04 October, 2011

Orange Date Nut Clusters aka Paleo Granola


In my About Food section I am trying to explain what made me change my diet from a white flour, sugary diet to a more wholesome one. Ever since I figured out, that these two foods were doing more damage than good to me, I have been on journey towards better and healthier eating.

I don't have weight problems. I am not allergic to any foods.  Yet, the food that I put in my body determines my mood, my energy and health levels. I don't think that crash diets and abrupt, drastic changes in your diet are sustainable, unless you have serious health issues that force you into it.

Without any pressure, I took small steps that made sense at that time. If you have been living on sugar, white flours and processed foods for a long time, it makes sense to reduce/eliminate these first. So I switched from white flour to wholemeal flour (wheat it was mostly), and eliminated refined sugar by switching to natural sweeteners like agave, honey and maple syrup. I started cooking from scratch in order to eliminate processed foods.

In another step I tried to explore foods that keep blood sugar levels low. With low GI foods on the menu, I explored the use of beans and lentils extensively.
This was followed by trying to reduce/eliminate wheat/gluten. I am not allergic to gluten. But I couldn't help jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, just to see if it would make a difference to my well-being.

It does make a difference. I find it hard to describe, but my body feels lighter, cleaner, less clotted. I am definitely less bloated. I am not sure if it is gluten-related but last year I often had swollen feet and legs in the Dubai summer heat. This summer, with a very reduced to gluten-free diet, my feet were fine.

Now I have gone a step further and try and avoid grains. Starchy carbohydrates from grains take a lot of someone's energy just to digest them. The nutritional value that comes with those grains, is not worth it. I do not avoid grains religiously. Just last night I had a whole spelt chapati with my dinner. It didn't kill me, nor did it make me feel sluggish or bad. But the overall reduction of grains definitely benefits my well-being.

Going grain-free seemed to be a big step at first, especially with me being a granola addict for breakfast. But what do people do that go grain-free? They use almond flour instead of grain flour. Instead of using two cups of rolled oats, I chopped up two cups of almonds. Combined with seeds of your choice and some flavoring I prepare my granola the same way I used to with oats. And I love it even more. The crunch is just unbeatable.

If someone had told me five years ago, that I would be having an (almost) grain-free and sugar-free diet, I would have declared that person crazy. But this is what I am doing now, and it seems natural because it developed into it over several years. I surely don't feel deprived. Let's see where this journey is taking me.
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ORANGE DATE NUT CLUSTERS aka PALEO GRANOLA

1 1/2 cups whole almonds
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup linseeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup dessicated coconut

1/2 cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 orange, zest of
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Preheat oven to 165C/325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the almonds and hazelnuts. In a large bowl, combine all nuts and seeds. Set aside.

In a small pan, combine dates, orange juice and zest. Over medium heat, bring to boil and let simmer for a few minutes. Blend to a paste in a food processor. Mix the paste into the nuts and seeds until well coated.

Spread out onto baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes or until dry. Turn clusters over half way through. If they seem to take longer than 30 minutes, check regularly afterwards, as they burn quickly past the half-hour mark. Let cool completely. Break up bigger clusters. Stir in coconut. Store in airtight container.

16 comments:

  1. Kudos for continuing with the grain-free diet! I am on the vegan, no refined flours and sugars crew... but don't think I could give up on grains altogether. Gluten, perhaps, but I try to limit my grain consumption anyhow. ;)

    I look forward to seeing your culinary creations. :)

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  2. I've been slowly eliminating grains... I love baking with them too much at this point to completely eliminate them. BUT, I give away most of what I bake, so that works out well :) My husband loves granola (I eliminated it b/c of all the grains) and this might just be the perfect granola for us to share! Thanks!

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  3. I still bake with flours, but try and use gluten-free ones as much as possible. My son's school doesn't allow nuts in the lunchboxes. That makes it very difficult to go grain-free, as there is no real alternative.

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  4. Hey Anja...I wonder if there are any long-term negative effects of a grain-free diet. Does it deprive your body of certain nutrients / vitamins / acids that need to be ingested for optimal body functioning?

    Personally have found that rice leads to more of that sluggish feeling...grains less so, unless of course I overdo it, which is not hard to imagine ;)

    Interesting food for thought...will definitely chat with my mom (nutritionist) and get her thoughts on this too!

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  5. you are too much !too good ! too sweet
    love it love it
    thanks alot

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  6. Does this mean no more yummy healthy muffins and cakes on your blog?? Noooooo

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  7. Oh, there will be more muffin and cake recipes, for sure! My family would be up in arms! No worries, that side!

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  8. this looks really tasty!
    ...so much confusion about what the most healthy diet is. i've tried to go raw for some time, but i just can't forever! eliminating sugar and processed foods is right, for sure. the rest seems to be a journey of trial and error and exchange of experience, for us all, doesn't it? -marina

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  9. Marina,
    I agree with you. I find it hard to give up dairy: I need yogurt (although I try swap goat for cow's yogurt) and milk in my coffee or tea. And that's already the next thing: coffee and tea. Good or bad? I also love my one glass of red wine in the evening. Surely not good. It's trial and error, what suits your lifestyle, etc. Like I said before: Grains can be easily swapped with nuts or simply omitted by adding more fruit and veg. But my son's school doesn't allow nuts. What to give him that is filling? 35 carrot stick won't do the trick.

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  10. This is such a beautiful granola! I have been hoping for a grain-free version to pop up eventually! The fact that this is naturally sweetened just makes it too good to be true. Thanks a bunch!

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  11. Anya, I'm trying to follow GAPs diet and struggling to find stuff for my son to take to nursery since like you, they won't allow nuts in his lunchbox. This recipe looks lovely though (for home) and very inspiring. Thanks for doing this!

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  12. Just cooked up a batch of paleo granola and I couldn't be more delighted. Even without anything else added, it is delicious to eat and easily as tasty as anything I buy. I added a third of a cup of quinoa, which adds even more nutty crunch to the mix. I also used pecans instead of hazelnuts. Tomorrow I'm going to enjoy some with some of my own frozen raspberries and yoghurt. Thank you, Anja, for this and all your other delicious recipes!

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  13. Anja I love this post. I am making similar transitions in my diet. Not to be trendy or to lose a lot of weight, just because (like you) I have found that I feel SO much better without lots of grains and sugars and processed food in my body. I ate a white dinner roll last night w/ dinner (it was a TERRIBLE dinner and I was starving so I went for it) and my stomach was jacked up all night and into this a.m. Good reminder why I don't eat that stuff any more! Great blog...skimming it now for recipes for the week:)

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  14. This recipe reminds me of Larabars, which I've been wanting to make on my own at home. Will have to try this! Also - I completely relate to the overall sense of well-being you feel when switching to whole foods and eliminating sugar and grains. My mood is consistently happy, and content, while my body feels light and unbloated. Sometimes I wonder if it's real or made in my head, but when I read other's experiences, I know it's due to eating clean and having a healthier body!

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  15. Hi Anja...Just went thru your website.It's fabulous...Love all the gluten free and no sugar added recipes...The orange and date clusters is lovely...i make a similar one and usually add some rolled oats and drizzle some honey or maple syrup....
    Thanx for sharing:))

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  16. I'm also trying to cut the sugar and oil in my granola recipe (though keeping the oats for now). Thanks for posting your method with the dates. I was already adding chopped dates at the end, but it's good to know that it works out well for you to add them earlier and roast them.

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