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…)

Raw Coconut-Mint Chocolate

Raw Coconut-Mint Chocolate

It’s that time of the year again, when you get to indulge in making and giving, without anyone questioning it. Actually it seems much expected that you do so.

In this time of “shoulds”, “musts” and “have-tos”, a midst overwhelm and busyness perhaps a desire to slow down and take time, doing what really matters instead, is what we are truly looking for?

OK… So I do realise that it’s not everyone sees the kitchen as their creative playground (though this is surely all about perspective?!) but for those of us who do like to play in the kitchen, making sweet or savoury treats, bakes or dishes that can double up as gifts is a win-win!

And why not make a play date, not just for you and the kitchen, but invite a friend or two to come along too. The experience of cooking and eating is often elevated (in my experience) by sharing, so have fun.

These raw chocolates are really quick and easy to make and only require five ingredients. You’ll have them whipped up in no time.

Mint, chocolate and coconut is a classic combination, so if you know that you already like this combo, you will not be disappointed!

raw coconut-mint chocolate

Raw Mint-Coconut Chocolate

Makes 14 hearts

100g creamed coconut  ( ½ packaged)

 6-8 drops of mint extract

40g cacao butter

4 tbsp raw cacao powder

2 tbsp maple syrup

 

Roughly chop the creamed coconut and melt it on low heat in a small saucepan. Creamed coconut is available in most healthfood shops and also in Asian grocery stores. It is dehydrated fresh meat of mature coconuts and solid at room temperature.

Once the coconut is melted add the mint extract and then give it a good stir to make sure it is dispensed evenly. Add the melted coconut mix to the molds. Try to fill each mold to about ½. Place in the fridge to set, while you proceed to make the raw chocolate.

Melt the cacao butter in a heat proof bowl on top of a saucepan with simmering water. Once the cacao butter has fully melted, add the cacao powder and then mix until you have a smooth blend. And the maple syrup and mix again until your chocolate mix is again lovely and smooth.

Remove your mold tray from the fridge and spoon the chocolate mix on top of the coconut mix. Place the tray back in the fridge and let the chocolate set. This will take a few hours.

Once your chocolate has hardened, pop them out of the moulds and place in an airtight container in the fridge until you want to serve them. Or gift them!

***I use silicone ice cube molds to make these and it makes the process very easy. You can use any shapes you like of course and if you don’t have a mold, then you can try simply pouring the coconut layer out first on a lined tray and once set, add the raw chocolate layer. I haven’t actually tried that technique with this particular recipe, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

straightforward nutrition

If you want some more ideas of edible sweet gifts here are a few ideas from the archives:

Date Truffles Three Ways

Fruit and Nut Truffle Cake

Candid Almonds

Homemade Nutbutter

 

And here are a few other ones that I really would like to try out myself, from some of my favourite bloggers:

Maple Butter Roasted Nuts

Cardamom & Rosewater Caramels

Raw Apricot, Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites

 

A Purple Smoothie with Hidden Greens

A Purple Smoothie with Hidden Greens

Let the purple theme continue! And the smoothie one too, of course. Purple is my favourite colour. So of course it made total sense to create a smoothie that was purple. It seems like late summer / early autumn is the natural season for purple foods.

In the past few weeks I’ve foraged some wild blueberries / bilberries as well as  blackberries from the hedgerows out the back of where I live. On my last few walks I’ve also spied some lovely damsons and lots of elderberries. If the weekend allows I think I will go ahead and make some of this, which will make a nice one to keep any colds and flues at bay as the weather shifts. This transitional time of the year is one when I’m most likely to get sick, so it may just be a good idea to stay on top of it!

purple smoothie

 

You know, the idea for this smoothie came initially from creating something “hidden”. Not everybody enjoy drinking the colour green. So what I did was put a few green leaves with something that would blend them into another colour. I’ve mentioned before that blending red and green is usually not a brilliant idea. You might get away with a few leaves of spinach with beetroot as it is so bright, but if you’ve ever tried spinach and strawberries… you know what I am talking about.

In this smoothie it is the blackberries that are providing most of the purple colour, but the blueberries bring equal beauty in form of taste, colour and nutrients. And if you have some blackcurrants throw them into the mix too! All these berries are a great source of vitamin C which is a major contributor to a healthy immune system.

mindful eating

Purple Smoothie with Hidden Greens

Serves 1

1/2 cup of blackberries – fresh or frozen

1/2 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen

a handful of green leaves like kale (stems removed) or spinach

1/2 small avocado

1 banana

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 tbsp pea / hemp / rice protein

1/2 tsp ground caramom – optional, but delicious!

250 ml coconut water or plant milk of choice

 

Place all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.

Serve with your favourite toppings.

Feast your eyes on the purple delight.

Drink mindfully.

And feel the nourishment spreading throughout your body!

 

purple smoothie with hidden greens

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