Friday, November 30, 2012

Berry Baked Oatmeal

I was struck with the Pinterest bug again....this time a beautiful picture of oatmeal (!) worked its magic on me. Now, I've always been an oatmeal fan, but beautiful oatmeal? Seriously? Yes--when it's mixed up with  fruit and nuts and baked to perfection. This is my new favorite thing, and the kicker? It's healthy!

Toasted walnuts give this dish great flavor and texture.

Before I get to the recipe that I eventually used, let's give a little shout out to the blog that started this new obsession of mine. Thanks go to So, How's It Taste? for the gorgeous picture that turned me on to this idea that apparently started with the Amish (they know how to cook!). I looked around, of course, and found similar baked oatmeal recipes all over the blog-o-sphere, some healthy and some bordering on dessert. I actually tried different versions and found that all of them turned out to be tasty...this is definitely something that can be adapted to your own taste. In the end, I chose the healthier route, in part because a recent visit to my doctor revealed some icky cholesterol levels, but mainly because the taste is in no way compromised by using a healthier version.

Berry Baked Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of salt
2 cups skim milk
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1 1/2 cups raspberries or blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.; spray a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, 1/4 cup of the walnuts, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In another bowl, or in a large measuring cup, mix together the milk, egg, coconut oil, and vanilla.

Distribute the sliced bananas evenly on the bottom of the casserole dish.

Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top of the bananas. Cover the fruit with the oatmeal mixture. Evenly pour the milk mixture over the oats, then tap the dish gently on the counter to distribute the liquid.

Sprinkle the remaining walnuts and berries over the top of the oatmeal. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the mixture is set. Serve warm with a splash of milk, if desired.

As I mentioned, one of the great things about this recipe is how easily adaptable it is. If you want to cut out the sugar, but like the sweetness, simply substitute 1/3 cup sugar-free maple syrup for the brown sugar (add it to the liquid mixture instead of to the oats). I've also subbed steel cut oats for the rolled oats--it was fine, but the texture was definitely more chewy. Don't have coconut oil? Use butter or just cut it out completely. I've done both and it's all good.

So, there you have it....baked oatmeal. Fancy enough to serve to your guests, but easy and versatile enough to bake ahead and portion out for your own breakfast during the week. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chocolate Angel Pie Revisited

If ever there was a recipe that deserved a re-post, it is this one--my favorite pie, my daughter's favorite pie, and the only pie I have ever seen my brother-in-law eat. Even my husband, who abhors meringue, savors every bit of the creamy chocolate filling and real whipped cream topping, all the while saving the meringue crust for my daughter. This pie is a tradition for me. My sister learned how to make one from her mother-in-law and promptly taught me. It has graced every Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas celebration in our family for over thirty years. What is this amazing pie? Chocolate Angel Pie.

The recipe that I am going to share is the very same one that I have made for over 30 years. I've strayed from the original just a few times...using the occasional pasteurized egg, meringue powder, or a splash of Kahlua. It has never failed me. Let me begin...

Chocolate Angel Pie

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

1 cup chocolate chips
4 egg yolks*
1 t. vanilla (try using a tablespoon of Kahluha instead)
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 cup heavy whipping cream 
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Chocolate curls or shavings for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F; grease a 9" or 10" glass pie plate or spray with cooking spray.

Beat 4 egg whites until stiff, but not dry, adding cream of tartar. Add sugar gradually, beating until stiff and glossy. Spread meringue in pie plate, making a "well" in the middle for filling. Bake in 300 degree oven for 1 hour. Turn off heat and keep meringue in oven for at least one hour or overnight.

Greasing the pie plate is essential if you eventually want to get the crust out.

Put chocolate chips in medium sized microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute to 1 minute and 20 seconds (be careful not to burn them--the chips will retain their shape). Add egg yolks and beat with electric mixer until smooth. Let chocolate mixture cool slightly, then add vanilla. Fold in beaten egg whites, and then thawed whipped topping, mixing well.

The egg whites that are added to the filling help to give it volume. If you are concerned about raw eggs, skip this step or use powdered meringue.

Pour filling into pie shell, cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours.

Just before serving, whip whipping cream with 1 T. powdered sugar and spread over the top of the pie. Garnish with chocolate curls, if desired.

*If you are concerned about using uncooked eggs, use pasteurized egg yolks for the filling and leave out the two beaten egg whites. It is not recommended to use the pasteurized whites for making the meringue crust (they won't get stiff).

Use a potato peeler on a bar of chocolate to make the curls.

It's interesting how recipes change over the years. The original recipe came from my brother-in-law's family and it doesn't use frozen whipped topping. My sister changed that back in the 70's because her filling didn't set up as well with just the whipped cream. I like this addition because it's not as heavy as using the yolks and the whipped cream--plus it's how I learned the recipe. These days, it isn't always safe to use eggs that aren't cooked completely. For myself, I use the recipe as is, unless I'm making it for work or for people I know might be at risk for eating a rare contaminated egg. For me, it's worth it to use three different egg sources to keep the integrity of the recipe: regular egg whites for the crust, pasteurized egg yolks for the filling, and powdered egg whites for the filling. Omitting the egg whites in the filling is probably ok, but I think it gives the filling some lift.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sweet Potato and Honey Noodle Kugel

Welcome to another Improv challenge--this month the theme is Sweet Potatoes and Honey! For those of you not in the know, the Improv challenge is brought to you by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. Each month, Kristen gives us two seasonal flavors to play with. Sweet Potatoes and Honey are two of my favorite things.

At first, I was stymied. I've made so many sweet potato things that I didn't know if I had another idea in me. Then, while I was toying with the idea of a cookie or (yet another) muffin, my husband came up with the perfect idea: Noodle Kugel! A kugel is a Jewish pudding of sorts, usually made with potatoes or egg noodles. Sometimes savory and sometimes sweet, there are many variations of kugel, but my favorite is the sweet variety....and both the sweet potato and the honey are natural additions for a sweet, noodle kugel.

I was running short on time, so I took a shortcut and bought these frozen sweet potatoes. Notice how they are already cubed--this was almost too easy.

Sweet Potato and Honey Noodle Kugel

2 cups cubed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup honey
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
8 oz kosher for Passover egg noodles, cooked per package directions
2 cups kosher for Passover corn flakes
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.; coat a 1 1/2 qt. casserole dish with cooking spray.

Combine the sweet potatoes and the honey in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are just fork tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

It couldn't be easier to combine the sweet potatoes and the honey--just cook for a few minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled sweet potatoes with the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; stir in the egg noodles. Pour the noodle mixture into the prepared casserole dish. 

In a small bowl, combine the cornflakes, melted butter, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread the cornflakes mixture evenly over the noodles. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the kugel is set and the cornflakes are browned. Serve warm or cold.

Spray your measuring cup with some cooking spray before you add the honey--it will slide right out!

It's hard not to eat the cornflakes off of the top. They are buttery and sugary--like candy!

Notice the beautiful sweet potatoes peeking through....

Is is it a dessert? A side? A meal?

How do you like your kugel?

Now check out the other Sweet Potato and Honey creations.....

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cranberry-White Chocolate Muffins

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the resurgence of all of my favorite foods, and as with anything holiday related, these foods are popping up earlier and earlier. Granted, cranberries are eaten year round, but the bags-piled-on-bags of fresh cranberries in the produce department really mark the beginning of the season. So, to properly jump-start the holidays, how about a nice muffin?

Cranberry-White Chocolate Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 (3.5-4 oz) bar of good quality white chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
6 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, orange peel, and salt. Stir in the white chocolate and the cranberries. In another bowl, stir together the buttermilk, egg, butter or coconut oil and vanilla. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, stirring until just mixed, being careful to not over beat. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the muffin tops.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool on a wire rack.

I've been saving a bar of white chocolate to pair up with something good and cranberries seem to be the perfect accompaniment...sweet and smooth with tart and tangy. 

I'll admit I used the dried orange peel this time. This stuff from Penzey's is terrific. 

Whisk all the dry ingredients first--you don't want to over-mix once you add the liquid.

A little sprinkle of sugar on top is a nice touch, no?

I love that the cranberries pop and give the muffin so much color.

How are you kicking off the holiday season?