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Breakfast Oat Bran

December 5, 2013

Can you believe your eyes? A recipe to share today? It’s been too long! I have been meaning to get a post up sooner, but winter has already impacted my blogging schedule with the lack of light and lack of time around the holiday season. We had our first big snowfall this week and I’m already looking forward to summer!

I’ve been meaning to share about oat bran for quite a while. Six or seven months ago I started swapping my morning bowl of old fashioned oats for a bowl of oat bran. I can’t even remember where I heard about eating oat bran as a hot cereal (I had baked with it before) but I’m glad I stumbled upon this nutritional powerhouse. Don’t get me wrong, old fashioned oatmeal is incredibly healthy, but oat bran has some unique properties that give it a leg up on rolled oats.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered to some degree with an irritable stomach. This may be branching into TMI territory, but regularity has been an issue for years, despite the fact that I eat a vegetarian diet that is very heavy on veggies and whole grains. Since I have started eating oat bran for breakfast, and when I stick to it consistently, it has almost completely remedied my stomach complaints. I’ve even been known to travel with oat bran and/or take my breakfast with me I love it that much.

What is Oat Bran?
It is the outer layer of the oats that is typically removed when making old fashioned oats and instant oats. The thing is, the outer layer of the oatmeal is where all the fiber resides. Consequently, a bowl of oat bran contains about 50% more fiber than the same amount of old fashioned oats. And, as many people already know, more fiber keeps you feeling full longer, keeps your tummy happy and regular and can aid in weight loss. As far as calories are concerned, I find that the brands of oat bran I’ve purchased have had about the same number of calories as an equal amount of oats.

Where Can You Purchase It?
I have purchased pre-packaged oat bran at Trader Joe’s but lately I’ve been buying oat bran in the bulk bins at Whole Foods because it is cheaper and you can buy larger quantities. When I get it home, I just transfer it into a plastic storage container. I have also seen oat bran at other local grocery stores in our area. Oat bran and wheat bran are not the same thing, so be sure to clarify when asking at your local grocery store.

How Do You Prepare Oat Bran?
I’ve got a quick and easy recipe below for preparing oat bran similar to how you would prepare oatmeal. When I first made oat bran, I was really turned off by it because I didn’t use enough liquid. It turned into a rubbery brick in no time! The general rule of thumb I like to use is 1/2 cup oat bran plus 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk of choice. The milk really gives the oat bran a creamy texture and makes it more indulgent. You could also use 1 cup milk and leave out the water completely. If you prepare the oat bran with all water, you probably won’t be all that impressed.

Breakfast Oat Bran
Makes 1 serving
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk of choice (I usually use almond milk)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Sweetener of choice (stevia, brown sugar, etc. to taste)
Dollop of peanut butter (I have been loving Peanut Butter & Company Peanut Butter)

Place oat bran, water, milk and cinnamon into a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture just beings to bubble/boil and the mixture begins to thicken. It’s better to under-cook rather than over-cook. The mixture will thicken slightly after removing from the heat. Stir in your sweetener of choice. Transfer to a bowl and top with peanut butter.

Happy Cooking!


Classic, No-Fuss Banana Bread

August 22, 2013


A couple weeks ago I shared with you a recipe from Joe’s great grandma Jacobs. Maybe I was a bit early with sharing a recipe for pumpkin bread in August, but it was so delicious that I’m sure anyone who bakes up a loaf would quickly forgive me for sharing something not quite seasonal.

I was so inspired by the pumpkin bread recipe. It was so perfect, exactly how I remember perfect pumpkin bread tasting, and, more importantly, the texture was just right. And so, with that recipe in hand, I decided to try and recreate the banana bread I remember from childhood church potlucks and snack times. I’m not sure who made that type of banana bread, but it was spot on.

I have a lot of banana bread recipes on this site. Maybe a few too many, but I can’t help myself. There’s this Chocolate Banana Bread, which is a departure from the traditional. And this Caramelized Banana Bread, which is all about a unique method for creating great banana flavor. And the healthier varieties, like the Higher Protein Chocolate Chip Banana Bread and Health Nut Banana Bread and even a recipe for Banana Bread Ultimate, which is a very old recipe and probably not all that “ultimate” when I really think about it. Sorry for that. And if that wasn’t enough, I have a recipe for Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Mini Muffins. They really are quite good, though the photo is horrible.

I’m starting to realize my banana bread obsession is getting out of hand. Forgive me?

But what’s really missing from this whole collection is a great, classic  banana bread. Probably because I haven’t had any success with the type of recipe I was looking for until now. Perhaps it’s time to retire my search for the perfect banana bread?


Classic Banana Bread
Makes 12 servings
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir until well combined. Add in the mashed bananas, sugar, oil, eggs, water and vanilla and stir until just combined.

Line two 9×5-inch baking pans with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Divide batter between two pans. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on wire rack. remove from pan and remove foil. Cool completely. Store on the counter wrapped in aluminum foil.

Happy Baking!


Cornmeal Biscuits with Fresh Corn

August 8, 2013


Do you ever find yourself in awe of the way God moves in your life? Lately, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how God has worked in our lives over the last year. Joe and I have a life now that looks very different than our life last year at this same time. And while we had so many things to be thankful for about our life in Grinnell, we also had prayers that we hoped God would answer. Prayers to move to a place where we would be surrounded by other couples our age, more like-minded friends, a yard for Joe, my farm boy, to work in every night, jobs that were better suited for our personalities. I don’t think we had a clue what God had in store for us. It’s a testament to answered prayers and the fact that God has a plan through it all. It’s so easy to forget in the hard times, isn’t it? And pretty hard to lose sight of in the good times, too.

I’m not sure what that had to do with biscuits. Nothing, really, I suppose. Just something I was thinking about today.

These biscuits are certainly worth making. Usually I reserve cornbread for the fall months served alongside chili, but the addition of fresh corn gives these biscuits a more summery appeal. The original recipe contained 100% all-purpose flour, but I subbed in whole wheat flour, using equal parts whole wheat and all-purpose flour along with cornmeal. These biscuits are certainly hearty and a little bit dense, which I found charming. However, if you prefer a lighter biscuit I would suggest using all-purpose flour in place of the whole wheat flour. Either way would work just fine.

I’m already thinking of countless ways these biscuits could be used. Served with butter alongside a salad, cut in half and stuffed with eggs as a breakfast sandwich. Drizzled with honey or a little butter and fresh basil from our garden. Maybe even as the bread for a summery BLT. Mmmm. I can already taste it now.


Cornmeal Biscuits with Corn
Adapted from Food Network
Makes 6 large biscuits

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup corn kernels (I used canned and drained but I imagine fresh would work well, too)

Heat oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, combine the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt until well combined. Use pastry cutter to cut butter into dry ingredients until a coarse meal forms. Add in the milk and buttermilk and stir until just combined.

Turn dough onto floured surface and form into a large disc about 1/2 inch thick. Use biscuit cutter to cut six biscuits from the dough, re-shaping as necessary.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are baked through and light golden brown. Serve with butter, if desired.

Happy Baking!


Grandma Jacobs’ Pumpkin Bread

July 29, 2013


I think I’ve mentioned before that when Joe and I got married his mom passed along to us a recipe binder full of heritage recipes from Joe’s great-grandma Jacobs’. I’m a huge fan of old recipes, since I think they have so much to teach us about cooking before it became all complicated and fussy and, most importantly, before it became the cool thing to do. It’s hard for me to remember a time when cooking wasn’t flashy and fashionable and splashed on the television as a form of entertainment. Sometimes it’s nice to think about food in simple terms, isn’t it? As a means of fuel and a way to connect with others. Plus, a lot of the recipes I’ve made that were passed from generation to generation are much better than anything you will find in a magazine today.

That said, please don’t kill me for sharing a pumpkin recipe in July. Sure, I love pumpkin during the fall as much as the next person, maybe even a little more. But I don’t intend to rush into fall flavors full time just yet. However, last weekend we had some crazy unseasonable weather with temps that were in the 50’s and 60’s, which left me craving pumpkin bread in a major way. And since Grandma Jacobs’ book had a recipe that was simple and straightforward, I couldn’t resist.


I know a lot of people, myself included, are on the continual search for a classic banana or pumpkin bread recipe. If you’ve tried other recipes in the past and been disappointed, this is the recipe for you. I’ve been disappointed by many a pumpkin bread recipes, but this one totally delivered on the flavor and texture I was looking for. It’s not overly spiced, and has plenty of bright pumpkin flavor. And the texture is spot on. It’s moist without being soggy and the top isn’t dry like other recipes I’ve tried.

The real key to getting that semi-sticky top is to store this bread wrapped in aluminum foil on the counter. Bake it at night, wrap it up after it has cooled, and wake up to the pumpkin bread of your dreams.


Grandma Jacobs’ Pumpkin Bread
Makes 2 loaves
The original recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar. When I first saw that, it seemed like a lot of sugar for two loaves, so I cut it back to 2 cups and the recipe turned out great. The bread was pleasantly sweet but not sweet like cake/dessert. If you are looking for a sweeter and more decadent bread, I would strongly suggest going for 2 1/2 to 3 cups of sugar.
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 to 3 cups sugar (see note above)
1 cup oil
4 large eggs
2/3 cup water
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 cup chopped nuts (optional – I left them out)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until well combined. Add in the sugar, oil, eggs, water and pumpkin and stir until just combined. Stir in the nuts, if desired.

Line two 9×5-inch baking pans with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Divide batter between two pans. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on wire rack. remove from pan and remove foil. Cool completely. Store on the counter wrapped in aluminum foil.

Happy Baking!


Almond Butter Bran Muffins with Blackberries

July 15, 2013


One of my favorite subjects to talk about on Espresso and Cream is breakfast. Probably because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. No other meal really compares in my opinion, and although I typically eat the same breakfast (oatmeal, peanut butter, banana) I love mixing it up now and again. Since it’s been incredibly hot and looks like this week is going to be even warmer, I’ve been trading in my bowl of oats for colder breakfasts like yogurt with chia seeds and smoothies.

Last fall I shared with you one of my favorite muffin recipes, these Breakfast Bran Muffins. Today, I’m following up those muffins with another bran muffin recipe that’s equally delicious. It’s made with bran cereal, almond butter and stuffed with fresh blackberries. Blackberries were on sale at my grocery store this week, but you could easily substitute another berry like blueberries or raspberries if that suits your style better.

I’ve been crumbling these muffins atop a bowl of yogurt-chia pudding and it makes an incredibly tasty and filling breakfast. Each muffin contains around 200 calories, so it’s enough to satisfy without being overly indulgent. When I make a batch, I find that it works well to freeze half the muffins in zip top backs and keep them on hand for quick breakfasts or snacks. All you need to do is zap them in the microwave for a few seconds when you’re ready to eat!


Almond Butter Bran Muffins with Blackberries
Adapted from this recipe
Makes 12 muffins
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups almond milk or milk of your choice
1 cup bran cereal
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup almond butter
1 cup fresh blackberries

Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until well combined. In second smaller bowl, combine milk, cereal, egg and almond butter. Stir until smooth. If your almond butter is thicker, you may need to beat with an electric mixer to get it fully combined.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in blackberries until just combined. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until muffins are puffed up and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Happy Baking!

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