In Defense of Oatmeal

March 29, 2010

This isn’t a recipe. It’s just some advice for those who think – like I once did – that oatmeal has a gummy texture and tastes entirely too sweet. I really hate those little packets of instant oatmeal. But oatmeal, when done properly, is both tasty and incredibly healthy.

Consider these health benefits of oatmeal: lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk for Type 2 diabetes, reduces high blood pressure, reduces the risk of certain cancers, and contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Also, oatmeal helps you to feel full longer because the soluble fiber in oatmeal absorbs a considerable amount of water which significantly slows down your digestive process.

So, how do you make a healthy and delicious bowl of oatmeal? First, you need “real” oatmeal; I recommend either “Thick & Rough Oatmeal from the Silver Palate” or “McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.”

And, honestly, you really don’t need to add 2 cups of brown sugar to oatmeal! If you want to add something to your oatmeal, try one of these suggestions:

Natural peanut butter (or cashew butter or almond butter)
Bananas
Natural peanut butter and bananas
Bananas and nuts
Fresh berries
Fresh peaches and cinnamon or Penzey’s Baking Spice
Fresh pears and ginger or cinnamon or Baking Spice
Apples and cinnamon or Baking Spice
Apples, nuts, and cinnamon or Baking Spice
Apples and sharp or smoked Cheddar cheese
Natural (unsweetened) applesauce (plain or flavored)
Raisins and cinnamon or Baking Spice
Apples, raisins and cinnamon or Baking Spice
Raisins, nuts and cinnamon or Baking Spice
Apples and craisins
Craisins
Craisins and nuts
Craisins and orange juice
Honey dates
Dried apricots
Dried plums
Dried cherries
Canned pumpkin and cinnamon or Baking Spice
Smucker’s Simply Fruit (no sugar AND no fake sugar…just FRUIT…I love this stuff!), any flavor
Smucker’s Simply Fruit orange marmalade and almonds
Smucker’s Simply Fruit strawberry and plain yogurt
Smucker’s Simply Fruit Concord grape and natural peanut butter
Smucker’s Simply Fruit blueberry and vanilla soy milk
Plain yogurt, a splash of vanilla extract, and a drizzle (1/4 tsp.) of raw honey
1 T. real butter, a drizzle (1/2 tsp.) of real maple syrup, and pecans
Chocolate soy milk
Chocolate soy milk and natural peanut butter

Most of these can just be stirred into cooked oatmeal (about a tablespoon or two per serving). However, with apples or raisins, I prefer to cook them with the oatmeal. Also, if adding juice, substitute juice for some of the water (two servings of oatmeal calls for 1 1/4 cup of water – I use about 1 cup water and 1/4 cup juice).

Enjoy your oatmeal! 🙂

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Spicy Orange Coffee-Cake Muffins

March 20, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I made this for as a birthday gift for a friend who loves coffee cake. I found several recipes for coffee-cake muffins online; the one I made is most like this one. I added orange zest to the batter, and used Penzey’s Baking Spice (a blend of Ceylon cinnamon, Spanish anise, Grenadian mace, and Guatemalan cardamom) instead of cinnamon. This spice blend really makes this recipe!

Spicy Orange Coffee-Cake Muffins

Spicy Orange Coffee-Cake Muffins

Spicy Orange Coffee-Cake Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)

Crumb topping:
1/3 C. brown sugar, packed
1/3 C. chopped pecans
1 T flour
1 tsp. Penzey’s baking spice
1 T. softened butter

Batter:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 C. softened butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. fresh orange zest
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place paper liners in a muffin tin.

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the crumb topping. Mix with pastry blender until crumbly. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Stir in egg, vanilla extract, orange zest, and buttermilk. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until just combined.

Fill the muffins cups about 1/4 full (half the batter). Sprinkle with 1/2 the crumb topping. Fill the muffin cups with remaining batter, and then sprinkle on the rest of the crumb topping.

Bake 15-18 minutes. Cool in muffin tin for about 5 minutes and then remove to wire rack.


Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey’s Icing

March 17, 2010

Chef’s Notes: I didn’t bake this Irish-inspired dessert for St. Patrick’s Day this year, but it’s been a favorite in the past. The recipe originally appeared in The New York Times. The only change I made is to substitute an icing with Bailey’s Irish Cream for the cream cheese icing.

Chocolate Guinness Cake
One 9-inch cake

1 cup Guinness stout
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/8 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.

In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.

Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.

Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream (or Irish cream flavored liquid coffee creamer)
2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy and smooth. Add the Bailey’s and half of the confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth. Add the second half of the sugar and beat until smooth.