Oatmeal starring Coach's Oats

Coach Knows Oats

You all know I’m an oatmeal fanatic, right? I construct my bowls of oatmeal with great ritual. I have a deep disdain for instant oatmeal, but love some slow-cooked whipped banana oatmeal (and by slow-cooked, I mean, it takes 6 minutes instead of 6 seconds).

I prefer good ol’ fashioned Quaker Oats. I’ve tried bargain brand oats. I’ve tried bulk bin oats. But I always end up back at Quaker.

When I read about Coach’s Oats over on Kath Eats, I was intrigued. These aren’t your typical rolled oats. They’re also not your typical steel cut oats (which are super delicious but tend to take too long for me to bother preparing them). Coach’s Oats are steel cut oats that have been cracked and toasted, which decreases the cooking time from 25 minutes to 5. That sounds right in my ballpark.

Coach's Oats

Coach's Oats

I rolled the dice and bought a box of 3 packages of Coach’s Oats from Kath’s Open Sky store. I decided to make pumpkin oatmeal with them (because, what else would I make, after a week of pumpkin-everything?!)

I resisted the urge to use my own tried and true oatmeal making rituals, and prepared the oats per the package instructions. I brought 2 cups of water to a boil. (OK, I lied – one modification: I should have boiled 3 cups of water, but I wanted to replace 1 cup of water with 1 cup of vanilla soymilk, so I just boiled the 2 cups of water). I added 1 cup of soymilk and 1 cup of oats, along with 2 sliced bananas, and cooked per the instructions.

Once done, I added my usual ground flaxseeds, and…

Organic Pumpkin

Organic Pumpkin

Pumpkin! (about half of a can). I stirred in a little cinnamon and a whole lot of pumpkin pie spice, and of course added my usual sliced strawberries and Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter (a la Fancy Oatmeal).


Oatmeal starring Coach's Oats

Oatmeal starring Coach's Oats

My friends, Coach knows his oats. This oatmeal had a great flavor and none of the mushy lack-of-texture that tends to happen with oatmeal. This is some great, great oatmeal! I have yet to find it in any of my local food stores (not even Whole Foods) – and it might be good enough to become the first item I actually request that a grocery store carry. We’ll see. For now, I have enough oatmeal to probably last me through the winter! You can get it online, though, straight from Coach’s Oats – and if you’re feeling noncommittal, a sample pack is only $1.75. (Two 48-oz bags are $9.50 at the time of this writing).

You see, while it’s good to have rituals, it’s also good to break out and try new things every once in a while. My oatmeal ritual got an unexpected upgrade!

12 Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

Bring it on, fall! I’m going pumpkin-crazy!

12 Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

12 Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

It’s Vegan MoFo Day 2, and today I made some yummy, protein-packed vegan Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins. Dense, super-moist, pumpkin-y but not too sweet – I’m going to have a hard time eating just one at a time!

I went for crunchy in this batch and added pumpkin seeds, but I could totally see some golden raisins in their place. Nom.

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin

Muffins are so easy to make – mix the wet, mix the dry, combine, and bake!

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin - The Inside

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffin - The Inside

[recipe-show recipe=pumpkin-quinoa-muffins]

Tada! Oatmeal!

Under Construction: Oatmeal

In the beginning, there was a man named Mr. Quaker….

(Actually, I have no idea what his name is).

Mr. Quaker, My Friend

Mr. Quaker, My Friend

He convinced me to try out some “real” oatmeal… not that blah instant stuff. (Actually, KERF convinced me, but cut me some slack. I’m trying to tell a story here!)

OK, fine. This story is pretty lame. But as I mixed up this morning’s oatmeal, I thought I’d grab the camera and share with you how I put together my favorite breakfast of all times. We’re just about to the end of oatmeal “season,” when it gets too warm out to really enjoy a hot breakfast. (Alas, the photo of Mr. Quaker up there is actually an empty can – I made the last of my oatmeal rations today, and likely won’t restock until I move in August. *sniff*). So I’m glad to have captured for all eternity what might be The Last (Oatmeal) Breakfast of Spring 2011.

First up, here’s my typical ingredient list. I usually make 3 or 4 servings at a time so I have leftovers to enjoy all week. Total prep time is about 15 minutes. Here are the 4-serving measures:

Whipped Banana Oatmeal Base:

  • Old fashioned oats – 1 1/3 cups
  • Bob’s Red Mill hot cereal mix (I’m currently enjoying the gluten-free mix) – 4 heaping tablespoons
  • Milk (I use vanilla soy or almond milk) – 1 1/3 cups
  • Water – 1 2/3 cups (and extra third to make up for the addition of Bob’s Red Mill – decrease by a third cup if you don’t have any Bob’s cereal in there)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3 bananas (If I make 1 serving, I use 1 banana. 3 servings, 2 bananas, and 4 servings, 3 bananas. There’s no science to this).


  • 4 heaping tablespoons ground flax seed
  • A big pile of cinnamon (maybe a heaping tablespoon? I don’t measure this part!)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar or agave nectar or brown rice syrup (some kind of sweetener, but not much).


  • Fruit
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter (chocolate almond butter is my favorite with oatmeal)

Now, FYI, the Quaker package has instructions for 2 serving sizes: one that starts with 1/3 cup oats (which is what I use), and one that starts with 1/2 cup oats. That half cup serving size is BIG! I can’t imagine eating that much oatmeal, because even at the 1/3 cup size, I’m stuffed. But feel free to play around with it if you have a bigger appetite. It’s basically a 1-1-1 ratio of oats-water-milk.

Here we go! Oatmeal, under construction:

Oatmeal: In the Beginning...

Oatmeal: In the Beginning...

We start out with milk, water, bananas, oats, and a pinch of salt. Turn the burner on medium heat and let this puppy sit for about 3 minutes to warm up.

Once the mixture starts to heat, you’ll begin stirring. Stir very frequently for 6 minutes or so.

Stir it up!

Stir it up!

Now, you won’t ruin it if you just let it sit for that 6 minutes (though you might have some issues with the oats sticking to the bottom of the pan). I know, stirring for 6 minutes is labor-intensive. But this is where the “whipped banana” part of the recipe comes in. The more you stir it, the more those bananas will turn into fantastic little marshmallow-like banana puffs of goo. And who doesn’t want magic banana puffs of goo in their oatmeal?

Take a break mid-stir and cut up some fruit. My everyday go-to’s are strawberries and blueberries. Raspberries are a frequent contributor as well, along with the occasional kiwi. On Very Special Days, pineapple will star.

Strawberries. Must have.

Strawberries. Must have.

After 6 minutes or so, your oatmeal should be well on its way. Cook a little longer if you like a thicker oatmeal, and a little shorter if you like a more liquidy oatmeal. Go by texture and just cook it till it looks good to you!

Oatmeal Mush

Oatmeal Mush

Next up: the Mix-in’s. I use ground flax seed, (a ton of) cinnamon, and a sweetener of some kind – usually brown sugar if I’m making a big batch (because it’s cheaper than agave nectar or brown rice syrup).

The Mix-Ins: Ground flax seed, cinnamon, brown sugar

The Mix-Ins: Ground flax seed, cinnamon, brown sugar

Stir it all up, and you’ve got the perfect whipped banana oatmeal base!

Perfect oatmeal base

Perfect oatmeal base

Portion it out into 4 bowls (or fridge containers) and get to work on topping that beast!

Proof that there’s really oatmeal under my fruit:

Proof that there really is oatmeal under there

Proof that there really is oatmeal under there

4 corners of fruit…

Four corners fruit

Four corners fruit

The Secret Weapon: Justin’s Nut Butters. My favorite is Chocolate Almond Butter, which goes so well with the fruit. (My original version of this was Fancy Oatmeal, inspired by chocolate-dipped strawberries).

The Secret Weapon: Justin's Nut Butters

The Secret Weapon: Justin's Nut Butters

Take a big ol’ tablespoon of nut butter and dunk it in the middle!

Dunk a blob of Justin's in there!

Dunk a blob of Justin's in there!

Get ready to knock your own socks off, and serve:

Tada! Oatmeal!

Tada! Oatmeal!

And that, my friends, is how I make oatmeal.

Honestly, it took me longer to write this post than it does for me to make oatmeal.

It’s so good, and so good for you! Bob Harper says it’s the only cereal he’ll eat (and Bob is one of my life’s heroes, so heck yeah to a thumbs up from Bob!)

Even if you think you don’t like oatmeal, promise me you’ll try real oatmeal – just one time! I thought I hated oatmeal until I made it myself. Now, I can’t imagine how I lived without it.

Until next season, dear oatmeal – unless we shall sneak in a stolen moment in the heat of summer.

Chelsea Waffle with Cashew Cream from Vegan Brunch

Waffle Maker FTW!

Fat, fluffy, crispy, luscious wafflicious goodness.

Chelsea Waffle with Cashew Cream from Vegan Brunch

Chelsea Waffle with Cashew Cream

I’ve never made a waffle in my life. Breakfast is my favorite meal, and I’ve made pancakes many times (I’m not very good at it), but never waffles. Considering how much I enjoy pancakes, and how rarely I make them due to the hassle and my lackluster flapjack flipping skills, it finally hit me that a waffle maker might just solve this dilemma.

I picked up this Proctor Silex Morning Baker Belgian waffle maker on Amazon. $26. Cheap. Good reviews. Sounds good to me!

LOVE it. Love it love it love it. The thing is foolproof. Perfect waffles on my first try, and virtually no clean-up. Now, THAT’S my kind of appliance!

My inaugural waffle recipe came from – guess who – my favorite vegan chef, Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I used the Old Fashioned Chelsea Waffles recipe from Vegan Brunch, with whole wheat flour and maple syrup instead of barley malt syrup.

Topped with Sweet Cashew Cream (also from Vegan Brunch) – oh, the joy of that sweet scent of vanilla wafting around these waffles….

The recipes were a win. The waffle maker was a win. I’ve got so much winning going on – just call me Charlie Sheen! Or not. That man has a few issues.

4 corners oatmeal

Four Corners Oatmeal

How do you jazz up a gloomy, blustery day – one that comes on the tail of the first 70 degree day of the year?

With a fantastic bowl of oatmeal!

4 corners oatmeal

4 corners oatmeal

Four corners oatmeal, even!

Kiwi, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, topped with Justin’s maple almond butter on a bed of whipped banana oatmeal. (I make my oatmeal based on Kath’s oatmeal). I swear there’s actually some oatmeal under there!

It’s supposed to warm back up into the 50’s tomorrow here in Chicago. What’s your go-to breakfast on a cold, blustery day?

Have a great one, everybody!

double decker french toast

Double Decker French Toast

This, my friends, is a vegan recipe that I declare is better than the “original” – and this is no April Fool’s joke!

Double Decker French Toast Plate

Double Decker French Toast Plate

The Magic Brown Truck Fairy stopped by yesterday and dropped off a new cookbook – Vegan Yum Yum. I’m a fan of the blog, and finally decided to break down and get the book. As I poured through it last night before bed, I had visions of wonderful breakfasts dancing in my head.

I had some surprise good news on the scale this morning – I’ve officially lost 100 pounds since December 2009 – so I had even more reason to make a special breakfast today!

It was a bit of an adventure making this French toast; it was my first time cooking with a cast iron skillet. Needless to say, my first few pieces weren’t pretty! (That won’t stop me from eating them!) I got better at the timing and the flipping as I went along, but it’s still probably a good thing that the French toast is mostly hidden by fruit.

My only complaint about Vegan Yum Yum is that some of the recipes have a lot of things that I try to eat only in moderation – margarine (i.e. Earth Balance), all-purpose flour, etc. So I decided to try to health-up the Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast recipe, and dare I say, it turned out wonderfully!

My modifications from the original recipe were to use almond milk instead of soy milk, agave instead of sugar, half whole wheat flour/half all-purpose flour instead of all all-purpose flour, and to add some ground flax seed. I also used nonstick cooking spray instead of margarine to grease the skillet.

It rolls in around 427 calories (you could lay off the fruit some to drop that number, but this is pretty much my standard breakfast, in the 400-600 calorie range).

One last note: if you’re still soaking your pancakes, waffles, and French toast in fake maple syrup (I’m lookin’ at you, Aunt Jemima!), for the love of whatever you love, stop it! Get yourself a bottle of real, 100% pure maple syrup. It tastes ridiculously better, and is – must I say it – real food, instead of a bottle full of chemicals. And you won’t need to drown your poor breakfast to enjoy it. Just a drizzle will do, because it’s so naturally sweet!

Double Decker French Toast Nutrition

[recipe-show recipe=”double-decker-french-toast”]

Fancy Oatmeal

It’s gonna be a hot one here in Chicago today. My boy Tom Skilling expects the heat index to reach 105 in my hometown south ‘burbs today, prompting heat advisories.

Then, why on earth would I slave over a stove to make hot oatmeal for breakfast?

It’s true; I haven’t had oatmeal since the chill of spring wore off. I’m not a fan of hot foods on hot days. But, it’s a chilly 68 degrees in my humble abode (the ComEd electric meter is zipping around, doing fly-by’s as my bill ticks upward), and I had an inkling that I was on to something with my morning inspiration.

As I pondered the oatmeal mix-in possibilities, my thoughts roamed to the pint of plump, red, juicy organic strawberries in my fridge. Then, it hit me: eat like the fancy people.

You’ve seen it – maybe even done it. You’ve seen people eating strawberries the fancy way, dipped in chocolate. What if I sliced up strawberries on top of my oatmeal, and served it with a blob of chocolate almond butter (Justin’s, of course)?

Fancy oatmeal was born, and I’m sure you might be imagining right now – it was the best bowl of oatmeal of my life.

fancy oatmeal

Mickey Mouse Breakfast

When I was a kid, my parents used to take my brother and I to a little restaurant down the street called Olympic Star. It was (and still is) your typical American diner. We didn’t eat out often, so it was a treat when we did.

The kids’ menu had one novelty item that on most days, I felt too grown-up to order. But sometimes… just sometimes… I’d succumb to its sweet, gooey calling:

The Mickey Mouse pancakes.

These were no ordinary pancakes, you see. First of all, the looked like Mickey Mouse. One big pancake made up his head, and two smaller pancakes were cooked right onto his head to make up the trademark ears. (In retrospect, how in the world did they flip that giant pancake without breaking off the ears?!) But that wasn’t all – these were chocolate chip pancakes.

Oh, the decadence of chocolate for breakfast! (Actually, back then, I doubt I knew what “decadent” meant – I just thought it was so naughty to eat chocolate for breakfast, and could not believe my parents would let this happen!) But they did, and every so often, I’d dig into that melty, chocolaty mess with reckless abandon.

I decided to whip up some vegan pancakes for breakfast this morning. While they were cooking, I tossed some frozen blueberries in there.

cooking pancakes

I topped them with a drizzle of 100% pure maple syrup (if you’ve never had real maple syrup, try it – you’ll never go back to that chemical laden fake stuff in the cute little bottle that talks to you) and a sliced up banana. Then, it hit me – the call of the Mickey Mouse pancakes.

What the heck. I’m a grown-up now – I am certainly entitled to a little bit of chocolate love with my breakfast! So I blobbed on a teaspoon of Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter too.

vegan pancakesFood is so undeniably woven into our lives and our memories. This breakfast was a wonderful trip down memory lane – and I didn’t have to beg my dad to buy me a candy bar from the glass case on my way out.

Grilled Banana Sandwich

Oh, you sweet, decadent thing, you. You naughty, naughty thing… or maybe not so naughty! A naughty imposter.

Behold: the grilled banana sandwich.

grilled banana sandwichOr, the bottom half of the grilled banana sandwich.

Sweet, delicious goodness. This brunch sandwich was inspired by Caitlin’s Grilled Banana Sandwich over at Healthy Tipping Point. The only real difference is that I vegan-ized mine to avoid using eggs and dairy. This thing is like french toast and bananas all wrapped up in a sandwich!

I figured this would make a good post-run meal, as it’s got a good amount of carbs (and readily-available sugars via the bananas), and a little bit of protein. (I actually pumped mine up a little by adding a tablespoon of hemp protein powder to the liquid mixture, but didn’t add that to the recipe as it was pretty specific to my workout recovery goals – but for the record, it worked just fine!)

grilled banana sandwich

The whole thing clocks in around 300 calories, and makes for a pretty darn huge breakfast! You could even eat it like french toast – though I don’t think any syrup would be required, as the warm grilled bananas offer plenty of gooey delicious topping. I have visions of tossing warm blueberries on top next time. This one is definitely entering the regular rotation 🙂

[recipe-show recipe=grilled-banana-sandwich]

Anticipation of Yum

This is the post whereby I anticipate YUM!

Caitlin over at Healthy Tipping Point had me at “grilled banana” – but imagine this drool-inducing scenario, if you will: grilled banana, stuffed between what is essentially 2 slices of french toast. Oh, sweet, cinnamony, vanilla-y goodness! A grilled banana sandwich. I don’t even need to cook this to know it’s going to be ridiculous-good.

As I sit here charging my iPod and transferring new diggnation episodes to it to watch on the treadmill, I’m also researching ways to vegan-ize the french toast part of this recipe, as I don’t eat eggs. I’ve mish-mashed a few recipes together and I’ve got what I think is a solid plan for making a most excellent brunch when I return from the gym.

Speaking of the gym… I figured out this morning why I couldn’t get video to play from my iPod onto the entertainment center screens on the Precor treadmills at the gym. It’s because I was playing the audio versions of the podcasts instead of the video versions. Duh. Video doesn’t play for an audio podcast, sweetie. *smack* It turns out, there’s a video category on the iPod – so if you happen to be having the same problem (I can’t imagine you are, but just in case), from the main screen, go to the Video category instead of the Podcast category. Run the podcast from there. I’m confident that the video will play just fine when I get to the gym today.

In other news, I added a widget to the right sidebar from DailyMile.com, one of the sites I use to track my running progress. (I also use Garmin Connect – I really need to buy the foot pod accessory so I can use my Garmin on the treadmill as well as outside). The Daily Mile widget shows the stats for my last run. I just completed the Couch to 5K training program, and will run in what is technically my second 5K race this weekend – but it will be the first time I attempt to run the entire thing. I have plans to add some running stuff to this blog shortly, so stay tuned!

Now, off to the gym so I can get home and make this insane grilled banana sandwich!