I have been preparing Apple Pie Oatmeal for my son, James, for 24 years. My 94-year old father requested some the other day so I made up a huge batch, warm and fragrant with cinnamon, apples and vanilla. I packaged them up in individual portions and popped them in his freezer ready to be heated in the microwave and enjoyed for breakfast or a nutritious snack. I made an even bigger batch for my niece, Meg, and her brother, Christopher, as part of their Christmas presents. Both are students at University of Florida, living off campus in apartments and probably starving all the time. While chopping and stirring James passed through the kitchen and asked, “What ‘cha makin’, Mama? Sure smells good!” “Why, apple pie oatmeal, son. Here, have a taste.” He had always loved it and asked if I would make some for him to take to his office. Please! Why would I ever stop now? I started making this when he was a baby and he loved it from the first bite. When he could feed himself I pulled a chair up to his high chair and read to him, often from the A. A. Milne boxed set of “The World of Christopher Robin” and “The World of Pooh” that Mama gave me when I was just a little girl. Never leaving our little house in Victoria Park, we traveled to London often, sometimes India and occasionally Spain. Enjoying his oatmeal and sneaking sips of my cafe con leche, James loved it all! We read poems of naughty children and grumpy kings, of traveling down the Amazon and the glory of butter. We laughed at runaway balloons and big, red india-rubber balls. And always, always delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red). Here’s to you, boy!
“FORGIVEN” by A. A. Milne
I found a little beetle, so that Beetle was his name, And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same. I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day…………………………………………………………………………….. And Nanny let my beetle out……………………………………………………………………. Yes, Nanny let my beetle out…………………………………………………………………….. She went and let my beetle out……………………………………………………………….. And Beetle ran away.
This is an incredibly healthful yet mouth-watering recipe. I use only organic apples, organic oats and almond milk instead of cow’s. For sweetening I use stevia and a bit of honey to cut any bitterness the stevia may impart but all of these ingredients may be substituted for conventional products. I freeze individual portions in baggies, just make certain all the air is squeezed out of the plastic bag, then transfer the oatmeal to a microwave safe plastic bowl to defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Sometimes I add a cap of almond milk to the defrosted oatmeal to thin it out a bit. I don’t peel the apples but feel free if you don’t care for the peel. I love this recipe…I even like it cold. I mean, really…it’s apple pie!
Last week we had a monstrous hurricane bearing down on us and after getting the house and yard storm ready all I could think of was the enormous amount of beautiful dolphin, wild caught shrimp, grass-fed beef and organic chicken lounging in my freezer. We lose power in our house about the time a storm picks up off the coast of Africa. It takes nothing for us to lose power. I hate it. A car can drive by and all of a sudden, flicker-flicker, and flat silence descends. No sound, no light, no cooling ceiling fans and no AC. The worst! And then, of course, things start thawing and dripping in my freezer. Not knowing if we would get a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew, and I thank God everyday that we did not, I figured I’d cook up a large portion of my frozen treasures and we would eat like kings for a few days. Here in south Florida we are blessed with a type of shrimp called Key West Pinks, so sweet, succulent and, yes, pink. And although their season peaks in June, they’re still quite easy to find in seafood markets. I quickly steamed a few pounds in a spicy lemony broth and set them aside for us to enjoy cold with cocktail sauce. I had all kinds of food items in my refrigerator that I was loath to toss. Bacon, peppers, milk, cream, butter, cheese…what’s a girl to do?
Well, I’ll tell you what this girl did. I prepared for dinner the most luxurious, creamy dish of Shrimp and Grits this side of heaven. I always have grits on hand, good grits. Slow cooking, stone ground grits. Not that highly processed, quick or instant, grocery store mess. All watery and bland. No. I like coarsely ground grits, loaded with texture and full of corn flavor that easily stand alone on their own merit. In fact, these are the grits you almost want to eat without anything on top but then I think of the sweet Pinks. I daydream of the bacon seasoned sauce puddling on top of creamy, white grits and I’m back on board. Oh, and by the way, Trader Joe’s store brand grits are really super if you don’t have a grist mill down the street. The shrimp will be gone in two seconds flat but you’ll probably have some grits left over. It can be gently warmed again the following day and eaten as is with nothing added but a quick grind of black pepper. The grits will take about 30 minutes to prepare so don’t start cooking your shrimp until the grits are almost done. If the grits get too thick it can be thinned out with a little warmed milk, half and half or cream. Pork is usually included in the shrimp mixture. Bacon, andouille sausage and Tasso are typically put into service. My first choice is bacon as its saltiness really brings out the sweetness of the shrimp. Andouille is good but I find its taste completely overwhelms the delicate flavors of both the shrimp and grits. Tasso is wonderful but it’s also strong plus can be difficult to find. This, Gentle Reader, is comfort food at its best. As there is such a difference in wild caught shrimp versus farmed so is there a vast difference in stone ground grits as opposed to highly processed, quick or instant. Make the effort to find wild caught shrimp and stone ground grits. You’ll be positively delighted at the difference they make in your dishes. I hope you enjoy these two recipes as much as my entire family does. They’ll do ya proud!
These Pumpkin and Dulce de Leche Cinnamon Rolls are the stuff dreams are made of. They are a twice a year indulgence. These are the cinnamon rolls you fantasize about serving Christmas morning but are too exhausted from all the hustle and bustle to actually make them. But I’m going to tell you how you can. Huge, soft clouds of sweet golden dough are perfect to sop up the rich caramel sauce and barely tangy glaze. I don’t know what made me want to make them. I enjoy baking; I love working with dough. But I’ve got to tell ya, I had to make these over and over again. Without thinking I dumped cup after cup of flour into the mixer bowl and suddenly thought, “Wait…how many cups was that?” Into the garbage went butter, egg, sugar and who knows how much flour. Now, you can buy ready-made dulce de leche but let’s at least start out with homemade. Over and over I’d realize mid-way through baking the caramel that I had forgotten to cover the pan tightly with tin foil. Or I forgot to put the pan with the condensed milk into a larger pan filled with water. Or I just plain forgot what time I put the pan in the oven and cooked the milk way too long and, again, had to trash it. I didn’t remember the butter chunks had to be added to the top of the rolled out dough until the pans had been baking for a good 10 minutes. It went on and on like this. What could be so important that I couldn’t count 5 cups of flour? My boy. That’s what. My boy will be 25, twenty-five tomorrow. How did that happen? I’ll tell ya how. We blinked. Yesterday I was yelling at him that if he made me late for work ONE MORE TIME I was going to leave him at home and he would have to take a cab to grade school. A cab. When he was six. As if. Now he leaves for work in Miami and takes the early train, never late for that! Nuh uh. So the years have sped by…flown by actually. I’m certain all parents feel this way but when he was born we knew he was special. And there was nothing, NOTHING, I wouldn’t do for that boy. When it was snack day for us in Pre-K I agonized over what I would bake. Lemon muffins with a key lime topping and seedless grapes? Or would chocolate chip granola bars and apple slices be better? And I know some of his classmates parents thought we were the meanest parnts on the panet. We didn’t take him to Disney World until he was in, I don’t know, first grade? Awful, huh? No video games in our house, either. No, tennis, baseball and friends were priorities. And reading. Jimmy and I would get our cocktails and we took turns reading out loud to James. We read fabulous British and French story books, hooting and hollering all the while at the atrocities committed. Pirate fights, naughty children getting spanked and the odd child losing both parents at sea to be reunited months later in a Paris bistro were our favorites. Jimmy had James surfing the web at two years old. Our boy was expected to participate in the oratorical competitions at church…all of them. As a result he grew up relaxed and comfortable speaking before large groups of people and, to this day, holds his own quite well in all social settings, from the homeless shelter to Harvard’s Kennedy School. James embraced his Greek and Puerto Rican roots even when some of his classmates ridiculed him. As a parent it’s so easy to dismiss any schoolyard taunts by telling your child, “Oh, honey, just let it roll off your back. Don’t pay attention to them.” Now I know that boy’s not perfect but he held his head high and that’s not easy. He never started a fight but he never ran from one. And after all that school ridiculing he speaks Greek and Spanish. Jimmy teases me and says I’m James’ biggest cheerleader and guess what? I AM. I am so proud of him. He gives of himself unconditionally. He gives time to his elders. He respects and appreciates their opinions. He’s curious about the world and wholeheartedly receives other cultures with open arms. We pushed him to discover other countries and off he went. We’re just plain crazy about him. We like him and he likes us. So when my boy wakes up tomorrow, on his 25th birthday, he’s getting these decadent, crazy good cinnamon rolls. Happy birthday, boysie!!!
There’s nothing like the scent of caramel and cinnamon baking to make you smile and be glad you’re alive. These pillows of sweet delight can be almost completely assembled the night before and, while they’re chilling in the fridge and you’re asleep, they’ll also be rising, ready to be baked the following morning.
These rolls can now rise overnight covered in the refrigerator or in a warm corner of your kitchen for 20 minutes. In one of my kitchen drawers I keep a thin, plastic ruler to measure dough, the size of pans etc. This is my favorite ruler because it has measurements on one side and the presidents on the other. I know… geeky. Anyway, mark off your dough so that all the rolls are the same size thus baking evenly. This recipe yields 12 colossal cinnamon rolls or 24 regular servings.
And this is the only way I cut them. With unwaxed, unscented dental floss. Any knife you use, I don’t care how sharp it is, will smash the soft dough and, to add to your woes, force out the dulce de leche filling. After lightly scoring the dough to mark your 12 or 24 portions, slide the dental floss under the dough “log” and align the floss to the first marking on either end. Cross both ends of the floss as if you were going to tie a knot but instead of looping the floss to tie it continue pulling both ends and the floss will slice the dough cleanly and evenly. For the dulce de leche, it may be store-bought but it’s so simple to make that I strongly suggest you try it, if you haven’t already, and then you won’t be giving your family all those chemicals we all like to avoid. A quick recipe is in the archives. Just put in “dulce de leche” in the search box toward the upper right of this page. When the rolls have finished baking and have cooled just slightly, slide them whole, not pulled apart, out of the baking pan onto a large serving tray, preferably on with a lip. Drizzle the glaze all over the hot rolls and let it ooze down the sides. Heaven! To re-heat after they’ve cooled completely 10-15 seconds in the microwave will have them tasting as though they just came out of the oven.
Pumpkin and Dulce de Leche Cinnamon Rolls
Servings: 12 colossal rolls or 24 smaller single portions
Place yeast and warm water in a small bowl and allow yeast to bloom or “foam”, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl or stand-up mixer cream the 1/2 cup butter and pumpkin until light and fluffy.
Add the sugar and beat well.
Add the yeast mixture and mix well.
Add the salt to the flour and mix well then add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture. Beat well.
Knead the dough with a dough hook or by hand until it’s smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes.
Lightly butter a large bowl, place the dough in it, cover and allow to rise in a warm corner of your kitchen for 1 hour or until double in bulk.
Punch down the dough and, on a lightly floured counter, gently roll the dough into a 24″X12″ rectangle. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you do want the height to be even and flat.
Spread the dulce de leche evenly over the dough leaving a 1″ border around the rectangle.
Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the dulce de leche followed by the cold cubes of butter.
Working from the long side, tightly roll up the dough. Pinch the dough to make a seam along the loose length.
Measure and mark your dough. Cut with floss into even pieces; either 12 or 24.
Place in a buttered 9″X13″ pan, 2 buttered 9″X13″ pans if you’re making 24 rolls.
Loosely cover pan/pans with wax paper and allow to rise in a warm corner for 20 minutes or place, covered, in the refrigerator to rise overnight. Let the dough warm up outside the refrigerator 15 minutes or so prior to baking.
Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and fully baked.
Remove from oven and, in pan, cool on rack for 10-15 minutes.
Transfer from baking pan to serving tray and pour glaze over the tops of the rolls allowing to spill down the sides.
1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup confectioners sugar
With a whisk, combine cream cheese, butter, milk, vanilla extract and salt.
Add confectioners sugar and whisk until completely smooth.
Here’s a little quickie to help you take a stand against temptation this weekend. Wait. Are you really going to pretend you’re not going to be tempted? C’mon. We’re all going to brunch. We’ll all have a couple of mimosas at home then maybe move on to bloodies once we arrive at the restaurant. Oftentimes it’s downhill from there. Plates appear dripping with crunchy, smokey bacon shyly peaking out from under the heavy drip of a lemony hollandaise and a small mountain of crispy, oniony hash browned potatoes…who can resist? And then there’s that guy. You know the one. He orders the thick-cut, maple, cinnamon, praline, cream cheese stuffed french toast. With extra butter and syrup on the side. Ugh. Kill me now! It’s got to taste beyond heavenly. But guess what? I didn’t work all week at feeling good and looking good to blow it all BEFORE I get to brunch. I exercise five days a week. And I try hard to have my cocktails only on the weekend. Yes, I watch what I eat but I indulge myself regularly with healthful treats. So no. I won’t be blowing it at brunch either. Preparation is half the battle and I, for one, will.be.prepared. Oh, yes. I think treating yourself well during the week makes a huge difference in health, weight loss and mind-set and that includes breakfast Saturday mornings. If brunch is on Sunday then errands are on Saturday, meaning fuel up for another long day. My family LOVES roasted spaghetti squash so I typically have it on hand. What better way to make “hash browns” than with leftover, roasted spaghetti squash? Great texture and mild taste make it the perfect side. Simple as A-B-C and topped with a fresh, organic egg, Saturday’s looking better already. A little tomato or leftover vegetables on the side and you may find yourself looking forward to “errand day”. And by having this luxurious breakfast I find I have more resolve at Sunday brunch. The frittata of the day with an extra side of salad sounds really good to me…why, yes, please, I’d love another bloody!
Okay, I have to make an admission here. The reason the photo above doesn’t really show the squash hash browns is because I ate it all before I realized I hadn’t taken any final shots. I’m crazy about this stuff. Spaghetti squash is the healthful, fabulous, take-on-any-flavor food of the year. Already roasted and added to a hot pan with a little oil? Well, you’re just about to have a bit of heaven on earth! One pan. Quick and easy. Fried, poached, scrambled or hard-boiled, eggs pair beautifully with it. If you don’t do eggs heat up those leftover vegetables from the night before, in the same pan with the squash, add another touch of oil and you’ll have a meal from an elegant restaurant. These breakfast hacks will help keep your waistline intact and leaving you feeling good. GOOD. How many times have you felt light AND full after eating a plateful of potatoes?
Morning comes awfully early when one has a commute. And I don’t know anyone who wants to sit down to a hearty breakfast the minute they open their sleepy little eyes. It seems we all hit the floor running and don’t stop until we literally run out of gas. My son, James, has never been a lover of the too-soon breakfast and we’ve tangled with this since he was in kindergarten. At the tender age of five I struggled to offer him something healthful AND tasty. While he was in school I drove way out on Powerline Road to a roadside stand and bought just picked produce. Money was tight and I could little afford to waste a thin dime but I was determined that James would have the best I could give him. I bought a little of this and little of that. Zucchini, tomatoes, green beans and strawberries were staples. Dawn broke and I would schlep to the kitchen trying to put together a breakfast that would interest James while, at the same time, hold him in good stead. What a struggle! “Mama, I can’t!”, was typically his response when he brought his plates to the kitchen. We still laugh about this but one day I exploded. Yes. I popped. I’ve been told, after the fact, that I’m a little scary when I get mad. I ranted and raved and carried on, “What? What is it I can fix for you that you’ll eat? WHAT?”. That sweet, little boy looked up at me and earnestly answered, “Coffee and a pretzel?” Can you even? Lord, I laughed so hard I probably tinkled in my pants. And those strawberries I could ill afford? They were found a long time later when I found the strength to move the sofa in order to clean. Though we all know a good breakfast is crucial for a productive day the struggle continues. I know my boy is NOT going to lose a precious five minutes of sleep in order to throw together a breakfast he can eat on the train or in his office. And that’s where Mama comes in. That boy is going to be moving out, and soon, but until then I can pack a pretty and healthful breakfast….one that will keep him fueled until 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon.
These egg cups are easy, versatile, healthful and filling. Paired with fresh fruit, your family will thank you. Truly. You’re going to start hearing, “Thanks, Mom!” more and more. They can be made with fresh eggs, egg whites or Egg Beaters. I use fresh eggs and always, always organic. The recipe I’m posting calls for sausage and vegetables but any and all may be substituted for any other filling. Cubed ham, chorizo, spinach, kale, chopped tomatoes, scallions, cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella are just a few ideas. Leftover crab or shrimp are also tasty morsels. So go crazy. Your family will love them!
Spray a non-stick spray all over the top of a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
In a large, non-stick skillet brown the sausage, breaking up any large clumps with the back of a spoon. You don’t want any large pieces as they’re too big for the muffin cups. If you’re using pork sausage drain it well.
To the turkey add the scallions, zucchini, basil and spinach. Mix well and continue to cook until the vegetables have wilted. Remove from heat to cool.
While the sausage mixture cools pour the eggs evenly into the sprayed muffin cups. I find using a 1/4 measuring cup makes this quick and simple.
Taste the sausage/vegetable mixture for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings. I find the sausage adds plenty of salt so I add only pepper.
Divide the sausage mixture evenly between the muffin cups, gently pressing the filling down.
Place one tomato in the center of each egg cup.
If using cheese, sprinkle over each egg cup.
Bake egg cups for 20-25 minutes or until puffy and golden on the edges.
Allow to cool completely before refrigerating. I store each one in individual plastic bags. To re-heat I place as many egg cups as needed on a plate and zap in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. If you’re heating just one for the road, 15 seconds on a plate is perfect then drop it back in the bag it lived in when in the refrigerator and you’re good to go.
I should have known when I put sunscreen on my toothbrush that I was moving waaaay too fast. I was behind schedule, running late to take my father to a routine doctors appointment. I knew he would be uptight and, as many elderly people can be, ready to hit the road early. Dressed and clean-shaven, Dad would be watching and waiting for me to pull up. He’d be sitting on the sofa in the living room, eyes fixed on the big front window, on the lookout for my Mini to whip into the driveway and I was probably still racing around the house in my pajamas. Actually, I wasn’t that late. I would be a few minutes early however it meant no makeup (who cares?) and no breakfast. That, I knew, would eventually be a problem for me. I couldn’t go from 6:00am to 11:00am with only a cup of coffee and a spoonful of coconut oil. I just can’t. I get cranky and head-achy. I run stop signs and snap at people. So I needed to eat something. Fast. Anything. But I didn’t have any hardboiled eggs, avocados or apples. No quick bite of steak or chicken available either. I didn’t even have a banana! Then and there I realized I had to come up with a recipe for some sort of ready-made, nutritious, grab ‘n go breakfast. I was pleased with that revelation knowing my son, James, would be able to take advantage of some sort of grab n’ go and enjoy it on the train ride into work. When I got home from Dad’s doctor appointment, (and, btw, all went well), I set about making up a tasty but nutritious breakfast cookie that would keep in the refrigerator, be low in fat and tide me over for at least three or four hours. Plus it couldn’t crumble. I was thrilled with the outcome. Now I have plenty of time in the morning to poke around instagram, facebook, NewYorkTimes, and BBC!
These cookies are quite filling and I consider them a meal…not so much a snack. They are meant to be thick so as to be sturdy and not crumble into a handful of granola. I used my 1/4 measuring cup to make 9 equal portions then scooped the batter into my hand to pat into shape and finished with cookies about 1/2″-3/4″ thick. They were baked about 25 minutes but each oven is different so check them for doneness at the 20 minute mark. Gently touch the top of a cookie to check for firmness and also under the cookie to make certain they’re not browning too quickly. I used mini chocolate chips not only to distribute them more evenly but because regular sized chips will not allow the cookie to hold its shape. Enjoy!
I began the day after Christmas. In anticipation for the new year I pulled out my favorite water-glass. I made a silent pledge to myself that I would drink a minimum of eight glasses of water a day. It’s a good thing for me because I try to chug an entire glass if I’m tempted to mindlessly cheat. I can meet that minimum easily as I’m tempted often. I had already started working out but I still needed to go through my work out apparel and weed out any old running bras and shoes. That done I focused on my overall nourishment for the year. That mammoth jug of Coquitos I made, rich and thick with coconut milk AND cream?? I sent James off with it to a New Years Eve party. I actually threw out some of the chocolates given to me. That REALLY hurt. Most painful was this. One and three-quarters pounds of crispy, salty paradise in the form of BBQ potato chips. Jesus, Mary and Joseph give me strength! But out they went, into the garbage.
In 2016 I will celebrate, or at least try to, a milestone birthday. I’m not particularly looking forward to it. I know people say, “Oh, it’s just a number!”. “Oh, shut up.” is what I think when I hear that. However, I am committed to this as the year of kindness, acceptance and tolerance. Not only towards others but to myself as well. I’m not going to fret over my blog or insta numbers. I will write and post when and what makes me happy. Nor will I allow myself to get all twisted up when a family member sneaks a taste of something I’m cooking or baking. Glasses left about the house? Big deal. Toast crumbs on the kitchen floor? Who cares! Dirty feet on the bed? It’s just sand.
This is the year of gentleness. And happiness. So as I approach the birthday which is on the other side of my salad days, I choose graciousness, affection and goodwill. I will take care of my body and my soul. And do my best to take care of those around me. It doesn’t mean no more “cheesy-wheezies”, as my father calls any food or drink that’s bad for you. Of course there will be cheesy-wheezies! But as my mother used to say, “Everything in moderation including moderation”. For me that breaks down to one small glass of wine but only if I want it. I don’t have to have it. So if I don’t feel like wine I’ll stick to my water and not let the vino become a habit. I’ll still post a festive cake or decadent drink but I’ll keep those at arm’s length. In other words, I’ll gift them to neighbors. So far so good. When I informed Jimmy of my aspirations he reacted without thinking, CLAPPED HIS HANDS and cried happily, “Oh boy!”. As he often says, “It’s so nice when you’re nice.” And it is. Happy New Year y’all!
This is what was for breakfast. It’s a new day! Bring out the goat cheese, avocado and a few thin slices of toasted whole grain bread. A spritz of fresh lemon juice and a quick scattering of red pepper flakes along side your favorite fruit completes breakfast or lunch. Use your imagination and be creative. No recipe needed.