Chocolate Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Hugging the Angel Oak in Charleston
Hugging the Angel Oak in Charleston

Spring and summer have been fun and full of travel, as well as cooking from lots of cookbooks and issues of Bon Appetit. One book that we keep rechecking out has been, surprisingly, Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy, which sadly needs to return home to the library for a bit. She has a recipe for overnight oats that have become a staple in our house, so I decided that I need to write down my modified version of the recipe so I don’t forget it, because that would be tragic.

Also, these oats aren’t pretty. Hence the picture of a tree instead. Trees are prettier than (delicious) brown sludge. Gwyneth clearly agrees, because she doesn’t have a picture for them either.

Chocolate Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Serves 1

This recipe makes for rather liquid heavy oats, which is how we like them. Feel free to increase the amount of chia seeds and/or decrease the amount of milk to your preference. A handful of berries thrown on top before serving is fantastic.

  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp raw cacao or cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup rice or almond milk (we use organic Rice Dream in the original flavor, which is lightly sweetened)
  • 2 dates, pitted and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp chia seeds

Combine everything into a bowl or, ideally, a mason jar and mix VERY well. The mason jar is easy to put on the lid and shake.

Cover and leave to soak overnight. Serve cold. Her note says that you can make them up to two days ahead of time, but we’ve never tried.

 

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Peach Thyme Sorbet

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When we lived in New York last year, our freezer was way too small to give up so much valuable space to the bowl of our ice cream maker, but one of the first things that went into our (slightly bigger) freezer in Cincinnati? That bowl, naturally.

It’s been looking at me resentfully ever since.

As part of my effort to best use our half bushel of peaches, I knew that I wanted an ice cream of some sort. I had thought about a peaches and cream situation, made with coconut milk of course, but decided that I wanted to really highlight the flavor of the peaches this round and make a sorbet.

A lovely hint of thyme in the background? Perfection.

This might even be Josh’s favorite thing I made from the peaches, which is really saying something. I mean, cake. Pies. So many peach things, and the sorbet wins.

Well done.

Peach Thyme Sorbet (inspired by this Sweet Plum Sorbet from Joy the Baker)

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • A little more than 1 pound of ripe peaches, pits removed and sliced into small chunks
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Small pinch of salt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon vodka (optional)

Make sure your ice cream maker is ready to use. Freeze any part necessary.

In a good sized pot over medium heat, stir together the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the peaches and salt, and stir to combine. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the peaches have softened and started to disintegrate slightly (this can vary depending on the ripeness of your peaches).

Turn off the heat, and either transfer in small batches (CAREFULLY) to a blender/food processor, or do as I did and use your immersion blender right in the pot and puree until smooth.

Side note: if you don’t have an immersion blender, do yourself a favor and get one. They’re the best.

Add the thyme sprigs to the mixture and let cool in the fridge, overnight if possible.

When the peach goodness is as cold as can be, remove the thyme, and stir in the lime juice and vodka.. Pour into your ice  cream maker and process according to your machine’s directions.

Pour the frozen sorbet into a freezer safe container and let freeze until hardened, at least 4 hours.

Scoop and enjoy!

Hot Cacao (For One)

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Some days, you need a treat. The weather has been cold for too long, the sun is shining for the first time in days and you know it won’t last so you try to soak in every ray, and you need something warm to wrap your hands around while you sit in an awkward spot on your dining room floor because it gets the best sun. This is life.

It’s great.

Also great? This hot chocolate. It’s full of good ingredients, takes just a few minutes on the stove to be complete, and is best served in one of your favorite mugs, hopefully with a really good memory attached to it. I chose the mug we bought on our honeymoon in Scotland. It gives me all the good feels.

Mix and match the ingredients of the drink. Switch out for whatever milk you like. Taste and add more sweetening if you like it super sweet. It should make you happy.

Hot Cacao

  • Roughly 1.5 c. milk of choice (I filled my mug with homemade coconut milk and poured it into the pan)
  • 2 tsp. raw cacao powder
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup, or to taste
  • Small pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. maca (optional)

Whisk together the ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat, until lightly simmering. Pour into a pretty mug. Done.

Sunflower Seed and Date Bars

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There was a time period that I was seriously obsessed with the LARABAR. It was the perfect thing to grab as I as running out the door in the morning, and easy to eat while driving (oops).  I loved the flavors, and there was enough variety that I didn’t have to worry about burning out on one.

However, the price, while not exorbitant, was still enough to make me feel a little guilty for not just eating breakfast at home, and I was usually hungry enough that I really wanted two of them anyway, so I stopped buying them. It didn’t help that poor Josh couldn’t eat them either, since nuts are a key ingredient.

Time passed, and I started to learn how to use seeds in place of nuts, and the glory of dates, and I kept stumbling across recipes for homemade date and nut bars. Josh thought they all looked good, so I set out to make one to suit our tastes and his allergies.

I succeeded.

Sunflower Seed and Date Bars (inspired by these)

Bars

  • 1 1/2 c. raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 c. pitted dried dates
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Frosting

  • 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp. maca (optional)

Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, leaving a little overhang. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the seeds and pulse a few times to start breaking them down. Add the dates and salt, pulse a few more times, and then process for a good 2 minutes. If you notice any large clumping happening, break it up with a spatula.

After the two minutes, the mixture should look very crumbly, but will hold together in you squeeze a little in your hand. Scatter the chocolate chips over the mixture, replace the lid, and pulse until the chocolate has broken down a little and is well dispersed through the mixture.

Pour it all out into your prepared baking dish and press down firmly with your hand until it’s solid and even.

Once the mixture is pressed into the pan, it’s time to make the frosting.

In a small pot over low heat, combine the remaining chocolate chips, coconut oil, salt, and maca (I love the flavor). Keep the heat on low and stir often, until the chocolate and coconut oil have completely melted and become smooth and glossy. Pour this over the top of the date and seed mixture, spread evenly, and let harden in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

To slice, carefully lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang, and cut into 8 or 10 bars (depending on how big you’d like them). Keep in the refrigerator and enjoy cold.

Morning Glory Oats

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When I was a freshman in college, one of my favorite things to treat myself to on my way to class was a caramel macchiato and a cranberry orange muffin. Seriously: day made. When I saw the recipe for this morning glory oatmeal over at Joy the Baker, I immediately started drooling because of how similar (yet much healthier) I knew it would be to my beloved muffin of times past.

I’m going to be perfectly honest here: you probably won’t be seeing this on our meal plan very frequently/if ever again, because Josh did NOT like it. I was actually surprised he was willing to try them, because they fall into a category of flavors that he’s generally not a fan of, the fruitcake like or slightly bitter or remotely marmalade type of flavors. I so appreciate that he tried them, but this recipe is definitely going into the “meals I make when Josh is out of town for a few days” category. Oh well. We live and learn.

Aside: One of the things I’ve really enjoyed learning is what items I immediately want to restock my fridge with after I move to a new home. After moving 11 times in the past 11 years, some local moves, some not local at all, it’s been an adventure of its own to see how my tastes have changed, as well as my cooking habits. Like the vast quantity of asian ingredients that are immediately purchased now, and my shame that I haven’t already bought myself some marmalade for toast.

These oats (should you like the flavors) are the perfect “make ahead and eat through the week” breakfast. I made a batch yesterday afternoon, which made the house smell heavenly, and this morning I just had to roll out of bed and reheat a bowl for a lovely homemade breakfast. Win.

Morning Glory Oats (adapted from this recipe)

  • 1 c. steel cut oats
  • 2 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 c. milk or homemade coconut milk, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 c. shredded coconut
  • 1 c. grated carrots (1 large carrot)
  • 1/2 c. currants/dried cranberries/raisins, whatever you’d like
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and milk and heat on high.

While the water/milk mixture is heating up, add the butter (or coconut oil) to a small pan over medium high. Once the butter has melted and started to sizzle a little, add the oats, stirring well to coat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the oats are golden and smell nutty. Remove from heat.

Once the water/milk mixture is gently boiling, add the oats, carrot, dried fruit, shredded coconut, spices, sugar, vanilla and salt and stir well to combine. Return this mixture to a boil, then immediately turn the heat to low and partially cover. Cook for about 25 minutes, until the oats are soft and chewy and the mixture has become much thicker, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest, then let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Vodka Sauce

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Back in my single days, there were a few dishes that my then roommate and I used to make regularly because we loved them so much. One of them was penne with vodka sauce. We tried multiple recipes, modified the heck out of them, and finally found…the one. The most magical one. Easy, creamy, a little sweet, with a good spicy twist.

When Josh and I started dating, I sort of filed that dish away mentally as “something I’ll make one day when he’s not around.” Then I forgot about it. I mean, it had a cup of heavy cream in it. Not something he could eat.

Time passed, and I started craving it again. Then one day I realized, duh, coconut milk would work perfectly for the cream. So I started trying to remember down the elusive recipe and couldn’t quite get it right. Luckily, my old roommate has typed it into a Google doc and saved it at one point, so there was no need for tears (it was close).

Josh’s response to this dish? “Why have you been holding out on me?!”

Note: To make it vegan, I switch out coconut milk for the heavy cream. Since the coconut milk is naturally sweeter, I omit the sugar from the recipe. Also, I always double the amount of red pepper flakes for a good kick.

Vodka Sauce

  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (double for extra kick)
  • 1/2 c vodka
  • 1 c heavy cream/ full fat coconut milk
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (about 8 leaves)
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar (omit if using coconut milk)
  • 1 lb pasta of choice

Cook pasta according to directions, making sure to reserve some of the pasta water.

Process garlic through garlic press into small bowl and stir in 1 tsp water. Heat olive oil and garlic and red pepper flakes in saute pan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add vodka and simmer 5 minutes longer. Stir in cream, ground black pepper to taste, basil, sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. At this point you can transfer the sauce to food processor and pulse to a course puree. I actually prefer to leave it a little chunky so I don’t bother to do this. Return sauce to pan and simmer over medium heat to thicken, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add a small amount of pasta water, and cook an additional couple of minutes..

Serve over pasta and enjoy!

Double Banana Chocolate Chip Bars

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I’m always interested to see what Josh picks on weeks when I tell him to go crazy and pick all of the meals. Most weeks, we each decide on a few meals, so it’s a good balance, and we both try to keep the budget in mind. He did a great job, budget wise, staying easily within our limit.

His choice for snack this week? These bars, which are always a favorite, and since we usually have most of the ingredients on hand anyway, they wind up being insanely cheap as well. Easy to make, hearty, and delicious. It’s really just a win/win.

Double Banana Chocolate Chip Bars (recipe from Eat Live Run)

  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1/3 c oil, preferably coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 c quick cooking oats
  • 2/3 c chopped banana chips (we use unsweetened)

2/3 c dark or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 8×8 pan and set aside.

In large bowl, smash the banana until it’s just a mushy pulp (appetizing, right?). Add the oil and brown sugar and stir until completely combined, with no sugar lumps remaining. Note: if your kitchen is cold, or you use a cold banana, sometimes the coconut oil will start to harden. The few times that has happened to me, I placed the mixing bowl into a large bowl of hot water and let it warm up, then stirred it again.. Nothing to worry about!

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and oats.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined, then fold in the chocolate chips and banana chips.

Pour this mixture into the 8×8 pan and pat down evenly. Bake until the edges are golden, about 25 minutes.

Let cool, and enjoy.