Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Delicious New Superfood Line from Nature's Path

 Now, I'm not one to really roll with the buzzwords of "superfoods" these days. I am by far on the side of "eat good, nutritious food that is either whole or homemade". However, I am a total sucker for Nature's Path cereals (hello Doughnut Seeds) because many of them are gluten free without tasting like cardboard, and their oatmeal texture is second to none. When they approached me about testing and reviewing some of their new Superfood line of granolas and hot cereals, I jumped at the chance - especially since my family likes to "reset" our systems after the overindulgence of the holidays.
Nature’s Path was kind enough to ship me three of their newest Superfood additions: Cacao Superfood Granola, Cacao Superfood Oatmeal and Golden Turmeric Superfood Oatmeal. All these new products claim to have higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than standard granola and oatmeal, which can help support goals like stress reduction, improved immunity and better sleep patterns (as a teacher and full time student, I can really get behind that last one). 
First up was the Cacao Superfood Granola, which is made with "Fair Trade cocoa powder and crunchy cacao nibs" along with additions of maca and Lion’s Mane (mushroom) powder which have been reported to support energy metabolism. This granola uses a lower GI sugar (coconut) to sweeten, but each bite tastes like a chocolate macaroon - to me, this is definitely more of a "snacking" rather than a "cereral" offering, though I bet it would also be excellent in cookies. Like all granola, this is definitely calorie-dense (1/2 cup is 280 calories) so I strongly suggest measuring your snack or adding a tiny sprinkle to something like yogurt. Besides, if you do that the bag (approximately $7 CDN at my local store) lasts longer!

Next up is the workhorse of the winter mornings around here: oatmeal. The Golden Turmeric Superfood Oatmeal contains not just oats, but chia, hemp and buckwheat seeds as well for extra Omega fatty acids. Along with the brilliant yellow turmeric, cinnamon, pepper and ginger are added to the grains for a flavour that is almost chai-like. I don't know why, but I did expect this oatmeal to have more of a pop of flavour and sweetness to counteract the spice, but since the cereal has no salt or sugar added it allows the consumer to add their own. While the control over the breakfast is nice, my expectation is that I can simply add hot water to an instant oatmeal packet wherever I am (like work) and not have to scrounge for seasoning or sweetener. That said, it is a hearty portion that keeps you full all morning, and if you add fruit to your oats it is a unique twist on the classic porridge! Each packet contains 140 calories and 4 grams of fat with 5 grams each protein and fibre, so these are definitely a nutritious breakfast I can get behind even if salt and a touch of sweet is needed. A box of 6 packets is $6 CDN at my local store.

Last, and most exciting for me, was the Cacao Superfood Oatmeal. I am a die hard chocoholic, and this blend features not only the chia, hemp and buckwheat like the Turmeric flavour but dried coconut and MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil. MCT oil has been shown in some studies to boost your "good" cholesterol levels and is definitely a hot nutrition star these days. These packets contain more sugar than the other flavour to compensate for the bitter cacao and also has a pinch of salt which truly makes a difference! This was rich oatmeal which felt almost decadent to eat for breakfast despite it not being overwhelmingly sweet. The consensus around here is to add either chopped fruit (we liked strawberries) or a touch of jam to the prepared cereal to lighten it up a bit. Like the Turmeric Superfood Oatmeal, one packet is hearty enough to keep you full all morning and contains 140 calories, 4 grams of fat and 5 grams of fibre while containing one less gram of protein (4 grams). A box of 6 packets are $6 CDN at my local store.

All of the Superfood products are free from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, and like all Nature’s Path products, are made with only organic, non-GMO ingredients, perfect for health-conscious, mindful eaters. 

Thanks to Nature's Path for providing me with the products for this review! For more updates on Nature's Path products, follow on them on Twitter @NaturesPath and IG @NaturesPathOrganic.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Doughnut Seeds

Made some deviously decadent, gluten-free Doughnut Seeds today with cereal toasted in home rendered tallow and tossed with cinnamon sugar. Sweet enough to satisfy but not overwhelmingly so, they're a great lunchbox treat (even when you're a grown up).

I grew up close to a doughnut shop that fried their pastries in house. Walking through that plaza when they were making a fresh batch was nothing short of heaven with the aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon and the hint of "old fashioned something" from the beef tallow they added to the oil. As I got older and the shop changed hands (and methods), the experience became one I only associated with city fairs and expos. However, I never lost the memory of those bites of heaven.

While I don't deep fry anything (a bad grease burn as a kid ixnayed that!) I do have a deep appreciation for using traditional recipes and rendering my own cooking fat when possible. I started making tallow when we had large roasts that I was in charge of trimming, and now I am lucky enough that I have a fantastic butcher nearby who will sell me local, raw beef fat for pennies a pound when my jar runs low. While I usually use it (or schmaltz, or duck fat) for savoury applications, the smell of the tallow always brings me back to the old school doughnuts. I've made some "doughnut flavoured" items with it before - including a coffee cake that always seems to disappear before I can photograph it - but it wasn't until I came across a butter-toasted cereal "snack mix" in a kids' cookbook earlier this year that I figured... "why not make mini-mini doughnuts... doughnut seeds?".
Now obviously these are not your cakey, soft deep fried treat. But in all honesty, they're perfect in their own way! They are toasty, caramelized and crisp, crusted in spices and sugar and infused with the butter-tallow richness so that every handful is indescribably moreish. They store really well too (up to a week in an airtight container!) so you can pop a ziploc in your lunch and have a treat all week. While I made these with gluten free cereal, you can absolutely use your favourite (the kids at work voted a tie between Multigrain Cheerios and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios as the "best ever"). Lastly - these are easy to make and a great way to get the kids involved with measuring and tossing the cooked cereal with the sugar. With the school holidays fast approaching, it may be your ace in the hole when all the novelty of freedom has worn off!

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Fruit and Lemon Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Try this for a twist on the classic chocolate chip! Fruit and Lemon Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies are studded with dried cranberries and blueberries, chopped dark chocolate and lemon flavoured baking chips. Perfect with a mug of tea!

OK, so where did November go? Just yesterday it felt like I was wishing I could get to all my holiday baking, now just this week I delivered my first care package of goodies! In amongst all the spicy, rich and indulgent bakes of the season, I started thinking about a somewhat fresher flavour palate. For some reason, I rarely do "fruity" cookies at the holidays, but when I remembered my stash of dried blueberries and lemon chips in my pantry I was inspired. 

A relatively simple cookie dough followed suit, based on my mom's classic chocolate chip recipe. Instead of the bag of chocolate chips, I combined handfuls of dark chocolate, lemon chips, blueberries and dried cranberries which gave the dough a gorgeous colour and a bright, just-tart-enough flavour to combat the sweetness of the dough. After an overnight rest for some of the dough (I froze the rest) the cookies baked up into a beautiful light-golden brown with a crisp exterior and chewy middle studded with all the goodies. While this is definitely going on my "all year" roster, it is also going to be a hit in my next cookie boxes - especially next to classics like Chestnut Gingerbread, Scottish Fans, biscotti and Norwegian Butter Cookies.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Mesquite Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These chocolate chip cookies are thin, chewy and given a huge flavour boost from mesquite flour. A small amount goes a long way to making every bite extraordinary!

Mesquite is a flavour and aroma that usually brings into mind memories of barbecue or slow, smokey camp outs. It's one of my favourite flavours of liquid smoke, and in fact was one of N and my first memories as a couple (he ordered a sandwich with mesquite BBQ sauce on our first date). So with our anniversary rolling around in mid November, I decided to honour (or poke fun at) the occasion and dug into my stash of mesquite flour to make these cookies.

While mesquite is almost always associated with savoury foods, it actually pairs really well with rich, sweet and "dark" flavours like brown sugar and bittersweet chocolate too! I enhanced the flavour of the mesquite by adding both whole wheat flour and flaxseeds, adding a lovely nuttiness to the overall cookie. That said, because of all the "thirsty" ingredients, it is imperative that these cookies rest in the fridge at least an hour to hydrate, otherwise they will have a gritty texture. The chunks of dark chocolate become ever so slightly oozy when they bake, even when cool, and add just the sublest hint of sweet and bitter to the dough. 

These cookies are definitely a great addition to the cookie platter at the holidays, if an unusual one. You can make them big or small, adjusting the bake time as necessary, and while they don't need adornment, there is nothing stopping you from throwing on a dash of sprinkles on top before baking for a little festive flair!