Friday, January 17, 2014

At least we have a toaster oven?

Adam and I got home from yoga the other night to this charming sight: a busted and disconnected stove. Our landlady, who lives upstairs, smelled gas (thank goodness, as my normally super sensitive pregnant lady nose didn't detect a thing!) and called the gas company emergency line. They came out and waved their magic sniffer wand (or something) at a bunch of spots in the house, and apparently our stove is the leaky culprit, but it was somehow venting up into her apartment and away from ours. Allegedly a new stove is being delivered today, but I don't know if delivery includes connecting it to the gas line, so it may be a few days before the plumber comes and we can cook again. I've been using it as an excuse to eat takeout bagel sandwiches for breakfast, but I'm a little worried Oatmeal Sunday may be thwarted this week. On that note, we found Scottish Oats at Whole Foods last night. Have a wonderful long weekend folks, hopefully I'll be back with more oatmeal next week.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Oatmeal Sundays

I have a confession to make: I don't like oatmeal. I find this to be a confounding thing, as I like porridge-y things made from so many other grains! I love risotto and congee made from rice, I devour polenta and grits made from corn, I am well and truly obsessed with the cream of wheat at The Neighborhood restaurant in Somerville, MA (I'm pretty sure they put sweetened condensed milk in it, to be honest). But other than choking down the occasional packet of instant quaker during my corporate office days, oatmeal hasn't even really make it onto my radar until now.

Oh wait, that was a misleading paragraph. I am not about to tell you that I now like oatmeal, or about a recipe that converted me. Sorry. Instead, let me tell you about my project to learn to like oatmeal. They say it can be done, and since I don't find it actually, like, offensive, just kind of... gluey? Anyway, I think it's a matter of finding the right preparation, and I'd like to get into a routine of eating oatmeal on the regular, because, frankly, it's apparently very good for lactation, and, oh yeah, it's all over my other social media, but have I mentioned on this blog that Adam and I are expecting a baby in June? We are. Yay!

So we've instituted Oatmeal Sundays at our house, and I've got five more months to figure out how to eat oatmeal and not be grumpy about it. Up top you can see an attempt at baked oatmeal. Specifically, Heidi Swanson's baked oatmeal from Super Natural Every Day. It has you slice some bananas for the bottom of the dish, then a layer of berries, a layer of oats + stuff, then more berries, and then you pour a milk/egg combo over the top and bake. It's January, so instead of berries I used jam, and I just left out the sugar in the oat mixture. I thought it was just fine, but it took approximately forever in the oven, and I underbaked it, I think, because I was so hungry I just needed to eat breakfast NOW. The edges were juuust starting to get golden, so the middle, while cooked all the way through, was that sort of weird in between gluey texture that I don't really like. If I had left it in long enough I think it would have had a nicer, chunkier texture. I'll try it again, but not right away.

Next we tried overnight steel cut oats in the slow cooker. I didn't follow a particular recipe, but my friend Cara said 4 cups liquid to 1 cup oats and I just ran with it from there. I used a cup of Bob's Redmill Steel Cut Oats, two cups of milk and two cups of water, a big pinch of salt, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and two small handfuls of raisins. All mixed together in the slow cooker at 10pm, ready to eat when we got up at 8am. Apparently last time I bought raisins I bought a bag of JUMBO raisins but I think in the future I wouldn't put the fruit in the night before. They got a little too plump, and it was weird. They tasted kind of wine-y. The texture of the oats was actually pretty good, much smoother than I anticipated. I think this would make a good base for toppings added in the morning (oh and I did add a little maple syrup for serving). We'll try these again for sure, if nothing else for efficiency's sake. If these come out the winner, I might get a smaller crock pot, the one I have felt much too big for this. I also realized too late that I had put the raisins in thinking I'd add peanut butter in the morning, which MANY people suggested, for like a PB&J type thing, but then I forgot. It was morning, after all.

The rest of the candidates:
April Bloomfield's Porridge, which gets rave reviews from a bunch of bloggers I trust and is apparently quite salty, which I love.
Megan Gordon's steel cut oats from Whole Grain Mornings - maybe toasting the oats in butter before simmering them is the key to my happiness? Also, note to husbands and other gift-buyers: I want this book reeeeal bad.
My friend Tiffany suggested Scottish Oats which sounds very appealing and more porridge-y than the other types, but it's just a matter of tracking down the oats. There are several hippie-marts near me that carry lots of Bob's Red Mill products so I'll try to find them locally before I order them online. (A five pound bag?! Come on, Bob.) (Ok, apparently smaller bags are available, but Amazon only has them in packages of 4 smaller bags, which add up to... 5 lbs. Oy.)
And finally, another baked oatmeal contender from Joy the Baker, which a friend suggested via Pinterest (PS, I'm on Pinterest now, apparently. How'd that happen?)

So, folks, if you have any other suggestions for oatmeal preparations or recipes, or just want to commiserate about trying to teach yourself to like something that's so darn good for you, please speak up.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Celery Salad with Dates

These days it takes a particularly good recipe to bring me back here, but this one is so simple and surprising that I didn't want to leave it undocumented. I cleaned out a big pile of old magazines the other day, but I went through them first and pinned all the ones I had flagged with sticky notes and scraps of paper (it's an imperfect system but it works for me, heh). This little gem is from a back issue of Bon Appetit. The slightly salty crunch of the celery next to the sweetness of the dates is an unexpected and delightful combo.

Celery Salad with Dates
Serves 4 as a side

The original recipe called for a couple of ounces of shaved parmesan, which I skipped because I tasted it before I added cheese and loved it as is. The next day I ate the leftovers for lunch (they were a little soggy and the dates were kind of bloated, so I recommend you eat this one right when you make it), and I added some leftover crumbled bacon. The salty fattiness was a nice foil for the sweetness of the dates, so I'll add the parmesan next time I make this one. 

1/2 cup sliced almonds
8 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a strong bias
5 dates, pitted, roughly chopped
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
a good size pinch of red pepper flakes (I used a combo of aleppo and maras pepper)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 oz parmesan cheese or 4-5 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350, spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Pro tip: don't leave the kitchen, and make sure you set a timer. Nuts are tricky, tricky buggers and they burn in like a second. I use the toaster oven and literally watch them toast, though in a small toaster oven with more hot spots, you'll probably want to stir them every couple of minutes.

Combine the celery, dates, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a bowl, squeeze the lemon juice over and toss. Add the parmesan, if using, and the almonds, and a splash of the olive oil, then taste and adjust the seasoning. If you want more heat, add more red pepper, or if it's too aggressively acidic, add a little more olive oil. If you're using the bacon instead of the cheese, sprinkle the crumbles over the top of the salad just before serving.