Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal 9I modified this recipe from Babble and made a great easy breakfast that can easily be played with and served in many ways. If you like the idea of an easy hot breakfast these little baked oatmeal squares are going to be a new staple for you. Plus you can reheat the squares later on for breakfast on the go. Feel free to play with the sugar amount if you want to take this dish from a breakfast to a nice dessert with ice cream! Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and butter up an 8″ x 8″ baking dish. In a bowl, mix together 3 cups rolled oats (not instant), 1/2 cup sugar1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and the zest of 1 lemon. Baked Oatmeal 1

In another bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons melted cooled butter, 2 cups milk, and 2 eggs.

Baked Oatmeal 2Spread half the oat mixture into the bottom of your dish. Spread 1 cup berries or fruit of your choice, fresh or frozen (I used 1 cup frozen service berries) over the oat mixture. Baked Oatmeal 4

Spread on the other half of the oat mixture, and then an additional 1 cup berries. Press the berries into the mix a little.

Baked Oatmeal 5Pour the milk mixture over the oats and berries and pop it in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the centre is set and everything is starting to get lovely and golden. Baked Oatmeal 6

Let it rest for about ten minutes before you scoop out a piece and eat it because it will be molten.

Baked Oatmeal 7I bet these would be good with butter and maple syrup … Baked Oatmeal 8

Banana Oatmeal Bran Muffins

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I’m not a huge fan of bran muffins, to tell the truth. I mean, the older I get the more I appreciate their functionality in my diet, but they’re still not a favourite. The Pie absolutely LOVES them, though. I swear he’s actually seventy. So I thought I’d play around with the mixture a bit and see if I could come up with something that still had all the benefits of bran with a bit more of a flavour, and these not-too-sweet muffins did the trick.

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These can also be frozen in their unbaked form for cooking up later, which is handy for me as I am yet again filling up friends’ freezers in anticipation of future little ones. All you do is scoop the mixed batter into cupcake liners, freeze them, and then add five minutes to the baking time when you bake them from frozen. Easy peasy.

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But of course you want to try some of these puppies right away. So preheat your oven to 350°F and line some muffin tins with liners (or give them a good spraying or buttering, whatever suits). I doubled this recipe (so I could freeze some) so don’t be alarmed at the massive amounts in the pictures. Deep breaths.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour, 1 cup oats (rolled, not steel cut), 1 cup bran, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. That’s your dry bowl.

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For your liquids you’ll likely need a bit more preparation. First, I had some bananas in the freezer that needed thawing out, but when they were good and squishy I went ahead and mushed up 3 ripe bananas.

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You’ll also need some buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk you can simply sour regular milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice or vinegar to every cup of milk you use and letting that sit for about 5 minutes. For this recipe you’ll need 2 cups buttermilk/soured milk. I also opted to switch out the traditional molasses used in bran muffins for 1/2 cup honey. In addition to that in your liquid bowl you’ll need 1 large egg and 4 tablespoons melted butter.

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Mix both the liquids and the dry stuff well, but SEPARATELY. The whole trick with muffins is not mixing them too much. I think in this case with me trying to incorporate the bananas I ended up overmixing but you should try not to do that.

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Your batter should still be pretty lumpy when you tip in 1 cup raisins or nuts (optional).

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Scoop your batter into your prepared tins and either freeze them or bake them for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre muffin comes out clean.

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Let those cool in the pan about 5 minutes before scooping out to a wire rack to cool completely.

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I like eating them still-hot with a wee bit of butter. So good!

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Eggless Chocolate Egg Cookies

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Necessity is the mother of invention. These cookies were a necessity. They were made under less-than-happy circumstances. We’d just come to the realization that Indy was no longer safe living in our house and we had to take him back to the breeder as soon as possible in order to avoid compromising his physical and mental health and to start the hard road of Gren’s anti-anxiety conditioning right away. To say we were abjectly miserable would be a gross understatement.

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So I made these cookies as a bit of cold comfort for the situation. I’d already braved the supermarket with sunglasses and a hat to hide my red eyes in order to take advantage of half-price Cadbury Mini Eggs, but when I got back I discovered I was completely out of eggs, and I just didn’t have it in me to go back. So I simply went without. And here’s the recipe for it.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

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In another, larger bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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You can do this with a mixer but I did it by hand so as not to wake up my sleeping dogs. We were all having a spectacularly bad day.

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Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup milk or cream.

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Now gradually add in your flour mixture and stir until everything is uniform.

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Grab about 1 cup chocolate eggs (Cadbury’s are the best) and smash them up a bit (or don’t smash them, that’s up to you). Chuck them into the dough and mix it around. Now I don’t usually have the patience to chill dough but this stuff is much easier to manipulate if you chuck it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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When you’re ready to bake, set your oven to 325°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Form the dough into little balls and press them onto the baking sheets. These don’t expand very much so you can make them whatever size you want.

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Bake for about 10-12 minutes and remove from the oven to let cool completely on the sheet, on a rack. I don’t recommend moving these until they’re more or less cool as they’re a little unstable when hot.

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Have You Tried Milk Art?

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This is a super popular project for folks with kids, because you can teach them all about surface tension and the properties of soap and fat and all that good science-y stuff in a nice controlled environment, with very pretty results.

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The supplies are simple: a large shallow tray (a rimmed baking sheet will do), watercolour paper (sized to fit in your tray), cotton swabs, liquid food colouring, a few drops liquid dish soap, and some milk. You can use almond milk or rice milk or homogenized milk or cream or whatever — you just need some milk with a decent fat content. The results will apparently differ depending on the milk you use (almond milk is supposedly the best), but I only had regular old 2% on hand so I can’t really speak to that.

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On a level surface, pour milk into your tray so that the whole bottom is just covered.

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Now start dotting the surface of the milk with food colouring. Go with whatever floats your boat.

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Take a cotton swab and dip it in your dish soap.

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Gently touch the swab to your milk surface. POW! Watch that science happen.

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This is that same spot a few seconds later.

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Touch the swab all over to make the  colours mix or drag it across the surface to make a trail.

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Now lay your paper down flat on the surface of the milk, then slide it off.

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Let it drip a bit and lay it or hang it somewhere to dry.

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I liked how the colours kept changing as I put in more paper, so I didn’t replace my milk, but you can if you like.

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After a while I had nine full sheets and I was quite pleased with the results.

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You can do whatever you want with these sheets: cut them into shapes and frame them, use them as stationery or greeting cards … whatever you want.

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In my case, I ironed them flat using the high steam setting on my iron.

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You can tell that I let this one dry on a sheet of newspaper can’t you?

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Then I played around with the order of them a bit.

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And used Blu-Tack to put them up on the wall in our bedroom.

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The colours I used complement the other quick wall art I made a few weeks ago so I am very happy with how they turned out – though I would like to try it with almond milk sometime.

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Burnt Butter Mashed Potatoes

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This is an elegant twist on your average mashed potatoes and it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

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Start with 3 1/2lbs of white potatoes. When I’m cooking for the Pie’s family, who are all mashed potato fiends, I generally go with one large potato for each eater.

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I don’t usually peel potatoes before mashing them because I like the texture of the skin but in this case I followed the recipe and peeled them up. Then I chopped them into smaller pieces and chucked them into a large pot with some salted water.

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Simmer the potatoes for at least 25 minutes, or until they’re all soft and you can poke through them with a fork very easily. Drain the potatoes and put them back on the warm element before you start mashing them.

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In a small pot on the side, dump about 1/2 cup butter and turn it to medium heat. Let that melt.

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While it’s melting, add 1 cup milk and 1/4 cup sour cream to your mashed potatoes and mix that in.

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By now your butter should be starting to fizz. Swish it around a bit but leave it alone for a little while longer.

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When it starts to really foam up, you’re nearly there, and you’ll be able to see the butter start to caramelize and turn brown. Remove it from the heat.

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Pour most of the butter into your mashed potatoes and stir to combine.

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Then sculpt them into a nice serving shape and drizzle maybe 2 tablespoons of the butter on top. TADA!

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Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli

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Oh Jamie Oliver, you rarely let me down. Today is no exception. This recipe takes your standard cauliflower with cheese sauce to the next (actually, the highest) level with very little effort. Plus it involves SO MUCH VEGETABLE. A great source of good food in these final days of winter. I like to buy the flash-frozen vegetables at the supermarket, especially in the winter, because I know that they were at their freshest when they were frozen and haven’t spent days or weeks rattling around in a truck to get to me before they rot.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Grab 1kg cauliflower florets (A WHOLE KILOGRAM) and dump that in a large baking dish. I used half frozen florets on the bottom …

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… and half fresh ones on top.

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Scoop up a decently medium-sized pot and dump in about 4 tablespoons butter and the equivalent of 2 cloves of garlic (you can peel and slice it, but I used it from a jar here and I’m not sorry). Heat that on medium until the butter is melted and the garlic is sizzling.

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Sprinkle in about 4-5 tablespoons flour and stir that until it forms a gummy paste, like in the picture.

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Now, drizzle in, a little bit at a time, 2 cups milk. Whisk it all the while as you add so you don’t get lumps.

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Tip in 500g broccoli florets (fresh or frozen). Let those simmer away until they’re pretty much mushy.

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When they’re nice and mushy, you should mash ’em. I found the potato masher didn’t quite cut it so I used my immersion blender.

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Glorious.

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Now add in like 1/2 cup grated cheddar (or any cheese of your preference). Turn down the heat a bit and let that melt.

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Now pour your green creamy mixture on top of the cauliflower.

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Dig the cauliflower up a little bit to make sure the sauce gets into the middle.

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In a food processor, whaz together about 2 slices stale bread, 2 sprigs fresh thyme, and about 2-3 tablespoons flaked almonds and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Bread crumb topping!

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Sprinkle another 1/2 cup grated cheese over top of the cauliflower, then top with the bread crumb mixture.

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Bake the whole thing for an hour, until the crumbs are golden and everything is bubbly. I found that it was best to cover the crumb topping with foil so it didn’t burn.

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Sooooo good!

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Sunday Scones

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Yes, yes, I know it’s WEDNESDAY. But I made these on a Sunday and I like my alliteration, okay? These are a great addition to a Sunday brunch (I know this because that’s what I made them for). I used turkey bacon in this recipe but feel free to use any bacon-like product you can think of.

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Start with 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and mix it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Grab 1/2 cup COLD butter and use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor for this if you really want, but we are going for a non-uniform texture here, so irregular chunks of butter are a plus in this situation.

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Normally I use buttermilk when I make scones because it makes them nice and fluffy. But I never have buttermilk on hand because in Canada you can only buy it in 1L cartons and seeing as I don’t drink it for its own sake that’s a lot of buttermilk to have to use up. So generally I just sour my own milk. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk, give it a stir, and leave it for five minutes. Good enough. Here I only needed 2/3 cup soured milk so I adjusted accordingly. You can do the math. Anyway, mix the milk with 2 slightly beaten eggs.

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What you also need here is about 5 slices of cooked bacon, any kind.

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Slice and dice that into wee pieces. You need about 1/2 cup chopped bacon at this point. You should probably do this first before all the other stuff with the flour and butter so that the bacon has time to cool down before you cut it up. Otherwise, there might be bad things that happen.

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Harvest some green onions as well. Dice them up until you have about 1/4 cup chopped green onion.

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Then grate some cheese. Any kind you like, but you need about 2/3 cup grated cheese and then add to that about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese as well.

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Okay so now you’ve got all your bits and pieces. Add the buttermilk/eggs mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

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Add the cheese, onions, and bacon to the bowl as well and continue to stir until it’s all incorporated.

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Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently just until all the bits and pieces are together and it’s a cohesive mass. You just want things all barely sticking together. When in doubt, under-mix.

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Shape it into a disk about 1″ thick. Wrap the dough up tightly and put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight.

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Scones cook really well from frozen, did you know that? So if you wanted to do that, cut the scones before chilling, wrap them up really well, and then chuck them in the freezer for scone-y goodness any time you want. Frozen scones make great gifts, you know.

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If you’re not freezing them, unwrap your chilled dough and slice it into wedges. I aimed for 10 wedges here. You can also flatten your dough into a rectangle and cut out squares or triangles or whatever you want. Wedges are easiest for me. Preheat your oven to 375°F.

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Plop the wedges on some baking sheets lined with parchment and brush them with about 2 tablespoons half and half or light cream.

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Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and shove them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they’re puffy and golden.

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Let cool only very slightly before serving warm with a dollop of butter!

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