Monday, September 27, 2010

Overnight Oatmeal

I've come to grips with Fall's presence. (Although it's quite a warm fall so far. I'm not complaining.) I'm ready for flowing scarves, warm sweaters, hot beverages, soups of the day, and oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal. I love steel cut oats and groats especially, but they take some time to prepare - from 20 minutes to an hour. Some people can cook their oats on the stove while they shower or take the dog for a walk. I can't. I've had to jump out of the shower at exhilarated speeds one too many times at the smell of burnt wafting up from downstairs.

To avoid stress, hunger, screaming smoke alarms, and scalded pans, I make my breakfast before I go to bed. Crockpot oatmeal is a wonderful thing. Even if it's just you eating it, it keeps well in the fridge for the next few mornings to come. Tweak it to your taste. This batch had some pumpkin puree and flax seed meal in it.

I am always delighted to see how nice and mushy it is when I open my crockpot in the morning. The groats fully absorb the water and become very tender; almost creamy.

Overnight Oatmeal
-1 cup of steel cut oats or whole groats
-4 cups of water
-1 cup of dried fruit of choice OR 1 cup of pumpkin puree OR 1.5 cups of chopped fresh apple*
-1 tsp of ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie/apple pie spice blend
-1/4 tsp of salt
-1/4 cup of flax seed meal (optional)
-sugar/honey/maple syrup to taste

*Note* If using pumpkin puree, use only 3.5 cups of water. The pumpkin adds a lot of water on it's own. Same goes with the fresh apple. They are loaded with juice.

Combine ingredients in a crockpot, cover, and set on low for 8-9 hours. Add chopped nuts right before serving if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eating Chicago

Last, last weekend I got to visit Karli in her new home, Chicago. She and her hub, Travis, picked me up, and away we went on our eating/shopping extravaganza. We were super excited to attend the Renegade Craft Fair. (An event that I was too busy absorbing to take photos of.)

After being in Chicago for only a few mere minutes, while Travis was stopped at a red light, Karli and I jumped out of the car to get a bag of Garrett's popcorn. Whoever thought to eat caramel corn and cheddar cheese flavored popcorn together is a flippin' gastronomical genius. Don't knock it until you try it, for reals.

For dinner Saturday evening, we ate at the Fireside Restaurant. This place had so many appetizing dishes. It was hard to pick just one. The cheesy rice balls with marinara sauce were sooo good.

After dinner we proceeded to stuff ourselves further with George's Ice Cream. There were so many flavors to choose from and the line was long, long, long. My coffee milkshake was worth the wait. I did feel like I was waddling home though....

A Taste of Heaven is the name of a cafe not too far from Karli & Travis's place. It's an appropriate name for such a cafe. The food is delish. We shared our entrees. Karli got a velvety French toast. I ordered pancakes layered with a berry compote and topped with whipped, sweetened cream cheese. Hell-o! Travis ordered a dish with cornmeal biscuits and a strangely tinted gravy. It was very tasty, but on the orange side. That didn't hinder me from eating the last of it. I'll have to get that again next time.

I came, we ate, we shopped, we conquered. I hope to eat my way around Chicago with Karli and Travis again soon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

End of summer. Sad face.

Instead of being a total grump about the near departure of summer, I'm lining up three, THREE fresh recipes that can only be enjoyed during this short, sweet season. (Unless you are the luckiest people in the world and live in California. I bite my thumb at you folks in jealousy.) So, feast on the last days of summer!

Alright, I lied when I told you "no more tomatoes". My apologies, but you need this one. last. recipe. It's only right for a farewell to summer. This one is an uncooked pasta sauce. Yes, uncooked sauce sounds weird, but it sums up summer food to a tee: it's clean, refreshing, and quick. I'll name it Summer Spaghetti Sauce.

In a food processor, add 3 large tomatoes (or 3 cups of cherry tomatoes), 1 clove of garlic, 1 small onion, 8 basil leaves, 1 Tbsp of oregano, 1 tsp of rosemary, 2 tsp of salt, 1/2 cup of olive oil, juice of one lemon, and pepper to taste. Pulse to desired chunkiness or non-chunkiness. Let flavors meld in an airtight container in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. This recipe makes about 4 servings. Serve over pasta or cooked, chilled spaghetti squash.

*If you're like me and prefer little to no chunks, use a food processor. If you like your sauce chunky, I recommend hand dicing the tomatoes & onions and mincing the garlic & herbs.

I know, this photo looks less than appetizing. Aaaand when you read the ingredients, it will still sound unappetizing, but trust me and try it. I think you'll like it. This is Mexicorn, or at least that's what I'm calling it. It's inspired by the street corn I've eaten in Mexico. How they fix it: roast or boil an ear of corn, dip it - while it's piping hot - into mayonnaise, roll it in Parmesan cheese, and sprinkle it with paprika. Eating it this way is messy, Messy, MESSY.

How I fix it: cook a fresh ear of corn (or two) via your method of choice. Cut the kernels from the cob and pour into a bowl. Add a dollop of mayo, a dash of salt, a heavy hand of Parmesan, a heavy dash of paprika, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Mix until combined and the cheese is slightly melt-y. Serve immediately. Eat daintily.

I'll call this one Cantaloupe Salad. This is another recipe that you can fix for one serving or make a bunch for a crowd. Cut a cantaloupe into bite sized pieces. Put desired amount into a bowl. Crumble a bit of goat cheese, cut up a few fresh basil leaves, cut some slices of prosciutto into strips, and add all three to the bowl. Sprinkle with black pepper if desired, and toss to combine.

Au revoir, summer. I'll miss your sunshine and sweet fruits. Hello squash and spice season.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fancy spread - Tomato Jam

With an abundance of tomatoes (This is the last one for the tomato recipe streak.) and a ReadyMade magazine in hand, I gave this unusual appetizer a try. Tomato jam: it sounds like a sweet and labor intensive dish, but it is neither. I adapted and halved the recipe from the pages of ReadyMade. Let's jam.

Jam is completely an incorrect term for this dish. There is no canning, pectin, or freezing involved. It's simply a thickened tomato spread seasoned with cinnamon, clove, and cardamom. Start by halving or quartering 2.5 pounds of tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the tomatoes with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper - just a light, even coating of each. Roast for about an hour or until the skins crackle and start to brown. (I think I should have let mine roast a bit longer. Sadface.)

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and seeds. (I did not because I'm lazy.) Transfer tomatoes to a food processor and pulse until still slightly chunky. In a cheesecloth or a tea bag, place half of a cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, and 2 cardamom pods.
Pour the tomatoes into a heavy pan with the bagged spices. Add to the pot: 1/4 cup of red wine or apple juice (whichever you have on hand), 1.5 Tbsp of agave nectar or honey, and 1 Tbsp of aged balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmering.
Stir often and simmer for about an hour or until the sauce is thick and pasty. Remove and discard the spice bag. Season with more salt and pepper if desired. When jam is cool enough to work with, spoon into an air tight container, like a jelly or jam jar.

I highly suggest deseeding your tomatoes. It looks better and you can achieve a smoother texture - optimal for spreading on crusty bread with a sprinkling of cheese on top. Be brave. Turn those last tomatoes into jam. PS - the recipe is easily halved, so you don't have to make the whole yield of 3 cups if you don't want to.