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Oatmeal

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I like muffins to be rather distinctive from cupcakes.

Not too sweet. Heartier than a light and fluffy cake. And filling enough to leave me satisfied after just one.

Although, hints of decadence (like chocolate chips) are a must, so that the yearning for an icing topped cupcake doesn’t follow.

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
These Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins fit the bill perfectly for that description, packed with wholesome ingredients like oats, whole grain flour and bananas, while being balanced with a touch of sweetness lent by brown sugar, cinnamon and a dose of dark chocolate.

Eat them for breakfast, eat them at snack-time, eat them for dessert, eat them whenever — guilt-free.

Feel free to play around with this recipe, too, by adding nuts or raisins or even other spices. There’s no better time to play around in the kitchen than when it’s cold outside, and as I agonize over the blanketing of snow outside my window, I hope these will give you a little comfort like they’ve given me!

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Savory Japanese Oats

Savory Japanese Oats

“It’s a little too sweet. I’d like it better if it wasn’t so sweet.” “…Classic Grace.”

It’s a common dialogue between my friends and I. It’s also why I rarely order cocktails off a pre-made menu. Why I always opt to add my own sweetener to my yogurt. Order my coffee black. And prefer to make my own granola and salad dressings and desserts.

I don’t trust others to sweeten my food because it always turns out just “a little too sweet”! My friends would disagree with me on this. And I will agree to disagree, on most occasions.

Scallions

I’m not one of those puzzling non-dessert people. In fact, my sweet tooth can get a little out of hand sometimes. (Cue the disappearance of 1/2 of a dark chocolate bar  after intentions of only eating one square). But I do prefer everything on the bitter side. That means dark chocolate vs. milk. Froyo vs. gelato (a frequent trigger of that quoted dialogue above). Espresso vs. lattes. Beer vs. cocktails. Etc.

I love sugar. Just not in dominating amounts. Which means you’ll rarely find me ordering oatmeal at a restaurant because you’ll rarely find a restaurant serving oatmeal without sugar being the commander of its seasoning. (A spoonful of sugar’s needed to make the oatmeal go down? Some friends would agree with that too.)

Savory Japanese Oats

Often, I don’t want my oatmeal sweetened at all. My new obsession is savory oats, and if you haven’t tested this out yet, I recommend giving it a try.

Going the savory route creates a breakfast that feels so fresh and energizing, it’s hard to turn back. I know soy sauce on oats, and scallions too, might sound strange, but trust me on this one. It’s unique in all the right ways.

Purple Sweet Potato

Unique, kind of like purple sweet potatoes. Are these not gorgeous?! They’re totally worth the splurge at the grocery store if you can afford it, and also find them. To me, that smile that will come after piercing their just-baked skin and seeing their vibrancy is worth it alone.

Purple Sweet Potato

Yes, I play with my food sometimes.

Japanese Savory Oats

Here, the sweet potato adds a little sweetness that pairs well with the heat of the Sriracha and bite of the onion. Sesame and toasted nori continues to infuse the delicate oats so that each bite has a profusion of complimenting flavors. You could easily fry up an egg (or soft boil) and throw it on top for another dimension. Regardless, you’ll end up with an incredible, no-sugar-need bowl of oats that no one will say is “too sweet” and that everyone will say is pretty fantastic. And energizing, too.

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Mostly Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

Snow in the city is dirty. It will soil your shoes, your gloves, your stoop, your snowballs.

Suit up and put your game face on, or that black — and sometimes salty blue — stuff they call snow might stain a piece of your soul, too. It feels little like the soft, white flakes that flow quietly to country lands. Lands where cars stay stationary, kids go sledding and firesides roar.

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

Yet snowfall in the city can also be a magical experience. I see this in ways far different than where I grew up. It comes in ways that remind me why I’m carrying out my youthful years in an urban setting.

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

For one, while schools might shut down, often the community does not. Where I currently live, on snow days restaurants often remain open. They fill up with afternoon conversation. At the corner of my block, a place lights its fireplace and spreads out its board games. Beer is poured. Coffee is served. Warmth, both literally and socially, can be found in abundance.

My neighborhood’s yoga studio powers through with an evening session taught by a local teacher. I go, as do others, to fill the class, and practice while gazing out the window at the falling white flakes. They remain clean as they hang in the air, and it’s in this moment that I feel like I am “home” again. Back in the country enjoying a piece of serenity.

Following class, I rejoin the bustle. I meet a friend up the street at the fireplace for a beer and a game and good company. And again I remember, this is why I love the city.

Most Raw Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars

The start of this year has been a rough one in terms of the weather. I loathe winter. I could do without snow, and even seasons too if I really had to.

Yet, I am constantly reminded of why I still remain on the East Coast, in a state that won’t let me scoot by without being cold, in a city that I’ve grown to love. Surrounded by friends, and not far from family, I’ve learned to survive the cold seasons and even admire some of its parts I hate the most. Snow too has its place, and for now, it seems to be a significant part of my life…like it or not.

So until I get the guts to move far, far away to a new city in warmer lands, you can find me coping in my current city with my baking gear and measuring cups. When snow falls, cooking and tea and adventuring all call — usually in that order, too.

These were whipped up during our last winter storm here in Philly. They make for a healthy snack or breakfast, and are definitely going on my repeat recipe list. Made with antioxidant-rich curry powder and mostly raw ingredients (excluding the peanut butter), their packed with energy. The good kind. The kind you might need to get you through a long winter. Only 31 official days left. Not that I’m counting down or anything.

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Chocolate Chip Date Banana Bread Muffin Tops

Chocolate Chip Date Banana Bread Muffin Tops

I’m generally not much a fan of muffins. In fact, one of the spots I work has free muffins of all different varieties. And they sit, and they sparkle, amidst open-air with glistening tops that scream, “Choose me, choose me!”

I have to admit, I’m often tempted.

Chocolate Chip Date Banana Bread Muffin Tops

Occasionally, as the workday nears its end, and I still see a plethora left, I’ll grab one. My impulse always ends after one bite. The muffin gets tossed, free throw style, into the trashcan without looking back. (That is, unless I miss the can.)

Wasteful, I know. But those muffins are just too friggin’ sweet. They look so good but feel so…eek.

I like dessert, I do, I do. But not pasty pastries that taste of straight-up sugar. And to me, that encompasses the majority of most store-bought/store-sold muffins.

Chocolate Chip Date Banana Bread Muffin Tops

So I was thrilled when I came across this recipe from Oh She Glows. There’s not one ounce of extra sugar in here that doesn’t come from the natural fruit that builds these tops. No honey. No maple. No brown suga’ suga’.

After tasting a small spoonful of batter, and then going in for a second, I knew there needn’t be, either.

I guess you could (and probably should) exclude the chocolate chips when you say no added sugar. But in my book, there’s generally always room to break the rules in the name of dark chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Date Banana Bread Muffin Tops

Aside from that, these are an excellent choice when craving something sweet. And  by far beat the poor, sorry sights of most of the muffin/muffin tops on the market these days.

Although, forgive me as I talk these babies up as muffins. Likely, you could swap that muffin top label out for “cake-like cookie”, but there’s always room for less sugary versions of those too, right? Plus, when I can have a “cookie” for breakfast, and feel alright about it too, that recipe’s certainly going to make the repeat list.

Chewy, perfectly sweetened and filled with heart healthy oats, this my friends, is a muffin/cookie/whatever-you-want-to-call-it recipe I stand behind. Throw in a few walnuts and some extra chocolate chips, and it’s golden.

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Grace’s Coconut Oat and Nut Granola

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Granola’s great in the summer. However, there’s something about heating up the oven, stirring up a large bowl of oats.  And then letting the warm, toasty smells fill the room while baking away the morning of a cold winter day. Call it winter solace. Granola solace. Call it whatever you want to describe a moment that sometimes just can’t be summed up in words.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Coconut flakes are my new obsession, and I find them now to almost be a mandatory component of granola. I tracked through Philadelphia for nearly 2 hours – across 5 different stores – just to find them a few months ago, determined to make this Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Coconut Bacon. At the time, I was questioning my sanity. But after finally finding the flakes, and later obsessing over them during multiple cooking encounters, I am now questioning the sanity of the stores that are not carrying them.  Coconut flakes are worth every last step of an adventure to go find them.

For my Philly followers, check out Essene Market in Queen’s Village. For everyone else, I got tipped off along my travels that Vitacost.com is a good place to order coconut flakes.

Whatever you do, don’t succumb to buying the shreds. Unfortunately, they’re simply not the same as their larger, flakier counterpart.

Coconut Flake and Nut GranolaFeel free to play around with the nuts you use in your granola. I personally love a little variety. Pecans, walnuts & almonds are always a must for me, and various other seeds are generally just an added, crunchy health bonus.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Spoon over hot or cold cereal in the morning, enjoy as is with milk, or simply pack a handful in a bag to eat on the run. Granola is a versatile, energy-packed snack, and when you make it yourself, you can ensure you’re fueling up on the good stuff. Forget chowing down on a bag of sugar and unnecessary processed ingredients. That’s no good. Plus, when you skip out on making it yourself, you miss that toasty smell from your oven like I mentioned before. Nothing beats that.

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