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date-sweetened carrot & almond porridge
I had hoped to come up with something profound to say on the subject du jour: New Year, New You. I might have gone on about fresh starts, turning over new leaves (leafs?), spring cleaning your diet/life/soul/refrigerator (maybe I should do the latter, if only as a good incentive to actually  do it). But, to be honest, I am assuming that most of you are sorted for that stuff.  And to be doubly honest, I hold no expertise in any of that.

There are plenty of blogs, books and newspaper articles that can fulfil this yearly yearning for renewal and reinvention. But I am not one of them. Everyone is different: has different life experiences, expectations, limitations and needs. Most of us know what we have to do already. Sometimes just a little nudge or reminder is all we require. On the food front, I hope that’s what I do: just nudge, just remind, chuck in some sciencey stuff sometimes to back it all up and keep it kosher.  I cannot be doing with a one-size, my-way-or-the-highway – or worse, ‘I am so perfect, this is what I do’ approach to life. And I don’t want to use this time of year as an excuse to tell everyone they will cure their disease/get better skin/banish the bloat/be more sorted if they follow my advice. I am not saying that lifestyle advice has no value, but I don’t feel a burning desire to jump into the fray and give you my two cents’ worth. I do have opinions (more accurately, rants) but here at food to glow I just want it to be about the food, some nutrition chat and any stories vaguely related to either.

But I do feel it is a good time, while we are all ripe for change, to draw your attention to my Healthy Swaps page. I wrote it awhile ago for my Cancer and Nutrition section, but I do think it has broader application for anyone using January as a springboard for a dietary rethink. It is only a short page, and I have ideas for updating it soon, but in the meantime have a look if you like, and pop on some healthy swap ideas of your own in the Comments section. And Happy 2013 to you all. I hope it is everything that you wish for, and more. 
scottish porridge oats
medjool datesdate-sweetened carrot & almond porridge

Date-sweetened Carrot & Almond Porridge

Last Year: Tamarind and Shiitake Tofu with Sesame ‘Seaweed’ (the post that got me Freshly Pressed)
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Everything, Everything by Kemosabe (I can’t catch the lyrics, but there is a fit guy doing capoeira!)
Homely porridge gets an ever so slightly exotic makeover with a judicious grating of vibrant carrot, a kiss of almond butter and a dab of mashed dates. Nicely sweet so you won’t miss the maple syrup or brown sugar, but with the satisfaction of knowing there’s no added sugar to spoil your New Years’ resolutions. If you do such things. I don’t. Maybe I should…
Use rolled oats for best results, but even the quick cooking oats (more processed but still a lot better than commercial cereals), and the longer cooking medium and pinhead oats work well, with time adjustments. You could also cook this up with other whole grains: quinoa, amaranth, wheat berries, barley, spelt. The point is to shake up your approach to whole grains. Something easy, something quick, but a little bit special too. I hope this fits that remit nicely. New Year. New Breakfast.
½ c porridge oats*
¾  c almond milk (or any other kind of milk)
¾ c water
2 stoned, fat dates  -no jokes please… – whizzed or bashed with a dribble of the measured milk
1 small-medium organic carrot, scrubbed
1-2 heaped tsp almond or cashew butter (try with 1 tsp first)
Top with 5 raw, chopped almonds & extra milk for each serving
Optional: a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom (I like mine plain)
Add the porridge oats to a small pan and pour over the milk and water. Bring to a gentle boil over a low-medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about three minutes. Jumbo flakes may take a little more time.
When the porridge is the consistency you like stir in the almond butter, grate in the carrot and stir in the pureed dates. Serve immediately with chopped almonds and a splash of extra milk. A good and hearty breakfast to see you through to lunch.
For other grains, follow instructions on the packet for liquid measurements and timings. *Gluten-free oats from Nairns (UK), Freedom Foods (Australia), GF Harvest and Bob’s Red Mill (US), and many others too
Soft food diet: no nutty topping; finely grate the carrot
Serves 1-2
Nutrition Notes: Oats are rather ubiquitous grains, appearing in breads, cookies, savoury biscuits, as flour and, of course, at many breakfast tables as porridge, muesli or granola.  You can even pop a couple of tablespoons of porridge oats in a smoothie to power it up. But their ubiquity shouldn’t detract from their rather elite nutritional usefulness. Known scientifically as Avena sativa, oats are especially hardy crops, growing in soil where little else thrives.
Despite growing in poor soil oats are endowed with a nutrient and research profile that puts even many vegetables to shame. Briefly, research has shown that oats (and some of this covers some other grains too): stabilise blood sugar, lower cholesterol, substantially lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, are protective for a number of cancers including colon and breast, guard against childhood asthma and reduce risk of heart disease. Pretty impressive for something you can buy just about anywhere, and for little money.
That reminds me, we (I include myself here) can sometimes be so enthralled by the latest hype about obscure ingredients that we forget about the good stuff already in our supermarket trolley or CSA box. I bet you already eat things such as apples, prunes, walnuts, citrus, garlic, dark green vegetables and olive oil. These are every bit as healthy and worthy as acai berries, wheatgrass and chia seeds. And vastly less expensive too. Eating healthily doesn’t have to be second mortgage territory. As I am typing this I have just looked at a 2011 Guardian newspaper article that supports what I have just written. Have a look here for a longer read on this, and definitely more skilled writing.
And, before I forget, here are some of the nutrient goodies found in the oh-so humble oat: manganese (68.5% of RDA in 1 cup), selenium (27%), tryptophan (a biochemical precursor for serotonin and melatonin), phosphorus,  B vitamins (especially thiamin), fibre, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin E and protein. Impressed? I put ground up oats in a lot of baked goods, for example, Courgette, Lemon and Elderflower Cake. Any small ways to add nutritional goodness while still tasting fantastic is fine by me. Maybe for your next baking session take away a little flour (about 50g) and replace it with whizzed up oats.carrot & almond porridge

35 thoughts on “Date-sweetened Carrot and Almond Porridge

  1. Darya says:

    Wonderful read! And the recipe looks great too! It reminds me somewhat of Indian Gajar Halwa (carrot and milk pudding with nuts), and I would never have thought of putting any of those ingredients together! Though I have added dates to omelettes and porridges before, and liked it very much! Happy New Year!

    1. I had thought it was like halva too, but I didn’t know if I was stretching it a bit to say so. Now I wish I had! Could use tahini instead I suppose. Glad you like it Darya. Thanks so much for commenting.

  2. EA Stewart says:

    Marvelous post Kellie, and even though you didn’t give us your 2 cents about healthy eating, your still snuck in some good old fashioned nutrition advice 🙂 Love this recipe, especially with the carrots on top. Wy have I never thought of that?? Off to whiz some dates and oats now! Happy, happy new year!!

    1. Happy New year to you too! Gosh, I hope I didn’t already overstep my self-imposed mark, rambling on about oats and healthy swaps. I guess I just don’t want to offer prescriptive advice, which seems abundant on some health-related blogs and websites (but none that I follow). You are like me I think, putting the nutritionists/dietitian spin on healthy recipes but without lots of shoulds and don’ts. There is a place for shoulds and don’ts but maybe it is about perspective and balance. Hope you give the date and carrot thing a whirl. Let me know if you do, and if you liked it (be honest!). All best x

  3. Linda says:

    Gosh Kellie -I didn’t realise that a humble bowl of porridge was so good for us!

    1. Unsung hero of the larder. At this time of year I am minded to put it in all kinds of things as I think it makes recipes seem more cosy and homely, as well as a bit healthier.

  4. segmation says:

    What a beautiful choice and food and color. Thanks for sharing.

  5. eastofedencook says:

    I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions either. For me change is more of a gradual process and not tied to one specific day of the year. That being said, evaluating eating habits is always a positive step to a healthier way of life and eating less refined sugar can only be a good thing! Starting the day with a date sweetened porridge sounds very splendid!

    1. Thank you Deb. I guess it is only natural after most peoples’ (self included) indulgences over December to want to make some changes, either just to get back to the way you eat the rest of the year, or to make proper changes, large and small. Although I didn’t overeat during the holidays (sometimes only one proper meal during the day in fact) I ate many things I wouldn’t normally and it feels SO good to step away from sugar, fat and alcohol and eat things like porridge, loads of steamed stuff (with spices of course) and plenty of water. Cutting back on added sugar is something that I don’t find too difficult. But salt, tamari sauce, olives…That’s a whole other ball game.

  6. Love this — it looks so comforting and creamy! Will try this tomorrow morning (tempted to add the tahini you mention – mmmmm….)
    I’ve been experimenting with oats myself lately. I soak ’em overnight and in the morning I add pumpkin puree & gingerbread spice, or grated apples & cinnamon, an egg or two and some milk and bake them in the oven for 30-45 minutes (depending on amount). The kids love them, I do too – even cold left-overs… (a bit cakey).
    BTW, contrary to what I was taught at nutrition college, oats are now considered safe for people with celiac disease — though the packet has to say that they’re non-contaminated and gluten-free. (Oats usually get contaminated when they get processed in plants that also handle gluten-containing grains.) Only people with very severe celiac are advised to avoid them. More info on this here:
    Happy New Year, Kellie! (You glow on your new pic’! Just like your food!! 🙂 )

    1. Hi Conner, and Happy 2013 to you! So good to hear from you and get your professional take on this. I probably should have found space to highlight what you have raised but I guess I just thought those with Coeliac would know this already. But I shouldn’t make assumptions, should I? I shall pop in a link to nairns g-f oats at least and see what I can find re US and Australian/NZ brands too. And your breakfast oat ‘souffle’ (does it puff up?) sounds the business. Must try that! I too like porridge with grated apple and cinnamon but Miss R and I really like this halva/mid-east version – think its the nut butter what does it for me. Hope you try it:D PS the glow on photo is me getting sweaty with having to do daft posing and fruit juggling (yes,really) for a newspaper photographer (not one of the high end papers, obviously!)

  7. Sally says:

    Excellent read – and recipe Kellie …Happy 2013

  8. Conner Middelmann-Whitney says:

    My oat bake doesn’t puff up – perhaps I should try whipping egg whites and folding in, that might add some air. Sorry BTW — didn’t want to sound like I was lecturing you re. gluten-free oats; it’s just that a surprising number of people I know — including health practitioners and people eating g-f diets — don’t know about oats being OK and I thought I’d just throw that in. Course I knew you knew…! 🙂
    PS: You should juggle with fruit & veg more often – it becomes you, m’dear!

    1. I know you weren’t lecturing me but I also know you keep up with everything more than I do, so quite right to give reminder! Btw, My juggling’s not up to much. I don’t see a second career in the circus on the horizon 🙂

  9. I have a strange affinity for porridge in any form, probably stemming from childhood memories of eating gruau at my grandparents house (my home away from home most weekends). So warming, and an ideal maple syrup delivery system … what more could a Canadian boy ask for?

    I like your take on porridge here. The carrots add a wonderful touch of colour, and (I’m sure) a more subtle sweetness than maple syrup (not a bad thing to cut down on at this stage, I reckon), and am looking forward to seeing what almond butter does in tomorrow’s bowl of cooked oats.

    On a separate note: where can one find the pics of you juggling fruits & veg?

    1. Ah, I haven’t even seen them. They may not have made the paper. I avoid any mention of myself in the press (the few times that I have been in) so I can only assume that any photos are highly incriminating and I would not point anyone to them! Hope you like the almond butter – mix well though as last batch for hubby wasn’t so well mixed and he got a lump of the stuff. Love date and almond butter in things. And almond butter is lovely in rice pudding too 😀

      1. Just had some oats, sweetened with frozen banana, with almond butter and a dash of cinnamon. A great start to the day, and arguably a bit healthier than grand-maman’s, which inevitably featured maple syrup, a big dab of butter, and cream.

      2. I know, what’s with the North American butter in oatmeal thing? I told my husband about that years ago and he made the biggest ‘ugh’ face on record. But I did it as a kid on my cinnamon ‘n’ maple sugar oatmeal. Didn’t the frozen banana make the oatmeal cold? Perhaps no bad thing if you are hot.

      3. Not sure about the rest of North America, but in French Canada, butter and cream are in pretty much everything. I think there’s a law. The frozen banana went into the water as it boiled, and turned to (tasty and hot) mush as everything cooked. Thawed bananas have a nasty texture (but taste just fine), so I always blend, mash, or cook them.

      4. Great treat for old bananas. And old people like me 😀

  10. I make steel cut oats in the slow cooker for my kids, but I never thought to grate in some carrot. What a clever idea! I am going to do it tonight so they can have an even healthier start to their day tomorrow. Thank you!

    1. Your kids are lucky to have slow-cooked oats for breakfast – so organised of you 😀 I have a great big slow-cooker and only the three of us so oats would get lost in it. I do occasionally soak steel cut oats (called, boringly, medium oats here) and cook in the morning but usually I forget and it is rolled porridge oats with other goodies like carrots, apple, dates, almonds, chia. So wonderful to have a warm breakfast at this time of year, isn’t it?

  11. laura_howtocook says:

    You know porridge is something I rarely make, I strangely love the texture of uncooked oats more but now having read your version, I think I could definitely be persuaded to try it out. Dates are wonderful, and this recipe would see me through til lunchtime, I am sure of it. It must be packed full of nutrients, just what I need after a week away in the cheese & meat filled Alps! Happy New Year Kellie xx

    1. Miss R and Mr A are getting ready to go to the land of cheese and meat shortly (they love it). IF they served this in the chalets everyone would be fuelled all day! Hope you try it Laura. And welcome home

  12. This looks great! I just made my jet-lagged self a bowl of porridge for lunch as it was pretty much the only thing in the house when I got back this afternoon. We just did a grocery shop and I’ve got a nice big bag of carrots, so this is perfect. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll definitely be trying this out!

    1. You are back safe and sound. Good. Your last post sounded like you were having fun, so it is back to the grind I guess. I hope your happy memories last until you go away again. Where to next, Katie? Let me know how you like the oddball porridge.

      1. I made this for breakfast this morning (was up obnoxiously early due to jetlag) with a few modifications. I didn’t have any almond butter so just used a few extra chopped almonds, and I used cow milk because that is what I had in the house. I also cooked it slightly differently because I have a preferred method for cooking oats. It was good! I should cook my oatmeal with milk more often! I liked the carrots, and what a great way to get extra veg in early in the day! I sprinkled a little cinnamon over top and it was a delish breakfast! I think this may become a part of my regular routine.

  13. Eli Prehn says:

    almond milk reminds me of a very fine cows milk that i drank in new zealand.,

  14. Made this for breakfast, and it was excellent. It was easy to put together and I love the date, carrot and almond combination. Thanks Kellie!

    1. Glad to hear the good report, Katie. I love this one. It’s so cheery and easy to make.

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