Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pumpkin spice

I’ve admitted before that I love to experiment and try new products. My latest find was Jell-O’s pumpkin spice instant pudding.

As soon as I saw that box in a seasonal baking aisle display, the wheels started turning.

I immediately planned to make a pumpkin cake, using a basic cake mix/ pudding mix recipe. Instead of the vanilla pudding I usually put in, I’d add the pumpkin spice pudding mix. And it must be topped with a cream cheese frosting.

So I bought the pudding mix and made the very simple cake. (I loved the way the pudding mix smelled when I opened the envelope; just like autumn and Thanksgiving dessert!). I decide to add a chopped apple and a cup of nuts to the batter as well. Both additions turned out to be a very good idea!

I have a wonderful recipe for cream cheese frosting, and I thought I might make it. But I decided since I went the easy route with this cake, using cake and pudding mixes instead of making it from scratch with flour and pumpkin and spices, I’d just use a tub of frosting.But I did dress it up a little bit. I sprinkled cinnamon into the frosting, without even removing it from the tub, and used a knife to mix it up. The color was very pretty, and the cinnamon added an extra bonus flavor to the frosting.

The cake was a hit at my home and with the extended family I shared it with. I liked the surprise of the soft apples in the cake and the soft crunch of the pecans.

This very easy cake was delicious and would be easy to share if made as cupcakes.

Easy Pumpkin Pudding Cake
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 package (3.4 oz.) Jell-O pumpkin spice instant pudding mix
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 tub cream cheese frosting
  • Cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all cake ingredients and mix for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.

Pour into 13X9-inch baking dish that has been prepared with baking spray and cook for 26-30 minutes. (Can use other pan size options; refer to back of cake box for cooking instructions.) Sprinkle some cinnamon into frosting and stir to combine. Once cake has cooled, spread frosting.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Delicious breakfast

I’ve never really been an oatmeal-lover. In fact, it was only about two years ago that I had a bowl of oatmeal for the first time in recent memory. It was from Starbucks and was delicious topped with dried fruit, nuts and brown sugar.

But I can’t buy oatmeal every morning, and I don’t like the instant kind, particularly.

Instead, I decided to try baked oatmeal. I’ve seen any number of recipes in the last year for baked oatmeal, but I didn’t really understand the concept. Was it a quick bread? A version of oatmeal in a bowl?

Turns out, it’s more the latter.

I read a bunch of recipes and sort of put together a few of them to come up with the recipe I’ve made twice now, both with great success. My husband loves it, too, which surprised me. He loves grits and hadn’t been eager to try oatmeal.

You can add in your favorite fruits and nuts, but I chose an unpeeled apple cut into small chunks and pecans. I also added some cinnamon. I’d love to try it with blueberries and peaches sometime or maybe even banana and blueberries. Dried fruit would be delicious as well. If you like maple syrup (I don’t), you could use that as a sweetener instead of the brown sugar.

I let my oatmeal bake until it was a little brown on top.

Both times, I had a little bowl when it was hot from the oven, and it was so good. But I think the beauty of baked oatmeal is in the leftovers. Just add some milk into a bowl of the oatmeal and microwave for 20-30 seconds. Stir it up and you have this wonderful, creamy oatmeal with chunks of fruit and nuts mixed in. Reggie eats his cold.

The thing I love about eating this for breakfast (in addition to the good-for-you aspect) is that a bowlful really fills me up, and I’m not hungry as quickly as I am with my routine breakfast offerings.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Pecans
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • 1 apple, unpeeled, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare 8-inch (or similar size) baking dish.

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix with spoon to combine. Pour into baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.

When warming leftovers, place oatmeal in a bowl with a little milk and microwave for 20-30 seconds. Stir.