Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Good News About the Health Benefits of Oats

Last week there were some good news for porridge lovers, specifically concerning oats and oatmeal. Oats have long been recognized for their ability to lower levels of harmful cholesterol. Research has also shown that oats can produce a lowering of glycemic response, body weight, and blood pressure, as well as increasing satiety. In many countries products containing oats are allowed to be marketed as health products because the link to improved health has been sufficiently well researched. The main benefit comes from the beta-glucan that oats contain, but research that was presented last week suggest that there might be other components in oats that add to the health benefits. Here's The Telegraph reporting from the Annual Conference of the American Chemical Society in Dallas:

"Researchers said studies suggest that a bioactive compound called avenanthramide could stop fat forming in the arteries, causing heart attacks and strokes.
Dr Shengmin Sang, from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University said: “While the data to support the importance of oat beta-glucan remains, these studies reveal that the heart health benefit of eating oats may go beyond fibre.
“As the scientific investigators dig deeper, we have discovered that the bioactive compounds found in oats may provide additional cardio-protective benefits.”
Researchers believe that the bioactive compounds in oats could stop fat formation in the arteries, which can become a condition called atherosclerosis."
Oatmeal is not just healthy, but delicious! Check out our easy beginner's recipe for Basic Rolled-Oats Porridge that you can  eat as such or spice up with nuts, berries and whatever else you find in your cupboard; the Fridge Porridge that you make overnight and don't even need to cook; and, for the connoisseurs or on a rainy day, the fantastic Scotsman (oatmeal with whiskey, cream & honey).

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Strawberry Quinoa Porridge

The last couple of weeks I have been experimenting with Quinoa porridge. Unlike rice, I don't think quinoa "just becomes" porridge by cooking it. I think it needs some extra ingredients to become a dish in it's own right and not just feel like you're eating a side dish. This recipe was inspired by a recipe I originally saw on Pinterest, which looks delicious but I haven't tried it yet because it seems more like a dessert. Here's my take on strawberry quinoa.

Strawberry Quinoa Porridge

What you need (one serving)
1/3 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 dollop or small teaspoon of coconut oil (not absolutely 
necessary but gives a fuller taste)
pinch of salt
1/2 small mashed banana
2-4 chopped strawberries (depending on size and 
taste and whether fresh or frozen)
1 tsp brown sugar (and some extra to sprinkle on top)

Put the quinoa, water, milk, coconut oil and salt in a non-stick pan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 15-20minutes under a lid. If needed, add a little more water. When it's done, turn off the heat and mix in the mashed banana. Pour the contents into a bowl and mix in the strawberries and brown sugar. Just before eating, add a sprinkle of brown sugar on top.

The mashed banana and strawberries add sweetness to the porridge, and I've made the porridge both with and without the added sugar. Both work, but some days I just really love that extra bit of sweetness, and brown sugar has such a great taste. When me and my sisters were little we used to add syrup (the kind that would be called molasses in Canada, is it a North American thing?) to all our porridges if our mom would let us, and as much as she'd let us, and I still just love it. Brown sugar has that same particular taste and I love it. Did I say that already?

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Rye, Walnut and Date Porridge

Rye porridge is almost as common as oatmeal in Finland, which means you can find rye flakes right next to the oats in any Finnish supermarket. Not so in Vancouver - I had to go out to Whole Foods to get me some.

Rye is a good source of nutrients and, according to the Worlds Healthiest Foods website, can even help stabilize menopausal symptoms, so it has a lot going for it besides the great taste.

The basic recipe for rye porridge is really simple. Take 1 part rye flakes to 3 parts water (for some reason rye porridge is almost never made with milk where I come from, it really works better with just water), bring it to a boil and let simmer for about 10-20minutes depending on what consistency you like. Soaking the flakes overnight shortens the cooking time considerably so you almost just need to heat it. Throw in a pinch of salt to taste and add a small knob of butter and some sugar when it's in the bowl, and add some milk on the side if you want to.

Now, although I've never disliked rye porridge, I also never got very excited about it. That's why I'd like to share a recipe that came about as a consequence of my recent discovery of the food processor. It makes the porridge creamier, fuller, and gives it a sweetness that I think works better than added sugar, and I love it! It's delicious.

Ingredients for 1 portion
1/2 a cup of rye flakes
ca 1 1/2-2 cups of water (less if you've soaked the rye flakes)
pinch of salt
a handful or about 1/4 of a cup of walnuts
3-4 dates

Bring the water to a boil (leaving a little bit to the side to add if needed), add the rye flakes and a pinch of salt, and then let it simmer under a lid for about 15 minutes (if you don't use a lid you just need to add more water). While the porridge is simmering, put the walnuts in the food processor (I use a small Braun one, it holds about 2 cups). Using a sharp chopping blade, give them a twirl for a couple of seconds, then add the dates and chop them down almost to a paste. They can't really get too small, but if the pieces are too big they won't mix perfectly with the porridge and will be more like add-ons. When the porridge has simmered about 15 minutes (it's good if it's still a tiny bit watery), take it off the heat and mix in almost all of the walnut-date paste. The porridge will instantly turn a bit lighter and creamier. Sprinkle the rest of the paste/mix on top and serve.

Rye, walnut and date porridge. Yumyum!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Slow and lazy

If you fancy something delicious but you really don't want to work for it, go for barley porridge made in the oven. The only thing you need is time.

Ok, you also need 2 dl of whole barley grains, 1,5 litres of milk and 1 tsp of salt. You can also throw in a knob of butter, if you want. And you need an oven dish with high edges.

This is what you do: Preheat the oven to 150°. Butter your oven dish. Put the ingredients in the dish and put it in the oven, on the lowest level. Take it out 3 hrs later and let it sit for a while. Eat with some fresh berries or throw some frozen ones in a blender..

So good! And very different from the stove top barley porridge I wrote about a while ago. Not creamy and thick, but with a really nice roasted flavour.

When I told my dad that I had made this kind of porridge, he got nostalgic and told me his grandmother used to make it when he was little. He also recommended that you fry any leftover porridge in butter the next day and you'll get a nice treat.