toasted oat porridge with chamomile, walnuts + spiced apples

toasted oat porridge with chamomile, walnuts + spiced apples

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Everything is connected here…the soil feeds the plants that feed us. We are merely the walking, talking result of that connection.
– Lora Lea Misterly

 

I tend to share the same old stories here, I’m sure, but one of the big turning points in my relationship with food was marked by my visit to Quillasascut Farm School back in 2009. The week of cooking, harvesting, and gathering with like-minded young folk was put on as part of a Slow Food Youth workshop. I was the only “experienced” farm girl among the participants, and I was chosen in part because I come from a conventional agriculture background while the teachings and discussions were in line with Slow Food’s philosophy of food that is good, clean, and fair. At the time, I had just wrapped up spending 18 days straight working wheat harvest which entailed driving a combine for 12 hours a day across soil that was essentially devoid of life–save that wheat. The experience was a good one and I worked for a great family but I was beginning to put the pieces of our food and health systems together.

 

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I don’t think the week at Quillasascut changed any of my viewpoints on food necessarily, but through it I was able to move away from hyper-focusing on what any one food was doing to me individually and instead look at it from a broader lens, taking into consideration the communal and ecological connections to what I was eating. I was able to move away from thinking of myself as just an eater and realized I play a vital part in this connection within our vast food system. When I began to take into consideration and participate in more of the story behind my food, where did it grow, in what conditions, by who, were the people that grew it compensated fairly?, what role do I play?, I stopped worrying so much about the things that do not matter, i.e. exactly how many calories are in my meals, how I can control my body, etc., and just eat with joy, mindfully. To be sure, I’ve had a volatile last few years in terms of my relationship to food and body image, but each time I begin to overthink and hyper analyze, I’m usually brought back into better relationship by refocusing on the communal and broader connection aspects of eating.

 

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This month, The Recipe Redux challenged us to pull out one of our cookbooks and share a reduxed recipe. In similar, past challenges, I have shared recipes from my favorite blogger family. This year, I instead pulled down Quillasascut’s cookbook, Chefs on the Farm. 

The book is beautiful, and though many of the recipes bring back warm memories since they are ones myself and the workshop participants made there with chef Karen Jurgensen, the book contains much more than recipes. Each season is marked with a reflection by farmer Lora Lea or her husband Rick about life on the farm as well as knowledge of sustainability practices that can be incorporated, no matter the location, or lack of farm.

 

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Today’s recipe is adapted from a chamomile porridge in the Winter section of Chefs on the Farm. Both chamomile and oats have relaxing properties that soothe the nerves and set us up for a more grounded day. Chamomile is also useful for soothing an anxious, hyped-up, or perhaps overworked stomach and digestive system, which may be needed this time of year. Along with omega-3 rich toasted walnuts, the oats and chamomile combine to make a truly delightful and nourishing breakfast option during this holiday season. Enjoy the combination on its own, or if you’ve the mind, make a quick spiced apple compote to serve alongside. If unable to track down bulk chamomile, break open a packet of tea. Enjoy!

 

Toasted Oat Porridge with Chamomile, Walnuts + Spiced Apples, serves 1
1/2 cup old-fashioned or thick rolled oats, gluten free if necessary
1 cup water
1 Tbs. dried chamomile flowers
dash of sea salt
1 small apple, diced
dash of cinnamon and ginger
1-2 Tbs. walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

  • Toast the oats in a skillet over medium-high heat, just until they become fragrant. This step is optional but it will lead to a richer, toasty oat flavor.
  • Then, in a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil and add in the toasted oats, chamomile, and a dash of sea salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes, depending on the cut of your oats and desired consistency.
  • While the oats are cooking, combine the diced apple, spices, and a splash of water in a small saucepan. Bring them to a good simmer and cook just long enough for the apple to soften and the liquid to form a slight syrup.
  • Remove the oats to a bowl, pour over the spiced apples, and top with toasted and chopped walnuts.

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Early Summer Pasta with Creamy Walnut Basil Sauce

Early Summer Pasta with Creamy Walnut Basil Sauce

 

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This post was going to be about how I have the greenest green thumb and my peas won’t stop producing (my mom would be so proud) so I have to keep finding new ways to eat them that don’t involve stir-fry because I don’t often crave the flavors of Asian food. What is actually on my mind, however, is that I don’t do a lot in our garden. The peas basically grow themselves. I harvest and water, occasionally fertilize, smash bugs with glee and generally curse at them, but our outdoor space is more William’s domain.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time not showing up in key relationships, being “too busy” trying to cross everything off my to-do list, trying to get to work on time, complete grad school classes successfully, commute, run, maintain my blog, volunteer and stay active in community groups, and generally do everything I do to the highest standards I can aspire to, while accomplishing more things than are humanly (for me) possible.

 

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I sat at a table for a non-profit board I’m on last weekend and as we went around sharing what we were looking forward to this summer, my mind couldn’t think of a single thing other than getting to the end of the season so I could breathe and have some free time.

It became evident I needed to let things go. While I feel a lightened load from taking items off my plate, I’m also experiencing increased guilt at committing to projects and events and then not following through. I debated back and forth for hours, days, weeks about dropping a class and waited until the last day to finally admit I can’t find 15 more hours in each of my July weeks.

In the name of self-care, sanity and medium/long term health, I’ll be doing less this summer than I aspired to. I’ll be focusing on just being, breathing, enjoying the moment and experience and whatever these months bring more.

I’d rather not get to the beginning of September and wonder where summer went. So today, with my mile long list needing shredded, I’m going to go shell favas in the kitchen, prep an early summer vegetable hash, contemplate making a berry pie with the cache of boysens from Sunbow for William, and generally work on setting down my high standards for now because I get to give myself a break.

 

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Early Summer Pasta with Creamy Walnut Basil Sauce, serves 4

This pasta came about through my walnut experiments and out of needing to use what the little plot of land we care in south west Eugene is producing now. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have. 

8 oz. pasta of choice

1/4 cup raw walnuts, soaked at least 4 hours and drained

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

3/4  tsp. sea salt

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

4 cloves garlic

a large handful of basil leaves

1 cup water

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 bunch broccoli, diced into 2-inch pieces

1 medium zucchini, diced

1 medium onion, diced

a medium handful of snow peas, tops removed and cut into 1-inch pieces

minced basil, to serve

additional salt and pepper, to taste

  • Begin making the pasta. While the pasta is beginning to cook, bring together the sauce.
  • Place the soaked walnuts in a food processor or blender. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, and basil. Puree until semi-smooth and then set aside.
  • In a small saucepan, whisk together the flour and a small amount of the water until no clumps remain. Then whisk in the remaining water and turn the heat to medium. Whisk for about 5-7 minutes until the mixture resembles a nice thick pudding. Remove from heat and carefully pour it into the food processor with the basil-walnut mixture. Blend it up until completely smooth.
  • In the last minute of cooking the pasta, toss in the broccoli to quickly blanch it. Then, drain it along with the pasta and run under cool water while cooking the remaining vegetables.
  • In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high and then lightly sauté the onion, zucchini, and snow peas until nicely soft and golden, about 5-7 minutes. Into the sauté pan, pour the pasta and broccoli, sauce, and additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve topped with a little extra basil for garnish.

Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge

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I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 

As part of my nutrition program, I took a class last term which covered the basics of cooking whole foods including how to cook grains, beans and other legumes, and greens. One thing I hadn’t previously given much thought to was the reason for soaking grains, beans, nuts, and seeds prior to eating.

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes contain antioxidants called phytic acids (or phytates) which are the plants’ primary form of stored phosphorus. Phytates tends to bind minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron, making them more difficult for us to absorb. Soaking these foods overnight prior to cooking or eating initiates the sprouting process, which makes many of the minerals more digestible.

There is some debate as to whether we should worry about phytates or bother taking the time to soak our whole grains and nuts, as many experts suggest we simply eat a balanced diet and we’ll get enough of these minerals anyway. From my own personal experience however, I have been eating a diet of whole foods, comprised mostly of these phytate-rich plants, for going on 10 years or so, and I’ve continued to struggle with absorbing the vitamins and minerals my diet should contain–even after removing the two big culprits which were causing me the most damage, gluten and dairy. Gut health is an area I’m super interested in learning more about, but in the meantime, I’ve been trying to remember to soak more of my grains and now nuts, in addition to beans, more of the time.

 

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This porridge combination contains three ingredients to get the day off to a good start thanks to those soaked seeds and nuts including walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat. The California Walnut Commission generously sent me a 2-lb. bag of walnuts to play with and I’ve been having lots of fun using them in unconventional ways. Walnuts are a delicious and versatile ingredient and they perfectly complement other whole foods for nutritious, tasty meals. I’ve found that walnuts can be used a lot like cashews to make “creams,” although with a stronger walnut presence due to their nice wholesome flavor. They pair especially well with amaranth and buckwheat, as all those earthy flavors complement each other.

Walnuts are a nice addition to meals and snacks as an ounce of walnuts — the amount in one serving of this porridge — has 2.5 grams of the essential plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), in addition to 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.

 

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Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been streamlining my morning process and often make my breakfast the night before, or batch cook a few days of meals at once. I tend to opt for some form of porridge most days and this means I have the perfect opportunity to soak and prep my morning fixings. Since it’s been getting hot outside, I have considered returning to a more summery breakfast like raw buckwheat porridge, but find that I  still tend to wake up ready for something warm to start my day. I tend to run cool most of the time so I decided to make a porridge that is soaked overnight or for a few hours prior to blending, and then it can be quickly finished and heated on the stove top to eat. I usually do the whole process the night before, as long as I remember to soak those main components a few hours before that evening prep. Then I reheat individual portions in the morning.

 

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Blueberry Swirl Buckwheat, Amaranth + Walnut Porridge, serves 4

1/3 cup buckwheat groats

1/3 cup amaranth

1 cup raw walnuts

1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 Tbs. raw honey or maple syrup

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

dash of sea salt

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2- 1 1/2 cups water, divided

Directions:
  1. Cover walnuts, amaranth, and buckwheat with warm water and one tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Let soak overnight. The next morning, drain and rinse well.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries and honey until they become smooth. Spoon out about half the puree and set aside.
  3. Without removing the remaining puree, add in the drained and rinsed nuts and seeds along with the spices and about 1/2 cup water. Puree the mixture until smooth.
  4. To assemble and eat, spoon the pureed porridge into a small saucepan along with enough water to make it a thinnish consistency, if necessary. This will depend on your berries. Heat through until it forms a thick porridge. Then, swirl a few spoonfuls of the blueberry puree into each portion. Top with more blueberries and walnuts, if desired.

 

 

References:

Frølich, W. (n.d.) Phytate–a natural component in plant food. Whole Grains Council. Retrieved from:  http://wholegrainscouncil.org/files/backup_migrate/PhytateProsCons_0910_DK-WGC.pdf.

Sparvoli, F. and Cominelli, E. (2015). Seed biofortication and phytic acid reduction: A conflict of interest for the plant? Plants. 4 (4): 728-755. doi:  10.3390/plants4040728.

Weil, A. (2010). Are phytates bad or good? Retrieved from: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400758/Are-Phytates-Bad-or-Good.html.