Thursday, January 4, 2007

Letting the fruit shine through

One of my favorite easy things to serve is breakfast for dinner. A good bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with fruit and nut topping and an egg side dish is always alright by me. Easy, filling, and delicious . . . and healthy, if I pay attention.

My usual mode of operation for making oatmeal is to include a good bit of butter (maybe 1-2 T per serving) and sugar (somewhere between 1/8 c. and 1/4 c. per serving). Fat and sugar in amounts like that sneak into my diet when I relax too much into the "I know what I'm doing--I don't need to measure" mindset and start adding the pounds on . . . which is what I've spent the last nine months doing. Tonight, I thought through each step as I performed it: how can this be healthier and still be tasty? I usually make a cinnamon/brown-sugary oatmeal with apples, but tonight I just used a pear we had in the kitchen. Here's the oatmeal I served:

Ginger-Pear Oatmeal with Toasted Walnuts for two

1 3/4 c. organic skim milk (yes, you can use water, but oatmeal is sooo much better with milk)
3/4 c. organic steel-cut oats (Irish oatmeal would be great but takes longer than I could stand this evening)
1 pinch of salt

1/2 c. (preferably organic) walnut pieces
1 organic red Bartlett pear
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger (or more to taste if you really love ginger)
1/4 c. water or organic fruit juice
2 T fair-trade, organic brown sugar
2 tsp. organic butter
1 grind of salt for each serving

Toast the walnuts in a dry non-stick (or seasoned cast-iron) pan for 3-4 minutes on med. heat. (That's how long it takes me, anyway--I toast them from frozen.)

While the nuts are toasting, chop your pear.

Remove the nuts, and set them aside.

Put the milk on to boil in a small (preferably non-stick) saucepan.

Put 1 tsp. of canola oil in the pan the nuts were in. Add the pear pieces and stir to coat. Sprinkle the seasonings onto the pear pieces, and stir them in. Let them saute for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the milk in the saucepan boils, add the oatmeal. Turn the heat down to medium. Stir it regularly.

Add the water/fruit juice and the brown sugar to the fruit mixture. Let the sauce cook down until it's more syrupy.

Toss the nuts into the fruit mixture.

Put a teaspoon of butter in each bowl. Spoon the oatmeal over the butter and the fruit mixture over the oatmeal.

I had already made what I call egg cups and frozen them. I also reheated one for each of us to go with our oatmeal.

Egg Cups

(This makes a dozen and resemble muffins made of eggs. They freeze well and are easily reheated in the microwave.)

cooking spray

4 stalks of organic green onions (use white and green parts)

3/4 c. of reduced-fat, extra sharp organic cheddar

1 pckg. vegetarian sausage links

1 c. other organic veggies, as desired (cooked broccoli, fresh spinach, zucchini, etc.)

1 tsp. Lowery's seasoning salt

1 tsp. paprika

any other spices you want to add (basil, maybe?)

1 dozen cage-free, vegetarian-fed eggs

1/4 c. whole-wheat flour

Heat your oven to 375 degrees F and thoroughly spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Grate your cheese.

Thinly slice your onions.

Thaw your vegetarian sausages in the microwave.

In a large bowl, combine the seasoning salt, paprika, eggs, and any other herbs. Whisk until well beaten.

Mix in veggies, sausage, and cheese.

Stir in flour.

Pour in muffin tins until the tins are full. (You may have to ladle some out to make sure you get a good mix of eggs, veggie sausage, and veggies in each muffin.)

Bake about 16 minutes–until eggs puff up like muffins and are solid. (Like popovers, they may fall a bit after you take them out of the oven.)

When they are done, after they sit for a minute, you should be able to easily remove them from your muffin pan.

Sprinkle pepper and additional paprika on them. Yum.

(These reheat from frozen beautifully in the microwave–2 minutes on high. Actually taste better than they did straight out of the oven!)

Verdict on dinner: my palate has to adjust to less sugar and butter, but it all really tasted great. We both gobbled our meals up quite happily.

When I make the oatmeal again, I will try adding a little more of the different spices to help compensate for the decrease in sugar and butter. However, the meal was great for allowing the flavor of the fruit to shine through more clearly. Appreciating the subtle sweetness of fruit is, I have previously noticed, one of the joys of a lower-sugar diet.

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