Tart Cherry + Apricot Oatmeal

Just in time for summer, here’s a delicious new way to start your day.

So many athletes and active individuals tend to eat oatmeal as a morning go-to, and inevitably get stuck in a rut with the same ingredient and flavor combinations day in and day out.

Oatmeal is super nourishing, filling, fiber-rich, and generally an all-around superb breakfast option. But changing it up every now and again is also optimal to encourage digesting and absorbing a wide range of micronutrients as well as feeding diversity in the gut microbial community.

Another challenge that you might find yourself in, is that active individuals often don’t start the day with “enough” food.

Classified as a “within-day energy deficiency,” an example is starting your day with a small breakfast, slightly larger lunch, and then having a moderate to large dinner. OR expending more energy than you’ve consumed (through both activity and daily living), in the early hours of the day and not topping up the tank until hours later, creating metabolic and physiological stress.

I also used to eat this way. It was part of my restrictive eating and diet mentality paradigms.

Not only is this style of consuming most of the day’s caloric energy late in the day problematic for digestion, since eating larger meals late at night is challenging for the body to digest and negatively impacts sleep quality, but it also creates a feast and famine cycle in the mind and body.

When I was caught in this pattern, I was routinely hungry all the time because I was training fairly heavily, and not proportioning all my meals to be adequate for what I needed.

For more information on the topic of Within-Day Energy Deficiency, here and here are two great articles.
And two of the scientific studies frequently referenced on this topic:
Within-Day Energy Deficiency and Reproductive Function in Female Endurance Athletes
Within-Day Energy Deficiency and Metabolic Perturbation in Male Endurance Athletes

The portion size below is “larger” than usual, but just about right for moderately active individuals. If you’re more or less active, or in a larger or smaller body (than average), feel free to adjust portion size accordingly.

Tart Cherry + Apricot Oatmeal 

Prep:  none  | Cook: 10-15  minutes  | Serves: 1

1 1/2 cups water
1/8 tsp. mineral salt
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
⅛ tsp. ground cardamom
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats, certified gluten-free as needed
2 Tbs. dried tart cherries
2 apricots, diced (approx. 150 grams)
2-3 tsp. sunflower butter
1-2 tsp. chia seeds

  1. On the stovetop, bring the water, salt, and spices to a boil in a small saucepan.
  2. When boiling, turn down to medium-low, and stir in the oats and dried cherries. Let cook until it is soft and nearly all the water has been absorbed, about five minutes.
  3. Then add in the diced apricot and stir. Turn off the heat and stir in the sunflower butter, and chia seeds, making sure they are spread evenly throughout.
  4. Spoon into a bowl and enjoy!

Notes / Substitution Suggestions:
– adjust the spices as needed for your energetics
– omit the tart cherries and increase to three apricots
– for a smaller portion, use ½ cup rolled oats
– omit either the sunflower butter or chia seeds and double the amount of the one you keep in. 

Within my nutrition practice, I specialize in endurance athletes and digestive imbalances. If you’re curious about how to improve your performance, health, and digestion, I encourage you to reach out to me for more personalized support.

Beet and Banana Pancakes

Pancakes.

A food I had a love/hate relationship with for many years. But after realizing they don’t have to be glorified breakfast cake or particularly even eaten at breakfast (which also isn’t my go-to), I’ve fully embraced pancakes in all the wonderful ways. 

This version is just about as whole-food as you can get, with oats, beets, banana, eggs, and not a lot else. These days, I tend to add on greens and maybe an additional egg to make pancake meals a balanced meal.

Hope you enjoy!

One more big / little thing

I’ve decided to share most of my recipes in my newsletter going forward this year, rather than publishing all of them here on the blog portion of the website. If you enjoy regularly receiving recipes from me as well as focused nutrition topics, I encourage you to sign up to receive my nutrition newsletter.

Beet Banana Pancakes, serves 2

Inspired by David of Green Kitchen Stories
Prep:  40-60 minutes to roast beets (can be done ahead) | Cook: 15  minutes 

2 eggs
1 banana, peeled
1 cup /100 gr rolled oats
2 – 4 Tbs. filtered water, or more as needed
⅛ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
2 medium / 100 gr cooked beets
coconut oil or ghee for frying

To Serve:
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1-2 handfuls of greens
1 fried or scrambled egg, for each serving

  1. Prep ahead: Wash and halve the beets and wrap them in foil. Roast in a 400 degree F oven until soft, about 40 minutes. You can prepare more while you’re at for other meals or snacks. 
  2. To make Pancakes: Crack the eggs into a blender; add the banana, water, oats, salt and baking powder and blend until smooth. 
  3. Then pour into a bowl. Grate the cooked beets and add into the batter and stir through. 
  4. Heat a little oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. 
  5. Whisk the batter and thin it a little as needed, then pour in ⅓-½ cup amounts into the pan. Cook for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining batter. If planning to have some leftovers, reserve the unused batter, so you can cook and enjoy them fresh. 
  6. For the greens and eggs: Heat the remaining coconut oil, add a pinch of salt, and stir in the greens, and a splash of water if needed. Steam/sauté for a couple minutes until wilted. 
  7. Then fry or scramble one additional egg per serving
  8. Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt, molasses or applesauce, and with the fried egg and greens on the side. 

Broccoli Rice Bake

and a tip for taking care of digestion during the holidays and beyond

Before I get to the recipe below, there’s one little nutrition tip I want to share today that just about every one of us can use, especially during the holiday season. It’s simple – but can go a long way in terms of improving negative digestion symptoms, in addition to energy, having a steady appetite, clear skin, and focused thinking.

It’s that we should leave out habitually grazing or snacking throughout the day.

When we’re in a pattern of habitual grazing all day, or feeling constantly hungry or snacky, it’s often because we haven’t eaten enough at a previous meal. Or we’re eating for emotional comfort, or simply skipped a previous meal altogether. Or we’re doing those holiday gatherings that involve no real meal but constant “finger foods.”

In any of these cases, eating when the last meal hasn’t fully digested can put the body in a stressed state and leave us with indigestion, bloating, fluctuating energy levels, and a whole host of other symptoms. When we snack on the go or while distracted during our busy days, the same uncomfortable symptoms often occur.

But what about for athletes? I know many of you, like me, move your body a lot and need more food to be getting enough for your needs.

As endurance athletes doing daily workouts or training for an event, having a snack or two during the day is reasonable. But we should not feel constantly hungry, or hungry every hour or two.

Eating again before the last meal has finished digesting puts a lot of stress on the digestive system and it can’t do either job of processing the new food or assimilating the last meal effectively. This goes for everyone, regardless of whether you notice negative symptoms or not.

Aim to have snacks about four to six hours after your last meal has been eaten, and two to three hours before your next meal. This is the length of time it takes to fully digest your meals. For a person that is active less than an hour per day, three meals is usually plenty. For those who are more active, an eating schedule with a snack built in to get enough food might look like having breakfast at 7am, lunch between 11-12:00 pm, a snack around 3-4pm, and dinner between 6-7pm.

Do you feel worse when you constantly snack or graze throughout the day? I know I do. Try cutting all snacks or sticking to the above schedule for a week or two, and see how much better you feel.

Now, for something nourishing to eat during your actual meals. At least during one holiday of every year while growing up, there was my mom’s Broccoli Rice Casserole, which we all craved. Likely a holiday meal because it involved ingredients we didn’t eat any other time of the year (processed cheez whiz and instant rice), I have no idea when the tradition began, or when/if it ended, but we all enjoyed it.

Several years in to a dairy-free lifestyle, I tried upgrading the recipe to be based around whole foods and be dairy-free as a final project for one of my grad school cooking labs. Like most vegan / dairy-free recipes trying to mimic a cheesy taste, the result I got was trying too hard to stimulate all the taste buds with the nutritional yeast, miso, garlic, etc. combination of flavors, and I never really landed on a finished recipe that I wanted to remake year after year.

Then I stumbled upon the flavor/spice combination below while having a little creative session in the kitchen earlier this year. Without intending to, the result ended up being exactly what I was going for in the failed recipe revamp. And here we have it! A whole foods remake of the Broccoli Rice Casserole I loved from youth.

Broccoli Rice Bake

This is a far cry from, yet extremely reminiscent of the cheezy Broccoli Rice Casserole I grew up eating around the holidays. The combination of the spices, tahini and coconut milk seem like they’d yield a curry rice bake – but the result is actually far more subtle and more in line with the cheez whiz, instant rice, and cream of mushroom soup combination of childhood. It’s creamy, comforting, and a perfect addition to either a holiday or an everyday winter’s meal. 

Prep:  4-8 hours soaking (optional but recommended)   | Cook: 1.25-1.5 hours  | Serves: about 4

3 ½ cups (320 gr) chopped broccoli
1 cup (185 gr) brown rice (soaked for at least 4 hrs)
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground fenugreek seed
¼ tsp. ground fennel seed
1 ½ tsp. grounding masala spice blend or curry powder
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root
3 Tbs. (45 gr) tahini
1 cup (240 ml) coconut milk*
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) water

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C ).
  2. Spread the broccoli out in a 9×9″ baking dish along with the soaked (and drained) rice. Set aside.
  3. Stir together the spices, fresh minced ginger, salt, and tahini into the coconut milk and  water. Pour over the vegetables and rice and mix. Then spread the mixture evenly, making sure that the broccoli and rice are submerged in the liquid. Cover with kitchen foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  4. Now discard the foil and increase the oven temperature to 430°F (220°C). Bake for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the broccoli and rice are cooked and the sauce starts to form a slight crust around the edges of the pan. It might look a bit softer than steamed rice consistency at this point, but will set up after removing from the oven.
  5. Let cool for about 10 minutes out of the oven before serving as a side dish.

Notes: Use canned coconut milk, the type used for cooking. Either lite or full-fat can be used but full-fat is preferred, and will result in a creamier texture and richer flavor. 
I’ve tested this a couple times in a larger, flatter 13×9″ baking pan. It still works, but the rice really benefits from a smaller, deeper pan so it can fully immerse and steam-bake, rather than dry out without fully cooking.