Banana Baked Oatmeal

My family is moving in less than a week, so I am (still) doing some serious cabinet cleaning. I have planned every meal around using the maximum amount of food in our cabinets, fridge, and freezer before May 2. That was the motivation behind today’s Banana Baked Oatmeal: I had 1/3 of a big canister of rolled oats and 5 quickly ripening bananas to use. This recipe allowed me to use nearly all of the oats and two of the bananas… and now my son, Vincent and I have breakfast for the next few days.

I woke up earlier than my son for the second morning in a row. It’s weird. Unfortunately, it wasn’t early enough. As I was putting the pan of oatmeal into the oven, Vincent was pulling the peanut butter out of the cabinet and asking for toast. By the time his breakfast was made and eaten, I was taking mine out of the oven. Luckily, Vincent can’t resist mooching Mom and Dad’s breakfast.

Once the oatmeal was cool, I gave Vincent a bite. He made a face, then asked for another bite. Then another. Then another. I got the toddler seal of approval! Quite honestly, the recipe gets my approval as well. I didn’t sprinkle sugar on top and broil for an additional 3-4 minutes like the recipe suggested and I’m glad I didn’t. The oatmeal was just sweet enough thanks to the super ripe banana I used. It also was not as thick as traditionally prepared oatmeal. In fact, the texture fell somewhere between oatmeal (it does stick together) and granola. I tried pouring a little milk over the top like another recipe for baked oatmeal suggested, which made it even better.

If you’d like to try Banana Baked Oatmeal for yourself, here’s the link to the original recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/baked-banana-oatmeal-476873

I replaced the white sugar with brown sugar (again, I’m clearing out the food in my cabinets), and as I mentioned before, did not put any additional sugar on top to broil a few extra minutes. I also did not have any vanilla extract left; however, the flavor of the banana baked oatmeal was still soft and nicely rounded out even without the vanilla. I hope you enjoy this breakfast as much as I did this morning!

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Red Pepper and Feta Rolls

Our local pizza joint changed its recipe this spring. My husband and son like the bolder sauce, but I do not. However, the next nearest pizza place is about twenty minutes away – and this pregnant lady can’t handle that brand of pizza either. Since Pizza Friday constitutes one of my husband’s counter demands for weekly recipe experimentation, the tradition remains for everyone but me. Usually, I end up eating left-overs or an omelet, but today I decided to explore a variation on my super simple pepperoni rolls in the hopes that next Pizza Friday I’ll feel less excluded from the family meal.

I had bought some feta a few weeks ago for a recipe I ended up not preparing (I was sick with a nasty cold) and wanted to use it before it expired. Almost immediately, the recipe for red pepper and feta chicken that a college roommate’s mom prepared for us popped into my head. The combination of the flavor of the feta, red pepper, and freshly ground black pepper stuck with me eleven years later. However, I needed a simpler recipe that I could toss together on a Friday without much fuss. Pepperoni rolls are my go-to, quickie meal. Why not replace the pepperoni and Italian cheeses with sautéed red pepper and feta? Why not indeed! So, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1 package Pilsbury French Bread Dough

1 red pepper, diced

1 6-oz package crumbled feta cheese (you will not use all of it, so consider buying things for a salad)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cook the diced red pepper in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Feel free to use cooking spray if need be, but do not use oil. The idea is to cook out some of the liquid from the pepper so that the rolls won’t be soggy; oil works against this process.

Open the French bread dough onto the baking sheet and use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Placing the cut sides on top and bottom, flatten the pieces into discs.

Sprinkle about a tablespoon of red pepper and a tablespoon of feta onto each disc and press into the dough. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the filling and to the center of the disc, pressing into place. Flip the ball of dough over on the baking sheet.

Sprinkle a little feta and a few pieces of red pepper onto the top of each roll.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes depending on how doughy you like your rolls. Keep in mind that the red pepper will release a little water still, so you may need to cook a minute or two longer than you normally would.

Let cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

 

The melted feta was creamy and the sweet red pepper nicely cut the cheese’s salty richness. Hide it all inside soft dough and it hits the spot! Another bonus is the ease of personalization – just like with pizza. This would be great with some broccoli added to the filling. You could try a little fresh black pepper or garlic powder as well. If you like traditional pepperoni rolls, the recipe remains the same, but use turkey pepperoni (less greasy than traditional and therefore the rolls don’t get soggy) and your favorite blend of Italian cheeses instead of red pepper and feta20160416_114749.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Try It Tuesday is a little late this week: baby number 2 was making me feel sick last night, and I decided it would be better if I just went to bed. However, I did make chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker. I picked this recipe because I’ve tried dumplings in the past and failed miserably; the dumplings dissolved into nothing. However, I’ve had a lot of success with other recipes from this particular cook book, so I decided to try again. The dumplings formed well, but the recipe disappointed my entire family. I thought a recipe with bread cooked right into it would be a hit with Vincent, but he made faces at every bite. My husband summed up both of our reactions pretty well: “It’s not bad, but it’s not spectacular.” Jake isn’t a fan of creamy sauces, so I wasn’t surprised at his ambivalent reaction. As for my own take, this was simply bland – even if the shredded chicken was perfectly tender.

Although I don’t plan on making it again, I’ll share the recipe. If anyone has any suggestions for how to make chicken and dumplings, I would love to read them and try again!

 

Ingredients

4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into long, wide strips

5 small white potatoes, cubed

3 medium carrots, chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

2 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning, divided

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 ½ cups milk, divided

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

½ teaspoon baking soda

Pepper to taste

Directions

Combine chicken, vegetables, 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, salt, and bay leaf in a slow cooker. Pour in enough water to cover the food. Cook on high 4 hours.

Remove the chicken and shred on a cutting board. Set aside. Whisk together ½ cup milk and 1 cup flour in a small bowl. Add to the slow cooker and whisk again until clumps disappear. Return the shredded chicken to the slow cooker.

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir to form a soft dough. Drop by rounded tablespoon full onto the chicken mixture. Cover and cook on high for at least 30 minutes.*

 

* I did make a few modifications to this recipe: less Italian seasoning and a specific amount of salt. The original recipe from the Crock-Pot company said to cook dumplings on low for 30 minutes, but the dumplings weren’t cooking well – perhaps because my slow cooker doesn’t seal quite as well as it used to. If you make this recipe and your slow cooker has latches or giant rubber band to ensure that the lid seals well, 30 minutes on low may suffice.

Vegetarian Two-Bean Chili

Over the past year I have become curious about vegetarian and vegan recipes. I have been working for a vegan boss, so preparing dishes that he can eat at staff lunches and community events has been an exciting challenge. I have also been learning about the health, economic, and ecological benefits of eating less meat through magazine articles, news stories, and documentaries. While I am far from eliminating meat (much less eggs and cheese) from my diet, I am making an effort to prepare more meals without animal products. I have searched out recipes for various vegan baked goods like cornbread muffins and vanilla cupcakes. I’ve also simply eliminated the meat and used vegetable bouillon in certain soups that my family enjoys.

For this week’s Try It Tuesday meal, I planned to take out the chicken, but otherwise follow the recipe as it was portrayed in the video that a friend posted to Facebook… but after reading the measurements for the ingredients in the original recipe, I realized I’d need to make significant modifications. The first modification was to cut way back on the cumin. I find that if you use too much, it makes even the sauciest stew taste weirdly dry. The amount of oregano would also be overpowering for my taste, so I decreased that as well. Here is my version of the dish. If you would like a link to the original Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili recipe, scroll to the bottom of this post!

Ingredients

½ an onion, chopped

1- 15.5 ounce can reduced sodium great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed

1- 15.5 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1- 8 ounce can no salt added tomato sauce

1- 15 ounce can whole kernel sweet corn, drained

1- 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies

1½ teaspoon cumin

1½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Put all of the ingredients into a slow cooker and stir. Cover and cook on low for at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours. Serve topped with shredded cheddar and accompanied by cornbread muffins or tortilla chips.

Alternatively, this recipe would be easily and more quickly made on the stovetop. Just saute the onion in ½ tablespoon olive oil for 3-5 minutes before adding all of the ingredients. Stir and let the chili simmer for 30 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend and the ingredients to heat through.

 

I really enjoyed the flavor of this chili. It was hearty enough that I didn’t miss the meat. The crispness of the corn and the fact that the tomatoes didn’t get cooked to nothing also helped keep the texture from being overly mushy. Moreover, this really is a recipe that I feel I could throw together at a moment’s notice. That said, I don’t know how often I’ll be able to make vegetarian chili for my family. My husband would probably choose to eat cereal for dinner if I offered him this, which is why I made it for lunch. As for my son, I had to bribe him to eat it with the promise of dinner rolls… and there were tears before he agreed to eat the chili. Interestingly, as I watched his reaction, I realized that he didn’t mind the flavor. It was the texture of the beans that solicited his funny faces. So, I might be able to try this recipe again, replacing the Northern Beans with tofu or some sort of vegetarian sausage.

If there are any vegetarians reading this who have some suggestions, please do share!

(original recipe at: http://www.skinnytaste.com/crock-pot-chicken-taco-chili-4-pts/)

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