Fig and Molasses Granola

First, there was apricot, cashew, and coconut oatmeal.

Then, there was raisin, walnut, and flax meal baked oatmeal.

Today, I am happy to share my latest fruit/nut/superfood oat concoction: Fig and Molasses Granola.

granola pan

Chunks of dried fig and crystallized ginger dance with chopped walnuts and pecans in this crunchy and not-too-sweet granola, made using The Professional Palate‘s “overnight” method.

Breakfast heaven!

figs2

Let’s talk for a minute about Figs. Regarded by many ancient cultures as sacred, figs were originally grown in southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Spanish missionaries brought them to North America, and in the U.S. they are mainly cultivated in southern California, though they do grow elsewhere (Charlottesville, VA included!). There are many varieties of figs, ranging in color from deep purple to almost white and in shape from round to oval. Figs are a good source of iron, calcium, and phosphorus.

This granola is a great source of iron, as it also includes blackstrap molasses. Molasses is produced when the juice squeezed from sugar cane and sugar beets is boiled down into a syrup from which sugar crystals are extracted. The first boiling produces light molasses, the second, dark molasses, and the third, blackstrap. It is a good source of iron, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, and magnesium (source).

jars

As I have been learning more about the ingredients I have been cooking with, I have been intrigued by the many facets of “food knowledge.” From history and anthropology, to horticulture and nutrition, there is so much to learn about the foods we eat and the way our bodies process them.

I would love to hear which tidbits of information resonate most with you all, our lovely readers. Please let me know if you are enjoying learning about ingredients, and which aspects are most interesting to you.

granola pan close

Fig and Molasses Granola

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/8 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • chopped figs
  • chopped crystallized ginger

Method

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, flax, chia seeds, pecans, walnuts, cinnamon and ginger. In separate bowl, whisk together molasses, brown sugar, orange juice, vanilla and oil. Pour over oat mixture and mix well.

Spread granola evenly over baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring at 15 minute intervals. Turn oven off. Leave granola in oven. Granola will crisp as it cools overnight. Just before serving, toss in chopped dried figs and crystallized ginger. Store granola in jars in the fridge.

jars and bowl

I have really been enjoying this granola atop a bowl of greek yogurt, chunky applesauce, and sliced banana. The flavors come together so nicely, and the crystallized ginger adds an almost surprising element.

“Superfood” indeed.

-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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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!

Massaged Kale Salad with Carrots, Raisins, and Walnuts

Back home in Charlottesville, but not yet back to work, I took advantage of my afternoon at home and planned a lovely lunch recipe to share.

Love my kale!

Love my kale!

This simple salad featured kale, carrots, walnuts, and raisins. The dressing included (among other things) turmeric and Himalayan pink sea salt. As part of my New Year’s resolution to really learn about the foods I eat, today I decided to focus on walnuts, turmeric, and salt.

I perused The New Food Lover’s Companion for basic information on each of these ingredients, and then turned to Google for additional information.

pink salt

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt contains 84 minerals and trace elements (including magnesium, calcium and potassium). “It is an unrefined, unprocessed “raw” salt that’s hand-mined from abundant salt caves that were formed 250 million years ago as ocean salt settled in certain geologic pockets around the earth.” (Source)

Ground Turmeric

Ground Turmeric

Turmeric comes from a tropical root that is similar to ginger. Ayurvedic science hails this spice for its natural antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and blood cleansing properties. It is used to give American-style mustard its distinctive yellow color.

Walnuts

Walnuts

Walnuts are the fruit of the walnut tree. Among all nuts, walnuts pack significantly higher amount omega-3 fatty acids, and are also rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants such as Vitamin E (Source). Black walnuts and American walnuts are the most common varieties. Once shelled, walnuts keep best in the refrigerator, for up to 6 months.

These ingredients gave my salad a lovely flavor, as well as added nutrition.

Yum!

Yum!

Massaged Kale Salad with Carrot, Raisins, and Walnuts

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • ~5 leaves of curly kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled into ribbons
  • 1 Tablespoon raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon agave
  • 1/8 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Sea Salt

Method

Combine kale and carrot in a large bowl; set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Massage about 3 Tablespoons of the dressing into the  kale and carrot, until the kale leaves soften and turn a darker green, about 2 minutes. Add more dressing if desired. Top with raisins and walnuts.

Lunch is served!

Lunch is served!

The tanginess of the dressing is off-set but the sweet raisins, and the walnuts provide a nice “crunch”. While I enjoyed this salad for lunch with some pita chips, it would also be great as a side dish for dinner, perhaps with some grilled chicken (I’m making myself hungry just imagining this meal…).

Enjoy!

-L