Friday, April 26, 2013

busy girl breakfast: baked oatmeal to go

Quick post for one of the smartest lulus I know, Tricia.  Tricia's a busy young mom and needs breakfast on the go.  I'm a kind of busy older mom with no one to feed breakfast every day other than myself and my cat, but he's super easy.  Besides, he wakes me up every morning around 5:40 and for some unknown reason I get up, go downstairs and feed him and then sleepily climb back upstairs and go back to bed for a little bit.  I trained my kids better than my cat.  Sad state of affairs.

Anyway, here's a breakfast you can make on Sunday night and enjoy all work week.  The brilliant blogger I adapted the recipe from actually bakes her baked oatmeal in 4 or 8 oz mason jars, puts on the rings and lids and keeps them in the fridge so they are ready to throw in her bag every morning.  I usually make mine in a loaf pan and slice it, reheat it and serve it with some yogurt and maybe some fresh fruit.  You don't really need to reheat it, it's pretty tasty cold.  I have posted baked oatmeal before, but this version is vegan without the eggs and milk.  You'll never miss them.  Go ahead and customize with your favorite spices, fruits and nuts.  I'm pretty stable on my choices:  cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, banana and walnuts because I go day to day on raisins and other dried fruit.

Baked Oatmeal To Go

1 cup rolled oats
2 T chia seed or ground flax
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of fine salt (one or two turns of the Costco sea salt)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 C almond milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk and skip the vanilla extract)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (see above)
2 T pure maple syrup
one sliced or diced banana (apple, peach, fresh or dried blueberries or raisins would be good)
1/3 C chopped walnuts or pecans (or sunflower seeds if you're nut-free)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 6 little mason jars or one 9x5x2 loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, chia seed/flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, slat and baking powder.  Stir in the almond milk, vanilla and maple syrup and combine well moistening the oats thoroughly (almond milk is mostly absorbed).  Fold in the fruit and nuts of your choice.  Divide into mason jars (about 1/3 cup per jar) or pour into loaf pan.  Pour any leftover milk from mixing bowl into jars or loaf pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly firm and golden brown on top.  Cool completely.  Place lids on jars or slice loaf and put in a storage container.  Refrigerate until ready to eat or take with you as you fly out the door.

first time I made this:  one mason jar and one 6-inch cake pan,
now I use a loaf pan for easy slices

ready for the fridge

Thursday, April 25, 2013

LA travelogue and (shocking) a recipe: red pepper and goat cheese dip

Wow.  Been a while.  Visited warm and sunny LA last week to belatedly celebrate Kelly's birthday.  She's quite the hostess.  If you need an LA concierge, she's your girl.  Started the trip with a late night dinner at the very exclusive Gjelina on Abbot-Kinney in Venice.  The place that Gwyneth loves.  There is a reason.  Dark and cozy inside/outside with too many creative vegetables, small plates, thin thin thin pizzas and desserts to choose.  Friday night dinner up in the Hollywood Hills at Yamashito, glittering LA below and sushi perfection on your plate.  After a good hike in Kelly's back yard aka Runyon Canyon; Saturday brunch at Blu Jam on Melrose for Cobb egg white omelets (brilliant) and a little relocation for a movie star that earned us a side of crunchy french toast (yes, little french toast triangles rolled in corn flakes served with berries and vanilla cream) for our troubles.  After Kelly's first Stand Up Paddleboard outing in Marina del Ray (she's now hooked like her mother) and some touring around Santa Monica we showered up at our old neighbor's adorable new place just a bit inland before heading out to the PCH and dinner over the water in Malibu at Moonshadow.  Sunday brought another hike, brunch at Grub with a carafe of blackberry jalepeno champagne cocktails, errand running, drinks at the rooftop Sonoma Wine Garden back in SM and early dinner on Sunset at the surprisingly hopping Pink Taco (quite a party for a Sunday).  Not that we were ever hungry after about 11 am on Saturday.  It should go without saying, but if you can grow fruit trees out your door you can make some pretty amazing adult beverages.  If it isn't wine, I want all fresh fruit juices in my cocktails.  The more the merrier.  They have that down in LA.  Thanks again to Kelly for the stellar travel itinerary.

Back at home, I've still been cooking and baking with recipes in the draft stages and just no time to write.  When I've had time, we actually have had some spring weather here and there and outside work always trumps inside work.  Just an outside girl.  Then there was the last few days where the woods behind our home have become a nice pond and the cold winds even flew a few snowflakes in on April 24th.  One of those Springs.  One I am thankful not to be hunkering down in the stands for a lacrosse game.  I loved watching Sara play lacrosse, but Spring sports in the Midwest can be pretty brutal weather wise.

Right, so it's time for a recipe.  Past time.  We had a really pretty weekend about 2 weeks ago and in between yard chores, I'd duck in the house and roast this and bake that until a nice little Sunday dinner was ready for Greg's parents to walk over and share with us.  I made a red pepper goat cheese dip and served it with carrots and pita chips to unanimous approval.  It's not tricky.  Do roast your own red peppers, I tried it again with jarred red peppers but they are too water-logged and the dip ends up too thin.  I'm sure you could tweak this and process in some parsley or spinach.  Toasted almonds or pine nuts would be good too.  I'd love it on a turkey or veggie burger.  I tossed some on some hot pasta and it was divine.  Get creative!

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Dip

4 ounces goat cheese
3 T fresh lemon juice (off your own tree would be awesome, but not required)
1 large red pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
4 cloves garlic
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss red pepper strips with a tablespoon of olive oil and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Spread onto a baking sheet with the garlic cloves (don't peel them first).  Roast until garlic cloves are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove garlic and turn oven up to 425 degrees.  Roast red pepper for another 10-15 minutes or until slightly charred.  While red pepper is roasting, squeeze roasted garlic out of skins into a bowl.

Combine goat cheese, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic and lemon juice in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Taste for additional salt and pepper.

roasting peppers


dip deliciousness

Sunday, April 14, 2013

champagne mangoes are just superior: mango salsa lunch variety

*quick note from me:  I wrote this post on Monday and added photos on Thursday.  I thought I hit "publish" after adding the photos, but oops, guess I didn't.  Sorry for the delay.

So I have over a week of my nice big house all to my self (well, it's pretty impossible to forget my cat) with Greg out and about on the job.  As usual, I just can't coast in the kitchen.  All it takes is a couple of bountiful bags of good fresh things from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and I have to cook and bake, even just for myself.  Even at lunch.  Girl's gotta eat.

So Sunday was just a flat out gorgeous day.  And it was about d*** time.  Went to an awesome hot vinyasa yoga class and rolled right up into my first side crows ever.  Ran my usual round of Sunday errands in my cute little Mini Cooper (also known as the sippy cup because even with good mileage, a ten-gallon tank needs filling too often) with the sunroof wide open.  Walked up to Whole Foods to be greeted by a sassy display of $1 champagne mangoes and took a picture to share with Sara.  We have a deep bond over the superior goodness of the champagne mango over the year-round ready larger variety.  For us it's mainly a texture thing, the champagne mangoes are just really smooth.  Anyway, as soon I entered WF there was a tasty grouping of samples:  tomato salsa, mango salsa and guacamole.  Logically, then I had to buy 10 mangoes and some nice sturdy red peppers that were also on sale so I could make some mango salsa for lunch.  Mind you, I am the only one home.  I have a new blender and I'm not worried any mangoes might go to waste.  They can always become smoothies.

I also had some rotisserie chicken at home so Sunday's lunch was chicken quesadillas (the good corn+flour tortillas from Costco, rotisserie chicken, avocado and white cheddar) with mango salsa.  Monday's lunch was a salad with heated up chicken, leftover caramelized onions, avocado, mango salsa and sour cream.  This could go on for days.  Maybe in a bowl with brown rice and all of the above.  Salsas are super easy to make at home.  I'm always in the less is more category.  Whole Foods adds red onion and pickled jalapeños to their mango salsa.  You never know if your red onion will be super hot and I hate how that ruins a dish for me, so I left out onion but could have added some sweet onion.  I didn't need heat and I didn't have any so I skipped the jalapeños, but they would be good.  Go get the champagne mangos while they are in season and brighten all kinds of things with some sunny mango salsa.
chicken quesadillas with mango salsa

Mango Salsa

3 or 4 ripe mangoes, diced
1/2 to 1 whole red pepper, cored and diced
1/2 red or sweet onion, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 bunch cilantro, cleaned, stemmed and leaves chopped
2 T pickled jalapeños, diced (optional)
juice of two small or one large lime, to taste
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Toss all ingredients together and taste for lime and salt.  Store in refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

cutting around the large flat seed
scoring and scooping the mango fruit

Friday, April 5, 2013

make it ahead: breakfast casserole "muffins"

Is it really possible that I've never shared a recipe for the tailgate and company classic breakfast casserole?  The tried and true staple of brunch entertaining?  Really?  I sat down to write (finally) a new post and thought I'd just share the brilliant twist invented out of necessity over Easter weekend while visiting (and feeding) Sara and her friends.  I searched my blog and found plenty of references to "breakfast casserole", but no recipe.  It could still be here somewhere, but with 235 published posts and a quirky search function (even in my blogger screens, so I feel you there), I couldn't find it.  I do keep a binder of my favorite vintage recipe cards, magazine pages and printed recipes and I can easily find it carefully written out on a recipe card by my wonderful mother-in-law.  I've mentioned before how easily she appeared to entertain and how that really inspired me to do the same.  This is her recipe from at least twenty-five years ago.  When we would visit overnight from Purdue or later from wherever we were living at the time, Becky would fix either this breakfast casserole with biscuits and jelly on the side or the even more classic, biscuits and gravy which also had jelly for those of us that mostly ate the biscuits and not the gravy (and really that was just me).

Easter Sunday at Duke was going to be a quick event because we needed to get the ten hour drive home started and Sara needed to get back to the books.  So we decided to gather up brunch ingredients during the day on Saturday and make the casserole after going out to dinner on Saturday night.  The casserole is the kind you refrigerate up to 24 hours and bake just before serving.  Easy peasy.  Saturday morning we started off right at our favorite breakfast place, Guglhupf.  After enjoying every bite of omelet, pancakes, muesli and fruit we perused the gorgeous choices in their bakery.  This is actually kind of challenging on a very full stomach, but we persevered.  We bought pretty little fruit and lemon meringue tarts along with a little bag of adorable macaroons.  Later in the day we bought local (must have been local greenhouse because it's been a chilly early spring even down in North Carolina) strawberries and lots of champagne mangoes (they are back in season, smoother texture makes them the mango of choice at our house).  And of course we bought what we needed for the casserole:  milk, eggs, white cheddar, bulk freshly ground chicken breakfast sausage and nice egg dinner rolls.  I think that was the first time we didn't buy one thing from the incredible hot and salad bar at the Durham Whole Foods.

I knew Sara had some baking pans in her dorm/apartment kitchen but did not know she didn't have a 9x13x2 pan, so this is where the big twist comes in:  she did have a muffin pan and a loaf pan.  So while we watched basketball on her Macbook, we prepped for Easter brunch using what we had on hand.

Easter services at the Duke Chapel were as beautiful as I had imagined even without the trees and flowers all abloom outside.  The altar was lined with Easter lilies, the pews were full with plenty of Easter bonnets, the choir was accompanied by the organ and a full brass section and the readings were very skillfully done by seminary students.  The interim pastor's funny and inspiring sermon even included a little Duke v UNC basketball reference and a cheer for their Elite Eight game (that didn't work out as well as hoped later that day).  The service was just a little too long and we ducked out the side aisle during communion so we could eat brunch with Annie and Jack in a timely manner.  The breakfast casserole "muffins" were just that much better than the big pan of casserole because of the nice crust to casserole ratio on the muffins.  Plus, you could whip this up some weekend and freeze one whole tray of muffins and freeze them two, three or four to a bag and have a fast breakfast to go.

So strictly for blogging purposes, that's just what I did last weekend.  I took two bags in to my early Friday morning merchandising shift at lulu today everyone loved them.  So easy.  Just a minute or less to heat one up from frozen.  Genius.  Funny how a genius idea came from a visit to Duke.  We'll have to share that genius idea with our other smart friends at Purdue next football season.  Please, no jokes about how it may or may not be a sign of intelligence to actually attend Purdue football games.  It's a tradition, just like the breakfast casserole.

A little note about bread choices:  I like to use challah or some other good egg yeast  bread like the pretty dinner rolls at Whole Foods or even a brioche if you're feeling flush.  Pepperidge Farm's farm white bread loaf works well too.  I'm a whole grain fan and almost never eat any white bread, but I have yet to find a whole grain loaf that doesn't give this casserole a bitter or nutty taste that is just kind of wrong, but you can try.

Breakfast Casserole "Muffins"

1 1/2 pounds chicken or turkey breakfast sausage (I like the freshly ground bulk kind best)
12 ounces good egg bread (rolls, challah or brioche), but any sturdy white bread is fine
6 eggs
2 cups milk (skim is fine)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2-3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 C white cheddar (or any cheddar or blend you like)

In a large non-stick pan with a little canola or olive oil, brown the sausage, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.  Blot with paper towels or drain on bed of paper towels.

Tear bread into bite-sized pieces into a large mixing bowl.  In a 4-cup measuring cup, measure out the milk and add the eggs.  Whisk together with the salt, pepper and dried mustard.  Pour over torn bread.  Add the drained sausage and the grated cheese.  Mix well to combine.  I like to really work the mixture with a big spatula to further break down the bread.

Spray two 12-cup muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.  Scoop the mixture into the muffin cups to fill the cups.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap and bake casserole muffins until they are puffy, browned and the egg mixture is set (18-25 minutes).  Serve hot or warm.

makes 24 muffins, serves 8-12