I know not all my dear readers and cooking class students have children, and therefore are not likely submerged chin-deep in back-to-school chaos right now. You lucky ducks. I have three kids in three different schools and I can’t keep track of all the back-to-school nights and picture days. And it’s only September! I’ve got my priorities straight though. Mr. Picky hasn’t had a haircut in three months, but I’ve got a freezer full of blueberry-banana bread and vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough. Yes, ma’am.
The point I was actually trying to get to is that these most recent posts aren’t just meant for those whose Monday-Fridays are considered “school days.” I’d like to think all the recipes I post are relevant to anyone trying to eat well. And one thing we all have in common these days, whether you have kids or not, is lack of time. Unfortunately, I don’t think little old me is going to change that.
I used to think that it was silly for me to post recipes with 3 ingredients, that take 30 seconds to make, and that have probably been pinned more than a certain VMA performance has been viewed. (Sorry for the reminder.) But then my students plead with me, “we want more 30 second recipes!” So if you haven’t been introduced to raw chia and oat porridge, and at least one person on instagram asked for the recipe last week when I posted a picture of my breakfast, here it is! I probably eat this 3-4 times a week from July through October, because it is a refrigerated dish and slightly cooling so it’s better for you during the warmer months. It is super healthful since the oats are soaked overnight, which makes them much more digestible. On its own, this is a well-balanced breakfast with protein, fiber, complex carbs and high quality fat. But we usually add either fresh or dried fruit to it. And like I said, it is a cinch to make, almost disappointingly easy. But this time of year, I’ve got nothing to prove. Enjoy!
I’m down one child for the next six weeks since I dropped Daughter #1 off far, far away in upstate NY for a summer college program. There were some tears before I left. I know how most of you think, but no, those tears were not mine. I love my daughter to pieces, but hear me out. If you were 16 years old and had the opportunity to study architecture at one the best universities in the US, on one of the most beautiful campuses, meeting interesting kids from all over the world, without your parents telling you what to wear or eat or when to go to bed, would you CRY? Hell-oooooo? I am so excited for her! I think back to when I was 16, and I would have given my right eye to get the heck out of sleepy Stony Brook, Long Island, where I am from and do what she’s doing. Cry tears of JOY maybe. I guess Manhattan Beach, California is much more fun than Stony Brook when you’re 16. But just so you’re not worried about her, a mere 24 hours later there were no more sad texts, only pictures of cute boys, usually South American.
Ironically, I am with Mr. Picky visiting my family in Stony Brook, the place I lived for basically my entire life, but the place that I thought was the most boring town on the face of the planet. It is about 60 miles away from New York City, arguably the most exciting place on the planet, although I didn’t get there too much, and especially not without my parents. Stony Brook is absolutely darling, but there was not much going on here when I was a kid, except for a few small beaches which are also very quiet, a lovely (and quiet) duck pond, a carriage house museum (totally true) and a cute ice cream shop. So of course when it was time for college, I needed excitement! A big city! So I left for Philadelphia where I attended college and then moved to Los Angeles after graduation. Many, many years later, after much excitement, I cannot believe I am saying this, but I so look forward to my visits to Stony Brook.
Have I mentioned how quiet it is here? I woke up in the middle of the night last night because I didn’t hear anything. How weird is that? Perfect silence. Actually, it’s AMAZING. I am thrilled beyond words to be in a quiet, sleepy town for the week where I don’t have to battle traffic or stressed out motorists or all the noise that goes with them. And the fresh air is a huge bonus.
Mr. Picky and I are having a ball with my parents and my sisters and their kids. I am always appointed head of the kitchen when I’m here which is fine as long as someone else is head of dishwashing. Honestly, I don’t mind cooking for a crowd every day. It’s actually easier than cooking for two. And my sisters’ kids which range in age from 3-7 are all fantastic eaters which makes my life very easy.
I heard that all the kids liked the baked berry oatmeal recipe I posted a few months ago, so I thought I would do something a little different and bake the mixture in a muffin tin to make individual portions. Also, my sister’s son leaves early for lacrosse camp every day, so it’s nice for him to be able to take a couple for the road. I made the oat mixture with a few nuts, but then used different “toppings” for each cup just to mix it up a bit. I used blueberries, strawberries & mini-chocolate chips, and mini-chocolate chips & walnuts. The kids all gravitated towards the ones with chocolate, naturally and I’ll admit, a few of them were wondering why there were no chocolate chips throughout the cups and only on top. Next time I’ll throw a few into the mixture as well. The oatmeal cups were popular enough that they were finished off in the afternoon after the kids worked up an appetite after a few hours in the pool.
Keep in mind, these oatmeal cups are the equivalent to having a portable mini-bowl of oatmeal. They don’t have the light, tender texture of a muffin, so don’t expect that. I ate two blueberry ones and felt very satisfied until lunchtime. Remember that oats have a lot of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, making you feel full for a good long time. But I do find that I need to have some good fat with my oats, so the addition of walnuts was perfect for me and also added some nice crunch. No doubt you and I will have some fun with this recipe and find a way to add apples or pumpkin in the fall or bananas, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. My summer just got started and I plan to make it go as slowly as possible.
update 7.3.13: I just made these again, but with my own muffin pan which only yielded 9 cups instead of the 12 I originally wrote. I think my mom’s pan is smaller than mine, which is standard, so I updated the recipe to 9 oatmeal cups which I think is more accurate.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard muffin pan with 9 unbleached parchment liners.
Combine baking powder, salt, oats and nuts in a large bowl.
In a separate medium bowl whisk together maple syrup, milk, egg, melted butter and vanilla (or combine them in a blender.)
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine. You can certainly add chocolate chips or fruit to this mixture if you want all the cups to be the same.
Ladle the oat mixture into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about ¾ full. Sprinkle any additional nuts, berries or chocolate chips over the tops of each.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and wet ingredients are fully absorbed. Eat warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator and eaten straight away or warmed in a toaster oven at 350 until heated through.
I remember growing up in New York and feeling gipped when Spring rolled around. Why? Because 90% of the time it was still cold! My parents told me that last Saturday it was snowing. Brrrrrr! Sort of doesn’t really match the image I used to have of spring — lying under a flowering tree, daffodils and tulips under a sunny sky. I’d rather hunker down with a bowl of hot soup wearing a beanie and not a bonnet.
But nature is giving us some new foods to enjoy, to help us detoxify all the stuff weighing us down from winter. I’ve been making mostly thick and hearty meal-in-a-bowl soups like lentil or mushroom-barley. But I saw gorgeous green local asparagus at the farmer’s market the other day and jumped for joy. And then I made asparagus soup! Since the season is so short, I will prepare it at least once a week until I see the words “from Mexico” and then it’s adios asparagus!
Believe it or not, asparagus is a total powerhouse vegetable. It is rich in antioxidants which protect against free radical damage. Asparagus also contains high amounts of histones, folic acid, and nucleic acid, which boost the immune system. It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases. And it is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds. This is why eating asparagus may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
This creamy soup is so lovely and EASY. Easy enough to make tonight on a moment’s notice and special enough to serve for your holiday luncheon or dinner. Guess what? Passover is next Monday night and Easter is in less than two weeks. Time to get those menus in order! This soup is perfect and of course, it gets its creaminess not from dairy, but from one of my favorite non-dairy tricks, oats! Crazy, right? You cook rolled oats with the asparagus and puree everything to a thick and silky creaminess which tastes nothing of oats and only fresh asparagus! If you need this soup to be Passover-friendly, you can substitute 1 pound of Yukon Gold potatoes for the oats.
I have made this soup with all vegetable broth and it was terrific. I tried it will all chicken stock and I thought it was a little too chicken-y. My favorite way is with half chicken stock and half asparagus stock — amazing! What’s asparagus stock? You take the woody ends from the bottom of the asparagus spears and simmer them in water until you have a lovely, delicately-flavored asparagus broth. This would also be awesome for a vegetarian asparagus risotto! (Easy-to-follow instructions are at the bottom of the recipe.) Happy Spring!
½ cup old fashioned rolled oats (check label for gluten-free)
2 bunches of asparagus, about 2 pounds, woody ends trimmed* and stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
2 cups water (or asparagus stock – see note at bottom of recipe)
1 large piece of lemon peel, about 2 inches
2 teaspoons sea salt (more if you use unsalted stock)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until tender and translucent, about 8 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Bring soup to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cover pot and cook for 10 -15 minutes until asparagus is very tender.
Turn off heat and remove the lemon peel. Or for a more assertive lemon flavor, blend the peel or half the peel with the soup. Puree the soup until smooth, either directly in the pot with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (keep the lid open a crack.)Ideas for garnishes: steamed asparagus tips, garlic croutons, shaved Pecorino-Romano cheese or chopped chives.
*Save the ends for vegetable stock (recipe here) or boil the ends in 3 cups of water for 20-30 minutes for an asparagus stock. This should yield approximately 2 cups of asparagus stock, but measure anyway.
My favorite thing about the weekends and vacations is lingering over breakfast. Weekdays are (sadly) so rushed that we don’t really have more than 10 minutes to sit down and enjoy our morning meal. Not only are we lacking time to relax and enjoy, but the five of us never eat breakfast together during the week since we’re all on different schedules. Of course, I’m guilty of the worst offense of all which is eating in my car on the way to work. I keep thinking getting up earlier is the answer, but somehow that hasn’t been the solution. It’s a dreadful habit and I am completely embarrassed that I don’t walk that talk, but I would rather eat my porridge slowly in my car than inhale it in 30 seconds at the kitchen table.
The weekends are a whole different story. I love making breakfast foods that take a little more time. Just the smells of something wonderful from the oven make me giddy with anticipation while I sip my tea out of a real mug, not portable one, and the newspaper spread out everywhere. Typical weekend creations are baked frittatas with lots of veggies, whole grain waffles (who has time to wash a waffle iron on a Tuesday morning?), and this amazing, versatile Baked Oatmeal recipe. I make steel cut oats once or twice per week, but the weekend demands something a little more special. I originally spotted this recipe by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame in Whole Living Magazine a few years ago and instantly knew this would become a regular for us. I have made this recipe with mixed berries and with thinly sliced apples on the bottom — both delicious — and on my to-do list is to come up with versions using coconut and pumpkin puree and spices. Mr. Picky likes this enough that I think I could sell this as an after school snack if I tossed in a few chocolate chips. Heidi’s originally called for sliced bananas on the bottom, which were great if you love a super sweet intense banana flavor.
Oats are super hearty and filling and make a great start to the day. If oatmeal tends to raise your blood sugar too much, make sure you pair it with some protein and fat like nuts. Walnuts are in this recipe, but I’ve used sliced almonds and pecans too. Of course, if you’re nut-free, feel free to omit them altogether and enjoy this recipe all the same. Baked Oatmeal can be easily adapted for dairy-free people by using an alternative milk and coconut oil or Earth Balance; and for vegans by dropping the egg. It doesn’t slice as nicely without the egg, but it’s no big deal.
My family seems to eat this straight as is, but I love pouring on some extra almond milk or (when I wasn’t dairy-free) dolloping a little yogurt on top. I have access to fresh blueberries grown in a hothouse all year so I decided to splurge and use them here, but if you are only working with citrus and bananas at this time of year, you can always use frozen fruit. Although, I just saw the first fresh strawberries at the farmer’s market last weekend which means good fruit is on the horizon and more delicious Baked Oatmeal possibilities await you.
Author: Pamela, adapted from Super Natural Everyday via Whole Living Magazine
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (look for gluten-free oats to make this a gluten-free recipe) - Do NOT use steel cut oats
½ cup walnuts, almonds or pecans, chopped, divided
⅓ cup 100% pure maple syrup (or ¼ c. for a more subtle sweetness)
2 cups whole milk or plant milk like unsweetened hemp milk, almond milk or flax milk
1 large egg or flax egg or ¼ cup applesauce
1 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, unrefined coconut oil or organic Earth Balance, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for greasing baking dish
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen berries, divided
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking dish.
Combine the baking powder, cinnamon and sea salt in a large bowl. Stir in the oats and ¼ cup nuts.
In a separate bowl, whisk together maple syrup, milk, egg, melted butter, and pure vanilla. (You can also combine these ingredients in a blender.)
Scatter 1 cup of the berries on the bottom of the baking dish and then cover with the oat mixture. Pour wet mixture into the pan over the oats and spread evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the nuts and berries across the top. You can make this up until this point the night before and refrigerate, covered.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the oat mixture is set and wet ingredients are absorbed.
So many people have made this recipe many times, so I don't want to abruptly change it BUT I mix everything together in the same bowl and pour it into the prepared baking dish. You can also assemble this the night before, cover and refrigerate it, and bake it uncovered in the morning. Leftovers are great cold, room temp or reheated.