Thoughts and something new

As followers of My Life As a Modern Wife, you have a front row seat in my tiny crawl space of a kitchen. You get an up close look at some of my favorite creations. You see the final product after it has been  brought through a number of processes and are given the opportunity to try it for yourself (I hope you do!). This is usually how the process works… I brainstorm new ideas from several different sources:keeping tabs on each seasons fresh produce, reading tons and tons of cookbooks from different cultures& eating styles, staying current with new trends in gourmet cooking, eating dangerously (you can’t be afraid to try new things, being adventurous really makes life sweeter), learning as much as I can about nutrition, and last but not least, reinventing old recipes that I have previously made and thinking of old standbys in a completely new way. Then once I have the creativity percolating, I will start to experiment. This is the best and sometimes most frustrating part. Sometimes the end result is surprisingly good, and sometimes well..not so good. So then I formulate my new recipe based on the results of said experiment and continue to tweak and adjust it until I am exhausted satisfied with the end result. Then my dear readers, I will graciously share my findings with you. And that is how I do what I do. As I go through this process I am continually reminded that success in the kitchen can be such a fleeting thing. One day the souffle rises and the next it falls flat, one day you create something wonderful and new and the next day you can’t remember how you did it. So I have learned to embrace this natural ebb and flow and also be very grateful when things work out in the end. So all of that to say there is a lot more happening in the “modern kitchen” than you may think. If you would be so brave as to follow me on this,  I will give you a closer look into the everyday happenings of my kitchen and let you in on all the in-between kind of things that you miss out on. Just trust me on this, it’s gonna be fun. Have a Happy Holiday & I’ll see you in the New Year!

PS: Speaking of something new…I have decided to make a resolution (I know, how original) to join the WordPress community Post A Week 2011 challenge. It is a community of bloggers joining together via The Daily Post actively working to improve your reading experience (in a nutshell). I am hoping this next year your in-box (or Google reader etc.) will be filled with weekly snippets of inspiration straight from my kitchen to yours. Why? Because you deserve it. Thanks for reading!

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The Wonders of Oatmeal

Sometimes even the most mundane things can become pretty extraordinary. This philosophy is one that inspires my daily cooking (and living for that matter). It’s one that has fostered (in my opinion) some of my best ideas. Start with one simple ingredient, add a little of this to compliment it, and a little of that for a nutrition boost, and always add a bit of something unexpected..something to contrast what you’re working with but in a pleasant way. And there you go! Today’s recipe uses old fashioned rolled oats as the main ingredient, think of the kind your mother (or grandmother) used to cook on the stove-top. These are a pantry staple of mine for several reasons: they are inexpensive, easily available, they are multi-purpose, packed with nutritional benefits, minimally processed, natural and they keep very well. I’ve researched & tried many baked oatmeal recipes and frequently run into two major problems. One  is that the recipe is very simple on the prep end but uses low-quality (health-wise) ingredients, in other words, it uses loads of butter& white sugar without offering any healthful substance. And the second  conundrum is that the ingredients are healthful but not easily available to me and the process to prepare it is usually somewhat complicated. So as a solution to this I created my own version. I think it strikes the perfect balance between wholesome,versatile, and simple. And if that isn’t enough of a sales pitch let me also mention that they can be made ahead, portioned into little oatmeal squares, and tucked into your purse, bag, kiddos lunchbox etc. for those days when you are in a rush to get out the door. Pretty clever for a tiny little oat huh?

Baked Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bars

My recipe states that you should soak the oatmeal mixture over night before baking, I know this may seem strange or unnecessary, but the soaking time is very important to ensure the final texture is moist and together and not crumbly. If you are pressed for time another option is to make it early in the morning and allow it to soak during the daytime, then bake later that night. I have tried both, and in my experience both soaking methods work well.

–  1/4 c. unsalted butter
– 3 or more large eggs (I personally like the Omega3 enriched eggs because of their added nutrition, but regular eggs are great too)
– 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
– 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
– 2 tsp. cinnamon
-1/4 tsp. sea salt
– 1 c. raisins
– 1c. + 2 Tbsp. whole milk
– 3 c. Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (slightly larger than “quick oats”)
– Pure Maple Syrup
*Optional add-ins: crumbles of lean bacon,dried fruit pieces, banana slices, finely chopped apples, walnuts, nutmeg, allspice etc.
1) Melt butter in a Pyrex style glass measuring cup or bowl and set aside.
2) Grease baking dish & drop in eggs. Beat them well.
3) In the same baking dish, add brown sugar, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well so the mixture is blended consistently.
4) Whisk in the melted butter, all of the milk, the raisins and any other add-ins you wish. Then add oats the the mixture. Equally combine all ingredients. Refrigerate overnight or for several consecutive hours.
5) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Just before baking, drizzle the top with a bit of maple syrup if you desire to add a bit of extra sweetness. Bake for 35 minutes or until fully cooked. When completely cool, you may create individual portable portions, simply divide into squares and wrap in parchment, then refrigerate to store. You will then be able to take these with you on-the-go, or enjoy them warmed as an effortless sit-down breakfast. I like to enjoy mine warmed with a bit of milk or plain yogurt, it’s delicious!