Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crock Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal

I haven't fallen off the planet!  I started a super exciting winter internship with the Green Urban Lunchbox so I will be cutting back my food posting for a few months.  I am still cooking, although I need to get a new memory card and card reader before I can get back to photo-taking.  Don't worry, it will happen. 

Busy days mean not much time for breakfast, so boy is it a nice surprise to wake up to oatmeal that's already cooked and ready to be served.  Crock pot to the rescue!  Every crock pot is a little different so I suggest trying this recipe out during the day first so you can verify the time and temperature for yours.  The Low setting on mine cooked it too much after 7 hours but keeping it on Warm works well.  This is a mish-mash of various recipes online, tweaked to my liking. 

This recipe has endless variation possibilities.  The canned pears have enough sweetness in them that I don't add any sugar.  Raisins can be thrown in if you like them big and juicy like grapes... not my thing but some people like that.  :)

Make sure to use steel-cut oats and not rolled oats, which get super mushy in crock pots.  Side note, Quaker is a unit of Pepsi, which is a GMO-supporting-company, so I avoid that brand. 

Crock Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal
Serves 2 very hungry people or 4 medium-hungry people

1 cup steel-cut oats, uncooked (I like Bob's Red Mill or McCanns in the round white can)
1 pint canned pears or 2 cups sliced/peeled/cored apples (fruit optional but delicious)
3 to 3-1/2 cups liquid, including liquid from pears (I use 2 cups milk, pear juice, and the rest water)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1. Pour all ingredients in crock pot.  Stir.
2. Set to warm for 7-8 hours
3. Get a good night's sleep knowing you have a delicious hot breakfast waiting for you!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar... or not

I am participating in the October Unprocessed 2013 Challenge, which means no unprocessed food for the month.  More details are on the Eating Rules website if you'd like to learn about it and/or join me!

Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar: Day 1
This coincided with my discovery of a recipe to make apple cider, and a quick Google search confirmed that lots of people make their own.  Part of the October Challenge is only using ingredients that a home cook could reasonably make (or grow etc) and I love learning about how to make common things that a lot of people don't think about where they come from other than the grocery store.

I never thought that my cooking education would involve trying to make something get moldy, on purpose, but here we are.  I remember as a kid when it came time to clean out the fridge running into moldy things and we all joked that it was okay because it was a science experiment.  Now it really is one!  I don't know whether I will be able to bring myself to try the vinegar or not once it's done... or to ever want to eat anything with vinegar in it again... but I do think it's important to see where our food comes from and eat with that complete knowledge.

This is apple season here in Utah and I'm pretty excited that vinegar uses the leftover peels from coring and peeling apples.  A weekend canning project gave me a nice big pile of peels to get started.  The whole process takes a couple of months. 

UPDATE Six weeks later:  I think it's too cold in our house to make vinegar.  The apples are still hardly molding at all.  The peels have shrunk to about half the volume and were bubbly for a while, but the fermentation seems to have completely stopped at this point.  On the plus side it doesn't have a smell like I thought it would after the first few days.  Next year I will try this earlier in the summer when it's still nice and hot outside with longer days of sunshine. 

Step One
Peel your apples and make a big pile of the scraps.  Leave them exposed to the air so they turn brown.  The is the beginning of the fermentation process.

Step Two
Find a large glass jar to make your vinegar in.  Plastic works too; do not use metal!  Mine is in a sun-tea jar that was about to go into winter storage.  Pile up the brown scraps in the jar, cover with water, and put a loose paper towel or thin cloth over the top.  I rubber-banded mine on so no little flies would find it but if you can leave it just gently sitting on top, even better.  That lets more oxygen in. 

Now, put the jar in a warm draft-free place and leave it alone.  I suggest a place where you won't mind the smell; after only a few days I am already wondering how bad that will get but I'm pretty motivated to do food experiments at least once!