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good-for-you granola

The Brooklyn Public Library has become my freelance workspace of choice, since I am notoriously poorly-disciplined. Being in a public space rather than at my kitchen table stops me from constant mindless eating, and having randoms able to see my computer screen deters me somewhat from dallying on gossip and recipe sites. That’s right, my primary method of procrastination is now menu-planning. It’s pretty tragic. But staking out a space on the second floor at BPL, near the window overlooking Prospect Park if I’m lucky, seems to help. Unlike working in cafes, there’s no need to feel guess-I-should-buy-a-muffin-guilty about hogging space and wifi – although the Central library has a super cheap cafe of its own. There’s no status anxiety of having the only non-Mac laptop – I guess I am amongst my people in the library.

Anyway, I’m getting distracted by my library love – she’s been closed since the storm, I hope the damage hasn’t been too bad – from the real purpose of this post. Because there’s a fatal flaw in my library workspace, which is that my favourite desks are in the wing that houses all the natural science books, which includes books about food. So as I’m walking to my safe space of no-recipe-porn, I have to walk past a constantly changing display of recipe-porn books. DO’H!

Last week I got distracted by one called Forks Over Knives The Cookbook. I plucked it from the display and lost about an hour of work-time leafing through it. Forks Over Knives is all about a plant-based diet, cutting out meats, animal products and processed foods as a way to improve health and lose weight. There’s a documentary of the same name, and it turns out it’s one of the better-known, better-loved vegan bibles. Now, I’m a meat lover and could never part with eggs or cheese, but I recognise the value in a mostly plant-based lifestyle. I do, however, usually shy away from vegan/whole foods recipes. Not because they don’t look delicious (have you seen Sprouted Kitchen?), but just because they seem so much more complicated. So once I skimmed the introduction of Forks Over Knives and realised what kind of recipes I was dealing with, I didn’t expect to be drawn in by many of the dishes. Wrong!

The breakfast recipes snared me first, and after a test-batch and a proper batch, I know this granola is going to be on permanent rotation in my kitchen. It’s all natural and cuts out the honey/oil of my previous go-to granola. I love the simplicity of this technique. You cook dates with water to create a natural caramel, blend it with spices and orange zest for extra flavour, and slow-bake for crunchy texture.

All-natural Baked Granola

Adapted from Forks Over Knives The Cookbook; makes 4 cups

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • ¾ cup pitted and chopped dates
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt or to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 275 F (135 C)
  2. Measure out oats into large mixing bowl, set aside. Line 2 baking trays with parchment.
  3. Place chopped dates in medium saucepan with 1 ¼ cups of water and bring to boil. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes – add more water if needed to keep dates from sticking to pan.
  4. Remove dates from heat and pour the mixture into the blender with your orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Process until it’s smooth and creamy.
  5. Add date mixture to oats and mix well. It’s so sticky I find it easiest to just use my hands. Spread the granola out on your prepared pans, I like to leave a few clumps for extra crunch. Bake for 40-50 min, stirring every 15, until crispy. Let it cool before storing in airtight containers. (Granola will get crispier as it cools.)

From this basic recipe you can play around as you see fit – add a banana to the blender, or maybe some apple would be nice. You could try using almond or coconut essence instead of vanilla. And after the granola is cooked and cooled, stir in your favourite goodies – I added cranberries and slivered almonds.

The book has some other great ideas, like porridge or muesli you can prepare the night before for an easy but nourishing breakfast.

Slow-cooker Steel Cut Oats

Adapted from Forks Over Knives The Cookbook; serves 3-4

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • ¾ cup dried fruit
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of salt

Combine oats, dried fruit and cinnamon stick and salt with 4 cups water in a slow cooker. FOK used a cup of dried apple and a cup of dates, both chopped, but I brought it back to a handful of cranberries, handful of dates and handful of dried apricots all chopped finely. Cook on low overnight, about 8 hours or until oats are tender. Remove cinnamon stick before serving with milk and grated apple, and a sprinkle of brown sugar. The fruit and spices should make it tasty enough that you don’t need much sweetener.

Soaked muesli

Another breakfast prepared overnight. Soak rolled oats (1 cup serves 2 people) with ¾ cup milk (almond milk if you want to stay plant-based), ½ cup chopped dates, ¼ cup coconut and a chopped banana. OR ½ cup raisins, ¼ tsp cinnamon, 2 Tbs molasses and 1 chopped/grated apple.

Forks Over Knives The Cookbook goes far beyond breakfast. I made a portabella and porcini mushroom stroganoff which was pretty rad. Love the look of these sweet potato home fries on the website. And I want to try the recipe for vegetable stock and a barley and sweet potato pilaf… I’ll report back!