Hello again! My name is Christina (I post under the name Christine). As winner of the comment contest, I am thrilled to be back as Oatmeal Enthusiast. I was also Oatmeal Enthusiast for May 2015. That was not long ago, but my oatmeal style has evolved since then. The recipes that I featured in May were all quick oats made in the microwave. I have since ‘branched out’ to old fashioned (rolled) oats, overnight oatmeal, baked oatmeal, and other breakfast foods made with oats. I’ve been experimenting a lot over the past several months. One reason: I joined Pinterest in July. It serves as an unlimited source of inspiration. Another reason: the comment contest. I like feeling goal-oriented. I knew that every time I tried a new recipe, it would give me something substantive to comment on. In the end, I posted about 200 comments.
Being named Oatmeal Enthusiast for December excited me because it’s the best month for food. You can still get away with fall flavors (pumpkin, apple, pear, etc.), plus there are holiday flavors to choose from – gingerbread, peppermint, egg nog, hot chocolate. My inclination was to do all seasonal recipes based on Christmas cookies and Starbucks drinks. But when I was officially announced as Oatmeal Enthusiast, Thanksgiving was over a week away and I wasn’t quite in the mood for Christmas yet. Instead of doing all seasonal recipes, I decided to channel the holiday spirit of giving back. As much as I love the Oatmeal Artist’s recipes, I wanted to introduce readers to favorite recipes from other sources. I also wanted to share cooking tips and tricks.
First, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of carob recipes on the Oatmeal Artist blog. Carob seems like a natural fit for a blog focused on heathy eating. After leaving a comment to that effect, the Oatmeal Artist replied that she does not like carob. I wanted to fill the void with a post on carob for those who do like it or are interested in trying it.
There was a food co-op on campus where I went to college. That was before stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods became mainstream. One day, I picked up a bag of carob peanuts. At the time, I’d never heard of carob. The clerk at the food co-op explained that it’s a chocolate alternative that does not have caffeine. I bought the bag of carob peanuts and a box of carob-chip granola bars out of curiosity. The carob tasted smooth and sweet. I told myself it tasted like mild chocolate.
Unfortunately, there’s not a food co-op or even a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods convenient to where I live. In the intervening years, I’d sometimes linger in the natural foods section of the grocery store, hoping to find carob-flavored something. I never did. This fall, I decided to get some carob. I found a website that sold it, and was going to place an order except for one night when I happened to stop by a Whole Foods. Carob! I bought a canister of carob powder and a bag of carob chips.
I purposely let myself run out of cocoa powder so that I could start using the carob. When I opened the canister of powder, it smelled like a shoe. I didn’t remember it smelling like that. I went ahead and used carob powder in lieu of cocoa powder in a recipe. Do not try that. Carob tastes nothing like chocolate. I understood why some people do not like carob.
Meanwhile, I had an entire can of carob powder and an unopened bag of chips to use. I wanted to like carob. A search of Pinterest yielded two overnight recipes and one baked oatmeal using carob.
Here’s the link to the first recipe I tried – Carob Banana Chia Overnight Oats by Oh-She-Glows.
I was skeptical when assembling the recipe: I couldn’t get over the smell of the carob. When I took the lid off the oatmeal the next morning, the carob still smelled funny. The taste was a different story. Carob powder is not as bitter as cocoa powder; I liked how the chopped banana provided bursts of sweetness between bites.
Oh-She-Glows’ recipe calls for more chia seeds and fewer oats than I normally use in overnight oatmeal. It’s more of an overnight oats/chia pudding hybrid. Her recipe inspired me to create an overnight recipe more along the lines of the Oatmeal Artist’s.
Carob Banana Overnight Oatmeal:
½ cup old fashioned (rolled) oats
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon water or milk
1 tablespoon carob powder
1 overripe banana
Carob chips to taste (optional)
Put all ingredients except banana and carob chips in a container with a lid. Contrary to what you see on Pinterest, you do not need a mason jar to make overnight oats. Any container with a tight-fitting lid will work. I used Tupperware, but have made overnight oats in empty peanut butter jars. A 1:1 ratio of liquid to oats generally works best. I learned from the Oatmeal Artist that for every teaspoon of chia seeds you use, you need an additional tablespoon of liquid for the oats to reach their proper consistency. Chia seeds soak up liquid and make the oatmeal fluffy.
As for the banana, you can either mash it all, chop it all into small bits, or mash half chop half. I chose the latter.
Add the banana to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. You do not necessarily need to shake the container. Stirring with a spoon works.
Put the oatmeal in the refrigerator overnight. Top with optional carob chips. Tip: If you heat the oats in the microwave, add the carob chips after you heat the oatmeal to prevent melting.
Wednesday, November 18th: Carob Banana Overnight Oatmeal
I debated whether to heat the oatmeal or eat it cold. Since I liked Oh-She-Glows’ recipe cold, I decided to have mine that way too. Tips: If you heat your overnight oats, make sure you do so in a microwave-safe container. You may need to add a little water before you put them in the microwave.
This recipe tasted great! It was more like oatmeal and less like a chia pudding. Another thing I appreciated was that it was a simple recipe made with few ingredients. As much as I enjoy the fancier (i.e. more tedious) recipes, I don’t have time for them on weekday mornings.
I would recommend this recipe to anyone who has never tried carob or who thinks they do not like carob. Tip: Carob is best enjoyed in its own right. Don’t expect carob to taste the same as chocolate. Carob is a chocolate alternative, not a chocolate substitute.
Thursday, November 19th: Tiramisu Cheesecake Overnight Oatmeal
In the spring, I tried the Oatmeal Artist’s Tiramisu Oatmeal and loved it. I made it over and over. It was even one of the recipes I featured in my May blog. During the summer, I tried the overnight version. I could never find So Delicious plain Greek yogurt in stores, but I made it with Almond Dream and Yoplait Greek vanilla yogurt. When I joined Pinterest, I discovered a recipe for “Tiramisu Cheesecake Overnight Oatmeal.“
It tasted heavenly. My modified version is as follows:
½ cup old fashioned (rolled) oats
1 rounded teaspoon instant coffee granules dissolved in ½ cup hot water
1 single-serving (5.3 or 6-ounce) container of Greek vanilla yogurt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 packet sweetener of choice
Cocoa powder for dusting
Chocolate chips for topping
Combine all ingredients except cocoa powder and chocolate chips in a container. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, dust generously with cocoa powder and top with chocolate chips to taste. Eat cold.
Tip: Never heat oatmeal made with yogurt in the microwave (or on the stove). Yogurt turns sour when heated.
I love this recipe. It’s another one that I’ve made many times. It’s different than the Oatmeal Artist’s Tiramisu oatmeals. I’ve noticed that tiramisu varies widely from place to place. Some tiramisus are very chocolately, but one I had several weeks ago looked like a white cake with chocolate drizzle. Some have a heavy liqueur taste. Others taste more of coffee. The variation makes it hard to compare and say which tiramisu is best.
Friday, November 20th: Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Oatmeal
I pureed a yellow squash last night in anticipation that I would use it for recipes in the coming week. In May, I had never tried squash in my oatmeal, but I started using it this fall. Yellow squash (as opposed to green zucchini) works well in recipes where you don’t want to see or taste the squash. I bought the yellow squash with the Oatmeal Artist’s Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Oatmeal in mind.
I wasn’t going to make this recipe because I did it for my May blog entry. However, I used so many ingredient substitutions in May that the final result was not true to the original version. Aside from the fact that I use the microwave and not the stove, I decided to make a version that was faithful to the original. I added 1/3 cup yellow squash at the same time as the oats and water so that it would soften in the microwave. Another ingredient that I didn’t have in May was molasses. It’s amazing how 1/8 teaspoon molasses can change the flavor of an entire bowl of oatmeal. Tip: If there’s a recipe that calls for molasses – no matter how small the amount – do not omit it or use maple syrup as a substitute. The molasses really makes a difference! Lastly, in May, I used regular butter instead of butter extract. Butter extract is potent: do not use more than 1/8 teaspoon in this recipe.
At long last, I was able to make this oatmeal as directed. The squash made for a larger bowl of oatmeal than I had in May – a bonus, since I tend to be a volume eater. I added plenty of cinnamon and sugar to the top. Don’t go light on the topping: it’s crucial to the Snickerdoodle cookie flavor.
More tips: If you make oatmeal in the microwave, follow the instructions on the package. Use an oversize, microwave-safe bowl. I add the salt (and certain fruits/vegetables) along with the water and oats but wait to add the other ingredients when the oatmeal is almost – but not quite – done. Keep an eye on your oatmeal in the microwave. Old fashioned oats, in particular, bubble over easily. Pause and stir at 15-30 second intervals as necessary.
Saturday, November 21st: Microwave Granola
I prefer to make more tedious recipes on weekends since I can’t make those as easily during the week. Often, that means baked oatmeal. When I went to the Oatmeal Artist blog this morning, the first thing I saw was a post on granola. I like granola, but rarely eat it. Granola has a reputation as a health food but most store-bought kinds are not healthy. They are full of hydrogenated oils, sugar, and salt.
I also bought a book this fall called 250 Best Meals in a Mug: Delicious Homemade Microwave Recipes to Make in Minutes by Camilla Saulsbury. It’s a book of single-serving recipes for all types of food (breakfast dishes, soups, meatless main dishes, appetizers, desserts, etc.) that can be made in the microwave. I like microwave cooking when it works. It’s quicker and uses less energy than the stove or oven.
I decided to try the microwave granola in the Meals in a Mug cookbook. At first I had my doubts: I thought that the granola wouldn’t get crunchy. That turned out not to be the case. The microwave granola had the same texture as store-bought granola. I choose honey for sweetener, and added walnuts, chopped dates, and carob chips.
Tips: If you make granola in the microwave, wait for the granola to cool all the way before eating it. Put it in the refrigerator or freezer for a couple minutes if necessary. Stir well. That helps make the granola crunchy. If you use chocolate or carob chips, make sure the granola cools all the way before adding them. That way, the chips won’t melt.
I ate the granola over a bed of plain yogurt. I would make this recipe again. It’s very versatile. You could get different results depending on what types of sweetener, nuts, or dried fruit you use.
Sunday, November 22nd: Gingerbread Latte Oatmeal
I’ve been craving gingerbread lately. I even bought a bottle of “Gingerbread House” scented shower gel. The Oatmeal Artist has several gingerbread oatmeal recipes, but I have found others online. The gingerbread latte oatmeal recipe appealed to me because of the Starbucks drink. The Oatmeal Artist and the Breakfast Drama Queen both have Gingerbread Latte oatmeals based on a recipe by Vegan Yack Attack. All are similar, but have slight differences.
Ultimately, I followed the Oatmeal Artist’s recipe. Instead of using half a banana, I chose 1 tablespoon of maple syrup for sweetener. I also added 1/3 cup yellow squash for produce and volume. Since I like lots of whipped cream on my Starbucks drinks, I also added 1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt on top. The oatmeal turned out delicious! I loved the spicy taste and how it felt warm going down.
Monday, November 23rd: Eggnog Overnight Oatmeal
I was going to hold out until after Thanksgiving to buy eggnog, but gave in and got some yesterday. Dairy eggnog is not exactly healthy. I bought the Silk soy eggnog instead. It is lighter than lite (dairy) eggnog, but tastes as rich as the real thing.
The Oatmeal Artist’s recipe for Eggnog Oatmeal tells how to convert the recipe to an overnight version. Use only ½ cup eggnog and add 1 teaspoon chia seeds. I followed that recipe, but added an extra tablespoon of eggnog because of the chia seeds. In the morning, the oatmeal was thick – thicker than any overnight oatmeal I have made before. I added another tablespoon of eggnog, and heated the oatmeal in the microwave. It was still extremely thick. The oatmeal required more liquid to bring it to the proper consistency. It tasted creamy and delicious with a dusting of nutmeg on top.
Normally, a 1:1 ratio of oats to liquid works best with overnight oatmeal. I think that eggnog is an exception. Granted, I have only tried this recipe with the Silk nog. I can’t say whether the oatmeal would get so thick from using another kind of eggnog. When I make this recipe again, I will use ¾ cup eggnog upfront, rather than adding an extra tablespoon for the chia seeds plus more in the morning.
Thursday, November 26th: Baked Banana, PB, & Carob Chip Oatmeal
I took a couple days off from photographing and blogging because I repeated the Banana Carob Overnight Oats on Tuesday and Wednesday. Carob really grows on you. Since I had more time this morning (Thanksgiving), I decided to do a baked oatmeal recipe.
Baked oatmeal is wonderful. It feels like you’re eating your own little cake for breakfast. I had made the Oatmeal Artist’s Baked Banana Oatmeal before. It was a bit plain for my taste. I highly recommend the variations. This morning, I made the Banana, PB, & Chocolate Chip variation but used carob chips instead of chocolate chips. The recipe does not specify how much peanut butter and chocolate (or carob) chips to use, so I opted for approximately one tablespoon of each. I like balance of flavors. With recipes such as Fudgy Banana & Peanut Butter Oatmeal, I’ve found that one banana, one tablespoon cocoa powder, and one tablespoon peanut butter works best in terms of balance. I figured the same would apply here.
I baked the oatmeal for 20 minutes. Next time, I might give it a minute longer since it was the tiniest bit undercooked in the center. Then again, the edges were browned so any longer might have made it too dry.
The oatmeal tasted fantastic! The balance of flavors was spot-on. I would make this recipe again. I would also use the same proportions to make the Banana, PB, & Chocolate Chip variation of the Oatmeal Artist’s (stovetop) Basic Banana Oatmeal.
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for the opportunity to blog again. Thank you, Lauren, for having me back as Oatmeal Enthusiast! I’d like to wish you and your readers a joyful holiday season.