Introducing The Soaked-Grains Series - Maple and Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Cakes with Blackberry Sauce

We live in an age where grains are constantly abused. We bleach them, strip them of their nutrients, we even "enrich" them by taking away their natural nutritional benefits and replacing them with shelf-stable chemical "nutrients." As a result of this foul treatment, many people have gone gluten-free, or grain-free because they want to avoid the disadvantageous effects that wreck our health. So how did we get to this point? How did we go from deeming bread the "staff of life" to chanting "the whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead?" I'm no nutritionist, but I believe the way grains are prepared dramatically impacts the effects they will impart to your health.

So where do we go from here? What makes a grain "properly prepared?" In her wonderful book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon explains that ancient cultures who ate grains as a staple in their diet, properly prepared the grains by first soaking, sprouting, or fermenting the grains. The Irish did it with their oatmeal, the French with their sourdough, the Latin-Americans with their corn tortillas. Why go to all of this trouble you ask? Most grains, particularly wheat, contain high levels of phytic acid, which does more harm than good to our bodies. Not only can it slow down your metabolism, but it also causes mineral deficiencies, bone loss, tooth decay, and other maladies when consumed in excess. The good news is, phytase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down the levels of phytic acid, is activated when grains are soaked in an acidic medium, such as yogurt, buttermilk, whey, lemon juice or vinegar. In addition, the mineral content is actually increased by soaking, making grains more beneficial to our bodies. Sounds pretty good, right?

With all of that being said, I am excited to share this series of soaked-grain recipes with you! If you have ever baked using the soaking method, you know that it can be a little tricky at first. The first muffins I made with soaked flour were a bit dense, to say the least. But with practice, you learn what works well using the soaking method and what does not. My hope is that I can make most of the mistakes for you and provide you with recipes that not only maximize optimum nutrition, but also taste great! Let's get soaking!

The first recipe I am sharing with you is these baked oatmeal cakes. They are simple, delicious, and come together quickly on a rushed morning.  Plus, they have the added advantage of being naturally gluten-free, for all of my wheat-avoiding friends out there. With the addition of a sweet and tangy blackberry sauce, these little cakes are great for breakfast or as a snack.

Baked Oatmeal Cakes
Makes 12

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder

In a large bowl, mix oats, yogurt, and water together and let sit covered in a warm place overnight. In the morning, blend the butter, maple syrup, eggs, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder together. With a fork, loosen the oat mixture; add the maple mixture and mix until well blended. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan and fill each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then remove and let cool on rack. Store any leftover cakes in the refrigerator.

Blackberry Sauce

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blackberries
2 tsp. lemon juice
2-4 Tbsp. maple syrup (slightly more or less depending on your taste)
1/2 tsp. arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in a tsp. of warm water
pinch of sea salt

In a medium saucepan, combine berries, juice, and syrup over medium heat. Once juices have released from the berries, after 10 or so minutes, add the arrowroot mixture and salt. Let cook until slightly thickened, 5-10 minutes more.

Happy soaking!

Warm Kale Salad with Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette

You don't have to get too deep into the foodie scene to know that kale has been the starring craze of nutrition enthusiasts for a while now. With the abundance of nutrients packed into this intensely colored green, it's easy to understand how this humble member hailing from the Brassica family gained its popularity. Speaking of nutrition, have you ever looked at all the amazing health benefits of kale? It's kind of ridiculous. Kale is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, anti-inflammatory properties, iron, calcium, and the list goes on. Not only is it richly abundant in nutrients, but it is very economical, making it a great vegetable to indulge in often.

 However, before you start eating kale often, you need to be cautioned about one thing. With the intention of obtaining the most nutrients possible, many are eating raw kale daily, whether it be in their salads, smoothies, sandwiches, etc. But I believe there to be problem with this. Among the army of nutrients residing in kale, there are also harmful goitrogenic substances and oxalic acid that needs to be neutralized before consumption. Please understand that I am not a nutritionist, but after researching, I have found that failing to lightly cook kale before consumption can actually inhibit nutrient absorption. All of those great nutrients we just talked about are not being optimized to the extent that they should be. I don't know about you, but I was thrilled to find this out, as I'm not much of a proponent of raw kale salads in the first place. If you have a deep attachment to raw kale and absolutely cannot go without eating it in its raw form, try to limit your consumption of it as much as possible, eating it raw only sparingly. Your body will thank you for it in the long run.

From the moment I started forming this salad in my mind, I knew I wanted it to include enzyme-rich sprouted sunflower seeds. As you can see, my sprouts didn't grow particularly long, but had they been given another day or so, the sprouts would have been more noticeable. Sprouting is something everyone should get into, when you consider the payoff of this super simple practice. Most grains and seeds contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that, similarly to the oxalic acid in kale, needs to be broken down before consumption. There are two ways to do this. The first is sprouting, which I will further explain here. The second is soaking, which I will get deeper into in future posts. For now, I thought it would be nice to include a do-it-yourself intro to sprouting, so here is a general guide to get you started:

Basic Sprouting Method

What You Will Need:
-Glass Mason Jars with Rings (generally quart size for grains, pint size for small seeds)
-Cheese Cloth
-Seeds/Grains to sprout


  1.  Place the seeds or grains in the jar and fill with water. Let sit for about a minute.
  2.  Cut a piece of cheese cloth that will overlap the opening of your jar by half an inch. Place on top of jar and secure in place with ring
  3.  Turn jar upside down and drain excess water in sink. Repeat this rinse 2-3 times daily until sprouts appear.
Again this is a general guide to sprouting. Certain seeds react better than others to sprouting, so you may find that you are wildly successful with some seeds, yet hit trial and error with others. Here is a small list of things I have been successful in sprouting:

-Wheat Berries
-Un-Toasted Buckwheat
-Chia Seeds
-Mung Beans

The list of things you can sprout goes on and on, ranging from almonds to sesame seeds. Above all, have fun experimenting with it!

Without further adieu, I am pleased to present the star of today's post. Warm, slightly-wilted kale is accompanied by sizzling pan-roasted sweet potatoes, mouth-watering crispy shallots, sweet succulent black grapes, and enzyme-rich sprouted sunflower seeds, all adorned with a tangy lemon-dijon vinaigrette. When I first made this salad in preparation of the photo-shoot, I was so lost in the enticing gustatory sensations upon each bite, that before I knew it, I had eaten the whole thing. It is seriously delicious.

Warm Kale Salad with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette
Makes enough for two servings as a side dish

Juice of half a large lemon (1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. 

1 small sweet potato, cut into small cubes
2 cups loosely-packed torn kale leaves (I used Red and Tuscan kale)
Handful of black grapes, sliced in half length-wise
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. coconut oil

  1. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil over medium heat. Add the sweet potato cubes and saute until lightly browned and crisp (I found that I needed to add more oil as the potatoes cooked due to their absorption of the oil).
  2. Once potatoes are nearly done and showing dark marks, add the shallot and just enough oil to crisp the shallots (about a teaspoon). Let cook several minutes longer, until shallots are crisp.
  3.  Add the grapes and kale; shake or stir the pan until evenly distributed. Continue to stir for about a minute, until kale is just beginning to wilt. Add desired amount of dressing and salt and pepper to the pan. Serve immediately.

Love and Best of Health,