Category Archives: oats

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars

My friend Erin recently shared this delicious recipe for a great on-the-go-snack bar. With pumpkins in season, it’s easy enough to make your own puree. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own, the canned stuff works just fine. A couple of words of caution, however, when choosing canned pumpkin:

  • It’s best to use a brand that has a BPA free lining
  • Organic pumpkin is preferred
  • I highly recommend that you read the label and make sure that you are getting only 100% pumpkin. You don’t need all those other ingredients.

These breakfast bars are fabulous for a quick breakfast, perfectly portable if you need to have breakfast on-the-go. And so tasty that they also make a great snack. If you’d like, add a serving of protein powder to make your bars even more nutritious. If you do add the protein powder you may find that you need just a Tablespoon or two of water so the mix isn’t too dry.

Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars

3/4 cup pumpkin purée
2 eggs
1/4 cup organic butter or ghee at room temperature
1 large or 2 small ripe bananas
1/4 cup honey
2 cups rolled oats (not the quick cook variety)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (you can also use walnuts or sunflower seeds)
2 Tbsp shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 cup oat bran (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
pinch of Celtic sea salt
1 Tbsp grated orange rind
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup dried blueberries

Measure out the 2 cups of oats and pour just enough warm water over them to cover them
Soak for about 5 minutes while you’re mixing up the wet ingredients
In a mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, eggs, butter or ghee, honey, and banana
You may want to mash the banana before adding to the bowl if it’s not really soft
Before adding the oats, drain them well

Add the oats, nuts, coconut, oat bran, cinnamon, salt, orange rind, currants, and blueberries, and stir until ingredients are well combined (this step is where you would also add the protein powder, if using)
Spread mixture into a lightly greased (butter, ghee or coconut oil) pan so the batter is no more than an inch or two deep. An 8” x 10” baking dish works well
Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown
For very crisp bars, remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack
Cut the bars when cool
September - cholesterol awareness month

September Is Cholesterol Awareness Month – Part 2

More about cholesterol

In part one of this series of articles for Cholesterol Awareness Month, we learned some of the important facts that we need to know about cholesterol and how it can affect our health.  In part two we’re going to learn about some healthy foods to add to the diet which can help to reduce cholesterol and support better overall health.

Good for you food choices

Let’s start by remembering that if a label says the product is low-fat or fat-free this often means it’s been adulterated with chemicals that are probably not good for your health.  For optimal health it’s important to avoid a highly processed SAD (Standard American Diet) plan and instead eat real, whole foods which are delicious as well as nutritious.

Omega 3 fatty acids

These are excellent for heart health.  Unfortunately our modern diet tends to be very high in omega 6s and does not include nearly enough omega 3s 

  • cold water fatty fish – such as salmon, tuna, and sardines,
  • walnuts
  • flax seeds


Adding fiber to your diet is a great idea not only for cardiac health but also for gut health.  Helping to form bulk for your stools it also provides prebiotics, the food that the probiotics in your gut need to live.  

  • Whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, oatmeal (old fashioned rolled oats, oat groats, or steel-cut, NOT instant)
  • Legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas

Note: if you’re not used to eating fiber start slow as too much can cause intestinal distress.  

Olive oil 

A delicious way to cook, dress salads, or create a dipping sauce, olive oil is a heart-healthy food that you want to make sure is part of your pantry.  Be sure to choose extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil as many “light” olive oils are highly processed and don’t have the same benefits.


Sadly these days most people think that salad counts as a vegetable.  But what they’re really eating is nutritionally deficient iceberg lettuce with a few pieces of other vegetables, croutons, candy-coated nuts or dried fruit, and drowned in chemically laden, high-calorie dressing.  

If you’re going to have some vegetables why not have a real vegetable packed with nutrients.   Colorful, tasty, and good-for-you.

  • avocados (high in monounsaturated fats)
  • brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts(high in fiber and phytonutrients)
  • tomatoes (lycopene is great for reducing LDL)
  • sweet potatoes (high in beta-carotene and fiber)


Found in a number of delicious foods this category of antioxidants is highly supportive of heart health and a very delicious way to support lowering your cholesterol.  

  • Green tea
  • red wine
  • grape juice
  • cocoa products (such as dark chocolate or cocoa powder) – due to caffeine and/or sugars these need to be eaten in moderation

How much to eat

The following are appropriate serving sizes for the foods referenced above. Food journaling is a good way to monitor how much and when you are eating so you can build your nutritional plan to incorporate more of these foods:

Protein – 6-8 ounces of animal protein / 12-24 ounces of vegetable protein
Leafy Greens – 3-4 cups per day
Colorful veggies – 2-3 cups per day
Complex Carbs – .5-1.5 whole grains / 2-3 medium root vegetables
Fruit – .5-1.5 cups
Booster foods – 2-4 tablespoons (seaweeds, greens powders, nutritional yeast, seeds, spices, and herbs)
Liquids – 1-3 cups per day (nourishing broth, green tea)

note: 3 tablespoons = 1 teaspoon

Check out Part Three – heart-healthy recipes.

If you enjoyed this article, please join my community to receive more information and special offers with my free newsletter, Food News You Can Use (I do the research so you don’t have to). This concise, informative newsletter gives you updates you need to know about the ingredients for living a healthy life.

What Kind Of Oats?

Oats | kateshortforbob | Wikimedia Commons

Bob wrote in and asked “I have heard that not all oatmeal has the same nutritional value, and I’m confused. There are so many types of oatmeal, steel-cut, instant, etc, etc. What is the most nutritious type?

This comes up a lot. We’re told that oats are really good for us, they are, and that we should eat more of them for reducing cholesterol, to help reduce cardiovascular disease and to stabilize blood sugar. Oats are a wonderful food. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is easily digested and helps the body by slowing down how quickly it can process simple starches and sugars. Soluble fiber also breaks down within the digestive tract, binding with cholesterol and thereby escorting it out of the body. Insoluble fiber cannot be digested and helps to create bulkier stools which move through the system more quickly. They also help mitigate certain bile acids.

More than just fiber, oats also provide manganese, selenium, tryptophan, phosphorus, and magnesium. They even provide a modest amount of protein (6 g per cup).

Quick or instant oatmeal is not as good a choice since it is broken down; your body can get through it too quickly. It’s also it’s more highly processed and the more processed a food is is the less nutritious it typically is. Oat groats and steel cut oats are generally considered to be the best. The groats are the whole grain, containing all of the fiber, bran and the beneficial germ. Old fashioned or rolled oats are also very good although they don’t have all of the bran since some of that is removed during the rolling, or flaking, process.  I keep all three, oat groats, steel cut oats, and thick rolled oats, in my pantry all the time.  They’re very versatile and are great for a wide range of recipes.

One cup of oats per day is considered to be very beneficial, especially if you have high cholesterol or are looking for foods to help stabilize blood sugar. Making it with milk will add more protein and some calcium. Adding fresh ground flax seeds, about one tablespoon, will further increase the fiber content and add a healthy omega 3 boost. Adding fresh berries, my favorite is blueberries is great, a dash of cinnamon on top and you’ve got a really great meal to get you going in the morning.

Baking With Kids

ready, set, bake

Baking is wonderful and something I love to do.  Even more fun is to bake with kids.  They’re so excited and fascinated by the process.  Learning their way around the ingredients, how to measure, the wet and dry combining process; it’s a fun edible science and math experiment in the kitchen.

This is one of my baking buddies, Miss A.  She came over the other day with her brother, Mr. C.   I had promised them that the next time they came over we would make cookies so that was our plan.

As it turns out Mr. C’s idea of making cookies was to allow his sister and I to do all the baking while he played the part of Official Cookie Tester.  And, might I add, he was rather impatient for those cookies to be done.

Miss A and I got down to business, put on our aprons and got out my “Famous Chocolate Chip Oaties” recipe.  Mr. C. wanted to know why they were famous, had they been on t.v.?  Did someone famous invent them?  I told him that it was a recipe I had created and I simply call them Famous because everyone who eats them really likes them and wants more.  Needless to say he was less than impressed and informed me that unless they’ve been on t.v. they can’t be famous.  Maybe I should send a box to Ellen?

One of the things I love about baking with kids is how curious they are.  Miss A wanted to taste everything.  Of course we decided that the chocolate chips were pretty tasty.  Surprisingly she liked the oatmeal, even raw, and requested a large spoonful of her own to nibble on.  We had two kinds of sugar and she tasted both of them.  Then we got to the baking soda.  Miss A asked if she could taste it.  I was a little surprised and said, “I’m not sure you want to do that.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Well,” I replied “it’s a little bitter tasting and I’m not sure you’re going to like it.”
“But I want to taste everything.” she said.
So I let her taste it.
Her face scrunched up a little and she said, “It’s not really bitter but I don’t like it.”
“Want some chocolate chips to wash that down?” I asked.
Of course the answer was yes.

We wound up making two batches of cookies the regular variety and the peanut butter variety.  The recipe is below and we’re sure you’re going to enjoy it, just like we did.

Famous Chocolate Chip Oaties

1/2 C butter
1 C evaporated cane juice crystals
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1 C + 2 T white whole wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 C chocolate chips
1 C rolled oats

Preheat oven to 375
Blend together butter and sugar until creamy
Add egg and blend well
Add vanilla and blend well
Mix together flour, salt and baking soda and sift into butter mixture
Blend in chocolate chips
Blend in oats

Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet
Bake 10 minutes
Let sit on baking sheet 2 minutes
Move to rack to finish cooling

For the Peanut Butter variety:
Substitute sucanat for the evaporated cane juice crystals
Add 1/2 C chunky peanut butter

Banana Oat Pancakes

We love pancakes in our house.  They are a great, easy to make, healthy, whole grain breakfast.  Throw in some fresh fruit and maybe a little homemade Greek yogurt and it’s the perfect meal to start your day…filling, nutritious, blood-sugar balancing, and, most importantly, delicious.

I love it when I find a recipe that is so perfect it doesn’t need anything else.  This recipe is one of them.  From my King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book it’s a recipe that is a consistent favorite.  I love the fact that it’s made from whole grains.  Although I make my own oat flour by grinding oat groats you can easily make it at home by placing old fashioned oats in the food processor or blender and blending it until it reaches a fine consistency.  If that’s more than you are willing to do you can also just buy it, both Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill sell oat flour or you can get certified gluten-free oat flour from Legacy Valley or Cream Hill Estates.

As a quick side note, oats do not have gluten in them.  However they tend to be grown near, stored with or transported with other glutinous grains, most specifically wheat.  Certified producers grow and process only oats, guaranteeing that there is no cross-contamination.

One of the things that my family likes so much about this recipe is that it is very fluffy.  You don’t realize that these are whole grain oat pancakes they are that light and airy.  The bananas combined with the cinnamon and nutmeg make it a delicious way to start your day.  I also like having another great recipe that allows me to use up any almost over-ripe bananas.

King Arthur Flour’s Banana-Oat Pancakes

3 small bananas mashed
2 T. unsalted butter melted (use organic)
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. sugar (I reduce this to 1 t. as the bananas when they are this ripe have a lot of natural sugars)
2 eggs
1 C. oat flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg

Stir together the mashed bananas, butter, lemon juice and sugar in a medium bowl.
Beat in the eggs.
Whisk together the oat flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a small bowl.
Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.
Stir the batter just until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.
Check to be sure the batter is thin enough for your pancakes; you may need to add a touch of milk or water (I never do)
Let the batter sit 10 minutes before using.

Heat a nonstick griddle or heavy skillet.
If your surface is not non-stick brush it lightly with vegetable oil.
When the surface is ready spoon batter 1/4 C. at a time into the pan.
Let the pancakes cook on the first side until bubbles begin to for around the edges, 3-4 minutes.
When the pancakes are just beginning to set flip then and let them cook on the second side, about 1 1/2 minutes more.

KA suggests you can sprinkle toasted walnuts over the batter just before cooking as an extra treat.

Sources for oat flour:


Chocolate Granola

Today we have a special treat as my friend Christine shares her chocolate granola recipe. I’ve always loved granola because it’s a quick healthy breakfast, a great snack; it’s also quick and easy to make. One of the other great things about granola is how it can be changed around to suit individual tastes. The idea of making it in a crockpot, is a big “wow” because it doesn’t get any easier than that.

Christine shared the following thoughts with me, “A friend had told me a little about using dark chocolate. Apparently, it contains ‘good’ fats, that our bodies need to digest properly. I began to think about the other good fats I’ve been trying to feed my family, coconut, olive oil, and nuts, etc. Chocolate granola sounded like a good breakfast food. I knew from prior experience that a little coconut oil at breakfast helped me control my appetite. I found a basic recipe and substituted some things and added a few. It smelled wonderful – kind of like chocolate potporri all day. When all seven of us like something, its a keeper! This one will be a regular breakfast item for our family.”

With the addition of ground flax and coconut oil this recipe provides some great fatty acids (flax seeds have omega-3 while coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids). These healthy fats help provide saiety, or fullness, which means it helps fill you up. Dark chocolate and cocoa provide antioxidants, especially epicatechin (found also in green tea) which protect against cardiovascular disease.

Here’s Christine’s recipe, as she says it’s a big hit with her family, I’m sure it will be for yours as well.

Chocolate Granola
Mix in crock pot:

7 C. organic old fashioned oats
1/2 C. ground flax
1/4 C. organic brown sugar
1/2 C. shredded coconut
Pinch of sea salt
½ C. raw honey
2 T. maple syrup
¼ C. coconut oil
2 T. cocoa powder

Mix well and heat on low all day, stir once in while.

After slightly browned (4-6 hours on low) stir in:
½ C. 70% chocolate or darker, finely chopped
1 C. chopped almonds & walnuts

Cool completely then store in an airtight container

Chocolate granola photo courtesy of Christine Michael Gibson

Strawberry-colada Scones

Having leftover fresh ground flour from the ricotta pancakes I decided to make some scones. Scones are great. Not as dense as muffins, the right size for a snack and, like muffins, very pliable to modification. Rummaging around the pantry and fridge revealed some strawberry yogurt and the last little bit of shredded coconut so strawberry-colada became the flavor of the day. Unfortunately I did not have any fresh or dried strawberries which I think would have made these scones even better; the currants worked well but the scones were a little light in the strawberry flavor. In the future I’ll make sure to have strawberries available the next time I want to bake these.

In the past when I have made scone recipes using fresh ground flour I find that sometimes they are more dense than I’d like. Wanting to make sure these were light more fluffy I separated the egg. If you are using a whole grain flour you may want to do the same.
Strawberry-Colada Scones
1 C. oat flour
1 C. brown rice flour
1/3 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
generous pinch of sea salt
1 C. strawberry yogurt
1 egg separated
1/4 C. coconut oil melted
1/2 C. currants
1/2 C. shredded coconut
preheat oven to 400
beat egg whites until peak forms, set aside
mix together egg yolk, coconut oil and yogurt until fully blended
in a separate bowl mix together flour, cane juice crystals, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
add dry mixture to yogurt mixture until just moistened
gently fold in currants and shredded coconut
gently fold in egg whites
drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet
bake 15 minutes or until golden brown
let cool 2 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to rack

Ricotta Pancakes With Honey Glazed Plums

Cooking and baking is always an adventure. Inspiration is all around you if you are open to it. There’s no real explanation for why or how ideas come together but I can honestly say that frequently it’s a matter of “oh gosh there’s X in the fridge and I better use it up.” Then I make something using that ingredient. Most of the time I make tried and true recipes, either my own or those from trusted cookbooks. Sometimes the inspiration is something I ate elsewhere that I really liked and have been given the recipe. Other times the recipes find me but I somehow can’t help playing with them a little bit.

Such is the case with today’s breakfast. The inspiration was a click-through twitter post that brought me to Almost Bourdain’s (AB’s) blog, which I just discovered and like a lot. He credits his inspiration for this recipe to Bill Granger, I credit my inspiration to him. It’s kind of neat how that works, we’re all connected by this idea of ricotta in pancakes but we each put a slightly different twist to it; all of them, I’m sure, very delicious.

My changes came about because I am trying to work more with gluten free recipes lately. These are for a few people I know who are faced with gluten sensitivity. It’s also, as always, inspired by what I have on hand. AB’s version calls for bananas and honeycomb. I didn’t have enough bananas but did have plums. Didn’t have any honeycomb either (and I miss my friends from CT who used to supply me with it) but I did have honey. Together with some breakfast sausage this made a great meal and is definitely on the repeat again list. I hope you like it too.

Ricotta Pancakes with Honey Glazed Plums

For pancakes:

1 1/3 C. ricotta cheese
3/4 C. buttermilk (for a little tang to offset the honey glazed plums)
4 eggs separated
1/2 C. fresh ground oat flour
1/2 C. fresh ground brown rice flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
pinch salt

beat egg whites until peaks form, set aside
mix ricotta, egg yolks, vanilla, and buttermilk together until well blended
mix together flours, baking powder and salt
gently add flours into ricotta mixture
gently fold egg whites into mixture until just blended
drop by 1/4 C. measure into medium hot, greased pan
after 2 minutes flip to cook other side

For honey-glazed plums:

2 plums
2 T. honey
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. butter

cut plums into bite sized pieces
toss with honey and cinnamon
in a medium-hot pan melt butter
add plum mixture and stir until plums begin to soften just a little (about 7 minutes)

serve pancakes with plums on top

Honestly these were fabulous. I would even consider serving them as a dessert by making the pancakes smaller and putting a dollop of creme fraiche on top with a dusting of cinnamon.

Baking With Steel Cut Oats

My friend Tracy recently wrote in and asked what to do with the leftover steel cut oats she has.  Her family doesn’t really like eating oatmeal for breakfast in the summer and she’d like to use up the oats rather than leaving them to sit until next winter.

Steel cut oats are very coarsely chopped oat groats.  They cook up hearty and nutty, are tasty and have a lot of fiber making them a great choice for those who eat oats.  They can also be used for so much more than just oatmeal.  I have used them in chocolate chip “oatmeal” cookies when I was out of oatmeal.  I just substituted an equal amount of steel cut oats for the oatmeal.  The substitution does change the baking time a little so you need to watch them a more closely.  

Another good use for steel cut oats is to grind them in a food processor or coffee grinder to get an oat flour which can then be used in a lot of different recipes.  Oat flour tends to be lighter than wheat flour and has no gluten so it won’t rise well.  This flour however is excellent for making cookies, biscotti, scones, muffins, and quick breads.  

My favorite use by far is to create steel cut oat pudding.  I was introduced to this by a friend from England and it is a truly yummy dessert.  It’s fabulous all by itself and absolutely wonderful when served with vanilla ice cream.  

Freydis’ Fabulous Pudding

1 C. steel cut oatmeal
4 C. water
1 C. milk
2 eggs
1 C. sucanat
2 T. butter
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 C. raisins

Toast the oatmeal in a pan until lightly browned. 
Bring the water to a boil, add the oatmeal, reduce heat and cook 20 minutes until done
Preheat oven to 350 deg F
Oil the inside of a 1.5 quart baking dish
In a large bowl mix together milk, eggs, sucanat, butter and cinnamon
Add in raisins and oatmeal
Pour into baking dish
Bake 30-35 minutes until done

Can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Option:  Sometimes I vary this by substituting apple pie spice for the cinnamon and chopped dried apple for the raisins.  Delicious!


photo courtesy of

Great Granola

The kitchen is fragrant with the smells of baking granola right now. Steve and the kids like to eat it as a bowl of cereal, I prefer it as a garnish on top of a bowl of yogurt and fruit, as an added treat to a bowl of muesli, or as a crumb topping for making muffins. One of the reasons that I like to make my own granola is because I can control the flavor and the sweetness; I also believe I save money by making my own.

Bear Naked Apple Cinnamon Granola is $4.85 for approximately 3 cups, Kashi Mountain Medley Granola is $4.56 for approximately 3.5 cups and my homemade version comes out at around $3.65 for 6 cups. Because I want less sugar in my granola it is admittedly less crunchy but we find it to be very flavorful and enjoy it a lot. Taste testings with friends and family shows that they like it too.
The most recent batch is apricot, raisin, walnut, cinnamon. The kids were very eager to “taste test” it as it came out of the oven, I had to fend them off with my mixing spoon so that it could cool properly.
preheat oven to 350F
3 T. honey
3 T. molasses
1/3 C. oil
4 C. rolled oats
1 C. nuts, chopped
1 C. dried fruit
1/4 C. flax seed, ground
1 t. vanilla
spices, optional (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc)
In a small pot on the stove mix honey, molasses and oil
Heat until just starting to bubble, stirring to mix well
Place oats in a large ovenproof dish
Pour liquid mixture over oats and stir well to coat evenly
Bake for 10 minutes
Remove from oven, stir well, add nuts and return to oven
Bake for 10 minutes
Remove from oven, stir well, add dried fruit and return to oven
Bake for 10 minutes
Remove from oven, stir well, add flax seeds, vanilla and any spices if desired
Let cool completely before storing in a container