Basic Oat Cookies

Basic Oat Cookies

As I am striving to simplify my life with less stuff, I also feel a draw to create recipes that reflects that. Amid the current hype of “50-fancy-ingredient-lattes”, what I want is something tasty and comforting made from just a few store cupboard ingredients.

Maybe it is my shift towards digging deeper into the social justice side of health, or it is a subconscious longing for my Swedish roots. Or maybe it is having a somewhat constrained food budget… I don’t know. What I do know is that there are some real delights to be had, by the skill of being able to turn just a few simple ingredients into something yummy, especially when the weather has you all down.

These cookies, or biscuits where something I made several times this past winter. It was like my body craved something energy dense in order to cope with the long cold wet days. But maybe it was just my tastebuds calling out for something with the combination of fat and sugar. Either way, these basic oat cookies hit the spot every time!

straightforward nutrition

 

oat cookies

The initial obsession with this particular ingredient combination started off when I spotted a flapjack recipe on Instagram. Over the course of my trial and errors developing this recipe, I learned that the ratios of sugar/oats/butter/honey will affect the texture and quality of your end product. More butter – Less oats will give you a crispier kind of cookie. Increasing the ratio of oats and you’ll end up with more of a flapjack, chewy kind of bar.

To be honest, what I was aiming for was something like the Swedish oat cookies called ‘Havreflarn’, which is a crispy candied type of cookie. The thing is, the recipe for Havreflarn uses wheat flour also and I wanted to try and recreate something without it. You know how it goes though… Baking, apparently, is an exact science so if you go changing any one component, you most likely will not end up with what was the intended outcome of the original recipe. Never the less though, it can be equally tasty and satisfying! Which which I am, self proclaiming about this recipe experiment that I am sharing with you here.

So let’s get to it! This is NOT a dairy free, sugar free kind of cookie. This is an all in treat made with a few things you can buy in your corner shop, or small country village shop to whip up in no time when you need something to go with that comforting cup of tea / coffee / hot chocolate. Those days when we need something to light up a dreary cold day (and when you live in Ireland those are part of every season…)

healthy recipes

Basic Oat Cookies

Makes about 12

75g butter ( I use salted)

45g dark muscovado sugar (but any type will do. I just like the flavour of muscovado sugar more)

50g porridge oats

25g oat flour (porridge oats milled in your blender)

1 tbsp milk of choice (dairy or non dairy is fine)

1 tbsp of runny honey (get the best quality you can find and afford)

1/4 tsp baking powder

 

This recipe is super handy because you can mix all the ingredient directly into the saucepan that you use to melt the butter. Less washing up that way!

Heat the oven to 185°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients and stir until you have an even mix of deliciously tasting butter, sugar, honey and oats. (Don’t eat it all this way though, I know it is tempting!)

Using two spoon, spoon a dollop of cookie mixture on to the lined baking sheet. If you want them a bit neater looking than mine then shape them up a bit. Leave some space between each dollop as you don’t want your cookies flowing into each other. 

Bake for about 7 min until golden and a little brown around the edges. Let the cookies cool on a rack before tucking in. They will firm up a little as they cool. 

Store in an airtight container. Will probably keep for a few days. (Mine never lasts long enough to go off.)

oat cookies

Swedish Chocolate Balls – well almost

Swedish Chocolate Balls – well almost

 

I think it was about time I shared another sweet recipe here on the blog again. And if you read my last post, about my own personal history with food (sugar in particular) and how I made eventually made peace with it all, then you will know that I love the taste of sweet.

Dates are such a versatile food. They are sweet and sticky and actually good for you with a high amount of fibre, but also the vitamin and mineral content like zinc (for immune system) magnesium (for energy production), iron (for red blood cells) and potassium (for nervous system).

Because of their “stickability” they work really well in all types of raw desserts as they so seamlessly hold everything together. I also love that when we are using dates as sweeteners we tend to use the whole fruit, just like nature intended.

This recipe is based on a typical traditional Swedish recipe and one we made time and time again as kids – Choklad Bollar.

The original recipe calls for butter, sugar, oats and cacao powder. And perhaps a little coffee too.

Here I have replaced the butter and sugar with the dates and added some melted cacao butter as fat. You can use coconut oil too.

Traditionally “Choklad Bollar are rolled in desiccated coconut, which I personally like though I made another version of these for a recent talk I did locally and rolled them in some melted dark chocolate and some roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts. Much like a giant Ferro Roche… Yeah, just imagine! Totally worth the extra effort.

Straightforward Nutrition

straightforward nutrition

 

Chocolate Oat & Date Balls

Makes about 10 medium sized balls

½ cup rolled (porridge) oats

20 small pitted dates  – or use about 10 soft Medjool dates

2 tbsp raw cacao powder

6 tbsp strong coffee – or use same amount of water

2 tbsp melted cacao butter – or coconut oil

Shredded coconut to coat the balls in

 

First blend the oats in your food processor until you have a rough ground texture. Soak the dates in some hot water for about 1 min, then drain. Just to soften them a little. If you are using Medjool dates you can skip this step as they tend to be much softer. However don’t forget to remove the pits!

Add the rest of the ingredients to your food processor and blend until it all comes together like a sof dough.

Roll the dough into small balls with your hands and roll them in some shredded coconut.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for a few days.

(I’m always musing to myself about the difference between the words “keep” and “last”. To be honest, I am actually just guessing how long they will “keep” for, since I’ve never had any “last” long enough to see when they would be gone off…)

Oat Squares

Oat Squares

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with you all for ages. It’s one I came across months ago on the lovely Pippa Kendrick’s website The Intolerant Gourmet. I’ve been making these delicious oat squares from time to time and it is one of the recipes I most likely give to clients when they are asking for healthy snack options. Which is a question that I get asked A LOT!

Most of us have this thing with snacking… Through some curios observations, both personally and with clients I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a few legs to the snacking stool. And intertwined with it is one of my favourite topics, hunger & satiety.

 

Are you ready to look a little deeper of what function snacking has for you?

 

First up; eating regular meals to keep our blood sugar stable. There’s not much arguing here really, this is an important factor. Eating smaller meals with regular intervals ensure that your body and brain has as continuous supply of energy to run on, preventing you from getting on the dysglyceamia roller coaster.

Personally eating smaller meals and maybe 4-5 times / day seems to suit my digestive system a lot better. This tactic is also one I use with many of my clients when they need to get a handle on their eating pattern, especially if they are stressed. Sometimes you may even see eating up to  six times a day recommended, from some sources.

Keeping your blood sugar steady throughout the day, does not only give you more energy, it will also keep those pesky sugar cravings at bay, helping you make better choices for your health – rather than being driven by instinct and having your brain screaming at you “I need sugar NOW or I’m not going to make it!!”

But then there’s the other end of the spectrum which recommends eating fewer meals, slightly larger portions and in an 8h time frame, leaving your body 16h to fast, most of which is done overnight. This works really well for others who have a sensitive digestive system which needs a longer rest from food.

So how do you choose? How do you actually know what suits your body best? Well this is where a mind-body approach to eating comes in. You are really the only one that can figure this out. It’s time to begin to listen to the signals that your body is using to get your attention.

mindful eating

 

Do you know what true hunger feels like to you?

What are the first subtle signals your body send out, telling you it is looking for food as it’s running out of fuel?

And do you know what it physically feels like when you have reached the stage of ravenous?

I’ve seen many people overeat, simply because they have ignored the many signs of hunger, before they get to the stage of ravenous, and at this point eating becomes so primal and out of control. Usually in a fast and flurry frenzy, leaving us sometimes feeling out of control coupled with guilt and shame because we think we are low in willpower. When in fact, what we are lacking is selfcare…

Here is when having a healthy snack like these oat squares, or my other favourite snack: fresh fruit and nuts come in handy. If you know that there is a long gap, more than 3h between say your lunch and dinner, having a snack somewhere in between can greatly reduce the chances of you eating all around you when you get home to cook dinner. Simply because you are now not only hungry, you are ravenous.

I’ve also had patients who are the total opposite to this. They don’t know what their true hunger really feels like, because they never allow themselves to get to that point, out of the fear of losing control and binge like I just described above. If this is you, then I would invite you to, when you are in a safe environment to sit with your hunger sensations for awhile and take note how they show up in your body physically, before you start eating.

What will  really happen if you stay with those feelings and sensations rather than act and react to them immediately? Sometimes the desire to control our food intake is a response or a message that we want to have a sense of security in our life, especially when there are other things going on in our lives that makes us feel helpless and out of control.

 

Another thing to note, is that the composition of your meals, will likely also play a role in how much desire you have for snacking. If your meals are mostly made up of quick releasing carbohydrates like white bread, sugary snacks like chocolate bars as well as caffeine (on it’s on or combined with the others) chances are that you will want something to eat again after two hours. Or if you have a small bowl of soup at lunch and still have several hours to work and commute until you get home to make dinner, it is going to be difficult to say no to any cakes, biscuits or other treats that may be lurking around the office, for sure. Because chances are that it’s not your willpower that’s low, it’s your fuel gauge.

When you start having meals that are a combination of quality carbohydrates (such as whole, and I mean literally whole, grains, fruit, vegetables), some healthy fats and some protein and also make sure you eat enough to feel satisfied, chances are that you will find yourself snacking less.

 

So is snacking good or bad? I really don’t believe in labeling eating as any form of good or bad. As the leap from here to imply that when we eat a certain way may make us good or bad is way too tempting…

However, I believe that sometimes we do need a lighter small meal or snack to fill in that gap between something more substantial. And sometimes we just want to eat a little something for pure pleasure, whilst caring for our bodies by feeding them something nutritious at the same time. And whatever it is for you, I hope that these little guys will fit the bill for you.

They certainly do for me!

Healthy snacking

 

This recipe is so simple with the minimal of ingredients. I just love it. They keep well for a few days and make a great lunch box addition. Lots of fiber from both the dates and the oats. To me this is wholefood baking at its finest simplicity. I have barely made any changes to Pippa’s original recipe.

 

Oat Squares

 

Makes 12 squares

200g pitted dates

125g rolled oats – gluten free if needed

2 tbsp coconut oil – melted

Pinch of sea salt

50g dark chocolate min 70% – to drizzle over the top. Optional but delicious

 

Preheat the oven to 180c and line the baking tin.

Roughly chop the dates, place in a saucepan with 250ml water and bring to a gentle simmer.  Leave to simmer over a low heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until the dates soften and form a thick paste.

Stir the oats, salt and coconut oil into the dates until combined and then spread into the baking tin, leveling the top with the back of a spoon and in a square shape.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.  Remove from the oven and cut into squares. 

Leave in the tin to cool completely and then transfer to a board and re-cut the squares before serving.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water and then drizzle it generously over the cooled squares. 

Store your oat squares in a sealed container in the fridge. They will keep a few days, but I’ll doubt they’ll last long enough to go off…

oat squares made with dates and oats

Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Nectarine Salad – Summer Salad Series 3

Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Nectarine Salad – Summer Salad Series 3

Let’s continue the Summer Salad Series! I know we are already halfway through Aug but still… In a sense, as this salad contain several cooked elements it’s the perfect transition from summer to autumn. It’s still pretty fresh with an element of summer, containing juicy nectarines, yet it has that autumnal feel that root vegetables bring.

The combination of flavours may be stretching a little bit outside some people’s tastebuds comfort zone but hey, if you don’t challenge yourself every know and then how are you suppose to grow and evolve? One of the biggest challenges to many of my clients seem to be adding variety to their everyday diet. The majority of people I know, eat mostly the same thing, day in and day out. We get stuck in food ruts. It’s safe and it’s easy. Just like our daily life routines…

I was told once by a man that apparently in Japan most people eat 20-30 different types of foods, including spices every day! How’s that for variation? Now, I will admit that I haven’t verified his statement to see if it’s true or simply a myth, but whatever way, ask yourself “How many different foods and flavours are you eating every day?” By making this salad you will end up with nine (!) different components alone.

Sometimes when people are diagnosed with food intolerances it can turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it opens up the opportunity to try a whole new world of different foods and flavours simply because they have no other choice. Thing is with food intolerances that it’s important to eat as wide of variety of foods as possible (within the range of foods you can eat) to make sure you don’t develop further intolerances. Sometimes the reaction to certain foods is because the digestive system as a whole is compromised and the foods showing up are the ones the person eats the most of. This is not always the underlying reason, but it can be. So simply put; Eat a great variety of colourful foods. It will keep your body happy and your gut microbes happy too. And if you need a change in your life, starting with a few small changes to what’s on your plate can create ripple effect into the rest of your life 🙂

 

summer beetroot and nectarine salad

 

Let’s get going with the recipe! Beetroot is back in season and the peaches and nectarines are still around. I also used whole cooked oats in this salad to make it a complete meal on its own. Whole oats are delicious and very filling. Eating cooked grains like this is a great way to get your whole grains in. They are a good source of fibre keeping your bowel working as it should, plus fibre ads bulk and help us stay full for longer. Whole grains are also a great source of B-vitamins which are essential to a well functioning nervous system. It’s important to remember that B-vitamins are water soluble vitamins, which means our bodies don’t really store them. When we are stressed we have a higher requirement for B-vitamins so it is important to make sure you get plenty if you are having a hectic lifestyle (and who hasn’t).

If you can’t have oats then you can easily sub them for cooked quinoa instead. The fresh mint leaves add another interesting dimension to this cooked salad. Enjoy!

 

Cumin Roasted Beetroot Salad with Nectarines & Mint

Serves 3-4

2 cups whole oat kernels, washed and rinsed

3 large beetroot, peeled & chopped into large chunks

2 nectarines or peaches, washed & chopped into chunks

1 tsp cumin seeds, ground

3 tbsp olive oil + some extra to coat the beetroot in

juice of 1/2 lemon

sea salt & black pepper to season

Pre heat oven to 175°C. Place your peeled and chopped beetroot on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the ground cumin a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Toss the beetroot in the oil and seasoning to make sure they are evenly coated. Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 35 min or until the beetroot is nice and soft.

In the meantime, place your washed and rinsed oats in a saucepan and cover with water. You want to have about an inch of water covering your grains. Bring to boil and then reduce to a lively simmer for about 20 min. If it looks like your pan is getting to dry add some extra water. The oat grains are cooked when they become slightly transparent in right the way through.

Once the oats are cooked through, put them into a sieve and drain any excess water. While they cool, make the dressing by mixing olive oil and lemon juice together in a bowl. Season with a pinch of sea salt if you wish. Once the oats have cooled down somewhat, mix in the dressing.

Place your dressed oats, the roasted beetroot and the chopped nectarine in a large bowl. Scatter some fresh mint leaves over the top and enjoy. 

This salad makes a nice lunch the following day as you can cook both beetroot and oats ahead of time and then just assembles with the fresh nectarine and mint before eating.

 

straightforward nutrition

Superfood Porridge

Superfood Porridge

While we are patiently waiting for Summer to arrive, I though I would share this warming and nourishing superfood porridge with you all. This simple yet delicious breakfast has kept me going for the past couple of months as my go-to morning ritual. Whilst I was hoping to transition into a more raw-food based start to the day, it will have to wait until it get’s a little warmer…

Are you like me, craving warmer, spicier food when it’s cold? And as soon as it’s warm, looking for some raw cooling foods instead? Even though I like smoothies all year round, for me they are more an exception to the rule. You won’t find me guzzling on large bowls of raw veggies during the autumn and winter months, unless I also have some cooked, warm food accompanying the plate. Cold food in cold weather makes me feel even colder. Funny how in tune we can become uh?

Have you ever noted how warming spices like, cloves, cardamom and chilli lends themselves to winter dishes? And in the summer it is more naturally to add and eat crispy salads, fresh fruit and raw veggie sticks?

I’m going to give you my “cold weather version” of this superfood porridge, but I have also included some topping ideas to give you some more “summer friendly” ideas for when it eventually arrives!

I firmly believe porridge is THE most popular breakfast in Ireland. Perhaps elsewhere too… Porridge (or Oatmeal) is such a great way to enjoy true whole grains. You know that it hasn’t had all that much tampering with as it still looks pretty much the same as it does when growing in the field. However it’s debatable if some other breakfast cereals can truly call themselves, whole grains upon closer inspection…

 

Nutritional therapy

 

If you can tolerate oats then porridge is a nice healthy way to start the day. *Note that oats are the only cereal grain, which is gluten free. The problem is cross contamination from other cereal grains. If you are highly gluten sensitive, yet can handle oat, take care to by certified gluten free oats.*

Before I started to add some coconut oil or coconut milk to my porridge I used to find it would keep me going for about 2h and then I would end up seriously ravenous! For most people though, porridge is one of the best ways to keep any cravings at bay and energy on an even keel right up till lunch time. To make this breakfast an even more slow-releasing carbohydrate breakfast, I have paired it with full fat coconut milk, plus some seeds. You will get all the sweetness you need from the dried berries, so hold off on the sugar.

Superfood Porridge

Serves 1 (Double the amounts if making for more)

Porridge:

1/2 cup rolled oats or pinhead oatmeal

1 cup cold water

2 tbsp full fat coconut milk – Chose a brand which is as pure as possible without any fillers & binders

Superfood Toppings:

1 tbsp raw or toasted pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp raw or toasted sunflower seeds

1 tbsp golden raisins – or use normal ones

1 tbsp dried Inca berries – Also called physallis

1/2 tbsp cacao nibs

Place oats and water in a small saucepan. Gently bring to boil while stirring. Cook for about 10 min until you have a thick porridge. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the coconut milk.

Serve in a bowl with all the superfood toppings!

***Summer Toppings***

Fresh hulled, chopped strawberries with 1/2 tbsp of bee pollen

Sliced nectarine with chopped pecan nuts

Stoned and halved cherries with a tbsp almond butter.

 

healthy breakfast porridge

Looking for more oatmeal / porridge inspiration? Check out these fabulous bloggers too 🙂

Green Kitchen Stories – Oatmeal x 3 

Earthsprout – The Powerful Porridge Mix

And here’s my Overnight Oats recipe from last year & the AMAZING baked Oatmeal alá GKS