Baked Oatmeal

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If we don’t get some warm weather soon I’m going to weigh 200 lbs!! On Saturday and Sunday mornings one of my
indulgences is to watch episodes of Unique Sweets on demand. I’m in bed with my electronic devices nearby and a spiral notebook. First thing in the morning I’m ravenous and most everything I see on TV I want to eat/make or buy. Danger Will Robinson!!!

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My weekend delights have sparked so many ideas that it would take me three or four more lifetimes to bring all of them to fruition. Baked Oatmeal was one of those ideas and I don’t know why it took me so long to make it. Let me take that back, I know why. This oatmeal is filled with dates, cranberries, pears, walnuts and brown sugar. I swear it is more like a dessert but I fool myself into thinking that it’s a little healthy because it contains oatmeal and fruit. This morning I had the nerve to add a drizzle of real live, authentic maple syrup on top. YOLO!!!!

Thank you Better Homes and Garden for the inspiration and the weight gain, (snark)!

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Fruit and Nut Baked Oatmeal – Inspired by Better Homes and Garden

1 ¾ cups soy vanilla milk
2 TBS butter
1 cup regular rolled oats
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup diced pear
5 TBS packed brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 1 ½ quart casserole and set aside. In a medium saucepan combine milk and butter. Bring to a boil and gradually stir in oats. Next stir in dates, cranberries and the pears. Followed by 3 TBS of the brown sugar and vanilla and salt. Cook and stir for one minute. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.
Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar and walnuts. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes more or until bubbly. Cool slightly and serve with milk and a drizzle of maple syrup. Do your best to save some for the next day. It’s that good, trust me.

A Tale of Two Loaves

two loaves

These little lovelies were born out of boredom and a wee bit of frustration. It was Valentine’s Day and I was feeling out of sorts. I needed something to do, something fun and or relaxing. It’s not like I didn’t have things around the house that needed my attention. Dust seems to settle overnight and I swear the hamper is bottomless. However, housework was the last thing I wanted to do and not just because it was Valentine’s Day.

This was one of those times when baking was truly therapy. I needed to bake something. There was a lonely box of Duncan Hines Marble Cake mix that had been in the cabinet for months so I figured what the heck. Now, as much as I love to get jiggy with my layer cakes I didn’t want to go that deep this time with all the frosting swirls and festoons. I decided that the aforementioned cake mix would become a simple pound cake baked in a loaf pan.

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After I had filled the pan 2/3 full there was batter leftover. Not enough to save and too much to throw away. Don’t you hate it when that happens? I wanted to use my shiny new ***quick loaf pan so I found a easy and quick recipe. It’s a one bowl chocolate cake that’s semi healthy. And for semi healthy it was pretty good. I didn’t glaze either of the cakes and you know that’s different for me. With all the candy and other sweets in the house we wouldn’t and didn’t miss the extra sugar.

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I won’t bore you with the details of the Duncan Hines cake, the recipe is on the side of the box and is pretty standard. The other loaf cake is from Delish.com and that only thing I did differently was to add the little bit of batter left from the DH cake into the bottom of the pan. Also, I used real sugar instead of Splenda. The whole wheat pastry flour gave it a slightly nutty taste and the coffee in it was distinct but not overpowering. I’d make it again in a heartbeat. The cake with the yellow and white towel is the Duncan Hines cake and the one from Delish.com is with the blue towel.

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One Bowl Chocolate Cake – Delish.com
3/4 cup(s) whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoon(s) whole-wheat pastry flour, combined with above flour
½ cup(s) sugar, or 1/4 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking\
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup nonfat buttermilk
½ cup packed light brown sugar, or ¼ cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 TBS canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup hot strong black coffee

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with a circle of wax paper. Whisk flour, granulated sugar (or Splenda), cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add buttermilk, brown sugar (or Splenda), egg, oil and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add hot coffee and beat to blend. (The batter will be quite thin.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from the pan, peel off the wax paper and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if you like.

***For information about the quick loaf pan check out this link at King Arthur Flour.

Cornmeal Harvest Loaves

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Don’t you just love having pictures and a post in your stash for those days when you haven’t cooked/baked or created anything. This is one of them. Back when Hodgson Mills sent me a shipment of their different flours I made this bread. I found the recipe at Epicurious.com and was feeling very brave that day.

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It didn’t come out bad and I wasn’t jumping for joy either. The smell of baking bread should be bottled and or made into a candle scent, it is heavenly. Have you ever made something that smelled better than it tasted? That’s kinda-sorta the situation here. It came out a little dense and I haven’t baked enough bread to figure out why. Any bread bakers out there with any advice? A little more care with shaping the loaves will be helpful the next time around also. With all that being said, the taste wasn’t bad. It was perfect for dipping in the soup I made to go along with it and for dipping in olive oil.

On another note I have to thank Eileen at The Joy of Caking again for the Hershey’s giveaway that she ran on her blog. She notified me on Monday that I had won and I received a huge box of goodies from Hershey’s today. I have something in mind to bake with part of it and I’ll be sharing it soon.

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Cornmeal Harvest Loaves – Epicurious.com
2 cups lukewarm water
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 ¼ -ounce packages (about 1 TBS plus 2 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 TBS yellow cornmeal
About 4 3/4 cups bread flour
5 tsp salt
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp basil

In bowl of a standing electric mixer (or a large bowl if kneading by hand, hopefully not) stir together lukewarm water, sugar, yeast, basil and 1 cup cornmeal and let stand until foamy about 5 minutes. For some reason this is one if the steps that really freaks me out. In another bowl stir together flour and salt and gradually stir enough flour mixture into cornmeal mixture to form a soft dough. With dough hook knead dough; add in cheddar cheese and any remaining flour mixture if dough is too sticky, 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, dough may be kneaded on a floured surface with floured hands until smooth and elastic, 10 to 15 minutes.)

Put dough in an oiled deep bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover bowl loosely and let dough rise in a warm place 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Alternatively, dough may be allowed to rise, covered, in refrigerator overnight. If I did this I wouldn’t sleep a wink worrying about the dough rising.

Punch down dough and divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands to form a 14-inch loaf and put 2 loaves on each of 2 large baking sheets. With a knife or kitchen scissors make eight to ten 2-inch-long diagonal cuts down length of each loaf and pull open to make decorative holes (exaggerate openings as they will become smaller during rising and baking). Cover loves loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle loaves with remaining 2 tablespoons cornmeal and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven 25 minutes, or until golden, switching baking sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. Cool loaves on racks.

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Mini Muffins

When I received the gift pack from Hodgson Mills they also included a box of Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffin Mix with Milled Flax Seed, and a box of Whole Wheat Gingerbread Mix.

Our neighbor recently had back surgery so he and his wife are going to be the recipients of Whole Wheat Blueberry Mini Muffins. These little gems were packed full of flavor. Of course I had to swipe one for quality control purposes. The muffins are dense, nutty and aren’t overly sweet. I added a light glaze for a bit of shine and a tiny bit more sweetness.

I could easily destroy all that healthy goodness a little more by serving them warm with a bit of butter. Good thing I’m giving them away. Merry Christmas Neighbors!!!

Let’s Have Leftovers – Stuffing Frittata and Cranberry Orange Bars

Don’t Forget to enter my Hodgson Mills giveaway. If you haven’t had a chance to please check out this post. The giveaway ends on Wednesday December 5th.

I posted this recipe last Thanksgiving and I thought I’d share it with you again. We’ve been feasting on our holiday goodies for a couple of days now and still have leftovers. Here’s a couple of ideas on how to reinvent them.

This one was really a stretch for me. For starters I rarely make a traditional stuffing. We grew up on cornbread dressing with a little white bread thrown in for moisture’s sake. So I wasn’t sure how it would work here. However, I gave it the old college try and, hit-it-out-of-the- park, over the fence it goes folks! Most frittata’s are loaded with eggs and this one was no exception. You couldn’t even taste the eggs and the cheese sealed the deal. After the eggs and milk are mixed you pour them over the cheese topped stuffing, and bake for 5-7 minutes. The dish is then finished under the broiler. Cooking a frittata until the egg sets on top of the stove gives me the heebie jeebies, I’m terrified that it will burn. I let this one cook on the stove top for about 2-3 minutes and then finished it in the oven. It baked evenly without the bottom burning and my nerves remained intact. Use your favorite stuffing/dressing and add the rest of the recipe ingredients. It’s good foodie friends, real good.

Stuffing Frittata – Adapted from the Food Network, Robin Miller
Cooking Spray
2 to 3 cups leftover stuffing
1 cup shredded Cheddar (regular or reduced-fat) use regular
6 large eggs
2 large egg whites
¾ cup milk
½ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 TBS grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley

Preheat broiler. Coat an ovenproof nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Put stuffing in the bottom of pan to warm and stir to break up a little. Sprinkle cheese over top. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, mustard powder, and nutmeg. Pour mixture over stuffing and cheese to cover stuffing. Sprinkle Parmesan over top. Cook on stovetop over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until egg is cooked through and cheese is golden and bubbly. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley. Serve with sliced tomatoes.

My first inclination with this recipe was to use whole jellied cranberry sauce, but I changed my mind. I’ve never purchased or had fresh cranberries before, but I’m open to new ideas. I had such high hopes for these fruit bars. When I found the recipe at ivillage it was missing a few things. The ingredient list only showed one sugar entry and there should have been two and the directions never indicated when the orange segments should be added. I backtracked the recipe to Eating Well and found the additional sugar listing, but still no step for adding the orange segments. After reading the reviews I discovered that I wasn’t the only one looking for the missing step. A reviewer commented that if you watch the movie you’d find out that the oranges are added when you cook the cranberries, orange juice and sugar.

After my minor disappointment with the way the recipe was written, I was looking forward to expanding my taste buds with a new sweet treat. Ummm not so much. These bars were very tart. On the upside they were moist, chewy and the crust is super good. I’m interested to know what you think so please let me know if you make them.

Cranberry Orange Fruit Bars – ivillage
Crust
1 cup chopped nuts, (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) or old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour, (see Note)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
4 TBS cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
2 TBS canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
Filling
5 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen, divided
½ cup orange juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup orange segments
1½ tsp freshly grated orange zest
1 tsp vanilla

Note: For the crust I used ½ cup oats and ½ cup of walnuts along with the recommended amount of whole wheat pastry flour.

To prepare crust: Combine ¾ cup nuts (or oats), whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter; pulse until well incorporated. Whisk egg, oil, 1 tsp vanilla and almond extract in a small bowl. With the motor running, add the mixture to the food processor. Process, then pulse, scraping down the sides, if necessary, until the mixture begins to clump, 30 to 45 seconds (it will look crumbly). Measure out ½ cup of the mixture and combine in a bowl with the remaining ¼ cup chopped nuts (or oats). Set aside for the topping.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Generously coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. To prepare fruit filling and assemble bars: Combine 3 cups cranberries, orange juice, orange segments, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 4 to 5 minutes. (It may take up to 10 minutes to get a thick result if you start with frozen fruit.) Stir in the remaining 2 cups cranberries, orange zest and 1 tsp vanilla.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish. Spread evenly and press firmly into the bottom to form a crust. Spread the fruit filling over the crust. Sprinkle the reserved topping over the filling. Bake the bars for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake until the crust and topping are lightly brown, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cool completely before cutting into bars, at least 1½ hours.

Notes: Tips: Lower in protein than regular whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from soft wheat and has less gluten-forming potential, making it a better choice for tender baked goods. You can find it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets and natural-foods stores. Store in the freezer. To segment citrus, with a sharp knife remove the skin and white pith from the fruit. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes.

White Chocolate Pastry Cream Tart

Tiptoeing across the fine line of moderate indulgence often requires balance, a tad bit of willpower and quality ingredients. Hodgson Mill came along at the perfect time with an offer to use some of their whole grain products for a post.

Hodgson Mill has also generously offered a coupon for a dollar off any 5 pound package of flour or cornmeal as part of their Have a Grain Holiday campaign. Wait there’s more! In addition, you may enter to win a Holiday Gift Package featuring whole grains and baking mixes. US residents only and winners will be notified on December 10, 2012. Hold on to your hats here it truly is the season for giving. At the end of this post there’s another giveaway for a $25.00 prize pack of Hodgson Mill products.

This hybrid dessert satisfied my sweet tooth and a small serving was plenty for one setting. The crust is made with Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, ground walnuts and baked in a tart pan with removable bottom. I filled it with a white chocolate pastry cream; everybody say ‘yum”, and garnished it with candied pistachios. OK, so I kind of nullified most of the healthy part but you could easily leave them out. There’s lots of nuttiness going on in this one, just trust me, it’s good.

Nutty Tart Dough
2 cups Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
¼ cup ground walnuts
1/3 cup superfine sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch cubes
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 TBS cold water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
White Chocolate Pastry Cream
Candied Pistachios

Place the flour, walnuts, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. PULSE 3 to 4 times to blend. Distribute the butter around the bowl and PULSE 7-8 times, then process for 8 to 10 seconds. The crumbs should be about the size of coarse meal. Making any type of dough in a food processor gives me the heebie jeebies but I do it anyway.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg, egg yolk, water, and vanilla with a fork. Pour the egg mixture into the crumbs and PULSE 5-6 times, then process for 8-10 seconds or until mixture just begins to form a ball. Empty on to a lightly floured surface and knead 6-8 times or until the dough is just smooth and malleable. Shape into a disk and cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 20 minutes or longer. If desired, this dough may be frozen for up to 1 month.

Spray 9 inch tart pan with nonstick spray and preheat oven to 350°. Roll chilled dough on lightly floured surface to ¼” thickness and a little larger than the diameter of the tart pan. Carefully fit the rolled out dough inside the pan. It’s very forgiving and any tears are easily patched up. Place foil or parchment paper on top of dough and then place pie weights or beans on top to keep it from puffing up.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crust looks slightly dry. Due to the color of the flour you won’t necessarily be able to tell by the color when it’s done. Let cool completely and them add the filling.

White Chocolate Pastry Cream – adapted from Wilde in the Kitchen
1 ¼ cups whole milk
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract
3 large egg yolks
¼ granulated sugar
1/8 cup flour
3 tbsp corn starch
½ cup white chocolate

In a medium bowl mix together the sugar and eggs. Sift flour and cornstarch into the bowl and mix until you have a paste. Set this aside. Place white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat on half power until melted, set aside. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat milk to boiling. Slowly add hot milk to the egg mixture. Pour it down the side of the bowl and whisk continuously. Once all the milk is added, pour the whole mixture into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk continuously until it is very thick (like pudding), this should only take 30-60 seconds once it starts to boil. Finally, add white chocolate and vanilla, almond extract and stir.

Pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the top of the pastry cream. This will prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Place this in the fridge until it is cooled.

Candied Pistachios
½ cup whole pistachios
1/8 cup of water
¼ cup of brown sugar
½ tsp cardamom

Bring water and sugar to a boil. Add pistachios and cook stirring often until nuts are covered in a syrupy liquid. Add cardamom and stir until well coated. Pour onto silpat or parchment lined sheet to cool.

Assembly: Spoon then spread white chocolate pastry cream into cooled crust. Chop or leave nuts whole and sprinkle on top. I left mine whole and also found out it’s best to sprinkle with nuts at serving time. They slightly discolored the top. Did that stop us from eating it? Not a chance!!!

Disclosure: I received a variety of Hodgson Mill products courtesy of the company, but the opinions stated in this post are my own. I was not compensated in any way for writing this post.

Now for the giveaway. Follow along with raffle copter. The contest ends on Wednesday December 5, 2012 and the winner will be notified by Thursday the 6th.

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The Feeding Frenzy is Upon Us

It’s that time of year again, On your mark, get set, EAT!!!
According to research, the average American gobbles down between 2,000 and 4,000 calories during his or her Thanksgiving Day meal! That doesn’t include seconds either.

This is the time of year when caution is thrown to the wind in regards to dietary choices. Our Thanksgiving meal is already planned and we‘re on to what kind of cookies we’ll bake for Christmas. You can make it through the feeding festivities without gaining weight. Truth is, you could actually drop a pound or two if you make wise decisions. I’m not going to suggest that you eat a bunch of low-fat, sorry substitutions for your holiday favorites, but keep in mind that there are ways to scale down most traditional recipes and make healthier, tasty versions of them.

What I do suggest is that you have small portions of your favorites and load up on the foods that really kick-start your metabolism. Now I know the term small portions is relative. But we all know that a small portion of sweet potato pie is not ¼ of the pie.

Let’s get back to the feast. The big meal will be whatever your traditional family meal is for that day. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and lest I forget, desserts. If you choose not to modify the recipes, fix them as usual and watch your portion sizes. Include lots of fibrous fruits and vegetables, the more colorful the better. Lose the “one more little bite won’t hurt mantra“. Little bites add up to pounds and inches gained. Practice mindful eating. Remember the old school rules about putting your fork down between bites? It really does slow down the eating process. Here’s a few more survival tips:

Is it worth the guilt and bloat that will come later if you eat all of the desserts on the buffet? Pick one, or two at most and call it a day. If Aunt Thelma only makes her triple chocolate cheesecake once a year and it’s your fave, have it.

Don’t arrive at the big dinner, starving. Stoke your metabolism and fend off the feeding frenzy with a mini meal. Low-fat yogurt with fruit and a scant handful of almonds, or a piece of fruit with string cheese. Banking calories for later often backfires.

Try to get in some cardio activity, if only for 10-15 minutes. It helps to keep you in the fitness mindset.

Holidays don’t always bring out the best in us and when families gather there’s always the possibility of stress, tension, and old wounds being opened. These conditions can be triggers for emotional eating. Accept that these people no matter how kooky they may seem are your family and the holiday doesn’t last forever. If someone is being exceptionally rude and critical, realize that it’s them with the problem not you. And this too shall pass.

This brings me to the point about alcohol. Sometimes you feel you need a drink or two to deal with those crazy relatives. Alcohol relaxes your body and your judgment. With a couple of stiff drinks under your belt it’s easy to sit down in front of Aunt Thelma’s cheesecake and forget just how much you’ve eaten. One glass of heart healthy red wine won’t hurt though.

Remember what the day is all about, being thankful. Count your blessings, express gratitude for the wonderful meal and being able to come together with your family. Give yourself permission to relax and enjoy the day. Take care be well and have a peaceful holiday.

Here’s a Little Extra Food for Thought
It only takes 100 extra calories per day to gain ten pounds in a year… That’s thirty pounds in only three years.

Just wanted you wanted to hear the day before the holiday, right?

Square One

So here I am again, pretty much where I’ve been since the end of July. I have re-injured my torn tendon and I’m back on crutches and wearing the boot. I was doing so well darn it! Wasn’t doing any aerobics, minimized my trips up and down the stairs and didn’t standing for too long without taking a break. The pain was minimal and the swelling was waaaay down. I still had a slight limp but knew eventually my normal gait would return.

Last weekend I went to a shower and decided that since everything was going so well I would wear some boots. The heel on the boot was modest (so I thought) and I felt really good walking around in them. On my way home from the shower I stopped at the store to pick up a few things I’d forgotten the day before. While in line it hit me, literally and figuratively. The type of pain I was beginning to feel meant I was headed back to the couch and my orthopedic accessories. I hobbled out of the store and managed to get myself home without breaking any speed laws.

During the course of this injury you’ve heard me talk about looking for the lesson in all of this. Well obviously I haven’t learned it. Last Monday I cancelled my classes for the day which is something I rarely do. My hope was that two days of chilling out would allow me to get back in the groove again. Ha, was I wrong! On Wednesday I went back to school, with the Mr.‘s assistance of course, I still can’t drive. My student s were just as supportive as they were in the beginning and probably didn‘t mind the extra day off. I also decided early on that I would give this more time before I went back to the doctor. After so many visits this summer I knew what his recommendation would be. Stay off it, apply ice and take the medication he had prescribed. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

This is beginning to feel like a way of life and that is not the mindset I want to be in or one that will help me in the healing process. Honestly, I think it’s my independence that keeps getting the best of me. It’s kind of like give me an inch and I’ll take a half mile because I know a full one is out of the question. Before the re-injury I had become very adept at making modifications. When going downstairs I’d make sure I had everything I needed so I didn’t have to make repeated trips up and down. Driving was limited to only what was necessary, and meals were nothing fancy or complicated.

Obviously even that was too much. Right now of course I’m having a small pity party thinking about all the things I wanted to have done by now. By now I had planned to have at least two other tables done; one pink themed for BCA and one Halloween table that Gabbi and I were going to collaborate on. Since I’ve had so much time on my hands I’ve pinned and bookmarked a cazillion things I want to make. But alas, it’s just not going to happen. Neither is that gut busting sweat inducing aerobic workout that I’ve been missing since the end of July.

Moving forward I’m going to mind my manners and do my best to tune into the voice in my head that says “be still”. The absolute last thing I want is surgery. However, I really feel that given what I do for a living, and doing what I’m passionate about, there is bound to be some downtime with this tendon. I hope that doesn’t sound defeatist because that’s not the intention. It’s more about acknowledging that there may be some limitations.

In a couple of months all the kids will be home for the holidays and I want to be ready. Between now and then I intend to get better and do only a little at a time. Typically during the holiday season I’d have a couple of all day sessions in the kitchen. Not so much this year. My kids would gladly have takeout food and I know it, but the mommy in me won’t allow that. Patience is a virtue and whoever coined that phrase surely had me in mind.

There are a few obligatory things that I will do and will have to ask for help with. And that is the hard part. Not the things I will do; the asking for help. Here comes the Ms. Independent streak again! I just wanted you to know why I haven’t been posting regularly. There are a few things that I’ve done and haven’t posted so that will help keep me in the loop. In order to make Sweet Sensations what I want it to be I have to take care of myself a little bit better and if that means slowing down, that’s what I have to do. Thank you so much for your support and don’t give up on me.

Apple Crisp Re-do

A while back I made a couple of apple desserts and never got around to posting them. This one is a do over. Not that I thought the first time wasn’t great. I just made it again because it’s one of Charisse’s favorites. Aren’t I a sweet mommy? It’s a Weight Wathcers recipe and for sure lower in calories.

There are so many apple choices out there and although most recipes give suggestions for which one to use here’s a couple of ideas to get you started.

Jonagolds – These are more of a Jonathan/Golden Delicious hybrid. They have a firm flesh and a sweet yet tart taste. These beauties are great in pies.

Honeycrisps – The name implies that this apple is sweet, and it is. It’s also an all around good pick for anything from snacking to baking. Another great characteristic is that it retains most of its firmness. The downside is that they’re only available for a few months in the fall. Honeycrisps also play well with others, meaning you can combine them with other varieties.

Granny Smith – If there is an all-star in the apple lineup this variety is it. Granny Smith’s are one of the most popular and I have to admit my least favorite. They are used in more apple pies than any other. Maybe it’s their tart and tanginess that I don’t particularly care for. To get around all that tartness try pairing this one with a Golden Delicious or a Honeycrisp.

My two top apple faves for eating and baking are Fuji and Braeburn. The Fuji apple is a late-season apple so you can look for them to be around for a while. Just perfect for Thanksgiving baking. Fuji’s are most often used for snacking, salads and are totally terrific for sauces. Due to their natural sweetness they require little additional sugar. When I bake with them I do very little pre-cooking because they aren’t one of the firmest varieties. On the other hand, the Braeburn is a firm apple. I love it‘s dual taste of spicy and sweet. No worries about it losing it‘s shape either, it holds up well.

So there’s my take on the best of apples and here’s the link to the recipe I posted a couple of years ago. Stay tuned for an apple cake recipe that was off the hook!!

Smoked Sausage and Gouda Mini Frittata

I had a chance to sample some Old Amsterdam precut gouda cheese. When it came I wasn’t sure what to do with it. This may have been only the second time I tried it and only the first time cooking with it. Yes, I’ve led a sheltered cheese life. When I first tasted Gouda I thought it was very similar to a sharp cheddar with smoky overtones. It’s one that’s often used on dessert trays and with wine pairings. It also melts like a dream.

My initial intention was to use it in macaroni and cheese but we’d just had it so out went that idea. What came to mind was slightly scaled down version of a frittata I used to make for one of my clients. In my original frittata recipe I used sweet potatoes but omitted them this time and made individual servings by baking them in a muffin tin.

This is a great low carb meal in itself. However, combine this with some pancakes or French toast and you have the makings of a brunch bonanza. Yumola!!

Smoked Sausage and Gouda Mini Fritattas
1 tsp canola oil
1 small onion chopped
½ small green and red pepper, chopped
2 tsp minced jalapeno pepper
1 lb lite or lean smoked turkey or kielbasa sliced thin
1 cup Old Amsterdam Gouda, crumbled
6 whole eggs
3 egg whites
4 TBS skim milk
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat the canola oil in pan over medium heat and add the onion, chopped peppers and jalapeno. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook for 2 minutes. Set the mixture aside. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non stick spray. Then fill a third of each cup with the sausage and veggie mixture and then top with a generous half TBS of cheese. In a blender mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Using a blender creates a better egg mixture that pours more smoothly. Pour egg mixture over sausage and cheese mixture and bake until eggs are set and cheese is melted. You may want to omit the salt in this recipe due to the fact that the sausage and cheese are slightly salty. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you don’t like reheated eggs it may be best to make only a half batch.