Steel Cut Oats

Are you an oatmeal person? Love that bowl of steamy goodness in the morning? For some reason I never became an oatmeal convert. Perhaps because of the gooey texture of the oatmeal that I had always been served. Regardless, I always passed on oatmeal. That is until I read about steel cut oats in a Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine. They sounded interesting. Whole oats, cut into tiny pieces, claiming to have a toothsome texture to them even after being cooked up.

I soon found those steel cut oats in the grocery store, and they were actually produced by a local company around here, Bob's Red Mill.

I've been hooked ever since. They are hard to explain other than they are full of flavor, do not cook up into mush, and feel as if you are actually required to chew in order to eat them. I know that sounds funny, but they're pretty incredible especially after sprinkled with a few nuts, a dash of cinnamon, a touch of brown sugar, and your choice of fruit.

There's no real rule to cooking them up other than allowing more time than quick or old-fashioned oats take. You can count on anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes based on the texture you prefer. But to make things super simple, I put my one cup of steel cut oats, a good sprinkle of salt, and three cups of water into my crockpot. Put on the lid, set it to high, and let it do its thing for close to an hour. They come out perfect every time. A stir now and then won't hurt either. And want in on a secret to make them even more delicious? Give the oats a quick saute in a tablespoon or so of butter before you add your water to them, regardless of which method you choose to cook them, and they take on a goodness that's hard to describe. Although the directions on the bag do call for water as the cooking ingredient, other recipes use a combo of milk and water instead.

A perfectly tasty and perfectly healthy breakfast option, for oatmeal lovers everywhere or for someone who's picky about their oatmeal like me.

Almond Biscotti

I'll admit that one of my favorite childhood snacks was graham crackers dipped in milk. My kids love them too. But anymore, graham crackers don't cut it for me. I've turned to biscotti, those twice-baked Italian cookies that show up in coffee shops . They may look intimidating, but they're so easy to make at home. They do take a little bit of oven time, but they are so worth the ability to dunk them in coffee, lattes, and or milk without the expensive price tag. And surprisingly enough, they are pretty low-fat and can be filled with nutritious nuts and dried fruits if you wish. Here's the most recent recipe I've tried:

Almond Biscotti

3/4 cup almonds - either slivered almonds or whole almonds that have been coarsely chopped
3 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
7/8 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

Toast the almonds in either a cast iron skillet while stirring constantly until golden brown or by placing in a 375 degree oven on a baking sheet and watching carefully.

Mix all ingredients together, including cooled, toasted almonds. The dough will be very stiff. I use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment

Remove dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a log about 2 inches wide, 1 inch high, and 12 or so inches long. Place both logs on a non-stick mat placed on a baking sheet. Alternatively, use a greased baking sheet. Logs will spread slightly so leave adequate space between them. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Remove baking sheet from oven and reduce temperature to 275 degrees. Let logs cool slightly for ten minutes then place on cutting mat and slice each log diagonally into cookies about 3/4 inch thick. Lay each cookie on its side on the baking sheet.

Return baking sheet to oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove sheet and flip biscotti over to their other side and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes. They will not appear crunchy hard at the end of the baking time but will firm up once they cool.

If you want them to look impressive, drizzle melted chocolate over the tops or dip them in a pan of chocolate to get that espresso shop look. But in all honesty, they just need a big, ol' glass of milk and you'll be perfectly happy. Enjoy!

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