Thursday, January 31, 2013

Middle Eastern Oat Groats

I'm in love with this new dish, made from whole oat kernels, also known as oat groats or oat berries.

It is full of yummy ingredients and flavors including:

  • whole oat groats (GF)
  • pomegranate seeds
  • pistachios
  • walnuts
  • pine nuts
  • fennel seeds
  • citrus zest
  • coconut
It's one of those dishes where you make enough to last you a few days and then add different things to it each time you eat to.

My latest addition was my mandarinquats from the garden, with some kale, also from the garden and drizzled with pomegranate molasses!

Pomegranates are so beautiful  - just like jewels. I think they make most dishes look beautiful.

This is a great healthy dish, full of fiber and nutrients with no added oil.  Have you tried cooking with whole oat kernels before?
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Health Benefits of Oats

Oats are now quite famous for their health benefits and have grown in popularity.

Unlike other grains, although oats are hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ which allows them to remain a concentrated source of fiber and nutrients.  Different types of processing techniques are used to produce different oat products.

  • oat groats - this week I've been trying recipes using whole kernel oats - also called oat groats or oat berries.  They look similar to a grain of brown rice (see photo below).
  • steel cut oats - produced by running oat groats through steel blades to slice them , creating a denser chewier texture.
  • old fashioned rolled oats - these oats are steamed and then rolled to have a flatter shape.
  • quick cook oats - similar to old fashioned but these are steamed and then cut finely and then rolled.
  • instant oatmeal - these oats are partially cooked rather than just steamed and then rolled very thinly.  Often salt, sugar or other ingredients is added.
  • oat bran - the outer layer of the grain.
  • oat flour - made from the hulled oats.
Oat groats/oat berries
Oats are a very good source of the minerals manganese, selenium, and phosphorus. They are also a good source of magnesium and iron and heart protective polyunsaturated fats.  Oats have more than three times as much magnesium as calcium and are a good source of vitamin B1 and soluble dietary fiber.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats

Oat bran's dietary fiber is high in beta-glucans, which helps to lower cholesterol by binding bile acids and removing them from the body via feces.  In individuals with high cholesterol (above 220mg/dl) the consumption of 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (1 bowl for breakfast) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8 - 23 %.  This is highly significant as with every 1 percent drop in cholesterol, there is a 2 percent decrease in the risk of developing heart disease.  

The polyunsaturated fats in oats actually contribute as much to its cholesterol lowering effects as the fiber does.

Oats also have beneficial effects on blood sugar as well so are a good food for diabetics to consume.

Oats are also good for the skin.  Four tablespoons tied into a muslin bag, soaked in the bath and used as a sponge are healing and soothing for dry skin, eczema and psoriasis.  This amount is enough for 4 or 5 baths.  You can also buy oat based creams and ointments for topical applications.

There are many different ways to prepare oats.  Yesterday I shared my recipe for oatcakes made from rolled oats. Last week, I shared my prize winning marmalade granola recipe with you.  I also frequently make a simple muesli from :

2 cups of old fashioned oats, 
4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, 
handful of raisins.  
Mix the ingredients together in an air tight container and use 1/2 cup per serving, with non-dairy milk or yoghurt and fruit and nuts.

I'll be sharing some recipes using whole kernel oats soon.  If you do have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, make sure you purchase gluten free oats. 

Being there for a friend

......whatever their reason for needing you.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Heart rising

My uncle Dave died today.  He was a lovely, cheerful uncle with a great smile. He emigrated to Canada from England and built his life there, creating a wonderful family.  He always had fascinating stories to share of his past, best told over a vodka and tonic or bloody Mary!  I'll remember him as a wonderful story teller.

His hands looked exactly the same as my mum's!! It always made me smile to see his fingers, like my mum had transplanted her fingers!

I have such happy memories of him.

Our love to Louanne, Nancy, Mark, Darren, Alex and Zach xxxxx

Gluten Free Currant Oatcakes

I've been making oatcakes for a while now.  I just love oats and this week, I've been cooking with whole oats - or oat groats or oat berries...whichever term you use.

But before I share the whole oat recipes, I thought I'd share my oatcake recipe.  It makes a lovely cracker or snack to eat on its own, or to dip into something or to spread something on. Most of the time I eat them on their own.

Previously I've made them with 1 tbsp coconut oil, but today I decided to do a no-added oil version and replaced the coconut oil with 1 tbsp of applesauce. I don't actually taste any difference or see any difference in texture or structure without the oil, so it works well.

You can add whatever dried fruit you like to them - today I used dried currants, but I particularly like dried cranberries in them, or you can use nuts instead or just omit it and make them plain.  Such flexibility! And this time I also added some ground flaxseeds too, for added fiber.

So here is the recipe - in one version - for you to play with and enjoy:

Gluten free oatcakes - makes 14 oatcakes

225g gluten free old fashioned rolled oats (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
25g dried currants (1/8 cup)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
150 ml warm water (3/4 cup)

Heat the oven to 350F/180C.

Put the oats, baking soda and salt in a bowl and mix well. Stir in the currants and flaxseed.

In a separate bowl or jug, mix the warm water with the applesauce.

Make a well in the center of the oat mixture and pour in the liquid. Mix, until it comes together.  It will seem wet to start with but the oats will absorb the water to give a dough.

Lightly dust the work surface with gluten free flour or ground up oats. Tip out the dough and roll to approx 5mm thick.  Use a small cutter to cut out the oatcakes.  Re roll any trimmings and continue to cut out oatcakes until all the dough it used.  (Cut oatcakes can be frozen, uncooked for up to a month. Freeze flat before packing in bags).

Place the oatcakes on lined baking sheets.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning the oatcakes every 5 - 6 minutes or so, to stop them from steaming and going soggy.

Cool and enjoy!  Let me know if you make them.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New food of the week - Mandarinquat

This past week we've been enjoying the fruit from our newest citrus tree - a Mandarinquat tree.  We bought the tree last year, so this is its first harvest. My husband tried the fruit first and declared that it was really too sour.

But then he read the label (!) and sure enough, it tells you that the flesh of the fruit is indeed sour but that the peel is sweet. Thus you eat both together and the flavors balance each other out.  How clever!

As you may have guessed, the tree is a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat. The fruits are larger than kumquats (about 3 inches tall) and such a lovely orange color.   More vibrant orange color than mandarins and satsuma - and teardrop in shape.

To use them, we are slicing them across - so you get both skin and flesh in each taste. I've been adding them to salads, and an oat-berry (groats) recipe I'm working on. You can also make marmalade out of them, but we don't have enough for that this year.

They taste good but it is their appearance that will make me want to use them.  They are good sources of vitamin C and as you eat the peel and flesh, you also get a lot of fiber from them.

In my food as medicine class this week we made bean brownies as our topic was beans and legumes - so we used some satsumas from our other tree in the brownie mix and then decorated each brownie with a slice of mandarinquat.  It made for a citrus brownie that seemed much more special - both in appearance and flavor.

Don't they look nice!  Have you tried a new food this week?  Have you ever seen mandarinquats for sale?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Food as Medicine group

We had two great mornings in our food as medicine groups this week - focusing on the health benefits of legumes, beans and lentils.

Here is the Tuesday group, as we sat down for a 4 course lunch together, eating what they had cooked together.

The menu was:

  • Lentil and caper pate with lentil chips
  • White bean pesto with poppadoms
  • Sugar snap pea and blood orange salad
  • Moroccan Bean stew (using black beans, garbanzo beans and red lentils)
  • Not-so-dumb blondies (using cannellini beans)
  • Mandarinquat brownies (using black beans)
Most of us don't get enough fiber in our diets and beans are a wonderful was to increase our fiber intake.  I love using the "Eden Foods" brands of cooked beans in my cooking, as they are cooked with kombu - a sea vegetable that helps to break down the oligosaccharides in beans, which is the part that causes gas.  Soaking your beans helps too - along with good rinsing - as the oligosaccharide is water soluble. Gas shouldn't be your reason for not eating beans! There are many ways to avoid it.

Beans help with :
  • stabilizing gut transit time - not too fast so that nutrients can't be absorbed and not too slow so toxins can't be reabsorbed
  • heart health, 
  • are an EXCELLENT source of anti-oxidants (more than blueberries), 
  • help maintain a healthy gut flora
  • high in folic acid and B6
  • are a good protein source
  • high in iron, magnesium and calcium
  • a good source of molybdenum
  • stabilizing blood sugar levels
  • eliminating toxins, carcinogens and excess hormones
  • producing butyrate from your gut bacteria which heals and protects the lining of the large investine.
So go eat some beans today!  
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Food as Medicine Group - Beans

My two "Food as Medicine" classes this week are focusing on the health benefits of beans/legumes/lentils.

Here are a couple of photos of two of the dessert items we will be making together.

I'll share some of the recipes later.  Both of these are gluten free, dairy free, and refined sugar free.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Truly Scrumptious - Sun-dried Rainier Cherries

Yum, yum, yum! My favorite food this week has to be sun-dried Rainier Cherries from Cipponeri Family Farms.

I was meeting a friend for lunch yesterday at Greens in Fort Mason, San Francisco and when I got there, there was a farmers' market.  As I wandered around, what first caught my eye were unpasturized almonds - meaning that, unlike the majority of almonds - these are truly raw.  Even those you buy that are labelled "raw" tend to have been steam pasteurized and thus have lost some of their micronutrient content.  I did buy some almonds, but haven't even tried them yet.  Maybe they will be next week's "truly scrumptious"?

But as I went down the line of nuts and dried fruits at this stand, I spotted the rainier cherries.  I've never seen dried Rainiers before...and they had some samples. Gosh, their texture is still a little moist and "spongy" - not too dry,  and so vibrant in flavour.  They have some tartness - but it balances nicely with a little sweetness.

I can see that I am going to have to call in to that particular Farmer's market regularly to keep up a good stock of these!

I guess the only thing that would have improved them was if they were organic and didn't use sulphur dioxide.....but I did ask them about their pesticide use etc.

What was your favorite taste this week?
Friday, January 18, 2013

And the winner is..... ME!!!!

I won the Attune Foods Gluten Free healthy recipe competition!!!

I entered a few months ago - on a whim, and didn't think much about it until last week when I got an email and phone call saying I had won the competition!

The idea of the competition was to come up with a healthy recipe using one of Attune Foods cereals.  I used their Erewhon Crispy brown rice cereal and made a marmalade granola.

The announcement just came today on Attune Foods blog:

And my prize was just delivered to my door a couple of minutes ago!  An 11-piece Circulon Symmetry Saucepan set and enough brown rice cereal to last probably the whole year!

Here's the winning recipe - I hope you like it.

GF Marmalade Granola


1 cup Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice GF Cereal
1 cup GF old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup no added sugar marmalade
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Grated zest half a lemon or orange


  1. Preheat the oven to 375F
  2. Mix the 5 ingredients together in a bowl
  3. Place the mixture on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper or silpat
  4. Place in the oven.  Remove after 10 minutes and stir thoroughly.
  5. Put back in the oven and cook for another 5 - 10 minutes, watching to make sure the cereal at teh edges of the sheet doesn't overcook.
  6. Leave to cool, and enjoy!
Here are some suggestions for no-sugar-added marmalades:

Alce Nero - Citrus Fruit Spread

I have friends coming up for the weekend, so I will make some for them.

It's much lower in sugar than regular granola and also no added fat, which most granolas contain.  The brown rice and oats provide good fiber, protein and help with blood glucose control and cholesterol levels.

What a way to start your day!  Add some berries and some non-dairy milk and you'll stay satisfied until lunch time :-d

Let me know if you try it.

Yeah! It's always fun to win something :-D

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chickpea crepes (and upgraded Moroccan Bean Stew)

As I said a couple of days ago, I made a yummy Moroccan bean stew this week - enough for a few meals.

Reheating it, I've added a few other ingredients - which has bulked it out a little so it's gone further, and also improved the flavor, I think.

First of all I added a bunch of kale, fresh from the garden.  Yummy. Tastes even better because you feel all that green is good for you!

And for my last bowl, I've added a handful of currants. I loved the sweetness as part of the spice mix, and wanted to build on that a little, so the currants did the trick.  Not too sweet, like I think raisins could have been, but the currants lift the flavor nicely.

These photos also show my chickpea crepes I made to go with it.  I tried using the batter to make small blinis, but they tasted heavily of "bean" so I wasn't that keen on them.  But the thin crepes don't taste beany at all - so could go with sweet or savory accompaniments.

Here is the chickpea crepe recipe: Makes 6 crepes.
150g chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour)
1 egg or egg replacement
200ml water

I made the crepes on my aga, so put a non-stick sheet directly on the simmering plate (no frying pan needed) and poured the batter on there, so I didn't need any oil.  I love making pancakes, crepes etc on the aga, directly on the plate!

But if you don't have an aga :-(, heat a little coconut oil in a frying pan.  Add some batter and swirl it around the pan to spread it out into a circle and cook on medium heat until the edge start turning golden (~1minute).  Flip it over and cook for another minute.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.

These will make nice wraps too - quite flexible and strong enough to place lots of vegetables in them.

Do you change your meals throughout the week when you make a big pot of something? What sort of things do you add?
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Keeping hydrated

I've never been one to drink much water.  Didn't used to drink anything else either, no sodas, no tea, one mug of coffee in the morning..that's about it.

I'd try now and again to always carry water with me, but it only ever lasted a few weeks or so.

But now, I seem to have cracked it! My new habit has lasted a few months so I think I'm on to a winner.

It started after I saw this short video from nutrition

The video looks at a study of the anti-oxidant levels of 283 different beverages.  Imagine there even being 283 different drinks!  Anyhow the drink with the highest anti-oxidant level, by quite a margin, is hibiscus tea.  A tea made from the hibiscus flower.

So now, every morning, I make a large container (60 fl oz) of hibiscus tea using 4 tea bags, a lemon and hot or cold water. No sweetener.

I leave it in the kitchen and it is a pretty reminder for me to drink it up throughout the day.  Sometimes I forget to make it in the morning, but then I remember later on and catch up!  I don't take the tea bags out, just leave them in all day.  Now it's winter, I tend to start it with hot water and then by the evening, am drinking it room temperature.  I know most Americans prefer cold drink with and ice - but remember, I'm a Brit! Room temperature is good!!!

So now I get at least 60 fl oz every day of water plus a wonderful dose of anti-oxidants.

One of the key parts of why it works for me is that it is attractive! The lovely color of the hibiscus catches my eye. It's pretty.  When I ran out of hibiscus and tried it with white pomegranate tea, I just didn't feel like drinking it.  These are the two brands I tend to use.

So if you struggle with drinking enough fluids throughout the day, try using a large container that will hold a days worth - about 60 fl oz, and fill it with something that is attractive to you and healthy.  You can swap out one of the hibiscus tea bags and add a ginger or chamomile one instead or......

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Moroccan bean stew

Chilly nights mean a desire to cozy up with some yummy comfort food.

As I mentioned yesterday, I cooked some garbanzo beans and so used them in a Moroccan bean stew.  As well as the garbanzo beans there are black beans, red lentils and sweet potatoes plus a host of veggies and spices.

It is the combination of spices that brings this dish alive. Ten different herbs and spices to be precise!  They have a lovely sweetness to them. Its a great synergistic effect.

This makes for a really healthy dish including:

  • excellent fiber levels from the beans and lentils
  • very high antioxidant levels from the spices and beans and lentils too
  • plenty of protein from the beans and potatoes
  • good beta carotene from the sweet potatoes
  • anti-inflammatory activity from the Quercetin in the garlic and onion, and the turmeric and fresh ginger
  • anti-cancer activity from the garlic and onion and spices
  • blood sugar control from the cinnamon
  • selenium from the garlic
  • free from added fat, and gluten too - low allergy and vegan.
I made a big pot of it, so it'll keep me going through the week.  Let me know if I can bring you a bowl!  

The recipe comes from Dreena Burton's book "Let them eat vegan".   Moroccan Bean stew recipe.  It has to be the book I use most often of all my recipe books - and you wouldn't believe how many I have! 

I'll be making it again next week in my Food as Medicine class where we are focusing on the health benefits of legumes.

Hope you are cozy tonight.  Take care. 
Monday, January 14, 2013

Red Pepper Hummus

I made fat free hummus today - and while that is not a surprise for me, the thing that was different about it, was that I cooked my own garbanzo beans (chickpeas)!

Yes, I bought dried beans instead of the cooked ones. I soaked them overnight and cooked them for 3 hours this morning.

I wasn't doing this just for hummus - there are a few other dishes I'm using them for, but I thought it would be interesting to try my hummus recipe and see if it was more flavorful with the home-cooked beans.

I do actually prefer it, and if I am cooking garbanzos again for another reason, I'll save some for hummus again.

Here's the recipe:

1 drained can of chickpeas - or cook your own garbanzos
Juice of two lemons
1 teaspoon of Bragg Liquid Aminos
3 tablespoons water
2 roasted red peppers - I used Mezzetta

Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy!

I served mine with poppadoms for a health snack with lots of fiber.

Most hummus has tahini in it, or olive oil - but I love the taste without and don't need the fat and extra calories.
Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fruit is the best dessert

Sometimes fruit is just the best thing for dessert....

especially when it is parrot sized! This is my Harold, enjoying his parrot-sized apple.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Festive Cranberry Vegan Tart

After yesterday's spice cake recipe from Christmas, I thought I'd show you the tasty tart I made for my Christmas dinner.  It was made from chickpeas, walnuts, oats, cranberries, spinach....etc

The recipe was from the lovely book Let them eat Vegan, by Dreena Burton.

I made it as 3 little individual tarts instead of one large tart, and then froze some of the filling to have without a pie crust.

The only other changes I made to the recipe were to omit the olive oil, make a gluten free pie crust, and then also added some fresh cranberries to mine, to boost the lovely color.

I made them again when friends came for dinner between Christmas and New Year. The non-vegans/vegetarians loved them too.  I was very happy with them.

What did you have for your special holiday meal?

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