Leftover Oatmeal? Try this!

Muffins like to be surrounded by their friends : butter and hot cocoa.

Muffins like to be surrounded by their friends known as Butter and Hot Cocoa…

Oatmeal is on the breakfast menu every week at our house. Not that there is a menu, per se. There is simply an eat your breakfast situation – similar to that of lunchbox finds and dinner delicacies. You get what you get. You’re welcome.

You’d think I’d learn not to make so much oatmeal, but I was never good at math – so I always end up with more than needed. And I find it hard to sell oatmeal as an after-school snack.

You know what I can sell as an after-school snack? Muffins. Especially right out of the oven. Especially paired with a cup of hot chocolate. Especially on a blustery fall day.

Georgia is a muffin master...

Georgia is a muffin master…

So yesterday I asked our Epi kitchen pros if I could make muffins out of leftover oatmeal. The kitchen team totally loves it when I go to them in the middle of a busy work day and ask them questions like this. They act like they are super duper busy prepping for a huge event, but I know, deep down, that they would be disappointed if they didn’t have the chance to stop everything and discuss oatmeal muffins.

I realize that many of you out there don’t have access to a full kitchen of professional chefs so I am sharing this recipe with you. It’s fast, it’s healthy, and it’s delicious. And it leaves more room in your fridge for the important things. Like vegetables. And Chardonnay. Speaking of, these muffins pair well with Chardonnay.

There's simply no room for oatmeal...

There’s simply no room for oatmeal…

Epicurean’s Play It Again Oatmeal Muffins

Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 25 minutes | Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil, melted (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (my leftover oatmeal already included raisins and brown sugar – feel free to add these items or others such as blueberries, chocolate chips, etc. – creativity, like chocolate chips, is encouraged in the Epicurean kitchens!)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Butter or spray or line muffin pans.
  • Combine dry ingredients together in small bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, stir the egg, milk, and butter into the oatmeal.
  • Stir until well blended.
  • Combine the two mixtures and mix well.
  • Spoon each muffin cup 2/3 full of batter.mes out dry when inserted into the center.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

submitted by Stephanie Blackford

Sour Cherries Offer A Sweet Dessert

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I recently made this fantastic Sour Cherry Crisp. At least I think it is fantastic, considering I didn’t eat it. No, no, not because I lack a sweet tooth (by now we all know that is a complete and total falsehood), but because I am gluten-free and was out of almond flour and was therefore very SAD. Sad, I tell you.

But every single person in my house devoured it, so I have proof that it was delicious.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s simple; all of the ingredients (besides the cherries) are in most kitchens. The other great thing about this recipe is that I actually have a cherry tree in my backyard, so I sent my four little minis out to pick lots and lots of cherries. This kept them busy for hours. Then how SAD was I? Not sad at all, I tell you.

Once the cherries were picked, we washed them and then pitted them, which offers a lot of opportunities for smashing, smushing, and comparing cherries to various body parts. The boys took the lead on this, because in this one instance, boys are better than girls.

Fresh Sour Cherry Crisp

Serves: 10

Prep Time: Depends on if you, too, have a cherry tree in your backyard and in-home child labor – if cherries are store bought, approximately 20 minutes

Bake Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups pitted sour cherries
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (if you are gluten-free like I am, and smart enough to have almond-flour in your pantry, not like I am, feel free to use it!)
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a large bowl combine cherries, white sugar and 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Pour into a 9X13 greased baking dish
  • In a medium bowl (let’s be honest here, folks, I used the same bowl – less dishes) combine 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour, oats and brown sugar
  • Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and sprinkle over cherries
  • Bake in preheated oven until for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream or greek yogurt

 Submitted by Stephanie Blackford

No Bake Fourth of July Desserts – Let Freedom (From the Kitchen) Ring!

As you may know, I am a fan of desserts. Like, if I were a teenager, I would have posters of cakes on my wall. It’s that bad.

But I am also a fan of feeding my crew healthy, non-food dyed, non-creepy-chemical eats. And that core belief is part of the Epicurean Group Bill of Rights created by our forefather. Real food for real people. God Bless America.

There are several holiday desserts that fit the – um – bill. Or at least almost fit the bill, with a  little modification. And these treats are simple enough to do quickly, don’t require an oven, and won’t cause that post-dessert guilt. I spend my life feeling guilty about the desserts. But those who can not do, teach. Here we go:

Love this portable dessert!

Directions:

  • Puree strawberries in a  blender with a little bit of agave
  • Place strawberries, organic vanilla or lemon yogurt, and blueberries in a mason jar or drinking glass
  • Chill
  • Serve

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If you want to steer clear of the fake stuff, use 100% real chocolate, organic pretzel rods, and  an all-natural food dye to create red, white, and blue pretzel sticks – and skip the sprinkles (they are a mess anyway).Warm chocolate on the stove, dip pretzel rods, and place rods on wax paper in the refrigerator for an hour.

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Alternate bananas, strawberries and blueberries to create this edible flag! This is a great project for little tykes – keeps them busy for a good 8 minutes!

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These are made with Rice Krispie treats, but you can swap out pineapple for the stars – making this a great breakfast, snack or dessert.

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EggCellent Idea – The Golden Egg (for real!)

egg

So we are assuming that you are being inundated with recipes for Easter Brunch, but this idea for a “golden” hard boiled egg had to be shared. Eggs, dyed in springy pastels or not, are a great source of protein. My little people don’t like the yolk (aka – the pit) so by performing this magic trick, I am able to get them to eat the whole egg which makes everyone happy. I like to be happy. Click here for a short video and enjoy!

 

(submitted by Stephanie Blackford)

Food Addiction – The Real Thing?

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I joke about food addiction all the time, but it is a real thing. I didn’t realize how real until I read the latest issue of Experience Life Magazine, a publication put out by Lifetime Fitness, the gym where I donate $162 each month.

Anyway.

Dr. Mark Hyman’s article, “Beating Food Addiction” simplifies what can be a mystifying problem for many people. Food addiction must affect many, considering 70 percent of Americans are overweight. Why else do so many of us “eat foods that we know aren’t good for us, that aggravate chronic symptoms, and that make us feel sick, bloated, and guilty?”

The answer is tricky, but we are biologically programmed to eat sugar- and fat-laden foods and store the extra calories (as fat) to carry us through the times when food is scarce. But the food we are storing on the inside is never used, because we live in the 21st century and not in a cave. I do know some people that should live in a cave, but that’s not what this is about.

According to Dr. Hyman, it’s biology that’s getting the best of us. “What saved us as hunter-gatherers is killing us now,” he writes. Well-said, and pretty sad.

So how do you know if you have a food addiction and not just an unhealthy love of potato chips? You can take a look at Dr. Kelly Brownell’s nine points below – the more intensely or more frequently you experience these feelings and behaviors, the more addicted you are. (FYI: I am in some major trouble here.)

  1. You consume certain foods even if you are not hungry because of cravings.
  2. You worry about cutting down on certain foods.
  3. You feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.
  4. You have health or social problems (affecting school or work) because of food
issues and yet keep eating the way you do despite negative consequences.
  5. You have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overeating certain foods instead of spending time in important activities with family, friends, work, or recreation.
  6. You have had withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and anxiety when you cut down on certain foods (not including caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks).
  7. Your behavior with respect to food and eating causes you significant distress.
  8. Issues related to food and eating decrease your ability to function effectively in your daily routine, at your job or school, and in social or family activities.
  9. You need more and more of the foods you crave to either experience any pleasure and/or reduce negative emotions.

So now what? Dr. Hyman recommends a comprehensive detox, not just eliminating a few trigger foods. A 10-day, cold turkey detox that eschews gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar and celebrates lean protein, nuts, fruits, vegetables and water.

This is nothing new. We all know this and we don’t all do this and why? Because we’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid – literally – for years. We have been ingesting a drug in the form of something as innocent-looking as a vitamin water. It’s not our fault necessarily, but it is our problem.

Dr. Hyman’s book and supporting articles offer a bit of hope by simplifying the reason behind food issues, eliminating the guilt associated with them, and offering steps towards success.

Heidi Wachter tried Dr. Hyman’s detox and shared her daily insights. Reading about her experience was inspiring, until the part when she mentioned she’s been trying to “put on weight.” So then I hated her. But just for a second.

I originally wrote this post with a plan to post one of Dr. Hyman’s recipes, but if you are serious about attempting his plan, one little recipe is not going to help. So check out some of the resources he offers and fill us in on your success.

Epicurean has and always will offer a variety of foods and we never label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for our guests since we are all different cavemen and cavewomen. But – writing this blog reminded me of the importance of enjoying good food in any situation, while also being true to yourself and your needs. That’s why we encourage our guests to speak up when they need or want something different on their plate or at their table. And we won’t send you back to your cave just for asking.

Hungry to Make a Difference? Here’s How.

pbj cupcakes

 

‘Tis the season of leftover Halloween candy and apple pies and egg nog and champagne at midnight – or at brunch – or both if you are so inclined. Or lucky. Blogs and magazine articles and morning shows are already talking about how to avoid the holiday weight gain and the post-party hangover.

But a recent article in The Denver Post, tucked inside the “Season to Share” insert, stopped me in my tracks. There I was, happily sipping my hot coffee after a busy morning that started with me getting four children dressed and fed and off to school; and ended  with me cleaning up dishes from their breakfast of steel cut oatmeal with plump raisins and organic bananas, and topped with cinnamon, nutmeg and milk delivered weekly from Robinson Dairy. Whew – life is HARD. Then I read the Post article:  “For pupils, breakfast is served – thanks to Hunger Free Colorado.” Oh.

Sometimes I need it spelled out, literally, in black and white. Just an hour earlier, two out of my four were whining about not wanting raisins in their oatmeal and now I was reading the unappetizing and staggering statistics – 83 percent of the students at Rose Hill Elementary in Commerce City qualify for a free breakfast. Ouch. Kids at Rose Hill were eating Ultimate Breakfast Rounds (aka “UBRs”), packed with fiber and protein to get little bellies full so growing brains could learn. Hmmm – makes you think, doesn’t it?

Hunger Free Colorado, in operation since 2009, served almost 134,000 daily breakfasts during the last school year.  That sounds like a lot because it is a lot – but I imagine there are many more children out there going without, coming from families that are not able to make even the most humble of ends meet.

At Epicurean, we have always been diligent about supporting the community in the fight against hunger. After all, Larry DiPasquale started the company because of his passion for feeding people. Our experience with dozens of organizations across the state have made an impact on the Epicurean staff; and clients such as Live Well Colorado, an organization that is fighting the battle against childhood obesity which, research shows, often stems from a lack of resources (think – money) to obtain fresh, healthy foods has stayed with us all. We have an ongoing partnership with We Don’t Waste, an innovative establishment that collects unused food from venues, caterers, restaurants, and other food purveyors and distributes it to Denver’s underserved populations.  And our 20-plus-year relationship with Volunteers of America has and always will be close to our hearts – we even donate a portion of our Epicurean Street Cuisine Food Truck proceeds to the organization.

Based on the Post article, Hunger Free Colorado believes that more than 815,000 Coloradoans are at risk for hunger. Our state is has one of the fastest-growing rates of childhood poverty in the nation – though we are 31st in the lineup for school breakfast participation. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of mouths to feed. So whether you are an individual and want to reach out to Hunger Free Colorado or a restaurant able to support We Don’t Waste or just one person able to make a lunch for a young neighbor, we applaud you and ask that you share your story with us on Facebook.  In the meantime, here is our take on a breakfast treat to serve to your own family, thanks to Yvette Garfield of Handstand Kids. Enjoy – while counting your blessings.

 Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20  minutes | Serves: approximately 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 jar of strawberry jam

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine, set aside.
  • Place the softened butter and sugar in another large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on a low speed until smooth.
  • Add peanut butter to the bowl with the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add one egg and mix to combine. Repeat with remaining 2 eggs, mixing after each to combine before adding the next.
  • In another large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla extract, oil and buttermilk, set aside.
  • Add half of the dry flour mixture to the bowl with the butter. Mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add the sour cream mixture to the bowl and mix until combined.
  • Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Add remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  • Use a spoon to scoop the mixture into 20 lined cupcake pans or baking cups.
  • Bake cupcakes for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown, and let cool at room temperature.
  • Once cooled, use the melon baller to gently scoop out a small piece from the center of each cupcake.
  • Fill the holes with the strawberry jam.
  • Cover tops of cupcakes with Peanut Butter

 

*Alternative: For those with nut allergies, try this recipe with sunflower seed butter.

 

It’s A Maneater!

manfluencers

So, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. The good news: more men are grocery shopping. The bad news: more men are grocery shopping.

In a survey conducted by Midan Marketing LLC, a research group focused primarily on the meat industry, 47 percent of the 900 men studied were deemed – brace yourself – manfluencers.

I know, it’s pretty bad. I’ve called men by many, many, many a name, but manfluencer was never even under consideration. I do have several other names should you be at a loss. I even keep a list of my top 100 in the drawer with all the sharp knives.

How does this new manfluencer person impact the aisles at your favorite grocery store? For starters, marketing experts are reworking packaging to appeal to the male contingency. Yogurt containers are bolder, darker and highlight the amount of protein. Gone are girly phrases like “low-fat” and cartons with pastels dancing around the bottom. Yogurt is getting tough.

Now words like “pro” and “ultimate” are making their way on to store shelves. Kraft recently realized that their Velveeta Shells and Cheese, once marketed to busy mothers, was actually being gobbled up by twenty-something-aged males who are married but have not yet experienced the joys of fatherhood. These are the guys who have never attempted to cook for a family of six while someone is hanging on their leg and another is crying about the fact that Barbie is swimming in the toilet.

I admit that I do have a husband that often does a short grocery run. This mostly happens when he is craving a steak or is desperate to escape the insanity of a house full of short people. My children LOVE when their father shops because he comes home with “treats” like Oreo cookies, these creepy fruit snacks that are forbidden in my house and once – and only once – a box of Lucky Charms.  He has never come home with yogurt. Not even once.

So, how does this information help all you women out there? Well, if you have a husband that doesn’t shop, this might spur him on. But if you do have a husband who shops, be prepared and consider keeping a running grocery list somewhere visible. Apparently men find it much more fun to pay hard-earned money for “cold-brewed” coffee than to drink it out of the pot from this morning, where you left it after trying to save Barbie’s life.

No matter what the press says, we still love OJ

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No – not that OJ. Get your mind out of the gutter, people! That OJ is in jail right now, not for the reasons we may or may not think he should be in jail, but jail nonetheless.

We’re talking about orange juice. You know, the sweet, delicious nectar created by the gods of all things good in the world. Apparently the beloved orange juice, once a staple on breakfast tables across America, has had a nasty spill. A decade ago, over 835 gallons of the good stuff was sold each year ; only 563 gallons were purchased during this year’s  season. What’s got Americans turning sour on OJ?

Apparently the influx of sports drinks and specialty beverages are taking a bite out of the orange. With so many choices in the marketplace, it is easy to overlook something as passé as orange juice. Additionally, the cost of orange juice has soared, leaving consumers with a bitter taste in their collective mouths.

One expert said, “Orange juice could be seeing the twilight of its contract.” How sad! The word “twilight” sounds – um – final.

So, in an effort to show our love for OJ (no, not that OJ), we’re giving you a few of our favorite things to do with orange juice. Got better ideas? Share them with us!

  • Add orange juice to store-bought cake mix and let people think your concoction is homemade because it sort of is. Sort of.
  • Marinate pork or chicken in OJ; combine OJ with ginger for an Asian edge or add garlic and pepper for a more traditional flavor.
  • Blend vanilla yogurt and orange juice, pour into popsicle molds and surprise your little (or big) kids at breakfast. Smile when you hear them say, “Popsicles for breakfast?!! You’re the best mom EVER.”
  • Freeze orange juice in an ice-cube tray and add them to your cocktails – the cubes won’t water down the drink! You can also add orange juice cubes to punch and iced tea for added flavor.
  • Splash a generous amount of OJ on eggs before scrambling (a secret we learned from The Ritz-Carlton)
  • Add two tablespoons to any liquid cleanser (hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo) for more cleaning power and delicious smelling products.
  • Place a cup of orange juice in your empty dishwasher and run it; the orange juice will dissolve the gunk and grime found in the appliance.
  • Use a hot washcloth on your face to open pores and then rub an orange juice soaked cotton ball over your skin for a brighter complexion.

Whatever you do, don’t lock OJ away forever…what would the world be without mimosas on Sunday morning to counteract the screwdrivers from Saturday night? Our beloved OJ doesn’t deserve solitary confinement. Not this time, anyway.

Breakfast “Crunch”? – How to Ace the Morning Madness

granola

Apparently I missed the fact that the new school year starts in about three minutes. I am already feeling behind! What happened to summer? The pool is still OPEN for Pete’s sake; and I just bought fresh bottles of sunscreen! Remember when school started after Labor Day, when it wasn’t sweltering outside and you could sort of get your head around wearing something besides flip-flops and zinc oxide?

Well, friends, time marches on and I spend my insomnia-filled middle-of-the-night anxiety sessions trying to simplify, um, everything.  I am constantly on a quest to find the easiest, quickest, healthiest ways to feed my crew of four, myself, my husband, and the gaggle of neighborhood friends that pop in and out of our door. Planning ahead seems to be the best way to accomplish this goal and still stay sane. It also helps avoid a morning filled with heavy sighing and lots of eye-rolling (from me), and the mad dash to the bus sans tied shoes and brushed teeth (also from me).

This Coconut Macaroon Granola, recently highlighted by health guru and all-around smarty pants Kris Carr, is an ideal make-ahead dish. Double this recipe and keep the goods sealed in an airtight container; it makes a great on-the-go snack that you can eat with one hand while trying to answer an email or unload a dishwasher or dress a Barbie doll.

I use this granola as part of a mini breakfast buffet. I place all non-perishable items out on the table the night before school (granola, bowls, spoons, napkins, cups, the overdue library books, an unmatched sock, etc.) and then add milk, yogurt, cinnamon, whole fruit, and berries in the morning. Kids and adults can choose from an array of mixtures and toppings, but there is nothing on the table that isn’t full of good stuff to keep the body and mind (no matter what the age) going. Plus, I’ve seen my children empty an entire box of $4 cereal which makes me want to cry almost as much as a teacher in-service day.

Coconut Macaroon Granola (thank you Abra Pappa and Kris Carr!)

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Serves: 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of organic oats
  • 1/4 cup of almond butter
  • 1/3 cup of agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup of organic slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup of coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300° F
  • Combine almond butter and organic oats in large mixing bowl. Mix until even.
  • Add organic agave nectar, almonds, coconut flakes and chia seeds. Mix until all ingredients are combined.
  • Evenly spread mixture on a cookie sheet and bake for 15.
  • Remove from oven, toss with spatula and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Shake It Up This Valentine’s Day

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Want to start your Valentine’s Day off with something sweet? This berry breakfast shake is delicious and nutritious; and who doesn’t love that? Plus, wouldn’t you rather kick-off the holiday with this heart-healthy concoction rather than a handful of stale candy hearts and a box of chocolates? On second thought, don’t answer that. But make the shake – and drop the candy.

SweetHeart Shake for Two
Prep time: 2 minutes | Blend time: 2 minutes | Serves: 2

Ingredients:
  • 4 large kale leaves
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blackberries or blueberries
  • 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tbs honey
Directions:
  • Blend washed kale and coconut milk in a blender until finely ground
  • Add berries, yogurt, orange juice, cinnamon and honey and blend well until all ingredients are combined
  • Sip your heart out