Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

I truly am proud of this blog. Why? It's one of the few projects that I stuck with for longer than a month. I tend to have grand ideas, only to abandon them a few weeks later. This blog, however, is the exception!

It's been a great year of blogging, and although I sometimes posted out of duty and not enthusiasm, I never felt enslaved by the blog. I want to thank all of you that have left the sweetest comments throughout the year. It's your kind words that motivate me to keep posting!

To celebrate the end of the year, I've decided to compile a round-up of my favorites from the year. Instead of listing the "ten most popular" recipes or something of the sort, I've decided to pick one recipe per category. (If I just listed the "best of the year," it would essentially just mirror the most popular recipes on the blog, since my blog has only been around for a year!)

I picked the following favorites by ranking my personal favorites alongside the most popular recipes (aka the most visited or commented). In other words, there is no exact science to these rankings; they're kind of subjective!

1. Best Stove-Top Oatmeal
Almond Joy Oatmeal: There is something so sensational about this recipe. It's fudgy and rich, yet shockingly healthy! It's sweetened only by bananas, but thanks to the almond extract, you can't taste it!

2. Best Baked Oatmeal
Peanut Butter Cookie Baked Oatmeal: There were certainly a few baked oatmeals that got more hits than this one, but in my opinion, they just didn't stack up to this one!

3. Best Overnight Oatmeal
Overnight Cookie Dough Oatmeal: This one was too new to have a fair shot at racking up the most views, but it acquired so many repins so quickly that I thought it had earned the honor.

4. Best Stupid-Easy Oatmeal
Peanut Butter and Banana Baked Oatmeal: I can't believe how popular this recipe is! Certainly, it's one of my favorites, but it seemed like such an obvious recipe that I didn't think my audience would celebrate it as much as they did!

5. Best Labor-Intensive Oatmeal
Neapolitan Baked Oatmeal: Without a doubt, this was worth the hours I spent making it! Wow!

6. Best Topping
The Coconut-Pecan Butter from the German Chocolate Baked Oatmeal: If you're at all familiar with this blog, you know I have two loves: coconut and nut butters. This frosting-like topping combined those two loves and created something so out of this world that I felt compelled to hide it in the back of the fridge so my roommates wouldn't discover it. ;)

7. Best Crazy-Healthy Oatmeal
Green Monster Oatmeal: Yep, that's right. I put spinach in oatmeal. And you guys liked it!

8. Best "Naughty" Oatmeal
Thin Mints Oatmeal: Want to know a secret? This oatmeal seems naughty...but it isn't at all. Just like the Almond Joy Oatmeal above, it's sweetened by bananas.

9. Best Non-Porridge Recipe
Banana-Oat Waffles: Top these with some peanut butter (may I suggest Dark Chocolate Dreams by PB&Company?), and you've got yourself a treat!

10. Best Unusual Oatmeal
Baked Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin Oatmeal: Perhaps it's not the concept that's unusual, but the method. How on earth, you ask, did I put bananas in a lemon poppy seed muffin oatmeal, and not have it taste like a trainwreck? Even I cannot answer that. You'll have to try it yourself to believe it.

Did I miss any good ones? What were your favorite oatmeal recipes from 2012? :)
    **You can also find hundreds of other oatmeal recipes (as well as tons of other meatless recipes) on my Pinterest account!  You can also like The Oatmeal Artist on Facebook. Thanks!

    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    Tip: Responding to Oatmeal Emergencies!

    I'll be the first to describe oatmeal as foolproof. That doesn't mean that you can't make mistakes; instead, it means that it's exceptionally easy to fix the mistakes! Overcooked? Easy fix. Soupy oatmeal (like the picture below)? Easy fix. Poor flavor? Easy fix.

    Here are some common problems I've encountered, and the easy ways to respond to them:

    1. You overcooked the oatmeal, and now it's all dry and clumpy. This is absolutely my most common error, and it's easy to make! Luckily, it's also easy to fix. Remove from heat, add more liquid (OR yogurt), and stir. The oatmeal will probably not reach the perfect consistency you were originally going for, but it should regain most of its creamy charm!

    2. For some reason unknown to man, your oatmeal looks more like soupy oats. You've let it simmer for way over five minutes, but the liquid just isn't going anywhere, and the oats are starting to look overcooked. No worries; I've been there. Dozens of times. There are a few options. First of all, if there's a LOT of liquid left, consider carefully removing some of the extra liquid using a spoon. Second, you could add a spoonful or two of oat flour or oat bran, which you can either buy in a store or make yourself by grinding up your regular oats. This will thicken up your oatmeal without having to be cooked for a long time. The other option, and my personal favorite, is to simply remove the oatmeal from heat and let it sit for a few minutes. Amazingly, it just thickens up on its own.

    If, however, you have made refrigerator oatmeal, and the porridge that greets you in the morning is essentially a lake of liquid, this is also an easy fix. Pour the oatmeal into a bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes. It will have to suck up the extra liquid as it cooks!

    3. You poured your heart into making a baked oatmeal recipe, waited twenty minutes, and taken your first bite, only to discover that it has the flavor profile of a rice cake. The easy thing about stove-top oatmeal is that you can taste-and-go, constantly adjusting the flavors until it's perfect. With baked oatmeal, you have to put faith into your judgment and hope it turns out alright. Most of the time, it does. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't. If you find yourself with a bland baked oatmeal, don't despair; just dress it up with toppings. If you didn't season the batter enough, sprinkle on some cinnamon or nutmeg as a topping! If it didn't turn out as sweet as you would have liked, drizzle on some maple syrup or honey. If it's just plain dull, smear on some peanut butter or throw some chocolate chips on top. Another great option is to add fruit, which packs a huge flavor punch, particularly strawberries and bananas.

    4. You accidentally dumped half a container of cinnamon into the saucepan instead of the suggested 1/4 teaspoon. Ah yes, you had great intentions. You've become a confident master of the oats, and you freely toss in the ingredients without measuring them. But then, with your preferred curse words, you mistakenly dump an entire mountain of cinnamon into your cooking oats. Rest easy, fellow porridge lovers, you're not alone! I've been there. There are two options. First of all, you can immediately spoon out the load of undesired spices. You probably won't be able to salvage it, unfortunately, but at least you can save your oatmeal from being tragically overspiced! Second (and this may just create a bigger mess), you could attempt to double (or triple) the rest of the recipe by adding more liquid and oats so that the heavy dose of cinnamon is proportionate to the rest of the recipe. You could then either share your oatmeal or store the leftovers in the fridge for another day.

    5. You started boiling the liquid, and you measure out the oats, only to discover that you don't have enough to create a full serving. Oops! Before you panic, check your pantry. You may have other grains--like rice, quinoa, buckwheat, or millet--that you could use. The cooking times will probably be different, but it won't be too hard to adjust. As you can see from my Oat-Quinoa Porridge, mixing grains can create a very desirable breakfast! If you don't have any of those on hand, try removing a bit of the liquid (set it aside for later so you don't have to waste it; you could use it as a topping if you like adding milk at the end). Then, compensate for the smaller serving by adding lots of mix-ins, like bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, granola, dried fruit, etc. For more ideas, check out my Loaded Banana Oatmeal post.

    There's one flub that I cannot fix, unfortunately. If you dump cumin into your Apple Pie Oatmeal instead of nutmeg...well...just throw it away. It's a lost cause. Ahem, not that that's ever happened to me or anything...

    **You can also find hundreds of other oatmeal recipes (as well as tons of other meatless recipes) on my Pinterest account!  You can also like The Oatmeal Artist on Facebook. Thanks!

    Thursday, December 27, 2012

    Caramelized Banana Oatmeal

    Yep. I'm getting fancy.

    In case you didn't get the hint from Wednesday's banana muffin post, my mom had a plethora of bananas this week. I had other plans for oatmeal, but when I saw the need to use up bananas, I had to replan. That's when I came up with this idea.

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012

    Banana Oat Muffins: Revisited

    Happy holidays, everyone! I'm back in the Midwest for the holidays, and one of the first things that greeted me at my parents house was a bowl full of overripe bananas. I instantly took it upon myself to find a purpose for them: my banana oat muffins.

    These muffins are a favorite of mine. Even when I get bored of banana in my oatmeal, I never seem to get sick of these gems. They require no added sugar (even in honey or maple syrup form), and they are so adaptable. They taste great with chocolate chips, raisins, extra spices, or plain (like banana bread!), or with peanut butter or jam smeared onto them after baking. When you taste these muffins, you'll wonder why most banana bread recipes have SO much added sugar (seriously, WHY?!).

    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Candy Cane Cookie Dough Oatmeal

    There will be two reactions to this post. Half the people will rejoice the festive nature or "special treat" aspect of it. The other half will be appalled that I just put candy on top of my breakfast. To both of these camps, I say: happy holidays?

    I couldn't resist doing something with candy canes, despite the fact that I would consider myself in the second aforementioned camp. I would never crumble up a Snickers bar over my oatmeal, after all. However, once this idea came into my head, I just couldn't ignore it. It had to be done.

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Gingerbread Oat Muffins

    I never used to enjoy baking things (even baked oatmeal took me awhile to get the hang of), but I am on a muffin spree lately. Once I learned my ways with baking soda and wet to dry ratios, making oatmeal muffins became a blast.

    These were originally intended to be banana-gingerbread muffins. However, after preparing the batter, I realized the banana flavor was completely hidden. To be honest, I wasn't at all upset about that! I actually preferred a straight-up gingerbread flavor, but I knew (or thought) using bananas as a sweetener would change the flavor, so I decided to be realistic and honest and include banana in the name.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    French Toast Oatmeal

    In case you're too cool for refrigerator oatmeal...'s the classic French Toast Oatmeal in stove-top form. I made this one for my roommate this weekend, and it literally took me about four minutes to throw together from start to finish. It's perfect for converting those who have not yet seen the light. :)

    French Toast Oatmeal

    by The Oatmeal Artist
    Prep Time: 1 min
    Cook Time: 5 min
    Ingredients (serves 1)
    • 1 cup milk of choice, or water
    • 1/2 cup rolled oats (I use Country Choice Organic)
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • rounded 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • pinch of salt
    • maple syrup
    1. Bring milk (I use an equal mixture of almond milk and water) to a boil, add oats, and reduce heat to medium. (If you'd like to add flax or chia seeds, do so now.)
    2. Once more of the liquid has absorbed, add vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon. Stir. Add a little maple syrup (perhaps a teaspoon?) and stir.
    3. If you'd like to add any extra ingredients (coconut oil, dried fruit, nuts, sunflower seeds), do so now.
    4. When you're pleased with the consistency of the oatmeal, transfer to a bowl. Serve with another splash of your milk of choice, a dusting of cinnamon, a drizzle of maple syrup, and any other additional toppings (shredded coconut, sliced fruit, raisins, nuts, etc.).
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    **You can also find hundreds of other oatmeal recipes (as well as tons of other meatless recipes) on my Pinterest account!  You can also like The Oatmeal Artist on Facebook. Thanks!

    Saturday, December 15, 2012

    Eggnog Oatmeal

    Sadly, my family was never an eggnog family. It wasn't until I was in high school that I asked my mom what it was, so she bought me a carton of the store-bought variety so I could try it. I'll admit now that most of it ended up being poured down the sink two weeks later (i.e. I was unimpressed). I've never had homemade eggnog, but it's never been high on my priority list for foods to try, either.

    Now that I avoid dairy, I have even less desire to try the real stuff. However, I was exceptionally curious to try the dairy-free varieties after reading some reviews. I saw the rice 'nog appear in Whole Foods even before Thanksgiving, but it wasn't until a week ago that I finally captured the coconut 'nog! As soon as I spotted it on an obscure refrigerated shelf in the corner of the store, I snatched a jug up in less time than it takes for my roommate to complain whenever we play Christmas music. ;)

    Thursday, December 13, 2012

    Cookie Dough Overnight Oatmeal

    Edit: I have new pictures!! I remade this recipe this weekend, and I snapped some better shots for the blog. Enjoy!

    Another lazy blog week. And I promised myself I'd be better in December! The sad thing is, I actually had recipes I could have posted. In my defense, they were terrible pictures that I wasn't desperate enough to publish. Seriously. You try taking good photographs at 5:30 am.

    This is one of those refrigerator recipes that will actually be perfectly satisfying cold. I rarely eat my oatmeal cold, but this one is an exception. (To be honest, though, I still heated this one up a little bit!)

    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    How to Make Any Stove-Top Recipe in the Refrigerator

    Remember eight months ago when I got a kidney stone? Yeah, well, it happened again. I won't bore you with the details, but the pain was awful enough that I couldn't bother to work on a new post yesterday/today.

    I did, however, manage to come up with something. If you haven't noticed, the baked oatmeal recipes have been much rarer lately. That is because I've been making refrigerator oatmeal instead, which essentially allows me to enjoy stove-top oatmeal without waiting for the oatmeal to cook on the stove!

    It also occurred to me that I've been taking all my favorite recipes and just making them in the fridge. I figured instead of posting each of them as overnight recipes, I would just post a how-to for how to take ANY of my stove-top recipes and convert them to an overnight masterpiece.

    1. Stick to half a cup of rolled oats. Another excellent option is quick-cooking steel-cut oats. I've had great success with the Country Choice Organic brand. If using this option, use only 1/4 cup oats.

    2. Use only 1/2 cup of liquid. Almond milk is perfect. Do NOT use all water.

    3. Chia seeds make the final product creamier and pudding-like, but it's not necessary, especially if you're using banana (which also yields creamy oatmeal). A small spoonful is all that's needed. Alternatively, you can use flax.

    4. Combine all listed ingredients at once and shake, shake, shake. Exception: if you're working with fresh berries or chocolate chips, I sometimes hold off adding them until the morning.

    5. Chopped dates work beautifully as a sweetener in refrigerator oatmeal because it has all night to absorb the sweetness. Consider replacing any honey, maple syrup, or agave with a chopped date! Any dried fruit will also help.

    6. Frozen fruits work great in overnight oatmeal (better than in stove-top, in my opinion).

    7. You can eat these cold, but I rarely do. Typically, I transfer the oatmeal to a real bowl, add a tiny bit of water if the mixture is too solid, and microwave for a minute and a half. Perfection. :)

    And yes, I know this recipe has "LAZY" written all over it. Cut me some slack; I'm a little preoccupied trying to get a spiky little rock out of my body!

    **You can also find hundreds of other oatmeal recipes (as well as tons of other meatless recipes) on my Pinterest account!  You can also like The Oatmeal Artist on Facebook. Thanks!

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

    Grapefruit Mint Oatmeal

    Happy fifth day of Christmas! :) Oddly enough, this recipe feels a little more summery than a typical December post, but the weather here has been unseasonably warm, so it seems fitting. I even wore a skirt yesterday! What's the weather like in your area?

    This oatmeal reminded me of a grapefruit mojito I had back in August. In all honesty, anything with fresh mint is delightful, and anything with grapefruit is magical, so the combination is perfect. This is actually a really simple recipe that you can throw together with less than five ingredients; however, I'd also recommend adding nondairy yogurt. That gives it the wonderfully creamy texture that most porridges offer.

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    Blueberry Oat Muffins

    I am extraordinarily fond of my Blueberry Muffin Baked Oatmeal recipe. It was my very first baked oatmeal attempt, and it ended up being one of the most popular recipes on my blog. It was actually #1 for several months, until the Salted Brownie came along. :)

    If that recipe hadn't turned out as well as it had, I might have been turned off baked oatmeal forever. Instead, it sparked my curiosity. Yes, it was more time-consuming and finicky, but it had its pay-offs. Now, of course, I'm almost as obsessed with baked oatmeal as I am with stove-top.

    But I'm getting off-track. I realized today that if I loved that recipe so much, why not convert it to mimic actual blueberry muffins?

    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Cran-Apple Oatmeal

    Growing up, my elementary school was across from my grandmother's apartment. On days when it was too cold to walk home, I would go to her apartment until my mom could pick me up after work. She'd always make me a snack, but it'd be something simple like peanut butter spread on saltine crackers. It sounds dull, but I loved it.

    Along with the snack, she'd also have juice for me. I always thought her juice selections were strange and "grandma-ish," like cranberry or cran-apple. For some reason, though, drinking it at my grandma's house while I watched Arthur on PBS made it seem special, even if it wasn't my favorite.
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