Slow Cooker Apple & Almond Oatmeal

While I am excited about this warmer weather, I am a little sad about saying goodbye to winter vegetables and fruits. This is the first year that I have really started enjoying brussels sprouts (particularly, roasted), but I have also enjoyed experimenting with apples and not just in baking. I first made this oatmeal the night before what was going to be a snowstorm. I threw all these ingredients in the slow cooker just before going to sleep, and when I woke up in the morning, the house smelled just like an apple pie! With the winter wonderland that was outside, and the great smell inside, this was the perfect start to a snowy, cozy weekend. But besides a lazy weekend, this is also a great everyday breakfast because it hardly takes any active preparation time, and is very high in protein and filling. If you want less sugar, you can do so by taking out the brown sugar, and adding a little bit of honey to your serving at the end. And if you want to make it more decadent, you can add some toasted pecans or glazed pecans to your bowl.

Since these oats cook for a long time, you should only use steel-cut oats, as old-fashioned or rolled oats will not hold up their texture when cooked for a long time. This recipe results in 4-6 servings, depending on your portion size.

Slow Cooker Apple Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups almond milk (you can substitute regular milk as well)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large apple diced (preferably Granny Smith), and extra for topping (if desired)
  • Glazed or toasted pecans, for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker – oats, almond milk, water, apples, raisins, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir to combine well.
  2. Cook on low for 5-7 hours depending on your cooker.
  3. Serve and allow to cool. If desired, add toppings of your choice.
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Spiced Pecan Pie

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving, Christmas and generally, during this time of the year is having the warm and inviting smell of ingredients such as apple, cinnamon, pumpkin and nutmeg fill your house when you are baking, and pie seems like one of the obvious choices. While my other favorite food smells are that of basil and berries, I’m just never in a mood to get near an oven long enough in the summer for some sort of a berry pie, preferring to have them in their original light and refreshing form.

My original plan this Thanksgiving was to bake a pumpkin pie and an apple dessert – but given that two people specifically requested pecan, I decided to give up my apple plans until later and make a pecan pie instead. I followed Alton Brown’s recipe because the idea of spiced pecans appealed to me – I love cumin and cayenne, and I wondered what they would taste like in a dessert. Answer – a great combination along with dark brown sugar. The other reason I liked this recipe was because it used golden syrup, made of natural cane sugar, which tastes so much better than the corn syrup that most pecan pies have, which gives them that sickeningly sweet flavor (I’ve been in this country for 4 years now, and I still detest corn syrup as much as I did when I first came here). Finally, there’s just a splash of bourbon in this recipe, which you can increase either by adding more in the filling or in the pie crust in place of icy cold water.

I did however, use a different pie crust recipe, but for those who are interested, click on the link below as Alton Brown also offers a recipe for the pie crust that itself has ground pecans in it. Maybe something to try next time!

Spiced Pecan Pie

Source – Modified from Alton Brown on Food Network

Ingredients

Spiced Pecans (enough for 2 fillings):

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 6 ounces golden syrup (such as Lyle’s)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces Spiced Pecans, recipe bellow, coarsely chop 6 ounces and leave the remaining 2 ounces whole

Directions

For making spiced pecans:

  1. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix the salt, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and orange peel together in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Place the nuts in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes until they just start to brown and smell toasted. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Add the spice mixture and stir to combine. Once combined, add both sugars and water, stirring until the mixture thickens and coats the nuts, 2 to 3 minutes.

    Combining the spice mixture with the sugar and butter

    Combining the spice mixture with the sugar and butter

  4. Transfer the nuts to the prepared sheet pan and separate them with a fork or spatula. Allow the nuts to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container for storage. Can be stored for up to 3 weeks.

    Separate the spiced pecans and allow them to cool down before storing them

    Separate the spiced pecans and allow them to cool down before storing them

For making the pie:

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, golden syrup, butter, bourbon, vanilla and salt together until combined. Set aside.
  3. Evenly sprinkle the 6 ounces of chopped pecans in the crust and pour the filling on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Place the remaining 2 ounces of whole pecans in a border on the edge of the filling. Bake 10 minutes, until the center of the pie should reach 200 degrees F, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack to room temperature before serving, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

pecan pie 4

Pumpkin-Raisin Bread

The semester’s finally over and I could not be more relieved! After a  brutal few months, I’m really looking forward to some relaxing, guilt-free baking sessions. I was still missing pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving, so I tried to recreate something with pumpkins that was a lot healthier.

Try making this pumpkin-raisin bread – with only half a cup of sugar, this bread substitutes oil with a healthy applesauce, making a great morning or afternoon bite. It would probably taste much better with fresh pumpkin puree, so go ahead and use that if you have fresh pumpkin lying around! I also threw in some semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, and other options include chopped walnuts and pecans.

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (you can also use an equal amount of vegetable oil as a substitute)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, applesauce, sugar, and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg; stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended. Add the raisins and chocolate chips and mix well.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the loaf should spring back when lightly pressed.
Pumpkin Bread with Raisins and Chocolate Chips

Pumpkin Bread with Raisins and Chocolate Chips

Apple Cider Muffins

What does the smell of apple and cinnamon baking say? Fall is here! Given that I had a bunch of Jonagold Apples still left (excellent for baking, just like Golden Delicious), as well as some apple cider, I decided to combine the two to make some great fall muffins. Within 2 minutes of putting these in the heaven, the house smelled liked heaven. Plus, they don’t use a lot of sugar, so they’re not that sweet, making them great morning muffins. The only thing I regret is not putting some streusel topping, but let’s face it – these muffins are small explosion of flavors even without it!

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Apple Muffins. Gives 18 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup  unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (I used vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup apple cider
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (to fill 1.5-2 cups). I used Jonagold apples, which are a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious – the latter is particularly great for baking.

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups or line with paper cups and set aside.
  • Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Mix in the yogurt, milk and apple cider.
  • Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks

  • Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for around 15-20 minutes,  or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.