I know that this little packet is convenient.  I’ve always kept one in my day bag incase I arrive somewhere with out breakfast.  They weigh almost nothing and can feed a hungry hiker with just a little clean, hot water.

But do we really need this convenience when we’re NOT on the go?  Do I have to tear open two little packets (one is never enough) when I’m eating breakfast at home?  I’ve intentionally avoided these little boxed treats because of all the packaging required, but I also really miss my oatmeal!

And oatmeal is GREAT for you.
An excerpt from awarefitness.com says, “Oatmeal is considered a nutritionally-dense food.  It contains protien, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B6, iron, calcium, thiamine, riboflavin, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, magnanese and trace amounts of vitamin E, folic acid and potassium.”

Let’s remember, however, how much sugar and artificial flavoring goes into some of the flavored packets.  If you ARE going to go instant, try to choose a simple flavor, like Trader Joes, “Oats and Flax.”

So, how am I going to beat the packets and still get my complete grains?  Just a little planning ahead I learned from a French neighbor years ago.  Her young son was fighting a brain tumor and she was determined to battle it and replenish his immune system from the draining chemo and surgeries with a healthy diet.  When the doctor told her to give him fruit loops for breakfast, she laughed in his face.  Knowing his need for nutrient-dense foods, she prepared steel cut oats for breakfast every morning, adding honey, cinnamon and dried fruit for flavor, and probably sneaking some flax for added nutrition.

What are Steel Cut Oats?

“Steel cut oats are exactly what their name implies: whole oat groats (the whole grain separated from the shaft and husk) that have been cut into little pieces using giant steel blades.   The oats can be chopped into different sizes, from large pieces to very fine, small pieces.  The advantage to steel cut oats is that they have a faster cooking time than whole oat groats, while maintaining all of the nutritional value of the whole grain.”  (awarefitness.com)

The disadvantage?  They take 20+ minutes to cook on the stove, instead of 3 minutes in the microwave.  Even my stay-at-home mom voisine didn’t have 20 minutes every morning to prepare oatmeal for her 3 year old.  Besides, his sleep and appetite were so off schedule, she needed to grab something edible the moment he said he was hungry, or else end up skipping a meal and handle a fussy, exhausted child.  So, she made it in large batches, in her biggest pot, and stored it in small single serving containers in the fridge and freezer.  Three minutes in the microwave (or less) and hot steel cut oats were ready to go.

Now, don’t be alarmed, no one in our household has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  But when I started to miss my oats I thought, “should only sick people be on a healthy diet?”  Absolutely not!  I decided to give her process a try and see if we could kick the packet and have our oats, too.

Steel Cut Oats, dry.

Steel Cut Oats in Oakland:
I’ve seen steel cut oats in several grocery stores.  Trader Joes sells an “Irish Porridge” which is very good and comes in nice, reusable cans.  But after my second can, I thought, I don’t need any more of these cans!  So I stopped into Lakeshore Produce (right beside Trader Joes by Peet’s Coffee) and bought several scoops of bulk steel cut oats to refill my empty container.  Sorry TJs, I just don’t need any more trash!

Oatmeal cooling on the stove, next to a jar of almond meal and Marshall's honey.

This week, my big batch recipe was:

2 cups of Steel Cut Oats (Lakeshore Produce)
8 cups of boiling water (Oakland Tap)
2 tblspoons Almond Meal (Stack House Bros Orchards)
4 tblspoons honey (Marshalls’ East Bay Wildflower)
1/4 cup whole milk/cream (Straus)
1/2 cup dried apple pieces (various winter farmers markets)

Pour the oats into the pot of boiling water.  After 5 minutes on a rapid boil, bring the temperature down to low and cover.  Stir frequently to make sure it doesn’t boil over during the next 10 minutes.  The oats will start to thicken, after which you can cover and leave mostly unattended with the heat very low (just don’t want it to burn to the bottom of the pan).  As the oats thicken, I stir the milk or cream (don’t let it boil or the dairy will curdle) then the honey and eventualy the almond flour and dried fruit.  Then I turn the heat off and leave the lid on to let it cool very slowly.  If you havn’t had breakfast, scoop out a bowl for yourself.

Single serving oatmeal containers ready for the week's breakfasts.

Once the oatmeal has cooled, you can scoop it out into smaller serving containers and store in the fridge (about a week) or freezer (months if your container is airtight).

A note about Almond Meal:
Another Farmers Market Splurge, I picked up a 16 oz bag of Almond Meal from the Stackhouse table at the Jack London Square Farmers Markets.  I understand that Stackhouse almonds are widely distributed on the west coast, but they are gown in Hickman (near Modesto).  I think Almond Meal is a new item for them, and the vendor had me at, “I like to add it to my oatmeal.”  Done!  With the amount of meat we DON’T eat, I need all the extra protien I can get!  I’m sure it’s also delicious in scones or cookies….

A note about dried apples:
I love my Excalibor dehydrator.  All winter I dry apples and citrus.  In the summer strawberries, tomatoes nectarines and apricots. In the fall, persimmons!  We always have dried fruit on hand, it’s like a little memory of the last season, so sweet it’ll spoil you!  If you want to dry fruit, try to buy fruit at it’s peak, when many vendors are offering and prices are good in large quantities.  I once got a flat of organic tomatoes at 50 cents a pound through a CSA u-pick!

More Oatmeal Ideas
I just have to add this link to an ENDLESS amount of recipes for homemade oatmeal, all the flavor combos you could imagine plus the ones you haven’t, like coconut milk or peanutbutter-chocolate chip!
http://www.mrbreakfast.com/subcategory.asp?categoryid=4&subcategoryid=7

An update from La Voisine:
Our formers neighbor’s sick 3-year-old recently turned 6 and started kindergarten in complete remission.  Let’s hear it for steel cut oats!

Unfortunate Oat Fact:
” …today, less than 5 percent of all oats commercially grown in the U.S. are used for human consumption — the vast majority still finds its way into livestock feed.”

I have found Massa Organics for local rice.  Any idea who’s growing Oats (for human consumption) in this country?

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This weekend was the Inaugural Oakland Running Festival, featuring 5 different races, a huge festival at Ogawa Park and lots and lots of hungry runners. Our apartment was on the race path, so yours truly offered to host the watching AND after party, since Mr. Yours Truly was running the half marathon.

Breakfast was easy with scones and coffee. I thought I was going to have to make a run to Arezmendi for scones, but after a visit to Jackies Secret Garden, I learned how to make scones at home. So easy!! Really, I’m not much of a baker, but these were gone as soon as I put ’em on the table. Click here for the Alice Waters recipe that I followed, using Straus Whipping Cream, whole wheat pastry flour from Whole Foods, and a handfull of pecans (broken into pieces) from Lakeshore Produce.

First bunch of asparagus spears. I later added more to this bag, grilled them, then added more asparagus to the same bag.

The besides the marathon, the second best thing about this weekend was the second week of asparagus season in Watsonville! We scooped up several  bunches of organic asparagus at the Jack London Square Farmers Market the week before. The night before the race, I put them in a large zip lock bag with the juice of one lemon, a table spoon of salt, a table spoon of pepper and enough olive oil to coat all the spears. I zipped the bag shut, shook ’em up enough to get them evenly coated, and put them in the fridge. Becasue I was hosting breakfast AND lunch AND needed to get away to watch the finish line, I needed REALLY quick and REALLY easy on Sunday.

The next thing I prepped ahead was potatoes. I boiled 8 large russet potatoes on Saturday night and then put them in the fridge to cool over night. When I woke up the next morning the were nice and firm and easy to cut. I cut them into bite size cubes for potato salad:

Grandma’s Potato Salad:
8 russet potatoes, boiled and cooled overnight (Any farmers market in Oakland should have russet potatoes now)
5 green onions, diced to make scallions (these are really easy to grow!)
1/2 a cup of mayo (didn’t have enough eggs to make my own, so I used Spectrum Organic Mayo from Farmer Joes)
1/4 cup of spicy mustard (Sierra Nevada is the closest brand I’ve found to ‘local’)
1/4 cup of white pepper vinegar (I keep a jar of white vinegar with several little green chiles to spice it up)
1 tblspoon dried dill

Cube the cold potatoes, place in a bowl and add the scallions. Leave the skins on, that’s where all the nutrients are. If you don’t like too much

White pepper vinegar

 onion, leave off a few of the onion heads and just grill them. I promise, someone will eat them! In a separate bowl, mix “dressing” ingredients. Pour over potatoes and mix will with a spatula. With this amount, I needed to use two bowls for mixing, then I could combine them in a serving bowl.
Other great things my grandmother used to add (but that I didn’t have) are boiled eggs, chopped
green olives, chopped
pickled artichoke hearts, chopped
picked beats, chopped

Sorry I didn’t take a picture, it was so popular it went faster than I could get the camera!

Our guests brought enough other treats to fill the grill several rounds.  There were nopalitos, thin sliced zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions of all size and of course, sausage (chicken, kilbasa, lamb and port from Farmer Joe’s).  The biggest miracle is how much was eaten before 5pm! 

Each week we attempt to stay within a budget at the Farmer’s Market. With some creativity, I can keep the weekly trip under $20.   However, we occasionally splurge on some of the great meats, cheeses, jams, honey and other items with a $10+ price tag. Last week, it was almond flour at the Jack London Square Farmers Market, this week, while I was chasing chickens around Funk Town, Mr. Oakland Garden Kitchen brought home a $15 filet of white sea bass (I’m sure it has another, non-bass name) from the fish vendor under the freeway at Grand Lake Farmers Market.  These guys are based in Santa Cruz and consolidate the catches of many independant fisherman taking their fruit de mer  to a different market each day.   While I have no idea if they follow any seafood watch guidlines, I do know that their fish is never frozen and always within 24 hrs fresh from the Pacific. Catch them at the Monterey market on Tuesdays. 

Another activity at Funk Town Farm this week involved harvesting alot of mint and cilantro, which put me in a Carribean mood all weekend. With a little help from allreicpes.com, I  merged a few recipes to make a cilantro-mint sauce for the fish dinner tonight. Here’s what happened in my kitchen tonight:

Diced:

Cilantro-Mint Sauce simmering on the stove

2 cloves garlic
1/4 red bell pepper
1/4 yellow bell pepper
1/4 red onion
one of the little dried chilis hanging in my kitchen window.  (The recipe called for crushed red pepper).

I sauteed all these lovely local veggies (most of them the end of the sautee-stash from last week’s market) in a few tblspoons of olive oil.  As the onions and peppers softened, I diced up one medium size tomato (organic tomatoes are slowing coming back into season!) and added it to the pan.  Cooked a little more, hunted around my fridge for a dry white wine. 

White Sea Bass, Cilantro-mint sauce, quinoa and black beans

Luck!  Half a bottle of inexpensive sauvignon blanc.  I added 1.5 cups to the skillet.  As the wine warmed up to a sizzle, I added a little salt and pepper to the juicey mixture.

Per an online recipe, I added the fish filet to the pan, spooned a little bit of the sauce over the fish, and covered the pan, letting the fish cooked for 10 minutes.  This was a thick filet, so after 10 minutes, it wasn’t quite flakey enough for me.   I covered it again and let it simmer for 2 more minutes.

Fishy closeup

In the mean time, I washed and chopped up about two cups of mint and cilantro.  I had so much that I washed and spun the green leaves together in a salad spinner.  Then I balled ’em all up, transferred the wad to my cutting board, and chop chop chop with a knife.  I think this is something like what the french call “chiffonade.”  I was just trying not to get overwhelmed by sheer volume of herbs.

Once the fish was cooked, I removed the filet to put it in baking dish with a lid.  I left the dish, covered, on the stove near warm eye so it wouldn’t get to cold.  If I was thinking ahead, I would have had the oven on warm and the dish also warm.  But in the end the fish was warm enough to serve.

Meanwhile, I added 2 tblspoons of butter to the brothy sauce and simmered for about ten minutes, stirring regularly, until it reduced by about half.  I added in the mint and cilantro, stirred just long enough for everything to heat through, and then started fixin’ our plates.

Because Mr. OGK is also training for a marathon, I fixed a side of quinoa and reheated some black beans from an earlier meal.  Quinoa is very easy to prepare, somewhat like couscous, and is high in protein.  It is grown at high altitude in the Andes mountains, so sorry Oakland, it’s not local.  However, I bought it (in bulk) at the little independant grocer on Lakeshore (Lakeshore Produce) and I’m inspired to do some research into how the export of quinoa effects the mountain villages of Peru and Bolivia.

The black beans were also a bulk purchase, dry, from a grocer in Fruitvale.  I have no idea where they get their dried black beans, any leads anyone? 

So, with our exotic grains and our market splerge on fish, we enjoyed a lovely, light, yet filling fish dinner.  I finished off the sauvingon blank and Mr. Marathon-in-training had a tall glass of water with a splash of lemon juice and a sprig of mint.  Spring on the Pacific Coast is pretty fabulous.

a FRESH success!

March 15, 2010

Thanks to everyone who helped make FRESH the movie happen in Oakland on Saturday!  If you missed the event, or skipped on all the paper, download a PDF of the brochure with contact info for participating exhibitors and tips on buying, growing, and eating local food.

Some highlights of the event were:

Incredible Mexican Food! Leticia, the owner of Taco Grill, donated all the proceeds of her sales to our cause of the night, subsidizing Grub Boxes for low-income families through People’s Grocery.  Did you know that her tacos, sopes, casadillas and all her food is make from organically grown and locally sourced produce, even the meat, cheese and eggs!  What an amazing opperation.  Please visit her restaurant in Fruitvale, 3340 E 12th St. right accross from the BART station. http://taco-grill.blogspot.com/

Three Fabulous CSAs are waiting for you to join!
Shooting Star:  Lily and Matt were there to show us how they grow organic produce in  Fairfield, just 40 miles from the Bay Area.  Visit their brand new website and sign up online: http://www.shootingstarcsa.com/Shooting_Star_CSA/Join_our_CSA.html
EatWellFarms: Morgan brought samples of their amazing pastured eggs, which are available in their CSA boxes.  Sign up online at http://eatwell.com/community/apform.html and be sure to use the promocode FRESH10 to save $17!
FarmFreshtoYou: Richard from Farm Fresh to You showed us the amazing variety and flexibility of their home delivery CSA.  Email Richard to get that $10 voucher and sign up for a CSA box.  richard.farmfresh@gmail.com

Sai from Star Apple Edible Gardens was there to show us how he can turn your back yard into an edible oasis.  A big thanks to Sai for volunteering to turn Funk Town Farm in to a high producing urban wonderland, we can’t wait to see the transformation!  Visit their new website at http://www.starappleediblegardens.com/

And Jon from Earthbox also showed those of us who are apartment bound how to grow food without a yard.  To find out how to get started, email Jon jondeme@hotmail.com.  What a great neighbor!

All the art work from the show DIGEST is still available for purchase, including those $10 original prints by Benjamin Chan.  Proceeds for Ben’s prints still go to People’s Grocery, only 60 prints made, all are signed.  Contact Dave Kim, daveyoungkim@gmail.com for details or stop by Regeneration Church on Sundays 8am-11am or 5pm-9pm.

An amazing panel of food justice activists joined us from Mandela Foods, Phat Beets Produce and People’s Grocery. Like Nikki said, don’t forget to stop by Mandela Grocery and for groceries next time you head to the West Oakland Bart.

Mandela Foods Cooperative
1430 Seventh Street
Oakland, CA 94607
510.452.1133

hours:
Monday-Friday 7am-7pm
Saturday 10am-6pm
Sunday 10am-4pm

Finally, if you helped support us by posting a flyer, stop back in the business, thank them for their support and take the flyer down.  We hope they keep supporting community events like ours!