Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Cold Morning

January is National Oatmeal Month, which is nice for a few reasons:

Oatmeal is hot, and January is cold.  Fact.

Oatmeal is cheap, and December is expensive.  I bought a 5 lb bag of organic steel cut oats from Outpost for $4.95.  I'm going to round that up to $5 for the sake of math.  A cup of oatmeal weighs 6.5 oz.  I'm going to round that up to 8 oz for the sake of math, and for the sake of "A Pint's a pound the world around!"  A cup of oatmeal makes enough to feed Jeff and me for 4 days.  So that means... crap... word problem...

Not kidding. I don't do
mental math...
(...just a few minutes and one scribbled notepad later...)

40 days.  Two people, 40 days of oatmeal, $5.  Which is 6 cents per person per serving.  I think.  Someone should probably check that, though.

Eating oatmeal is good for you.  It may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, it may reduce the risk of diabetes, and the soluble fiber helps you feel full longer, which can help you lose weight.  (All from a "reliable" source, of course!)  January, for many people, is about setting resolutions to be healthy.

So I'm ready to celebrate National Oatmeal Month.  Which I'm sure my mom is very secretly (or possibly not secretly - she's fairly good at gloating) pleased about.  You see, I've spent about the past 31 years actively fighting eating oatmeal that didn't come in a single serve package with a terrifying white powder.  (The second ingredient in that stuff is sugar...)  And here's why:

Oatmeal is hot and January is cold.  Fact.  But bacon is hot too.

Oatmeal is cheap, which is generally food code for "nasty."

Oatmeal is good for you, which is also generally food code for "nasty.

But I made a discovery about oatmeal, which I believe I've discussed previously, in that I like steel cut oats, slow cooked overnight in the crock pot.  This is a great speed meal, because it takes just a few minutes to assemble the ingredients before bed, and then it's ready when you wake up in the morning.  It's also a good budget meal, because (see above on oatmeal math) you can just throw in whatever fruit you have around in the house.  Especially if it's a little bit past it's eating point.

This week, Applesauce Oatmeal

Before bed.
  • 1 cup steel cut oats (they have to be steel cut for this to work.  Rolled oats will not be okay!)
  • 3 apples, diced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg 
  • 1 pinch orange zest (dried or fresh)
  • drizzle molasses 
  •  1 pint applesauce
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Stir to combine.  Cook on low for 9 hours.

So the applesauce here was actually a last minute addition.  I had it going for about an hour, and as I was going to bed I walked past my pantry where last year's canning jars are still sitting and remembered that I still had a jar of applesauce.  Why not throw that it, I thought?

You probably could do without all the additional spices, if you were using a well spiced applesauce.  Or you could leave the recipe just the way it is, because it was pretty fantastic!  It was a little bit loser than my oatmeal usually comes out, because of the extra liquid of the applesauce, which I didn't mind at all.  I also liked that it was extra apple-y throughout, not just in the bites that had chunks of apples.  You might not think it, but the apples do actually keep their shape and a little bit of crunch, even after being cooked for nine hours.  I believe that the apples I had were good baking apples, which I'm sure made a difference.

In the morning.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year

So my New Year's Resolution is to remove Genetically Modified foods from my household pantry.  So far, I am off to a TERRIBLE start.  I started off 2013 with some sort of stomach bug, and all I could handle were GMO filled Saltine Crackers and GMO packed Popsicles.  But that's the good thing about New Years Resolutions, right?  You've got a full year to work on them!

(Other resolutions include waking up earlier, and fitting into a dress I found in the attic that I'm pretty sure was my grandma's - although that second one is going to be achieved by altering the dress, not altering me!)

I also recently heard a few rounds on Facebook of "eating healthily/locally/organically/sustainably/etc (not saying those are all the same thing) is just too hard/too expensive/takes too much time.  I am reinvigorated about proving that to be false! 

So, tonight's dinner, while not fancy, will fit those needs.

I do need to say that this is not Rachel's 30 minute meals (but to be fair, those aren't really 30 minute meals either!)  To me, "fast" doesn't necessarily refer to the cooking time - just to the prep time.  This one took me 16 minutes to peel and cut the vegetables, and in the 60 minutes it took to cook after that, I did a load of laundry, straightened the house and (how bout that!) typed the first half of this blog post.  You could even chop all the vegetables in the morning (if you're the kind of person who has that kind of time in the morning) so all you had to do was put them in the oven once you got home.

If you are afraid of beets, please don't be.  This was sweet and earthy, and would be a great dinner even if you weren't a little bit afraid of solid food.  Carrots and beets are still available at the farmer's market, and are generally pretty cheap.  I served this with a salad of winter greens and some leftover rice and vegetables from New Years Eve.

Roasted Beet, Carrot, and Ginger Soup
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and diced into about 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lb beets, peeled and diced into about 1 inch pieces
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 or more cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 inch ginger root, cut into thin slices
  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • sour cream
Toss first eight ingredients, and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, until golden and caramelized.

Transfer the caramelized vegetables to a soup pan and pour in the stock or water, Worcestershire, and allspice .  Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then puree using an immersion blender or by transferring in small batches to a blender or food processor.  Taste, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Now, normally when reading this recipe, I would think "what poor sap is using water instead of stock?"  But today, I was that poor sap.  I messed up my last batch of chicken stock and don't have any currently (by messed up, I mean left on the stove waiting for it to cool enough to go into the fridge - overnight.  Gross.)  It still had a lot of flavor, but I do feel that it missed something in the mouth-feel department without the silkiness of chicken stock.  Do wait until after you have pureed the vegetables to adjust the seasoning, because adding the vegetables in adds so much flavor.

I thought this was perfect with just a dollop of sour cream, but Jeff felt in needed a little meat and added three leftover shrimp from New Years Eve.  If you were in a meat mood, I think that you could really use anything in this.  Some spicy shrimp or crab, or a little bit of peppered steak.  When you're working with a budget, it's not about cutting out the expensive ingredients, it's about using them sparingly and in the right places.