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Archive for the ‘Low Fat’ Category

Well, here I go again, promising to update this site more regularly and then waiting more than a week to add a new post.  Sigh.  Baby steps, right?

But you should be excited about today’s recipe because it’s easy, healthy and so, so good.  It’s become my favorite granola recipe, and I try to bake a batch every few weeks.  The recipe began as the “Quick Omega-3 Granola” I ripped from a Bon Appetit magazine a year or two ago, but over the years I’ve tweaked it here and there, and now I think it’s even better than the original.

I love granola sprinkled on yogurt or eaten right out of my hand, but my #1 favorite way to eat this granola is sprinkled on vanilla ice cream.  I know, I know — that sort of defeats the purpose, right?  Well, the way I see it, I’m just making dessert a little healthier.  Because I’m eating dessert, healthy or not, so it might as well have a little fiber, right?  Right.

I like to make a big batch and keep a small tin in the cupboard and the rest in a large Ziploc bag in the freezer, which prevents the nuts from going rancid and — horror of horrors — the granola from getting soggy.  Every time I reach the bottom of the tin, I refill it with a little more from the freezer.  Works like a charm.

Homemade granola also makes a great host/hostess gift when you’re tired of bringing wine or feel like bringing something a little different.  It’s the kind of thing your hosts will tuck away for later, only to email you as soon as you get home to say they’ve already eaten half the bag.  With granola this delicious, who could blame them?

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Let me tell you about a little place called The Bunnery.

Two summers ago, when Roger and I were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we decided to grab breakfast at a local restaurant just off the Town Square called The Bunnery. The line spilled out onto sidewalk, but their breakfast came highly recommended, so I couldn’t pass it up. As we know, when it comes to breakfast, I don’t mess around.

When we finally snagged a table, I opened the menu and discovered I was in breakfast heaven. There was the Bunnery Benedict, the Teton Breakfast Burrito and, among other things, several items with the letters “OSM” in front of them: OSM pancakes, OSM waffles, OSM bread.

osm-bread

Come to find out, OSM stands for “oats, sunflower, millet,” a blend of grains that has become The Bunnery’s signature. I love whole grains; I love breakfast. As soon as I discovered what this OSM business was all about, all I could say was “Sign me up.”

I ordered the OSM pancakes, and they kiiiind of rocked my world. I also tried Roger’s OSM toast, which was pretty great too. Later, I discovered that aside from their pies and their breakfast, the rest of The Bunnery’s offerings were a little “feh,” but the OSM goodies placed me firmly in the pro-Bunnery camp.

At the checkout counter, I saw that The Bunnery sells an OSM pancake and waffle mix, but I figured I’d do one step better; I’d buy their cookbook and make some OSM treats of my own.

Unfortunately, the only OSM recipe in the whole cookbook is for their OSM bread, and the recipe is a little verkakte. However, determined to recreate the OSM bread at home, I fiddled with the recipe and think I’ve come up with a pretty excellent rendition. It’s soft, slightly sweet and wholesome, with a lovely crust.  It’s also a good keeper and will last on the counter top for a number of days — that is, if you don’t finish it in a single sitting.

osm-bread-2

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There are probably three foods that, with a single bite, can transport me back to my childhood à laRatatouille”: scrambled eggs, buttered macaroni and, perhaps my favorite, hot Cream of Wheat cereal.

The first two of those foods I instantly associate with my grandmother. I now know it was her generous use of butter that made the scrambled eggs and macaroni so memorable. After all, gobs of fresh butter will make pretty much anything taste good. Of course my memories, much like Anton Ego’s, are wrapped up not just in the food but in the experience of eating that food: sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table, having her listen to my seemingly endless monologue, feeling like prettiest, most interesting girl in the world. Thankfully I had a younger brother who would keep that developing ego in check.

But Cream of Wheat, that I associate with my mother. She’d whip up a big pot on fall and winter weekends, doling out generous bowls for my brother and I, topping them with swirls of maple syrup and some milk or a pat of butter. My brother and I would fiendishly stir the toppings into our cereal while my parents read the weekend paper, and we’d dive in eagerly with our spoons. To this day, I still think of those mornings with even a single taste of that velvety, maple-scented porridge.

I’ve often thought of Cream of Wheat (also called farina) as a poor man’s breakfast polenta, since it has the same silky texture as its corn-based cousin but cooks more quickly due to its finer consistency. So when I saw a drool-worthy recipe for breakfast polenta with maple and mascarpone, but noticed that it required almost 30 minutes of cooking (way more time than I have on a weekday morning), I decided to give the recipe a whirl using Cream of Wheat instead.

And boy am I glad I did. A small dollop of mascarpone gives the cereal a touch a richness without making it too rich, and as far as I’m concerned, maple and farina are a perfect pair.

When it comes to childhood comfort foods, you can never be sure if it’s the reassuring familiarity that makes the food taste so damn good, or if it’s the food itself. In this case, I think it’s a little of both. I was bound to love this recipe, given its provenance. But my English husband’s eyes opened wide like saucers when he tried a spoonful for the first time, which makes me think that even if you never ate Cream of Wheat as a child, you’ll love this too.

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Whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t eat breakfast” or “Breakfast isn’t really my thing,” I think a small part of me dies inside. You see, I love breakfast. It is, without a doubt, my favorite meal of the day. I could eat breakfast foods at every meal and, save the occasional craving for sushi, I would be perfectly content.

This probably comes under the category of Too Much Information, but I often start thinking about breakfast before I even go to bed. Permission granted to think that I am super weird. But I can’t help myself. Oatmeal, yogurt, granola, toast: knowing I will consume some of my favorite foods in just a few hours is enough to make me giddy.

But it isn’t just the food that I love; it’s the ritual of breakfast and what that ritual represents. Breakfast heralds the start of a new day, with endless possibilities before you. The world is yours for the taking — at least in theory.

And these days, a ray of light first thing in the morning is most welcome. I basically spend my entire work day talking and writing and thinking about the financial crisis. Uplifting? Not so much. These days, when I wake up I’m greeted with news that (a) some major financial institution has failed, (b) Asian and European markets took a nosedive overnight, (c) the government is committing another XX billion dollars to get us out of this mess, or (d) all of the above. But at least with my breakfast bowl and a warm cup of coffee in front of me, there is something comforting and reassuring at the beginning of my day.

So in the spirit of all that breakfast represents, I am beginning what henceforth shall be call the “Breakfast Series.” Consider it my way of adding a little variety to your breakfast routine.

First up: a kickass muesli recipe. Saveur published a heavenly version of muesli in their recent “Breakfast Issue” (which I snapped up as soon as it came out, bien sur). But their recipe was a little rich, even for me. I’ve tweaked it a bit and posted that version here, but you can find the original on the Saveur web site.

Toothsome, filling and bursting with flavor, this muesli will keep you going until lunch time and will wrap its arm around your shoulder like an old friend as you scan through the day’s news. These days we need to take comfort where we can get it.

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Pile of Muffins

*chirp, chirp*

*chirp, chirp*

Are those crickets I hear? Yes, the blog has been a little…how shall we say…”quiet” lately. Believe it or not, I have been cooking. But I’ve also been working and planning and traveling and…well, lots of other “-ings.” And all of those other th”ings” have thrown the proverbial wrench in my plans to blog. Drat.

I realize I may have entirely lost anyone who, at one point or another, read my blog. Alas, that would be very sad indeed. So in the hopes of recruiting people back to POTP, I give you…Homemade English Muffins.

English Muffin

Remember when I made that sourdough starter all those weeks ago? Well, I found an excellent use for the leftover starter, replete with Nooks and Crannies. Oh. Yes.

The recipe is super easy, as long as you have a starter going (and if you don’t, starting one is super easy too). I made my muffins with 1/3 whole wheat flour and 2/3 regular flour because, well, you know me. I likes me some whole grains.

So my apologies for my absence — both on this blog and all of yours. I assure you that once I’m a Mrs. in less than two months (!!), the nooks and crannies between my blog posts won’t be so large…

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A Small Smackerel

Many years ago, when I first started collecting recipes, I allowed my obsessive compulsive tendencies to run wild and began to organize the recipes by type: entrees in one folder, desserts, vegetables,  and appetizers their own folders.  As the collection grew, I began to divide the recipes into subsets of those categories, separating the chicken recipes from the fish recipes in the entree folder, and clumping together the cakes, pies, cookies and so on in the dessert folder.  What can I say — I like to create order in a world driven by chaos.

But then my collection grew.  And grew.  And grew.  And before I knew it, dividing desserts among cakes, pies, cookies and custards didn’t really do the job.  “Cake,” for example, could describe any number of recipes — layer cake, cheesecake, coffee cake, fruit cake.  Imagine having to sift through a disorganized pile of all of the above.  Perish the thought!  So I started grouping those recipes together as well.

(If you’re wondering, no I don’t group my underwear by color.  I’m not *that* crazy…or at least I’d like to think I’m not…)

Needless to say, I have amassed a rather large and unwieldy recipe collection.  I think it’s safe to say I will probably never get to half the recipes in those folders, as organized as they may be.  But one sub-subset that I love and have yet to bulk up with recipes is the “snack cake” section.

Ah yes, the snack cake: perfect for when you want a nosh of something at, say, 3:30pm, when dinner is hours away but your stomach gets the rumbles.  In my opinion, a good snack cake should be more substantial than a coffee cake, less sweet than a cupcake but less wholesome than a granola bar.  I like snack cakes with some texture: maybe some nuts or bits of chocolate, or some oats or dried fruit.

I have a handful of these recipes, but recently I decided I wanted something new and merged a few recipes to come up with my own: chewy banana-oat snack cake with coconut.  I basically threw together three of my favorite ingredients — bananas, oats and coconut — and hoped the result would be equal to or greater than the sum of their parts.  It was.

Chewy, sweet and filling, this cake is just the thing when all you need is a little nibble — a smackerel, as Winnie the Pooh might say — to make the afternoon hunger pains go away.  But you don’t have to stop at a smackerel.  Sometimes my appetite is as big as my recipe collection, and the only way to bring that into order is to turn a small smackerel into a cake-filled afternoon feast.

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I know, I know: I posted a recipe for banana bread about two months ago. But I subscribe to the belief that one can never have too many banana bread recipes in one’s arsenal.

slice-of-banana-bread.jpg

The great thing about banana bread is that all you really need is a bunch of old, mushy bananas. I like mine made with some buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt — but like with most things, I’m not picky. Then all you need are your “staples” and from there, it’s up to you. Toss in spices — cinnamon, cardamom, cloves — or goodies like nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit. Oats, whole wheat flour, candied ginger — the sky’s the limit.

I’ve found that you can make banana bread moist and deliciously decadent without using a cup of butter or oil. Bananas themselves provide a lot of moisture and sweetness in baked goods, and small amounts of acidic fats like yogurt and sour cream add tenderness without a lot of guilt.

This Plain Jane version of banana bread is nothing fancy — no coconut, no toasted nuts, no hunks of dark chocolate — but it’s delicious. Like many banana bread recipes, it’s the result of a bunch of black and mushy bananas that had to go and some ingredients lingering in my fridge that I needed to use up. In my experience, sour cream makes a mean banana bread, and in this case, you only need a 1/4 cup to create a tender and delicious loaf.

banana-bread.jpg

Feel free to make this banana bread your own — add chopped dark chocolate, or toasted walnuts, or poppy seeds. At the very least, this recipe might inspire you to whip out your own favorite banana bread recipe. You can never have too many.

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