Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Well, it’s official.  We are moving to Scotland in August.  The philosopher got a job at University of St Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland.  And while I hate to leave California, I’m excited for the great adventures we will get to have in Scotland.  Not to mention how close we will be to other awesome places in Europe.

Then when I thought about how far away we will be from family and friends, I though that might be a good real to start back up the blog.  I don’t know how much time I’ll have to post until August, since I’ll still have the 3-4 hour daily commute, but I’m anticipating a much shorter commute once we get to Scotland.  Maybe less than 1 hour total!  That means I’ll have 2-3 more hours each day to fill!  Oh the possibilities.

This recipe isn’t very fancy, but it’s a yummy, filling, and healthy way to start the day, and should be good for those chilly Scottish mornings.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

2 cups water
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan.  Add oatmeal and cook over medium heat until most of the water has been absorbed.  Stir in peanut butter and cook until the rest of the water is gone.  Remove from heat, stir in cocoa powder, and divide between two bowls.  Top with fruit of your choice, and a little honey or sugar if you prefer your oatmeal a little on the sweeter side.

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Easy Yeast Dough and Pecan Sticky Buns

I took another cookbook out of the library this week.  This one is called Endangered Recipes by Lari Robling.  The name was enough to catch my eye, but I was convinced to take it home when I came across a recipe for making apple butter in the crock pot.  We I got home and flipped through the book, I decided to try the easy yeast dough recipe first.  I’m trying to cut back on my sweets, so I’m working on my bread making skills instead.  Also, I bought a two pound bag of yeast at the store because it was on sale, so I’ve got a lot to work through.  I originally made this dough to turn it in to Parker House Rolls, which is another recipe in the book.  But then, after I had made the dough, I turned to the recipe for Parker House Rolls and found out it only required half of the dough.  And right below there was a helpful hint, telling me that I could turn the other half of the dough into sticky buns, and that I could find the recipe if I just turned a few pages.  And, so, well, my plan for less sweets had to be delayed until we finished these sticky buns!

Easy Yeast Dough
2 cups lukewarm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 packages active dry yeast (1/4 ounce each), or 4 1/2 teaspoons
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
7 cups flour (the recipe calls for bread flour, but I only had all purpose, which seemed to work out fine)

In a small bowl combine 1/2 cup warm water and yeast

In a separate bowl, add the sugar, butter, and salt to the remaining 1 1/2 cups water.  Stir to melt the butter and combine the butter.  Add the yeast mixture and the eggs and mix.

Beat 2 cups of flour into the wet ingredients.  You can either use a hand held mixer, or a stand mixer with the dough hook.

If using a hand held mixer, switch to a wooden spoon at this point.  Gradually add in 3 more cups of flour, one handful at a time.  Turn out onto a board and knead for 10 minutes, adding 1 1/2 to 2 more cups of flour 1/4 cup at a time.

If you are using a stand mixer (which is what I did), leave the mixer on low with the dough hook attached, and set a timer for 10 minutes.  Gradually add 4 1/2 – 5 cups of flour, scraping down the sides occasionally.  After 10 minutes, turn out onto a board and knead a few times until you have a smooth ball.

Place the dough in a greased bowl.  Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

At this point I divided the dough in half.  As I mentioned above, half became rolls and the other half became these sticky buns, which were soooo gooey and yummy.

Sticky Buns
1/2 recipe easy yeast dough
1 stick butter (4 ounces), plus 1 tablespoon, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup toasted pecans
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Spray a deep pan with nonstick cooking spray.  I used a 9 x 13 casserole dish, which fit 12 rolls nicely.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the stick of butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil.  Cook over medium heat for a minute, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved to form a smooth syrup.

Pour into the prepared pan, and spread the pecans evenly over the bottom.  Set aside.

Roll the dough out into a large rectangle.  Brush 1 tablespoon melted butter over the top.  Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the butter.

Roll the dough up along the long side.  Pinch the ends and seam closed.  Slice into 1 – 1 1/2 inch rounds and lay cut side down in the pan.  At this point I covered mine and left them in the fridge overnight.  This worked out really well because they were about to have a slow second rise to get large and fluffy, and made for a fast breakfast treat in the morning.  You could also bake them right away if its just too tempting.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until light brown on top.  Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then invert to serve.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake*

I love coffee cake.  I was one of my favorite things that my mom made growing up, and was always such a treat for breakfast with a nice, thick, smear of butter on top.  But then I moved away from home and didn’t get to have coffee cake nearly enough.  I tried a few recipes, but they were never quite right.  And then one day we went to a friend’s house for dinner and she made coffee cake and it was right!  So now that she knows I like it she makes it quite often.  Lucky me!  Then another friend linked me to a cooking article, with a coffee cake recipe that looked very similar to her’s.  This recipe comes right out of Michele Kayal’s article for NPR about showing compassion through food (an idea I whole-heartily endorse).  I made a few adaptions to the recipe below, most importantly, we never keep sour cream in the house, so I used plain yogurt instead (which we always have in the house) — worked perfectly.  I also cut the recipe in half and made it in a small bread pan, and omitted the salt in both the streusel and the cake because I used salted butter. I definitely recommend reading Kayal’s article and making this cake!

Streusel Topping
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar or white sugar, or a combination
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the flour, nuts, sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt in a bowl, using a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Put in the refrigerator.

Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

Have all ingredients at room temperature (this is very important for the texture of the cake, which is its strongest feature, so don’t skip it). Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch pan.

Prepare the streusel first.

For the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and vanilla.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar at high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the sour cream mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed until just smooth, and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly.

Remove the streusel from the refrigerator and sprinkle evenly across the top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool briefly in the pan on a rack. Serve warm, or reheat for a few seconds in the microwave before serving.

*No actual sour cream was used in the production of this cake

Apple Scones with Cinnamon Butter

I made these a few weeks ago for a family brunch and they were quite delicious.  I think the cinnamon butter is what really made then.  After I had such success with these cranberry scones, I thought I should try another variation.

Apple Scones (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook)
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 small granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into small chunks

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Using a pastry blender or whisk, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles small crumbs.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, cream, and apples.  Mix well and then add to the dry ingredients.  Stir with a fork until everything is just moistened.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead gently until the dough is almost smooth (8-10 strokes).  Pat or roll the dough out into a circle and cut into 8  wedges ( I made 10 because we were having more than 8 people for brunch, but it made the scones a bit more awkwardly shaped).

Transfer to a baking sheet and brush with milk and then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in a 400 degree for 12 -14 minutes.

Cinnamon Butter
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients until smooth.  Serve with scones.

Fruit and Nut Oatmeal

One of my favorite food blogs, Healthy Eats by Food Network, did a taste test of fast food oatmeals not too long ago.  It’s definitely worth a read if you ever order oatmeal out.  The link is here.

I do enjoy a nice warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning, so I thought I would share my favorite combo.  Oatmeal makes a great meal to start your day.  It’s cheap, fast, and easy, and well as being high in fiber, low in fat, and heart healthy.  Oatmeal requires a 2 to 1 water to grain ratio, so adjust as you see fit depending on how hungry you are or how many people you want to feed.

Oatmeal  (for 1)
2/3 cup water
1/3 old fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon walnut pieces
1 teaspoon brown sugar 

Bring water to a boil.  Add oats and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Mix in vanilla, brown sugar, fruit and nuts.

Eat up and feel virtuous about the healthy breakfast you’ve made for yourself!