Tag Archives: recipes

You win some, you lose some

To be perfectly honest, friends, I flubbed this whole blog thing a bit the past couple of weeks. Work has been extremely busy and all of my creative pursuits (including this one) have gone by the wayside.

I was going to try to pull the wool over your eyes by sharing a lovely rhubarb compote that I whipped up before the rest of the stuff hit the fan, but it turns out I’ve lost my notes on the recipe. So, I can’t even do that. Ah well, I guess you win some, you lose some.

The compote was based on this recipe, which is an old stand-by for me during rhubarb season, but it was slightly less sweet and made with local Meadowfoam Honey. Just look at how delightful it is:

finished compote

I am still very glad I made it because it has been my constant breakfast companion during this hectic time. You can spread it on toast or dollop it onto oatmeal and Voilà! A plain breakfast suddenly feels special and ever-so-spring-like. Maybe I’ll give it another go, now that things have calmed down, and share it with you then.

In the meantime, I highly recommend whipping up your own version if you get your hands on some rhubarb. The original recipe is quite simple and easily adaptable. It mixes well with berries (fresh or frozen), it takes kindly to the addition of chia seeds, and you can use almost any sweetener you have on hand. I even grated a Granny Smith apple into it one time because I was low on sugar and honey. Now that’s my kind of recipe.

So…what else do you want to talk about?

How about the cherries that I was absolutely delighted to find sprouting this week on the tree in our backyard? The thing with this cherry tree is that we knew when we moved in that it was a cherry tree, but we didn’t think it was going to bear fruit this year (or for a long time) because of the way it was pruned by the owner. Blah, blah, blah, long story, but lookit!

cherries

Those are cherries in the making, my friend, and there are lots of them. I’m so excited! Now, I’ve been warned about the havoc that birds can wreak on a producing fruit tree, and I have already begun planning evasive maneuvers (that will not hurt any birds!) So, assuming that goes well and we have cherries in the next month or so, I’ve also begun gathering cherry recipes.

Cherries are generally a fruit I enjoy raw because they are a) delicious raw, b) SO expensive I never want to buy enough for a recipe, and c) a pain in the butt to pit. If I have enough free cherries to eat raw and cook into to tasty treats though, you better believe I will do just that. Here are some of the recipes I have my eye on:

Do you have any other ideas for me? I’m all ears! And I promise to keep you posted on the results. Maybe I’ll even get it together enough to share an actual recipe on this very blog. Go figure!

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Filed under Food, Miscellany, Odds & Ends

Making sprouts, if not friends

It is difficult to make new friends in your 30s. I know that to those of you in and past this phase of life have probably already figured this out, but bear with me a moment while I catch up. I’m just not as social as I used to be. In fact I find that I’ve developed a social awkwardness that I don’t remember having in my 20s. Maybe it’s because most of my social interactions then were at a bar, drink in hand?

In any case, I find I still have the human need for friends, but am less adept at interacting with strangers than I once was. So, one solution to this has been to seek out structured activities where I am thrust into the presence of other people, but do not have to make a lot of conversation with them right off the bat. Knitting class, writing workshop, author readings, gardening class, and one class about sprouting. Yes, a class about DIY sprouting given at the local co-op. How’s that for being a crunchy Oregon hippie?!

lentils

I didn’t make any friends at the class, but I did learn a lot of fascinating things about sprouting and I have been hooked on it ever since. It turns out there is a lot more to sprouts than the alfalfa variety that I remember from my youth, and that I hated. You can sprout nuts, beans, lentils, seeds, grains, the possibilities are endless! Or nearly so.

And there are some convincing health benefits, at least I find them convincing, that have to do with all the nutrients locked up in the seed of a plant (which is, of course, what all the aforementioned things are). When you sprout a bean or a nut, you release all the protein and vitamins that it was storing to help it grow into a strong, healthy plant. Sprouts are also delicious, and have very different flavors depending on what you are sprouting – something that surprised me because my sprout experience had been limited to the alfalfa variety.

spices

My favorite sprouts so far, and the ones that have been the most consistently successful, are lentil sprouts. So, they are the sprouts featured in today’s recipe. I have also had a few challenges, though, and one sprouting disaster – lest you think my sprouting glasses are a little too rose-colored. The disaster was self-inflicted, really, and involved an attempt to sprout garbanzo beans that I knew were way too old to do anything with other than use as pie weights. Pro tip: if beans are too old to cook, they are too old to sprout.

citrus

For the most part though, sprouting has been smooth-sailing, delicious, and nutritious. This recipe is by far my favorite that has incorporated lentil sprouts, but they are supremely versatile. They add a wonderful texture and flavor to salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for just about any quinoa or other grain salad.

finished salad

Carrot, Avocado, Sprout Salad over Quinoa

Barely adapted from DailyCandy (RIP)
Makes four good-sized portions, good for lunch or dinner

Directions for lentil sprouts are below this recipe, but heads up: it takes about 3 1/2 to 4 days to sprout lentils. So, if you want to make this recipe, you best get sprouting!

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 tangerines (I used Cuties), halved
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 4 cups lentil sprouts (directions below)
  • a couple dollops of sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame, but you could use any seeds you want), toasted

Combine quinoa, 2 cups water, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to just what is needed to maintain the simmer and cook until all water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, 15-20 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking, turn the oven on to 350° and put a large pot of water on to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the carrots and cook until a knife pierces them easily, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, cumin, thyme, chili, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper in a food processor and pulse until pasty. With the food processor running, add the vinegar and ¼ cup of the olive oil and run until well-mixed. Set aside.

When the quinoa is done, set it aside. When the carrots are done, drain and then arrange them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Spoon the cumin/olive oil mixture over the carrots.

Cut 3 of the tangerines and 1 lemon in half and place them on top of the carrots, cut-side down. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until carrots are golden brown.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze the juice from the roasted tangerine and lemon halves into a small bowl. Squeeze in the juice each from the remaining uncooked tangerine and lemon. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle about half over the roasted carrots, reserving the rest.

To assemble the dish, start with a scoop of the quinoa and top with saucy carrots, then avocado, then sprouts. Drizzle with reserved sauce, add a dollop of sour cream to the top, and then sprinkle with toasted seeds. Serve immediately.

Lentil Sprouts

Directions from Susan Hyne, who taught the sprouting class
Makes ~4 cups

  • 1/4 cup lentils (I used Puy lentils, but you could use Beluga, brown, red, yellow, etc.)
  • 1 quart glass jar with a screw top lid
  • cheesecloth

Rinse lentils in a sieve and then dump into the glass jar.

Fill the jar with water. Cover the opening of the jar with a 2-ply piece of cheesecloth and then screw lid on to hold cheesecloth in place.

lentils in jar

Cover the jar with a kitchen towel to keep out light and soak lentils for 12 hours.

After the lentils have soaked, drain the water and rest jar in a small bowl so that it’s tilted and any remaining water can drain out. Re-cover with the kitchen towel.

draining lentils

Rinse the lentils and the bowl well 2-3 times per day for 3-4 days, each time returning the jar to the bowl so that the lentils can drain and covering with the towel.

day one

 

day two

day three

The sprouts are ready when they are about 1-inch long.

finished sprouts

Eat right away or store in the fridge. If you are storing in the fridge, do not rinse right before putting them in the fridge (i.e. you want them to go into the fridge as dry as possible to keep them from getting slimy). If you put them in the fridge dry, they will keep for up to 4 days.

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Filed under Food, Lunch, Main Course, Odds & Ends

Eat butter, preferably as shortbread

One of my sisters celebrated a birthday this week…a big birthday. I won’t say which one, but – to make this all about me for a second – it made me feel really old that I have a younger sister that is this age.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were driving to high school together through the gray Alaska mornings and singing along to the radio to keep each other awake? It seems like it couldn’t have been more than a couple weeks ago that we were crawling through six inches of snow in our new yard looking for a place to build our first snow fort. Or more than a couple years ago that we spent our afternoons after school tramping around the fields of our childhood home scanning the ground, looking for arrowheads and looking to avoid cow pies.

sisters

Where, oh where does the time go?

sisters

Since this was such a big birthday, we all chipped in and got her a present she’s been wanting for a while and that was equal to the occasion: a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. When I got my own stand mixer it totally changed my cooking/baking life, and I was so excited to give that gift to my sis. As a little extra treat for her day, I whipped up one of the recipes that makes me oh-so-thankful I have a stand mixer of my own.

zest and herbs

These are a basic shortbread cookie, with some additions that make them special enough for a birthday present. Shortbread cookies have a lot of butter, and as such, there is a lot of whipping together of sugar and butter. This is exactly the type of task that you want a stand mixer for (not to mention making bread and whipping egg whites).

Sure, you could do it with an electric hand mixer, but with a stand mixer you can turn the thing on and go about your business prepping the other ingredients. Then, a few minutes later, you can turn back to the mixer and find perfectly whipped sugar-butter. (Or butter-sugar, in the case of this recipe.)

creaming butter and sugar

It really is a thing of beauty. And the great thing about being in the decade we are both in now (you and I, little sis) is that you tend to care less about things that once seemed so important. Like eating too much butter.

sparkly shortbread

Meyer Lemon & Thyme Sparkly Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
Makes about 36 cookies

These cookies keep fabulously well, and can be reliably sent across the country to a birthday girl (or boy). If you’re not sending half the batch away, you may also like to know that the uncooked dough can be frozen for later.

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • zest of two Meyer lemons, divided
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons…!) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg yolks (save one of the whites)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Dump the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Zest one of the Meyer lemons on top of the sugar, and then rub the zest into the sugar. (This is an important step, trust Joy the Baker).

Beat butter, 1/2 cup of zested granulated sugar, powdered sugar, and salt together on medium speed until creamy and fluffy (about 3 minutes).

With the mixer on low speed, add in the egg yolks one at a time and beat until incorporated.  Then, still on low speed (the lowest you can go), add in the flour and thyme and blend until just incorporated – do not over mix. The dough will be very soft and pliant.

Divide the dough in half and dump onto two pieces of plastic wrap. Shape dough into logs about the size of a paper towel roll. Wrap each log up in the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours and up to three days. (If you are freezing any, you can just put it in the freezer at this point.)

While waiting for the dough to chill, make more zested sugar with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and the zest from the second Meyer lemon. Do this on a piece of parchment paper or foil so that you can roll the logs in it to give them their sparkly crust. Set aside.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Brush the logs with the leftover egg white and roll in the reserved zested sugar. Then, cut the dough into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 17-20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden around the edges, but still pale on the top.

Keep for yourself or send to someone you love. ❤

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The beauty of an unplanned meal

I am a planner. I like to organize things and catalog them and plot them out on a timeline if they will let me. I am a librarian, after all. At work I have a master To Do list on my computer that is then broken up into sub-lists, including To Do This Week, To Do This Term, To Do This Summer, you get the idea. I also have a Projects list on a whiteboard in my office, just in case my other lists distract me from what’s really important.

This extends to my personal life as well, and definitely to my kitchen. I have a list of my goals for the year next to my bed, so that I can read them every night and stay motivated. I never (well, hardly ever) go to the grocery store before planning out the week’s meals and making a list. When I first started cooking, I always, always followed a recipe. It didn’t even occur to me, in fact, that there was any other way. And I liked how following a recipe gave me a consistent, predictable result.

Thankfully, I have learned by now that so much of cooking is unplanned. It’s about tasting and adjusting and customizing. Especially since we’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest where there is so much fresh, local produce, I have embraced seasonal cooking, which means you have to be ready to do what you can with what you’ve got at any given time of year. I encountered a perfect example of this one weekend recently when David and I went to our first farmers’ market of the spring.

spring vegetables

It is still indoors, in a warehouse-like building on the fairgrounds. The outdoor market won’t return until later this month, but spring was definitely making its presence known. The booths had more life, the whole place was humming, there were spring onions. Spring onions! They even have the word ‘spring’ in their name. So, of course, we bought some. We also gathered a hodge-podge of other vegetables, whatever spoke to us, as well as a dozen pullet eggs, which are the petite eggs of a hen under 1-year-old.

ingredients

I didn’t know what I was going to do with our random purchases and I started to feel a little Type-A panic about it. But when we got home and unpacked everything it became clear: a spring quiche was in order. It was the best kind of unplanned meal – fresh ingredients combining with a well-stocked pantry to create something delightful.

finished quiche

Hearty Farmers’ Market Quiche

Crust adapted from Joy the Baker, filling modeled on Two Peas and Their Pod
Makes one 9-inch quiche

In the spirit of spontaneity, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this recipe can be endlessly adapted and tinkered with. In fact, that’s what a quiche is for, in my opinion. Especially when it comes to what vegetables and cheese you use. You can use almost anything you can imagine. Just keep the proportions of vegetables and cheese to eggs and milk about what they are in this recipe and you will be sitting pretty.

Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks and chilled or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk, chilled (I used 1%)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch (about 4 cups) Russian kale, ribs removed and then chopped
  • 4 spring onions (white and green parts divided), chopped
  • 5 large eggs (or equivalent in pullet eggs)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%, use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

First, prepare and prebake the crust:

In a medium bowl whisk together flours, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Add the butter pieces and cream cheese and work into dry mixture, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, until most butter and cream cheese bits are pea-sized.

Whisk together the milk and oil, and then add all at once to the flour and butter mixture. Combine wet and dry ingredients with a fork until the liquid is just incorporated. Do not overwork – the dough will not totally come together, it will stay sort of shaggy.

Dump the dough into a clean 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Try to get it as even as possible, but don’t worry about it too much – no one will ever see it!

Put the crust in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.

Once your crust is frozen, line it with foil and fill it with beans or some other pie weight. Bake for 8 minutes. Then remove pie weights and foil and bake for another 4-6 minutes until it starts to brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add kale and the white parts of the spring onions. Cook until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spring onion green parts, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, then stir in the feta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

When the crust is done prebaking and the filling is prepared, raise the oven temperature to 375°. Spread vegetable mixture over the bottom of the crust, and then pour in egg mixture.

Bake the quiche for 45 minutes or until quiche is set and the top is golden brown. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Spring and spinach

Happy first day of spring! I am more excited than usual for its arrival this year. I am excited for spring every year, who isn’t? But this year the winter seems to have been longer, darker, more wearing. I’m sure this is all in my mind, but regardless, I am brimming now that spring has finally decided to show up.

spring flowers

One of the things that starts to happen in my kitchen when spring comes, and is fully ensconced as a policy by summer, is that the meals get simpler. The best spring and summer recipes involve less prep time, less cooking time, just less fuss all around. This suits my spring mood perfectly, since all of a sudden there are a million other things I’d rather be doing than standing over a hot stove (the opposite of how I feel in the winter, for the record!).

I want to plant an herb garden, for instance, and to ride my bike along that path by the river that I kept meaning to check out last summer. David and I are planning to hike and camp and swim in as many of the spots that new friends and acquaintances have described as the “best places” for such things around here as we can.

I’m looking to sit on patios – as many as I can find/get myself invited to – with a cold drink and a book, feeling the sun warm the back of my neck. It is my goal to have a picnic at every park in town and watch the dogs that will surely be at said parks run and play. I want to pick blueberries at one of the many fields that I pass on my drive to work, when the rows and rows of bushes that have been red and bare all winter become green and laden with fruit.

With all these plans, who has time to cook? Spring and summer produce is so glorious though, that I certainly wouldn’t want to forgo home-cooked meals during this time. That is where recipes like this Spiced Coconut Spinach come in. During this time of year I return again and again to old standbys like this one: recipes that I know by heart, that are quick, simple, consistently delicious, and that show off the season’s best fruits and vegetables.

mise en place

This spinach comes together in no time (seriously, 15 minutes from start to finish) and its flavors are dazzling – much more intense than you might expect. You can pair it with other spring and summer vegetables to your heart’s content. The original recipe pairs it with asparagus, which is lovely, and I imagine it would also meld well with zucchini, summer squash, corn, fresh peas, even green beans. 

It is also an ideal accompaniment for almost any starch or protein that you might be using to round out your meal. We generally eat it with brown rice, but it also tucks nicely into a pita and sits well atop a baked potato or a pile of pasta. The original recipe suggests folding it into an omelet, which is how I plan to eat it next.

Here’s to spring!

spiced spinach

Spiced Coconut Spinach

Adapted from 101cookbooks
Serves 2 as part of an entree, 3-4 as a side

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 6 1/2 cups spinach (~7 oz.), washed and chopped (no need to chop if using baby spinach, but I’d recommend lovely, full, spring spinach!)
  • 1 cup summer vegetables, chopped (optional)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they start to pop. Then, add the red pepper flakes and cook for one more minute.

Add the shallot, garlic, and salt and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and any other summer vegetables (i.e. quick cooking vegetables) you’re using. Stir frequently and cook for just a few minutes – until the spinach cooks down and any other vegetables are fork-tender.

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and top with the toasted coconut.

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A rebellious tart

Now that I’ve gotten your attention… Today is Pi Day! A day that food bloggers have co-opted and use as an excuse to post about pies. A little silly? Yes. Do I need more than the slightest nudge to talk about pie? No. So, here we are.

Except, I’m not really going to tell you about a pie. I’m going to tell you about a unique tart that is part pie and part cheesecake. I’m just a little rebellious that way, and so is this tart. Because it is incredibly easy to make, especially the crust. This is not something anyone has ever said about pie, especially the crust. And although there are recipes out there for “quick” and “easy” cheesecake…I’ve never been impressed. But this tart is easy, quick, and impressive. Best of both worlds.

crust dough

Now, it works out that I get to share this with you on Pi Day, but this tart is rooted in a recent fixation I’ve had on making labneh. Labneh is yogurt cheese, and you can make it at home simply by draining yogurt for a few days in the fridge. Ideally, it comes out the texture and firmness of a soft goat cheese and is similarly tangy and creamy, and just plain delightful.

The “recipe” (it’s more of a process, really) I used to make my labneh calls for using a full 32 oz. container of yogurt. So for whatever reason, I got a bee in my bonnet to try making some of the stuff, but didn’t really think through what I would do with it once I had it. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious and I spread it on rice cakes and toast with jam for a couple days. But then it was still there – lots of it. This tart was my solution, and what an enjoyable solution it turned out to be.

tart filling

Back to pie for a moment: I love making traditional pie and homemade pie crust. I like a good challenge, and there are few kitchen challenges quite as daunting as pie crust. I’ve made some good crusts in my day (also some disasters!), but I can’t say that I’ve perfected it. I don’t know that I ever will – it’s like my White Whale. There is something about the mystique of it that keeps me coming back to try again.

But sometimes I just don’t want to expend the effort. Even Ahab took breaks from chasing the White Whale, right?! I imagine many people feel the same way (not about the dorky book joke, but about not wanting to expend effort).

tart crust

Don’t worry that you’re settling for an inferior dessert though. Despite being so easy to make, the crust for this tart works. It is buttery and holds its crunch, as the best tart crusts are and do. The filling is creamy, but also tangy, which saves it from being too rich and heavy, and it comes together in a snap (assuming you planned ahead and have your labneh ready to go). The baking process is also decidedly un-fussy. No need to chill it, freeze it, or put it in a water bath. You do need to be careful not to over-bake it, but that is easily done.

In summary: making labneh is fun, making this tart is easy, and it is a lovely dessert for an almost-spring Pi Day.

finished tarts

Labneh Tart (or Tartlets)

Barely adapted from Food52
Makes 1 tart or several tartlets, depending on size

I made this recipe into smaller tartlets; since it’s just the two of us here I wanted to portion it into multiple servings. This recipe will make four 4-inch tartlets, or one standard 9 1/2-inch tart. I also experimented with making even smaller tartlets in a muffin pan and that worked as well, so feel free to try different sizes to suit your dessert needs. You can get creative with the toppings, too. Blueberries were delicious and complemented the lemon, but other fruit would also work, and I think caramel would be lovely as well.

Crust:

  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup labneh
  • zest from one Meyer lemon
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350.

First, make the crust. Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. Mix in the flour until just blended. The dough will be very soft, but don’t worry, it’s supposed to be (see photo above in post).

Dump the dough into your tart pan. Or, if you are making tartlets, portion the dough out evenly. Then, press the dough out to cover the bottom and sides of the pan, making it as even as possible.

Put the pan(s) on a cookie sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. When the crust is finished, remove it from the oven and lower the heat to 300.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl. Then, whisk in the labneh, and then the zest.

Pour the filling into the par-baked crust(s) and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the blueberries on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling is set around the edges but not in the middle – it should still be loose in the middle when you give it a little shake.

It will firm up once it’s out of the oven, so you don’t want to over-bake it. Check it a few times during the last 5 minutes or so to make sure you catch it while the middle still quivers. Cool completely before eating…this is not something you want to eat right out of the oven. That being said, we liked it better at room temperature than cold. So, if you refrigerate it, pull it out 20-30 minutes before serving to let it warm up.

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Overnight oats are my best friend

My last post about the new attitude I’ve developed about bringing lunch vs. buying it got me to thinking about a similar transformation when it comes to breakfast. In case you’re wondering, I won’t do a tour of all the meals. Dinner and I have an uncomplicated relationship and I’ve always been big a fan of desserts and snacks.

For most of my life though, I have not been a breakfast person. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (they = the moms of the world, as far as I can tell), so my ambivalence has always felt problematic. Don’t misunderstand the scope of my breakfast statement, I am all about brunch. But the early morning, force-it-down-just-to-get-something-in-your-stomach-as-you’re-running-to-school-or-work meal has never held much appeal for me. As you can guess from the last sentence, I have never been much of a morning person, which I’m sure has something to do with it.

I have also gone through some fairly traumatizing breakfast phases – all self-induced, mind you. There was the Banana Phase somewhere around high school and/or early college, during which I ate a banana for breakfast every morning because I had read some magazine article about something bananas did for you that I wanted to achieve. After that phase I couldn’t eat bananas at all for years – I just started enjoying them again within the past year actually. Then there was the South Beach Phase after college when the Jessicas (two friends named Jessica) and I were living together and were on the South Beach Diet (why, god, why?!) During this ill-fated time we made scrambled eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast every single day. Ugh. I could never eat that breakfast again, no matter the monetary reward.

Based on these two examples that I’ve dredged up, it seems my troubles have come in too much repetition with my breakfast. This probably explains why the breakfast routine I have more happily settled on these days is much more varied. I’m still not a morning person though, and am perpetually running late. For a breakfast to make the cut it has to be fast and easy to put together in the bleary-eyed early hours (read: 5-10 minutes to prep and eat). And thus I present to you: Overnight Oats Two Ways and all their glorious variations.

Oats are my best friend in the morning, and they would be yours too if you let them. They are a nutritious blank slate that can be dressed up in a myriad of ways depending on your mood, the season, or what you happen to have in your kitchen. The overnight part is crucial, however, because it is what allows them to also be quick (without using quick or instant oats, which are not worth the effort).

muesli

Overnight Oats Two Ways

My definition of overnight oats is that you soak some type of raw oats in some type of liquid overnight and in the morning they can either be eaten raw or after a nominal period of cooking time. Whether or not they need to be cooked depends on which type of oats you use. Check out Food 52 for more overnight oats tips, and Food Riot for more overall tips about how to make superior oatmeal.

muesli

Option 1: Raw Rolled Oat Muesli (cold)
Adapted from My New Roots
Makes 1 serving

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/8-1/4 cup frozen berries (if using fresh add them before serving, see below)
  • 1/4 cup any type of unflavored, unsweetened milk (cow, soy, almond, and even coconut are all delicious!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted

The night before you want to eat your muesli (or even a day or two before, really), stir together the oats, chia seeds, frozen berries, and milk. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to eat, top with the toasted coconut.

This recipe can be customized to your heart’s desire. Keep the oats and milk, but other than that you can mix in anything you want. I personally love the chia seeds, so I always keep them in, too. Use any kind of fruit you can think of, though. I’ve used berries, stone fruit, apples, and pears. If using frozen fruit, soak it with the muesli as instructed above. If using fresh fruit, simply top the muesli with it when ready to eat. You can also use different toppings. I’ve replaced the coconut with various types of nuts. I’ve also topped it with fruit compote. Last but not least, I have recently taken to leaving out the chia seeds and topping the plain muesli with chia fruit jam and coconut whipped cream a la this recipe from Cookie and Kate (hint: this variation is heavenly). So, in summary, go wild!

steel cut oats

Option 2: Steel-Cut Oat Porridge (warm)
Adapted from The Food52 Cookbook and Food Riot
Makes 2-3 servings, depending on how much you like to eat for breakfast

  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup water or milk (or even whey from draining yogurt!)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter (almond, peanut, or sunflower are all delicious)
  • 1 teaspoon honey

The night before you want to eat your porridge, stir the oats and 1 cup water together in a saucepan. Cover and leave to soak overnight. I usually just soak the oats on the counter, but you can put them in the fridge if you’d like.

In the morning, add the additional 1/2 cup of liquid and a pinch of salt to the pan and cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes. I tend to favor a shorter cooking time because I like my steel-cut oats to still have a little pop when I eat them. When the oats are done cooking, serve with nut butter and honey stirred in.

There are many variations on this one, too. In addition to varying the cooking liquid and nut butter, feel free to vary the sweetener (maple syrup is always a winner). Or mix up the toppings: chopped nuts instead of nut butter, fresh or dried fruit, etc. The jam and coconut whipped cream combo works here as well!

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