{Day 17} Holiday Baking with Oats: Warm Oatmeal Bread, Brown Sugar Oat Bread and Oaty Pecan Rounds

Yesterday we woke to rain pounding on our roof.  It poured like it hasn’t in I can’t even remember when.  The sky was gray, the house was cozy.  It was a day made to be spent in the kitchen.  For my birthday, I was given a hand-me-down vegetarian cookbook and I have quickly fallen in love with it.  Unlike many cookbooks now-a-days, it gives homemade, old-fashioned bread making a significant role in nutrition and in the rhythm of daily life.  This is where I got the recipe for oatmeal bread, best warm from the oven.  While I’m not going to duplicate the recipe here, what you can do is find a good, simple whole grain basic bread recipe and begin substituting part of the whole grain flour for whole grain rolled oats and wheat germ.  The coarse whole grain rolled oats (old fashioned, not quick cooking) magically disappear into the flour and adding honey lends a perfect touch of sweetness; it is not unlike a “honey wheat” variety you would purchase at the supermarket, but superbly and incomparably healthier, tastier and fresher.

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Lately, my absolute favorite thing to eat is baked beans on toast.  Maybe this is due to our time spent in the UK, where this dish shows up pretty much everywhere, but it truly is something worth trying if you haven’t.  I know most of here think of baked beans along with Summer days and barbecues, but hot baked beans on warm whole grain bread (with butter of course) is wonderfully filling, especially for breakfast.  Instead of leaving Santa another tired plate of frosted sugar cookies, perhaps you could leave him this hearty dish (I know he won’t be disappointed!)

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I made these Oaty Pecan Rounds a little while ago, but they went fast.  They are essentially a homemade granola bar recipe sprinkled with dried cranberries, pepitas (soaked and dried pumpkin seeds) and pecans.  After they are firm and cooled you can use a cookie cutter or mouth of a mason jar to cut  them into rounds.

IMGP1668Even my husband got into the spirit of baking with me as we had to make bread for his work’s holiday potluck.  We thought we’d try something new and found a recipe for Brown Sugar Bread.  It begins as a basic quick bread- flour, eggs, oil, water, baking soda and powder, and salt with the addition of 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 cup quick cooking oats (I ground up old fashioned rolled oats into a flour). The result was so good, my husband declared Brown Sugar Bread our new Christmas bread tradition (with the stipulation that we could also have it every other week of the year!)

IMGP1681No Christmas season could possibly be complete without a day of baking with the family.  When I think of baking for the holidays, like you, I almost immediately think of white sugar cookie cut outs, smiling gingerbread men, artificially dyed frosting and sprinkles likely finding their way in all the nooks, crannies and corners of my kitchen.  But “holiday baking” can be something worth sinking your teeth into; something warm and nourishing.  Something filling and memorable.  Try it and you’ll see.

 

 

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Grain-Free, Sugar-Free Sweet Potato Breakfast Spread

Eating seasonally is great.  The produce is fresher and almost always cheaper than it would be out of season, plus if you begin to listen to your body you will find that you crave the fruits and vegetables in season.  As the weather has turned colder, my thirst for raw salads and tropical fruits has died and been replaced with a craving for warm, hearty, filling and heavier dishes like beans, squash, soups and apples.

Today our grocery store had sweet potatoes, 4 pounds for $1!  So as you stock up, know that you don’t just have to eat the iconic sweet potato and marshmallow dish, but can enjoy sweet potatoes in a myriad of ways- for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I got this idea from a health magazine from my local health food store- sweet potatoes for breakfast!

Need:

– 1 good sized sweet potato

– 1 ripe banana

– a little bit of orange juice (all I had was pineapple juice and it worked)

– cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

– chopped pecans or walnuts

– dried cranberries

– raw honey (optional)

Place sweet potato on a microwave safe plate and poke a few holes in it with a fork.  Heat for about 5-6 minutes until very tender.  Scoop out flesh and put in a bowl.  Add the ripe banana and a little bit of juice.  Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.  Blend with an electric mixer until uniform and fluffy.  Spoon into a bowl and add chopped nuts, dried cranberries, more cinnamon (if desired) and honey (optional).  I ate it without the honey and was surprised at how yummy this was!  You can easily eat this right off the spoon and is especially great for those on a grain-free or grain limited diet.  I really like it as a spread though.  I toasted some sprouted organic bread and slathered it with butter, then topped with a spoonful of the sweet potato.  Top with nuts and cranberries and you have a filling, seasonal nutritious breakfast!

 

Simple Rosemary Quinoa and White Bean Soup

I love soup anytime of year.  I think it is one of the most nourishing things you can eat, especially if it is homemade.  But this morning we woke up and it was actually a little cold outside!  Oh, how I love soup weather!

This is  a really simple soup.  I sort of just threw together what I had on hand (that is another beautiful thing about soup).  I based my recipe off of this recipe I found.

First, cook your quinoa.  After rinsing the quinoa well, I just followed the directions on the package.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add half of an onion, diced and one carrot sliced.  Heat until tender.

Add 1/2 tsp sea salt, black pepper to taste, chopped fresh rosemary, one can of white beans (drained), 2 cups vegetable stock and one cup of water (more if you like more liquid).  Bring to a low boil, simmer for 15 minutes.

Add 1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon and 2 cups of cooked quinoa, stirring to combine.  Let simmer for a few minutes or let warm off of the heat to blend the flavors together.  Serve hot.

Enjoy! (And I know you will!)

 

 

Soaked Whole Grain Banana Pecan Bread

Yesterday, a little blonde toddler (who shall remain nameless) wouldn’t sleep.  It was late and instead of continuing to fight a losing battle, I decided we would get up and I would bake.  

Baking my very first loaf of banana bread years ago was when I first fell in love with the magic of baking.  Ever since then I have always loved that perfect loaf of sweet and slightly spicy banana bread, but this loaf is extra special.  It is originally from the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and reprinted with permission in The Maker’s Diet.  The day before I had soaked 3 cups of whole grain flour in a water and yogurt mixture.  There is tons of information out there on soaking grains.  Soaking your grains first allows for better digestion and allows for important nutrients to be properly assimilated.

Here is what I love about this banana bread:

– Absolutely no white flour is used.  Only whole grains and freshly ground is preferred (although I didn’t do that).

– Absolutely no refined sugar is used.  Only a 1/4 cup of real maple syrup.

– You only need 2 ripe bananas instead of the usual 4-5 in the traditional recipe.  

So around midnight I began to smell that glorious scent of cinnamon and nutmeg waft through the house and somehow it made everything better again.  

My favorite way to eat banana bread? Sliced cold straight from the fridge with a cold pat of butter. Yum! (And yes, eventually she did go to sleep!)

Enjoy!

Homemade Pita Bread Panini Pressed Sandwiches or What I Like to Call a “Pitanini”

At our house we love panini pressed sammys.  They’re quick and easy on nights I just don’t feel like cooking.  I had recently bought some pita bread at the store and love slicing it open to reveal the warm heavenly soft middle and stuffing it full of vegan goodies like hummus, avocado, salad greens or red peppers.  Since I love baking bread so much, I wanted to try making pita bread myself too.  Once I got into bread making, I realized leavened breads are pretty much all the same.  The taste might depend on how long I let it rise, how long I knead it, or what seasonings I add to the dough.  And the shape is simply dependent on what I feel like rolling it into.  When I understood this, it wasn’t long before I was rolling out the soft round dough ready to make some delicious flatbread.

I used this recipe from The Fresh Loaf but incorporated this idea to cook them on my cast iron skillet.  

The dough made eight balls which I then easily rolled out with a rolling pin just so it was round and flat but not too thin.  Once my cast iron skillet was hot I dropped them in one at a time.  It only took a minute or so until they were beginning to bubble or puff on the top then I flipped it over.  When the other side was cooked and had some of that wonderful browning in spots I took it off the skillet and let it cool on a wire rack.  You can also cook these in the oven.  

The finished stack.  So good hot off the skillet!

When I make paninis, I usually use a sturdy english muffin bread but this time around decided to try and use the fresh pita bread.

 

Slice the pita bread horizontally to make two thin halves.  Then stuff it with whatever you like!  My husband likes turkey and cheese while I spread mine with mashed chickpeas with tomato sauce and oregano and of course toppings like red onion, avocado and tomato.  Place in a panini press and cook until fillings are hot and outside has lines across the top and bottom.  

my husband’s turkey and cheese

my chickpea and tomato

Chewy bread, hot filling, who doesn’t love that?  These would be perfect on a cold Fall day with some soup.  For a yummy hot breakfast “pitanini” I used peanut butter, thinly sliced bananas and cinnamon.  Just one more reason to love pita bread!

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade Fig Newton Bars

I recently was given a big jar of preserved figs straight from my husband’s grandma’a kitchen in Mississippi (thanks grandma Jean!) and I couldn’t wait to open it up and taste those wonderful figs which are now in season.  Of course, I had to think of something to do with them besides put them on my oatmeal (which was really good, by the way) and what better way to use figs than in this fig and cookie dessert or homemade “fig newton” bars.  Not only are these healthier than the store bought kind, which are usually loaded with “hydrogenated” oils (aka: trans fat) but I liked them so much better.  While the store bought kind have more of a cake texture to them, these were more like a cookie with the yummy figs in the middle.  I got the recipe here but of course substituted all of the fig ingredients for my preserved figs.  

 

For the ooey gooey fig middle I took about a cup of the preserved figs and chopped them up on a cutting board until the whole thing was mashed up and no big pieces remained.

Follow the recipe, but please don’t use wax paper underneath the cookie like it said to.  Most of it stuck to the cooked cookie and I had to painstakingly peel it off.  Ugh.  Just grease the pan really well (bottom and sides) with oil or butter.  It worked for our grandmothers, it will work for us too.

Cooling on a wire rack.

Cut into squares with a large knife. 

Upon eating my first warm square I immediately regretted not doubling the batch! These are wonderful snacks or dessert and great to share or take on any outing.

Enjoy! 

 

 

 

 

Black-Eyed Pea Corn and Avocado Salad or to the South “Cowboy Caviar”

If you’ve lived in the South at all, you might have heard of “cowboy caviar” a dish featuring a very Southern food, black-eyed peas.  But unlike many Southern food’s reputation of being heavy, buttery and fried, this dish is light and fresh and perfect for the Summer.  There are probably a few different variations of this salad, but I really like this one because it includes the bright flavors of lime, cilantro and avocado- flavors I can’t seem to get enough of right now.

Ingredients:

1/2 of a 1 lb bag of dry black-eyed peas- sorted, rinsed, soaked overnight then cooked according to package directions (or you could use 1 can of already cooked black-eyed peas)

about 1 c of frozen corn, thawed

1 can of diced tomatoes, with liquid drained (or fresh tomatoes diced)

1/2 ripe avocado peeled, pit removed and diced (1 whole if you want more avocado)

1 red onion, diced

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and black pepper to taste

fresh cilantro, chopped and some for garnish

1 lime

Simply mix the black-eyed peas, corn, tomatoes, avocado, onion and some chopped cilantro in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the olive oil over, squeeze the entire lime into the salad and then season again with salt and pepper to taste if necessary.  (I learned from watching Jamie Oliver that you always want your dressing to be a bit too acidic, meaning add just a little too much lime  because the flavors will mellow).

put it all in a big bowl

so colorful!

Garnish with more fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime. Dig right in with a fork or eat like a dip with your favorite tortilla chip. Chill in the fridge to let the flavors mingle. Enjoy!

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