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.
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!
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.
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…
Can you have sweet treats that are actually beneficial to your health and body? I, for one, would like to think so.
It can be so confusing knowing what to eat these days… However if you stick to the “wholefood principle” you can’t go too far wrong. The overall message coming through from research done in the field of nutrition and health still seem to echo that food which are close to nature IS the most beneficial kind of food for our health. This is also probably the one thing everybody in the field of nutrition and health agrees on, regardless of what food camp they belong to.
I really like simple when it comes to cooking. If you have beautiful fresh ingredients to hand, usually this is the best way to allow them to bask in their own glory. That said, I truly appreciate people who have the skills of Culinary Art, and the ability to create wonderful dishes full of complexity and flavour. If you’ve ever watched Master Chef (the Australian version is my favourite), then you know what I mean! Impressive attention to detail, dedication and passion. My life is often complicated and busy enough on most days though, to be able to cook like that. And if you are like most people, I’m guessing that yours might be too. So how about we just stick with simple for now?
I’ve had a couple of recipes using raw cacao here before. Like this one with peanut butter and coconut oil. It’s actually quiet easy to make your own. Here I’ve used some silicon molds that I bought a few months ago. I think using them, gives a slight creative edge… 😉 And they are certainly vital if you want to make chocolate with fillings!
From some trial and testing I’ve found maple syrup to my preferred type of sweetener for raw chocolate making. It seems to be the one which blends the easiest with the raw cacao butter and the cacao powder. It is a completely natural sweetener made from the sap of the maple tree. Yes it is a sugar, yes too much sugar isn’t all that great for our health and can contribute a whole host of chronic disease, but remember what I said earlier about “wholefoods” and “close to nature”? And I don’t know about where you live, but over here it is a fairly expensive product so I for one don’t tend to consume it in any larger quantities. Most over-consumption of sugar (usually in the form of High Fructose Syrup) comes from an over-consumption of processed food… Just saying.
Sesame seeds, used here in the form of Tahini has several health promoting benefits like being good for the skin due to its content of the antioxidant Vitamin E. Some studies has also shown sesame seeds to be strengthening to the heart and protective of the liver. It’s also worth nothing that sesame seeds are a high in calcium, which may alone be a good reason to include them in your diet, just to make sure you have a variety of calcium sources to keep “them bones” healthy.
Tahini can be a little bitter. To be honest, it’s taken me some time to become a fan, but I really like it now. I haven’t included any maple syrup here in the filling as I think the juice from the orange has enough sweetness and breaks through that bitterness. Taste it and if you want the filling a little sweeter then add a drop of maple syrup.
If you are still stuck for some Christmas present ideas and want to give a gift with a difference this year, then why not make a batch (or two) of these? Place them in a cute box wrapped with pretty paper – done!
Tahini – Orange Filled Raw Chocolates
Makes about 10 – depending on type of mold you use
90 g raw cacao butter
20 g raw cacao powder
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp Tahini
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
finely grated zest of 1/2 organic orange
Melt the cacao butter in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Once the cacao butter is fully melted remove the saucepan from the heat but keep your bowl with the cacao butter on top. Add the cacao powder and mix with a spoon or small whisk until smooth. Then add in the maple syrup and stir again until it’s nice and smooth.
Carefully remove the bowl with the chocolate mixture. If possible, take care to not get steam into the mixture as this will cause the chocolate to split. Take out your mold and fill each section to just under half. Place the mold in the fridge to harden.
In the meantime mix tahini, orange juice and orange zest together in a small bowl or glass. Taste is and if you think it’s too bitter then feel free to add a little maple syrup to taste.
After about 30 min, when your chocolate in the fridge has hardened, take out the mold and carefully spoon a little tahini mix on to each of your chocolates. Then fill up the rest of each mold with more chocolate. Place back into the fridge and allow to set completely.
*Note to keep the chocolate mixture fluid for your second addition, simply place your bowl over the saucepan with the hot water from before. If it starts to set, reheat the water some more.
Once the chocolates are fully set, usually after 2-3h in the fridge, pop them out of the mold and store in a container.
The chocolates are best stored in the fridge and eaten within a week.
I almost forgot to mention that this post will also count as a celebration of this blog turning two! Well technically it is a month too late, but I never found time to write about it last month…
Things have been a little quite here, I must admit. AND I’ve been feeling guilty about it too. A whole month and nothing written or posted. My aim is to keep it to at least one post every second week, but it just didn’t work out over these past few weeks. Looking back I think it’s been a mix of a writers block, busyness and feeling a little scattered with various ideas and projects and somewhere in between all of this I also lost my focus. But now I feel ready to get back to it!
Over these past weeks I’ve felt more drawn to eating carbohydrates than I normally do. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies know what they need, if we just take some time to listen in… Of course there are several underlying physiological reasons to why we crave carbohydrates when we are stressed. One for instance is that through the release of the stress hormone Cortisol, blood sugar is raised through the release of glycogen from the liver which in turn will raise the blood sugar levels in the blood. This is a natural process, hard wired as a way of survival from our ancestral days when the stress response was activated through a physical threat. Higher blood sugar means more energy distributed to our muscle cells, so we could successfully run from the imminent danger. With the rise in blood sugar a dip follows once insulin has been released and moved the sugar from the blood to the cell for energy. Once the blood sugar levels drop below the threshold hunger signals are triggered and it is time to eat again.
Today most of our “stressors” are percieved ones. Things like money worries, work deadlines and /or relationship problems. Or even smaller stuff, like who did or said what. Or perhaps didn’t do what they said they would, are everyday annoyances. These stressors don’t exactly threaten our survival but they can activate our body’s physiological stress response in the exactly the same way.
I’m currently taking part in the Whole Detox Programme™. We are almost half way through and it has been a very interesting experience thus far. I’m not really that into Detoxes as most of the ones you see floating around today are “quick fixes” in disguise. However Whole Detox™ is a different detox altogether, where the focus is less on what NOT to eat and more so on WHAT to eat. As well as that it has a very strong component of detoxing thoughts, emotions and old behaviour patterns that no longer serves us, which is certainly hard but liberating and something most of us need to detox from every now and then if we want too move forward and grow. It’s basically 21 days of putting yourself first in a wholesome nourishing way. And THAT is something I truly believe in.
Carving out space for ourselves in our every day lives is as much of an important part as is eating good wholesome food if we want to embrace FULL health and healing. In fact, I think if we don’t carve out time for ourselves, making healthy food choices is almost impossible. This is an observation I’ve made for myself throughout this past few days. I noticed how not taking time to eat as well as I can, paved way for lots of snacking and fairly monotonous meals… I also realised that my old pattern of using carbohydrate rich foods as a “pick me up” is still the same, even though my food choices are a million miles better than they used to be.
This need for “pick me ups” is a behaviour and a pattern for sure, but it is also my own body’s inner wisdom of knowing that this works and will get my energy levels up quickly when I need it. Interesting and Intriguing.
So, with all this as a backdrop I will share you this homemade nut butter recipe! I was first introduced to nut / seed butters when in nutrition college. Sure I had come across Tahini and Peanut butter but none of the other varieties. As the use of nut butters has become increasingly popular the cost has gone up. Making your own is only marginally cheaper but it does open the door for a lot more variety. It wasn’t actually until I ready Green Kitchen Stories post some months ago that I finally took the plunge to start making my own. I’ve always thought you needed a fancy Vitamix for the job but it turns out that what you really need is a food processor. And one of those I have 🙂
Pairing dried fruit like figs or dates with nut butter will ensure that your blood sugar won’t spike as crazy as it would if you have the fruit on its own. The fat and protein content will help slow down the sugar release and you get a more steady energy boost, not leaving your sweet tooth asking for more 30 min later! This is truly one of my favourite snacks.
Homemade Cashew-Walnut Nutbutter
Makes one small jar
150g raw cashew nuts
150g raw walnuts
Pre heat your oven to 150°C. Place the nuts on a lined baking tray and roast for about 10-15 min, until golden but not burnt.
Remove the nuts from the oven and allow them to cool down.
This is what I do as I don’t have a very strong food processor, so to prevent a burn out of it I grind the nuts in my Nutribullet first. Once I have a kind out nut flour, I place this in my food processor and let it finish off the job.
The key here is persistence. It may take a few minutes until you have a soft creamy nutbutter. Don’t give up! Stop and scrape down the sides as needed and keep going with the blending until you reach a soft creamy consistency and the nuts have released their oils.
Place your nut butter in a glass jar and serve with figs, dates or on top of oat cakes with a few slices of banana. Or have a few tea spoons straight from the jar 😉
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SNACK ON THE GO, WHEN YOU NEED A QUICK PICK ME UP? Please comment below!
I’m so delighted to have the opportunity to share this beautiful immune boosting and vibrant smoothie recipe. Just what is needed as we slowly transition into the next season. I’m sure we can all do with a little more colour and sunshine in our lives. And if the Sun prevails, you just have to get a little more inventive in the kitchen instead.
This week I have invited the beautifully talented lady Agnes who blogs about food and stuff over on Cashew-Kitchen. If you are not following Agnes on Instagram or reading her blog, you should. It’s worth it for the photos alone 🙂
But I’ll let you Agnes tell you all a little more about herself.
Hi Agnes! Can you tell us something about yourself and your work?
Sure! My name is Agnes and I live in a small apartment in central Stockholm (Sweden) which is also my hometown. I recently moved back here after spending a couple of years on the west coast studying. Since september last year I’m running the food & photography blog Cashew Kitchen, although I’ve been food blogging since the spring of 2013. I also do some photography and recipe development on a freelancing basis. But my main occupation is my studies in Human Ecology in which I’m currently writing my bachelor thesis. I started my studies in Human Ecology and my food blogging about the same time, so initially it was an interest in sustainable food and lifestyles that pushed me. I’ve been hanging out in the kitchen experimenting since I first became a vegetarian when I was 14, so the interest in wholesome, nourshing food has always been there I guess, I just never thought about blogging about it before 🙂
I have a background in Fine Arts, so when starting blogging about food I quickly noticed that working with the aesthetic aspects came pretty natural to me. Using colorful ingredients and spending a lot of effort on the styling and photography is very important to me, so when I launched Cashew Kitchen I simply decided to call it ”a foodie photography blog”. Although the sustainable aspects are still there: I only post vegetarian recipes and I mostly use seasonal, whole and organic ingredients.
No wonder you can great the most magical of images!
I’m curious about that education of your: what is Human Ecology? And how do you wish to use that education in the future?
Well, you could say it is environmental science from a social sciences’ perspective. In Human Ecology we study the relationship between social, ecological and economic factors and how those interact with for example issues of power, resource management, poverty, urban development, climate change, population growth and social dynamics. It’s everything from city planning and food production to eco philosophy or complex adaptive systems.
In my thesis I study possibilities and limitations for citizen participation and co-management in city planning to help build social resilience in society. When I decided on the topic I think I was a bit tired of food haha. It was in the aftermath of the Swedish election and the increased social unstability we see here in Sweden (and out in the world too) worried me. In the future I want to work with sustainable food in some way. It could be inspiring people to make sustainable food choices, which I kind of already do through my blog (I hope!) hehe. It could also be working for a food or agriculture company with sustainable development issues. The possibilities are endless, really! I just know my passion is food, happy people and a healthy planet 🙂
How would you describe your food philosophy?
I want it to be simple! My aim is to inspire as many people as I can to incorporate more vegetarian or vegan food into their diets and cook more from scratch using seasonal ingredients, and thereby bringing us one step closer to living environmentally friendly lifestyles. Therefore I don’t believe in using too many obscure and expensive ingredients, or create difficult or fancy recipes. My recipes often consist of just a few, simple ingredients and are usually quick to assemble. I want to show that it can be both wholesome, fun and easy to eat seasonal and vegetarian. Also fresh produce or a lovingly cooked meal can really make my heart melt! It’s everything I need to be happy. That simplicity and appreciation of food is something I want to share with others.
Couldn’t agree with you more.
How did you come up with the name Cashew Kitchen?
Um, I was just playing around with different names that sounded ”catchy” haha. I always have cashew nuts at home and love to use them in raw desserts, granola, smoothies etc. so it felt suitable with a name steaming from one of my favorite ingredients 🙂
How does your process from idea to finished recipe and blog post look like?
Sometimes a get an idea from surfing around the food blogosphere or pinterest that I write down on my little list. It can be anything really that triggers the idea to a recipe – a combination of colors, a long forgotten ingredient, a memory. But more often I find myself standing in front of an half empty fridge trying to think of something I can make out of the little I have. Honestly that’s where the best recipes come from! If I just happened to create something utterly delicious I try to photograph it right away if I have the time, but mostly I plan to cook/prepare the night before and then style & shoot the next day. Quite often I have tried the recipe a couple of times by then. Editing photos I do on my spare time in the evenings. I never plan what I’m gonna write about on the blog, I just write what pops up in my head that particular day.
I love your creativity!!
Which 5 ingredients will one find in your pantry?
Hehe my pantry is smacked with stuff… In the back you’ll probably find some rarely used superfood powders, but what I always need to have at home (besides cashews) are almonds, rolled oats, coconut milk, tahini and bananas. And a thousand more things. Gosh I’m so spoiled with having good food around.
Do you have an all time favorite recipe you keep coming back to? 🙂
I have different favorite recipes in different periods of my life. Right now the only thing I wanna have for breakfast is my Coconut & Vanilla Oatmeal. During weekdays I eat similar salads every day, at the moment with a millet base, random veggies and a honey & dijon mustard dressing I’ve made countless times!
Tell us something about the recipe you are sharing today! Why this particular recipe?
This recipe is a perfect example of how I roll 😉 It happened the day before pay day and contains literally everything I had left in my fridge that day. I can tell you my expectations for this smoothie wasn’t that high, but oh how surprised I was when I tasted it!
I love the creativity that comes from restrictions. You don’t really need to have a perfectly stocked pantry to make delicious food. I hate to throw away food and always save the little bits and pieces left to use for something else. Smoothies is a great way to use up that last squeeze in the yoghurt package or half a frozen banana from the freezer.
I make smoothies almost every day to drink in between meals, and I especially like to add some seeds or grains and something fat like coconut milk or yoghurt to make it more filling and long lasting.
Despite citruses typically are winter ingredients, to me this is a recipe flirting with spring 🙂 I even added birch straws, see! As if the weather gods heard my plea when photographing this recipe, the sun came out from the clouds just long enough for me to catch it.
For this recipe I used yoghurt, but you can easily make a vegan version using coconut milk + a little extra lemon juice.
Sunny Buckwheat Smoothie
2 tbsp raw buckwheat groats
water to cover
***soak for minimum 1 hour***
1 large orange or 2 small
1 small banana
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
2 small pitted dates or 1 medjool date
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
water until desired consistency
+ the soaked and rinsed buckwheat
Prepare by soaking the buckwheat in lukewarm water for minimum one hour. This can be done the night before or in the morning. You soak the groats to get rid of harmful enzymes and start a sprouting process for optimal digestion and nutritional content.
Rinse buckwheat thoroughly. Drain and set aside.
Peel orange and lemon with a knife. Try to get rid of as much of the white parts as possible (it’s bitter). Remove any seeds. Peel ginger and coarsely chop.
Put orange, a quarter of the lemon, banana, ginger, buckwheat, yoghurt, dates and turmeric powder in a high speed blender and mix until completely smooth. Add water if nessecary. If you have a not so strong mixer or an immersion blender you might wanna squeeze out the juice of the orange and lemon beforehand, grate the ginger and perhaps soak the dates if they’re dried.
Serve right away with seeds, berries, granola or simply with a (birch) straw!
Thank you so much Agnes for sharing this beautiful recipe with us here at Straightforward Nutrition! I sure know what I’ll have for breakfast next week 🙂
If you want to check out the Millet & Linseeds Porridge which I shared on Cashew-Kitchen click here
*All photographs on this post is by Cashew-Kitchen.
Isn’t it funny how your tastebuds changes? A few years ago there was no way I would have eaten beetroot and cumin was never one of my favourite spices either. Now I simply love it. Isn’t it just amazing how we can grow to love new flavours and foods? Our taste is like life itself, ever growing and evolving. The biggest hurdle may just being brave enough to try some new stuff out, in the first place. So even if you are not sure you will like this pink hummus, based on previous beetroot and/or hummus experiences, go ahead, take the plunge and try something new. Surprise your tastebuds by stepping out of your comfort zone. You might actually like it!
Beetroot is your everyday superfood. They are a pretty pink nutritional powerhouse and an excellent example of how food can work as medicine. They are rich in folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. The purple-red colour comes from betacyanin which is considered an important cancer fighting compound. Beetroots, particularly in its raw state is a very strong detoxifier due to its high content of the antioxidant glutathione. They taste great raw, grated into a salad or in a juice. Or you can cook them by boiling them or roasting them. Pickled beets are also popular. Personally I prefer the raw or roasted. I find it is quicker to roast them than boil them, plus the roasting seems to bring out the sweet flavour too.
Cumin is a typical Middle Eastern flavour and works really well with pulses. It is the main spice in your usual hummus and its earthy flavour marries really well with the earthiness of the beetroot. It is considered as a carminative herb meaning it has digestive health benefits and can reduce flatulence. No wonder it is suited to use with pulses…
Tahini is the other staple ingredient of hummus and it works very well in this recipe too. Tahini is sesame seeds ground into a paste. It is quiet bitter on its own but gives a creaminess to the hummus. I find it also pulls all the different flavours together beautiful. Seasame seeds are a great source of calcium, so an important addition to any diet, but particularly to keep them bones healthy.
This beetroot hummus is delicious as a dip with raw veggies, on top of oat cakes or as a side dish to a mixed salad, grilled fish or what ever else you can think of. Even though it contains several earthy ingredients it is surprisingly sweet. You will get the best texture if you use a food processor.
Enjoy this pretty pink powerhouse in anyway you see fit. If you make it, I would love to hear what you though of it. 🙂
Butter Bean & Beetroot Hummus
1 tin of butter beans, drained & rinsed
2 large beetroots, peeled
2 tsp dark tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
sea salt & black pepper, to season
Start by roasting your beets. Peel and chop the beetroot into chunks. Place on an ovenproof tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Roast in a preheated oven at 200°C, for about 40 min or until soft. Once the beetroot is done, let them cool completely before adding to your food processor. A smart idea is to roast a couple of extra beets when you are making your usual roast veggies and then make the hummus later or the following day.
Add the butter beans, tahini and lemon juice along with the beets to your food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste.
The hummus will keep for a few days in the fridge if stored in an airtight container. Enjoy as a dip, spread or as a side to your main meal.