slow cooker steel cut oatmeal

The forecast has a day close to 90° in it, which means the season for comfort foods is quickly coming to an end here in the Arizona desert.  We all know what happens after the scale tips in that direction:  90s, 100s, 110s.  Yeah, it’s not pretty.  Comfort food will be the last thing on my mind.  Bring on the salads, please and thank you.

But for now I managed to squeak one in just before the mercury inches toward the 90° mark.  We actually had the perfect weekend for it with what was probably our last winter rain.

This is one of my favorite slow cooker oatmeals.  It’s thick and hearty and I love the flavor play between the sweetness of the apples and the tartness of the dried cherries.  I’d call it healthy, but it’s got a fair amount of brown sugar in it which sends the health-o-meter swinging in the other direction.  You could remedy that by exchanging the brown sugar for an agave/molasses concoction, but…well, I like brown sugar, and my diet is pretty low in processed sugar, anyway.  So, I splurge.

While I love the flavor of this oatmeal, I should forewarn that after it’s refrigerated it’s not nearly as pretty.  It’s really, really thick and needs to be thinned out substantially with additional water or milk when you re-heat it.  My husband even went so far as to call it, “gelatinous,” which has very negative connotations in an 8th grade science sort of way.  But it’s delicious!  Top with more fruit or nuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar or swirl of honey and it’s all good.   Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2 c steel cut oats (not rolled or quick cooking)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced (I used Gala)
  • 1 c dried tart cherries

Directions:

  • Spray inside of slow cooker with a non-stick cooking spray, i.e., Pam. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
  • Serve and top with sliced banana, walnuts, a smidgen more brown sugar, honey, or whatever your heart’s desire.

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sparkling raspberry muffins

No question, the best way to eat berries is right out of hand – freshly washed, unadulterated, straight-up berry deliciousness!  There’s just nothing else so pure or which speaks so clearly of summer.  I’m a blueberry addict, myself, but raspberries are a close second, so when I saw this recipe over at Real Simple, I thought it sounded like a tasty alternative to raw berries.  These make a nice breakfast muffin, or midday snack, and the sparkling sugar sprinkled on top before baking gives them a little bit of fancy!

We all like fancy, don’t we?  (Well, at least we moms of 7 year old girls).  Freeze what you either don’t eat or give away.  Enjoy!

Sparkling Raspberry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4  cups  all-purpose flour, plus 1/8 cup for dredging berries
  • 3/4  cup  granulated sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4  cup  whole milk
  • 1  large egg
  • 1/4  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2  cups  fresh raspberries, rinsed and dried
  • sanding sugar for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or coat it with cooking spray, vegetable oil, or butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and combine. In a second bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined; the batter will be lumpy. Toss the berries with the remaining flour in a bowl. Gently fold the berry mixture into the batter.
  3. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Sprinkle the batter with the remaining sugar. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

quinoa? for breakfast?

Breakfast has always been one of my favorite meals.  Whether it’s scrambled eggs, steel-cut oats, or a simple bowl of Special K Red Berries, breakfast rocks!  Not quite a year ago, I came across an article on Epicurious about eating quinoa for breakfast, along with a tasty sounding recipe, which I tucked away for later.  Much later, apparently, because I didn’t get around to trying it (or a variation thereof) until last week.
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The combination of flavors was quite delicious.  Quinoa has a subtle nutty flavor that was complimented well by the sweetness of the banana and the tartness of the dried cherries.  But what I like most about quinoa for breakfast (in addition to the fact it’s uber healthy) is that it’s a blank canvas.  Don’t like bananas?  Substitute diced apple or pears, instead.  Prefer berries?  Toss in some blueberries or blackberries.  What’s that?  You don’t care for processed brown sugar?  Drizzle in pure maple syrup or organic honey or agave, if you please.
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You can, quite simply, write your own recipe.  If you do, though, please share it.  I’m a sucker for breakfast!  Enjoy!!
Breakfast Quinoa
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups whole or low-fat milk, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for serving
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • dried tart cherries, optional
  • toasted walnuts, optional
Directions:
  1. Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add quinoa, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until three-quarters of the milk has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  2. Stir in sugar and cinnamon. Cook, covered, until almost all the milk has been absorbed, about 8 minutes.
  3. Toss sliced bananas on top and sprinkle generously with additional brown sugar.
  4. Place quinoa with bananas and brown sugar under a pre-heated broiler just long enough for the brown sugar to start to soften (not too long or your bananas will turn to mush).
  5. Serve with additional milk, sugar, cinnamon, banana, and dried cherries or toasted walnuts.

dried cherry-orange scones

I needed a treat for my Wednesday morning Bible Study and had this recipe stashed away.   I’m not sure where I found the original recipe, which actually called for dried cranberries, but I had dried cherries on hand.  They’re a perfect substitute for the cranberry with just the right amount of tartness.  Because scones aren’t notoriously sweet, anyway (and, combined with tart cherries), I served them with a Morello Cherry fruit spread.  These are great with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, or serve a basket on a brunch buffet.

Oh, and one other thing, I was feeling a little lazy when I baked these.  The recipe is for a traditional scone, rolled and cut.  But I turned them into a drop biscuit, scooping a large tablespoon of dough into a crude ball.  They baked up very rustic and pretty, so I’d say they’re delish in any form.  Enjoy!

Dried Cherry-Orange Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 c sifted, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest
  • 1/2 c butter, cut up
  • 2/3 c buttermilk
  • 1 c dried cherries (or use fresh/frozen–not so tart if you cut them in half)
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Directions:

Combine first six ingredients; cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Add buttermilk and dried cranberries, stirring just until moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 5 or 6 times. Pat into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges and place 1 inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I use a baking stone). Brush with milk and sprinkle with 1 T. sugar (I use raw cane sugar). Bake at 425-degrees for 15 minutes or until scones are golden brown.

You can also find this recipe, and others, linked at Tasty Tuesday.

mini frittatas with ham, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes

I love a recipe that carries over from one day to the next; night to day, dinner to brunch.  For dinner Saturday night I’d stuffed some chicken breasts with a super delicious artichoke/sun-dried tomato/fontina cheese blend, then pan seared them and finished them in the oven.  But I had a lot of stuffing mixture left over and didn’t want to just throw it away.  I have enough food waste just trying to feed a five-year old.  So, after church on Sunday, I decided to use the rest of the filling in some sort of egg dish.  But, what?

Souffle?  Too much work.

Quiche?  Too fussy.

Frittata?  Just right.  It’s easy to throw together and bears creativity really well.  Because the eggs are whipped, they contain a  lot of air (unlike a Quiche or an omelet), which allows for a deep filling and a nice, fluffy result.   They can be started in a frying pan on the stove top and them finished in the oven, or under the broiler.  I chose to bake mine in a muffin tin for smaller, individual servings, which work nicely if you’re hosting a buffet-style brunch.

The finished product was really delicious; savory and satisfying without giving you that gut-busting, grease-laden, bacon-and-eggs-breakfast feeling.  You can always substitute in an Egg Beaters product to knock out the cholesterol and natural fat in whole eggs.  Enjoy!

Mini Frittatas with Ham, Artichokes and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 6 or 7 large eggs (I eyeballed this given the amount of filling I knew I was working with)
  • 1/4 c low-fat milk
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced ham, chopped
  • 6 oz marinated artichokes, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 1 c grated Fontina cheese
  • 1/4 c (packed) drained, coarsely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Spray a muffin tin (12 cups) with non-stick spray. 
  3. Combine ham, artichokes, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and dried basil.  Mix well and set aside.
  4. Whisk eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well. Stir in the ham/artichoke mixture until well combines. Fill prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture. Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 20 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and serve immediately. 

You can find this, and lots of other yummy recipes, over at Tasty Tuesday.  Check it out! 

apple-raisin-cinnamon french toast casserole

I didn’t do a traditional Christmas dinner this year.  We were sort of hunkered down at home…alone!  This is where I do the happy dance and pump my fist in the air.  No crazy in-laws making a travesty of dinner.  Yes!  Since I wasn’t up for anything formal, I decided a brunch with a spiral ham was perfect.  That way we could graze all day and not worry about schedules.  We put in movies, played with new toys, and generally just lazed around and ate when the spirit moved us.

One of the things I served was a baked french toast casserole.  I’ve had the recipe for years and had only made it once before, but my recollection was that it was really, really good.  Otherwise, why would I have kept this tattered section of The Grand Rapids Press dated December 2002?  It had a few handwritten notes scrawled in the margins which, by all accounts, only improved it the second time around.  Be forewarned: it’s incredibly decadent.  It’s probably best served as a brunch item with a good-sized crowd – which we didn’t have, but it gave us lots of leftovers.  And, well, there are apples and raisins, so….how bad can it really be for you?  Right?  Enjoy!

Apple-raisin-cinnamon French Toast Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 c unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 to 5 Gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 c baking raisins
  • 1 loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch slices (I used a Kosher Raisin Challah bread from Chompies in Scottsdale)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 c milk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Maple Syrup

Directions:

In large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add melted butter.  Stir in apples and raisins until well coated.  Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish.  Layer bread slices evenly over apples.

In bowl, beat eggs, milk, vanilla and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Pour over bread, soaking each slice.  Sprinkle top lightly with remaining cinnamon.  Cover with aluminum foil and chill in refrigerator overnight.

Bake covered, at 375° for 40 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes or until top is golden.  Let stand for several minutes before serving.  Serve with warm maple syrup.