A Better Breakfast: Stick to Your Ribs Granola

granola jar - cropped

Eat your oatmeal. It sticks to your ribs.” That’s what my grandma used to tell us. And she wasn’t that far off. Oats are full of soluble fibre called beta-glucan that literally “sticks” around in your intestines to give you a feeling of fullness until lunch time and a good dose of long lasting energy to fuel your morning.

Besides being amazingly nutritious, a bowl of oatmeal is a blank slate for endless flavour opportunities. First, you’ve got the many oat varieties: instant, rolled, steel-cut (also known as Irish and Scottish oatmeal) and groats. Steel-cut offers the most beta-glucan and is my favourite for its chewy texture and hearty flavour. You can stir in fresh, dried or frozen fruit, crunchy nuts and seeds, even peanut or almond butter, warm spices like cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg and a touch of sweetness from brown sugar or maple syrup. You’ve got a new oatmeal flavour for every day of the winter and for every taste preference.

Chilly winter mornings are easily warmed by a steamy bowl of oats. Come spring, I crave a cooler breakfast but one that still offers so much flavour and enough energy to fuel my day. Knowing that fresh berries will be in season in just a few months, I look forward to layers of tart yogurt, sweet seasonal fruit and crunchy granola. The most delicious locally grown fruit deserves the best granola. And there’s nothing like your own homemade granola! It has a fresh, richer flavour and chewier texture that can’t be beat with any store-bought variety. Homemade versions easily trump store-bought varieties on flavour and with much less added sugar and fat. Whip up a batch on the weekend and you’ve got a healthy breakfast that you can feel good about and your tastebuds (and your family) will thank you for your efforts.

This recipe can easily be adjusted to suit your flavour cravings and whatever ingredients you have in your pantry. I usually make a batch of this granola in anticipation of the start of the summer farmer’s market, even though I know summer-fresh fruit is a still a month or two away.

granola in blue bowl with blue mat

Yummy Granola
Makes 7 cups

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/2 cup buckwheat groats
1/3 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon or cardamom
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup hazelnuts
3/4 cup dried fruit: I like to use a combination of 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots, 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries and 1/4 cup chopped dates
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, hemp hearts and buckwheat.
In a small saucepan, combine the almond butter, honey, oil and cinnamon or cardamom. Warm over medium heat, stirring often, until ingredients are well blended. Drizzle over the oat mixture and fold to thoroughly coat all the oats, hemp and buckwheat. Spread onto a large baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown, turning every 7-10 minutes. Place on a rack to cool completely.
Toast almonds and hazelnuts in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly and chop coarsely.
Once cool, combine baked oat mixture, toasted nuts and dried fruit in a large bowl. Sprinkle with vanilla and toss to coat well. Transfer to an airtight container and enjoy within 2-3 weeks.
Serve this yummy granola with layers of yogurt and fresh fruit or with milk, soy, coconut or almond beverage. Even though this granola already has a little dried fruit, it’s scrumptious with fresh fruit as well.

granola crumble up close

granola crumble up close


Resolve to Eat Breakfast…Breakfast Cookies

Happy New Year everyone!

Right about now, many of you might be launching into some healthy eating resolutions. January 1st never really works since after the party, what you really want is to sleep in and have a big, rich brunch. Then you might need a couple of days to focus on what you want the New Year to bring…which leads you to the weekend so you can prepare to make it happen. Personally, I love the ‘blank slate’ feeling of January. In reality, you can vow to evolve and change on a daily basis but there is a lot of tradition and cultural support for making a fresh start at the turn of the year.

So Heather and I thought we would share our slightly different spin on New Year’s resolutions. To us, dietary change as a whole works better when it is focused, concrete and sustainable. When you focus on building new, positive habits you avoid the deprivation trap and eventually the less positive habits get crowded out. It might not be as dramatic as a juice cleanse but it is sustainable!

So for the first weeks of 2013, we would like to offer our suggestions on healthy eating resolutions that will not only make you healthier but will actually be possible to maintain long term. Because of course, a resolution that you pick up every year in January and drop every year by February 1st doesn’t exactly spell real change.

For this week, we are taking our mother’s advice and advocating that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Here’s why…

1. You need to break the fast: As you sleep, your body has to switch from storing energy to liberating it to keep your organs and brain fueled with glucose. In order to do that, hormones such as glucagon and cortisol (the stress hormone!) rise and help convert stored energy into useful forms. When you eat breakfast within 2 hours of rising, the morning meal sends a signal that the fast is indeed over and the balance of hormones can shift into a fed, relaxed state. If you don’t, your hormones continue to work hard to keep your body running, which can lead to cravings, crabbiness and sluggishness.

2. You will set a good example for the kids (and for your future self!): In the morning we tend to have stronger willpower (there’s that old ‘fresh start’ again!) than at the end of the day and consciously eating a very healthful breakfast helps set the eating tone for the rest of the day. Bolstered by a good meal, you just might choose another good meal at lunch. For those of you with kids, modeling healthy eating behaviours pays off!

3. It will help you stay trim. There is some evidence that breakfast eaters weigh less than those who regularly skip it. This probably has to do with hormonal and metabolic response to prolonged fasting but the evidence is still a work in progress.

Convinced? Great! So…what should you actually eat for breakfast? Anything is better than nothing but certain foods are clearly better than others.

A medley of white flour, fat and white sugar will send your own blood sugars soaring and keep you on a blood sugar rollercoaster for the rest of the day. What you want is a meal that will help provide a slow, steady rise in blood sugars to hit the ‘reset’ button on your metabolism. Whole, intact grains, nuts, seeds and lean proteins, along with some fruit or veggies are a nice combination.

Here are a few options to try, some of which you can prep the night before for those who can’t think straight before 8:00AM:

– Scrambled eggs and spinach with a slice of sprouted grain toast. Bake the egg mixture in muffin cups for a make-ahead option.
– A smoothie with silken tofu, Greek yogurt or plant-based protein powder and fruit. Bonus marks for throwing a bit of kale or spinach in with your blueberries!
– Hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit for those in a super rush!
– Cottage cheese layered with berries, a bit of high fibre cereal, chopped nuts and ground flax seeds
– Our Brilliant Breakfast Cookie…ta da!

breakfast cookies - round & stacked

Brilliant Banana Breakfast Cookies

Makes 15 cookies.

Why are these cookies so brilliant? Because they are made from whole foods, with all their fibre, protein and slow-burning energy intact. Make them on the weekend and have an on-the-go breakfast ready when you are. Enjoy them with a skim milk or organic soy latte or crumble them over Greek yogurt to add vital protein to help you stay energized all morning long.

3/4 cup oat flour – if you can’t find oat flour, you can make it yourself by pulsing oats in a food processor until they are fine as flour
3/4 cup large flake oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

If you want to toast the walnuts, roast them in a preheated 375°F oven for 4-6 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together oat flour, oats, coconut, flax and salt. Stir in toasted walnuts and dried apricots.
In another bowl, mash bananas with a fork and stir in coconut oil, agave syrup and vanilla. Add banana mixture to flour mixture and fold until combined.
The dough for these cookies is pretty easy to handle so we recommend getting your hands dirty!

Run a little coconut oil on the inside of a 3 inch square or round cookie cutter so dough doesn’t stick. Place cookie cutter on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Add a small handful of cookie dough into the cookie cutter and lightly press the dough down with your fingertips. Aim for about a 1/2 inch thickness. Repeat until the baking sheet is full and cookies are about 1 inch apart.
Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

These breakfast cookies are perfect for freezing. They will keep for 1-2 months in the freezer. Simply remove from the freezer the night before and grab’n go for a quick breakfast in the morning.

Pear and Cinnamon Pancakes

Nothing beats a slow cooked breakfast on the weekend. It’s a great way to slow down a crazy week and enjoy your family’s company. A warm breakfast prepared with the efforts of the whole family just seems to do more than simply nourish and energize. And the slowly sipped tea or coffee just seems to taste that much better when enjoyed in PJs.

 This week’s recipe came to fruition over the holidays. While daydreaming about what to create for Christmas morning breakfast, Desiree was inspired by Jamie’s Oliver pancakes sweetened with her favourite fruit Pears! The recipe is super simple, easy to remember and a great hit with the family. Knowing that I love pears too, Desiree shared the recipe. A hit with my family too, we thought it was worth sharing so you can enjoy too.

Pear & Cinnamon Pancakes
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe.

Makes 7 good-sized pancakes.

1 cup whole grain flour (We’ve been using a mix of our white and red whole grain flours. You can also use all purpose flour, half whole wheat and half white flour or a mix of flours like buckwheat and whole wheat flour.)
1¼ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 ripe pear

Place flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, milk, and egg in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Grate in the pear and stir with a spoon to mix well.

Heat a large pan over medium heat. If the pan isn’t non-stick, add a little butter to the pan to help the pancakes from sticking. Pour pancake batter into pan and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until bubbles start to appear in the batter. Flip over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until they are golden brown and cooked through.

We like to serve these with plain Greek yogurt and a little maple syrup. Desiree enjoys them with toasted chopped walnuts as well. 

If you have any leftover pancakes, enjoy them for breakfast during the week or make pancake sandwiches by filling 2 pancakes with almond butter and your favourite jam. They make a super fun breakfast to go or energizing afternoon snack for kids and adults.

Holiday Traditions…Kutya

We love the holidays – all the merrymaking, eating, drinking, getting together with friends…did we mention eating? There is nothing better than gathering with friends and family over food and drink and it might be no surprise, given what we do for a living, that our own families were ripe with food traditions. Recently, we spent a day in the kitchen making holiday treats and playing with all the gorgeous local wheat we have from our CSA so we decided to invite our friend, Lori, over to share one of her holiday traditions: kutya.

Kutya (literally, wheat, in Ukrainian) is the first of the 12 meatless dishes that comprise a Ukrainian Christmas feast. The 12 dishes symbolize the 12 apostles who attended the last supper. Kutya is a very simple dish: cooked wheat berries, sweetened with honey and dressed with walnuts and poppy seeds.

Traditional Kutya
Wheat berries shine in this sweet and simple dish. Kutya would make an excellent local food alternative to rice pudding and with a bit less honey, a wonderful hearty breakfast option.

1 cup wheat berries
2 1/2 cups water
4 tbsp honey (this makes the kutya traditionally sweet; we liked 2 tbsp a bit better)
2 tbsp poppy seeds
chopped walnuts

Bring the wheat berries and water to a boil in a large pot and reduce heat to simmer; allow to simmer until wheat berries are tender yet still chewy, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Drain wheat, reserving starchy cooking water, and place in a mixing bowl.

Stir in honey and poppy seeds. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid, about a tablespoon at a time, until it forms a bit of a sauce for the wheat. Then mix in walnuts and serve.

Our friend, Lori Petryk, is also an awesome foodie dietitian. Check out her show on Shaw TV, Good For You Good For The Earth.

Happy Holidays,
Desiree and Heather

Local Food Challenge…Seasonal Breakfast Smoothies

It’s always easier on the weekends to prepare and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. You’ve got ample time to chop up veggies, create a tasty frittata or maybe whip up blueberry pancakes using local flour. During the week, life can get a little more hectic. So what’s a 100 Mile Eater to do?

Whip up a Smoothie – they make a super quick and easy breakfast that you can sip while getting ready or take to go. We’ve got three tasty smoothie recipes that use local and seasonal ingredients. For each of the following recipes, blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. We like to puree the fruit with a little milk or juice first to get them really smooth before adding the other ingredients. Each recipe makes 1 serving. Enjoy with a slice of 100 Mile toast or leftover pancakes. We pre-made some buckwheat scones to go with our smoothies.

Apricot Mint
1 apricot, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup raspberries
2 tbsp fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk

Peach Blueberry
1 peach, pitted and sliced
1 cup local blueberry juice
1/2 cup strained or greek-style yogurt

The blueberry juice makes this smoothie slightly tart. Feel free to sweeten it up with a little honey if you prefer.

Blueberry Lavender
1 cup blueberries
3/4-1 tsp dried lavender, crushed in a mortar & pestle 
1 cup milk
1 tsp honey

Did you know…Eating breakfast can make it easier to tackle the Local Food Challenge. Skipping breakfast means you miss out on energy and key nutrients that your brain and body need to function properly. Eating breakfast helps you make better food choices later in the day. This means breakfast could help you stick to your Local Food Challenge – so eat your breakfast!