Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Better Breakfast

Vito had to go to the vet today and his daddy is traveling, so it was a work-from-home day for mommy. That meant many wonderful things ... sleeping in an extra hour, barely caring what I wore today, and having a super delicious HOT breakfast!

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and so I never skip it. Although I come pretty close. My usual morning routine involves grabbing a Chobani from the fridge and running out the door with coffee in hand. Seeing as how breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, that's just not satisfying. Don't get me wrong ... I love my Chobani. But 10 times out of 10, I'd opt for a steaming bowl of satisfying oatmeal if I could!

The Quaker instant stuff is ok in a pinch, but if I'm going to have oatmeal for breakfast I'm headed to the opposite end of the spectrum: overnight oatmeal. If you have a slow cooker and you haven't done this yet, you're completely missing out. I discovered this deliciousness the last time Bill was out of town (and I spent lots of my down time browsing Pinterest). I made it twice while he was gone and hadn't made it since because he'd complain that I was cooking mush. Here was an excellent opportunity!

This should actually be a perfect weekday breakfast because it's ready and waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. The problem is that it involves preparation the night before, which I'm not always in the mood for when I've had an exhausting day. Since I was getting a little extra sleep last night anyway, I figured it was worth the few extra minutes to toss all these yummy ingredients in the slow cooker.

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oatmeal
2 apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup water
1 1/3 cups oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Raisins and chopped nuts (optional)

Combine apples, oats, milk, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in slow cooker. Cover and turn to low. About 7 hours later, wake up to a delicious, oat-y breakfast. Top with raisins and/or chopped nuts, if desired, and dig in.

Note: You can toss all of the ingredients directly in your slow cooker, but I hear there's risk of torching your oatmeal if you oversleep. Each time I've made it, I've done a sort of double boiler method, where I place a bowl in the slow cooker and surround it by water. The ingredients go in the bowl and there's no risk of burnt oatmeal in the morning.

Note #2: There are also tons of variations on this oatmeal ... maple pumpkin, cranberry almond, blueberry, you name it. Google it for dozens of ideas, or get creative on your own! I'm dying to try to pumpkin variation, but haven't had any pumpkin puree on hand when I've made the oatmeal yet.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Famous Cookie

I've been absent from LoVBites for far too long (nearly 6 months, I realized today!), but I figured now was as good a time as any to jump back in. While my posts may not be regular again for quite some time, I at least feel compelled to share with my few readers some of the best, most fun, most special recipes I'm cooking up this holiday season. And how better to start than with the famous cookie ...

If there's one cookie that knocks everybody's socks off, that everyone squeals about, that I get constant requests for, it's this one. And the funny thing is, it's not really a cookie at all. It's more like a mouthful of heaven, to tell you the truth. Or just a really delicious, unique confection. It is the chocolate covered Ritz peanut butter sandwich.

My friend Sue introduced me to this little nugget several years ago when we worked together. And it was such a revelation. Peanut butter and Ritz Crackers: A perfect duo. Peanut butter and chocolate: A perfect duo. Peanut butter and Ritz and chocolate: A perfect trio? Indeed!

I loved these treats so much and so many people went gaga for them over the years that I made them as my wedding favors. Yes, it was time consuming. Yes, it was nuts. And yes, it was worth it. Those very wedding favors inspired friends who are typically out of place in the kitchen to master the recipe and make them holiday traditions. And there's really no greater compliment than for someone to bring your recipe to their own family's table and make it a part of their memories.

You won't believe how simple they are ...

Chocolate Covered Ritz Peanut Butter Sandwiches
1 box Ritz Crackers
1 tub creamy peanut butter
Approximately 1 lb. chocolate flavored bark (and white chocolate bark, if desired)
Paraffin (also known as Gulf Wax)
Colored sprinkles or non-pareils (optional)

Spread a healthy helping (1/2 tablespoon or so) of peanut butter on one Ritz cracker. Create a sandwich by placing a second Ritz on top. Repeat until you've exhausted every sleeve of crackers, placing finished sandwiches on a tray of baking sheet. (Snacking, in moderation, is allowed during this process. In fact, it's nearly impossible to resist.) Place trays of sandwiches in the refrigerator or freezer to set, about 4 hours or overnight.

Prepare new rays or baking sheets by covering them with parchment paper.

Create a double boiler by placing a medium glass bowl over a same-size sauce pan with approximately an inch of barely simmering water. Place chocolate bark in bowl. (Traditionally, Sue and I melt about 3 parts chocolate to 1 part white for a nice balance. I've also made them sans white bark and they're equally delicious.) Shave about half a teaspoon of paraffin from the block into the melting chocolate and stir to combine (this will help the sandwiches set and help prevent melting). Stir until completely melted and smooth.

Using metal tongs (we've tried a number of different implements and these seem to have the best grip and prevent the most damage), dunk a sandwich in the melted chocolate. Firmly (but not too aggressively!) tap the tongs on the side of the bowl to rid the sandwich of any excess chocolate (which will cause unsightly pooling around the bottom). Place dipped sandwich on parchment-lined sheet. Repeat with each sandwich, pausing every so often to sprinkles sandwiches with decorations (which will only stick when the chocolate is still wet!).

For faster setting, return dipped sandwiches to refrigerator or freezer. Or, allow to set at room temperature.

Note: Feel free to get creative with variations .. chunky peanut butter in place of creamy, graham crackers in place of Ritz, even Nutella in place of PB! Sue and I have also taken to tucking a mini pretzel twist in the center of some of the sandwiches (as shown in the one I took a bite out of above!).