Jammy Oatmeal Bars

This is a riff on a recipe I used to have to make at work when I worked in a college cafeteria. It’s a lovely bar, and it’s extremely versatile. It makes a great lunch snack for kids.

The original bar was called Cranberry Overload because it calls for making a cranberry jam filling. I do that version sometimes, but I tend to leave the cranberry jam version for Christmas and stick to seasonal jam fillings throughout the year. I will often use jammed jar when pressed for time, just like I’m doing here right now with this post.

You will need the following three main ingredients to pull this bar together:
518g Oatmeal Muffin Mix
213g Oatmeal Granola Cereal (with nuts is a great option if you don’t have an allergy)
150-200 g Jam (any kind will do)

150g Water

Measure out the muffin mix and top it with measured out cereal. Mix them together in a medium size mixing bowl, and dump in 150 g of water. Mix with a gloved hand or with a spatula until all of the dry ingredients are wet and a ball forms. Split the ball in half, and then half again. in the bowl.

Grease a 8″x8″ or so baking dish. Line it with parchment that’s been clipped down with small bulldog clips. Place 3/4 of the oatmeal mix into the bottom and push it into all four corners and even it out working towards the centre with a clean floured hand. This will be the base of the bar.

Pour out the jam over top and spread with a knife or offset spatula. Taking the last quarter of the oatmeal mix, start to place it over the jam layers in small blobs or chunks until it’s all used up. Break it up with your fingers. Pull it apart gently.

Bake at 350 for 30 mins. Cool completely on the counter before removing from the pan using the sides of the parchment paper. Sprinkle top with a dusting of powder sugar before serving.

Optional: make a quick drizzle using 1C icing sugar + 2 Tbsp milk. Let the icing dry completely before cutting into bars and serving.

DIY Sauerkraut

I’m currently making a micro batch of sauerkraut at home. I have always wanted to do this. I love sauerkraut, but I’m the only one in the house who does, and stores only seem to sell big jars of it. The second I open a jar, it goes brown within a week in my fridge.

I figure this way, I can play around with the flavouring and the amount of cabbage on a shoestring budget. And if it turns out tasty, I and eat it all before it turns bad, that will be a win my books.

You might be wondering about the glass pebbles. Well, turns out they are easy to sterilize, and heavy enough to keep the cabbage submerged in its own juices as it ferments on the counter for the first three days. From there, I can let the sauerkraut finish its thing in the fridge. In two weeks, I should be able to dig in. 😀

Jeans Upcycle

I don’t do well with boredom over holidays. I like to keep busy, but sometimes I have so many project ideas, I can’t think straight and end up doing nothing. That’s the worst for me.

I have two pairs of these older jeans that are flared at the ankle. I bought them thinking they would somehow make my body look better, but only plastic surgery will do that at this point. (snort) I still love wearing these jeans, though, so I decided to jazz them up.

I looked around for some basic white paint for do these polka dots, but I guess I threw out all of my old paint a few years back and forgot to replenish my supply. I did this on New Year’s day when everything was closed, so I used the only paint I had left that was still liquid and would do the job — green glitter paint. Yup. That’s right. Not a typo!

Despite not being able to get my camera to capture the green glittery love that I see in person, I love how they turned out. I played around with their arrangement along the pockets, and again at the bottom of each leg on both sides. I didn’t want it to be too uniform and predictable. I wore these grocery shopping the other day, and my husband was a bit weirded out by them because this style isn’t what I normally wear. I don’t wear attention seeking clothes normally. I didn’t think they were all that splashy, and I still don’t.

Anyway, the whole process was super easy and took no time at all to finish. I marked out a grid on a piece of file folder cardboard, and used a hole punch in spaced out intervals. From there, it was just a matter of brushing the glitter paint onto my jeans using my DIY stencil.

Felt Tablet Holders

I don’t take my tablet outside of the house, because I never need to, but oddly enough it was purchased years ago for the sole purpose of bringing it to work so my catering supervisor, Lisa, and I could look at food porn pictures for inspiration on our tea and lunch breaks.

I always had it in mind to make a travel case for the tablet, but I never found a pattern idea I liked until this Christmas. I was tooling around on Pinterest when I clicked on one felt craft idea and that lead me to look at the suggested other projects that Pinterest thought I might also want to look at and pin for later.

Not only was this a fast project, but it was dead easy. I already had the thick felt material rolled up in a corner of my craft room collecting dust bunnies. I didn’t have a pattern, but that’s never stopped me before! I slapped this case together in less than 20 mins while watching an episode of The Crown from season three. (I think it was the one where Princess Margaret takes a lover after her marriage truly starts to crumble.

I also made a cute little flat rectangular felt purse with one handle, a zipper, and some purple lace glued onto both sides as a bit of décor. The zipper runs down one side while the handle runs along the top. I don’t know what I was thinking, honestly. 🙂

I like this one, but I’m not really sure where I envision myself going with it out in public. I was just an idea I had at the end of the episode where Prince Philip meets the three NASA astronauts who went to the moon and so thoroughly captured his rapt attention and sincere admiration, and a healthy dose of jealousy for good measure.

Just had a thought. My tablet might fight into this little purse, too. It does! Huh.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

2 tbsp Oil, neutral like veg or sunflower
1 Onion, medium, diced
1 Garlic clove, cut in half or thirds
1 lbs Pork or Beef, ground

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic chunks; cook in oil until they brown, and then discard. This will flavour the oil nicely. Add the onion dice; cook to translucent. Add the grown meat in one large patty over the onions. Brown both sides in tact before using a potato masher to beak the meat into chunks in the pan as it cooks all the way through.

Add S&P to the pan and mix it in well. Once fully cooked, remove ground meat out of the hot pan and onto paper towels to drain.

1 C Jasmine rice
1.5 C Water
1/4 C Chicken Broth powder

1 Egg, room temp

Cook the rice in either a pot on the stove, or in a rice cooker off the stove. When the rice is done cooking, remove it into a large mixing bowl and dump the cooked meat in with it. Add the egg and mix everything together.

1/4 lbs Bacon

In the large skillet, cook the bacon. Rest cooked bacon on paper towels to drain and cool down before finely chopping up. Do not discard the bacon fat in the pan. Add the bacon bits to the meat mixture and stir to combine.

1 Cabbage Head, finely chopped

Bring a large stock pot to rolling boil. Gently ease the cabbage head into that pot. Cook until the leaves are tender. (~ 5-8 minutes) Remove the cabbage head and place it in a deep bowl or a large soup bowl to cool down long enough to pull the leaves off for chopping.

2 C Passata sauce
1 Bay Leaf
2 tea Dry Basil
S&P to taste
1 oz Butter, cut into small cubes for faster melting

In a small sauce pot, heat up the passata sauce with the bay leave fully emerged in it. After five minutes, add the seasonings and continue to bring it to a slow rolling boil. Remove from the heat. Set it aside and add the butter. Let those flavours come  together after a bit of stirring.

Chopped Cabbage
2 tbsp Bacon Fat
Salt, small  pinch to help draw out moisture from the cabbage
2-3 tbsp Herbs de Provence (or Italian seasoning if you have that)

After the leaves are cool enough to handle, chop them into a fine dice. Add it all to the still hot skillet with the bacon fat. Add salt over top and stir. Cook the leaves down a bit longer to make sure all of the cuts have softened to a tender stage. Add the seasoning and continue stirring as it browns a bit.

Add the cooked cabbage to the meat mixture and stir it around to incorporate everything nicely and to cool the cabbage a bit. Taste test to see if the mix is to your liking.

Spray or grease the bottom of a small hotel or roasting pan. Dump the cabbage-meat mixture into it. Spread it out evenly. Top that with all of the passata sauce, smoothing it out all around for full coverage.

Optional: Top casserole with breadcrumbs and a bit of parm if desired.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Notes: I made this in stages over two days as I had the time and materials. (I originally wanted to make classic cabbage rolls, but this cabbage was too thick to roll even after a lengthy boiling time.) I would not expect anyone to have time to do all of these moving cooking parts for a weeknight dinner unless they have the day off or have all of the materials prepped ahead of time. But I could see this being a nice seasonal Sunday casserole.

Week Night Banana Bread

Yah, yah – I get it. Not everyone is into breads of any kind (EW, CARBS!!), or you hate bananas (Blech!), or you ate too many slices of this bread growing up (Never again!). I’ve heard all of the reasons.

I happen to love a good banana loaf. This is the one I make in case you’re interested.

2 C Flour, a.p.
1 tea BP
1/2 tea Salt
1/2 C Sugar, white
1 oz Butter, melted
2 Eggs, r.t.
1 C Bananas, mashed
1/4 C Water, r.t.

Legend: a.p. = all purpose, r.t. = room temp, BP = baking powder

Whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Mix all of the wet ingredients in over top of the dry. Don’t overmix.

1/2 C Mini Chocolate Chips
2/3 C White Chocolate Chips

Gently fold these into the bread batter. Spray or lightly oil and dust a bread loaf pan. Drop the batter into the pan. Bake at 350 for 75 mins. Let it cool 90 mins before cutting into it at the very least, or wrap it in plastic wrap to sit out over night. Makes a great lunch snack.

Note: I threw this loaf in the oven as our main course came out. In the time it took me to cook dinner in the oven, I started and finished making this banana bread batter.

Downside of Aging

This time last year (give or take six weeks), I turned the big 5-0. So far it’s been great. I feel better and better each year I grow into my skin, but one thing that changed that I really want to find a way to change back is the ability to wear earrings.

In a former life, I made jewellery. I still own a lot of the custom pieces I couldn’t bear to sell in my personal collection, but in the last few years, I have noticed I can’t wear earrings anymore. It’s too painful – no matter what metal the hook or stud is made with. I can get the earrings in, but immediately the searing pain starts. The longest I have been able to keep earrings in has been an hour, and that’s after a week of working my ear lobes up to that amount of time.

*whimpering*

I really want to wear earrings again. I’m not sure if I need to pay someone to pierce my ear lobes in the same place the holes are located now, or give up forever. In the end, I have a feeling I might have to bite the bullet and convert all of my earrings over to clip-ons like a blue hair granny.

*more whimpering*

Jalapeno Boats

I love making these little boats as part of our ‘Pub Night’ meal, or as a starter to a longer cooked meal. Easy to make, easy to fill, easy to bake.

Jalapeno Boats:
6 Jalapenos, washed, stem end cut off, halved, and hallowed out
1 Bacon Strip, cooked, tiny dice
4 Tbsp Cream Cheese, tiny dice
1/4 Cheese Shred of choice
S&P

Wear gloves when working with the jalapenos, and I tend to wash my hands three times after I take the gloves off. Add everything but the jalapenos to a small bowl. Squish it all together with one gloved hand, making sure everything gets evenly smushed together. This is your filling.

Take a half jalapeno at a time and using the back of a spoon, add a bit of the filling to each cavity at a time. Using the hand holding the jalapeno being filled, start molding the filling to the cavity so it stops trying to fall out. I tend to make each filling flush with the tops until I get to the end of the jalapenos I need to fill. If there’s extra left over – depending upon how much is left – I may store the rest in the fridge for more jalapeno boats the next day or simply plump up the ones in front of me.

1/4 C Breadcrumbs (optional: with seasonings and grated parm cheese)

Dip each jalapeno boat into a small bowl filled with the breadcrumbs. Gently push down so the breadcrumbs stick into the filling.

Place each finished boats onto a baking tray and pop into a pre-heated oven set to 400 degrees. Bake for 20 mins. Let them rest on the tray on top of the counter for another 10 mins. Serve hot, but not blazing hot straight from the oven.

Note: If you’re like me, lactose intolerant, good news. Walmart sells their own lactose free cream cheese now, and it totally works in these jalapeno boats. And the price is on par with regular cream cheese, which, btw, is almost unheard of for a specialty product!

Eggnog Talk

Eggnog is so controversial. Like cilantro, I find people either love it or they hate it. Unlike cilantro, I don’t believe there is any science to back up why that would be. My husband hates cilantro – it’s tastes like sand or dish soap in his mouth. Science backs up the theory that we are all predisposed to either like or dislike cilantro; no grey area in between. And that’s coded into our DNA. Fact.

But, when I bring up eggnog, I get a lot of the same reactions: “EWW!”, or, “Gross. I can’t deal with the raw egg situation.” Ok, clearly some of you have issues. (snort)

For the rest of us who are onboard with this custard concoction, have you ever tried making it at home? No? Why not?? Sure, it’s got a shorter shelf life than commercially produced batches, but find me one eggnog fan who won’t blow through a slim 1L carton in less than 48 hours. Go ahead. I’m wait.

This Chowhound Eggnog recipe produces roughly the same 1L volume. I love that I can potentially make a batch of this eggnog the night before and wake up to a bit of it in my morning coffee in less than 12 hours later.

(EGGNOG ALL YEAR LONG, KIDS.)

Give it a go.