{Happy Valentines Day!} Chocolate-Covered Cherry Oatmeal

Happy Valentine’s Day!

bowl with spoon

I’m not a huge fan of this overly-commercialized holiday, but I am a big fan of chocolate (the darker, the better). So, any excuse to indulge in chocolate deserves at least a little bit of attention here on the blog.

It’s been a busy few weeks, with weekends spent driving between Charlottesville and D.C. to lead trainings with an organization I work with part-time, as well as lots of events at work and social outings with friends. This means extremely limited time spent in the kitchen, and thus, my Valentine’s Day treat came in the form of oatmeal, rather than something more exciting like cupcakes or brownies or cookies…

But, this oatmeal will not disappoint, and (bonus!) it’s healthy enough to be enjoyed any time! Featuring raw cacao powder, dried cherries, and almonds, this oatmeal is my next “fruit, nut, superfood” oatmeal combo. It was quite the treat to start my day!

close upRaw cacao is considered a superfood because of its high levels of minerals and antioxidants. It is one of the best sources of magnesium found in nature, in addition to containing high amounts calcium, zinc, iron, copper, sulfur, and potassium. It is different than cocoa powder, which has been heated and therefore has lost the majority of its nutrients. Head on over to Sarah B’s blog for more information on raw cacao and some tasty recipes.

off center

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Oatmeal

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 (heaping) Tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons dried tart cherries
  • Almonds
  • Cacao nibs

Method

Combine oats and almond milk in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add cacao powder and whisk to combine. Thinly slice banana into the mixture and stir well. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally  While the oatmeal is cooking, add most of the cherries, reserving some for garnish. Transfer cooked oatmeal to bowl, and top with remaining cherries, chopped almonds, and cacao nibs.

bowl with spoon2

My favorite part of this oatmeal was probably the way the cherries added during cooking plumped up and became soft and juicy. The almonds and cacao nibs add great texture. The only sweetener is the emulsified banana, so feel free to add maple syrup, honey, or another sweetener of your choice if you prefer your oats on the sweeter side.

close up 2

For Valentine’s Day, I made a special tea blend for my husband with Adagio Teas. On our honeymoon, we stopped in a great little coffee shop in Santa Barbara and order a pot of tea. Upon tasting it, we both declared it the most delicious tea we had ever tasted, and promptly returned to the cash register to purchase a 1 pound bag to take home with us. We aren’t exactly sure what was in the mix, but we know there was black tea, little pieces of chocolate and little chunks of dried apple. We savored our tea for almost a year, and almost cried when we drank the last cup.

I was pretty excited when I realized I could attempt to recreate our tea with Adagio. So excited, in fact, I couldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day to give my husband his gift. We enjoyed our first mugs of our new tea last night, and while it may not be the “real thing,” it is pretty darn close! Adagio makes all custom blends available to others, so if you would like to try our tea for yourself, you can!  If you do order our “Buccaneer” Tea for yourself, please let me know what you think.

Hope you have a wonderful, chocolate-filled Valentine’s Day.

-L

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

I love biscotti as an afternoon or after dinner snack, especially with a latte or a glass of almond milk. I went through a phase when I lived in New York where I ate biscotti on pretty much a daily basis. Trader Joe’s makes a tasty chocolate dipped variety, and almost every coffee shop sells biscotti. But I had never made my own until this weekend.

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Biscotti are twice-baked cookies. If you sample them after the first phase of baking, they taste just like a typical crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie. The second phase of baking makes them super crunchy and perfect for dipping.

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to learn more about the ingredients I use, my first rule is “no assumptions.” I will not assume I know about an ingredient, but rather, I will research all key ingredients to really learn about them.

For example, I know that pistachios are those little green nuts that typically come in shells (unless you have bulk bins that sell them already shelled!), and are lower in fat than other nuts. But how do they grow? What vitamins and minerals do they contain?

Pistachios

Lovely pistachios

Pistachio: Cultivated in California, Turkey, Italy, and Iran, pistachios are an important culinary nut that has been used for thousands of years, as far back as 6750 BC. In the U.S, pistachios have been cultivated as a commercial crop since the 1930s. The pistachio nuts we eat are the seed of the plant, contained within the hard, whitish/beige shell of the fruit. When the fruit ripens, it splits open, revealing the seed. Compared to other nuts, pistachios have one of the highest amounts of protein and fiber. They also contain important vitamins and minerals including copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin A, thiamine, and Vitamin B-6.

cherries

Chewy cherries

Dried Cherry: The cherry tree was named after the Turkish town of Cesarus, and is said to date back to 300 BC. Cherries come in two varieties: sweet and sour, both of which can be dried and eaten as a snack or used in baked goods. The red pigment in cherries, anthocyanin, is being studied for its antioxidant properties.

A perfect pair

A perfect pair

I was surprised to see that Culinary Artistry does not list cherries and pistachios as a common flavor pairing. In my opinion, they are quite a complimentary pair.

In addition to the lovely flavor combination of pistachios and cherries, these biscotti have a hint of orange due to a little bit of zest added to the batter. I love the subtle complexity that this hint of citrus provides. It keeps the biscotti feeling light and refreshing, while the whole wheat flour and oats also ensure that they are slightly heartier and more filling than the average baked good.

biscotti

Ready to be baked again!

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1  cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons orange zest (I used clementines)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios
Biscotti!

Biscotti!

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with  parchment paper. Combine first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted  with a paddle. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl,  whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients. Add egg mixture to flour mixture;  beat on low speed until combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Fold in cherries and  pistachios.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; divide in half.  Using floured hands, shape each dough half into a 16″-long log. Brush off excess  flour; transfer logs to prepared sheet, spaced 5″ apart. Flatten each log into a  2″-wide strip. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until browned and set,  about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to  250° and arrange 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom  third.
  • Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer  biscotti to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut each strip diagonally  into 2/3″-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on baking  sheets.
  • Bake biscotti, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until crisp, about 40 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks; let cool.
Tasty treats

Tasty treats

My only complaint against homemade biscotti is that they have to bake for quite a long time, so you have to plan ahead when making them. However, the hands on work is simple, so they’re perfect for making on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I’ll be making more soon, potentially dipped in chocolate ;-).

Do you like biscotti? Any favorite flavors or drinks to dip them into?

-L

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