By guest writer Maan D’Asis Pamaran
Those tiny sweet treats that you had as a snack in your childhood recess has a long and proud history of packing a nutritional and flavorful punch for its fans. Raisins are said to have been around since 2000 B.C., as wall paintings from ancient times depict dried fruits as consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean regions of Europe. Through the years, raisins became so popular and valuable that they were even bartered across countries, and enjoyed as a delicacy by ancient Roman royalty, with the belief that they had curative powers against poisoning and even aging.
Raisins are familiar to consumers today, enjoyed as a wholesome snack by itself or as part of a dessert such as Raisin Bread or as toppings on Cinnamon Buns and other desserts. But with raisins as a versatile ingredient, Knead2Know Chefs Klaus Tenbergen and Priscilla Santiago recently presented new ways to incorporate raisins into familiar dishes, to help more people enjoy their health benefits even more. The couple held a cooking demo in Makati, where guests were able to appreciate raisins in a whole new way.
This was an initiative of California Raisins as a way to raise awareness about enjoying a sweeter life with their products.
“Yummy snacks and desserts can still have a place on your table, even as you commit to a healthy lifestyle,” said Richard Lieu, Director of Trade Promotions. “Opting for natural ingredients like California Raisins, being more informed and intentional about your food choices and pursuing balance and moderation, can help make your wellness journey not just sustainable in the long term, but joyful and rewarding as well.”
The first surprise they served was Raisin Tea, made by steeping raisins overnight to let all the sugars and nutrients seep through into the water. This drink is believed to help with digestion and is a healthier alternative to other sugary drinks because there is no need to add sugar. All the flavorful goodness comes from the raisins themselves. Those who want to up their smoothie game can also use the raisin water as the base, to be combined with fruits of their choice.
Chef Klaus explained that many combinations can be made with the raisins’ taste profile. Research into food pairing by scientists show that the dried fruits go well with the flavors in blue cheese, chicken, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, cinnamon cloves, orange peel, and grains like quinoa and basmati rice.
Raisins can also be made into a paste, which serves as a fat-free, low-sodium, fiber-filled binding ingredient that offers nutrients like resveratrol, magnesium and potassium. One of the dishes that they have made with raisin paste is a pizza. Raisin pasta was used as a substitute for tomato sauce.
“We mixed the paste with balsamic vinegar instead of water, and it balances out the acidity of the vinegar for a sweet-sour taste,” he explained.
Used as topping for the pizza were chicken, pistachio, apples, pineapple and cheese, followed by a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper before the pizza is popped into the oven.
“Don’t limit your imagination,” he advised. “In a savory dish, it’s about finding a balance, since you don’t want the sweetness of the raisins to overpower the dish.”
Here are two easy California Raisin recipes shared by the chefs. They are easy to make and are sure to be a hit with kids and sweet-toothed adults as a healthier alternative to sugar-laden snacks. For more recipes, you can visit the Califorinia Raisins website www.calraisins.org or follow CA Raisins on Instagram @californiaraisinssg.
EASY COCONUT CALIFORNIA RAISIN BITES
288 grams California Natural Raisins
55 grams almonds
100 grams coconut oil, melted
150 grams raisin paste
85 grams apricot jam
100 grams wheat germ, toasted
150 grams oats, toasted
72 grams shredded coconut, unsweetened
1. Place all the ingredients, except wheat germ, oats and shredded coconut, in a food processor. Pulse until mixture becomes a paste.
2. Add wheat germ and oats to the paste, and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
3. Form into 12-gram balls and roll in shredded coconut.
4. Place in an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIE MUG CAKE
170 grams California Raisins
340 grams almond milk (can be plant-based milk or cow’s milk)
100 grams vegetable oil
180 grams honey
300 grams gluten-free flour (can be all-purpose flour)
150 grams gluten-free oats (can be quick oats)
12 grams baking powder
7.5 grams salt
3.3 grams cinnamon powder
cinnamon/sugar mix, as needed
red berries coulis, as needed
1. Whisk almond milk, oil and honey together .
2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Whisk again. Stir in half the California Raisins. Mix all ingredients together.
3. Coat a coffee mug with cooking spray and flour. Fill with 125 grams batter and add 1 Tbsp. red berries coulis.
4. Sprinkle top with some oats, the remaining California Raisins and cinnamon-sugar mixture, or to taste.
5. Cook in microwave oven for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, depending e behaviour of the oven. The cake is ready when it has stopped rising and no longer looks wet around the sides.
6. Let cool slightly before serving.