[VIDEO]: Oats...the original wheaties

There are a handful of ingredients that I always have handy. Call them versatile or just plain tasty, they're always in my back pocket when I'm in a rush, want to experiment with new flavors, or need to healthify a meal. Lately, there's been one ingredient that pulls through time and time again. Look in my cabinet, and you will always find a big canister of oats

I grew up eating oatmeal as a kid. My mama knew it was good for me thanks to all the food marketing out there, but it wasn't until my later years that I actually learned about the nutrition, and felt the good effects in my own body. Let me break it down for you. Oats are a whole grain -- meaning when you eat it, you're eating the full grain with all its parts (bran and germ), which takes longer for your body to break down, keeps you fuller longer, stabilizes your blood sugar, regulates cholesterol, and does wonders for your immunity. BTW, the same thing goes for other whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc. And you deserve the whole grain...why short-change yourself from all those health benefits? You're worth it!

<< CHEF TIP FOR WHOLE GRAINS: Starting with cold cooking liquid will achieve a creamy, mushy consistency. Starting with boiling cooking liquid will achieve a flakier, more separated consistency. Use this tip to get your desired oatmeal texture every time, like a boss! >>

As much as I love my oats, whenever I look at the ingredient labels for cereals, granolas, bars, and sweet treats featuring this mighty grain, I can't get past all the added sweeteners. Which is why when I eat oats, I do it up myself. This way I control the the cooking process, and make sure I don't compromise flavor when making it healthy. 

Watch this week's edition of #MichellesMondayMinute on all things oats -- what they are, why they're good for you, and how to eat 'em. I really love you, because I'm giving you TWO freebie recipes this week -- a Honey-Lavender Granola and downright dreamy Cashew Cream. Make this combo for your next brunch, and you will not only impress your friends, but even better, yourself. Easy, healthy, delicious. What could be better?

Honey-Lavender Granola with Cashew Cream
Servings: 4 cups

Granola Ingredients:
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. honey
5 drops lavender essential oil (or 1 tbsp. dried lavender leaves, minced)
2 c. gluten-free oats
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. walnut pieces
1/2 c. raisins

Cashew Cream Ingredients:
1 c. raw cashews
1/2 c. filtered water
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt

Directions:

  1. DO AHEAD: Soak cashews in a bowl of cold water. Let sit in fridge for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350*. 
  3. In a small saucepan, briefly melt and stir coconut oil, honey, and lavender essential oil until well combined. If using dried lavender, wisk oil, honey, and dried leaves over low heat for 3-5 mins. until flavors are incorporated.
  4. In a large bowl, toss with remaining ingredients until all items are coated.
  5. Spread mixture evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins. until a toasty golden brown, tossing every 5 mins. to keep from burning. Allow to fully cool and crisp before serving.
  7. Meanwhile, place all cashew cream ingredients in a high-speed blender, slowly increasing the speed. Add additional water if need be (consistency should be thick, but may need water to get things moving). 
  8. Top cooled granola with cashew cream and fresh berries.