Maggie Battista had tried every diet in the book and was sick of them all. None of them made her feel better or feel better about herself, and out of her frustration with once-size-fits-all wellness advice, she started a deeper exploration of which foods (and attitudes about food) really worked for her body and mind and which ones didn't.
The Boston-based founder of Eat Boutique, an online food boutique and recipe site, wrote a cookbook about the best kinds of foods to give away, but while she was working on that book and in the years that followed, she made major changes to her own relationship with food, knowing that she'd one day write another cookbook that wasn't a diet book but that also addressed the struggles of people who have struggled with their weight or their perspective on food and nutrition.
That book, "A New Way to Food," came out in February and features a balance of recipes, kitchen tips and insights "that freed me from a life of restriction and empowered me to find a new way to real wellness." That included changing some of the ingredients she uses and types of recipes she cooks, but also being conscious of what she calls "active wellness mode" and "everyday wellness mode." The first is a more direct approach to moving more and eating healthier and the second is a general attitude of wellness where she seeks balance beyond what she's eating in any one meal. It's a fascinating, compassionate book about physical and mental health that doesn't make exaggerated claims or make anyone feel badly about wherever they are, plus it includes some really great recipes, including this cacao-coffee granola that is packed with nutrient-dense ingredients and is easy to snack on or eat regularly for breakfast.
While tossing my Cacao-Coffee Granola with yogurt or piling it on top of a smoothie is totally suitable, I unabashedly stuff handfuls straight into my mouth. I don’t try to be pretty about this because it’s too good to worry about how I look eating it. It does make a fairly nourishing and filling snack, too. And if you bake it into cookies, well, then you’ll stuff those into your mouth as well. However you decide to enjoy it is most definitely up to you. Use whatever nuts you like, just make sure to chop them a bit so they’re not too far off in size from the oats. Sometimes, I substitute rye flakes for half of the oats; they add a nice flavor nuance, different nutrients, and good texture. If you want to make this gluten-free, make sure to find gluten-free oats.
— Maggie Battista
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats or gluten-free oats
1 cup mixed chopped raw nuts (such as sliced almonds and chopped pecans)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup unsweetened crispy brown rice cereal
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons roughly ground coffee (regular or decaffeinated)
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add the oats, nuts, chia seeds and coconut to a large bowl and toss together. Spread into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, turning the pan once.
Add the oil, maple syrup, ground coffee, cacao powder and salt to a medium pot over medium heat. Stir while you bring it to a simmer. Simmer until everything blends together, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh colander or cheesecloth to remove the coffee grounds.
Remove the granola mix from the oven and, using the parchment paper, carefully slide the warmed granola back into a large bowl, returning the parchment back to the baking sheet. Pour the warm liquid over the granola and stir until every bit is touched by the liquid.
Spread the granola into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 12 minutes, turning the pan once. Remove from the oven and let it sit on the range for 10 minutes. Break into bite-sized pieces (or your preferred size) and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Makes 3 1/2 cups.
— From "A New Way to Food: 100 Recipes to Encourage a Healthy Relationship with Food, Nourish Your Beautiful Body, and Celebrate Real Wellness for Life" by Maggie Battista (Roost Books, $29.95)