Monday, January 28, 2008

Ode to Oatmeal

Hello, my name is Sarah and I'm addicted to oatmeal.

You may laugh- but it's true. We have a love affair, oatmeal and I; I eat it more than anything else. It's warm and satisfying, healthy comfort food. Even in the summertime, when I just make it warm instead of piping hot. Like the very intelligent Scottish, I enjoy it for lunch and dinner as well as breakfast. Unlike the very intelligent Scottish, my oatmeal is always sweet. As a child I would top it with brown sugar, or sometimes special rainbow sugar crystals- until I discovered I could use Splenda or Equal and not know the difference; my sweet tooth is satisfied and my sugar intake stays low.
My preference is for McCann's quick-cooking oats, but I also enjoy Quaker quick-cooking or old-fashioned from time to time. I adore steel-cut oats but usually save that for a special occasion when I have more time to prepare it.
My oatmeal preparation varies depending on what I feel like or what I have; here is my present recipe for oatmeal- for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Sarah's Oatmeal recipe

1/2 cup McCann's quick-cooking Steel Cut oats
1 cup warm water
A pinch of dried currants
A few splashes 8th Continent light vanilla soy milk
A splash of maple extract (optional)
A dash of cinnamon (optional)
A dash of salt (optional)
3-5 Splenda packets

Place oats, water, and currants in a microwave safe bowl with high sides, and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 1 minute 40 seconds (time may vary with microwave strength, monitor the oatmeal your first time so it doesn't boil over). Remove from the microwave and add a splash of soy milk. Stir to combine, add more if desired. Add a splash of maple extract (this creates the maple syrup/brown sugar flavor without the calories), and a dash of cinnamon and salt if you wish. Add Splenda and stir. If more liquid is needed add a little more soy milk. Recover, microwave for 30-60 more seconds. Stir and enjoy!

Dried currants are excellent in oatmeal. Occasionally I substitute sliced apple or, for something really special, fresh blueberries. A little banana is nice too. I also like to add a little crunchy homemade granola (see my previous post) on top if I'm having it for lunch or dinner. It's really all about your own taste. This is my favorite combination, I hope you find yours!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Suite Apple Granola

Mmmm!! What better recipe to post as the first of 2008 than my granola.

I'm an awful slacker and dropped the ball on blogging during the holiday season. It was filled with cooking and baking, and in retrospect I am sad I did not document it. Christmas cookies, apple crisp, more ravioli, turkey burgers, fruitcake, dinner rolls- created and gobbled down by myself and those in my path. I know I can't plead a busy schedule because so many blog away through November and December. I must plead being young and new and pledge to do better next year.... that sounds a bit too much like a New Year's resolution to me, so let's just call it a promise. :-)

My granola recipe is my own, one that I adapted after being inspired by a recipe belonging to Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. It really does not resemble hers at all anymore so I can truly call it mine. I like granola but it's always so high in fat and calories. I wanted to create a recipe that all the flavor with the fraction of the consequences. It's the nutty toasted flavor of granola that I love, not the chunkiness. Granola is chunky because of the oil and sugar clumping it together. My granola is more cereal-like, but the flavors are there. I use a fraction of the oil and sugar in my recipe. I've tried a few different sweeteners and I like maple syrup's flavor the best, but you could also use honey or a sugar syrup. It is delicious with vanilla soy milk but my family and I like to use it a little as a garnish on top of oatmeal- very delicious!

Suite Apple Granola

4 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
1 cup sweetened coconut
2 cups sliced almonds
scant 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
dried fruit as desired, such as golden raisins and blueberries

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix oats, coconut, and almonds in a large bowl. Add vegetable oil and maple syrup and stir well to combine and coat all ingredients. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.
Bake for 75-90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to toast evenly and thoroughly. Cook time depends on the level of toastiness you prefer. This granola is best when well toasted, when the coconut and almonds are dark golden.

*Variation- Coconutty Granola
Sometimes I want more coconut and less almonds, especially when I'm using it as a topping to oatmeal or ice cream. When the mood strikes, I make this recipe~

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup almonds
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
scant 1/4 cup maple syrup
dried fruit if desired

Follow recipe for Suite Apple Granola, mixing ingredients and baking at 250 degrees and stirring periodically. Bake closer to 75 minutes due to the smaller quantity, but monitor the granola to determine your preferred level of toastiness.