These, friends, are days of planning and chaos. Days of looking forward, living in anticipation, projected towards what we have planned and wished for us; and days that are all about the present, about proceeding with my eyes focused on my feet. Changes are happening, and sometimes, the thought of lifting my eyes and seeing the unknown paralyses me.
I am trying to stay positive, though, and hopeful. It takes a huge leap of courage to make change happen in life, even when we aren’t completely happy with the way it is going. And I am learning from this man sitting next to me, that being content isn’t just enough: that in this one life we get to live we need to be protagonists rather than spectators. I am learning that no change happens without a bit of thrill, and that fresh starts are never easy. I believe in these words he tells me, and I am proud of him for not wanting to settle down into something that doesn’t represent him and make him feel worthwhile. No one should spend their life doing something that doesn’t make them happy. I stand by this statement – it will be my mantra from now on.
Meanwhile, as my mental energies are occupied in other tasks, my culinary creativity remains pretty dormant. I put on the table no-brainier classics and easy meals, things I know I can go back to whenever things get busy and food shifts from the top of our priority pyramid down to the very bottom. But as dinners become more and more a last-minute, end-of-the-day activity, thrown together in no time between the end of my Yoga class and the time Jesse comes home, breakfasts are planned and made ahead, designed to last and sustain us throughout these mentally busy days and beyond. We shifted from just-in-time porridge and overnight muesli bowls to large batches of granola, double recipes of banana bread, and trays of baked oatmeal. These usually last a week and require no night-before prepping or morning cooking – which is exactly what we have been trying to avoid.
This baked oatmeal has been a long-time favourite now. It combines a healthy and mildly sweet, soft and dense base full of shredded vegetables (namely, carrots), with a generous topping of crunchy nuts and seeds toasted in a light coating of coconut oil and maple syrup. The contrast of textures is strikingly delightful, leading to believe you are actually eating something quite decadent rather than intrinsically healthy. Yes, it is healthy, but also nourishing, so much that a little piece goes a long way. Plus it is really delicious, especially when lightly warmed up and covered in thick yoghurt.
The plan is to make it on Sunday afternoon so that it feeds us almost all the way to the next weekend –it usually lasts us four days. But it is great for the weekend as well, perhaps as part of a richer brunch. Let it fit your rhythm and your needs, alleviate your daily little tasks, and allow you to make time for greater goals –it really has the ability to do so, among many other things.
The recipe comes from The Green Kitchen Stories. After many experiments with different ingredient combinations on both the base and the topping, I have settled on this version, which happens to be vegan. Hazelnuts are our nut of choice here, as they add an almost chocolate flavour to the mixture and pair really well with carrots.
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 1/3 cups grated raw carrot (about 4)
- a handful raisins
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds + 6 Tbsp water (or 2 eggs)
- 2 1/4 cups oat milk (or other milk)
- 4 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, room temperature + extra for greasing the pan
- 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted (or other nuts)
- 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or other seeds)
Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C). Combine the rolled oats, baking powder, spices and salt in a mixing bowl, then add grated carrots and raisins and stir to mix.
In a separate bowl, beat the chia gel, add the milk and whisk well to combine.
To create the crunchy top layer, put the maple syrup, coconut oil, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds in a small bowl and mix with your fingers until everything is well coated.
Transfer the oat mixture into a squared (about 25x25cm) baking dish. Pour the wet mixture over the oats so everything is evenly soaked. Sprinkle the seed and nut mixture on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the oatmeal is set and the nuts and seeds lightly browned. Leave to cool slightly before serving –we love it with plain full-fat yoghurt.
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