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Archive for the ‘Oats’ Category

Confession time for Bad Mama Genny: I’ve been using my Crockpot a lot lately.  Also, my text software just tried to edit “Crockpot” to read “crack pot”.

Please let it be known that I have not been using my crack pot a lot lately.

It’s addictive, that thing.

The Crockpot, not the crack pot.

Okay, you know what?  We’re gonna call it a slow cooker from this point forward.

So I’ve been using the slow cooker a lot lately, and once you get started and master a few basics, it’s actually pretty amazing and easy to end up with very nice food that doesn’t always taste like beef stew.

Unless it’s beef stew, and then it tastes like beef stew.  Or, at least, it should.  And if you have a problem with that, well, why were you making beef stew in the first place?

So last night I felt that it wasn’t enough to make salmon croquettes with lemon aioli and a side of steamed spinach and artichokes for dinner.  Hmm, surely there’s SOME ridiculous project I could start too late in the day?…I know!  I know!

GRANOLA!

Except I’m not a glutton for punishment (lie, totally am, but still) and I’ve burned more than my fair share of granola by leaving it in the oven for 0.29 seconds too long.  This here granola is a delicate business, folks.  And I just wasn’t up for a delicate project.

I’d heard that you could make substantially less finicky granola in a slow cooker, but only recently did I look into it for really reals.   And you know where you should go for the basics?

Right here, to Stephanie O’Dea’s site.  She’s the genius behind the cookbook, “Make it Fast, Cook it Slow,” a bible for those of you who heart your slow cooker big time.  Or your Crockpot.  Or heck, even your crack pot.

I didn’t use Stephanie’s granola recipe, and decided instead to go off in my own direction.  See, while O’Dea’s recipe calls for two liquid components–butter and honey–mine adds a third: fruit puree.  what worked for me was 1/2 cup fat, 1/2 cup sweet stuff, 1/2 cup fruit puree.  This cuts down on the amount of fat and sugar you need, adds flavor, and–oh, fluffernutter!–gives you even more scope for the imagination when it comes to cool taste combos.

Yesterday I made pumpkin granola.  I used pureed sugar pie pumpkin and added cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Three words: OM NOM NOM.

I wish I could explain just how good this smelled while it cooked.  But I can’t.  They just haven’t invented Smell-o-Vision yet.  Or the Smell-ternet.

So now that we’ve added that fruit component, let’s review just a few of the taste combinations that come to mind:

Pumpkin puree with pecans, raisins, pie spices, and butter.

Apple butter with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, pie spices, and butter.

Any fruit puree you desire, or none, with maple syrup instead of honey, and walnuts

Coconut oil instead of butter, banana puree, banana chips (or dehydrated banana, added after cooling), macadamia nuts, chunks of dried pineapple, and shaved, unsweetened coconut

Cherries and almonds.  Mmmm….

Apple butter with blueberries, almonds, and butter…just like a muffin!

Banana puree with walnuts and butter, and dehydrated bananas added after cooling…like banana nut bread!

Pumpkin puree with dried cranberries and pecans…perfect for Thanksgiving breakfast!

Basically, what I’m saying here is: this is the easiest granola you will ever make.  You will not go back to burning tray after tray of granola in the oven and sobbing all over your own The Boy while he tries to console you about all those wasted ingredients.  And the sky’s the limit with this recipe–if you can imagine it, you can do it!

Who’s that on the phone?  It’s Legal?  And they’re telling me I can’t guarantee that if you can imagine it, you can do it?

Okay, revision.  More like, if you can imagine it, you can try it, be my guest, but I won’t be held responsible for the results.

There, that’s better.  Legal should be happy with that.

Hey, what are you still doing here?  Shouldn’t you be playing with your crack pot?  I mean, Crockpot.  I mean, slow cooker.

Damn. Legal again.

Crockpot Granola, a Jillion Different Ways

Go Get:

5 cups oats
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup, etc.)
1/2 cup butter (or coconut oil, or Earth Balance, or half butter/half peanut butter, etc.)
1/2 cup fruit puree of your choice
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup dried fruit and/or dehydrated fruit (Trader Joe’s, among other places, sells fruit that’s been dehydrated–the second it comes into contact with moisture, it rehydrates and becomes soft again.  While dried fruit can be added during cooking, I’d hold off on adding dehydrated fruit until you’re bagging the cooled mixture.)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients except for dried fruit (and any dehydrated fruit you may be using) into the stoneware and set it to high.  Don’t bother melting the fat and honey together first, as O’Dea recommends.  While this is a nice touch, I can’t bear the thought of washing an extra pot when I’m already using the slow cooker.  Call me crazy.  Vent the slow cooker by sticking a wooden spoon in between the lid and the stoneware.  This will help your granola to lose excess moisture.

During the first hour, your butter will melt and you’ll want to make sure it gets evenly distributed, along with the honey or whatever other sweetener you’re using, throughout the dry ingredients.  Watch this stuff–you won’t have to stir much at the beginning, but as your granola gets further along, you’ll wanna give it a stir every few minutes or, as O’Dea says, whenever you can smell it cooking.

When you’re 2/3 of the way through, put in your dried fruit (NOT yet on the dehydrated fruit).  O’Dea has you adding everything at the beginning.  This does work, but my fruit got a bit dark where it touched the stoneware.  I’d hold off next time.

And that’s it!  Keep stirring every so often, and after 3 to 4 hours, everything will look nice and toasty.  It will NOT be dried out.  I’d say, when everything’s golden brown and there’s no excess moisture, you’re probably there.  Toss the mixture onto some parchment-lined cookie sheets and let it cool.  Once the mixture is cool, you can add any dehydrated fruits you’ve been holding onto and put it all into an airtight container or gallon-size ziploc bag.

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Oh, yeah, baby, you can crumble my topping anytime!

Ooh, I just wanna cut you up into little pieces and eat you!...wait, that wasn't sexy.

Confession time: I’m a sucker for any recipe described as “Midwestern.”  For me, the term conjures images of pies cooling on windowsills, sounds of cows musing to themselves in a field just over yonder, and scents of clean breezes wafting over fields of fresh hay.

HA!  JUST KIDDING!  The clean and pure and wholesome country wants nothing to do with your Bad Mama Genny.

But really, I do stop for a second look at recipes like these because they remind me of the home-y and decadent desserts I was raised on, desserts rich with the sweetness of fruit and often topped with a crumbly, crispy, textured THING happening, thanks to the addition of oats and whole grains.  And, uh, oh yeah–the unmistakable taste of butter was in there, too.

So when I saw this recipe, attributed to commenter greenandlean on thekitchn.com, I knew I had to try it.

With a few leeeeeetle revisions.

You see, friends, through extensive experimentation, it’s come to my attention that most dessert recipes call for a little more sugar than I really need.  I often cut the sugar in a recipe by as much as a third.  And it’s still good.  To compensate, I’ll sometimes up the fruit content and include more whole grains, which add a nuttiness and depth of flavor that white flour just can’t touch.  The sugar that I do use is raw, which adds a certain je ne sais quoi that you can’t find in ordinary, heavily-processed granulated sugar.

So I edited the recipe to my liking to include more whole grains, more raisins, less sugar (and less refined sugar), and highly probiotic plain kefir or plain whole milk yogurt instead of sour cream (a swap which cuts out a bit of fat and calories and ups the tang factor, not that I have anything against sour cream OH HO NO I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT but sour cream has something against me READ: I AM A LACTARD).  I also cut the recipe in half since The Boy is notoriously bad at helping me eat dessert.  He prefers to drink it.  In the form of beer.

Thanks a lot for not helping your darlin’ eat dessert, The Boy.  I hope you like FUCKING LOVE HANDLES!

Oh, you do?  Why, thank you, The Boy, you’ve made my day, my, oh, my, how you DO look nice in those worn denim overalls of yours!  What’s say you and I disappear with a pan of raisin bars behind one of these here hay bales and not reappear until this here pan is empty and I’m a’blushin’ real hard?

But The Boy doesn’t wear overalls.  That’s okay.  I don’t blush, either.

Sour Cream/Kefir/Yogurt Raisin Bars
Makes and 8 x 8 pan of bars

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups raisins
3/4 Cup old-fashioned oats, plus 2 Tablespoons
3/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus 2 Tablespoons
1/2 cup raw sugar or evaporated cane juice (plus an additional half cup for the filling)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick organic/grass-fed butter, softened
2 beaten egg yolks
1 Tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup plain kefir or plain whole milk yogurt or sour cream

Directions:
Soak the raisins in a bowl of hot water to fatten them up.  Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350 and generously butter a square baking dish (approx. 8 x 8 inches).  Mix the oats, flour, 1/2 cup of the raw sugar, and baking soda.  Now use your fingers to squeeze the butter into the mixture.  Don’t take things so far that the butter is melted–just make sure little bits of butter are distributed throughout and that the mixture is crumbly.  Measure 3/4 cup of the mixture and set it aside.  Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of your baking pan and set it into the oven to bake for about 10 minutes.

Now mix the yolks, the other 1/2 cup of raw sugar, the cornstarch, and the kefir/sour cream/yogurt.  Heat the pan over a medium-low flame, stirring occasionally, until it’s thickened.  The original recipe mentions 15 minutes–mine took less than half of that time to get where it needed to be, so check frequently.  Dump in the raisins and mix it all together.  Smile.

Once your crust is done baking, pull it out and pour the kefir/raisin mixture over it.  Spread it evenly over the crust and bake this for about 10 minutes (the middle will still look pretty loose).  Take the bars out and crumble the remaining oat mixture evenly over the bars.  Put them back into the oven and bake until the creamy filling is set and the crumble topping is starting to turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes.  Pull your bars out and allow the pan to cool on a wire rack.

Wait until these are cool to cut them, or you’ll end up with a bit of a mess.  Alternatively, follow my bad example and take a spoon to them when they’re just the teensiest bit cooler than lava.

What can I say?  I know what I like.

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Seriously, though, guys. The Boy told a large assemblage of people at a dinner out recently that he can’t order meatloaf out anymore. Because my meatloaf has ruined him for all other meatloaves. Yeah. I mean, your Bad Mama Genny blushed. ‘Cause how do you accept praise like that gracefully? I did my best. No promises, though. In the immortal (and somewhat paraphrased) words of Bart Simpson, “I can’t promise I tried. But I tried to try.”

Back to business: meatloaf, folks. Meatloaf. The stuff that used to make the guys cringe, ’cause, you know, they can’t understand why you would do anything to meat beyond beheading it and giving it a brief pass over an open flame.

So any meatloaf recipe that has men REQUESTING it by name? Well, that’s kind of a big deal. And when you make this, you’ll be kind of a big deal. You were already a big deal and all. But now you’ll be a BIGGER deal. No, I’m not saying you’re fat.

“Honey, does this meatloaf recipe make me look fat?”

This recipe is actually loosely based on the “Vitality Meat Loaf” recipe in the American Girl Molly Cookbook (do they still make those cookbooks?). When I was a kid, I wanted an American Girl doll SO BADLY. It was kind of strange, actually. I was pretty unimpressed with dolls in general, preferring stuffed animals and things. (Actually, when pressed about it, I would tell people that the reason I liked stuffed animals better than dolls was that animals were easier to forgive than people, but I can laugh about it now and all and THAT IS A WHOLE OTHER THERAPY SESSION).

Anyway. I always wanted this doll. Desperately. But my mother, being practical and hardworking and sane and NO FAIR AT ALL, went, “Sixty dollars?! For a doll?!?! Hahahahahhahahahhah hahahahahahahahha!”

And I went, “So, does that mean yes?”

And she was all, go play with your brother.

And I was all, he is NOT as cool as an American Girl doll!

But you know what, Johnny? You are as cool as an American Girl doll. In fact, you are way cooler. But I digress.

Make this meatloaf! Men will fall at your feet! Or at least be brought to your yard. Which, I suppose, could become problematic. Which is where a good hose comes in handy. Or you could call that milkshake girl and then all the boys will leave to go to her yard.

The Only Meatloaf Recipe You Will Ever Need

Go Get:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon dried parsley (you can be all fancy and use 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley instead, if you feel like showing me up. Don’t feel bad, I like to show myself up sometimes, too.)
1/2 lb. ground pork (or, pork sausage, casings removed)
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup wheat germ (Note: I often replace both the oatmeal and the wheat germ with 1 sleeve of crushed saltines. Don’t give me that look. My mom used to do it, and if it’s good enough for the BMG’S MOM, well you can just take that Miss THANG attitude and find some other meatloaf recipe! But you won’t. ‘Cause, oh, baby. This is THE meatloaf recipe. I told YOU, all right.)
1 egg
1 cup milk (I use almond milk or occasionally, whole milk yogurt)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground sage
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup ketchup

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Mix everything thoroughly with your hands until it’s a smooth, evenly mixed mass. Form it into a vaguely convincing loaf shape. Put it in the oven and bake for an hour (or until your meat thermometer registers 165). And that’s it! Who knew pleasing your men would be so easy? Let this thing rest for 5 minutes or so before cutting it into slices. Serve. Sit back and wait for people to show up in your yard.

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Now, you may think that because I’m a self-employed freelance writer, I stumble into bed at 3 AM, yawn and stretch my sleepy limbs at noon, and then talk to my plants for an hour while eating a sumptuous breakfast involving at least three bacon courses.

That’s what I would do if I were smart.

Instead, I have my love to keep me warm…and groggy. 

The Boy works a bizarre schedule which has him up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning for about half of every week, and like the devoted sucker I am, I get up with him.  But breakfast?  BREAKFAST?  That, I simply cannot do.  He’s lucky if I manage to make it past the couch, where I typically wrap myself in a blanket and rock gently until I’m no longer praying for death.

Hey, I said I was devoted, not superhuman.

But still, The Boy’s gotta eat.  And–despite the fact that food is, oh, THE LAST THING ON MY MIND while I’m doing my level best to maintain sanity and comprehend the fact that the sun is not up and yet I am I SAID THE SUN IS NOT UP AND THERE IS NO REASON ON EARTH WE SHOULD BE EITHER NO I DO NOT WANT YOU TO GET FIRED I JUST WANT EVERYONE TO SEE REASON AND REALIZE THAT THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ANYTHING TO BE HAPPENING BEFORE 10AM–I should eat, too.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing that even requires electricity.  Just something The Boy can grab on his way to the bus stop.  Something that I can figure out how to unwrap, masticate, and swallow until everything makes sense again.  Enter, the granola bar.

I used this recipe for inspiration–it’s based on the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe.  Then I changed a bunch of stuff.  A lot of stuff.  Still, though, credit where it’s due.  It’s a great foundation recipe, just perfect for switching your favorite fruits, nuts, and favorite delicious bits in and out.  It’s vegetarian and can even be made vegan by changing the kind of fat you use.  And friends, does it ever smell (and look) good when you pull it out of the oven.

And hello, this is the post that keeps on giving, because the photo below makes the most maaaaahvelous computer desktop wallpaper:

My last version was as I’ve listed it below–full of plump dried cherries, toasted almonds, and oat-y goodness.  I’ll be making another batch tonight, this time subbing in some peanut butter and chocolate chunks (oh, just a few…BACK OFF, I SAID JUST A FEW AND IF I CAN’T HAVE SLEEP I WILL HAVE MY CHOCOLATE).  Oh, yes.  I will have my chocolate.

Besides.  It makes me feel good to know that somewhere, out there in the darkness, The Boy is riding some cold, bumpy bus to work, just as tired as I am, but perhaps with the hint of a smile on his face as he chows down on a breakfast in his number one favorite flavor combination, made by the BMG who loves him.

A BMG who is still at that moment incoherent and slightly out of her mind, yes.  But still–a BMG who loves him.

Homemade Granola Bars

Makes 12 squares

Go Get:

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit

Go Do:

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter a glass 9 x 13.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and sunflower seeds together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned–I actually usually need 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ and fruit.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚F.

Place the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into 12 squares. Serve at room temperature. (I like to wrap them individually for easy, on-the-go snacks or breakfasts.)

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