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Mug Shots

A couple of weeks ago, a friend posted a recipe for banana-cake-in-a-mug. I have a recipe for chocolate cake in a mug that I’ve made from time to time, which is quite good, but until I went searching I didn’t realize how many different things you can make with a single mug, in the microwave.

I’m gradually working my way down this list, and I’ll come back and update as I go. In the meantime, here’s a pretty good list to start from.

Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug–I sort of made this today, only I used leftover cooked pasta rather than cooking it first. It’s actually not bad–the cheese doesn’t melt gently into a lovely bechamel sauce like one would prefer, and it stays a little stretchy, but it tastes yummy and comfort-food-y.

Coffee Cup Quiche–This seems like a sort of no-brainer, actually; we do scrambled egg in a ramekin all the time, why not add a few extra ingredients and put it in a mug? (Obviously, no crust here, but one does what one can.)

Chilaquiles in a Mug–Quiche but with Mexican seasonings and a little tortilla chip crust and crunch. I actually like chilaquiles a lot, so I’m delighted to have found an easy way to make them for myself, since my family isn’t into it.

Meatloaf in a mug–I’m only really linking for the concept, and I’ll post my version if I ever really make it. Off the top of my head, I’d leave out the onion soup mix and add some actual chopped up onion, carrots, and celery, with garlic and herbs. I’d swap barbecue sauce for the ketchup. But I like the quick oats idea instead of bread crumbs…

And now, on to the dessertswhich we all know is what we’re really interested in:

Chocolate Cake in a Mug–the Classic, easy and fast and fairly not-too-bad-for-you, if you leave out the chocolate chips and go easy on the sugar. I use organic yogurt and white whole wheat flour too.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake in a MugThis one will go on the list early…as soon as I get some peanut butter. Looks amazing.

Nutella Mug Cake–I don’t really buy Nutella any more, due to the whole unsustainable palm oil thing, but if I did I’d be all over this.

Banana Cake in a Mug–Looks nice, and easy, and sort of foolproof. I might consider substituting a tbs. of unsweetened cocoa powder for 1 tbs of the flour…and maybe leaving out some of the sugar since banana is usually plenty sweet.

Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake–This looks like a basic cake recipe but with cinnamon and applesauce instead of other spices and fruits; seems a little unremarkable, but who knows?

Cheesecake in a Mug–Minute microwave cheesecake; I’m not sure about this one, since you have to stir and cook as you go, so it can’t possibly have the same consistency as regular cheesecake. I tried it, but with an extra (and I think deal-breaking) wrinkle in the mix: I substituted greek yogurt and cornstarch for the cream cheese per this “normal” cheesecake recipe. Didn’t quite do it in the microwave; got all curdly and lumpy. Anyone tried this for real?

Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Mug–what’s to say? There’s nothing not to like about this…nothing all that remarkable, either, it’s chocolate chip dough but in a mug.

Brownie in a Mug–Ditto above

Cup of Coffee Cake–Intriguing. Looks like more work than it’s worth, but could be good. I just can’t see myself making this, when I could be making the next one down the list…

Mason Jar Berry Cobbler--this one makes a larger portion, or it can be divided into two mugs. (Or, I guess, halved, right?)

Anything I missed from this list? Any more awesome 1-mug microwave wonders out there?

[UPDATE: I decided I wanted a chocolate pudding recipe I could make in a mug too, and made up my own recipe based on another microwave recipe. It’s good! You mix 1-2 tbs white sugar depending on your sweet tooth, 1 1/2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 1/4 tsp cornstarch, and a little salt in a mug. Stir in half a cup of milk slowly till there are no lumps, add 1/2 tsp vanilla, and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring each time till it comes out sort of dark and shiny. Refrigerate till puddingy. If you’re me, you’d also cut up half a banana and a tsp. or so peanut butter and stir it in before chilling. REALLY good…]

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Baked Oatmeal Revisited

Another of my favorite breakfast-on-the-go recipes–Baked Oatmeal.

I’m not sure really what to call it–it’s not a quick bread, it’s not a cookie, it’s not a muffin–there’s no flour, so its consistency is really just that of, well, oatmeal.  Except cool and in bar or muffin form.

The basic original recipe I put up here a while ago; this time I varied it a bit to see if this would work. So:

Baked Oatmeal Recipe, Banana Variation

mix together:

  • 1.5 cups oatmeal
  • 1/8 cup oat bran (optional)
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • Few shakes cinnamon, ginger, and/or nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (opt)
  • 1/2 cup (or more!) dried fruit, like cranberries, currants, raisins, blueberries, whatever (add last)

Spread in 8×8 greased baking dish. (or 9×9, because that’s what I have, it’s just a little thinner) or divide into 12 portions in a muffin tin. (They will be only about an inch thick.)

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes in a baking pan or 20 minutes in muffin tins.  Let cool. Cut into squares, or remove from muffin tins. Store in fridge if it’s not going to be gone within a day or two.

VERDICT: Delicious.  Honestly, even too sweet with the little bit of brown sugar added, because of the banana; next time I’d just leave it out.  I wonder what this would be like with a little peanut butter…or with 1/2 cup pumpkin puree in place of the banana, and maybe a little orange juice in place of some of the milk…seriously, any of the funky variations to which we treat oatmeal could be applied here as well…

Brown Rice

I just made up a ginormous pan of brown basmati rice last night.  Well, enormous is perhaps an overstatement–two cups of dry rice in 4 cups of water, to equal 6 cups of finished product.  I did it to sort of force myself out of easy pasta as my go-to-source for grains. Pasta, with refined white flour, is nutritionally less than a powerhouse…brown rice, on the other hand, is a wonderful fibrous whole grain, and one that still contains all the good stuff that white rice has had removed. It also takes about 40 minutes to cook, which is why I will use pasta or white rice as my “go to” grains more often than I should. But this time I made a bunch of the healthy stuff.  Now my mission is to actually eat it.

It’s going to be fairly easy, actually, and I think this is something I should be a bit more staple-y about, having it in my fridge sort of the same way I nowadays have a container of quickie bread dough just sitting there waiting to become bread when I feel like it.  So far I’ve come up with–

Breakfast: This morning I put some into a bowl with some cut up fruit and raisins, cinnamon, a little brown sugar, and some milk thrown over it, put it in the microwave for 2 minutes, and delicious.  Like rice pudding only much quicker.  Like oatmeal only not as gummy. Like cereal only way, way better.  This is a keeper!

Lunch: my dietary downfall is my favorite comfort food: pasta with butter and salt and a little parmesan.  I just think it’s the absolute most delicious thing in the world.  If I had to choose between giving up pasta with butter and salt for a month or chocolate for a year, I’d seriously have to think about which to let go of. I was delighted to realize today that brown rice with butter and salt and a little parmesan is very nearly as good as its white flour pasta equivalent.  Even my picky kids will eat this, though they complain about it.

Dinner: well, tonight I’ll probably take a break from the stuff, but here of course the possibilities are endless.  Throwing pasta sauce or pesto over it probably wouldn’t be bad at all.  Cooking some lentils and mixing the lentils and rice with some curry powder would be yummy too.  (Though honestly I’d probably just make fresh rice along with the lentils, since it takes about the same time for each.) All kinds of veggies could go into this very easily, too.  Throw some salsa, black beans, and corn in–you’ve got a nice Southwestern rice dish.  Throw the above onto a flour tortilla and roll it up, it’s burritos.  Or you can make fried rice, your own alternative to the oh-so-delicious but incredibly fat-laden Chinese restaurant staple–you can do your own recipe searches, but the secret seems to be a combination of day-old and not-too-moist rice that’s very cold, and a skillet that’s very hot.  This site seems like one I’ll want to revisit for that, since I’ve never had a fried rice success…

Rice will keep easily in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, and I find that basmati seems to hold its shape and tastiness much longer than “regular” rice.  It dries out a bit as it sits, of course, but as long as you store it well (am I the only one whose husband doesn’t get that those cardboard things from the chinese restaurant are NOT the place to store the leftovers?) it stays good for several days–and I’ve been known to push that several days pretty far. (As I always say…please don’t take my advice on food safety. I’m a food safety nightmare. Do your own research and homework. If it has blue spots on it, don’t eat it.)

Rice Pudding Risotto

A few weeks ago on The Green Phone Booth I posted a “cookbook roundup” of some of my favorite cookbooks.  One of them, The New Basics, is where I got the basic template for the absolutely delicious rice pudding I made the other night. No joke, this is probably the best rice pudding I’ve ever had.

The recipe in that cookbook is for Hazelnut Rice Pudding.  It calls for chopped toasted hazelnuts, currants soaked in Frangelico liqueur, Arborio rice, milk, and sugar.  I’ve honestly never actually made that exact recipe, because I almost never make any exact recipe–but doesn’t it sound amazing?  Still, a couple of afternoons ago I just wanted rice pudding…plain old happy comfort food.

So here’s how the basic recipe worked; it takes a long time and needs a little babysitting but not a lot of actual attention or work:

Risotto Rice Pudding

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oiled casserole dish, place the following:

  • 4 cups milk
  • 5 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice (risotto short-grain rice)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbs. brandy (optional; other liqueur would work)
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked in brandy for a couple of hours to overnight (soaking optional; alternate dried fruits could be very nice)

Bake uncovered in oven for about 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. (If you forget it’ll make one of those ucky skins on top after 25-ish minutes.  If so, no big deal; just skim it off and continue.) After 2 hours the rice should be very mushy and what liquid is left will be thick and creamy.  Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Let cool; pudding will thicken even more upon standing.

That’s IT.  So easy, so yummy.  And I took a few baking potatoes, scrubbed and pierced them, and put them in the oven with the pudding for the last 90 minutes or so of baking.   So one oven heating served multiple purposes.

Breakfast Mission: Muesli

Okay, so the mission continues…for the past week and a half I’ve managed breakfast every day.  Most days it’s been oatmeal in various permutations, which I like but which is getting a little old no matter how much variety I attempt to introduce.  Once it was a piece of whole grain zucchini bread, good but too much sugar and not enough stick-to-the-guts-ness so I was hungry an hour later, and once (sigh) it was an egg-and-cheese wrap from Dunkin Donuts (Give me a break, it was a Sunday when I had to play the 7:30 service, and I’m so not a morning person…the one day every 3 weeks or so when this happens I do allow myself the drive-through. ), but every other day it’s been oatmeal.  The box emptied yesterday morning.

So yesterday I’m shopping for more, and I ran across the whole Bob’s Red Mill section of the cereal stuffs.   My immediate attention had been caught by the “on sale” sign for the multigrain hot cereal, a pound for $1.99.  Right next to it was a pound of Bob’s “Muesli” for $3.69. They looked fairly similar, except that the muesli had some fruit and nuts and seeds and stuff in it too.

My husband really likes muesli.  I have tended to shy away from it simply because it seems to cost so much more than ordinary grain cereal, and isn’t THAT much better, at least to me.  But I bought this stuff because, you know, breakfast mission and research and stuff.  (The blog becomes a rationalization for so many things…:-)

Had some this morning.  Rarity of rarities, I found it too sweet–I soaked it overnight in milk like the package suggested (1 part cereal to 2 parts milk), and I think the dates (dates are almost pure sugar, you know) just gave up too much and the milk was crazy sweet. Soaking it for less time, or making it hot, might help this.

(Did you know that in ancient world in the Middle East dates were the primary source of all sugars–still might be, actually–and that in the Bible when it talks about a land flowing with “milk and honey” the honey it’s referring to is probably date syrup?)

On the other hand, making my own might help more.  Because essentially, as far as I can see, “muesli” is German for “granola you didn’t bother to bake.” This was a major light bulb moment for me.  Because baking granola, as yummy as it is, introduces a lot of oil into the mixture and also is just an extra step and more work.  So I’m going to start making my own muesli, to see if it’s another way I can fit a healthy whole grain breakfast into my life without being more stressed or losing any sleep. (My mission parameters are fairly clearly stated, and the speedy-quick is a big one.) Putting cereal and juice/milk/whatever into a bowl in the fridge before bed and just pulling it out to eat the next day sounds like an incredibly easy thing to do, so let’s see how that goes. (And I guess I can always heat it up if I want a hot breakfast.)

So I looked up a few sites with muesli recipes (here and here , for example, but there are lots more)…and this is what it boils down to

Infinitely Varied And Substitutionny Cold Muesli Recipe

  • whole grain, 1/4 to 1/2 cup per serving. This can be rolled oats, wheat, rye barley, or one of the “multigrain hot cereal” mixes that are easy to find and cost about the same as old fashioned rolled oats. (Stay away from steel cut oats for this; they are a different story, delicious but require a time commitment to actually cook!) Some recipe sites suggested using pre-made corn flakes, wheat flakes, whatever…but that sounds like cheating to me. 🙂
  • dried fruit/raw nuts, almost any kind you like.  Anywhere from half as much fruit-and-nut as grains on up to equal parts of each, but remember that the fruits and nuts will up the calorie content significantly and too much might, er, mitigate some of the Advantageous Digestive Benefits Of Eating Nice Whole Grain Breakfasts. (You know what I’m sayin’–too much fruit will take it one way, too many nuts the other.) They also cost more.  But the bottom line is, don’t bother dirtying a measuring cup for this–just toss a little in till it looks right.
  • liquid: fruit juice, yogurt, or milk.  Twice as much liquid as solids, basically.  If you used a total of about 1/2 cup grains, use a cup of liquid.  This is where the real variety might begin–I even found one recipe calling for dried cranberries and almonds as the fruits-and-nuts, with cranberry juice as the liquid.  It was sort of funny looking, bright bright red, but it might taste really nice.
  • If desired, fresh fruit (a banana, a chopped apple, fresh or frozen berried) could be tossed in too.  As much as you want, I guess–who needs recipes?

Mix together in a bowl before bed; chill in the fridge overnight.  Pull it out in the morning and chow down.  Quick, easy, yummy. Leaves plenty of time to make coffee and children’s lunches.

I think you can use this identical recipe and toss it into the microwave for 3 minutes, and you have hot cereal…

The Most Important Meal of the Day? Fine, whatever. (Healthy Whole Breakfast ideas)

I don’t like breakfast.  I don’t care how many people tell me I really should eat it, I just don’t much like to.  My idea of a good breakfast is a nice cafe au lait.  Has a little protein from the milk, right?

On the other hand, I am also overweight and tend to do a bit of late-night calorie-loading, so maybe if I made a conscious effort to have a decent breakfast in the morning I could back off on some of the other eating I do during the day and in the evening…

Ran across this article on Eat Drink Better, with 11 ideas for healthy breakfasts.  They look pretty good, though none of them are all that crazy nuts surprising.  Stuff like yogurt with fruit and nuts and a little honey, or veggie omelet with turkey bacon (why use the turkey bacon, is my question–you get protein with the egg?), banana with nut butter, stuff like that.  Cereal with fruit and milk, for a truly novel suggestion. But they all look fairly yummy.

A couple of the more unique offerings in that article–it suggested oatmeal, of course, but also had brown rice as one of its suggestions.  Add a little cinnamon and a handful of raisins, it suggests, and it’s good to go.  And the kind of breakfast I’d be likely to eat, honestly, was on the list: an apple, a slice of cheese, and a handful of nuts.

Which brings me to my other rebellion: why do we supposedly have to eat breakfast foods in the morning? Whose idea was it to decree that certain foods are “morning” foods and others are more appropriate for lunch or dinner?

So, my idea of some of the breakfasts that I like:

  • leftover pasta (whole wheat is healthiest) with chunky marinara sauce and a little parmesan. And yes, I eat it cold.
  • leftover pizza–again, if you used whole grain crust and lots of veggies on top, there’s a nice balanced meal right there.
  • “pizza” that’s not necessarily leftover: take a whole grain bagel or english muffin half, put a little chunky marinara sauce and some grated cheese on it, and broil or toast in the toaster oven
  • When you make brown rice, barley, or any other grain for dinner, make some extra and save it for breakfast: heat in the microwave and mix with some combination of the following: brown sugar or honey/cut up fruit/milk/cinnamon (tastes like rice pudding), or butter/salt/parmesan/oregano, or a little pesto sauce, or a little chunky marinara, almost anything you’d put on pasta is good in any other grain.
  • Take a wheat tortilla and fill it with whatever the heck you want–sprouts, veggies, tomatoes, cheese, rice (or barley or other grain), some pieces of whatever your main dish was the night before…whatever. Fold it into a wrap or burrito. Yes, you’re allowed to have a burrito for breakfast that doesn’t have an egg in it.
  • Another tortilla thought–smear some nut butter on it, drizzle with a little honey, and dollop some yogurt on top of that. Throw some cut up fruit (apples and bananas are what we have around, but hey, whatever!) and/or raisins or other dried fruit on top of that, and wrap it all up.  Who says you can’t have fruit in a sandwich?
  • Leftovers.  Almost anything you ate for dinner last night is not a bad idea for breakfast, as long as it has some good fiber and fruit/veggieness and stuff in it.  How about a bowl of sweet potatoes with a little honey and cinnamon sprinkled on?  If you want to make it “breakfasty” you could have it over a little oatmeal.  Whatever vegetables you ate last night, heat them up and eat them–put them in an omelette if you must, but you don’t have to, a serving of whole grain anything with them would be just fine.

In short, the best breakfast to me is often exactly what the best lunch or dinner might be.  And if you like the quintissentially breakfasty foods, heck, eat them for lunch and dinner if you want!  Be daring. Be a rebel.  Eat what you want, when you want.

After all, everyone else’s mother says it’s the most important meal of the day. Mine doesn’t, because she doesn’t eat breakfast either.