Never Cook Oatmeal Again!

Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts (I say “breakfast,” but typically don’t eat anything until about brunch/lunch time), but I often find that the moment I realize I want it, I don’t have any pre-prepared.  I then have to cook it right then and there and it is scalding hot afterward for what seems like an hour.  I don’t want to wait that long when I’m hungry.  🙂

I’ve recently gotten into the overnight oats trend.  There are a number of vegan bloggers that I’ve seen prepare oatmeal this way, which involves no cooking whatsoever.  The oats are soaked overnight and ready to eat the next morning!  In addition, if you’re trying to eat more raw plants—which are higher in nutrients and lower in calories—this take on classic comfort breakfasts is for you.

Now, if when you take your oats out of the fridge the next morning you don’t want to eat them cold, you’ll need to dish some up and leave them on the counter to get to room temp for a bit or pop them in the microwave.  Inevitably, they will cook a little if you opt for warmer oats, but you can control the heat level and cooking time of the microwave to minimize the loss of nutrients.  I have read in several places recently that microwaving food is the cooking method that removes the least amount of nutrients from food that enters in a raw state.  I’m still skeptical, but the research is certainly interesting…

Anywho, if you’ve played around with my traditional oatmeal formula, you’ll find that really the only difference is that you’re soaking the oats overnight rather than simmering them on the stovetop.  In addition, you can do this with steel cut oats, but you’d need a lot more liquid and probably time, too, so I stick with rolled.

This is a delicious, nutritious, and filling breakfast for you as well as a great ready-to-go breakfast for littles before school in the morning.  🙂  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  OATMEAL

Serves 6-8

  • 4 cups uncooked rolled oats
  • ½ cup specialty ingredients + extra for garnishing (finely chopped raw fruit, dried fruit, raw nuts, raw seeds, etc.) –> I’m using ¼ cup each hemp and ground flax seeds.
  • 1/8-1/4 cup sweetener –>  I’m using just over 1/8 cup pure maple syrup.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount will depend on flavor intensity) –>  I’m using 1 tsp vanilla.
  • 1 tsp spices –>  I’m using 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
  • Liquid of choice for soaking (water or unsweetened plant milk) –>  I’m using unsweetened Ripple milk.*

*I’m typically a die hard almond milk fan, but I am trying to minimize nut exposure for my one-year-old for a little longer, so I’ve recently tried this brand.  Ripple milk is made from yellow peas and doesn’t taste much different than almond.  I found it at the Super Target by my house.

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Place your oats in a large glass bowl with a lid.  Stir in all ingredients and fill the bowl with liquid enough to cover the mixture by about half an inch.

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Cover and place the bowl in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, stir to combine any remaining liquid that may have settled on the top.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

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Baby’s Banana Muffins

I have many readers that have shared with me that my super food muffins are among the first solids (after purees, of course) that they try with their babies.  (I’m flattered, amazing readers! <3)  I imagine this is because in addition to being loaded with super foods, they are easy to tear into small pieces and turn into mush in the mouth similarly to bread.  I typically make the muffins with a little bit of texture—shredded veggies or nuts, for example—but for all of the babies out there that might just be getting used to solids, I whipped up a batch that contains mashed banana as the star.

Don’t get me wrong, these are delicious and nutritious for anyone, and you could always throw in some chopped walnuts if you’re looking for a bit more texture yourself.  I’ve also played around with this formula and made some adjustments to reflect more experimentation in the kitchen.  If you have my original formula memorized like I do, you’ll notice the tweaks below.  🙂

A final note…

Ingredients like nuts, depending on whom you talk to, are not necessarily recommended for little ones.  I’ve read no nuts until age two.  I’ve also read eighteen months, and I’ve read that it might not even matter at all.  If you’re concerned about your baby consuming nuts, seeds, or plant milks made from such ingredients, always ask your child’s pediatrician first.  Then, enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  SUPER FOOD MUFFINS

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

  • 1 cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup cooked small grains (e.g. quinoa, kaniwa, millet, etc.) –>  I’m using millet.
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup sweetener –>  I’m using light agave syrup.
  • 1/8 cup oil –>  I’m using coconut.
  • 1 cup raw (fresh or frozen) fruit or veggie –>  I’m using mashed banana.
  • 1-1 ¼ cups plant milk –>  I’m using almond.
  • 3 tbsps seeds (e.g. chia, hemp, poppy, flax, etc.) –>  I’m 1 tbsp each chia, hulled hemp, and ground flax.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount will depend on flavor intensity) –>  I’m using 1 tsp homemade vanilla.
  • ½-1 tsp spices –>  I’m using ½ tsp ground cinnamon.
  • ½ tsp salt (optional) –>  I’m not using any.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Separately combine all of the dry ingredients and all of the wet ingredients (include the mashed banana in the wet).

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Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter will be thick and lumpy, but you can always add more plant milk if it seems too dry or dough-like. Spoon the batter into a lined or greased cupcake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Use the toothpick test! Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Quick and Easy Oatmeal

One of my family’s favorite breakfasts is oatmeal.  It’s filling, delicious, and has endless possibilities.  In addition, it is excellent baby and toddler food.  Today, I’m making it extra special for Nolan with mini-chocolate chips.  🙂

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I typically make oatmeal with rolled oats since I always have some on hand for muffins, power balls, and granola, but steel cut oats—which are richer in nutrients—would be a great choice, too.  I include no salt and keep the added sweetener low by flavoring the oats with fruit or other already sweet components.

Should you opt for rolled oats, you can have this oatmeal on the table in about five minutes (steel cut take a bit longer to cook).  It is the ultimate quick and easy breakfast that will keep you full and energized for hours.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  OATMEAL

Serves 6-8

  • 4 cups uncooked oats (rolled or steel cut)  –>  I’m using rolled.
  • ½ cup specialty ingredients + extra for garnishing (finely chopped raw fruit, dried fruit, raw nuts, raw seeds, etc.) –>  I’m using 1 tbsp each hulled hemp seeds and ground flaxseed, plus ¼ cup slivered almonds.  I’m topping my oatmeal with a sprinkle of mini-semisweet chocolate chips (vegan).
  • 1/8-1/4 cup sweetener  –>  I’m using 1/8 cup raw agave syrup.
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount will depend on flavor intensity)  –>  I’m using 1 tsp vanilla.
  • 1 tsp spices  –>  I’m using ground cinnamon.
  • Liquid of choice for cooking (water or unsweetened plant milk)  –>  I’m using a combination of water and almond milk (there is no particular reason for this – I just didn’t have enough almond milk to sufficiently fill the pot!).

Place your oats in pot.  Fill the pot with liquid enough to cover the oats by about half an inch.  Place the pot on the stove and set to medium heat.  While your oats are softening, add all other ingredients and stir frequently until cooked, which may take as little as 4-5 minutes from the time that you turned on the burner.

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Upon completion, your oatmeal will be slightly soupy.  As it cools, the oats will continue to absorb more of the liquid.

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Garnish and serve.  Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

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Eat Your Vegetables!

If you have a picky child, or are not a huge fan of vegetables yourself, today’s recipe will allow you to hide your veggies among whole grains and a little bit of sweetness so that they go down easily and you don’t miss out on their nutritional benefits.

While I’m proud that my two-and-a-half-year-old consumes nutritious, plant-based eats all day long, I’ve found that he’s definitely not immune to some of the typical behaviors of the picky toddler. As of the last few months, if he sees something he’s never eaten, he’s unlikely to try it. If that something is a vegetable (or at least looks like one), we’re in even worse shape.

Thankfully, my boy has never met a smoothie he doesn’t like, so I’m able to hide a variety of raw vegetables in that component of his daily breakfast. (That’s right – his morning smoothie is just part of his breakfast. He has an insatiable appetite in the morning, eating less and less as the day progresses.) I’ve managed to sneak raw celery, carrots, cucumbers, beets, fresh herbs, and a variety of greens right by him for many a morning now.

Until he’s willing to look at a heap of broccoli and get excited about eating it, I have to get creative. In addition to smoothies, I’ve found that my super food muffin formula lends itself just as nicely to shredded vegetables as it does fruits. Today’s rendition features zucchini, which I find a bit too earthy in flavor to compliment most smoothie combinations. Zucchini, or Italian squash (pictured below, shredded in the food processor), is a solid source of vitamin C and manganese and promotes healthy eyesight, so I definitely want Nolan to have it in his diet.

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My zucchini muffins also include a yummy spice blend that features the following:

CINNAMON: A popular spice that you can purchase as sticks or ground, cinnamon is high in antioxidants.

NUTMEG: Nutmeg, which you can find as a seed or ground, is a great source of fiber, copper, and like zucchini, manganese. The two are often paired together in cooking.

CARDAMOM: Cardamom, available as pods or ground, is also a rich source of fiber and manganese and boasts a notable serving of iron, too.

CLOVES: Use cloves sparingly as their flavor is the strongest of this group of particularly flavorful spices. You can find the cloves whole or ground, and like cinnamon, expect a healthy dose of antioxidants.

When talking recently with a fellow mom, she shared with me that her pediatrician said that if her toddler ate one balanced, nutritious meal per day, that that was success. Obviously, we aim to feed our kids of all ages (and ourselves!) healthful foods all day long, but when it comes to the pickiest of the picky, one well-rounded meal may be the best we can hope for some days.

Thus, one of these muffins in and of themselves contain more super foods than the average toddler may be willing to consume in an entire day, so it’s a small “meal” that parents (and whoever!) can feel good about. (I usually pair Nolan’s with fresh fruit, togurt, and a smoothie.) Small victories, parents, small victories. 🙂

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FORMULA BASE: SUPER FOOD MUFFINS

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1  cup flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup cooked small grains (e.g. quinoa, kaniwa, millet, etc.)–> I’m using kaniwa (see my veggie burger post).
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1/8 cup oil –> I’m using coconut.
  • 1 cup raw (fresh or frozen) fruit or veggie –> I’m using shredded zucchini*, skin on.
  • 1-1 ¼ cups unsweetened plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • 3 tbsps seeds (e.g. chia, hemp, poppy, flax, etc.)
  • ½-1 tsp extract (amount will depend on flavor intensity) –> I’m using 1 tsp homemade vanilla.
  • ½-1 tsp spices –> I’m using ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp each cardamom and cloves. All spices are ground.
  • ½ tsp pink Himalayan sea salt (optional) –> I’m using it.

*Shredded carrots, parsnips, beets, or sweet potatoes would also be delicious!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Shred your zucchini (or other vegetable) in a food processor. Separately combine all of the dry ingredients and all of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter will be thick and lumpy, but you can always add more plant milk if it seems too dry or dough-like. Spoon the batter into a lined cupcake pan and bake for 25 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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Dessert for Breakfast? Yes, Please!

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Today, I made my favorite dessert smoothie for breakfast. Above, you can see the finished product, ready for consumption by one busy mommy and on-the-go toddler.  While you’ll love this sweet treat in a traditional post-meal capacity, it can serve as a decadent start to your day, too. Jam-packed with protein and calcium, it puts many other breakfast options to shame.

A few words about some of the ingredients (pictured below) in this chocolate peanut butter banana concoction…

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First, we have cocoa power. To keep the sugar content low, it is imperative that it be unsweetened. Cocoa powder, which contains powerful antioxidants, has numerous health benefits, so it may be tempting to add a lot, but its flavor is quite intense. Start with a tablespoon and slowly add more if you want your smoothie extra chocolaty.

Secondly, seek out a peanuts-only peanut butter. Many peanut butters contain added sugar, oil, and salt, which may result in you initially finding a simpler peanut butter bland. The purer taste, however, will grow on you over time; I now find myself off-put by peanut butter with unnecessary additives.

Lastly, because the cocoa power, peanut butter, and almond milk in this recipe are all unsweetened, you have only the bananas to rely on to give this smoothie a dessert-like quality. Riper bananas will be sweeter, but if even that is not enough for you, add medjool dates–which are rich in fiber and vitamins–for a little something extra. As you can see in the photo, they do contain pits, which can be easily removed by splitting the dates in half with your thumbs. Medjool dates are very soft, easy to work with, and blend well, if you have a high quality blender.

That leads me to my blender: the Ninja, which includes pitchers in two different sizes. The most basic model will run you about $100, where the more advanced models with more equipment will be over $300. While I would love someday to own one of the hailed Vitamix or Blendtec processors, for a little less coin, I’m happy with the Ninja for now. If you do not own a blender with advanced capabilities and fear that the less-than-perfect puree of the dates would result in an unappealing texture, you could substitute another sweetener of your choice.

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Overall, this smoothie blends up nicely, with the exception of the chia seeds, which I’m not sure would completely puree in any blender. Their texture reminds me of the tiny seeds on strawberries or in kiwis and does not bother me, but you can eliminate them if you so choose. I have chia seeds in many of my formulas/recipes, as they are a super food loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, and protein.

But the seeds and peanut butter are fattening, right? Yes, they are. I’m happy to report, however, that seeds and nuts contain cholesterol-free fats. If you’re following a fairly strict plant-based diet, seeds and nuts are among the only sources of fat that you will ingest. Think about that squishy, white-ish edge of a pork chop or the grease that floats on top of a cheesy pizza and you will celebrate the addition, in moderation, of a different kind of fat to your diet. Also, this smoothie need not be your everyday breakfast (I make it once or twice a week) – check out my fruit and veggie smoothie formula, too.

With that said, on to dessert!

FORMULA BASE:  DESSERT SMOOTHIE

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and ice)
  • ½-1 cup specialty ingredients –>  I’m using ½ cup peanut butter and 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ¼-½ tsp extract of choice (optional, and amount depends on flavor intensity) –>  I’m using no extract in this recipe.
  • Pitted medjool dates as needed for sweetness  –>  I’m using 2.
  • Juice or plant milk until desired consistency (start with 4 oz)  –>  I’m using unsweetened almond milk.

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Combine all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust specialty ingredients as necessary.  Enjoy!

Welcome to The Fresh Formula!

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Happy New Year and welcome to The Fresh Formula! Since I committed to a plant-based diet around this time three years ago, I thought it only fitting that I launch my blog on New Year’s Day. Many of us find ourselves making resolutions to improve our lives, and those often include health and wellness goals. I never resolve to follow a weight-loss diet, regularly utilize an exclusive exercise program, or lose a certain number of pounds because I find that such goals often lead to temporary results where you are constantly playing catch-up with yourself.

Instead, consider making a resolution this year that prompts you to change your lifestyle, and the rest – healthy eating, exercise, even weight loss – will fall into place. I remember years ago when the queen of talk, Oprah Winfrey, hosted the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano. Guiliano made a point that the French don’t have to spend hours and hours sweating at the gym because they incorporate exercise into daily life: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store instead of driving, etc. I view plant-based eating similarly; it is a way of living…not a diet, a system for counting calories, or a strict exercise regime.

In the beginning, plant-based living may be a challenge for you, but I can tell you from experience that it piques curiosity, sparks creativity, and of course, becomes easier and easier. Over the years, I have found myself genuinely interested in researching and experimenting with food, flavor, and nutrition, and have been proud of the results.

So, what can you expect from this blog? Under About, you can read more about me, plant-based living, and my fresh formulas, and see new formulas and recipes popping up at least once a week under Recipes. Under The Formulas, I have amassed a small collection of formulas that are already tried and true in my kitchen. Each week, I will feature an existing or new formula and an accompanying sample recipe so that you can see what that particular formula looks like in action.

This week, I’ve decided to start with the formula that inspired this blog: Super Food Muffins (located under Breakfast Formulas). Today’s post will feature this formula in a blueberry lemon variety, but as you will learn, the formula is just a baseline for whatever ingredients YOU have on hand.  Here we go…

 

FORMULA BASE:  SUPER FOOD MUFFINS

Makes 12 regular sized muffins

  • 1 ½ cups flour –> I’m using whole wheat.
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa –> I’m using white (despite being rather blasé in appearance, it is higher in nutritional content than rainbow).
  • ¼ cup uncooked rolled oats –> I’m using an extra ¼ cup of quinoa instead, this particular go-around.
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1/8 cup oil –> I’m using coconut, melted.
  • 1 cup raw (fresh or frozen) fruit or veggie –> I’m using blueberries.
  • 1-1 ¼ cups plant milk –> I’m using almond.
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • ½-1 tsp extract –> I’m using ½ tsp of pure almond.
  • ½-1 tsp spices –> I’m using 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • ½ tsp salt (optional) à I’m opting out of salt, but adding it will definitely make your flavors pop even more. I highly recommend pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • SPECIAL ADDITION: The zest and juice of one lemon.

Looking for a bit more texture?  Consider adding chopped raw nuts or seeds.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Separately combine all of the dry ingredients and all of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. The batter will be thick and lumpy, but you can always add more plant milk if it seems too dry or dough-like.

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Spoon the batter into a lined cupcake pan and bake for 25-27 minutes.

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Use the toothpick test! Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.