Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm taking my oats elsewhere...

Well, I finally did it. After months of deliberating, I made another blog. It's called The Oatmeal Artist, and it's my new home for oatmeal recipes. Ever since I posted "The Oatmeal Addict" back in December, my blog has slowly changed more and more to a consistent string of porridge posts. Additionally, if you look at my list of most popular posts, the oatmeal ones seem to reign supreme.

So anyway, at the moment the new blog is extremely simple. The design is basic, and I merely transferred all my oatmeal recipes over there. I plan on editing the posts over time, taking new pictures (I need prettier bowls), and finding a consistent way to present the actual recipes, especially regarding the multitude of optional ingredients I typically add, such as flax and coconut oil.

Sometimes, I worry that I'm being too noncommittal, but ultimately, who cares? As much as I love cooking in general, nothing matches my love for porridge, and it's something I'm actually good at. I have a lot of practice with porridge. It's my specialty, you know? When I post other recipes on here, I'm usually "meh" about it because I don't know if others will like it as much as I did. On the other hand, when I post oatmeal recipes, I feel a surge of pride. I know it rocks.

I do not think I will delete this blog (because I'm too proud of the Food Revolution badge), but I'm not sure if I will continue posting here. We'll see. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Honey Nut Oatmeal with Apples

I highly admire several food activists fighting Big Food these days. One of my idols right now is Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian from Seattle. He's one of the best tweeters, constantly posting clever, educational, and witty updates. He's also friendly and helpful, and he always answers any questions I ask him.

One of these questions popped up about a month and a half ago. I saw that bizarre PB2 product at the store; it's basically a jar of dried peanut butter, in the form of powder. I rolled my eyes the first time I saw it, but then I couldn't stop thinking about it later. Think of the possibilities! And what would it be like in my oatmeal? Wouldn't it be like using cocoa powder instead of chocolate syrup (not to suggest chocolate syrup is in any way nutritionally similar to peanut butter!)?

So, I asked Andy what his opinion of PB2 was. Not surprisingly, he replied passionately that this product was a prime example of the narrow view of nutrition, focusing just on calories and fat content. He pointed out that peanut butter is full of healthy fats, and reducing it to a reduced-fat powder takes away its nutritional value. My question ignited such a passion in him, in fact, that he wrote up an entire blog post about it the very next day. At least I can say I inspired him, right?

But here's the thing: I do understand that peanut butter has healthy fats...which is why I eat it by the truckloads every day! But as someone with IBS (which makes me sensitive to fatty foods, no matter if it's healthy fats or not!), replacing one of these multiple servings with PB2 would ease some of my discomfort.

In the end, I purchased a jar (mostly out of curiosity). This product appeared to be safe, so even though I agree with Andy that it's nutritionally inadequate compared to the real deal, I thought it was a fine ingredient for oatmeal.

Here is my favorite recipe with PB2. The flavors are warm and comforting, like apple pie (only better, in my opinion). This particular bowl of oatmeal ranks as one of my top favorite recipes!

Here's what I did:

1. Begin bringing one cup of liquid (I used almond milk) to a boil. While it's heating, add two spoonfuls of PB2, and then whisk until any clumps are gone.

2. When the liquid begins to boil, add 1/2 cup of regular rolled oats (and, optionally, a spoonful of milled flax). Stir.

3. Dice and add an apple (I only used half an apple) into the cooking oats.

4. Once the oatmeal has thickened up a bit, add a splash of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, some cinnamon, and some peanuts or almonds. I also added raisins. (At this point, I also added a spoonful of coconut oil, but that's totally optional [I'm on a high-calorie diet]).

5. When you're pleased with the consistency of the oatmeal, transfer to a bowl and drizzle generously with honey. You could also add another splash of liquid, but I didn't this time. Enjoy!

**You can check out my other oatmeal recipes here, or by clicking the oatmeal tag. You can also find dozens of other oatmeal recipes on my Pinterest board (along with tons of other meatless recipes!). Thanks!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Coconut-Grapefruit Oatmeal with Pineapple

I bought a pineapple for the first time (ever) this week. I've always feared them, so the few times I've needed pineapple, I just bought the frozen stuff (I hate canned pineapple).

I had to Google how to cut one, but I found it much easier to deal with than a mango! And oh, so delicious! I want to bring some to school for lunch on Monday, and I'm having a hard time keeping my fingers out of it this weekend. I may only have a few tidbits to enjoy by tomorrow! ;)

Anyway, when I purchased it, I immediately thought of oatmeal. What concoction could I come up with??

So without further ado, I give you:

Oats cooked in coconut milk with grapefruit segments, and topped with fresh pineapple and shredded coconut. As if I didn't love my regular grapefruit oatmeal enough as it is, this combination really blew me away. The pineapple was divine, and it sweetened up the bitter grapefruit. Plus, pineapple and coconut is one of my favorite flavor combinations! Hurray!

Here's what I did:

1. Begin preparing the oatmeal like you would for my regular grapefruit oatmeal. For this recipe, I used a full cup of coconut milk.

2. When it comes to flavorings, I wasn't quite sure what to add. So, I kind of experimented: cinnamon, ginger, and poppy seed. Yes, poppy seed. I know that sounds like an odd combination, but you know what? It worked. Go ahead and do what you think is best here. I'm not exactly an expert at tropical food, so... :)

3. When finished, top with fresh pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, and another splash of (coconut) milk.

Soooooooooo delicious!!

**You can check out my other oatmeal recipes here, or by clicking the oatmeal tag. You can also find dozens of other oatmeal recipes on my Pinterest board (along with tons of other meatless recipes!). Thanks!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

PB&J Oatmeal with Apples (Happy St. Patrick's Day!)

For months, I've been dreaming of this day. I imagined cooking up some elaborate Irish meal and drinking cider, Jameson, or some other Irish-related beverage with my besties. And oh yes, there would be soda bread.

As the day approached, however, I lost my motivation to do any serious baking. I could definitely make some soda bread, but beyond that, no way. For that reason, I was thrilled to see a Facebook post by a local cafe announcing that they were serving potato and leek soup with soda bread. Count me in!

That salad was wowza! Spinach, mandarin oranges, chickpeas, baby mozzarella, and a vinaigrette 
I've never had soda bread made with white flour before. It was tasty, but I found it too "light" and "cake-like." I guess some people would think those are positive attributes, but those people have never had soda bread before. ;) I like my soda bread dense and hearty. The only thing "sweet" about it should be the jam you slop on top. :)

We decided when we were finished that we were still a little bit hungry, so we walked down the block to our favorite bar/eatery to split one of their ah-may-zing cupcakes. Much to my delight, their flavor of the day was Irish Car Bomb!

The frosting was the star of the show for the most part, but in the last few bites, I finally tasted the cake itself. Wow. Absolutely incredible. I might have even liked to eat it plain, without the frosting. 

Anyway, I have another oatmeal recipe for you. It's basically the combination of several of my favorite oatmeal recipes. I woke up Monday morning craving peanut butter, but I needed to use up half an apple I had in the fridge, so I just kind of threw it all together. Naturally, it was delightful (I think I've made less than three "bad" bowls of oatmeal in my life. It's hard to screw up!).

PB&J Oatmeal with Apples

Prepare my Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal. Top with swirls of your favorite jelly/jam/preserves and globs of your favorite nut butter. I used banana butter. Enjoy!

**You can check out my other oatmeal recipes here, or by clicking the oatmeal tag. You can also find dozens of other oatmeal recipes on my Pinterest board (along with tons of other meatless recipes!). Thanks!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Oatmeal "Secrets" Answered

You may have stumbled upon a few of my oatmeal recipes by now. I have several, after all. :)

And during this excursion, you might have read some of my directions and asked, "Why?" Thus, I've decided to make one post explaining all of my slightly quirky oatmeal tricks.

The Mashed Banana?
The mashed banana appears in some expected recipes, like Dark Chocolate Banana, but it also pops up in a couple strange recipes, like Lemon Poppyseed and Thin Mints. Why? First of all, with intense flavors like lemon or mint, it completely overpowers the banana taste. The banana, then, is merely used to sweeten the porridge. For example, without the banana in Lemon Poppyseed, the oatmeal would taste like citrus mixed with a hay bale. Additionally, the banana serves three more purposes: to include a serving of fruit in my breakfast, add a creamy texture, and bulk up the volume of the porridge! Not bad, eh?

I always mark this as optional in my recipes, and I imagine most people take me up on the offer to forego it. Here's why you shouldn't: flax tastes great, helps the texture of the oatmeal, and is an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids (so it's good for your digestion AND your heart!). Flax has a wonderful nutty taste that is especially wonderful in oatmeals with less intense flavors (e.g. Apple Cinnamon). Plus, it helps the oatmeal gel together; after all, flax is used as an egg substitute in vegan baking! It's like dropping an egg into your bowl, without the cholesterol and saturated fat. I use milled flax, flax seeds, or a mixture of the two!

Almond Milk?
You can use whatever milk you want. My favorites are almond and coconut. Why? They taste good, and they're easy on my digestive system (dairy upsets my IBS).

Half Almond Milk, Half Water?
I once saw a European comment on a food blog once about how strange Americans are for cooking their oats in water. She viewed this as evidence of our self-hatred. This made me laugh (and think), but here's the thing: almond milk is expensive! By mixing it with half water, I can essentially double my supply. Plus, almond milk (and most nondairy milks) is pretty thick, so watering it down isn't a problem.

1/2 an Apple/Banana/Whatever?
Whenever I write to use half a fruit, I always imagine people reading it and thinking, "WTF?! What do I do with the other half??" Well, if you haven't learned by now, I'm really cheap. Because I've committed to more expensive higher quality food, I've had to save money in other ways--watering down my almond milk, buying overripe bananas in bulk, and only using half a fruit at a time. For bananas, I slice up the remainder and add it to a bag in the freezer, which I use later to make banana soft serve. For apples and grapefruit, I store the other half in a Glad container in the fridge. The next morning, I have another half an apple waiting for me! You might be thinking, "But apples brown when you cut them!!" Relax. They work great for oatmeal. You're just cooking them again, anyway! And they don't actually brown that much, in my experience.

When to Add What?
I understand my directions aren't always the easiest to follow. That's because oatmeal is difficult to screw up. Really, it all comes down to timing. For apples, bananas, and frozen fruit, I add those almost immediately after adding the oats (to soften them and let them become "one" with the porridge). Fresh stone fruits, like peaches, can also be stirred in early on. For fresh berries, I add them closer to the end, or even as toppings at the very end, so they don't collapse and lose all their flavor and appeal.

When adding flavor enhancers, like vanilla or almond extract, I wait until the oatmeal has thickened up (and about 2/3 of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated). I'm afraid of adding them earlier because I don't want the extract to evaporate with the simmering almond milk/water. I could be totally wrong about this; I'm just following my instinct.

For cocoa powder, I will typically add it when the liquid is half absorbed. Don't wait too long because the powder needs some liquid to mix with. For chocolate chips, save them until the end to sprinkle on as toppings! Otherwise, they'll melt in right away--which defeats the purpose!

"Finish with Another Splash of Milk?"
I end all my recipes with this line. I never did this until I saw pictures of other people's oatmeal, which always had milk poured on top. I decided to try it once, and I instantly recognized the appeal. Splashing some milk over your finished oatmeal serves three purposes: it cools it down so you can eat it without burning yourself, adds one more source of creaminess and milky flavor, and moistens it up again, especially if you accidentally overcooked your oats. From an aesthetic perspective, it also makes your breakfast look more appealing. :) So don't skip the splash!

Without the splash of almond milk, this bowl of Thin Mints Oatmeal would just be a brown blob.


Yes, I use almonds frequently. Many times, a different nut would fit the recipe better. In such cases, I'll say so ("I suggest pecans or walnuts"). However, I can't afford to have a variety of nuts on hand. I can barely afford to have one type of nut on hand. Since almonds are my favorite, I buy them in bulk from Sam's Club, so I always have plenty to add to my oatmeal, even if a different nut would fit better.

No sugar?
Sugar is for ninnies. I "quit" instant flavored oatmeal because of the sugar content (and artificial flavors), so sugar is one thing I never add to my porridge. Occasionally, I'll add honey, but that's more for its flavor than its sweetness. If you're not hardcore like me, feel free to add some sugar, but please, for the love of Michael Buble, do not use Splenda on any of my recipes--nothing would offend me more!

**You can check out my other oatmeal recipes here, or by clicking the oatmeal tag. You can also find dozens of other oatmeal recipes on my Pinterest board (along with tons of other meatless recipes!). Thanks!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal

I know, I'm know. I'm out of control. This is my ten billionth post about oatmeal in a row.

But I really like it, okay?

This morning, I had full intentions of making my Chocolate Strawberry Oatmeal. As I started heating up the almond milk on the stove, however, I had a sudden change of heart. I wanted something different. Something without chocolate. I've done the chocolate thing too much lately.

How have I not tried the strawberry-banana combo yet with oatmeal? It's so obvious; it has to be one of the most classic flavor combinations out there!

I decided to use the strawberries as toppings instead of mixing them in/cooking them along with the oatmeal. After all, what's the point of having fresh strawberries if I'm just going to cook them up and turn them into mush? What have I been thinking?

How I did it:
  1. Cook the oatmeal as you normally would. As I've said many times before, I use an equal mixture of almond milk and water to cook my oats. I also cook mine with a spoonful of flax. 
  2. Next, mash a banana well, and stir that in.
  3. Once more of the liquid has dissolved, add a splash of vanilla extract, a tiny pinch of salt, and a modest shake of cinnamon (don't you love my measurements?). Stir.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and top with diced strawberries (I used four). Other toppings include nuts, dried fruit, and coconut. I served mine with coconut, sliced almonds, and another splash of almond milk. Nummy!

You can check out my other oatmeal recipes here, or by clicking the oatmeal tag. You can also find dozens of other oatmeal recipes on my Pinterest board (along with tons of other meatless recipes!). Thanks!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Oatmeal

If you can believe it, I didn't try lemon poppyseed until I got to college. In my depression/identity crisis, I basically ate my feelings, so I made frequent trips to the on-campus eateries throughout the day. One of the treats I became addicted to was the lemon poppyseed bread. It was dense, chilled, and super sweet. I shudder now at the amount of extra calories I consumed every week from that bread alone.

When I started eating oatmeal the following year, I initially set out to recreate dessert recipes. I tried banana bread, carrot cake, cheesecake, french toast, and chocolate chip. Basically, oatmeal was my attempt to make dieting suck less (before I discovered whole foods).

Lemon poppyseed was one of the first flavors I tried to recreate, but it took a lot practice. In fact, It took almost two years to perfect. I originally used a recipe that used lemon pudding mix, which was delicious, but it no longer works with my whole foods approach. Thus, I have had to come up with something else. I then tried simply adding lemon juice and poppyseed, but that was dreadful--it was bitter and tart! Finally, I had an epiphany to use a mashed up banana to sweeten it. It worked!

Here's what I did: 

1. Begin cooking the oatmeal like you normally would. For me, this means cooking a 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats and a tablespoon of milled flax in one cup of half-water, half-almond milk at a low boil. For this particular recipe, I would also recommend coconut milk!

2. Mash up a banana very thoroughly and add to the oatmeal. Trust me, you don't want to stumble upon a chunk of banana in this bowl of porridge. Stir.

3. When more of the liquid has dissolved, add four or five teaspoons of lemon juice and one teaspoon of poppyseeds. Stir.

4. Serve with dried fruit, nuts, and/or shredded coconut, and another splash of milk!

**You can check out my other oatmeal recipes here, or by clicking the oatmeal tag. You can also find dozens of other oatmeal recipes on my Pinterest board (along with tons of other meatless recipes!). Thanks!