“Apples and Oats” Breakfast On The Go

I’m so excited about this I hardly know where to begin!  So, so happy to have found an answer, finally, to the blank Starbucks stare. You know – the stare that people on restricted diets get when they go just about any where – but particularly at Starbucks because they present the most beautiful pastries in the world?


Some of you might relate to this, or you might think I’m just a little bit crazy after you read what I’m about to disclose. Here goes…

We’ve always had horses, and foxhunting (riding horses to hounds chasing foxes) is an amazing sport we’ve enjoyed over the years. And before you get all perturbed about the foxes, think cat. Foxes have catlike personalities and enjoy outwitting the hounds, often reappearing to observe the hounds chase their scent.  Early frosty mornings. Heat rising from the backs of excited horses. Then galloping, jumping, standing quietly waiting while hounds search brush for scent, and several hours later we’re all spent. A quiet walk back to the trailers, cool down the horses, trailer them home, brush them, and put them in their stalls with some sweet hay,fresh water and, sometimes, a mash.  Mash consisted of oats, apples, bran, molasses, and a little oil. Mixed with hot water and left to soak for a few minutes made a sweet smelling,rejuvenating elixir our horses were grateful for.
Good for their coats, their blood and their attitudes.

“What’s that got to do with anything?” you might ask this queen of bunny trails. Well, this: Apple Oat Bars contain similar ingredients that are good for the hair, the skin, the blood and the attitude. The fact that it’s portable means we can rise early, go work out, shower and head to the office with a big square of this healthy bar to munch on.That’s pretty cool! 

I’ll share the recipe I based this on with you.  I modified it. You’re welcome to try the original recipe. It’s just that I actually don’t know how to follow a recipe without modifying it in some way. Guess I was just born bad. Oh well. A good thing I did was to leave on the apple peel. And another good thing I did was to add some chopped hazelnuts. And here’s why those are good things. Apple peel is the main reason apples are so good for you. Check this out. If you don’t want to bother clicking on that link, do it anyway. You’ll learn a lot!  Hazelnuts (filberts) also have special benefits.  Hmm, and then of course I added more apples than they call for in the recipe and I used gluten free flour and I didn’t add quite as much sugar because I used sweeter apples.

Oh, and one more thing about the recipe. there was no accounting for the 1/2 cup sugar as the directions unfolded.  After the fact, with the sugar still sitting on the counter looking all forlorn, I realized it must belong in the dough, so I added it last. Make sure you add it in with the oatmeal and cinnamon. That would be where it belongs. 🙂

Here’s the recipe from another happy blogger at The Fat Fig. Apple Oat Breakfast Bars. Enjoy, and don’t forget that steamy cup of coffee or tea. I sprinkled my latte with a touch of cinnamon. That, and an Apple Oat Breakfast Bar will make you a happy camper no matter how your day started.


Autumn Raspberry Custard Tart

Autumn may be here, but she hasn’t whispered that to our raspberry bushes. I love this time of year when the brilliant red berries glow under a still hot sun which – thankfully – arrives mid morning after the mist rises.  The cooling earth and the mist and turning leaves makes me want to savor those precious last raspberries more than I do in June when they seem like they’ll last forever.

At the end of April we had an enormous snowstorm that crushed some of the tender shoots that had begun to green. We had a good raspberry season but I do think we lost about 30% of what we could have had. That’s why there’s no cordial being made from the late crop.  So what should I do with those lovely gems?  I came across some really awesome looking recipes and advice from friends. Everything from “Eat them like popcorn” (which we did) to making jam (the Berry Patch near our home does that the best) to serving under chocolate (excuse me, that’s an every night before we go to bed snack around here).

I wanted nothing but pure raspberry flavor to come through and I could just imagine the raspberries drowned in nothing but cream – but that’s way too decadent don’t you think? said no one ever!

I found this recipe http://foodforpoems.blogspot.com/2010/03/raspberry-custard-tart.html She doesn’t blog anymore, but I like the idea she had about food for poems so I just knew this would be a great recipe.  It turned out perfect but I did change two little things: I filled those raspberries so that you could not see the bottom of the pan at all, and I used the gluten free Pate’ Brisee’ recipe you’ll find in our archives. I should have chilled the dough before I made it but I was impatient.

Here’s to the beautiful raspberry – mine’s Joan J. I think each ripening fruit and vegetable in the garden deserves to be singled out and enjoyed. Pure. Simple. Unadulterated fullness of flavor. That’s what you get in this custard tart. 

Penniless Pancakes

These probably are not worth blogging about. Then again, what is worth blogging about? Yeah. Answer me that. You’ll have solved the Internet.

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I’m fancy. I’m not.


I had a box of Mrs. Buttersworth pancake mix that my mom sent me to school with, leftover oatmeal, butter, and cinnamon. This is not atypical. A trip to the grocery store is a luxury for which I do not have (or make) time. I’ve got novels to analyze, people! You think those characters wait around for just anyone? Exactly.

But I digress.

The point is, if you haven’t added oatmeal to your pancakes before, you should try it. It’s good.

Pennyless Pancakes

1 cup pancake mix

3/4 cup water

Dash of cinnamon

1 cup cooked rolled oats


Heat saucepan over medium heat. Mix pancake mix, water, cinnamon, and cooked oats. Make pancakes on hot pan with butter (I am not going to explain this). Serve with butter.

I did not even have honey, sugar, or syrup to sweeten these, and I still ate more than I’m going to tell you.

Dark Chocolate And Parmesan Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Dark chocolate and Parmesan: A Scientific Pairing? I was skeptical, but you can’t argue with science. The bitterness of parmesan compliments the deep flavors of dark chocolate, and gluten free bread actually serves as a great (flavorless) backdrop. I give it an A+. It’s certainly more interesting than the classic Velveeta.

Here’s how to make it:


2 slices country bread
2 ounces dark chocolate (64%), coarsely chopped
6 thinly shaved slices Parmesan cheese

Layer one slice of bread with the chocolate and then with Parmesan cheese and top with second slice of bread.

Heat a panini press, grill pan or skillet. Butter the outside surface of the bread. Grill until bread is golden brown and chocolate and cheese are oozing. Serve immediately.

Best paired with red wine and music. We experimented with white wine, and it didn’t work well, so go with a red (syrah was nice).

Steel Cut Oatmeal for Donegal Mornings

Rib sticking, tummy warming healthy goodness.  We dine on this from before the frost hits the pumpkin until May’s sun warms the mornings.

We met up with friends in the little coastal town of Laguna Beach a few years back because they told us we had to, seriously must, go to this very cool restaurant called Zinc’s to eat their oatmeal.  How many times in your life has someone asked you to go out for, that’s right, oatmeal?  So our anticipation grew as they told us all about this amazing butterscotchy oatmeal and the beautiful presentation and how creamy and rich and tasty it was. “Really, you’ve NEVER had anything like it!”, said he.  We walked to the corner restaurant on a beautiful mid-week early morning and lined up behind, no kidding, about 30 hungry bodies waiting to obtain this amazing “porridge”.  And it was – amazing.  Let me try to recapture it:  gentle breeze, black wrought iron fence around a stone patio and a little kiosk where you ordered.  In the same building was a gourmet shop/bakery/deli, but it was empty as people waited for their porridge. It actually reminded me of people waiting in line to take communion-a ceremonial sober hush was upon them.  As I got closer I saw thick porridge being ladled generously into shiny pure white enormous bowls.  Choices of fresh berries and an assortment of dried fruits and nuts, as well as yogurt were options right along with the traditional brown sugar and cream.  I’d never seen anything like it as the happy diners pulled out $7 for a bowl of …gruel?  Porridge.  Oatmeal made from steel cut oats…which, obviously must cost much much more than mother’s oats, right?  I ordered mine with fresh blueberries and plain yogurt and streamed a bit of local honey on top.  It was heavenly and filling and I knew my grandmother and her mother’s mother’s mother would be proud of me. My husband and I talked about it for days.

How could a bowl of porridge garner seven bucks?  I did a little homework and figured out that even if I bought those pristine white bowls, four of them, from Williams Sonoma or Crate and Barrel or even Target and bought the most expensive oats I could find it would still be lowly porridge and should cost around a buck a bowl.  That’s inspiring, isn’t it?  That here in America, where presentation is more than half the battle, someone can become wealthy making porridge. Believe it or not when searching the internet and you’re on something like page 9 of  – steel cut oatmeal – you can actually find some pretty interesting things.  Who’d a thought I’d find what looked like a great recipe on the Parkinson’s Disease support group website?

The secrets’ about to come out folks.  Here goes. Oh, and it IS cheap.  Cheap isn’t something to take lightly these days.  It costs more to make a phone call to see if the grocer carries steel cut oats than it does to make it.

You need:

1 Cup Steel Cut Oats  (Bob’s Red Mill is top flavor/texture rated and inexpensive)

2 Cups water

1 Cup milk

1 Tablespoon Butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (I grate from whole nutmeg)

pinch salt

1/2 cup raisins, dried apricots, cranberries or a mixture of any dried fruits. Cut apricots into small pieces, as shown.

Slowly heat milk and water to almost, but not, boiling in a medium sized saucepan.

In medium size saute pan or cast iron pan melt 1 Tablespoon butter.  Add the cup of oats and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the oats start to turn a toasty golden color and smell butterscotchy.  Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and stir another minute to fuse the flavors. 

Once the oats are toasted and the liquid is hot remove the oats from stove and slowly pour them into the liquid.

Stir with a wooden spoon to mix, then heat over medium low heat for about 12-15 minutes, stirring once.

Continue to cook over medium low heat for another 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes until it begins to thicken.  It will still be pretty thin.

Lower heat to low, add the dried fruits to the porridge and let it cook for another 10 minutes, maybe more until it starts to really look like something.  Be careful because at this point it can stick to the bottom easily and so you’ll need to stir from the bottom up.

You will know the oatmeal is ready when it starts to be pretty thick, but don’t expect all the liquid to be absorbed.  It will continue to soak in the liquid once it’s in the crockery and on the counter.  But generally it should look like this:

Now you can pour it into a container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To serve, spoon into a bowel and I like to add chopped apples, a little brown sugar and milk or cream.  It is scrumptious with fresh fruit, a dollop of yogurt and honey too!Just look at that!  Isn’t it beautiful?  I bet even children would think so.  Well I know for a fact that even the staunchest I-hate-oatmeal person likes this. And there are some good reasons to try this recipe: oats help reduce cholesterol, are filling, higher in protein and are known to aid in weight loss.

Stay tuned for homemade muesli next month.  We switch to that for warm summer mornings when a bowl of something hot no longer appeals.

Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread (my Scot-Irish-German way)

It is true that everyone and their mother (bless her heart) is making and blogging about Irish Soda Bread this week, so I was thinking I probably shouldn’t.  I am Scot-Irish, my husband German-Swiss, so our kids get the cool mixture of German-do-it-right and Irish-why-bother.

Many people of northern European descent are gluten-intolerant like me. The fact that I made a New Years vow to not let anything rot in my refrigerator and that it would cost too much to go fetch it from the store in my gas guzzling farm truck calls to the frugal Scot in me. Does all this give me the right to make Irish Soda Bread?  You bet! We need this gluten free recipe. And once again, I would like to thank our hens Edith, Agnes and Margo for their contribution of the eggs that I only have to go as far as the barn to obtain.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread is simply made of flour, soda, sour or buttermilk and salt.  I have made it that way and it’s nice, but I don’t waste my time on just “nice” now that I can’t eat most baked goods.  I want spectacular.  Sifting through recipes netted far too many options so I went with what seemed right to me.  I used eggs, sugar, raisins, and caraway seeds, and, since I didn’t have buttermilk, I used a combination of plain yogurt and sour cream.  Oh, and don’t forget the choices in gluten free flour.  We never ever ever know how that’s going to make a recipe turn out. By the way, this recipe did turn out spectacular.  It is heavenly soft and light and just slightly sweet. The caraway seeds added a bit of zest. I used a convection oven for this because it usually nets the best results.

It has occurred to me that many readers might be wondering why some recipes fail. I can’t tell you how many times distraction has caused me to leave out an important ingredient, so I have learned (and most of the time practice) to have measured and ready all the necessary ingredients.  Once I’ve added an ingredient, I move the empty container to the other side of the work area.  See how nicely organized this is?  

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (if convection, 340 degrees) and butter a pan at least 9″ round.  Have measured and ready to go:

3 1/2 cups flour (gluten free I used 1/2 cup buckwheat, 1/2 cup sorghum, 2 1/2 cups rice blend flour)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 whole large eggs

8 ounces sour cream

8 ounces plain yogurt

2 Tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)

3/4 cup raisins (optional)

In large bowl blend flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and baking powder.  In small bowl beat eggs.  Add yogurt and sour cream to beaten eggs and blend well.

Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well, using a wooden spoon, until dough is formed. 

Add raisins and caraway seeds to mixture and either with the wooden spoon or by hand, mix until well-distributed throughout dough.

Next place the big glob of dough in the prepared pan and sprinkle a little extra flour over it so that you can shape it into a nicely rounded form.

Once you have shaped it cut a cross lightly into the top with a knife, like this:

Place it in the oven and bake for approximately 50 minutes.  Using the convection oven I had to bake it longer, but the test is when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.  You don’t want a gummy loaf of bread.  It will also start to be golden around the edges and on top.

Once it is finished, place it on a rack to cool a bit before slicing.

There will be some flour on top but, not to worry, you can spread a bit of butter over the warm loaf.   It is beautiful, and, as you can see, it slices into nice wedges.  So often gluten-free flours don’t hold together or end up tasting like cardboard.  This is delightful with a little butter and served with tea – or a lovely dark Guinness for those who can.

Sunday Morning Edition: Taylor’s Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes with Tennesse Honey Syrup

I’m full.

That’s because my plate initially looked like this:

I woke up this morning feeling my oats. If you haven’t heard that expression, that’s something we say about horses when they’re hyper due to eating too many oats. Story of my life.

So I decided to make the morning a little special by cooking pancakes (with oats, of course). BUT the best way to make the morning special is with a gem that both my mom and I love: a fluffy big latte.

A latte, some “healthy” pancakes, and some Django Reinhardt on Pandora, and we’ve got a nice little Sunday. It was a purely joyous one until I remembered that today, March 11, 2012, is the anniversary of the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan a year ago. This strikes particularly close to home because one of my dear friends and sorority sisters Taylor Anderson was a victim of the tragedy since she was in Japan teaching English. But you know what, instead of a sense of pure loss and sadness, today I am reminded that Taylor was such a special person in that she pursued her dream. She’s the pretty brunette to the right.

In college, Taylor and I had a couple of Art History classes together, and I particularly remember our Oriental Art class. This was my least favorite Art History class because the terminology was all so foreign to me, but I remember Taylor just loving that class. She knew very early in her life that her dream was to live in Japan, and guess what, she did it. As I am confronted with choices in life, I realize that following one’s dream is often a very scary thing to do. It is much easier to stay secure and content with what you know – surrounded with the people you love, holding a steady job, and just getting by in life. It would be so sad to get to the end of life realizing you never took that leap of faith to chase down your dream.

So here’s to you, Taylor Anderson, I cheers a pancake in your memory. It is all too appropriate a breakfast to commemorate a college friend; mornings spent in our sweatpants in the cafeteria are some of my best college memories. And because Taylor always had a fun side, I poured a couple of tablespoons of Jack Daniels into this mix, just as something extra to celebrate life.

Taylor’s Whole-Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes with Tennessee Honey Syrup

1/2 cup rolled quick-cooking oats

1 cup water

3/4 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey

Cook oatmeal in the water in microwave on high for 2 minutes. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the egg and cup of milk. Combine dry and liquid ingredients, add oatmeal, and stir until combined. Add 1 tablespoon of Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey and stir. Cook pancakes over medium heat. Once bubbles appear, flip the pancake.

Tennessee Honey Syrup

1 tablespoon butter

1 sliced banana

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey

Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add sliced banana, chopped walnuts, maple syrup, and Jack Daniels. Stir until combined and warm.