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!

Smoothie Love

To tell you the truth I’ve never been much of a breakfast person or a morning person for that matter.  Back in the single days my main morning foods were coffee and wheat toast (usually with peanut butter) eaten in a mad rush to get to work on time. Now my schedule is quite different and I have grown a slight fondness for getting up early. I like to wake up just before the sun, head to the gym, return about an hour later and shower etc, then sit down with a hot cup of coffee, breakfast, and my Bible. This for me is the perfect start to a busy day. I know now that breakfast is very important, so I make it a point to eat in the morning, but i must admit morning foods have always kind of eluded me. Whenever I make breakfast for myself during the week I like foods that are easy to prepare, not too sweet or heavy, and as nutritious as possible. I also have to consider my husband who leaves for work very early (usually as I am waking up). I like to have things made so he can have a quick breakfast before he leaves for work. So we have created the perfect solution..smoothie sharing. Before I go to bed I’ll prep the blender with all the smoothie ingredients needed and then place the blender pitcher in the fridge, then when the hubs is ready for breakfast in the morning all he has to do is add a few ice cubes and blend it, and since my recipe makes two portions he will take half and leave the rest for me in the fridge. So when I wake up I have a delicious smoothie waiting for me. Pretty sweet deal huh? Here are some of our favorite smoothie recipes.

Strawberry Love Smoothie
-1 6 oz. container of low-fat Strawberry yogurt
-1/2 Jonathan apple, cored and sliced
– 6-7 strawberries, tops removed
– splash of Orange Juice (100% Pasteurized, like “Simply Orange” brand)
-2 tsp. Raw cane sugar *(optional)
– a few ice cubes
1) Blend well and serve.
Pear Berry Smoothie
-1 6 oz. container low-fat Vanilla yogurt
-2 pears, cored and sliced in chunks
– 4-5 strawberries, tops removed
-1/2 c blueberries
– splash 2% milk
– a few ice cubes
1) Blend well and serve.
Carrot Juice Smoothie
-1 6 oz. container low-fat Vanilla yogurt
-16 oz. (2 c.) Organic Carrot juice
-2 bananas
-1 Navel orange
-a few ice cubes
1)Blend well and serve, sweeten to taste if needed
Banana Berry Smoothie
-1 6oz. container low-fat Vanilla yogurt
-1 banana
-4-5 strawberries, tops removed
-1/2 c blueberries
– splash 2% milk
– a few ice cubes
1) blend well and serve.
Berry Mango Smoothie
-1 6oz. container Raspberry yogurt
-1 banana
-1 mango, peeled/cored/chopped
-4 strawberries
– splash of your favorite fruit juice
-a few ice cubes
1) blend well and serve.
Nectarine and such Smoothie
-1 6oz. container Vanilla yogurt
-6 oz. (2 c.) Organic Carrot juice
-2 nectarines, pitted and chopped
-1 banana
-6 strawberries
-a few ice cubes
1) blend well and serve.