Peanut Butter Apple Baked Oatmeal

After you’ve been grocery shopping in Germany for a few weeks, you begin to realize that there are numerous food items European supermarkets simply do not sell that American shoppers take for granted as regular possibilities. Chocolate chips, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and corn meal are all examples of foods that seem standard to my American mindset but are absent from all but the most specialized German grocery stores. (They all, for some reason, also seem to have to do with baking…why?) If you go looking on online message boards for answers to this culinary conundrum, you will inevitably come across the TOP most discussed edible scarcity for Americans living, eating, and shopping in this country: PEANUT BUTTER. No peanut butter cookies, chocolate-peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter-filled pretzels, and no floor-to-ceiling, chunky vs. smooth, Skippy/Jif /Peter Pan peanut butter section at the grocery store.

Some of these people online are VERY worked up about the peanut butter desert that is the European continent. (Now I think I know how Australians feel about Vegemite.)

So when my mom asked if there was anything I wanted her to bring from the U.S. on her recent trip here, peanut butter was at the top of my list. When she pulled it from her suitcase two weeks ago, I all but held it close to my face and whispered “sweet cream of the humble legume, I shall preserve thee as long as I am able.” I mean, let the record reflect that I didn’t.

Then, the next week, I saw peanut butter for sale at the grocery store. Ha!

This peanut butter sighting was, of course, awesome, but because it was certainly not a familiar brand and I frankly have some doubts about how authentic it could be when it’s only been in this country a pretty short time, I’m still spreading my American peanut butter stash as thinly as possible. Since my precious jar arrived, I have rationed it out into three peanut butter sandwiches, one or two dips of a pretzel, and this, one of my very favorite breakfasts, Peanut Butter Apple Baked Oatmeal. (And yes, this is the fourth baked oatmeal I’ve featured on the blog…because baked oatmeal is the BEST for a breakfast that’s make-ahead, tends to use only one bowl and one pan, tastes delicious, is super forgiving no matter what you put in it, and is usually healthy.) This peanut butter apple version is no exception.

With whole grain oats, plenty of apple, minimal sugar, and low-fat milk, it’s a winner of a breakfast that also serves to remind me that every time I eat an apple with peanut butter, I go, oh yeah! These are so good together–why don’t I eat this combination more often?

Totally worth using up half a cup of my treasured peanut butter supply. Try it out and I think you’ll agree.

P.S. For the record, I have not seen any horse meat for sale here, either…which I mention not because I WANT any, but because I had read online that it was a normal grocery store item in Germany. You’re safe for now, horsies!

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Peanut Butter Apple Baked Oatmeal
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients: oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. In a smaller bowl, combine milk, egg, applesauce, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix. Add peanut butter and mix again until well distributed. Finally, add diced apples and stir to incorporate.
  3. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35 minutes or until the top is golden. Let sit at least 5 minutes before serving, or, to make ahead, cool completely, refrigerate, and serve in the morning reheated with a splash of milk.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod.

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Almond Milk Nutella Pudding

Nutella pudding

Are you a milk drinker? If you are, how much milk do you drink a day? If you’re not, how much dairy do eat in a day?

At last year’s Nutrition and Health Conference in Denver, I heard a fascinating talk from Walter Willett, Department Chair of Harvard’s School of Public Health, about how much dairy we all actually need on a daily basis. The marketing messages we grew up with that milk “does a body good” and to get “3 A Day” servings of cheese, milk, or yogurt may have been simply that: marketing. Willett’s conclusion, based on numerous studies, was that one serving of dairy a day is probably plenty for most adults. We do of course need to be mindful of consuming enough calcium and vitamin D overall, but as an animal product, dairy has a pretty high calorie and fat price tag for the delivery of these vital nutrients.

While there’s still more research to be done on the merits (or pitfalls) of eating lots of dairy, and what fat percentage to choose when we do, since hearing Willett’s talk I’ve tried to simply become more conscious of how much dairy I consume daily. It’s led to the discovery that I’m a bit of a dairy-oholic. While drinking straight milk frankly grosses me out, my daily cheese/yogurt/ice cream consumption can overstep its bounds even before lunchtime.

Yesterday, for example… I was craving something sweet. The jar of Nutella in my pantry was seductively calling my name, but, wanting to at least maintain my illusion of refinement, I thought, what if I make something with the Nutella instead of just eating it straight from the jar like a desperate PMS-ing college student? Something like a pudding, perhaps! As I thought about my day of eating up until that point, however, I realized it had already been pretty dairy-heavy. So, while there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with dairy, would it be heretical to make a pudding without something other than regular milk, thereby cutting some fat and calories? Could it turn out creamy and delicious if you made it with, say, almond milk instead of cow’s milk?

Why yes, it could!

I didn’t miss a thing in this Nutella pudding using almond milk in place of regular dairy. When I asked my husband for his thoughts, he said it was very tasty, too, and didn’t realize it didn’t contain regular milk. (Though it should be noted that there is a small amount of dairy in Nutella itself. If you absolutely need to be 100% dairy-free, you would need to find a different chocolate hazelnut spread than Nutella–which is possible!)

So whether you need to limit dairy in your diet for some reason, or just don’t mind shaving off a few calories in your dessert, this pudding is your answer. Dollop with a dairy or non-dairy whipped topping to your preference.

Nutella Pudding

By the way, recently on one of my tours at the Halle Heart Children’s Museum where I work, I asked a group of second graders which animals provide dairy products. With utmost confidence, one kid raised his hand and shouted: “Ducks!” If duck milk ever becomes a thing, I’m gonna call it non-dairy and say you can make this pudding with it, too.

Print Recipe
Dairy Free Nutella Pudding
A Nutella pudding made with almond milk that's still creamy and smooth!
Course Dessert
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Course Dessert
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn starch, cocoa powder, and salt. Add almond milk and bring almost to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently to break up any lumps.
  2. When the mixture begins to thicken and almost boil, turn heat to low, add Nutella, chocolate chips, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour into 4 individual bowls or ramekins, or one large bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve chilled with non-dairy whipped topping.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Oranges with Vanilla Syrup

Orange Salad with Vanilla Syrup

January in Phoenix brings many things: the Phoenix Open, the famous Barrett Jackson car auction, citrus fruits up the wazoo, and of course, snowbirds…

snowbird-7

But let’s get back to the citrus (because it’s not even February and I’ve already had enough of snowbirds).

As I always say, whenever this time of year comes around, Arizonans will do almost anything to offload their overabundant citrus fruits. Neighbors don’t want them, schools have had enough of them, and the food banks refuse them, because even the poor and needy will balk at lemons, oranges, and grapefruit breakfast, lunch, and dinner after awhile. We get to the point where we start looking around for a Citrus Drop-off Safe Haven, like they do for babies.

citrus-safe-haven

NO QUESTIONS ASKED!!!

So yesterday when the guy who takes care of our lawn all too eagerly handed me a shopping bag brimming with oranges, I knew I’d have to form a plan. Thankfully, the stars aligned and a way to use up my newly acquired citrus gift presented itself almost immediately: our church’s annual picnic. With my “G” last name, the church bulletin assigned me and the other A-L’s to bring a side dish to go along with the hot dog lunch being served at the picnic. I *could* have been a lame-o and simply dropped off the Little Orphan Oranges on the buffet table in the hopes that the good people of the church would find them all their forever families, but I decided to be a bit more responsible and make them into an actual side dish.

Orange Salad with Vanilla Syrup

This fresh and different stacked orange salad is the result. Sprinkled with almonds and coconut and drizzled with a sweet vanilla syrup, it’s a hybrid side dish/snack/dessert that disappeared fast from the sea of chips and same ol’ veggie trays at the church picnic. And since it came together quickly, easily, and attractively with minimal ingredients, I know I’ll make it again–especially when I have oranges to use up.

Orange Salad with Vanilla Syrup

Print Recipe
Oranges with Vanilla Syrup
A fresh and easy orange side dish for brunch or lunch.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Slice peeled oranges into equal pieces and arrange on a platter.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a boil over medium-low, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes, then let cool.
  3. Sprinkle orange slices with almonds and coconut, then drizzle with the cooled syrup. (If you have extra syrup, save for another use--I'm sure it would taste great in coffee!)
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Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

You know the phrase, “If you want something done right, do it yourself”? Well, you may not think this phrase applies to the humble muffin, but I’m here to tell you it does.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

As a muffinomaniac, I am constantly scouring the internet for new muffin varieties to try, but sometimes, alas, I just can’t find exactly the recipe I want for the ingredients I have on hand.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Thankfully, muffins are the perfect drawing board for recipe experimentation, even for anyone new to the process. If you can’t find a recipe for exactly what you want, you can always take the DIY route. Muffins are like a bake-able paint-by-numbers kit: hard to screw up and with a bit of room for creativity. All you have to do is find a good basic recipe (like this one from King Arthur Flour or this one from Mark Bittman) and tweak it to your liking, or to fit whatever items in your kitchen need using up. You might even use a flavor guide like The Flavor Bible for inspiration on ingredient combinations. That’s how I ended up with these Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins–which, by the way, are no basic muffin.

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Popping with lemony tartness both in the batter and in a glaze on top, these little gems also have an undercurrent of the distinctive, mellower flavor of olive oil. They were just what I was hoping for when I decided to roll up my sleeves and figure out a recipe that used honey, lemon, olive oil, and whole wheat flour. Knowing they were awaiting me for breakfast even motivated me to get out of bed in the morning during this week of my kids’ return to school after Christmas break. (How did I get so used to sleeping in after only two weeks?)

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

So tell me, what kind of muffins would you make if you were to create your own recipe? Or what other types of foods do you find easy to experiment with? I’m always looking for new ideas!

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins

Print Recipe
Lemon Honey Olive Oil Muffins
These lemony muffins get their sweetness from honey and their moist texture from olive oil.
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 10 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, olive oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, almond milk, and lemon juice until smooth.
  3. Add all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest and mix until just combined.
  4. Spoon into greased muffin cups and bake 3 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 15-17 minutes.
  5. Cool at least 10 minutes in the pan. Meanwhile, make the glaze by whisking together the remaining lemon juice and powder sugar. Remove muffins from tin and drizzle with the glaze. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

When it comes to Christmas, I am big on tradition. Really, when it comes to any holiday. There were beloved holiday experiences that repeated themselves every year when I was growing up–like gingerbread house parties, for example–and now, as a parent, I am strongly committed to instituting and observing traditions for my own family. They certainly don’t have to be the same traditions that I grew up with (I mean, dressing up like clowns for Easter is kind of weird, right?) as long as they are wholesome and relatively easily repeatable.

You may think, “Sure, traditions are fun, but they’re not that big a deal.” I believe, though, that they are a big deal because of two things they create: family unity and family identity. As for unity, when we all enjoy the same activities together year after year, it can only bring us closer to each other. As for identity, having a sense of family personality is crucial. In a world where the family gets less and less respect, we have to try that much harder to instill in our children the conviction that family is fun, positive, and–perhaps most relevant to observing traditions–unique. As my kids go out into the world, I want them to know what it means to be a Garone. I hope they come to believe it means being creative, hospitable, and community-oriented (and also appreciating Dr. Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb as the most underrated cartoon villain of all time). And when my kids grow up, I want them to recall lovingly the great times we had together and ultimately pay that forward to their own families.

This peppermint hot chocolate has become one of our Christmastime traditions, sipped alongside watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Something about these two activities in conjunction has worked its way into the fabric of our family lore. It’s been years since I switched from packaged mix to homemade hot chocolate, and somewhere along the line started adding peppermint extract to it to give it a special holiday flair. My daughter, middle son, and I think it’s spectacular. Creamy, richly chocolatey, and of course, perfectly pepperminty. The other two members of our household prefer the original version. Now we live in a House Divided: the Peppermints and the Originals. (Maybe one Christmas we should get team jackets with our preferences written on them, a la the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies from Grease.)

peppermints

originals

How’s that for family identity?

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

So whatever your family traditions at Christmastime, may I suggest making this delightful hot drink one of them? I hope it adds to your family’s sense of unity and identity. Grinch viewing optional.

 

Print Recipe
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Course Beverage
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Beverage
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, sugar, and pinch of salt. Stir in hot water.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peppermint extract.
  4. Distribute evenly into 4 mugs and stir 1 Tbsp. half and half into each. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.

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