get coconut cream. The meat can also be dried and pressed to create coconut oil.

open coconut

What plethora of options that the coconut offers!

But how did we humans discover that those funny, hard to crack fruits contained such incredible meat and juice? I love imagining the first person to open a coconut (or a pineapple) and discovering the goodness inside. Nature offers such incredible variety…it never ceases to amaze me.

I’ll be experimenting with the coconut juice and meat over the next few days, and I’ll be back next week to share a recipe or two. Have you ever opened a fresh coconut?

-L

In two weeks, we will be migrating to wordpress.org! If you subscribe to our blog through wordpress.com, it will no longer show up in your feed once we make the switch. To keep getting updates of new posts, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook. Thanks for following, and we hope you will stay with us!

Crunchy Granola State

Yogurt, fruit, and granola

Yogurt, fruit, and granola

It’s a new year. A new beginning. For me, that is a huge relief. The end of 2012 was more than a little challenging, so the idea of a fresh start is very appealing. Already this year, I’ve gotten a new haircut (I got bangs!), made some new friends, and adopted a new “come what may” sort of attitude. It’s exciting.

I was talking with a good girlfriend the other day about life, love, and New Years resolutions. We started laughing at the “crunchy granola” nature of my musings. Since that phrase came up, I have been craving actual granola.

Granola!

Granola!

The flavor of this batch was decided primarily by what was stocked in the bulk bins… apricots, pistachios, walnuts. I decided this combo was a safe bet, since Lindsey has been enjoying the bag of Apricot Pistachio Marge Granola I recently gave her. I’m definitely pleased with the outcome.

(Coco)nut mixture

(Coco)nut mixture

Apricot Pistachio Granola

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup raw pistachios
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup dried apricots, sliced crosswise into small pieces

Preheat oven to 300F. Combine oats, nuts, coconut, and spices in a large bowl. Melt coconut oil and honey in a small saucepan over low heat. Pour over oat mixture and toss until evenly distributed. Spread the mixture onto a large baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in apricots, stirring to break up any clumps. Return to oven for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool, and enjoy!

Stirring in the apricots

Stirring in the apricots

Since the coconut was sweetened and I knew I’d be serving the granola with fruit, I cut the amount of other sweeteners pretty dramatically. If you prefer sweeter granola, add 1/3 cup packed brown sugar to the oat and nut mixture.

Beautiful bowl

Beautiful bowl

I love that yummy food came from my “crunchy granola” thoughts. What are your New Years resolutions? Have they influenced your meals lately?

Happy eating!

-C

In two weeks, we will be migrating to wordpress.org! If you subscribe to our blog through wordpress.com, it will no longer show up in your feed once we make the switch. To keep getting updates of new posts, subscribe to our RSS feed, or follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook. Thanks for following, and we hope you will stay with us!