Archive | November, 2013

Battle Of The Oatmeals – Crock Pot Vs Oven

16 Nov

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I LOVE OATS – especially oatmeal, but put them in bread, cookies, meatballs, a shoe – doesn’t matter where they are, I will eat them. And like it.

So naturally, I am always on the lookout for more oat recipes – and I found two different ones I could not WAIT to try. Cranberry Apple baked oatmeal seemed right up my alley – using ingredients I already had at home, and it would be perfect to share with company. Pumpkin Pie Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal appealed right away to my “crockpot obsessed pumpkin loving” side, plus the chance to work with a new ingredient (steel cut oats) is always fun

So up first, the baked version:

Cranberry Apple Baked Oatmeal (Recipe Courtesy Of Budget Bytes)
Serves: 6

Ingredients
1½ cups unsweetened apple sauce
2 large eggs
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder
1 cup milk (dairy or soy)
6 oz. (about 1¼ cups) fresh cranberries
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the apple sauce, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Add the milk and whisk until smooth again.
2. Rinse the cranberries in a colander. Slice or roughly chop the cranberries in half (they don’t have to be perfect). Stir the cranberries and oats into the applesauce mixture.
3. Pour the oatmeal mixture into an 8×8 or 9×9 casserole dish (coated with non-stick spray). Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the surface is a light golden brown and it is no longer sticky in the center. Serve hot or refrigerate until ready to eat.

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I whipped up a double batch of this – and I am glad I did! The leftovers were great! The only thing I changed about the recipe is that I didn’t cut the cranberries in half – I tried, but they are slippery and kept rolling around – so that was really just a personal preference (and a time saver!), and I don’t think it really affected the finished product.

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It was nice and thick, almost a bread pudding consistency, it tasted great – just a hint of apple, tartness of the cranberries, and slight sweetness of the warm middle. I added a bit of brown sugar to the top of mine and it was the perfect addition!

Ok. One down, one to go. My Crock Pot Is Ready, so let’s do this…

Pumpkin Pie Slow Cooker Overnight Oatmeal (Recipe courtesy of Sweet Anna’s)
Yield: 6+ large servings

Ingredients
6 cups water
1 cup half & half or milk
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1 cup pumpkin purée
1/2-1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (my family likes things sweet, so we use one cup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Stir all the ingredients together in the slow cooker, cook on LOW overnight, about 8 hours.
When it is done, it will still look liquidy. Give it a good stir and it will all come together.
Serve immediately. Save any leftovers in the fridge or freezer… this stuff reheats beautifully!

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So like I said, I had never worked with steel cut oats before, they are definitely different than any oat I had ever seen! They are much more “grain-y” looking, and need to be cooked much longer than traditional oats

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One SUPER IMPORTANT CHANGE I will be making to this recipe for next time – I will be heavily spraying the inside of the crock pot with non-stick cooking spray before adding the ingredients to it. It stuck to the sides without the spray, which wasn’t a huge issue, but it can be avoided next time for sure!

Also, when I woke up (to the gorgeous smell of pumpkin wafting through the house!), I turned the crock pot to “warm” and left the lid off for about an hour – it let the oatmeal cool off a little and thicken up a LOT – made all the difference in the world!

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The taste of this is great – it definitely has the essence of pumpkin pie, but a much healthier version (I used skim milk in mine, and you can control the amount of sugar you add too!), and I love the texture of the steel cut oats. This was a winner – even my husband (who is not a big pumpkin fan) had two helpings!

If you don’t have time or want to mess around with the oven or crock pot to make your oatmeal, you can always stick with a delicious breakfast of plain old oatmeal. The great thing about it is that it’s like a blank canvas – you can add TONS of different toppings/mix-ins to it and create some delicious custom flavors. Here are some ideas for Oatmeal Mix-ins: Raisins (or any fried fruit!), cinnamon, maple syrup, brown sugar, applesauce, pumpkin puree, apples (or peaches, or bananas, or any other fresh fruit!), milk, butter, fruit jelly/jam…really the list is endless!

These two recipes are great because they allow me to take a cherished pantry item (oats!) and use it in new, different ways. These flavors are perfect for fall, so you can whip these up before you go out to rake leaves, or on Thanksgiving morning! Plus, the leftovers from both are delicious, and I love leftovers, so I will definitely be making both of these again

So In the battle of “oven oatmeal” vs “crock pot oatmeal” I would say it’s a draw – they are both great for different reasons, and will both warm you and fill you up on a chilly fall day!

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Products I Love: Quick Bread Mixes

14 Nov

 

Ok so I know this is a baking blog, and that the assumption is everything I do is from scratch (like brownies, and cookies), and most of the time that is true. But sometimes, a shortcut is necessary in life – and these Pillsbury Quick Bread Mixes are easy, quick to prepare, and most importantly – they taste great!

QuickBreads

They come in a variety of flavors: banana, cranberry, date, cinnamon swirl, apple cinnamon, blueberry, chocolate ship, lemon poppy seed, wildberry, chocolate chip swirl, nut, pecan swirl, as well as seasonal flavors like gingerbread and pumpkin (one of my personal favorites!)

Muffin

Eggs, water, and oil are all that are needed to add to the mix – then give it a good stir, and you’re ready to go! They can be made in a bundt pan, bread loaf pan, or muffin tins, and they’re a great and easy thing to whip up to bring to work or to a party

Sometimes I like to add various mix ins to them too – mini chocolate chips are great in the banana or pumpkin breads, nuts go well in the date, cranberry, and banana varieties, and raisins add another level of flavor to the pumpkin mix

The smell that fills the house while they are baking is seriously mouth-watering, and you can totally pass them off as homemade from scratch if you want to (don’t worry, I won’t tell!)

Products I love – the Apple Corer/Peeler/Slicer

6 Nov

Ok, seriously – how did I live my life without this? The apple corer/peeler/slicer is amazing – easy to setup (with its suction cup base that firmly attaches to almost any countertop), and easy to use (with options to just peel the apple, or to core/peel/slice all at once!) – it has made my life SO much easier! For only $15, it has saved us literally hours of peeling time – and it’s definitely a Product I LOVE and cannot live without – especially during my favorite season of all – APPLE SEASON!

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 My husband takes care of operating the corer/peeler/slicer, as Walter keeps an eye on the peels (making sure none touch the ground, of course!)

It’s certainly no secret that I LOVE FALL – and one of the best things about living in Upstate New York during fall (aside from the gorgeous foliage!) is the apple picking – there are tons of farms near us, and we take FULL advantage of the chance to snag super fresh apples all season long

Picking APplesWe picked 52 pounds of apples last weekend – our 9th apple picking excursion this fall, and I can’t wait to make tons of apple goodies with them!

Since this past weekend was probably our last outing of the season (sad but true), I want to make sure I am making the most of it. So – I will be making more applesauce to give as gifts this Christmas, and I will also probably whip up a few apple pies, as well as apple crisps to share with friends and family. Oh, and another thing I will be making is Apple Butter – a new recipe for me, and one that I will be canning to share with loved ones as well!

Crock Pot Apple Butter (Recipe Courtesy of The Neaves Nest)

Ingredients
16 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons or more of honey to taste

Directions
Pour water in the bottom of your crock pot. Dump in peeled, cored and sliced apples. Top with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Cook on low for 4 hours. Blend with hand blender or a regular blender. Stir in honey. Taste to see if you prefer a sweeter butter and add more honey if you wish. I found that letting a little cool off in a spoon before trying it allowed more of the flavors and sweetness to come out.

The best part about this recipe is that it’s seriously easy – just set it and leave it – and let it fill your house with it’s amazing apple smell! Like I said, I plan on canning this, so I make a big batch, but you can always cut it in half if you just want to make enough for you to spread on toast (or eat with a spoon, no judgment…)

So I recommend you head over to amazon and grab yourself an apple corer/peeler/slicer, and then use it to whip up some delicious apple recipes – which will you make – the apple butter? Pie, crisp, applesauce? Or do you have another apple recipe you love to make?