Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pumpkin Spiced Oatmeal

Fall is finally here and with it, a plethora of pumpkin foods.

Seriously. Everybody has a pumpkin everything. The bakery where I get the office's Saturday morning bagels had pumpkin scones and pumpkin bars; the coffee shops all have pumpkin lattes, and restaurants serve pumpkin soups.

The DDH, who is not a huge pumpkin fan (he doesn't like sweet potatoes either, except as fries), rolls his eyes at this particular trend. But I like pumpkin (and sweet potatoes, for that matter), so it makes me happy.

For three-quarters of the year, I eat oatmeal for breakfast. It's fast, it's easy, it's tasty. I can change it up by adding different dried or frozen fruit. In the summer, it's too hot for oatmeal, and for most of this pregnancy I haven't been able to stomach it or similar warm foods. But my oatmeal appetite has returned with the cooler weather, and I've been happily noshing on strawberry-cherry oatmeal every day.

But then. Then I found a recipe for pumpkin spiced oatmeal.

My favorite fall food fad combined with my everyday, quick-and-easy breakfast?

The end.

This recipe is super easy to whip up, but, let's face it, waaaaay too complicated to make in the morning before work. Because scrambled eggs are too complicated to make in the morning before work. Sometimes coffee is too complicated to make in the morning before work. If it takes more effort than stirring water and ingredients in a bowl and popping it in the microwave, it's too complicated to make in the morning before work (which is why I tend not to eat breakfast in the summer when oatmeal isn't an option, oops).

BUT. This recipe reheats quite well. So I can make a big whopping batch of it on, say, a Thursday afternoon, and have breakfast for almost a week.

It's healthy and filling and fast--everything a breakfast should be. I'm in love.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal
Adapted from this recipe at Becky Bakes.

Make sure to read the notes at the end of the recipe regarding oat types and some tasty variations!

Set a medium saucepan on the stove on medium-low heat and gather up your ingredients. You may wish to measure your honey and pumpkin out in advance so you can add them quickly. Not that I speak from an experience wherein I almost burned my honey or anything.

To the hot, dry pan, add: 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp. ginger.

Toast the spices for about two minutes, stirring occasionally so they don't burn. It seems silly to say "toast until fragrant" with these spices, because they're already fragrant. But you'll notice a point at which you suddenly say, "oh! that's what they mean by fragrant," because they'll suddenly smell even more like themselves than before.

Turn the heat down to low.

To the spices, add 1/4 cup honey

and 1 cup pumpkin puree.

You could probably do with as little as 1/8 cup of honey if you want less sweet oatmeal. See the Variations note below for some other options.

Stir the honey and pumpkin together until well combined and smooth.

Add 4 cups water to the puree mixture. (Note: If you use steel-cut oats, you may need 1/2 cup more water.)

Turn the heat up to medium high. Stir until combined and bring to a simmer.

Add 2 cups quick oats (1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats). See Oat Note, below.
Turn heat down to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, twenty to thirty minutes or until tender.
After ten minutes, mine looked like this (remember I'm using quick oats):

Quick oats after ten minutes.
 After another ten minutes, they looked like this:

Quick oats after twenty minutes.
I declared them done at that point because I wanted them to still reheat well, but if you plan to eat it all right away, you may wish to let them go a little longer.

Either serve or remove from heat to a heat-safe container. Allow to cool before covering and refrigerating.

Pumpkin spice oatmeal.
 It reheated well the next morning:

Oatmeal reheated.
 And was delicious with a splash of cold milk:

Oatmeal with milk.
It of course lends itself to toppings: more cinnamon, fruit, nuts. I've been eating it with chopped almonds and it's delicious.


Oat Note:
Now. There are about a million and one types of oats out there. I usually buy the giant cardboard tube of "quick oats" because they cook quickly for my morning oatmeal but are a bit larger than "instant oats" for when I use them in recipes like this one. Sometimes I get rolled oats or steel-cut oats.
People will argue until they're blue in the face about what kind is better and how you REALLY ABSOLUTELY MUST use this one kind for one recipe or the other. But honestly? You can use any kind of oats in almost any recipe and you'll be fine. You may want to adjust the water : oats ratio of the recipe. You may need to adjust the cooking time. But don't let not having the Exact Perfect Right Kind of oats stop you from making a recipe that looks delicious. Try it with what you have on hand. Let me know if it's a total abject failure so I can delete this note. ;-)

Pumpkin spice oatmeal with almonds and milk.
  • Sub any winter squash puree for pumpkin: butternut, acorn, etc. Also, sweet potato.
  • Sub banana puree for the pumpkin. Add some chopped nuts for Banana Nut Oatmeal.
  • Sub any liquid sweetener, such as agave or maple syrup, for the honey.
  • Or sub unsweetened applesauce for the honey for a not-sweet but very autumny version.
  • Use 1/8 cup honey and 1/8 cup molasses and up the ginger to 1 1/2 tsp. for Pumpkin Gingersnap Oatmeal. Bonus points for adding diced fresh ginger. This is my real new favorite.
  • Play around with the spices, increasing or deleting them until you get it juuuuust right.
What variations can you think of?
I never bothered with any of the millions of baked oatmeal recipes on the internets, because heating up the oven seemed a lot of work for oatmeal. But I'm thinking a lot of those different flavor combinations could adapt well to this cooking method. Yum!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beef and Bean Taco Filling

My default meals--you know, the meals you cook (or make your husband cook) when you realize you forgot to plan ahead and it's six o'clock and for some reason your husband is hungry--are pretty much all Mexican.

They are, in order of time/energy/thought needed to make:
  1. Nachos (cheese on tortilla chips, melted in the microwave. Maybe some pickled jalapenos on top. If we add meat, that places it down at taco level on this list).
  2. Quesadillas (with canned chicken).
  3. Tacos with canned chicken.
  4. Tacos with ground beef.
In fact, I make variations of the ground beef tacos so often that I have branched out into putting taco meat on nachos and salads and other random things.

I could tell you that tacos make a great default meal because they're cheap, meaty, filling, tasty, relatively healthy--all of which are true.

But the real reason I make them so often is because tortillas last forever in the fridge.

So I always have them on hand.

Also a few months ago I went in on sixty pounds of ground beef with my mother-in-law, so we've been eating a lot of that.

Anyway, the problem with default meals is that they're all in my head. That is, I don't usually follow a recipe or write anything down. I just look to see what we have on hand, mix it all together, and serve.

Sometimes this means that the resulting dish, well, isn't very tasty. It's bland, or oddly seasoned.

Sometimes it means the dish is totally awesome, but I have no idea how it got that way and so will never be able to replicate it.

Having suffered through a few too many One Time Only tasty dishes, the DDH has learned a trick. If he likes his dinner, he immediately asks me, "How did you make this?" If I tell him I just made it up, he tells me to write it down before I forget.

When I  served this particular taco meat combination last week, he not only told me to write it down, he retrieved the laptop from whatever corner of the house it was hidden in, booted it up, set it in my lap, and refused to let me do anything else until I had written down what I did.

I guess that means he liked it.

Beef and Bean Taco Filling

Heat 1/2 Tbs. oil in a large pan.

Cook 1 onion, diced and 3 cloves garlic, pressed on medium heat until soft.

Add 1 pound ground beef.

As the beef cooks, add 1 tsp. paprika, 2 tsp. cumin, 1 Tbs. chili powder, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Stir to combine.

Cook five minutes or until beef is just about done.

A bit of pink is okay, as it will cook for a bit longer.
Add 1 can kidney beans,

Black beans also work well.
9 Tbs. tomato paste (there's a reason this is a weird number. It's my estimate of how much of a can of tomato paste I used (about 3/4 of one of those little cans) based on how much was left in the can afterward. Really I just kept adding tomatoe paste until it tasted right), and 1 Tbs. hot sauce of your choice (sriracha, Tabasco, chile paste, etc.).

Sriracha strikes again!
Stir to combine. Cook on low for about five minutes or until heated through.

Serve in tortillas as soft tacos, crispy shells as crispy tacos, on lettuce for a taco salad, or on chips for beef nachos. Add cheese, sour cream*, tomatoes, lettuce, and other Mexican garnishings as desired.

*I actually just use a bit of plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, because I rarely have sour cream on hand. Yogurt does taste different than sour cream, but it still adds a creamy tang that contrasts pleasantly with the meat.


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