Friday, September 18, 2009

Apple-Cherry Oatmeal

I don’t like oatmeal; I find it somewhat bland and thin. But steel-cut oats are in a different category: they have a complex nutty flavour plus some serious chewiness. And they fill you up like no other. In the GTA, steel-cut oats are widely available under the Bob’s Red Mill and PC Blue Menu brands.

This is my favorite oatmeal combo; I make it in bulk and eat it three to four times a week. For my WW friends: one serving is 3 Points excluding syrup, nuts, and milk.

1 slightly heaped cup steel-cut oats (180 g)
3 cups cold water
1 cinnamon stick
pinch salt
½ cup dried cherries*, loosely packed (85 g)
2 golden delicious apples, cored and chopped
½ cup unsweetened applesauce (110 g or one snack cup)
maple or pancake syrup
optional: toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped
milk or cream

Place oats, water, cinnamon, and salt in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and bring to a boil on high heat, then simmer on low for 20 minutes. Uncover oatmeal and cook for a couple more minutes, until excess water has boiled off and desired consistency is reached. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place cherries in 1-qt microwave-safe bowl with just enough water to cover. Microwave on high for a couple minutes, until water is absorbed and cherries have softened. Place apples on top and cook on high for 4 to 5 minutes until apples are tender-crisp, stirring halfway through.

Discard cinnamon stick. Stir in cherries, apples, and applesauce. Divide into five servings. Top with syrup and nuts to taste, and serve with milk or cream.

Note: Oatmeal can be frozen in individual serving containers (without milk) and then reheated in the microwave. I actually prefer frozen oatmeal as it further softens the oats and blends the flavours.

*1 cup canned cherries can be substituted for the dried, but I find they don’t carry the same flavour punch. They do not have to be cooked before adding them to the oatmeal.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I tried about half a dozen souvlaki recipes before perfecting this one. The marinade can be made in bulk and frozen in ice cube trays, then stored in a doubled freezer bag; use about 50% more frozen than you would fresh. And yes: there really is no lemon in this recipe.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced (do NOT substitute dried oregano)
¾ tsp ground pepper
½ tsp salt

¾ lb boneless meat, large cube: lamb leg, chicken thigh, pork loin or tenderloin or shoulder
2 yellow peppers, kebab cut
2 zucchinis or summer squash, kebab cut
1 red onion, kebab cut
16 cherry tomatoes

Greek-style pitas
Tzatziki sauce

Combine the marinade ingredients. Marinate meat and vegetables in fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

Thread onto presoaked skewers and barbecue until done and browned, rotating to cook evenly, 5 to 10 minutes. Alternately, place on a broiler rack and broil 6 inches from heat until done, 6 to 15 minutes. In a pinch, everything can be pan-fried on high heat, but the meat and veg should be kept separate.

Optional: grill pitas to warm and crisp them a bit, about 30 seconds on each side. Pitas can be effectively warmed on the grill, an electric burner on low, over an oven vent, in a dry pan, or under the broiler.

If you want to skip the grilled veggies: increase the meat to 1½ lb.

Serve souvlaki with pitas, tzatziki sauce, plus Greek-style salad and rice or potatoes.

Greek-style Salad

This is a salad recipe without measurements; I put it together by eye. Start with equal-volume portions of lettuce, cucumber, tomato, green pepper and carrot. Add the remainder of ingredients to taste.

iceberg and/or romaine lettuce, bite-size
cucumber, sliced or chunk
tomato, grape or wedges
green pepper, chopped (optional)
carrot, shredded or sliced (optional)
red onion, sliced
kalmata olives
feta cheese, crumbled
RenĂ©e’s Mediterranean Greek vinaigrette, or your favorite Greek salad dressing
* If using Renee’s dressing: add ½ tsp red wine vinegar per serving

Friday, September 11, 2009

Apple-Oatmeal Coffee Cake

I have been astounded by the number of requests I have received for this cake's recipe, served at the Back-to-School Tea on Tuesday morning. I will have to make it again, soon.

Oat Streusel
2 tbsp salted butter, cold
¼ cup AP flour
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ cup oats (quick or rolled)

1¾ cups AP flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup oats (quick or rolled)
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
½ cup salted butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk*
1 large egg
1½ cups Granny Smith apples, chopped (about 2)

Make the streusel: in a medium bowl, briefly blend together the flour, sugar and cinnamon, then cut in the butter until crumbly (size of peas). Stir in oats. Set aside or keep in fridge if your kitchen is warm.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Liberally grease 9x9x2 pan with shortening. (Optional: line bottom and two sides with overhanging parchment strip for easy removal.)

In electric mixer bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add butter, milk, and egg; beat on low for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl a couple times. Fold in apples.

Spread batter in prepared pan, smoothing top with spoon/spatula. Sprinkle with streusel.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pan before lifting onto wire rack, or serve warm.

* If you do not have buttermilk on hand, substitute 1 tbsp lemon juice mixed with normal milk to equal 1 cup. Don’t worry if it looks lumpy: this is normal.