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

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Easy, Healthy Lunches for Families on the Go

No matter how long it has been since you were a student, September brings with it the promise of a fresh start and a return to the workaday world. I love September…and not just because I was born in September. Here in Vancouver, we are often lucky enough to ease into fall with persistent sunshine and just a hint of crispness in the air as you start your day. Your pace quickens as you walk down the sidewalk and a few eager leaves crunch underfoot. Instead of lazy summer days and simple barbecues, thoughts turn to packing lunches, making tomato sauce with all those late summer gems and even turning on your oven every once in a while.

Packing lunches is not my favourite thing. While I love to cook (and to eat), it feels like a chore. However, I remain committed: packing your own lunch is the best way to save money and eat healthier. The way I get around it most often is via leftovers. I make big batches of food and create an assembly line that sees me packing lunches at the same time as I plate dinner.

Of course, leftovers aren’t everyone’s favourite idea for a noontime meal. At this time of year, creative lunch ideas abound but as a busy working mom, I often can’t help but think that those Babybel ladybugs are solely the domain of the mom with a bit more time and patience than I possess. I need something appealing, tasty and fast. So here are a few ideas that work in my home and hopefully they will please your taste buds too!

Greek Salad with Chickpeas and Feta
Greek salad is a staple in my house because you can literally make it in under 15 minutes. Since I am a vegetarian, no salad is complete without a bit of extra tummy-filling protein – here from crowd-pleasing chickpeas. To make this a bit more special at lunchtime, think about novel ways of presenting that don’t actually take a whole lot of time.
Serves 4

2 ripe field tomatoes (they taste best this time of year!), chopped
1 English cucumber, chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, diced
14 oz/398mL can of no salt added chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I like Eden Organic)
1 cup of light feta or goat feta
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt and pepper in a small bowl or shake in a jam jar. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss salad with dressing and serve immediately.
For a pretty lunchtime option, layer salad ingredients in mason jars (for small children, simply arrange salad in a break proof container). Carry dressing with you in a small container to preserve the crispness in the veggies.

Family Friendly Tip – In my family, we find that we never eat the raw onions in Greek salad so instead, we cook them. To try this, heat 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a medium frying pan. Add onions and slowly sauté them as you prepare the rest of the salad until they are lightly caramelized, soft and translucent.


Banana “Sushi”
My son loves sushi: I have seen him eat 3 rolls at one sitting! (He is two.) So this idea takes the shape of sushi to transform a fairly traditional lunch time staple – a PB & B. Hemp seeds add a boost of omega 3 in a kid-friendly package.
Serves 1

1 small banana
2 tbsp natural & unsweetened nut, seed or pea butter
1 tsp runny honey
1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 8-inch sprouted grain or whole wheat wrap

If your wraps are too stiff to roll, give them a quick steam over some boiling water or in a hot moist towel.
Spread tortilla with nut butter, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with hemp seeds. Place banana along one edge of the tortilla and roll the tortilla up around the banana. Slice into 8 pieces and arrange in a lunch container. Serve with chopsticks for fun!

Allergy Friendly Tip: There are butters made from almost anything you can think of nowadays. For a totally nut free option, try Sunbutter (from sunflower seeds), pumpkin seed butter (a stronger flavour) or NoNuts (golden peas).

February is Apple Month!

In February, eating local is no longer glamorous. Gone are the lazy days of nibbling as you U-Pick or eating your fill of seemingly endless local produce. You have got to be committed this time of year. Committed to trudging through the rain at the Winter Farmer’s Market. Committed to baking with your local wheat. However, thanks to the miracle of cold storage, most store shelves still offer at least one local staple: the humble (and delicious!) apple.  BC Tree Fruits is celebrating national apple month in February and so we wanted to celebrate by offering you a baker’s dozen of our favourite ways to eat apples.

1. Eaten as nature intended: rubbed on the sleeve and consumed with abandon.

2. Sliced and topped with a piece of organic, raw milk aged cheddar.

3. As part of a homey crumble.

4. To add a hint of sweetness to cabbage or Brussels sprouts.

5. Magically transformed into Desiree’s favourite cider.

6. Dipped into almond or peanut butter.

7. Baked into a decadent muffin.

8. As part of a cool weather take on panzanella.

9. Paired with fennel.

10. Cored and packed with cinnamon, maple syrup and walnuts and baked until ridiculous.

11. Layered with pesto, provolone and arugula on traditional rye bread.

12. Cooked down with some honey and cardamom and topped with greek yogurt.

13. Sliced thinly and topped with fig compote and chèvre.

Stay local…spring is just around the corner!