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Posts Tagged ‘oats’

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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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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Yes, I know: The phrase “seasonally appropriate” evokes images of Miss Manners telling you not to wear white after Labor Day. But this banana bread is a seasonally appropriate recipe if I ever saw one.

January tends to be “make up for December” month. A bunch of people who feel really bad about celebrating Santa with a little to much zeal make a whole bunch of promises they probably won’t keep. Suddenly that second helping of roast beef and extra slice of banana cream pie seem a little overindulgent (come on, we’ve all been there…and if you say you haven’t, you’re just lying).

Banana bread 1

So for starters, this banana bread would be fair game on most “resolutions” lists. It uses molasses in place of some of the sugar, along with whole wheat flour and oats for some added fiber.

And here’s the kicker: with some spices thrown in, the bread has a subtle gingerbread-like flavor that works perfectly this time of year. The holidays may be over, but winter is just getting started. I wouldn’t call this my “go to” banana bread recipe, but somehow it just tastes right this time of year.

So there you have it: healthy and wintery. Does it get more “seasonally appropriate” than that? I’m sure Miss Manners would approve.

Banana bread 2

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Okay, that’s it. Each day in October, as temperatures hovered in the 70s and 80s, I reassured myself that tomorrow would feel like fall. Well, maybe not tomorrow, but the day after that. Or the one after that. Or not at all.

But it’s November, people — stuff-your-face-with-turkey month — and I barely need a jacket. Don’t get me wrong; the weather has been wonderfully sunny and breezy, a refreshing 63°F, even. But it just doesn’t feel like I should be gearing up for pumpkin pie and cornbread stuffing.

Oatmeal 2

I’ve been trying. I’ve made sweet potatoes and apple spice cakes and so many other “fall” dishes that you’d think I ate them cozied up beside a roaring fireplace. I guess I figured I could will the arrival of autumn weather. But alas, my efforts were in vain…

I will concede, however, that recently the mornings have felt like fall, with the crisp sort of air that turns the tip of my nose red and makes my eyes water. The first morning this happened, I was so happy that at least something felt fall-ish that I broke open my jar of steel-cut oats and made a big pot of oatmeal.

Oats

As far as I’m concerned, on cold mornings nothing beats a big bowl of hot cereal, and steel-cut “Irish” oatmeal is one of my favorites. Steel-cut oats come from the inner portion of oat kernels and have been cut into only two or three pieces. They have a nuttier flavor and chewier texture than the more familiar rolled oats, which are flake oats that have been steamed, rolled and toasted.

To make the naturally nutty flavor of steel-cut oats even nuttier, I toast mine lightly before cooking them. I figure if I am going to be warm and toasty, the cereal should be too.

So let’s go, Autumn, time to get down to business. This hot cereal will only fool me into believing it feels like fall for so long, and turkey day is just around the corner.

Oatmeal

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