19 May 2012

Soak Your Oats

We take the term "crunchy" pretty serious in this house.  Meaning: we eat a lot of granola and granola-type snacks. 

However, I had heard quite a few years ago granola wasn't good for you because it blocked the absorption of vitamins.  I ignored this for a long time because we think it's some pretty yummy stuff around here, but the more I used oats to make "healthy" snacks, the more I thought I was totally jipping us.  I did some research, reading of few articles online and cracking open "the book" that I thought I'd never open.  The book that, when my mother gave it to me just before my husband and I got married, my thought was Gee thanks, a dust collector.  There's no way I'll ever use this!  You see, before I had a family I liked my convenient and crappy foods because they were so yummy.  Cheese whiz, anyone?!  ..........No??????  Now that book is becoming quite filled with highlighting, underlining and notes in the margins.  I love this book and have found it invaluable.

So, now that I have been converted to the world of raw, whole, organic foods and a lifestyle of soaking grains, fermenting things and making as much as I can from scratch, I thought it'd be nice for someone to hear me say I honestly love it!  I love knowing what goes in my kids' little tummies and knowing that no matter how many snacks they have in a day (because they're bottom-less pits and would rather snack all day than actually sit their cute wiggly bums down for an actual meal), it doesn't matter because the snacks I have on hand are really, truly good for them!

But, back to soaking those oats.  When I first read about phytic acid I wanted it OUT of my oats!  Phytic acid is bound to phosphorus and if left as is will combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, potassium and zinc in the intestinal tract, therefore blocking their absorption.  Soaking grains such as oats allows enzymes to neutralize phytic acid and increases B vitamins.  Dating back to ancient times up until recently, and by that I mean many of our grandmothers probably did this as well, it was common practice to soak your oats the night before because of the nutritional benefits.
Now you may be thinking but oats have actually helped my digestion.  At first unsoaked oats have a detoxifying effect but you will soon see that the more you consume them unsoaked, the more IBS symptomes, mineral deficiencies and allergies can be found.

Being a busy mom of 3, however, I was quickly annoyed at this thought because who ever has the idea that they're going to need oats on Thursday for the granola that's run out for the yogurt your kids love and soak and dry them out again the Monday before.  ...Well, not me!  And so, I would run out of soaked oats, refuse to make new granola until I had done the whole soaking and drying oats process (none of this a big deal, really, if you're prepared) and, therefore, have 2 crabby kids whining that they wanted "cranola" or their energy bites.  So, here's a tip. When you get home from the store with your oats, pour them in a bowl with water.  They will be ready in about 24 hrs.  It's that simple, as long as you make sure you get them out of the water before they mold a week later.  Not that I know this from experience, but it seems like it'd be gross.  :p  Then when you need them, all you have to do is reach in your pantry for oats packed with a punch!

How to Soak your Oats:
Nourishing Traditions mentions you should buy them from a bag or container because they can go rancid in bulk bins.  I realize it's cheaper this way so it's up to you!  I know one of our local grocery stores seems to re-fill the bins quite often.  Put your oats in a big bowl with enough water to allow for them to expand.  Then put a little apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in and stir.  (Raw ACV is best if you're using ACV, but I don't always have the good stuff and it seems fine to me with regular).  Leave for 7-24 hours.  It helps if you sing "I'm gonna soak that phytic acid right outta my oats" to the tune of I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair from South Pacific.  I don't know why it helps, but it does.  Or at least it makes it more fun!
Note: This also works for steel-cut (Irish) oats, rye, barley and wheat.
Note: Quinoa also has to be soaked, but I'm not sure if an acid is needed to help neutralize antinutriemts (p 454 of Nourishing Traditions).  Anyone know if an acid is needed?  I've found nothing on this.

When drying out the oats pour them through a mesh strainer a little at a time and rinse them under water so you rinse out the slimy grayish liquid. Ew!  I haven't been able to rinse them until the water runs clear but I'm sure this is fine.  I usually rinse until I get the vinegar smell out.  Make sure you drain them before the next step so you get a lot of the moisture out.  (Singing the song again makes this less mundane.  Feel free to add a little dance too. ;)  Lay them out thin on several cookie sheets, put your oven on the lowest setting and leave for hours.  That's it!  Then, use as you would normally.  The only difference I've found is that they tend to be a be a bit chewier in recipes, but it doesn't seem to be a big deal and so far I'm the only one in my family who's noticed.
Note: I haven't found anything in Nourishing Traditions about drying them out as the section focuses on soaking them for porridges, but I've read elsewhere it can be done in the way described above.

Here are two of our favorite recipes for oats (not including my granola recipe that I "wing" and is different each time so I can't give it to you).  We are rarely without both of these in our house and when we do the kids get sick of bananas, apples and peanut butter really fast so I have to make more for them, of course!

Playgroup granola bars:                                                  
(I have added the gluten-free substitutions as well. You can get gluten-free oats if you need them.)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ  (We use an equal amount of ground flaxseed instead because of being gluten-free)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour (or 1/3 cup each of potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour and 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of raisins, semi sweet chocolate chips, nuts (We use choclate chips and coconut)
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350* and grease a 9x13 baking pan (any non-stick spray works great).
In a large bowl mix the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ/ flaxseed, cinnamon, flour, salt, raisins, chocolate chips, and nuts.
In a separate bowl beat the egg and add to it the honey, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon or your hands to mix well. Pat mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes. Use a serrated knife to cut into bars while it's still warm.

Energy Bites:
(Double the recipe right away!)
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
Mix, Chill, Roll

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do!

Have fun soaking your oats and remember, the song helps ;)