Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

January’s in full swing now! I’m loving the quietness now that the bustle of the holidays are over. The temperatures outside dropped drastically, and we’ve been snuggled up indoors with pajamas and blankets, good books, hot coffee and one of my favorite winter breakfasts – steel cut oats.

I started making overnight crockpot steel cut oats in my some years back because I loved waking up to a hot and hearty breakfast on cold winter mornings. But I had to experiment a lot to get them to the point where I was either scrubbing the crockpot for a good half hour in the mornings or waking up every half hour or so to see that the oats hadn’t gotten too hard on top; double-checking them over and over.

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

Little by little, though, I changed a little bit here and there until I got a method set up for perfect overnight crockpot steel cut oats – where you can sleep in an extra few hours if you want to, and where cleanup is a breeze. And perfectly made steel cut oats awaits you for breakfast every morning.

The first change I made was to stop putting the steel cut oats directly in the crockpot. Even when I’d spray the sides of the pot with cooking spray, I would still be stuck with a baked-on mess pretty regularly. Instead, I started using a long and narrow bowl that I would spray with non-stick spray, and put the steel cut oats and water in there then. After that, I put the bowl in the crockpot and then add enough water to the crockpot so that it comes to about level with the oats and water inside the bowl. This saves a huge mess and actually doubles by cleaning the crockpot while still cooking breakfast.
The second major issue that I changed was the way it cooked overnight. Sure, if I knew I was waking up in 5 or 6 hours, I could set it on low without too much trouble; but after 8 or 9 hours, even on low, there was a good chance that the top of the oats would be hard as a rock.

  Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

So after a few changes, I found the best, and most flexible way to cook crockpot steel cut oats. Here it is:

 

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats
perfectly cooked overnight steel cut oats
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Ingredients
  1. cooking spray
  2. a narrow bowl that will fit inside the crockpot when the lid is closed
  3. 1 part steel cut oats (e.g 1/4 cup)
  4. 4 parts water or other liquid (e.g. 1 cup)
  5. seasonings, such as salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, etc
Instructions
  1. Take a narrow bowl that will fit in your crockpot with the lid closed.
  2. Spray or grease it lightly.
  3. Place steel cut oats in with a 1:4 ration of liquid
  4. Add salt, if desired, or any other seasoning (brown sugar, cinnamon, dried apples, raisins, etc)
  5. Place the bowl in the crockpot and fill the crockpot with enough water that it is level (or close enough to level) with the level of the water in the bowl.
  6. Cover and let cook on high for 1 hour.
  7. Turn the crockpot to the “warm” setting, and go to sleep.
  8. In the morning, the steel cut oats should be perfectly cooked.
  9. Add any extras as desired (I usually top my oats with sesame seeds or slivered almonds) and enjoy your healthy, minimum-effort breakfast!
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All that’s left to do is enjoy!  Have you had success with steel cut oats in the crockpot?  I’d love to hear about your methods as well!

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

 

~Mellie ★

How to Eat Raw Kale

How to eat raw kale

Since it’s the start of a new year, something that’s on my list of resolutions (and probably a few more out there as well) is to start eating healthier. One of the healthiest foods out there is kale. The problem with kale, especially if you’re not too familiar with it, is the question of what to do with it. Obviously it can be cooked in any way, but raw kale is a different story.

When I first starting buying kale, I expected to throw it into my salads like any other green. I’d seen and tried the “baby kale greens” at the grocery store which are tender and young, and naturally just figured that mature kale would be just as easy to work with. But if you’ve tried kale greens, you’ll know that if you eat one raw, you need to chew… and chew… and chew…

  How to eat raw kale

I wanted to find a way to get the texture and nutrition from kale without always having to cook with though. I tried adding lightly steamed and cooled kale at times, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t until one day, by accident; I came across the best way to eat kale! It takes very little prep work, and the kale lasts for well over a week. And it’s so easy!

Here’s how to eat raw kale:

Buy a head of kale. Bring it home, wash it, remove the stems and let it dry somewhat (it doesn’t need to be completely dried). Tear the head up into pieces (large, small – whatever you like) and put the kale into a bowl.

Grab a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and drizzle a little bit over the kale, depending on how much kale you have. It doesn’t need to be saturated, so start light! With clean hands, mix the olive oil into the kale, coating all the leaves lightly. Again, you don’t have to be precise about it, just a basic mixing will do.

Take the bowl of kale, cover it, and put it in the refrigerator for several hours. I usually let it sit for a good day, sometimes two. When you unwrap the kale, it will be crispy and chewable – perfect for salads or eating raw.

  How to eat raw kale

One of the best things about this technique is that it livens up wilted kale pieces, too. And I’ve noticed that for me, at least, the kale lasts for up to two weeks without any noticeable change in texture.

I’ve been eating kale like crazy since I started doing this, and even my kids have been enjoying it. It will definitely be a part of our menu this new year!

~Mellie ★

Hot Apple Cake Recipe with Streusel Topping

  Hot Apple Cake Recipe

Finally, the pile of apples we gathered the other day when we went apple picking is starting to look more reasonable! After a busy week of apple crisp, apple bread, apple butter, and apple pancakes, we’ve made an excellent dent in the bushels we had. I had fun trying out new recipes and old, and even had enough leftover to experiment with my own baking. To answer the pleas of my children for an apple cake, I decided that would be the one that I would try out: an apple cake recipe.

Making recipes, for me, is always a hit or miss. I do love to experiment, and I’m not very good at following recipes without tweaking a few things here and there.  Sometimes this has better results than other times.  I can recall days where I’ve slaved away in the kitchen for a couple of hours, noting ingredients and cook times and carefully recording them, only to end up with a final result that is bland or sub-par. It can be disappointing, but it’s part of the process.

I have two of the keenest judges there are to help me decide how this recipe turned out. My children can be picky eaters, and have no problem telling me when something is pretty bad. So as they waited with anticipation as the stove wafted out the scent of cooking apples, I crossed my fingers that they would like it. 

Hot Apple Cake Recipe

Not only was this a success, it was a smashing success. My youngest, who doesn’t like to eat much of anything besides junk, cried out to his brother “it’s SO good!” That’s the highest compliment of all, I must say.

The cake is based off a recipe that was in my grandmother’s collection, but I changed quite a few things on it, including adding the streusel topping. I love how it ends up layered: the apple layer on the bottom, followed by the cake, and topped with the streusel. Kind of like a mixture between apple cake and apple crisp. Whatever the case, it ended up a wonderful dish for us, and I hope you’ll like it too.  It’s a perfect fall dish, and even better when topped with cream or a whipped topping.  So here you are, my Hot Apple Cake recipe (below).  Enjoy!

~Mellie ★

Hot Apple Cake Recipe

 

Hot Apple Cake Recipe with Pecan Streusel Topping
Serves 9
Whether you're working your way through a fall apple harvest or looking for a warm winter dessert, this Hot Apple Cake with Pecan Streusel Topping is the perfect touch of apple goodness.
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For the Apple Layer
  1. - 3 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples
  2. - 1/2 cup brown sugar
  3. - 2 Tablespoons flour
  4. - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Cake Layer
  1. - 1 cup flour
  2. - 2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. - 1/4 cup brown sugar
  4. - 1/2 cup white sugar
  5. - pinch salt
  6. - 1 can evaporated milk (or 1 cup regular milk)
  7. - 2 Tablespoons softened butter
For the Pecan Streusel Topping
  1. - 1/2 cup flour
  2. - 1/2 cup brown sugar
  3. - 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  4. - 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  5. - pinch salt
  6. - pinch cinnamon
  7. - 1/4 cup softened butter
Instructions
  1. To make the apple layer, combine the 1/2 cup brown sugar, the 2 T flour and the 1 t cinnamon. Pour over apples and stir to coat. Pour into a greased 8" or 9" square baking dish.
  2. For the cake layer, combine flour, baking powder, sugars, and salt. Add evaporated milk and butter and stir until combined. Spread evenly over the apple layer in the baking dish and smooth out the top.
  3. For the streusel topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, pecans, salt, and cinnamon. Add softened butter and mix until the butter is evenly distributed (it helps to use your hands to knead it in). Spread over the top of the cake layer and press into the batter slightly.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve with cream or whipped topping.
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Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

It’s officially fall, and therefore, time to start making all the hearty soups and stews that warm the soul.  I’m a little late in jumping on the sriracha bandwagon.  I bought a bottle on the insistence of a friend several months ago who assured me that I would absolutely love it.  Now to explain my hesitance, when I was growing up, even mild salsa would break me out into a sweat.  I don’t know if it’s just getting older, or if my chips and salsa addiction gradually led me to spicier and spicier preferences, but nowadays I find myself wanting a little zip in everything I eat.  So when I finally got around to trying out sriracha sauce on some of my meals, I was in love.  It’s got the perfect balance of heat without the “on fire” feeling that so many other hot chilies can leave me with. 

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

I’ve been adding a bit of sriracha here and there to different tastes and textures, trying to find out what it blends well with.  This stew was one of the first ones I made once the cooler weather started hitting here (yes, it’s already been in the 30s at night!).  It turned out to be so delicious, even my kids ate it – and liked it!  That’s saying a lot, since they’re at that picky phase where they won’t touch anything besides pizza and PBJs.  I didn’t add quite as much sriracha knowing they would be eating it, but if your taste likes, add a little extra for some zing.  And if you’re worried about it being too spicy, start with the lower amount and then add more once it’s been cooked  – it will taste just as good, I promise!

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

This recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew is vegetarian and can be made vegan if you omit the cheese and mayo at the end.  It is also gluten-free.  This is is another crockpot recipe, as well.  If I haven’t mentioned it before (which I’m sure I have), I love having my crockpot going most days.  The kids love how wonderful our home always smells and I like the ease of not having to stand over a stove.  Because there’s no meat in this, you have a bit more flexibility on the cooking time too.  If you cook it for 6 hours, the taste and texture won’t be much different than if you cooked it 10 hours. 

I used Chana dal, a split pulse in this recipe.  You can find this in the grocery store among Indian food or among the dried beans.  They add a nutty flavor and a great texture to the dish.  If your supermarket has a Bob’s Red Mill section like mine does, you may be able to find it there (or here, if you look on Amazon).  If you absolutely cannot find any, you can substitute with another dal, yellow split peas or pigeon peas.

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

Purists take heart, I mixed all sorts of cuisines for this stew.  But I promise, it turns out wonderful.  The toppings at the end are optional.  Without the mayo and cheese, this would count as a dairy-free dish.  But I must say that they add an extra touch to the recipe.  I am a mayo lover (especially when combined with sriracha!) but you can also use a Greek yogurt or sour cream. 

Finally, I always encourage creativity with my recipes!  Please don’t feel like you have to follow it exactly – as I always say, baking is chemistry, but cooking is an art.  If you want less onion or more garlic, go ahead!  If you want to add peppers or omit the carrots, or add a ton more sriracha, or use BBQ sauce instead or whatever, go right ahead!  Experimenting in the kitchen is great fun and only makes you a better cook in the long run.

Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew

And finally, if you find yourself consistently making more than you or your family can eat before the food starts to go bad, remember that crockpot meals like this freeze very well.  I usually put mine into 1-1/2 cup portions in freezer bags (once they’ve reached room temperature), label them, and store them in the back of the freezer for up to 6 months for an instant, healthy TV-dinner on days when I’m feeling too lazy or busy to cook!

Now, without any more of my blabbering on, here’s my recipe for Sriracha Lentil Stew.  Enjoy!

~Mellie ★

 

Sriracha Lentil Stew
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  3. 3 minced garlic cloves
  4. 1 c diced carrots
  5. 1/2 c chopped celery
  6. 1 c dal, rinsed and drained
  7. 2 c red lentils, rinsed and drained
  8. 1 can (14 oz) stewed tomatoes, undrained
  9. 1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies, drained
  10. 1 can (4 oz) chopped mushrooms, drained
  11. 1 1/2 c marinara sauce or pasta sauce
  12. 1 c vegetable broth or water
  13. 1 t cumin
  14. salt and pepper
  15. 1/4 - 1/3 cup Sriracha sauce (depending on how spicy you like it)
Optional Toppings
  1. shredded cheddar cheese
  2. dallop of mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Saute onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil with salt and pepper. If you're in a hurry, you can do this on a stovetop and then place into the slow cooker. If you're not in a hurry, just add the olive oil to the crockpot with the vegetables and heat over low heat for a half hour or so, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add remaining ingredients through the Sriracha sauce. Cover and let cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  3. Top with shredded cheese and mayonnaise if desired.
Nutritional Analysis
  1. (without cheese or mayonnaise and with homemade, rather than store-bought vegetable broth)
Per Serving
  1. Calories - 168
  2. Fat - 5.1g
  3. Cholesterol - 0mg
  4. Sodium - 387.3mg
  5. Potassium - 250.3mg
  6. Carbohydrates - 24.3g
  7. Protein - 6.7g
  8. Vitamin A - 38.4%
  9. Vitamin C - 18.6%
  10. Iron 15%
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Recipe: Sriracha Lentil Stew