Oatmeal; It’s What’s for Breakfast

Soaked oatmeal that is.  Soaked?  What’s that?  I’m so glad you asked. 🙂  Soaking grains, beans, and nuts helps them to be more digestible and allows our bodies to absorb more of the nutrition in them.  I’m going to be posting about that in detail in a few days.  In the meantime, I want to share with you one of my new favorite things for breakfast. 

Soaked Oatmeal

1 cup organic rolled oats

1 cup filtered water

1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar, buttermilk, lemon juice, yogurt, or kefir

1 cup milk

2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and leave on the counter overnight.  It needs to soak for 8 to 24 hours.

You want to make sure that the oats are just covered by the water

  

Oats soaking under my cute little tea towel

When you are ready to make the oatmeal, put 1 cup of milk in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.  While the milk is heating I usually drain and rinse the oats to help remove the sour taste.  If I’m using raisins, I add them to the milk as it’s heating to soften them up. 

Can you see the raisin trying to hide?

When the milk comes to a boil, add the oats, 2 tsp of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. 

Combine all the ingredients

Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally,  until it’s the consistency you like. 

Perfect, creamy consistency

It doesn’t take very long to cook at all.  Add some butter and the sweetener of your choice and serve.

Since I am the only one who eats it here, I actually just use 1/4 cup of oats and reduce the other ingredients accordingly.  I’ve made it plain and with raisins and cinnamon.  I think next time I may chop up part of an apple and some pecans and add that in with the cinnamon.  Just as a side note, if you are using nuts or seeds, you should add them to the oats and soak them as well.

Breakfast is served!

Why don’t you give it a try?  What do you like to put in your oatmeal?

Ode to Pizza Crust

At my house, we love pizza.  I mean, we LOVE pizza.  And the best pizza is always homemade.  That way you have the perfect thickness of crust, the exact amount of sauce, and the perfect combination of toppings.  I even have individual deep dish pans and three different sizes of pizza pans.  Did I mention that we LOVE pizza?

A size for any appetite!

Over the years I have tried a LOT of different pizza crust recipes.  The sourdough crust is good, but I have found the hands down, go-to pizza crust.  And it’s not even a crust recipe.  It’s a bread recipe.  Shocking.  I know, right?  Who uses a bread recipe for pizza crust?  Well, uuhhmm, I do…and it makes the most amazing pizza crust you’ve ever eaten.  It’s a recipe that I got a few years ago from my sister.  In the beginning, I made bread with it (like I was supposed to), and then I got a little crazy and I made some bread sticks to go with spaghetti one night.  Then I had the brilliant idea (yes I did say brilliant, because that’s what it was; brilliant) to make pizza crust out of it.  It was love at first bite.  I’ve never looked at another pizza crust the same way again.  I have gone so far as to make the pizza crust in the mini pans and freeze it so that we can have pizza whenever we want without having to wait for the dough to rise.  I have even, at times, used half the dough for a free form loaf of bread and the other half for pizza crust.  All at the same time.  What can I say, I live on the edge.

So in an effort to spread the love, I am about to share with you the Best. Pizza. Crust.  Ever.  (It’s really good for bread too.  :))

Italian Herb and Cheese Bread Recipe (AKA The Best. Pizza. Crust. Ever.)

1 Tbsp yeast

2 c. warm water

2 Tbsp dehydrated sugar cane juice, Sucanat, or Rapadura

1/4 c. olive oil

1 Tbsp sea salt

2 Tbsp dried basil

2 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 c. romano cheese, grated

5-7 c. flour of your choice

Put water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve.  Add all the other ingredients except flour and combine thoroughly.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix well.  Continue adding flour a cup at a time until dough becomes shaggy and leaves the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

Clean out mixing bowl and oil with olive oil.  Place dough in bowl and turn to grease top.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel.  Let dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.  After dough has risen, punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured board.

For Crust:

Cut off a portion of the dough and roll it to fit your pizza pan.  You can also make a freeform crust and bake it on a cookie sheet.  How much dough you need will depend entirely on how big your pans are and how thick you like your crust.  Heat your oven to 450 F.  If you are using a pizza stone, put it in the oven before heating and let preheat for at least 20 minutes.  While your oven heats, get out your pizza ingredients (or not if you are going to be freezing them :)).

When your oven is heated up, re-roll or re-press the dough to fit the pans.  It tends to shrink a little.  Use a fork to prick holes all over so that the dough doesn’t puff up.  Place in oven.  The crusts need to bake for about 15 minutes.  I like to take them out after 7ish minutes and remove them from the pans and put them back in directly on the pizza stone.  That makes the bottom crust crisper.  After 15 minutes remove them from the oven and top with your favorite fixins.  Return to oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has browned to your liking.  Sit back, relax, and receive the praises from your family for making them The. Best. Pizza. Ever!

Uuuuummmm, can you smell it?

And if you want to actually make bread with it, here’s what you do:

After the first rise, divide dough in half and form into two loaves.  This works equally will with loaf pans, round free form loaves, or french style loaves.  I have made four thinner baguette style loaves for brushetta or toasted rounds.  Let the loaves rise 1/2 hour or until doubled again.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tbsp water beaten together) and sprinkle with a little romano cheese.  This isn’t necessary, but it gives the loaves a pretty color.  Slash the loaves.  If using loaf pans, bake at 350 F for 35 minutes.  If free form or french style loaves, bake at 450 F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.  For an artisan crispy crust, throw a cup of hot water into a heated pan in the bottom of the oven when you put the bread in.  This bread is good anyway you want to eat it:  still warm from the oven, toasted, cold.  I’ve even made croutons out of it for salads.

So go whip up a batch and let me know your favorite way to eat it!

I shared this at Fight Back Fridays and

My Big Fat Greek Baklava

 

a little bit of heaven

Well, OK, not really fat.  But Big.  And Greek.  And Baklava.

This stuff is amazing.  Really.  It’s quite time intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Which I don’t.  But worth it.  And I just happened to be home all alone so I decided to go play in the kitchen.  I love being home all alone.  I can crank up my music as loud as I want and don’t have to see anyone stomp into the kitchen, roll their eyes at me and say, “Mo-ther!  Turn your music down!  You’re not the only one who lives here ya know!”  Not that that has anything to do with Greece.  Or Baklava.  It just makes me giggle.

But back to the Baklava.  I looked at many different recipes and combined several to make this.  It uses several different spices, but no worries if you don’t have them all.  Some of the recipes I looked at only called for cinnamon.  So just use what you have on hand.

Baklava Recipe

1 pound of nuts (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans because that’s what I happened to have in my kitchen.  You can use any kind as long as they are raw and unsalted.)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp ground cardoman

1/2 tsp allspice

1 16oz package phyllo dough

1 cup melted butter

Syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

peel from 1 orange, washed, cut in strips, and pith removed

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Chop the nuts very fine.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

Chopped nuts are so fine! Or is that finely chopped nuts?

After the nuts are fine, mix the ground spices into them.

Don't the spices look pretty?

Ok, now comes the tricky bit.  Unroll the phyllo and place it on a cookie sheet (or your counter top if it’s clean enough).  Mine measured 9×14 so I had to cut an inch off of one end so it would fit my baking dish.  Now, cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth.  Some people say to just cover it with the damp cloth, but mine made the phyllo kinda soggy and it stuck together.  So now I cover it with the plastic wrap first.  Place 4 to 6 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of your baking dish.  Brush generously with butter.

Phyllo brushed with butter

 Sprinkle 5 to 6 tablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo.  You can put more than that if you want, just keep in mind that too much at a time will make the Baklava not stick together as well.

 

First layer of nuts

Now, add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter.

Second layer of phyllo

Continue to layer the nuts and phyllo sheets, brushing the sheets with butter as you go, until you have used all of the nut mixture.  For the top layer of phyllo, use 6 to 8 sheets, buttering each one.

Last layer of phyllo

Now, using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava all the way through, into 4 long rows.  Then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.

Cut and ready for the oven!

Confession time.  I didn’t cut mine in small enough pieces before I baked it.  So, after it cooled, I cut the pieces smaller.

Bake the Baklava for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown.

Golden loveliness!

While the oven is doing its thing, it’s time to make the syrup to pour over the golden loveliness.

To make the syrup, combine the brown sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Brown sugar and water

After that comes to a boil, add the honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel.  Again, if you don’t have add of these things, it’s ok.  Just use what you have.

All the good stuff added to the pan

Let that come back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Simmer, simmer...

After the simmering, the syrup will be reduced and nicely thick.  Remove and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The orange peel is now “candied” orange peel and can be used in other recipes.  Or, you can discard that as well if you want.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and mix well.  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  After removing the Baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over the top.

Ta da!

Let the Baklava cool completely before serving.  I like to put it in cupcake papers to serve it.  That makes it easier to handle and looks pretty.

Isn't it pretty?

Here’s a close up.

See all the layers?

This is wonderful served as a dessert, or for a mid afternoon snack.  Or you can take it to a party and really impress your friends!  For best results, store your Baklava uncovered.  That way it stays crispy.

Enjoy!