Month: September 2014

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall Food

Ever get a craving for something?  Maybe an externally influenced craving, like someone talking about a new great flavor of ice cream.  Be it a friend or an ad on tv, something in the mere name of it conjures up a taste in your mouth so potent nothing will do but for you to have a taste of it, and soon.   Maybe it comes from a memory of making a dish with a relative or friend.   Or it can be a food that you come across strolling down the grocery store aisles and the next thing you know you’re at the checkout, box of sinful goodies in one hand, wallet in the other.

On a recent grocery store trip, I walked into the store that exactly happened.  There they were.   Vibrant, fresh, and beckoning me…  “Take me home!”   Ah, you rich red raspberry you.   Tempting me with your bright color and unique sweet-tart flavor.   (At least it wasn’t while I was on the chocolate bar aisle.)

It’s nearing the end of raspberry season and they were on sale.   What else could I do but buy them and plot for how to make good use of them in my next meal, or two?

Thinking about what I could with them, plus remembering a recent purchase of some incredibly good local grown blueberries, I thought there had to be a way to make great use of both berries in one dish.   Besides my staple breakfast of greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and some almond granola, I was looking for something a little more hearty and maybe even warm.  In my area, the heat of summer is beginning to fade, school has begun, and every restaurant has their perfectly positioned peripheral vision tv’s tuned to the all-football networks.  Those all are signals it’s time to break out the warmer meals in a bowl like soup, chili, and oatmeal for the upcoming weeks.

Time to kick off a farewell to summer and it’s glorious bounty of berries and welcome in fall with some warm oatmeal.

Berry Good Baked Oatmeal

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Mix the dry ingredients plus the maple syrup.

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or Penzey’s Baking Spice*)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 cup skim milk  (almond or coconut are good here too)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 banana
a few raspberries (optional)

Directions

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The oatmeal is assembled, just about to go in the oven to bake.

Heat oven to 350 F.
Mix together the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, maple syrup, half the blueberries and half the pecans. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla until completely blended.
Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray and dump the oat mixture into the dish.  Spread it out evenly as possible.   Pour the egg & milk mixture over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and pecans over the dish. If you want to add raspberries, add a few on top.   Slice the banana (I use about 1/2 a banana total) and place on top of the dish.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the dish, then bake for another 15-20 minutes until it is set.

A little tip on how to determine if this dish is done- think about how you like your oatmeal.  More liquidy?  More firm?   After about 35 minutes, press lightly near the center of the dish with the back of a spoon.   You can see the consistency from that and decide if you want to cook it more or stop there.  I bake it the full 40 minutes for my preference.  At 30 minutes it’s done enough if you like a more liquid consistency.

Also this is a dish that works great with Penzey’s Baking Spice.  It’s billed as an “all-purpose baking blend” and it really is just that.  There’s a ton of possible dishes this works well with, but it takes fruit pies, muffins, coffee cakes, scones, and other similar baked goodies to a whole new level of deliciousness.   I don’t use it year-round, but in the fall and winter it goes in most muffins I make as well as any spice cookies.  You can check it out here or in one of their stores.  Nope, I’m not paid to promote the stuff. It’s just that good and versatile.  And it makes for some muffins that will have you fighting your spouse for the last one.

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Yum! Berry Good Baked Oatmeal – the raspberries made their appearance on only one side because I had to share the dish and I’m the only one who likes raspberries. Just means more for me!

If you want to make a larger portion or see the original recipe (without my modifications and scaling to smaller servings, you can check it out here on Broke and Bougie here.

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Old Dish – New Size

Sometimes there’s just nothing quite like comfort food.  We all have our favorite comfort foods, those dishes that we enjoy when we want a relaxing night, be it by the fireplace on a winter night or enjoying a blast of a/c on a hot summer day.    For me my idea of comfort food has changed some over time.  As a teenager, pizza was the go-to for any day, any time.   Then once my body got past the age of 21 and realized that eating pizza at midnight, every night, might not be so good for that body, it started to change.   Now I have a pretty eclectic set of choices for comfort food, and while a few things on the list I most often get at a restaurant, the majority are things I make at home.

Chicken Spaghetti is one dish on that list.   There’s probably at least fifty variations on it, but in the southern fare style of the dish, the basic elements tend to be essentially the same.   Cook spaghetti, add some canned cream of whatever soup, add a can of Rotel, add some Velveeta, stir, and bake.     Since I’ve been aiming to remove more of the processed foods and ingredients from my kitchen and my life,  I went looking for a better mostly can-free version.   I found a variation that fit my requirements but as usual, it was described as 8-10 servings.    Time to break out the math skills and trim this dish down both in processed stuff and serving size!

Trimmed Down Chicken Spaghetti 

Ingredients
8 oz spaghetti noodles (uncooked)
2 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 can Rotel (approx 5 oz)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup skim milk
(or 1/2 cup half & half in place of the milk & cream)
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder
1 oz cream cheese
1 1/4 cup cooked chicken (diced, shredded, whatever you prefer)
1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions and drain.
While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until tender.    Add the garlic powder, rotel, chicken broth, and salt to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
In a bowl, mix the cream, milk, and arrowroot powder.   Stir into the mixture in the skillet.
Add the cream cheese and stir over medium-low heat until the cheese is melted and the the mixture is thickened.   Next add half the shredded cheese and chicken and stir.  Add salt & pepper to taste and the noodles, stir to combine it all.
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Pour the mixture into an 8×8 baking dish or pan and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the dish.

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Serves 4-6.  (In this case, four BIG servings or six moderate sized ones. Goes great with a salad!)

It sounds like a bit of a complex dish, but it really took minimal time to prepare,especially since it makes enough for a round or two of tasty leftovers.   While I did trim back the number of servings and remove the highly processed stuff, I can’t say it is a low-calorie dish.  Especially with the cream.  However, the cream and cream cheese are small amounts overall and are needed to give it that creamy texture that you just can’t get from skim milk.   The indulgence in a few calories seems inconsequential when I consider all the benefits of skipping all the canned soups and “cheese product.”

Recipe adapted from Chicken Spaghetti without Velveeta and Cream Soup on From this Kitchen Table.