{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

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

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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!