Oatmeal Two Ways

Usually, I share my experiences making other people’s recipes, but this week I’m using my own recipes for my two favorite kinds of oatmeal. Most people eat oatmeal for breakfast, but I love savory apple, cheddar, and rosemary oatmeal for lunch. This is actually a copycat recipe. Quaker included this flavor in their Best Bowl competition boxes, but I’ve never seen it (or the other flavors in the running) in stores since the end of the voting. Therefore, I decided to make my own, less artificial-tasting version. I top it with eggs over easy to add some protein and a creamy “sauce” thanks to the yolks. There’s also some great texture thanks to chunks of real apple. All in all, this dish satisfies without being heavy.  The second way I prepare oatmeal is with peanut butter and cocoa powder for an indulgent but not overly sweet bedtime snack. I’m nursing a hungry infant, so my body appreciates the slow-digesting protein and fiber at night. The combination of chocolate and peanut butter also helps curb my tendency to snack more than I need to before bed.  

Each recipe works at any time of day and yields 1 serving. Enjoy!

Apple, Cheddar, and Rosemary Oatmeal

Ingredients

1 packet plain oatmeal

1/3 cup apple juice (depending on the consistency you want for your oatmeal, you may need more liquid; I like some thickness)

½ small apple, chopped

1 large pinch dried rosemary

Salt, pepper, and sharp shredded cheddar to taste

Directions

Put the oatmeal in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Combine the juice, apples, and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Use a spoon to keep the apple chunks in the saucepan while pouring the liquid into the oatmeal. Let sit for 1 minute, then add the apples and shredded cheddar. Top with eggs cooked to your preference if you’d like to add some protein.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Ingredients

1 packet plain oatmeal

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoon brown sugar

1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons peanut butter

½ Tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

Boil 1/3 cup water (or a little more or less depending on the consistency you prefer for your oatmeal). Meanwhile, pour the oatmeal, cocoa powder, and brown sugar into a bowl. Stir in the boiling water and let sit for 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and stir to incorporate. Top with chocolate chips if you’re using them.

Tuna Pesto Pasta

The Try It Tuesday recipes have been rather sweet lately, so I decided to try a pasta that doesn’t have red sauce for lunch since my husband wouldn’t be home to complain and my son always eats peanut butter toast with gusto. Not only was I ready for something fresh in every sense of the word, but I also have canned tuna that only I will eat. I flipped through some magazines and researched pesto recipes online, then I combined a few recipes to come up with this Tuna Pesto Pasta. This yields 2 servings. Ingredients

1 ½ cups farfalle pasta

1 5-ounce can tuna in water (you can drain it or not; if not, you just add a little less pasta water to toss)

1 bouquet fresh basil (cannot substitute dry)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 clove garlic

½ cup sliced almonds

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons water

¾ cup to 1 cup of cooking water reserved from the pasta

Directions

Boil pasta according to package directions or according to your preference (I generally only cook my pasta 8-9 minutes). Meanwhile, drain the tuna and put in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Put the basil, salt, pepper, garlic, and almonds into food processor. Process until finely chopped then add the olive oil and 2 tablespoons water while the processor is on. Pour into the bowl with the tuna.

Drain the cooked pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Fold pasta into tuna and pesto; add cooking water a little at a time, stirring gently between additions until the sauce coats the pasta to your liking. I tend to use a little less water than recipes suggest.

I really enjoyed the freshness of the pesto and between the almonds and tuna I felt like this packs a protein punch. I also love the ease of prep: no time-consuming chopping and I think this was ready in under 15 minutes. I may have to try other versions of pesto and replace the tuna with canned chicken or turkey to see if I can’t get my boys (a.k.a the hubby and preschooler) to try it. As I was eating, the only thing I’d consider changing for my own taste buds would be to add some quartered cherry or grape tomatoes. I am not a tomato person, but every now and then, the sweetness and acidity of the smaller varieties are a welcome shot of flavor and color in a dish.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this recipe since this is the first time I’ve made pesto. Otherwise bon appetit!

Fruity Pebble Macarons

My mother-in-law and I bond over cooking shows. We both enjoy baking and talking about what we would make in the contestants’ place. In our discussions, we keep coming back to macarons. While I’ve eaten many macarons, neither of us has made them… until yesterday!

A few weeks ago I happened across a recipe for Fruity Pebbles macarons. As a kid, I loved this cereal and this recipe finally motivated me to get the ingredients (and a kitchen scale) to make them. 

This week, my in-laws came to visit and we had our time in the kitchen. 

For a first try, I’m pleased with how our experiment turned out. The shells had a nice chewy inner texture like they are supposed to. The outside didn’t puff up quite like they’re supposed to, but I don’t think I got the Fruity Pebbles quite as finely ground as I needed to and we didn’t use the dehydrated powdered egg whites.

 The flavor conjured up memories of Saturday morning cartoons and cereal on the living room floor. However, these are a tad too sweet. Even my preschooler couldn’t finish his cookie. Perhaps these just need to be made into mini macarons. 

If you’re interested in trying the recipe, it’s in a cook book called Cereal Sweets & Treats by Jessica Sergarra. 

I’ve heard time and again how delicate a difficult macarons are to make, but my mother-in-law and I had fun making these. Despite the attention and precision called for by macarons, I’d be willing to try them again. Next time around, I’ll try more traditional flavors for my macarons: almond shells and chocolate or cherry filling, perhaps?

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries


I saw some beautiful, large strawberries at the grocery store today and immediately thought of a video I saved a while ago on Facebook: No-bake strawberry cheesecake bites. I couldn’t pass up the chance to use these berries when they smelled so flavorful.  The original recipe can be found here: http://rare.us/rare-life/food-and-drink/these-no-bake-strawberry-cheesecake-bites-are-everything/ however, I did quarter the recipe since my husband wouldn’t have any interest in helping me eat these. My measurements are below:

Ingredients

4-6 strawberries (depending on size)

2 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup powdered sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Crushed animal crackers to taste

I followed the directions exactly as given in the video. They turned out great! Don’t let the name fool you, though; these are not filled with cheesecake. They are filled with cream cheese icing. Even still, they are not overly sweet and the vanilla compliments the flavor of the strawberries. The only caveat I have is that this recipe wouldn’t work well if the berries aren’t perfectly ripe. If you find perfect strawberries like I did, enjoy these perfect bites of summertime sweetness.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bars

Oh, it’s obvious I’m still getting back on the swing of things; I forgot that yesterday was Tuesday so I didn’t post.

This is a recipe from November during my first few days in our new house. I had limited cooking supplies. Just to drive home this point, I mixed up the batter for these in a large saucepan, not a mixing bowl and I mashed the bananas by smushing them between my fingers. If you’re a person who likes to keep things clean like I do, let me reassure you: I washed my hands before and after. And I now understand why babies who are learning to eat big-people food find it so fun to squeeze everything between their little fingers.

Now for the recipe itself. As I was looking over my box of Jiffy baking mix for a muffin recipe, I found one for banana nut loaf. I didn’t have a loaf pan or all of the ingredients, but I was able to modify the recipe to fit my pantry contents and my not-quite-9×13 inch jelly roll pan. Here is what I came up with:

Ingredients

2 cups Jiffy Baking Mix (You might be able to use another brand, but I think it would have to be labeled something like “all-purpose” and not instant or complete)

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup mini, semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper. Put all ingredients except the chocolate chips into a mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.

Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

These bars have a light, cakey texture and a subtle banana flavor. They are a great snack with a glass of milk or even a good breakfast food that can be served next to yogurt or spread with peanut butter. Of course, my son loved this sweet treat and although I prepared these by myself, the banana chocolate chip bars would be a great way to bake with small children because of the simplicity of the recipe.

Enjoy both the making and the munching of these deliciously simple little squares!

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts… In a Waffle Iron!

In case you’ve missed the promotions at your neighborhood donut shop, it’s National Donut Day. Since I had some sour cream left over from a tasty corn hot dish (think casserole or spoon pudding) I made last week, I decided to try a recipe for sour cream donuts. These are possibly my favorite type of donuts. I definitely prefer cake to yeast and I find traditional glazed and powered sugar donuts overly sweet.

There was only one immediately apparent problem with the recipe: it called for frying. If you’ve read this blog before, you know I favor simple cooking methods. Frying just doesn’t seem simple to this Northern girl, though I admit that this is probably just lack of familiarity with the technique. Luckily, I remembered seeing a recipe for donuts in a waffle iron cookbook, so I went for it. You can find the recipe for the sour cream donuts here at the Handle the Heat blog.

If you want to make these in a waffle iron, you can do the following:

The original recipe only uses egg yolks. I found that the dough wasn’t wet enough to get all of my dry ingredients incorporated, so I added some of the egg whites. However, I didn’t read the instructions closely enough at the beginning (rushing to finish during nap time) and whisked the sugar in with the dry ingredients instead of creaming it with the butter. This (and the fact that I used all-purpose flour instead of cake flour) may account for the dryness. Therefore, don’t add the yolks until you see how your dough turns out. I also didn’t let the dough rest for an hour (once again, nap time). Once your dough has a sticky texture with a consistency somewhere between cookie dough and a thick cake batter, roll it into golf ball-sized rounds. Heat your waffle iron then coat lightly with cooking spray. Place one ball in the middle of each section. This will create diamond-shaped donuts that are slightly smaller than Eggo waffles. Close the iron and allow to cook for the preset time. Remove to a cooling rack and repeat. 

These were best hot off the waffle iron because they have a crispness outside that goes away as they cool. They’re tasty reheated in a toaster, too, and they crisp back up nicely. I broke mine into pieces and tried various toppings: a dusting of powdered sugar, store-bought icing, peanut butter, and plain. My favorite was the powdered sugar. It added just the right amount of sweetness and paired great with my afternoon coffee pick-me-up. The touch of nutmeg in the dough (I opted for 1/4 teaspoon) made these wonuts (doffles?) great plain, too.

So are these as good as traditionally fried and glazed sour cream donuts? No, the waffle iron smashes out sun fluffiness, but they are easier, taste as good, and contain less fat. I will definitely make these again.

One Pot Sausage, Spinach, and Parmesan Pasta

I took a break from Try It Tuesday after my second son was born. Originally, I had written a few articles in advance of his arrival, but adding a newborn to a household with a preschooler was more challenging than I anticipated and I didn’t end up posting any. Now, three and a half months later, I feel like I’m almost ready to get back into the swing of things. Over the next few weeks, I’ll use the articles I wrote for immediately following the baby’s arrival, then I’ll start doing new ones. I prepared this meal and article back in December 2016 and I’ve made the recipe a few times since then. 

I have seen recipes for one-pot pastas and been skeptical. I worried that they would be less flavorful than those with rich sauces. I also worried that my husband wouldn’t eat it. When it comes to pasta, he is a red-sauce-or-nothing kind of guy. However, when I looked over the recipe that inspired my version of this dish, I saw many of the ingredients in the sausage, kale, and tortellini soup we love; so I finally took the plunge. To be fair, I had also forgotten to plan anything for dinner this past Sunday, didn’t feel like a grocery run, and had everything I needed for the recipe in the house.

The original recipe can be found here: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/256570/one-pot-italian-sausage-kale-pasta/

 My version is below:

Ingredients

8 oz. short pasta like penne, ziti, macaroni, etc.

8 oz. breakfast or sweet Italian turkey sausage (I actually added a little extra sausage to mine.)

1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with garlic (I use no salt added.)

1 bag baby spinach, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

4-5 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

4 cups water

Parmesan cheese (for topping)

Directions

Cook the sausage in a skillet and drain any grease. Put all ingredients into a large pot and stir. Bring to a rolling boil, then continue cooking for 10-12 minutes. Most of the water should be absorbed by the pasta and evaporated. Be sure to stir regularly throughout cooking to avoid having pasta cook onto the bottom of your pot.

Remove from heat. Allow the pasta to sit for five minutes before serving. Top with a generous amount of parmesan cheese.

My husband began dinner by teasing me about the lack of red sauce and how frequently I’d been experimenting with new recipes recently. It’s true I’ve been going beyond my once weekly, Try It Tuesday agreement, but in my defense, this is so that I don’t have to cook when I’m recovering from the C-section in a few weeks. The teasing stopped after a few bites, however. My husband followed up with a, “I really like this,” and even added, “This may be better than that tortellini soup.” Victory!

I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, too. Not only is it easy to throw together, but it smells and tastes great. The red pepper flakes add a nice touch of heat to the dish that I wasn’t sure I’d like. I also appreciated how the pasta stayed firmer than I expected, though not quite al dente. I may experiment with adding a little less water and having a shorter cook time. If you like a bit more life in your veggies, wait until five or six minutes have passed before adding the spinach – or use kale like the original recipe does. All in all, this one’s a winner, though!

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

I tried to make a vanilla cake with caramel swirls in it last week. It sounded like such a great idea, but I wanted to try making it in advance so I wouldn’t be disappointed on my birthday if it failed—it failed. The yummy caramel sauce I made to swirl into the cake melted into the bottom of the cake and made the cake soggy, greasy, and overly dense.

I realized that swirling caramel sauce wouldn’t work because no matter what, it would melt. Instead, I’d have to choose a simple but dense cake to go with my caramel sauce. The obvious choice was a pound cake. I read through a number of recipes and decided on this one for cream cheese pound cake: http://www.marthastewart.com/315556/cream-cheese-pound-cakes

I halved the recipe since this makes two pound cakes and I only needed one. I’m including the measurements I used because in the comments section, there were some people who noted mistakes in the original recipe:

1 ½ sticks butter

4 oz. cream cheese

1 ½ cups sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 ½ cups flour

½ tsp. salt

I have to say this recipe turned out really well. The batter looked like freshly-churned ice cream. It was light, fluffy, and flavorful. (My son and I always try a lick from a spatula once we put a cake we’ve made in the oven).

Our cake only needed 60 minutes but I did need to cover it with foil after about 40 minutes to keep it from over-browning. Between the flavor and the texture, I don’t think I could have picked a better recipe. It included helpful details (instead of simply saying “beat until light and fluffy, it included estimates for how long that should take) that made the end result the success that it was. Instead of icing, I paired it with homemade caramel sauce for my birthday, but it would go great with sliced strawberries, compote, or simply a cup of coffee or tea. I will definitely be using this recipe again!

Honey Ham and Swiss Crescent Twists

Quite honestly, this is a recipe that popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. I know these things are really just advertisements, but this sounded so good (and so simple) that I went out and bought the necessary ingredients last week. Then, when I realized I’d forgotten to get the roast for last night’s dinner out of the freezer, I decided to do Try It Tuesday a day early. You can find the recipe for the Honey Ham and Swiss Crescent Twists here: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/honey-ham-and-swiss-crescent-twists/5f4a21e9-e44b-4bca-bdc6-975e363d2220

Yes, this was simple. Yes, they tasted great (in my opinion… luckily I made pepperoni rolls as a backup for my finicky hubby and son). And I really feel these work better as a lunch or light dinner served with salad, fruit, or a steamed veggie. The website says these are meant to be appetizers, but refrigerated dough tends to have the best taste and texture fresh out of the oven. While they wouldn’t be bad after sitting on a table with other appetizers for an hour or so, they certainly wouldn’t be at their best. I also think serving them with a dipping sauce like honey mustard or apricot jam would add some pizazz. My only complaint is that the ham and cheese didn’t stay in the dough very well as I was twisting them. The problem seemed to stem from the fact that I’d chopped the filling into little squares like the recipe photos show. Next time, I’ll try laying the whole slices between the sheets of dough instead. Since you slice through the sandwiched ingredients anyway, I think the twists will still look nice while being more manageable.

Enjoy! I sure did!

Peanut Butter Cup Pudding


Our favorite grocery store had bags of peanut butter cups on sale for $1.25. I also have been needing to take it easier than I (or my two-year-old) am used to, so I’ve been looking for quick, fun activities I can do with my son between rests. He’s much more willing to play quietly and independently when I find these sorts of things. It’s also pretty warm out, so I’m reluctant to turn on the oven. All of this inspired me to look up some pudding recipes during a kick count (baby number 2 is more active than number 1, so there’s little chance of me missing something because I’m distracted). I came across this recipe and decided it was a better choice than avocado pudding (yum!) simply because I had all of the ingredients: https://www.hersheys.com/reeses/en_us/recipes/peanut-butter-cup-pudding.html


I got all of the equipment and ingredients out on the table then called my son over. This was such a great recipe for him to help with because there was so much for him to do: count out the peanut butter cups, unwrap the peanut butter cups, use the chopper, dump ingredients, stir, and, of course, lick the spoon. For both of us, the hardest part was not eating the peanut butter cups while we unwrapped them and waiting to taste the pudding until it had had a chance to chill.


I really liked that the recipe used vanilla pudding. I’m sure chocolate would taste great, too (or even banana cream), but the vanilla let the peanut butter be the star of the show. I used sugar-free pudding, but regular or even cook and serve would work, too. I would avoid using pre-made, however, because the peanut butter wouldn’t mix in smoothly. That said, in order to get the best texture here, you need to make sure to mix vigorously and long enough to achieve a smooth pudding. If you’re doing this by hand, it takes a few minutes. Also, it’s important to let the pudding chill for an hour or so. Not only does this improve the texture, but it makes the taste of the artificial sweetener less pronounced if you’re using sugar free.
All in all, this was a great success. My son and I enjoyed making and eating this treat. I’m sure I’ll pull this out again in the summer months when it gets really hot.