I hope this day after Christmas finds everyone well. For me, this cold and peaceful winter morning involved staying in bed late, drinking tea, and best of all, enjoying baked oatmeal.
I am a bona fide oatmeal lover. I never ever thought I would be such a goody-two-shoes that I would eat oatmeal every morning. But somehow this routine has a solid foothold now. I have rolled oats, steel-cut oats, quick-cooking steel-cut oats, quick oats and oat bran on hand at all times. When I travel for work, I have BetterOats packets on hand for snacking and mornings in the hotel. So when I came across baked oatmeal after hearing people rave about it, I had to try it. I had noticed a recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday and went at it.
We have been trying our hand at baked oatmeal recipes over the last week and I can’t get enough of it. Next week I’m throwing a brunch for my lovely former roommate and her out-of-town guests the day after her wedding. Being that some guests are vegan, I tried my hand at making a vegan version of baked oatmeal, launching off from Heidi Swanson’s baked oatmeal recipe from Super Natural Every Day. Her version includes eggs, butter, and milk (and her version is delicious, I can attest) but with a few tweaks, everyone can enjoy the miracle of baked oatmeal. I replace the milk with non-dairy almond milk (you can use soy if you prefer but I prefer the lighter taste of almond milk), the butter is replaced with oil, and the egg is replaced with a half of a mashed banana. If you like oatmeal you will love this version, which is like a mildly sweet dessert for breakfast. Without the guilt. And having tried a dairy version and my vegan version, I can honestly say I liked the vegan version even better.
2 cups of rolled oats (use ‘old fashioned’ oats, not ‘quick’ oats)
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup natural cane sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
2 cups almond milk, soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/2 banana, mashed
2 Tbsp canola or coconut oil (melted if hard)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips
Raspberries, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375° with a rack in the top third of the oven. Oil the inside of an 8 inch square baking dish.
In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, the sugar, if using, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, if using, the non-dairy milk, 1/2 mashed banana, the oil, and the vanilla.
Arrange the banana slices in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the non-dairy milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple thwacks on the countertop to make sure the milk moves through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Cut into squares and serve in bowls. Drizzle with maple syrup and pool some almond or soy milk on the bottom. Serve with a few raspberries if you have ’em.
Our Food Matters Project recipe this week is Apricot Polenta Cake, chosen by Jen from Prairie Summers, a charming blog with many bright and flavorful European dishes and whole food dishes (and if you want something sweet, try her lemon cheesecake–mmmmmmm!). And what a great choice it is! Anything that has cornmeal in it is usually a favorite of mine and this dessert recipe is no exception. This fruity cake is the perfect balance of rich and sweet with neither quality overpowering the flavors of corn and apricot. It reminds me of my favorite scones from the Nantucket Baking Company–both have a great depth of flavor with chewy apricot bites and a soft and crumbly texture.
The cake took a little bit of time (chopping the apricots, cooking the polenta, beating the egg whites) but was well worth every second. I would serve this cake with some greek yogurt or a small dollop of whipped cream on the side. But it is also fabulous plain enjoyed with your morning coffee…trust me…for a moment this morning I forgot I had to work today!
The other Food Matters participants came up with all kinds of variations using cherries, berries, plums, and making cakes, tarts, even a soup! To check out these and other variations, head here.
Apricot Polenta Cake; from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook
Time: 1 hour plus time to cool
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup chopped dried apricots
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square or round baking pan with a little oil. Put the cornmeal and salt in a medium saucepan; slowly whisk in 1 and 1/4 cups water to make a lump-free slurry. Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring almost to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and bubble gently, whisking frequently, until thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl. With an electric mixer (or a whisk) beat 1/3 cup oil with the sugar until creamy; add the egg yolks and beat until thick, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary (this will take 5-7 minutes). Mix in the polenta until smooth, then mix in the dry ingredients until smooth. Add the orange juice and apricots and stir until blended.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks (When you remove the beaters or whisk, a soft peak should fold over onto itself). Stir them thoroughly but as gently as possible into the batter (the base batter is fairly thick and it’s okay if the whites aren’t fully incorporated).
Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan. Invert it out onto a plate if you like and sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Store at room temperature, covered with wax paper, for a day or 2; use plastic wrap and it will keep for an extra day or so. (Dust again with powdered sugar after storing and before serving).
Alright, I know what you are thinking…I’ve met many a balsamic/fruit doubter in my day. I thought the same thing when I saw this recipe from Kate, which was featured in the summer issue of Foodie Crush magazine. I encourage everyone to check it out-it is a free online magazine featuring some of the best food bloggers out there. I’ve had a lot of fun cooking along with Kate through The Food Matters Project. I always look forward to seeing her variations and excellent photography so was thrilled to see her featured in the Whole Foodies section of the magazine.
Because I have faith in Kate’s food choices, because it just looked so pretty in Foodie Crush, and because I had just made homemade yogurt the night before, I simply had to make this dish. And I’m so glad I did. This was like a party in my mouth. Crazy good. And I made extra balsamic-honey glaze and have already used it on grilled flatbread with peaches, arugula, and goat cheese. Can’t wait to come up with a zillion other uses for it! See below for my variation on the recipe and head over to Kate’s page for the original!
Vanilla Yogurt with Cherries, Pistachio, and Balsamic-Honey Glaze
1 tablespoon raw sugar (I used sucanat but you can use turbinado), optional
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar (I used cherry infused balsamic vinegar from Cherry Republic)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, crumbled
Strain yogurt: Line a fine mesh sieve or colander with cheese cloth. Spoon yogurt into it and let sit for 1 hour to drain. The consistency will be thicker and creamier. If the yogurt is too thin for your liking, you may strain longer until the consistency is what you like.
In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt and the vanilla extract. In another bowl sprinkle cherries with sugar (optional).
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the balsamic vinegar and honey. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour the liquid into a small bowl and allow it to cool.
Spoon yogurt into individual serving bowls, swirl in a spoonful of sauce, and top with cherries and crumbled pistachios.
Already week 16 of the The Food Matters Project! This week was Mexican Style Fruit Salad with Grilled or Broiled Fish. As you can already see, I didn’t make the fish. And I went my own way and made a totally different fruit salad. I posted this fruit salad with lime-basil dressing way back in the early stages of trying to start a blog (before a 1 and 1/2 year hiatus), when I had nary a clue about how to photograph food. Apparently I didn’t even think to photograph my fruit salad so I jumped on this opportunity to make it again and give it the justice it deserved. I have been having a great time learning how to photograph food and have had successes and failures, as you’ve seen. I hope the photo of fruit salad does it justice because really and truly, you must try this fruit salad. Do me a favor, do you a favor, do everyone you know and love a favor and make this fruit salad. Fruit salad is perfect in its simplicity but this sweet dressing takes it to a place you never knew it could go. You will want to make it this way every time. And you can! It takes an extra 3-4 minutes to make the dressing so just do it.
If you’d like to check out the Food Matters Project recipe for Mexican Fruit Salad with Broiled or Grilled Fish, go to Sarah W.‘s blog, Food and Frederick, and check it out–it looks wonderful. The FMP group is a pretty spunky and innovative bunch so they have come up with some wildly delicious-looking variations on the recipe this week. Check out their versions on The Food Matters Project website and be inspired.
Fruit Salad With Lime-Basil Dressing; Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, March 2008
1/2 cup light agave nectar (you can substitute sugar if you don’t have agave)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1 tablespoon grated lime rind
4 cups cubed pineapple (about 1 medium)
1 cup quartered strawberries (about 1 pound)
2 cups cubed peeled mango (about 2 large)
2 kiwifruit, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
3/4 cup blueberries
1 cup red or green seedless grapes
Combine agave nectar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in basil and lime zest. Cool. Strain sugar mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
Combine pineapple and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with agave mixture; toss gently.
NOTE: You can use any fruit you want–the above fruits are suggestions only.
I mentioned in a recent post that I was trying to find new alternatives for sweets that use little or no refined sugar. These little nuggets of goodness will make you feel so much better about snacking! I found and adapted a recipe from the Whole Living Detox Plan. Don’t let that scare you–these are worth a try and are a great pick me up.
These fruit and nut balls take about 10 minutes to whip up and I imagine they would be a great “cooking” project if you have little ones–they can help you to make the crumbles into balls and roll the balls in sesame seeds or coconut.
This recipe is extremely versatile. I used dates, prunes, raisins, and figs for the fruit. For the nuts/seeds I used walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seed, and pumpkin seed. Next time I will try with just dates and walnuts or almonds because I love the combination so much.
2 cups mixed dried fruit
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds
1 TBSP nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew).
1/3 cup raw sesame seeds or unsweetened shredded coconut
In a food processor, pulse dried fruit; transfer to a bowl.
Pulse nuts and seeds until finely chopped. Add 1 tablespoon of peanut, cashew, or almond butter to the food processer. Add the chopped fruit, a dash of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Pulse to combine.
Grab small handfuls–about 2-3 tablespoons. Form 1-inch balls; roll each ball in sesame seeds or in shredded unsweetened coconut. Refrigerate in an airtight container to harden slightly. Can also be kept on counter.